Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Photo Credit: JacobYarboroughPhotography via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: JacobYarboroughPhotography via Compfight cc

I have been fascinating with a the idea of giving both students and educators 20% time based on the writings of Dan Pink and the book Drive (a must read for all educators in my opinion). There has been some momentum growing in education around this idea and this past year I followed a few teachers who implemented “Genius Hour” in their classroom. A great name for this idea of getting out of the students way and allowing them to do great work.

I haven’t had a lot of time to implement 20% time into my consulting work. One hour workshops just don’t lend themselves to this kind of deep learning. That is why the three day Learning Institute I did in June in London had me so excited. Excited to get out of educators way and allow them to do great work.

I started off by learning something new myself. I set up a Tumblr account to run the three day institute. You can see all the learning here: http://litechaslondon.tumblr.com/

I had a Tumblr account but hadn’t used it that much and was looking for a place that not only could I set the outline for the three days of learning, but also find a place for participants to reflect easily without having to create an account. So I took my own 20% time before the institute started and watching a bunch of YouTube videos….mostly made by Middle School girls…..I taught myself how to set up a Tumblr site and how to allow others to submit reflections to it without needing an account.

Honestly I didn’t know how the participants would react when I told them at the beginning of the first day that each day I was going to give them 1 1/2 hours to do a project. Their project could be on anything they wanted. Play a song, write a poem, bake something, or do work based on what they were learning over the three days of the institute. The only catch was they had to have something to share the last hour of the last day of the institute.

You can read the reflections on the blog, but it was a pretty powerful experience for all of us. The really interesting thing was this institute was held at the end of the school year. Students had finished school just two days prior and all logical thought pointed to teachers being burnt out, checked out, and ready for a well deserved vacation. Instead they were passionate, they were excited, and they were reflective. Why? Because they controlled the time, the outcome, and the project. It was personal, it was productive, and it was mastery.

I realized as soon as I received the list of participants that ranged K-12 educators and administrators coming from 15 different International Schools that there was no way I was going to give each person what they needed and wanted from these 3 days, so instead I got out of their way and allowed them to do the work they wanted to do. The work that mattered to them.

In the end all I did was give them the time we hear so much about. “If only I had the time to learn…..”, I told them from the beginning this wasn’t an excuse for this institute as I was giving them that time they craved.

My own reflection that I’m still struggling with is this: These educators paid to come to an institute to find time where they could learn something. They paid to work on something that they could have done anywhere at anytime. They paid for me to say “I give you time”.

Yet…they paid for more than just that. They paid to be in a room with others, where ideas and learning were everywhere you turned, where excuses where turned into challenges and where being social was the focus. They were in the presence of other learners and allowed to learn on their own.

This is why schools still matter. We not only need that social interaction…we crave it! It is where learning takes place, where excuses become challenges and where real work happens. Schools matter because learning is social and schools are social. Let’s not forget that!

2013 is upon us and even though we are 26 days into the new year, I have made very little time to reflect openly here on the blog about the past and what the future might hold.

When we moved to Saudi Arabia in 2002 and bought a car, I learned quickly that you can not drive looking in your rearview mirror. Driving in Saudi has one rule…your job is to look where you are going not to watch what is going on behind you. In fact the rearview mirror becomes more of a distraction than a safety device.

I have been thinking about that a lot lately as I look back over this past year. It is great to look back and reflect on what you have done, what has worked and what has failed, however if we try to drive by looking behind us we will not be very successful. Reflecting is a good thing and it can help us understand where we have come from but if we try to drive by using our rear view mirror by only reflecting and not looking forward, we will crash. The “good ole days” are behind us and what “might be” stands in front of us. We cannot go back in time (yet) so we must reflect on the past and then focus on the future.

This past year was an incredible journey as I made the transition in June from full time educator to full time consultant. A scary but exciting jump; one that has allowed me to do what I feel in my heart is what I am supposed to be doing at this moment in time.

Looking in the rear view mirror:

Failures of 2012:

Reach Version 2:
The goal was to have the second version of Reach out in August. I thought I would have all this time after moving back to Seattle to spend updating the book. Somehow I forgot just how much time and energy goes into moving….you would think doing it every three to four years I would remember! Honestly it has only been since about November that we have felt settled into our new lives here in the States. So the second version of Reach never happened and at this point might never happen.

