Get Out of the Way!


It might be a strange memento, but my SXSWedu nameplate has been sitting on my desk since the conference ended on March 6th. It serves as a reminder. A reminder of the things I learned this year and a reminder of the commitment I made to action with my original co-presenter, Greg Garner, and a room full of people tweeting to #sxmetacog.

I was inspired to scrap almost the entire structure of our presentation the night before, after taking part in the EdTechWomen dinner, an awesome event put on by the national organization and our local Austin chapter. Of course when I got into a room with such a diverse group of interests, passions, experiences, and perspectives, I wanted to remain in this Neverland forever. The conversations were powerful, indeed, and left me desiring another opportunity to learn, grow, and be pushed by the people who had traveled to Austin in search of something bigger than themselves. I left Uncle Julio’s that night determined to use our time the next morning to create and facilitate this type of experience.

Redoing a presentation the night before is not necessarily best practice or a habit to engrain, but in this case, the learning opportunity that emerged was worth far more than the missed sleep and frazzled nerves that accompanied a nascent presentation in front of lots of smarties.

I won’t go too deep into our content here, if you want to get the idea you can check out our Smore. But what is still making me smile a couple weeks later, is the authentic, collective conversation and connection that occurred amongst a random group of incredible people. It was as if they were just waiting for someone to pull the release valve, to be given permission to speak, share, and connect in an authentic way with those around them—that is… beyond the last five minutes at a solo microphone in the center of the room with all eyes staring at them #nooffenseifudidthat.

We knew we wanted to facilitate an active learning session, but what we did not know was how well this desire would mesh with the desires of those who showed up.

Learning alongside our peers, we experimented with Visible Thinking strategies, tweeted “headlines” representing our individual SXSWedu experiences, thought about what we want our students to be like and reflected on a shift in our thinking about what needs to take place in order for educational innovation to occur. And just when we thought we had pushed them to their cognitive capacity, (since it was day 3) we asked them to take one more step.

You see, I went into the conference remembering distinctly my inspiration after last year– I thought I could fly. Then reality set in and the day to day normalcies slowly ate away my inspiration. This year, with wild, sparkly eyes once more, I wanted to capture that energy and commit to doing something with it. I didn’t want to go it alone either. So, our last request was to connected with someone in the room who could help you and/or you could help them accomplish something to move innovation in education forward. Then they were asked to take a “selfie” with that person and Tweet out what they were going to do.

Maybe our kids are just waiting for someone to pull the release valve too….

Maybe they are waiting for us to get out of the way…

This is what happened when we got out of the way:

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So what about you? How are you going to encourage thinking and do something to move innovation in education forward? Tweet to #sxmetacog and let’s keep the momentum going!

SXSWedu: This is the Moment of Truth

By Tracy Clark

By Tracy Clark

The EduNerds are leaving and in their place music groupies, film aficionados, and gaming junkies descend upon Austin for the “other” SXSW events. The Jeffrey Tambor keynote and Pok-e-Jo’s BBQ may have signaled the end of SXSWedu 2014, but hopefully the learning, connecting, and action is just getting started.  According to executive producer, Ron Reed,  “SXSWedu provides a powerful platform to drive meaningful change and constructive, actionable outcomes.” I know… sounds pretty nice, but here’s the question I want to keep asking:  What will it take to see this change?
SXSWedu may set the stage, but we still have to perform the show. A conference can provide a platform and opportunities to connect, maybe even develop a sort of culture, but ultimately we are responsible for how we engage in learning opportunities both during and beyond the conference dates. We choose what to make of the conference and what the conferences makes of us.
By Amy Burvall

By Amy Burvall

 Inspire & Be Inspired

Classroom teachers, entrepreneurs, investors, professors, thought leaders, students, and non-profit organizers from across the world gather in one place for four unique days of conversations, connections, and growth. People come to inspire and be inspired. Beyond the planned events, in the nooks and crannies of a jam packed schedule, the informal learning takes place.

