Growth IS the Focus - Leveling Up Professional Practice in 2016

Happy New Year!  Gearing up for my own return to work with students and teachers after a much appreciated holiday break, I have been reflecting on the goals I will carry with me into my work with educators and students each day.

In the world of educational technology, it is easy to get caught up in trends, passions, new tools and innovative products.  I am guilty of this myself!  This can lead us on tangents that are exciting, fun, empowering, and energizing, but all of these can also become distractions to the real goals we have for our instructional environments, teachers, and students.

The question we have to constantly ask is, "How is this helping us move toward our goal of improving instruction and learning practices?" And we have to be really honest about the answer to that question!

As I was saying, I have been reflecting on where I will put my energy as I return to school. For me, I have found that the focus and the message that I will carry into my work focuses solely on one major idea: Growth!

No matter where you (or those you support) are in your/their journey to learn to use and meaningfully integrate technology into professional practice, "growth" is a goal to which we can all subscribe. And the beauty of setting growth as a goal is that growth, while at first just a goal, becomes a habit. It must start out with intentionality where we strategically put ourselves in a position to grow and try new things (especially in the world of educational technology).  However, with each small step a new world of opportunity opens up for us and eventually growth just becomes a lifestyle.

Trust me when I say that I did not start on my own journey thinking I would one day be an advocate for the use of technology in the classroom (I would take a day on the water, out in nature, and far away from a computer any time). For me, I noticed that my students with the least interest in what I was teaching (I believe it was the interpretation of lyrics as poetry at the time) were drawn in by the movie project I offered to them as I was first trying out some video editing software that came on my new personal computer.  My initial growth step (learning to use video editing software) led to an encouraging discovery with students, which led to some study and exploration, which eventually carried me on my own journey of learning to use the technology meaningfully.

If you are somebody who needs a model to help guide your personal growth, I strongly recommend a close look at the SAMR Framework.  It is the most useful, practical, common sense framework to explain both how we generally adopt new technologies, as well as how we can meaningfully integrate them to improve instructional practice.  A simple Google search will turn over lots of great starting points, but I appreciate Kathy Schrock's guide to SAMR.  It's a great starting point.

If you are still in need of a good professional resolution for the new year (or the remaining school year), consider setting "Growth" -- specifically growth focused on how to meaningfully bring tech into your classroom -- as a front-running idea! I know I'll be pitching that same idea to the teachers I connect with daily.