Sunday, May 10, 2015

When Mother and Teacher Collide

#TeacherAppreciationWeek - Earlier this week, social media was peppered with requests to thank teachers who have significantly impacted our lives. How fortuitous for me that Mother's Day occurs so close to Teacher Appreciation Week since my mom is the teacher who has had the most significant impact on my life. Mom was actively involved with our schools, but never as a professional educator. Nevertheless, I've learned more from her than any of my "traditional" teachers. Mom never positioned herself as instructor for my brother and me. She shared what she was learning, took interest in what we were learning, as well as, what we wanted to learn. Our current conversations frequently center on current events, what we're currently reading, and of course, the weather.

Lynae (mom), with my sons J.P. and Trevor

There weren't a lot of rules in our household, we were expected to know the difference between right and wrong, live by the "golden rule", and to always put forth our best effort. Mom has a gift for making others feel like the most important people in the room. She is able to see potential possibilities beyond current situations. Generous to a fault, both of my parents seemed to be at their best when things appeared to be at the worst. Cool under pressure, and always willing to lend a hand.

My mom has reinvented herself several times during my lifetime. From housewife / stay-at-home mom, to retail management, to banking executive, to family farming, mom's skill sets and interests are diverse. Without a college education, mom used determination, diligence, and exemplary people skills to work her way up occupational ladders. I have learned there is nothing that can't be accomplished through hard work. Both of my parents worked service-related occupations. Consequently, it was a certainty that me and my brother would learn the intrinsic value of providing service to others.

Mom taught us the key to financial comfort was more about spending within reason than the size of a paycheck. We grew up comfortable, but not wealthy. We lived in a modest house close to great schools. There was always something to eat, we always had several pets, and every summer we embarked on learning adventures commonly known as family vacations. Our home was always well stocked with reading material. Education was an emphasis in our household, but that emphasis wasn't isolated to school, nor was about doing all of our homework, or getting good grades. Being the great teacher that she is, mom helped us discover that "real" learning can take place any time, and anywhere. Mom was a relevant educator years before the term became popular.

The lessons are too numerous to mention, but after thinking about this the past few days, the most important things I've learned from my favorite teacher (mom) are; how to be a dedicated, supportive parent, the intrinsic warmth of serving others, and to be appreciative for each day. Each day, even the bad ones, provide opportunities to learn and grow. Mom was all about growth mindset even before Carol Dweck published her book.

These days, we learn quite a bit from each other. Mom, when not helping neighbors, or tending to her gardens, is using her iPad to share her learning on Pinterest, while I learn more about living a life well-lived. #WinWin 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom - we love you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Flint Strikes Steel; Teacher Appreciation

In the spirit of teacher appreciation day, and at the prompting of my friend Dylan Rogers, I am sharing my story of how an unassuming, and caring economics professor provided the spark and inspiration that launched my fulfilling career in education.


Dr. Daniel Kauffman was my professor of Macro-Economics at Winona State University in Minnesota. A college sophomore with an irregular sleep schedule, I typically sat in the front row of the lecture class to stay awake, and engaged in the lesson. At the time, I was undecided on a major, and I was working fiercely to get my academic life on track. 

On this particular day, the topic was cost/benefits analysis for decision making. I did the pre-reading, and I was thoroughly prepared for the discussion. Dr. Kauffman's wife was nine months pregnant, he said the phone call could be coming at any time. As luck, or chance, would have it, Dr. Kauffman did get a phone call early during his lecture. He scanned the room, and asked, "Who would like to take over?"

After a few moments of unresponsive silence, I couldn't take it any more. I half-heartedly raised my hand, and he tossed me a stick of pale yellow chalk. (We're talkin' 1980s here!) Dr. Kauffman departed to a cascade of applause, and I went to the board to proceed with graphing the principle equations. No pressure, right? I remember fielding questions and asking classmates to elaborate on each other's comments. Unbeknownst to me, his phone call turned out to be a false alarm and Dr. Kauffman had taken up secluded residence in the back row of the classroom. 