I was reminded that good stuff happens during these “in-between” moments as I reflected on my own:
  • Conversations with friends both new and old, huddled by coveted outlets, on the top floor of the Hilton
  • A 15 minute hallway interview with Vladmir, a Russian edtech writer, prompted by the EduSocial profile
  • Learning from an incredible table of women, in preparation for the ETW lightning talks
  • Pushing the mindset of an entrepreneur looking for an educational viewpoint
  • Playing with the Paper app with Amy Burvall (definitely one of my new favorite people) during my #sxmetacog session (while I was implementing wait time for responses)
  • Carrying on conversations via Voxer with my extended PLN (most of whom were not at the conference) discussing the networked lives of teens
When everyone is willing to take a moment and talk about things that matter, a culture of thinking develops. And it is this collective cognition that makes the event so powerful.
By Tracy Clark

By Tracy Clark

 Moment of Truth

Ok so…
  • Mountain top high conference experience…check
  • Learned a lot…check….
  • Met a lot of incredible people….check, check!
But I want to talk about the moment of truth (insert inspirational trumpet music here). That moment when we all part ways.  When we get in the car (or on a plane or other mode of transportation) and go home, reflecting on what just happened. In that moment will we say, “that was really cool I can’t wait to see all those folks next year.” Or will we choose to solidify connections, commit to action… and then actually do it.
This is the moment to stop talking and start doing. Don’t let innovation die at the steps of the Hilton and Austin Convention Center. Don’t leave the change you want to see lying in your suitcase. Don’t disconnect from the connections you made. It was scary and akward to talk to that person in the first place.  Use the momentum of your active mind and your active connections to pursue innovation in education. We can’t keep talking without action. Our kids are way too important to leave change in the hotel lobby.


 What Now?

Here’s the thing, change is not going to be easy.  In order to get something done, to shift a culture, or to create lasting impact, it is not going to be one phone call, one tweet, one lesson. Most likely change will be more like the “20 mile march” Jim Collins writes about. It is going to be setting flags (performance indicators/mini-goals) along the way to make sure you don’t stray of course. It is going to be getting told “no” several, or several hundred times, before “yes”. It may be failing. But change is worth it and our kids are worth it. SXSWedu brings together pockets of innovation. But will we leave the conversations in Austin or follow through, creating connected and tangible innovation and impacting the future of learning?
SXSWedu self labels as a “catalyst for change in education”. Instead of complaining about where that fails to be true, why don’t we just go out from this conference and make it true.

Productivity Day by Day

doeverythingbetterI have a confession. I am a productivity junkie. Ever since I can remember I have been making to-do lists and finding tangible satisfaction in putting a checkmark in the checkbox or physically scratching through items on my list. I have even been known to put something I just completed on my list so I can experience the euphoria of striking it from said list. Maybe it was partly the college prep school culture growing up or just how I am wired, but regardless it’s always been hard to tame the voice that says do more and sometimes… just do everything better.


Feeling Productive

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg breaks down big life changes into the power of cues, routines, and rewards, the combination of which he refers to as the habit loop. Duhigg’s collection of stories and research got me thinking more intentionally about my daily workflow, especially on the days when I have no less to do in actuality, yet it emotionally feels like less. It might feel this way because I have the freedom (or curse) of being able to walk to the kitchen and get a snack or have a non-traditional work environment for a day, like today as I sit on my back porch working only in the company of my canine colleagues. Since these days are often bookended with several days of 16+hr work and ceaseless travel, it is all the more important to use my “less hectic” work days to get stuff done and build in margin to recharge before the next sprint. But I needed to change my perception of these days and understand their value and necessity in the bigger picture.


The second obstacle relating to my productivity obsession is the very omnipresence of it. Some people say I just can’t turn off my mind or my brain is firing on all cylinders or something about a hamster. Whatever your analogy I feel that too—a lot. Striking at any moment, my very desire for productivity can actually impede productivity, challenging my efforts to be present in a mindful, reflective moment or breaking the flow of an otherwise successful focus block.

Should Have Had a V8 (the duh moment)…

to-dosThen I stumbled upon a habit so simple I felt ridiculous for not already maintaining it. One of the suggestions in Managing Your Day To Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, by a collection of the 99U team, was to create one master to-do list. Anytime your mind swirls with all the big and all the seemingly insignificant to-dos they go on the list.  I think the key for me here was no matter how insignificant—if it was taking up space in my brain it went on the list. Suddenly I could release my mind to think about what really mattered in that moment which was probably not the fact I needed to get more heart worm treatment for my doggies, although at some point that is quite important (just look at that face).

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Color-Coded was Overrated

I refuse to show you all the categories because you will realize how insane this was...

