Reflecting about my own learning

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.

Argg ... NCCE pirate themeDuring 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.

Both Jeff Utecht and Richard Kassissieh blogged about the lack of conference sessions that focused on teaching and learning and too much focus on tools.  Richard wrote:

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?

3 Replies to “Reflecting about my own learning”

  1. Just getting around to reflecting myself. I think that one thing for me is to know my audience. This is a difficult thing at a conference like NCCE. I know from our district, we make it a point to send novices to the conference hoping that others will get excited and see the possibilities of teaching in new and innovative ways. But then, there is always the seasoned geek out there as well. In the past, one thing that I always told teachers considering going to NCCE is that even if you are not into technology or have any technology in your classroom, this is a great place to go and learn and be in the presence of innovative educators. I do feel like this year seemed to be more about tools and stuff and less about students and learning, but maybe that is just because I am in a different place.

    One hour is really hard to plan and yet we work within those constraints as a teacher all the time. Just so much that I want to share and not much time to do it. Not sure what the answer is to this except for creating a great resource with lots of added information that teachers can access at a later time and then focus on what the students learning.

  2. I agree that we need to learn from our mistakes and see them as ways to grow. You did not use those exact words, but that is what I took from your thoughts. I am 33 years old, but can think of many ways in which I failed but them became stronger as a result. And then I think of my newborn and my two older children. They, even at their age, have failed and learned from trial and error. When children begin learning to walk, for example, they fall several times before they can keep going. Thus, they fail, but learn from it and keep doing it until they get it right. If all of us took “steps” over and over, we would all succeed and have our reward in the end. For a child, that means being able to walk and explore the world. how much more could we explore if we kept getting up to take those steps?

  3. The fact that you are taking risks, reflecting, and being thoughtful speak volumes in themselves.

    If you can get to Boston this summer, Building Learning Communities is in my experience the best tech conference for putting teaching and learning first.


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