1. Reflection on being a student - again. I began 2012 taking a full -time online course to earn my third credential mandated by the state. I had already spent countless hours & days before hand finding an accredited program where we ( a colleague also went through this with me) could waive some of the coursework while trying to decide between online or going to a 'real' classroom. We decided to take the coursework on-line. BIG mistake. More time was then spent gathering documents, photocopying, getting signatures, dealing with HR, making sub arrangements, making an elaborate portfolio to waive classes & finally writing that big check after half the classes had been waived. We had achieved getting half the coursework waived. Classes started in the comforts of my mountain home. I quickly discovered I do NOT like nor can I learn or benefit much from online learning. I did manage to finish, pass & earn the credential ( Well, truth be told that is another frustrating snag- they lost the portfolio binders in their move to a new office... But they are sure they will find it once they unpack.. sigh.)
I am told this was a particularly poor first experience and the program was unusually unorganized & the inability to talk to a teacher unusual. Regardless, I vow never to do it again and NEVER teach in this fashion. My frustration of course was ever present in my mind as I went to work to teach my own students. The need for prompt feedback, being able ask questions and have a discussion in real time, get feedback, connect & communicate with a teacher, stay organized, relevant and know my students needs and levels was my take away from my experience as an online learner. Being a 21st learner must not be reduced to such an isolating experience as I had. Goal- Teach 21st century learners in an inclusive, passionate environment with a positive rapport and all the support they need to be successful people who have the courage to be curious and fail.
2. Balance- I was overwhelmed by my own doing. I love to learn , try new things, improve my teaching methods etc. It is important to note here that I am a special ed teacher. Spring is my busiest time with IEP, transition, SST & special ed planning meetings after meetings after meetings..... I typically hunker down and disappear then collapse after the last day of school in June. So, in March when my calendar is booked out through the end of June, I eagerly plummeted into an area that sent me to the brink of the worst and best of times In March 2012, I applied for 2 grants attempting to get an Emwave project started. I waited. During the waiting, I also applied and was accepted into our SD 1:1 iPad academy. Six other teachers, 1 from each school were selected. I was one. I read the email of acceptance WHILE the people from Heartmath were at my home installing and teaching me the new Emwave software I was going to Beta test for them in a classroom setting. It was surreal. I ran on adrenaline from that moment on. The marriage of the two: Emwaves and iPads, has forever changed me and while I collapsed in June like I typically do, I was never so excited or eager to learn. It took only a few days of watching and learning alongside my students that the power of the iPad was a game changer for me. How I juggled all the demands on me & managed to get it all done while earning a new credential is still a mystery. It took its toll on me and I wouldn't do it again. As I look forward I realize I need to balance the demands on my time better BUT going out on a limb and stretching yourself opens doors that I never knew existed. Goal- Stay enthusiastic but learn to say no and ask better questions.
3. Past and Present collide. Teaching is my second career. I worked all through my 20s and early 30s in Silicon Valley. I worked with programmers and loved debugging code & playing with software applications. I liked how software engineers thought and the linear process of writing code. But I couldn't get comfortable with the business ethics and values. I had young children then and I knew I wanted to teach- always had. So, I left the comforts of good paying job with potential to grow and went back to school to study language development and linguistics. I was then able to blend my love of language, teaching, learning & technology into a special education teacher. Being a special educator is challenging on many levels and I often had to blaze my own trail - alone. So getting into the iPad academy with Emwaves in tow was a natural fit. I was used to working alone. However, I met some incredible people this time. I recall several times sitting at our iPad Academy meetings thinking how similar these people were to the people I had worked with in Silicon valley years earlier. I felt my past and present sync up. It was amazing and I was grateful for the opportunity the iPad academy gave me. The energy, support and enthusiasm of these few people helped me finish a very difficult school year where I was at the receiving end of some harsh criticism and the only one with 1:1 iPads. But I followed my heart and these women helped me provide my students the best that I could give them. And my student's thrived in ways I had never imagined as did I. Goal- Teach with all my heart and follow it. Treat negativity with kindness.
4. Teacher of the Year- Sometimes things come out of nowhere and are so unexpected. I was told at a staff meeting that I had been voted by my peers Teacher of the Year. I was completely and utterly speechless. This was followed by pure shock and I had to sit so still afraid I cry. I was deeply touched and honored. Goal- Give back to the staff the kindness they showed me.
5. What type of student will thrive and what type will struggle with iPads. As most would suspect the majority of my students jumped right in fearlessly. They learned quickly- almost in a blink of an eye it seemed. I gave them time to explore and learn apps before making any assignment or activity for the app. Many enjoyed being experts at a particular app and the 'go to' person if someone had a question or a problem ( even me ;-). The biggest problem for most was the basics of keyboarding. They would ask where a letter was, how to make capital letters etc. So, I started a Tuesday Typing class period. This helped quite a bit and soon I wasn't hearing "Where is the B? how do I make a capital letter or quotations." But a few started and remained very timid and reluctant for some time. I observed them closely and after meeting with the two boys I realized the problem. These children clearly didn't enjoy the iPad at first. They each had iPhones or iPads at home so it wasn't working on an unknown device but rather that these were the children who loved worksheets , very explicit directions, direct instruction, scripted lessons etc. . I soon realized they had anxiety with iPads because they preferred the the comforts of works sheets, direct step by step instruction, a clear exact solution The open ended creative aspect of the iPad seemed to cause them anxiety. After a few months this has lessened and they have adapted to their new learning environment but overall it has taken much encouragement, breaking tasks down into very small segments, writing explicit directions for what they need to accomplish on the iPad and patience. Goal-
6. Focus but be nimble- I had so may ideas when I first got the iPads...but I couldn't do them all. I needed time to adjust. I was excited and a bit overwhelmed ( in a good way ;-) and I knew I was about to change my teaching thought process and methods. I also knew that this was a tool a tried to focus on content and how to use the tool. To not get so caught up in the coolness of the iPad but how I could blend the curriculum with the iPad. Stay focussed on the children and the curriculum.