I refuse to show you all the categories because you will realize how insane this was…

Maybe everyone else already does this one big list thing, but in my misguided attempts at organizational efficiency I had multiple, color-coded todo lists that correlated with my color-coded calendar categories. Ten to be exact. Each was categorized to represent a distinct role or responsibility I held and all the associated tasks and events that would ebb and flow as a result. Sounds lovely I know, but my brain didn’t actually think in these nice little boxes, instead my thoughts were much more reminiscent of spaghetti than waffles (supporting what Jeffrey and I learned in our group study earlier of Men are Like Waffles & Women are Like Spaghetti). Ok so step 1…I moved all these crazy lists into 1 master list. Now what?

In another section of Managing Your Day To Day, Mark McGuinness suggests limiting your daily to-do list to a 3”x3” Post-it commenting, “If you can’t fit everything on a list that size, how will you do it all in one day?” This was the second epiphany I needed to click. I always put way too much on a daily list, but now I realize part of that was solved by new habit number one—by putting any stray todo on the master list my mind was freed to focus and get things done. I am still working on creating the habit loop for this, but I try to take a little bit of time each morning to look over my master todo list and pull a couple must do items onto my smaller sticky note for the day. My sticky note is not a 3 by 3 yet (for the record more like a 5 by 7) but I know I still have work to do.


Enjoy the Flow

 When I get to the end of my Today List I can decide do I tackle a couple more from the Master List, work on something in my To Learn list (ok so I still have one extra list), or do something that might be exactly what my future productive self needs…nothing and let my brain and my soul reset before I tackle the to-dos of tomorrow.

Learning without the Clutter

Photos by Stephanie Cerda

Photos by Stephanie Cerda

I would much prefer things to be clean and organized before I sit down to work. A completely open desk space has the instant ability to calm and prepare me to get stuff done in a way I cannot fully describe.  It is the same in my kitchen. Clean countertops simply minister to my soul. In fact I can’t start cooking anything inspired until everything in my line of vision is clean and clear. My mind and habits tell me this space for working is important, but somehow I still forget to clear off space for learning and reflection.

This week was the annual TCEA convention, an incredible opportunity to connect, collaborate, share, and grow with those in the edtech community coming from a variety of perspectives and experiences. In years past I have overbooked myself to the extreme. Partially out of necessity, or so I tell myself, and partially out of my own insanity, I would present, work on the exhibit floor (including set up and tear down which only folks who have done this can fully understand), plan and execute events, and fill in any semblance of margin with a meeting or call. At the end of the week I was always exhausted, overwhelmed, and unsure of what had even transpired in those seven days. On paper it looked super productive I’m sure, but I was missing out on some of the most valuable moments. The moments that occur in the in-between. The unscripted, unplanned, serendipitous moments. The moments I was able to be a part of at TCEA 2014.

Moments like these…

  • Strolling into a presentation in the Digital Square and staying even though it wasn’t on my initial schedule.
  • Making a new, face to face connection with another educator I would have never known from a state far different from the one I call home.
  • Collaborating and digging into writing a manifesto about wonder and curiosity with my new friend during the presentation we both stumbled upon.
  • Diving into a heated discussion on edreform with no official facilitator, direction, or agenda.
  • Accepting a lunch invitation from two, first time TCEA attendees who wanted to talk about applying the concepts from a presentation to their own campus.
  • An impromptu startup therapy session or two…this is where two or more people involved in startups commiserate, brainstorm, pull each other off the ledge and… more.
  • Another meal with an educator I greatly respect and love learning from and with.
  • Catching up with people while walking from one place to the next (key word here is walking—not jogging with five bags or text-walking without looking up).

Don’t get me wrong. I also got to do some structured things…

The time and energy put into the development and deployment of these planned events was totally worth it too, but this is a post about creating space for the in-between and that doesn’t mean you stop planning. Actually I think it means the exact opposite. Only by planning and intentionally leaving the appropriate space and margin in our schedules and lives will we be able to be present in these moments. In one of our Digital Square conversations Stephanie Cerda quoted Tom Barrett who said we have to de-clutter to let learning get messy. To me that implies some organization, some cleaning up, some prioritization of the time and space we have so we can use it well. When I clear off my kitchen countertop I leave room to pull out all the ingredients needed to make something satisfying. And when I finally de-cluttered my schedule I created space for the moments that mattered.
    Even in some of these unique moments I still had to fight against the voice inside that whispered, “You aren’t doing enough, this isn’t real work, and even… what’s the point of all this?” The point is learning, the point is growing, sometimes throughout the scheduled events in life, but other times by decluttering so that we can be inspired by the space between and the unique pieces that come together to create something we never even imagined.