Another Book:
I had dreams of not only finishing a second version of Reach but of publishing another book that is rolling around in my head. I tried to tell myself that I needed to finish Reach first…yet honestly I don’t think my heart was really in redoing Reach and so this “Other Book” never even got started. But it is still rolling around and maybe I’ll make time this year to write it….maybe not.

More Blogging:
I had all these ideas about all these blog posts that I was going to be able to write and yet my blogging never really did pick up. Oh well….

2012 Accomplishments

Ran my first half marathon
This past July I finally ran my first half marathon. Over the past two years now I have watched in awe as my wife ran more halves than I can remember, a marathon and a 50K (31 miles). So to finally run my first half was a great accomplishment…although I could have done without my wife running backwards in front of me. 🙂

COETAIL
The COETAIL program continues to grow and expand in International Schools across the world. This summer, Kim Cofino and I started a partnership creating COETAIL LLP. This will allow us to expand the program, bringing on other instructors and ultimately serve more schools. I’m excited as the program continues to evolve, spread, and produce educators who have a deeper understanding of technology and its use in the educational environment. The COETAIL community just surpased 300 members and will surpase 400 by the end of the year. If you haven’t checked it out I encourage you to do so.

Ninja Program
The Ninja program continues to amaze me. With over 1000 educators who now have access to the files and stories of how people are taking it, changing it, using it, and contributing to it- I’m just blown away. I have had offers to monetize the program…but this is my way to give back and as long as I can afford it, I will keep it free for all to take, use, and mash-up.

Moving to Seattle
Anytime you uproot your entire life, it’s pretty much chaos….to do it every 3 to 4 years just makes my wife and I crazy I guess. We are loving living in downtown Seattle, spending time with family and friends and looking forward a little bit….can I just say a full season of Mariners baseball!

Looking Forward:

Consulting
If someone would have told me in June that by December I would be booking conferences, and schools a full year in advance, I would have laughed and said in my dreams. But the gigs keep coming and the calendar is filling up fast. I love teaching, pushing myself, and how every school and situation is different, therefore having to constantly innovate and think what is best for a particular school or audience. It’s teaching teachers and right now that is where my heart is at.

COETAIL
Everytime I think we have started to hit the end of the road with the COETAIL program another cohort starts up. Just last week I visited Korea to start a cohort at Seoul Foreign School. In about a week’s time our Online Cohort will start up with well over 60 people registered. Kim’s numbers at YIS are looking great and we have cohorts starting in Vietnam and Bangkok as well. Our first out of Asia cohort started this year as well in Ethiopia of all places. So the expantion continues.

Ninja Program
Some big ideas moving forward with this program that have me really excited. Stay tuned…but I think you’ll like them. 🙂

GAFE Class
I am excited to be launching the Google Apps For Education Class for all Educators. International Educators can take it for SUNY Graduate credits and US Educators can take it for a certificate of completion. An 8 week course that not only teaches you about each app and how to use it with students, but also forces you to create a lesson or unit to implement in your classroom using Google Apps. Teachers have been asking for the course so I’m excited to get it started.

More Running/Living Healthy
I’m continuing to run and workout and just live a healthy and balanced life. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can go back to running barefoot or in my five finger shoes. I love the time I get to spend with my wife running…and who wouldn’t with views like this. Seattle really is a great place to live and I am excited to take full advantage of it as we continue to make our home here.

As for education and technology, well there are a lot of people making predictions on where this is all going and where education is going in general. In fact, over the past couple of years I have made predictions based on what I was seeing. It is a slow train but a train that is definitely headed into a more digital world. We’re at the point now where the questions are changing.

It’s not a matter of IF we will have digital textbooks but when they will become the norm.
It’s not a question of should students have a digital device, but when will every student have one, two or even three.

Of course this is the easy stuff because it is just stuff. This is the way society is moving and education is being dragged along whether it wants to be or not.

The hard questions and changes about the purpose of education, the pedagogy behind learning in a connected environment, and exactly what should students be learning today are questions that we will continue to struggle with. We know we need more science majors, we know we need more students interested in engineering, computer science and innovation. We know those are where the jobs are at and where they are being created. Yet at the same time, I wonder how many teachers K-12 are taking time from their ‘curriculum’ to discuss major events such as the Mars Rover landing, what we are learning from it, and just how amazing this whole thing is with students.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was sitting in 4th grade and the teacher wheeled in a TV so we all could watch the Space Shuttle take off. Now we land a Rover on Mars and we don’t talk about it? It might just be our greatest scientific accomplishment of this decade and I’m wondering how many teachers are talking about it with students, getting them excited about what is possible.

