Always growing

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how to continue to grow. As a digital literacy coach, I think it is my job to grow and continue to grow. Not just for the sake of growth, but always looking and wondering about how to change and enhance what’s happening in the classroom.  

Sometimes I fear that I’m just growing and changing for the sake of growing and changing, other times I’m worried that I’m too stagnant and not growing enough. 
I have honestly felt that we learn the most and change the most when we are feeling uncomfortable. One of the things I try to do throughout the year is to put myself in uncomfortable situations in order to help me see my work from different perspectives. 
So I guess I’m wondering what my next growing opportunity is going to be.  I’ve tried things from a maker space perspective this year, and it’s pretty interesting.  It’s especially interesting to see the commonalities between design perspective and systems thinking in environmental education.  I also have loved the idea of critiquing the user experience model, so it’s been a lot of fun. 
I’m looking for the next big shake up though so I can change how I’m learning.

Joyful Places

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I’ve been thinking a lot about places and how to get people connected to places.  Recently I was asked if Singapore was a “joyful place”, it really got me thinking. 

What is a joyful place, how do places become joyful, can we make this happen?  I’ve explored this a bit in my thesis, but it’s something I often revisit.  I didn’t know how to explain this.  The first thought was no, it’s not joyful, but I do find joy.  Mostly because of how I interact with my place.  I’m outside a couple nights a week playing some sort of sport.  We go to the gardens and by the water.  We take the dogs for a walk twice a day.  I find joy in all those moments.  
But when I’m walking around I see many unhappy people, working late, angry in their cars, overheated and I think it’s not the space that’s joyful. 
It’s how you live in a place.  We can only fully become comfortable in our place if we spend time in it, and once we spend that time we can start working on the relationships, and then the positive relationship in our place. 
I do think it would greatly increase work place satisfaction if we spent more time outside and interacting with our community. 

Making our own paths

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One of the best things about this job is the ability to constantly (re)define my role.  So, it’s pretty great for me, although I can understand that people who need clearly defined roles might not be as happy.

So, what I’m really going for this year is experimental iPad groups. I recently read this “Challenging Tweet” post.  It’s been consuming a lot of my thoughts recently.  We are reinforcing this idea of hierarchy and traditional classroom values while using tools that could be used for student led learning.  I’m trying to get my teachers and students to see this, but I’m not sure about it myself. I just know it’s something we have to start thinking about it. 
My first thought is, this is why we need to teach coding.  Students are taking part in a world they really don’t have a lot of control over. Coding will give them some power. Actually teachers need to know more about this (and so do I for that matter). 
My second thought was, get them outside and start creating their own knowledge, they can do this inside too, but I really want them outdoors to reinforce this idea that learning has no boundaries, when you’re in a class, the walls are already there. 
Anyway, trying to go down these new paths, some lead nowhere, but hopefully one or two will take me to some place pretty great. 

Thinking about community

As an edtech coach, and an environmental educator, I find that most of my conversations happen with people who I think are in my community.

So, I wonder… who am I missing, who am I marginalizing, am I really growing as an educator? 
I hope so, but anyway, it’s a wonder.   A crazy busy week, well two weeks, but working hard on my enviroed project. 
It’s funny because I always want to push kids to go further, but so often I let teachers feel comfortable.  If we learn from being uncomfortable am I making it difficult for my colleagues. 
Not much to write today, just want to write so I don’t forget to keep in the loop.  Next blog post will be about the project.

Making Parent Communication Folders

Screen Shot by Maureen
This week our team has been focused on creating a presentation for delivering information to parents.  Before we sent out numerous links for parents, but most of our parents received and email on their phones and clicked links to access the information.  Their phones opened many new tabs which made browsing difficult for them.  So we decided to use a different approach this year. 
Since we are using Google Apps for Education, we decided to create folders where parents can view the information being sent out through one main folder.  When they open the folder they get subfolders which will bring them to curriculum, media and single subject teachers. 
As a tech team, this seemed pretty straightforward, but we all learned a lot when trying to share the message to administration and grade level teams.  While sharing settings were easy to manage and control with a small group of people, it was more difficult when using the same folder in multiple drives (for our grade level teachers), we worked with the sharing settings making people editors for a short period of time and then making them viewers only. This way we could manage how the drives were organized.  
More than anything, as an EdTech team, but mostly I learned a lot about breaking steps down and differentiation.  One of the teams was very comfortable using Google Drive and blogs and they flew through the presentation in fifteen minutes mainly concerned with our privacy settings and size of the drive. Another group (much larger) took an hour to get set up.  Some of this was due to our prep, but some of it had to do with the comfort of using the drive.  I learned a lot about the importance of knowing your audience.  Since I’m new to the school, I had prepared a uniform presentation, but as I am getting to know the groups better, it’s important to start changing how and what I present (all best practice really, I guess this is just pre-assessment). 
I have two more presentations to go, but I feel much more prepared for sharing the information, and hopefully making it more meaningful to the teachers. 
Next comes the parent step (well a week from now).  It will be interesting to see how well the information gets from one place to the next.  