    And so as I reflect on TCEA14, I am glad that I took the initiative to declutter this year. I am grateful that space wasn’t missing from my schedule as Greg Garner wrote about in his post on Getting Smart. Because without that space I wouldn’t get to wrap my brain around what I learned this week and see how I changed and where I can go back to the real world apart from conference-land and actually implement my new ideas and understandings.

    So, why don’t we apply this to our professional learning plans? Why don’t we declutter and leave some space to learn and grow in more authentic, even serendipitous environments? Why is it often the case that any potential margin or holiday or break gets reeled in and filled with a full day PD session? Why don’t we pursue trainers who are better facilitators and model educators than showmen/women?

    Maybe the words professional development wouldn’t make our teachers cringe if we gave them more margin and unstructured collaborative time to explore conversations that interest them and solve problems that they really face.

    P.S. If you struggle with Margin in life too this is a pretty good book on the subject…

    A Year in Learning


    New Year’s Eve is typically a time to reflect on and celebrate a year gone by with movie like memories of all the events, milestones, and growth wrapped up in those 365 days. When I was little, my biggest priority was building our New Year’s fort, a labyrinth of serpentine methodically tied and taped across every piece of furniture in our living room. Some years the celebration was more about letting go of the past and looking forward to something new, a fresh chance to fulfill those resolutions and promises. And then, let’s be honest, some years I was mostly concerned with my New Year’s date prospects.

    With a pretty firmed up date/husband to free my mind from any potential social anxieties, I can reflect with a fair amount of clarity going into tonight and the approaching new year. Thinking about this past year amongst the glow of our lingering Christmas lights, I’m struck by how much my reignited love of learning, especially reading, has impacted me this year. I have always loved good books and learning new things, but nothing compares to the voracious, almost binge-like appetite of a learner on a mission. The last time I felt this way about a pile of books was when I discovered author, Marguerite Henry, and ate up her equine-centric novels as fast as I could check them out of our elementary school library.


    I believe the comparison has been made before between binge TV consumption and binge learning and considering how the engagement level differs so much between our media industries and our education system. Essentially–why can’t kids gobble up calculus like a season of Breaking Bad?

    It isn’t just education though. The last book on my reading list of 2013 was Death By Meeting, by Paul Lencioni. One of Lencioni’s characters in this leadership fable asks a team of executives the question, “Would you rather be at a movie or in a meeting?” Although the executives are at first baffled by the seemingly ridiculous question, as the story progresses they come to understand that it is the role of conflict and context which lead to stimulating engagement in both media and in their meetings. (You’ll have to read it to understand their application a little more.)

    Maybe for me the intrigue has come from the conflict of becoming a bit of an accidental entrepreneur, thrust into a role I never anticipated, but passionately love and want to do well. The gap between all the things I wanted….more like needed to know at the beginning of this year and what I knew at that moment catapulted me back to the land of learning–the only place where I could fill the gap.

    Book by book, article by article, conversation by conversation, even tweet by tweet… my perceptions were challenged, my thinking deepened, and my understanding cultivated on a variety of topics and subtopics I wanted to master.

    The books I read this year remind me of where I started and how much learning is possible in a year. Armed with a little more knowledge than last year, the idea might finally be sinking in that I can more than adequately fulfill the role I have been given at work. It may take me a couple more books on “work life balance” to get the hang of that though. Frankly I am quite grateful there is more I have to learn. I recognize now how boring life would be if I ever knew everything worth learning.


    My Year in Books from goodreads

    I had grand intentions of writing a post about each of these books, but in the spirit of reality not resolutions I recognize a quick, stream of consciousness bite of what I took away will have to do. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about any of them, I’d be glad to do a deeper dive on any.

    7 Habits of Highly Effective People

    1. Be Proactive 2. Being with the End in Mind 3. Put First Things First 4. Think Win Win 5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood 6. Synergize 7. Sharpen the Saw (another reminder to rest and renew) Not to give it all away but you could read this in the table of contents.

    Every Good Endeavor

    Helped me put in perspective my work and the bigger in the much bigger picture. To quote my Instagram post about this. “Margins filled with notes. Possibly most relevant and “slap in the face” (in a good way) book I’ve read in a while.”