We cannot drive education forward by looking in our rearview mirror all the time at what used to work, what used to be good, and what we used to teach. Driving through your rearview mirror is never a good idea. The road ahead is full of opportunity, if we focus on what can be rather than what was, 2013 will be a fantastic year!

Photo Credit: Kim Jones

I continue to think about how lectures are changing in our new connected world. My last blog post primed my thinking and thanks to the comments and a great run yesterday. I have been able to push my own thinking to what it is I was trying to get at and the changes to the lecture that we’re seeing today. 

Lectures For Content Delivery Are Dead

Boring LecturesThis is what I am coming to understand. That the lecture use to be the way we delivered content to students. The PowerPoint made this easier on us as it allowed us to make some quick bullet points of what we wanted to cover and then go about “covering the material”.

When content is free, open, and accessible to all then we need to rethink what lectures should be used for and delivering content or knowledge is not a good use. Let kids go find the content….what we need to use the lecture for is to inspire them to go learn the content, create understanding, and apply that new knowledge to other areas. 

Lectures should be used to inspire, tell stories, and push ideas

Before every keynote or lecture I give I start by giving the audience a page like this that allows them to get involved with what I am talking about or to be off task.

I constantly tell my audience that if they are going to be off task then here are some links, some ways to be off task. If I can’t hold their attention that’s my fault as a teacher not their fault as a learner.

Is that right? We are quick to blame students for not paying attention but to be fair if I’m in a boring lecture I don’t care how old I am I’m not paying attention. Is that my fault as a student or the teacher’s fault? I believe that’s my fault as a teacher. You might disagree but I’ll own it that if my class is boring that’s on me.

So what should a lecture be used for if it is not to deliver content?

Inspire: I love inspiring lectures. The ones that make you stand up at the end. The ones that make you feel like going out and making a difference, the onces that you can’t wait to share with others, that you retweet, or reshare in some way. They inspire you to take action, to try something new, or just to smile and enjoy life. Lectures should be used to inspire. 

Tell Stories: I love a good story teller. Sir Ken Robinson is a good story teller along with pushing ideas he tells stories about as good as anyone….his ability to weave story telling and idea pushing together is what pulls you into his lectures. Use lectures to tell stories that inspire, that get a point across, that push me to want to learn more or to think deeply about a subject. 

Push an Idea: My personal favorite are lectures that push my thinking to the point where my head physically hurts. Have you ever been to a lecture where your thinking has been pushed so far past what you believe, what you thought possible, or what you can image is possible that it actually hurts? It’s happened to me a couple of times. These are also the type of lectures that have me scrambling to find…get this….content. Use lectures to push ideas.

So how do kids learn the “stuff”?

So where does the stuff come from? This takes me back to my ideas around flipped learning. Where the students are responsible to find the stuff and we learn it together in the classroom with a professional (educator) to help students put the stuff into context. 

What if your time with students ended in a 10 to 15 minute fantastic lecture that told a story of a person, or pushed out an idea that inspired students to want to know more. The students then for homework go and research what it is they want to learn more about around that idea, person, place, subject, etc. The next class period they come back with all this “stuff” they researched and we take the first part of the class to talk about the “stuff” and try to make sense of it as a class. We try to connect the dots, we try and find out how all this is connected to what we have been studying. Then we go out and research some more. 

We don’t need to deliver content, we need to inspire students to go out and find it for themselves. What inspires you to do a search? Why do you search for this or for that on the web? It’s because you want to know it….you need to know it. It pains you not to know it. That’s what we need to do and that’s the role of the lecture in today’s world. Not to deliver content but to inspire, tell stories, and push ideas to the point we want to go learn the “stuff” on our own. 

bostonThe end of BLC means the end of my summer is right around the corner. A couple days before I step on a plane to head back to Bangkok, and my thoughts return to all the educators I’ve been able to interact with this summer.

No matter the conference, the session, the keynote, educators seem to quickly get overwhelmed with information and possibilities. Not that I blame them…there’s a lot of sessions on a load of different tools, ideas, theories, and just plain cool stuff! Add on top of that all the resources for all the sessions and anyone would quickly become overwhelemed.

The problem is once overwhelemed the brain stops processing information, you stop learning, and things go down hill from there.

Part of it is the schedule of conferences. Funny how we continue to talk about schools changing yet most conferences continue to look very much the same as they did __ years ago (I’ll let you fill in the date).

