Saturday, February 10, 2018

When was the last time you learned something challenging, exciting and new?

I'm going to tell you a secret about me: I hate to fail- I don't do it with dignity. Because I hate to fail I often don't like to take chances either. As a child (birth to 18) I was fairly athletic and always loved to be active but place a new game in front of me or a concept I didn't know yet and I immediately became a wallflower. I would allow the fun to happen all around me while I watched because I was afraid I wouldn't be good at it. This is something that I have to be mindful about even today. I have to push myself out of this comfort zone and the older I get the more I find myself willing to fail, but it's still hard. My perfectionist and competitive tendencies sometimes overpower me.

In the past couple of weeks I've found myself truly pushed out of my comfort zone regarding learning. In one case circumstances caused the need for learning and in the other case passion to create caused it. I self taught myself the intricacies of 3D printing in the last couple of weeks due to a need my students had. I'll be honest, I haven't perfected this skill nor was I even 100% happy with the end results but I accomplished it. Next step: accomplish printing AND design.

The next thing I accomplished was creating my very first skill for an Amazon Echo. Alexa can now read my blog to all the millions of people interested (humor me) by adding the skill "All Things EduTechie Oriented" from the skill store. I was actually shook when I realized I had accomplished this task. My skill set was 100% lacking in trying this. The instructions often looked like greek to me. When I finished, just like a toddler that would run to mom and ask her to put their crayon artwork on the fridge, I started texting coworkers and family with the results! I'll be honest, I took the path of least resistance to create it. There are things about it that I wish worked differently, it isn't perfect. But I did it. 

I often like to think I'm a growth mindset kind of girl. I have no problem reading material that is contradictory to what I currently think and growing from it but it took these last couple of weeks to realize I do tend to shy away from truly learning the HOW TO of really new things. So as I look at what spurred me I also can't help but see correlations in ways we can spur our students as well:

  • Time. Both of these new skills took time. For one I actually put some things on hold and worked after school to get it done. For the other, the flu gave me the chance to just focus on it. We need time, uninterrupted time to think through things that are challenging. Adults and students need time to devote to learning and using that time intentionally is important for the learner to persevere.
  • Reason. Tell me they why. Before 2 weeks ago I didn't really even have a desire to do either of those tasks but now I'm pleased as punch that I have accomplished them. What happened to cause this? I had a WHY- whether intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated knowing why you are learning something gives you the guts to keep going when it gets rough.
  • Resources. To learn new things we need the access to the tools to get us through the learning goal. Whether it be the wide world web, an expert, or a 3D printer or Amazon can't accomplish the learning if the right tools aren't available. 
  • Validation. This may sound vain but learners need validation. There was this moment when I accomplished the task of creating an Alexa Skill and someone ask "are you going to create it for Google Assistant as well?" I felt diminished in that moment. I said, "Wait a minute, can we just glow in the moment in the fact I did something I didn't think I could do?" How often do we push our students to the next thing after an accomplishment instead of truly celebrating the current accomplishment? For some of our students every math problem, essay, or summative assessment has that same sense of "Oh my goodness! Look what I just did!" as I felt this week. I want to be more mindful in celebrating growth in my students and not just seeing it as a check mark and herding them forward to the next thing. 
I love weeks when you learn something about yourself that you might actually even see as a flaw. I'm going to work harder in examining myself more frequently for things I might be shying away from due to fear. What I really learned from something that is challenging, exciting and new is that it feels marvelous (even if it isn't perfected) to accomplish that which you thought was hard to do.