    Very motivational. I was very pumped up about starting and going and doing and being awesome. I need constant reminders about punching fear in the face, so this was very helpful on that front. The difference between finding your purpose and living with purpose. The power of reaching out to someone who is further down the road than you—and not being afraid to ask for advice (on the flip side doing the same for others). Continuing to develop.

    Purple Cow

    What it means to be remarkable. What a waste of time anything less than this is for a company. Find a way to standout. Filled with useful case studies relating to marketing and product development. Why are there so few remarkable products? Because there is so much fear associated with trying something different and standing out.

    Good to Great

    This one really needs it’s own post but…Level five leadership (I think I will need to re-read this section at least once a year), first who (meaning get the right people on the bus) then what, be realistic about your situation (no vanity metrics), hedgehog concept—keep it simple and stay focused on your core mission (many good anecdotes on companies that lost sight of this and failed or struggled as a result of leaving their core competency). Discipline—which I think connects well to the 20 mile march Collins brings up in Great by Choice.

    The Lean Startup

    Measure what matters.
    No vanity metrics
    Listen to real people not what you think they think.
    Experimental outlook on things
    Fail early and fail often

    The Dip

    Nothing worthwhile is easy to do. Know when to quit and when to stick with it. Know when you are on a cliff and when you are just in the dip. The dip is rough, but that is why there are so few people on the other side.


    Know what you stand for and stick with it. Interviewing is more than a one step process and the choices you make when building a team are make or break it type of decisions. Don’t sanction incompetence.  So much more..this one gets another post too. I even have a sketch of an infographic for it somewhere.


    Challenged preconceived notions on what motivates people. Made me think about how I am motivated and how I can motivate those on my team. Discovered my desire for autonomy and impact over compensation and praise (not that those aren’t good too if my boss is reading this).


    Just because conventional management theory or everyone else have always done things a certain way doesn’t mean it is the best or most efficient way of doing things. “Rockstar environments develop out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility.” Culture is the by product of consistent behavior. Hire managers of one.

    Strengths Based Leadership

    The value of knowing your own strengths and those around you can help created a differentiated approach to leadership. Just like the kiddos in my classroom didn’t all need the same thing, each member of my team doesn’t need the same things. Approaching conversations and delegation opportunities with this in mind can clear up a lot of typical workplace challenges and misunderstandings and set up the members of your team for success.

    User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development

    Still a lot to learn on this front. However, I learned how to communicate better with programmers, understand the roles of the team and the processes for efficient agile work, write user stories, edit user stories, refactor user stories, and have a better overall understanding of what the Agile practice looks like not just in theory, but in real software development projects.


    Interesting look at why people do what they do, how people are motivated and the relationship of economics and incentives. Economic lessons told through stories—the only way I will probably digest them with interest.

    Lean In

    I like to ask myself the question Cheryl asks—What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Then I try to push myself to do that. I also hold on to the idea of women not taking their foot off the pedal when it comes to their careers. I can’t remember if that was in the book or in a talk I heard from her, but it sticks in my mind as an applicable and very often true metaphor. This book has initiated lots of relevant conversations amongst our EdTechWomen Austin group too.

    Great By Choice

    Another post needed for this one too. What can I say, Jim Collins rules. What you choose to do in the good times can make or break you in the times of challenge and uncertainty. 20 mile march (I can arguably apply this concept to anything—try me). Fire bullets then cannonballs (experimental mindset).


    Use a calendar for everything.
    Build in real margin to your days so there is room to live and be present.
    Dr. saw stay at home moms and CEOs with similar stress levels.

    Predictably Irrational

    Dan Ariely challenges the idea that we make decisions based on rational thought processes and uncovers the hidden forces behind our decisions, told through researched stories that demonstrate the concepts in easy to apply ways. The cost of zero cost-why we often pay too much when we pay zero. The cost of social norms-we are happy to do things but things change when we are paid to do them. Understanding procrastination- this part had lots of interesting potential applications to preventative health and spending. Keeping options open- why options distract us. The power of expectations and price. Character and honesty.

    Crossing the Chasm

    Must differentiate your marketing based on the segment you are marketing to. Helped characterize and better understand different stages of new technology lifecycle in an early start-up. Deepened understanding of early adopters vs. early majority (pragmatists) something I had heard over and over before but not really thought specifically about. Whole product concept.