We know we need time to process information and we tell ourselves during the conference that we’ll take time to reflect once the conference is over, but the reality is very few people actually do. You get on your plane, you get back to life and the notes from the sessions, the resources, are left for “another day”.

What if we started building time into conferences to reflect? What if…..much like we talk about in schools….we cut back on the content….and up the learning…the depth, the idea generation. What if instead of 10 sessions there were 5?

What if we cut half the sessions and then added “Reflection, Unconference, Conversation” sessions throughout the conference to build in the time to process, reflect, and go deep in new learning during the conference itself? What if we made conversations the focus not the content (My EQ for my session: How do we make the most of our time face to face when content is free and avalible to all?).

This has always been the focus of the Learning 2.00x conference that I helped to start in Shanghai and continues. Each year the best feedback we get is “don’t stop the conversations”.

We educators need to feel OK with taking time to stop, reflect, and allow our brians to be silent. Allow our brains to process the information.

Run Keeper in BostonOn Thursday at BLC I started feeling the anxiouty catching up to me. New links, new things to think about, and feedback on my own sessions had pushed me to the edge. So I skipped a session and went for a 5 mile run along the Charles River….the best 40 minutes of the whole conference was that run.

It wasn’t the run itself (although it felt good to leave the hotel) but it was the thoughts and ideas that were flying through my head….I didn’t want to stop running…I was processing, thinking, and preparing my next steps. My brain needed the rest, needed the time. When I got back to the conference I just felt better, more relaxed, more focused and energized.

Do we give ourselves permission to reflect? Do we give ourselves time to play?  If not we leave conferences not knowing where to start.

Yes, we tell ourselves we’ll do it later, we’ll “get to it” but how many times do we actually get to it? Can we build time into the conference schedule to allow people to reflect, to use that valuble time with others thinking and learning with us in a very productive way? Can we use the time at conferences to make global connections, meet each other face to face? Can a conference help facilitate us to step out of our comfort zone and have a conversation with someone new?

Maybe I’m way off….maybe this isn’t a good use of school conference time. Maybe we’re suppose to be professional enough to reflect on our own time, to process on our own time?

I’m not sure if this is the right answer, but it kills me when I’m presenting the last session on the last day and I have conversations with more then a few educators who are saying “I don’t know where to start”, “There’s to much to do”, or worse yet just break down and cry because they’re so overloaded and feel like they had to go to every session, use every moment to it’s fullest poteintal and for some reason we view that as being in sessions and not by ourselves in deep reflection.

I just hope we all give ourselves permission to reflect at conferences, during the school day, throughout life. Reflection is a very important part of learning…and we need to give ourselves permission to do it more often.

It is less than 24 hours before I take off for Seattle and 2 1/2 weeks of relaxation. Between work and consulting/conferences I have not had two weekends off in a row since I landed back here in Thailand in August, and I’ve worked through every other holiday we’ve had. So I’m looking forward to disconnecting and spending time with friends and family back in Seattle this holiday season. So the blog will be quiet for the next couple weeks, but don’t worry I’m sure I’ll be active on Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook (Internet connection already active in the condo).

So before I sign off until 2011 I wanted to stop and reflect on 2010…which in many different ways turned out to be a very good year.

Published my first book

Sure…it was self published but I don’t care. I wrote a freakin’ book! Still crazy…even more crazy is I’ve given away over 4500 copies and sold 150 copies to date (thank you to those that bought it!). I still have to pinch myself to think I did this….I sat down…a guy who hates writing, isn’t very good at writing, and wrote a book. If I can do it anyone can…that’s for sure. What I think surprises me the most is how much fun I’ve had giving it away. Which already has me thinking about my next book or next free PDF document (see sidebar). Whatever it is that is next I do wonder if I’ll ever “publish” in paper again.

Ability to Travel and Teach

I’ve only been using tripit.com for a little over a year, but in 2010 I traveled 165,899 miles according to Tripit…and still have 8,000 miles to go tomorrow before my travel for 2010 is over. I’m lucky enough to work at a place that values my thinking and work ethic enough to allow me to travel and teach others, and I’m excited that I’ll be back here next year to build on the foundation and relationships I’ve started working on here in the high school. I’m excited to see that two days ago I lost the foursquare mayorship for our school to an 11th grade girl. That and the launch of ISB Radio means we’ve got some geeks in the school and I’m exciting to pull them in and see what we can build and have fun with around social tools.

