There are moments in life that make you pause and reflect; moments that you know will be pivotal in how your story unfolds. Three days this month were spent in Coconut Grove, Miami at a learning event called Miami Device. There is something about this event…. The people, the venue, the vibe that makes it different from other professional development that I’ve experienced. It’s not in one or two specific details, it’s about all of them intertwined that causes me to leave feeling different; feeling inspired and grateful. I leave feeling courageous…..that I matter.
Two years ago I started a journey when I was granted funding through Carl Perkins and a Century Link grant to purchase ipads. Little did I know when I started, the path it would take me on as an educator. Knowing I was venturing into new territory, I requested professional development to learn more about what I was getting myself into. This lead me to a learning event called Ipadpalooza in Austin, Texas where I was introduced to a different way of looking at education and how technology could be used to improve the learning experience for students. I discovered Twitter and what it meant to be connected to amazing educators that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I expanded my professional learning network; my isolated educational bubble popped and I entered a new world of possibilities.
Ipads started arriving. I took a courageous leap and begun to shake things up in my classroom. However, courage comes with a healthy dose of fear and failure. New ideas didn’t seem as magical when I tried them. I had a lot of frustrations and failures. Why was I doing this? I had been dialed in as an educator. I was comfortable. Students were learning. Students were comfortable. I wanted to give back the ipads. No, I take that back, I wanted to throw them out the window. Though I had started down a path that was going to be rocky, in my heart I knew there was no turning back. I was committed. Being comfortable wasn’t an option. Yes, students had been learning before, but were they really reaching their full potential? Had I been allowing them to demonstrate their learning in new ways? No. I had to take another step of courage.
A little over a year after my experience at ipadpalooza I discovered a new learning event on Twitter….Miami Device. I had some money to spend on professional development, but not enough to cover the cost of travel for this event. Then an opportunity arose; a contest to win free registration and one night of hotel stay. However, the contest required you to create something that was shared over the internet explaining why I should win the trip. This was my chance, so I took it….. and I won!
My first Miami Device experience was amazing. The educators I followed on Twitter, came to life as I was able to hear them speak and chat with them in an intimate setting of only 300ish people. My Twitter connections now become personal connections. A core group of us that we named the Miami 7 stayed in touch throughout the year on Twitter, Voxer and Google Hangout. I now had a network of amazing people that shared an equal passion to grow as educators. I had a group to support and encourage me and to pick me back up if I failed. My fear was fading and my passion for edtech was increasing.
Within 3 months of leaving Miami Device, the final ipads arrived to complete two classroom sets for our culinary classes. I knew that teaching culinary arts the way that I always had taught it would need to change now that I had an ipad in the hands of each of my students. I had been introduced to endless ideas and I couldn’t continue teaching my class in the same way. I was now experiencing many more wins than failures. My classroom was transforming in a way that I hadn’t even realized was possible a few years ago. I discovered Google Classroom, gamification, appsmashing, and I had gone paperless. Yes, failure still came….but now I was embracing it. I was realizing that without the failures you can’t experience the wins.
My passion of educational technology was increasing and I knew I needed to connect locally and share my passion with the educators in my area. I began partnering with a few other teachers in our building that shared the same excitement to offer professional development on integrating technology in the classroom. We started an Edtech Cadre at our school and I joined the Southern Oregon Edtech Cadre. I also had the opportunity to attend some awesome local edtech summits. I began sharing edtech with my colleagues at staff meetings and on inservice days. Once again stepping out of my comfort zone...facing my fears.
So now I sit reflecting on this past month at my second Miami Device experience. I went to amazing sessions and listened to phenomenal educators share their genius. My core Miami 7 group expanded as new people came into my circle that I now consider friends. I was pushed out of my comfort zone to meet people that I otherwise would have been too timid to introduce myself to. I laughed, I cried, I felt grateful for being in the profession of education. I left feeling sad that the experience was over, but also renewed and inspired.
What is resonating with me is the ending Keynote by inspirational educator and speaker, Angela Maiers. She spoke on courage and facing our fears. She challenged us to share our story, because if we aren’t brave enough to share how are our students going to be brave enough to share theirs. Her parting words were “You Matter”. When I thought about that statement, I realized that I struggled with this. I knew I mattered to my family, friends, and students, but what did I have to contribute to the greater world of rockstar educators? What was this small town culinary arts teacher from Oregon even doing in this mix?
So here I am taking another step of courage. I am sharing my story. I’m committing to creating a blog where my successes and failures can be shared. I hope by sharing my story, that other educators in my smaller and larger circle may be brave enough to share their story too. Because, we all really do matter. We are all in the business of changing lives and we all make a difference.
Special thanks to my Miami peeps: Rodney Turner, Jenny Ash, Michael Matera, Craig Badura, Brent Catlett, Katherine Burdick, Richard Wells, Tom Mussoline, MIke Jaber, and Tracy Zordan. Also, a special shout out to the two that introduced me to Edtech learning at it's best: Felix Jacomino (Miami Device) and Carl Hooker (ipadpalooza). You are all rockstars!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.