    Bossy Pants

    This was my attempt at listening to something fun and light—which it definitely was. But I was surprised by the nuggets of wisdom that are woven throughout, especially on females in male dominated fields, leadership, and teamwork.

    The Smartest Kids in the World

    Excellent take on the US ed system vs. several of the top international education systems like Finland, Poland and South Korea. Observations point to the US lacking a culture of achievement and seriousness towards education at a level that these other countries do. Children buy into the promise of education in these countries and parents focus on the important stuff. She also points out that we don’t start at the beginning with teacher preparation and make the process towards becoming a teacher more rigorous and selective (e.g. Finland only accepts top students to teacher preparation programs at top universities— it is much more like getting into medical school). I really simplified her case–she builds it and lets you make your own conclusions.

    Startup Life

    Practical practices for implementing boundaries for work and non-work. More support for true unplugging vacations that I hope to take someday and validating the impact of rest time increasing efficiency (something I know but have trouble practicing). Lots of relationship advice although much was from the perspective of the male as the entrepreneur—in their defense they really tried to include some diversity in gender and story.

    The Intelligent Entrepreneur

    Learned a lot about the principles and practices of HBS (Harvard Business School) and followed the story of 3 graduates of the 1990s and their roller coaster rides of starting, saving, and selling their startup companies. Especially enjoyed the interviews at the end with the three graduates and their insights on what worked and what didn’t. Reinforced value of one’s network as highly correlated to success and increase opportunities. Value of developing the right team, thinking big, thinking new, perseverance and resiliency (sounds like a lot of soft skills to me).

    Death By Meeting

    Understand the value of conflict and context in meetings. Practical implementation of the Daily Check In (I prefer Huddle), Weekly Tactical (Game Plan), Monthly Strategic (and Adhoc Strategic), and Quarterly Offsite. Told through a leadership fable that I thought was both authentic and applicable. Would be great to share with a team of folks seeking to be more effective with their meeting time and process.

    I can’t wait to get started on my 2014 list. What will your year of learning look like?

    Embrace the Journey–Darn It

    embracethejourneyMy incredible mentor teacher, Pat Wright, gave me a bracelet when I made the difficult decision to leave the classroom. Inscribed in the silver band the cursive letters read, “embrace the journey”. Pat clearly knew my tendency to race towards the finish-line line, want to accomplish more, and very seldom stop to rest and reflect along the way. Shauna Niequist, in her book, Bittersweet  echoes this refrain, a result of the mania of modern life, as she shares of her breaking point after writing DO EVERYTHING BETTER (in all caps) across her todo list. 

     “The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.”

    ― Shauna NiequistBittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

    I think part of my cyclical behavior and striving is due in part to the fact that this insanity is sometimes unfortunately effective. I will never forget the principal at my first teaching interview telling me I had a “record of success” and as a result he trusted me to teach ALL the subjects in two languages “even though I was just a first year teacher.”  If it wasn’t already hardcoded, that comment reinforced my fear of failure and the false notion that I better not mess this up. 
    And still now I find myself having to fight my lizard brain, as Seth Godin likes to call it. This is the voice that tells us to play it safe, to hold creativity at bay, and stay inside the box for fear of making a mistake, stirring up trouble, or missing the bar. Shared something successfully? Lizard brain has new questions of doubt for you: Will I get the same response? What if this isn’t as good as the other thing? On and on our lizard brain takes us down the rabbit hole of fear…especially right before we are about to turn it all in. Then we hustle and bustle about finding all the other things we “need” to do besides simply shipping.
    In our connected world, I can get online and see a thousand things everyone else has shared, tweeted, created, and then the crazy thoughts take back over—DO EVERYTHING BETTER. When at last I’m ready to post or share lizard says, “hold up… that isn’t worth sharing. That isn’t completely innovative or original or mind blowing.” Whaa? Lizard brain please stop being so schizophrenic. 
    Shared via Greg Garner @Classroom_Tech

    Shared via Greg Garner @Classroom_Tech

    On the other hand, being “connected” and working with awesome educators pushes me to think deeper, write more often, unpack my thoughts, and not fear someone challenging or critiquing them. It gives me confidence as those around me encourage me and see the good I can’t see in myself.