I love to travel…I love flying and I love teaching teachers. It’s been a great year, although I think of all the presentations I gave this year my best one was done right here in Bangkok for the TEDx conference back in September (Video here). As educators we’ve all been there. The perfect lesson, the perfect day…everything just clicked….about 90 seconds into this story I was feeling it. The scary thing is afterwards my wife came up to me and said “You were feeling it weren’t you?” She knows me way to well. I hope as 2011 rolls around I’ll be able to do more presentations/more consulting…right now….that’s where my passion is….helping teachers/schools near and far think about these kids in our schools today and how we need to be engaging them differently. I’m having fun motivating people….of all ages.

Top Blog Posts

Here are the top blog posts for The Thinking Stick in 2010 from Google Analytics:

1. Facebook

2. The Thinking Stick Home Page

3. Pre-Paid Data Plan on SIM Unlocked iPhone in the USA

4. Plan for SIM unlocked iPhone with data plan iOS 4.1

5. ’11 the Year of the QR Code

6. Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom

7. Online Community Manager: A New Position in Education

8. Best plan for SIM unlocked iPhone in the US

9. Free Book Download

10. End of the Year Summative Assessment

Looking ahead

I have to say I’m just as excited about 2011 as I was about 2010. It’s a great time to be in education…and to have your passion be technology. Things are changing so fast and I love the pace….I wonder what will happen if it ever slows down.

2011 will see a new theme to The Thinking Stick (in development now), as well as more travel (hopefully) with my now reduces 90% contract here in Bangkok.

It’s a great time to be in education…and I’m excited to see what the new year brings.

Happy Holidays to all of you…thank you for reading…..and we’ll see you in 2011!

Cheers,

Jeff

Well, the last day of the 08-09 school year is here. A half day for both students and staff before we all fly out to either summer vacation spots or our home countries for the summer.

Living and working overseas is funny that way. You wonder why prices on airline tickets go up until you are trying to buy a seat on a plane the day after an international school gets out and there aren’t any….on three different airlines. 🙂

Looking back over my first year at ISB, it has been a learning experience. I’ll admit that the transition from Shanghai to Bangkok wasn’t as smooths as I thought it would be.

When we first went overseas to Saudi Arabia we expected everything to be 180 degrees different then what we knew. We didn’t know what to expect and of course your mind wonders to the worst of it. So when we arrived in Saudi and found that really….things weren’t that backwards, it made the transition to a new country much easier.

Then came Shanghai were again, not knowing much about China, and having seen CNN and the reports of what it was like, kept our expectations in check. Never did we think that we would live in a beautiful 31st floor apartment over looking the city. Also, the transition was made easier because our good friends from Saudi, Andy and Amanda, were headed to the same school as we were. We had a built in support system, friends to help you work through the transition to both a new city and a new school.

Bangkok has been a different and difficult transition. Seriously I think it’s a study into human nature. 🙂

Before moving here to live, we had visited Bangkok no less than three times. Thailand is the vacation hub of Asia and of educational conferences in the Asia region. So between attending conferences in Bangkok and vacationing on the islands of Thailand you get swept up in this tropical paradise….which Thailand is….if you are vacationing.

There is a difference though between vacationing in a place and actually living in a place. Your day to day life, as much as you wish it was a vacation, isn’t. Where do you get this, how do you get that, where do you go for this, that, and the other thing. We all have this dream moving to Thailand that we’ll vacation on the islands or at the beach every weekend….but then daily life hits you straight in the face and the next thing you know…it’s June and you haven’t been to a beach or an island once. 🙁

Of course this is my story and many others have made it to the islands, or beaches multiple times, but for me…it seems life has gotten in the way.

Then there is the school aspect. Moving to a new job in a new school is always a transition. We have these perceptions of what the school will be like, run like, feel like. In the international world, word spreads about schools, which ones are good, which ones to stay away from. Which schools have their act together, and which schools are struggling for leadership. You come to a school with these perceptions of what you expect it to be and 9 times out of 10 I’d say that a school/work place never lives up to the perceptions we have about them as educators and expats. What we think it will be like and what the daily business is like are two different things.