Habit Forming?

It’s been really easy for me to form bad habits. Unconsciously I just do whatever and soon it’s too easy to stay in that rhythm, as long as it isn’t too good for me.  The things I want to do, running, blogging, etc. have been harder habits for me to form.

I wish I was better at remembering but I was reading/listening to something recently where the presenter was talking about how teachers use the idea that students are easily distracted because of access to technology as an easy way to explain why the students weren’t successful in class.  The presenter said it was our duty to work harder to inspire our students to work harder to stay focused, and that there is a sense of accomplishment in staying focused. So, I know that it is crucial for me to stay focused in order to do this, but I find it so difficult.

I’m at an EARCOS conference in Bangkok right now, and many of the speakers and presenters are saying the same thing in different forms, and I feel like I say the same things to my students (and was told the same things by my teachers) but still forming those good habits are so elusive.

I want to make sure that students are blogging about the environment and their place in it this year.  I feel like this will be essential for their learning.  By sharing their thoughts, writing about a place that is close to them, and communicating with others about their places, I think they will also develop a greater sense of community in the international world.

So any good habit forming tips? How do I keep myself accountable? I’m working with some people to make sure I keep to my goals, I guess community is important, but any other ideas are very welcome.

What Shapes Us?

What we believe transcends our thoughts and integrates into the way we teach.  Our values are passed to us from our community members, parents, teachers, and society (Moser, 2007). Through these values, our actions spring forth.  We are products of our community, and our community is shaped by the idea of our home space.  The people and values that surround us growing up, shape who we are going to be (Moser, 2007).  How do our previous experiences effect how we shape future students in different places?

Teachers have a variety of reasons for teaching (or not teaching) environmental education (Hart, 2003).  In some schools it is not necessary or required to teach environmental education.  While this is not true for my school, there is no established environmental curriculum.  This means teachers’ perceptions of environmental education dictate what and how they teach (Bengtson, 2010; Hart 2003).  How we perceive what we teach can lead to how we engage students.  Through critical self-reflection we can better understand what we believe, which allows us to think about how we engage our students.  Bengtson (2010) says it is critical that we are aware of both our perceptions and our setting when we engage in environmental education.  Are we better environmental educators if we believe environmental education is worthwhile?
As teachers move around, they may not have acquired the knowledge necessary to teach relevant environmental facts.  This dissonance between knowledge and applied values may hinder how expatriate teachers engage students in EE.  Sammel (2005) asserts that knowing who we are as environmental educators is a first step in understanding our educational program. Through interviews with my co-teachers, I can learn more about what they know about our new to us tropical environment and how that relates to what they choose to teach in class.  The perceptions of our shared place effect how we teach about the environment; therefore, we may need to learn more about our new homes before creating an effective program.
Experiences also help to shape our value system.  As expatriates, we have all come from different places, and believe different things. While many of us who travel experience similar occurrences, our previous experiences shape how we perceive our life in our new home.  I wonder how significant life experiences shape who we are as educators (Chawla, 1999; Anderson-Patton, 1980)?  

Anderson-Patton, V. (1998). Creative Catalysts: A study of Creative Teachers from their own Perspectives and Experiences. (Dissertation) Retrieved from Proquest Dissertations and Theses UMI number 9838453

Bengtson, K.H.M. (2010). Elementary Teachers’ Perceptions of Environmental Education. (Dissertation) ProQuest Dissertations and Theses UMI number 3434324

Chawla, L . (1999) Life Paths Into Effective Environmental Action, in Journal of Environmental Education, Fall 99, Vol. 31, Issue 1
Hart, P. (2003) Teachers Thinking in Environmental Education: Consciousness and Responsibility
Moser, S. C. (2007). More bad news: The risk of neglecting emotional responses to climate change information. In S. C. Moser & L. Dilling (Eds.), Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change (pp. 64-80). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Sammel, A. J. (2005). Teachers’ understandings and enactments of social and environmental justice issues in the classroom: What’s “critical” in the manufacturing of road-smart squirrels? (Dissertation) ProQuest Dissertations and Theses