    So what do we do with the skeptics and critics? Jon Acuff, in his book, Start, discusses the dialogue that occurred with skeptics when he was starting to write a book….
    “Have you ever done that before? Proper response-no, but I am about to.” 
    I don’t know about you, but I want my inner dialogue to sound more like that.
    There are a bunch of things I haven’t done yet that I want to do. There are things I want to create and curate and share and learn. I know the journey of learning and growing is the road less traveled. It is much easier to just take and consume instead of giving and creating. Kid President warned me there are rocks and thorns and the potential for clothing malfunctions down this road (you have to watch it to get that one). But even though the lizard voice may be loud on this path, there is “work that is only mine to do…” and so I will keep working on silencing the lizard brain, shipping, and most importantly, embracing the journey as I go.
    *In the sprit of full disclosure I wrote a version of this post in my Evernote a month or so ago, and left it 2/3rds of the way done, but wasn’t quite sure about it so it sat and sat, but here it is shipped whether I think it is ready or not.  



    Growth, Not Perfection

    Several months ago I unwillingly found myself subscribed to an email thread of daily “wordly wisdom”. Most days, with Inbox Zero habits in mind, these supposedly sage bits of advice end up in my trash folder.

    But today’s quote stopped me mid right click.

    We need to be examples of growth,not
    It struck me as quite relevant in the world of connected educators, educators who pursue learning and collaborating through online communities of practice and social networks. The wealth of individual knowledge and the caliber of educators on Twitter, G+, and other platforms is incredible. It is easy to feel that these folks are perfect. However, it is the joint capacity of the connected educator and the willingness to ask, share, and respond, that produces a culture of connection and impact exponentially greater than the sum of its individual parts.

    If our goal is growth, instead of perfection, there becomes a fundamental shift in focus. We stop worrying about arriving and think more about putting one foot in front of the other:

    • Tweeting what we really think, even if not everyone will agree. (Keep it classy).
    • Sharing resources and tips as part of the collaborative brain-trust of our professional learning networks, even if we don’t think they are worth sharing.
    • Reaching out and asking advice when we don’t know what to do next, even if it shatters the perception of perfection.


    As educators, I think it is vital to show our students we are still growing, still learning and that we don’t know all the answers. As leaders, I think it is of paramount importance to not pretend like we have it all together and to reach out when we need support and guidance ourselves. As learners, I think we should model the non-linear journey that is learning instead of pretending learning has some pinnacle destination of omniscience.

    For the record, I am not very good at most of this. I’d much rather craft my words carefully so as not to offend anyone and keep my ideas in my Evernote folder instead of published to the digital world in case I change my mind someday and look back on my inadequate musings. I’d love to maintain the perception that I know what I am doing all the time, but I see the bigger picture and I’d rather be connected for real. Because connection fosters growth, growth that is much bigger than me and my insecurities.

    So let’s be examples of growth, not perfection and give those around us a reason to connect.

    Need a place to start? Check out these Twitter hashtags:  #ce13, #edtechconnect

    What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

    If you’d rather listen

    powerofchoice_artThere is something about the smell of fresh school supplies and a new school year that elicits emotions reminiscent of the ones I feel around New Year’s. Despite the fact I am no longer tied to a contract derived from school dates, I still feel a tangible energy around this time every year. There is a sense of newness, optimism, a fresh perspective, an opportunity to try something different, a chance to make a change.

    Competing Sentimentmoon

    However, as anyone who has ever failed to keep a New Year’s resolution knows, there is a dark side to the new hope, fresh desires, and wild optimism. A competing emotion comes to fester and rain on our proverbial “parades” almost as if it was just waiting for us to take the first steps towards some new, uncharted territory.


    Fear–this is the voice that says all the types of things below & I am sure many others.

    You aren’t experienced enough. You are too young or too old. What will people think? You don’t want to rock the boat. You don’t have enough time. Things have always been done this way. You don’t know (insert specific skill or topic). Your degree isn’t relevant to this. You don’t have what they have. What you do doesn’t really matter. You don’t have what it takes.

    And one of the worst: What can I really do anyway? Usually accompanied by the very dangerous:         I am just a…  teacher, mother, PTA president…etc.

    Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 4.08.22 PMA Question

    Sheryl Sandberg would ask us at this point: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I love the way this question takes my mind through a zip-line of possibilities now.

    Pushing Through

    I spend a lot of time working with educators and technology, encouraging folks to move past some of the fears associated with the combination. So, to avoid becoming the cross-country coach that sits in his/her lounge chair popping Doritos while the team runs six miles, I started to think about what happened in my own life when I pushed past the stuff I was afraid of.