I’ll admit I’ve struggled this year to find where I fit in at ISB. The first 6 months between adjusting to Bangkok and adjusting to the school made for a stressful time both at school and at home. I became very negative at times and had to continually check myself and my feelings. Of course this cycle has a name. The relocation adjustment cycle is something that many people feel when they relocate to a new city and/or new job. I’ve known about the cycle even had training on understanding the phases one goes through. My problem is, up until now I don’t think I ever really experienced the cycle…or at least not to the degree I did this year.

But in the end the highs and lows smooth out, life isn’t so bad, you find your place and you end the school year looking ahead to what next year will bring.

Personally I’m in a much better place moving out of school housing the first of May and into a beautiful house that we are renting less then a 10 minute walk from school. Having your own place and making it your own is one step to feeling more comfortable in the relocation cycle. Here is a video of our new house, we love it and it’s been a huge step in making Bangkok feel like home.

Second is the feeling of understanding the school system. Of buying into the school’s vision, the technology vision and understanding where your role is in that vision. It’s been a great year working with one of the best Educational Technology Teams in all of Asia. As frustrating as this year has been we’ve made some progress this year. Kim captured must of what we’ve done as a team this year in a recent post and keynote that we did together called Moving a Community Forward. We were able to build on the work that Dennis Harter and Justin Medved did before us and as we start planning for next year we’ll continue to slowly move ISB forward one teacher at a time, one class at a time, one administrator at a time.

We’re losing Stephen Lehmann as our IT Director. Stephen has been at ISB for 12 years and 10 as the IT Director. His vision, his passion, his leadership truly moved ISB out of the dark ages and has created a learning infrustracture that we will be taking adventage of for years to come. Much of what ISB has been able to accomplished in the use of technology at the school rest on the back of Stephen.

Overall it’s been one heck of a year. A year that saw me traveling at least once a month to conferences, or to do presentations. A year that started with the Learning 2.008 conference in Shanghai and ended with a trip back to Shanghai to start planning 2.010. In between I went to Jakarta, Hanoi, Kota Kinabalu, Qatar, Portland, Kota Kinabalu (again), and Lisbon. I also taught a total of 4 graduate level classes (and I wonder why I didn’t have time to go to the beach!).

I’ve spent this year focused on bringing social learning to the masses. Which was a goal I set for myself. It wasn’t about pushing the leading edge as much as helping educators around the world, where ever I could to wrap their heads around this new learning landscape. One that is constantly changing and I myself do not yet fully understand (which is what keeps it exciting!). I hope I’ve been able to do that. I hope the e-mails, the discussions, the blog posts, the skype calls, the presentations, the podcasts, the help with Wetpaint Wiki Educators, all of it has helped at least one teacher somewhere feel a little more comfortable teaching in this new digital age of learning.

Of course the learning and teaching doesn’t stop with the end of the school year. I’ll be at NECC in a couple weeks and then in Boston for the Building Learning Communities conference the end of July. In between those times the blog might be a little quieter then usual as I spend time with friends and family and at Safeco watching the Marniers and soaking up the rays of the Pacific Northwest.

So here’s to looking forward and finding what’s new on the horizon and helping education and educators around the world continue to push forward into an ever changing world.

I came into work today and started unpacking as usual as my colleague Dennis Harter started unpacking for the day as well. He was complaining about a headache he had this morning and we started brainstorming what it could be from.

We ended up talking about water and how neither of us feels like we’re drink enough water through the day. There is a water cooler less then 10 meters from our desk and both of us have multiple water bottles as our disposal. So if we have access to both a water container and the actual water why are we not drinking enough?

As we started discussing it came down to time. If the water is sitting here in front of me I could and would easily drink 2 liters a day. The problem is it isn’t. As crazy as it seems the time it takes to walk the 10 meters to the water cooler fill my water bottle and come back might take a whole minute but just isn’t a priority in my day.

Dennis and I had a good laugh about how a little thing like drinking water can become a huge thing because it isn’t a priority for us….we don’t make the time to actually do it!

So Dennis and I are teaming up to make it a priority. We’ll fill each others water bottles and continue to think about drinking more water…we’ll make time to walk to the cooler.

The more I thought about our discussion this morning the more it got me thinking about time and how making time can be done by it a priority. I wrote earlier in the year about giving yourself permission to reflect. About making time and making reflection a priority. What we make a priority gets done and taking the time to blog, or write, or think or read is how we learn. We know it’s good for kids…we know it’s good for us…we just need to make the time to actually do it.

Since I’ve been on vacation and reflecting offline for the past two weeks, it’s time for me to put down my thoughts for 2008 and my predictions for 2009 (a separate post).