Approximately forty-five minutes had passed in a blink of an eye, I peppered the class with quick hitting prompts to check for understanding. I wanted to make sure Dr. Kauffman's objectives had been absorbed and understood. I guess I was evaluating myself on effectiveness. Not perfect, but not bad. Not bad at all! I shared reminders about the next assignment and mentioned that I would be in the student union building if anyone wanted to meet to review for an upcoming exam.

Dr. Kauffman approached me after the other students had left. He said that I covered the topic skillfully. He liked how I found ways for students to engage in collaborative communication. He took interest in me by asking how life was treating me, and what I was studying at WSU. After learning that I was an "undecided" major, Dr. Kauffman walked me over to the College of Education office to help me enroll in the teacher education program. I don't think he realizes the impact this experience, and his actions, have had on my life. I remember it like it was yesterday! Thank you Dr. Daniel Kauffman. I appreciate, but don't remember much about cost-benefits analysis. However, I thoroughly appreciate and clearly remember all you have done for me. 

#TeacherAppreciationDay

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Become A Better Lurker

When it comes to exciting ways to boost personal learning, few activities can match the personal learning empowerment of Twitter chats. Not only are Twitter chats great for building a personal learning network, they provide a personalized, on-demand method of learning through a conversational timeline. Education themed Twitter chats occur every day of the week throughout the year. Here is the "official" schedule of education chats on Twitter. (Credit; @cybraryman1@conniehamilton @thomascmurray @cevans5095 @jrochelle )




Initially, the pace and flow of Twitter chats can be a bit hectic and confusing, but here are three helpful hacks to make Twitter chats enjoyable learning and relationship-building conversations. First off, Twitter chats are scheduled meetings, typically lasting an hour, focusing on school / education topics. Participants are able to focus into the conversation stream by isolating the chat hashtag (#). There are hundreds of education chat hashtags including the popular; #edchat, #satchat, #edtech, and #tlap. Whether a lurker, participant, or moderator, there are strategies to help make the most of the Twitter chat experience.

Lurkers, despite the negative sounding term, are learners who have their toes dangling in the water, but are not quite ready to jump in. Not to worry, nearly all Twitter chat participants start out by lurking. Twitter lurkers learn by observing the interactions of the chat moderators and participants. Here are three ways in which lurkers can enhance their Twitter chat experience.
  1. FOCUS - Use an app like TweetDeck to isolate the chat conversation in a column created with the chat hashtag. I find the chat easier to follow if I create a search column for the chat hashtag, as well as, one for the moderator. This helps keep track of questions if I drift into a tertiary conversation. Expert lurkers will follow people who contribute to their learning. These contributors become apparent quickly. "Elegant lurkers", as David White calls them, have developed techniques for tuning out some of the Twitter noise to better focus on meaningful contributions.
  2. RECORD - 140 characters can be restrictive when people have something to contribute to the chat. Chat participants will add media, graphics, and hyperlinks in their tweets. It's good to have a bookmarking system established to grab and save relevant resources for further review. I use Flipboard to automate the curating process. However, Pocket, Evernote, and Delicious make excellent repositories for curated resources. Like some tweeps, I use Twitter for social bookmarking.
  3. REFLECT - Lurkers gain confidence through picking up the "pseudo-shorthand" structure of tweets. (Anatomy of a Tweet) Taking notes, sketchnoting, or composing a reflective summary of the chat, helps lurkers process themes, and transfer learning to other educational pursuits. Conscientious moderators will provide a transcript of the chat so others can review the conversation timeline at their convenience. Storify is a popular and effective tool for archiving Twitter chats. When shared transparently these notes, observations, and reflections help others to "learn from the learner".
Many learners who engage in education chats on Twitter rave about the impact that these conversations have on their personal learning. Lurking can be a positive step in curating learning resources, gaining confidence in the chat process, and most importantly, establishing relationships that form the foundation of an effective personal learning network. (What is a PLN? Why Do I Need One?)

Related Resources



Elegant Lurking - David White

Twitter Chats 101 - Buffer Social, Nicole Miller

The Best Twitter Chats For Teachers in 2015 - Te@chThought