Last Saturday during a two hour drive, my husband and I had a great discussion about learning, failure and success. We were discussing people’s attitude towards problems in your work environment and failure in general. Some folks are crushed by failure, beat themselves up, or try to do everything to avoid acknowledging that things didn’t quite go as planned. Other folks have an easier time brushing themselves off, looking for lessons learned and bouncing back.
We each identified our own attitudes and behaviors. It was an interesting discussion about fear of failure, what motivates us to finally act after procrastination and our willingness to be transparent with our shortcomings.
During the drive home later that evening, I finally had a chance to reflect about my experience presenting at NCCE. My mind wandered through the events of the conference in the quiet of the night. While I absolutely loved meeting and connecting with the educators in my Personal Learning Network, my mind drifted to my own presentations and I found myself evaluating my “performance” – what I wished I had said or not said and what I covered.
It’s easy at this point to beat yourself up. It’s nerve-wracking standing up front of 60+ educators and put yourself out there. Two of the three presentations were new for me this year and I wanted them to go well. Questions like, “Did I explain myself clearly” and “Did attendees learn anything new” or “Did I cover the material well” swam through my head.
For the most part I do not beat myself up if everything doesn’t go perfectly. I tell myself that if I had at least taught some folks to do something new or try a new way of looking at technology tools, or inspired them to learn more — then I did what I set out to accomplish.
Excessive focus on the technology itself in the absence of an intentional learning environment reinforces unhelpful stereotypes about technologists and technology. 1) You can improve education just by adding technology; 2) Technologists aren’t interested in teaching and learning. Most of the conference attendees are teachers. Let’s upset the usual stereotypes and return to what matters.
Other discussions I had with members of my PLN also centered around how we could make this conference better and help technology-loving educators connect with one another. I reflected on my experience of teaching the tools vs. focusing on the pedagogy. How did I do?
I want to see “problems” as learning opportunities — not failure. I want to be able to review my experiences and be proud of what I accomplished but at the same time be willing to correct mistakes next time — not see them as failures — but just as opportunities to try something else. It’s called learning. Realizing it’s not the outcome you wanted and try again.
Jeff ustreamed my Google Apps for Education presentation and I watched the archived video – and I did cringe a few time when reviewing, but for the most part was happy with the presentation. Watching yourself is great for learning – as long as you can keep the focus positive.
So after a few days to think about my experience and what I “learned” , I noted a few things down.
- Focus on student learning first and then how the technology tool can improve, help, or encourage learning.
- Encourage discussion and conversation among the educators in smaller groups, backchannel or discussion board/questions. Each person needs a chance to reflect, ask questions, and discuss for the idea to be “sticky”.
- Be clear about your objective at the beginning of the presentation and the skill level you are covering and stick to it.
- For hands on workshops, have the participants create authentic material and not just “practice” the skill.
- Have resource material available but don’t feel like you have to cover everything (especially 1 hr concurrent sessions).
- Skip the “how I got here” intro and jump right into the presentation.
- Constantly tweak your Powerpoint presentations (note: I’m ready to start over on this one!)
- It’s OK to be nervous – just breath deep — get in touch with your passion inside – it will help you relax.
What have you learned about yourself lately?