What can I say about 2008? It was a fascinating year for me professionally. I started the year without a job having resigned from Shanghai American School and not knowing what the future held. It was interesting to note the role my personal network played during this time of risk and indecision. Leaving some 20+ comments on that post and forwarding job offers to me as people found them. In the end I found my different job at the International School Bangkok, which led to packing up everything we owned including our two cats and moving to Bangkok, Thailand. 

I’ve been thinking about reflection lately and how we use it in our classrooms. I can remember being in elementary school and being asked to reflect in a journal. Reflection is a great process…a proven process of learning. We’ve been asking students to reflect for years in education so one simple question:

Do you give yourself permission to reflect during the work day?

and another question:

Do your administrators give you permission to reflect during the work day?

I say during the work day because I truly feel if we are to become better educators we need reflection time built into what we do. To often we end up like Jenny:

When you spend a considerable amount of time learning about how we transform learning with the use of new tools you find yourself online a lot. Most of this effort happens outside of my working day which impacts on sleep, family time and time spent with friends.

And that’s not good!

Why is it the educators place a high value on the reflective process yet do not give themselves permission to do it during their own working hours? Every educator has prep time. We use that time in a multitude of ways, yet how many of us set time aside just once a week to take 30 minutes or so and reflect.

You don’t have to blog, or even write. Reflecting could be reading an educational journal, it might be sitting and staring out the window, or it might be writing down your thoughts.

Andy Torris, an administrator, finds time in the back of the car when he’s going from one campus to another in his “Dispatch from the Road” posts. Andy uses his working day time, to reflect and write about his thinking.

New comer to the blogosphere David Hamilton has an excellent post on reflection and the act of reflecting.

But lest we forget, reflection is hard work. Whether we are sorting out our emotions and discerning personal values and attitudes, or discovering the shaky underpinnings of contemporary truths, reflection takes work, and, I would suggest, it takes practice. As I prepared to write this blog, I was amazed at how difficult it is to keep focused on a single abstract topic for stretches of time over several days.

Yes, reflecting is hard work! It takes practice, but more than that it takes time. Do you give yourself permission to reflect?

At the Learning 2.008 conference we had seven unconference sessions where participants could choose to go find a corner and reflect. Yet I have had conversations with people who went to the conference who said:

“I just wish I would have had time to site and play with everything I was learning.”

You did! You just didn’t give yourself permission to sit and let it soak in. Instead it was more important to you to go to this session, or that unconference session. Don’t blame the conference, we gave you the time…you just chose to use it in a different way.

Isn’t that what we do with prep time during our working day? We make a choice on how we are going to spend that time. We make the choice to answer e-mails, grade those papers, or update our facebook status.

During the Shanghai EduBlogger Con I was talking with some newbie bloggers who asked the question:

“Where do you find the time to blog?”

My anwers:

I schedule it into my work day. When I was hired and again the first week of school I told my administartion that I will be blogging during working hours. That blogging for me is about learning and reflecting. Blogging is not just writing, it is the act of reading, thinking, reflecting and writing. As a technology person in a school helping teachers, I need that time to reflect and learn about what’s happening, and I make a point to schedule that into my work day.

Question:

“So you close your door, make yourself unavaliable and blog?”

Answer:

2008-09-28_1442 by jutecht.Yes! I, unlike a classroom teacher, do not have set aside prep time. So I create my own around my lunch hour. I give myself 30 minutes of reflection time every day and back that with a 45 minute lunch. I shut off my e-mail client, I shut my door (or would if I had one) and I reflect. Now if a teacher comes to my door and needs my help of course I help them, but that rarely happens during the lunch hour.

I don’t write a blog post every day. Some days I read my RSS reader, other days I listen to a podcast or watch a YouTube video. Somedays I follow links and learn, and other days….I blog.

I give myself permission to reflect. I as a learner need that time, I understand how important it is to reflect and my administrators understand that it is legitimate use of my prep time.

Make reflection part of your work day. If it is something you try and do outside of school it won’t happen. There is rarely a time when I’m not thinking about education and technology…but it’s my passion and I love it! Some teachers have other interests, and that’s great! But give yourself time to reflect on your practice. Make it a habit to reflect and make it part of your work day.

Give yourself permission to reflect….it’s OK

If you need permission from someone then you have it from me. Tell your administrator that Jeff Utecht says you need to take time to reflect. If they have an issue with it…they can contact me! 🙂