Sunday, April 13, 2014

What Happens to the Thinkers and Tinkerers?

My favorite chat on twitter right now is #satchatwc which is a bunch of educators who gather at 7:30 am pacific time to chat about education.  This morning's topic was about telling our stories and the stories of our students, and others in our organization.  The thing that I have greatly appreciated about #satchatwc is that it gets me thinking, reflecting, scheming and plotting.  The rich conversation and sharing of resources and ideas sticks with me throughout the weekend as I contemplate my place in the education world and how I can affect change in my organization.  Synchronicity often keeps me company throughout the weekend as I proceed through my mundane activities and find interesting connections to the morning's conversation.  Here is the story that slammed me in the face as my son and I took a morning stroll shortly after #satchatwc ended.

We live in the Sierra Nevada foothills above Sacramento and below Truckee/Tahoe, so a stroll for me is my daily workout with lots of hills to get my heart rate up.  For Skyler a stroll is a chance to look for bugs, scat (various animal droppings), plants, and a connection to nature and time with Mom.  Today on our walk, I had many brick in the head moments that made me pause as a parent and as an educator.  I will try to share the conveyance of many different events that culminated on our 30 minute walk.

What happened on the walk...
As I headed outside with my Google Glass on, Tater was jumping on/from rocks waiting for our Saturday stroll.  I had just set up an app that would track our walk and provide us with important data on our "workout".  We began our walk and I had glass on to record the logistics of the walk.  As we traipsed down the driveway, I could tell that Tater wanted to try them out so I swiped down to get to the home screen and handed them over to Tater.  He gently put them on and started the usual conversation one has with glass... "Okay Glass"... We stood and I coached him to speak slowly, pause between statements and after many head bobs, tapping, swipes, and yelling a picture was finally taken.   We continued to walk slowly and Tater continued to tinker with the new tool.  He was slightly frustrated but continued to try.  I was giving him input and advice because I wanted to speed the pace of our walk and to "help" him.  15 minutes and 100 yards later, Tater was yelling, "okay STUPID Glass" over and over and I knew we needed a do over.  We stopped and I turned on screencast from glass to my phone so I could see what Tater was seeing and we went through the process of taking a picture and recording a video calmly together.  He handed glass back to me and we went on our merry way.

What my brain did as a result... (and the connection to thinkers and tinkerers)
I started thinking about Tater's impatience with glass

  • My son has learned in his short 3 years of school that if you can't do something quickly - read, math facts, worksheets, etc... then it is not worth learning or doing.  
  • He is a thinker/tinkerer and needs more time to learn, create, and do.  Unfortunately for him, his strengths have not been valued in his classes at school.   
  • Movement is integral to his learning and understanding as he works to make sense of what is going on around him. 
  • Unfortunately he is shutting down in school and losing interest and perseverance because being thoughtful makes you look stupid.
  • As a result, he gives up at the drop of a hat and expresses anger and frustration.  At home we spend a lot of time pausing, calming down and re-starting embracing the process rather than the product.
  • As a middle school math teacher I saw this behavior everyday in my classes when I asked my students to problem solve, explain, write, and be thoughtful - huge resistance that took many months to break down.
As a curriculum coordinator, I need to find ways to help our teachers value the thinkers and tinkerers and support them as they re-imagine their classrooms by creating "Innovation Teams" (another blog post).  I am so thankful for my PLN who shares ways they are changing the students learn and I will be calling on you for your ideas and support!

My thoughts on being a Glass Explorer
I became an explorer not because I am a gadget lover but because I am infatuated with all things Google.  I normally do not spend exorbitant amounts of money for things especially as an educator, but I knew I had a month to "tinker" and then I could return them.  At first I thought I would definitely return them but I have changed my mind and here is why:

  •  The Glass Explorer program is about thinking and tinkering with a new technology tool to make it better and usable for the general public.  
  • It is a process that takes time which goes against what most technology consumers want - they want something that will make their life easier, more organized, efficient (plug in your own adjective) and they want it NOW
  • Glass explorers are taking their time and tinkering, reflecting, sharing, creating, building and innovating and sharing some more and it is invigorating to be a part of that energy.
So I will be keeping my Glass not to be cool or a first adopter, but to learn from and about a new technology and how it will become a tool for me and my school district.