The Power of Reflection

It was Monday, January 2nd, and my daughter in my office asking me to print off another coloring page. With it being the start of a new year, I wanted my 7-year-old to set her goals for a new year and think about what she wanted to accomplish. So before I printed off another Christmas Puppy coloring page, I did a quick Google search for “Kids Goals Worksheets”. She was not as excited as I was when I handed her the page, but she headed over to the table and started to write.

kids-goals
Link

Of the 3 kids goal sheets that I printed off, one of them caught my attention. This page caught my attention. In the past, I simply move from Dec. 31st to Jan. 1st and start to think about the coming year without reflecting on the last 365 days. As I tried to help my daughter think through the questions, it hit me that I should be doing the same thing.

As we think about the year that just concluded, this exercise requires us to take inventory and assess where we’ve been before we think about where we want to go. I decided that if this is good enough for my 7-year-old, then it’s good enough for me.

OUT WITH THE OLD (2016)

2 Favorite Memories 

3 Things I’m Grateful For

1 Hard Lesson I Learned

1 Thing I Did This Year That I’m Proud Of

IN WITH THE NEW (2017)

3 Places I Want to Go

2 Ways I Can Help Others

1 Thing I Want to Get Better At

3 New Things I Want to Try

As we get older, the comes a day when we quit dreaming. We quit asking ourselves, “Where do we want to go?” or “What is something new I want to try?”. Goals are important, and looking back allows us to formulate a vision for the future. If we allow ourselves to dream, it gives our goals meaning and purpose.

So this January, as I start planning for 2017 and put my goals down in writing, I wanted to take a moment to reflect. By asking these simple questions, I’m able to reflect on the good, the bad, the challenges, the lessons, and the opportunities from the last year. We don’t drive looking out our rearview mirror, and in the same way, we shouldn’t all our energy dwelling on the past. However, the past gives us perspective and helps look ahead if we understand where we’ve been.

In the end, my daughter put down her answers and earned another coloring page. She may forget coloring another My Little Pony page, but I hope she sees the value of reflection and the power of goals.

I hope we all live intentionally with vision and purpose in 2017!

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Instructional Technology

3 Things Technology Can Do (and 3 things it never should)

When I took my first teaching job in 2004, technology was starting to emerge in the classroom. Very few students had their own devices, and teachers were learning new ways to teach and engage students. Technology Blog Pic

Over the last 10 years, technology in the classroom has created some incredible learning opportunities, and we’ve seen a number of changes – from the way we teach to the way we manage our classrooms. From a teachers perspective, sometimes the challenge becomes leveraging technology in a way that takes something off an educator’s plate, instead of adding something else onto it.

Whether in a middle school math class or an intro chemistry class at a university, there are at least 3 things that technology can (and should) do.

  1. Engage – Technology allows instructors and students to engage at a level that was impossible to do just 20 years ago. Through technology, we have the ability to understand difficult concepts that in the past were abstract. If we can utilize the devices that students already use and are comfortable with, we have removed a barrier and engagement increases.
  2. Connect – Today’s student is connected. Very few of us are every more than an arms length away from our phones. Technology allows us to connect to a community, both inside and outside of the classroom. If we as educators can use technology to connect with our students in the classroom, we can start to understand the gaps and reach those students who need us most.
  3. Maximize efficiency – Technology provides a way to streamline many of the processes and housekeeping items that take away valuable instruction time. As educators, we should leverage technology to automate and empower students. Taking attendance, sharing presentations, and providing feedback are ways that educators can use technology to reclaim valuable classroom time. If we simply use technology to help us make the best use of the time we have, then we are beginning to leverage technology, and not just implementing it.

As valuable a tool as technology can be, there are also 3 things that technology cannot do.

  1. Technology cannot replace educators who care. Teachers have an incredible ability and responsibility to create relationships with their students. No App or social network can take the place educators who invest in the lives of their students.
  2. Technology cannot replace dynamic presenters and effective communicators.  It can allow us different ways to communicate, but Siri and Alexa are poor substitutes for the passion and knowledge that educators can bring to the table.
  3. And finally, if educators are to fully leverage technology into classrooms, it should not create additional work. While there may be a learning curve, and sometimes we may have to spend time on the front end to design or create, in the long run, technology should be used to optimize the most valuable commodity we have – TIME. When technology fails to work or creates more problems than solutions, then we have only substituted one medium for another.

Many things have changed since my first year in that 9th grade Algebra classroom. We’ve seen initiatives come and go. We’ve seen technology change the way we do many things. In some ways the role of an educator has changed, but the one thing that remains is the impact teachers have on students.

Now that I’m on the outside of the classroom looking in, I am grateful for the educators who have invested in me. I’m also thankful to be able to work with a group of people that influences future generations, and I hope that in some small way, I can help leverage technology to make a difference with teachers and students.