    I knew from experience (and the consensus of several authors) that fear hates the light, fear hates community, and it loses much of its power when I just put it out there. With this in mind, I decided to make a list.

    The List

    On the left side of my paper I titled a column: Fear. I wrote down all the specific instances I remembered being afraid in chronological order. Then I thought back to what happened. I labeled this side: Outcomes. So I asked myself, “Self, did the things things that you were so afraid of at that moment in time even happen? Did you get fired? Eaten alive by your students? Ostracized forever from your social network? Kicked off the stage during your first keynote? Laughed out of your training session or something of the likes?”

    The answer to every question ended up being–NO and actually, I found the exact opposite to be true. Almost without exception, the major fears in my life, when pushed through by force or choice, became some of the clearest reasons for success or at least forward momentum, giving me the ability to complete the next project or endeavor that came my way.

    Further Affirmationsilverlining

    Then, as if to reaffirm that what I stumbled on wasn’t a coincidence–I rediscovered it all over again. I was meeting with a friend and relaying some of my history and journey in edtech. The pattern resurfaced, each position, project, or request made of me seemed way out of my reach at the time. But, on the other side of fear and the fray there was growth, there was experience and perseverance, endurance and revelation–there was change. And it was overwhelmingly, statistically positive.

    As I look again at the big fears I pushed (or got pulled) through, the only thing they really have in common is how sweet the other side was. These decisions, these fears–now overcome, are the building blocks of my life, my career, and even my marriage. These pieces fit together in a way I would have never envisioned.

    rain_surprise_gfSurprise Yourself

    I never thought that young first year teacher who shed tears about connecting her computer to the interactive white board would set up and troubleshoot at least a thousand of these in a couple years. I certainly never thought this right-brained child would be reading and secretly enjoying a book about Agile programming practices and know how to send command lines to reboot servers. I didn’t think tech was in my skill set, yet somehow this past spring, I slipped through the cracks and my ISTE presentation was accepted.

    The more I work with my educators across the state, the more I hear a consistent voice come out. “Tracy, I’ve always been afraid of technology, but today you gave me hope.” So, maybe I am an Edtech evangelist–ill take it–but I really think it is just about putting our fears in the light and letting folks know they aren’t alone in these thoughts. Fear doesn’t discriminate based on age, experience, or anything else.

    What will you do?

    What is it this year that you want to try in your classroom, but are afraid might not work out? What is the worst that can happen if it doesn’t? Put it down on paper, make a Taxedo, a painting or a Phoster. Doesn’t it almost seem silly once you put it out there? Fear seems so much louder in our minds.

    Pretty sure we aren’t going to see the change we want in our classrooms, schools, boardrooms, workplaces, and lives if we don’t take a chance, if we don’t take a risk, if we don’t push through the fear.

    Ask yourself: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Then call out a friend and ask them the same. I’m pretty sure you will like what’s on the other side.

    Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 4.08.22 PM A reminder to never stop asking myself this question.


    Truth is not non-transferable

    A Quote…

    “You will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it…Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.”

    ~ C.S. Lewis

    FearisaliarLies of Fear

    This is one of the lies fear likes to tell me: That idea isn’t new–it isn’t earth shattering–so it is not worth sharing. Or its sister lie: People have already heard that, they already know that. Tell them something new! New is better.

    But then I think about how reaffirming it is when I read the same truth in multiple places, especially across different industries or subject areas. The truth could be from different authors, bloggers, be they novice or expert, with unique and totally separate experiences or from different cultures, belief structures, with varied outlooks and goals.

    Maybe it is because truth is not non-transferable

    That isn’t mine either…I heard it on a podcast somewhere.

    In my classroom, this is why one of my favorite times would be when a student asked, “What subject are we in right now?” Maybe we were writing about how the scientific method applied to the creation of their pet store blue prints (which included area and perimeter practice too) or applying what we knew about fractions, decimals, and measurement from “math” to taking measurements during our “science” labs.  Ohhh what a fun opportunity to make connections! I get excited just thinking about it again…

    A Caveat

    Don’t hear this as an excuse to not share where your thoughts originated! This doesn’t mean you don’t cite your sources or give credit where credit is due! It means you keep learning, keep growing and share those who influenced you along the way. What a great model for the kiddos in our classroom when we exhibit a never-ending passion for learning, reflecting, and sharing with our communities (that is a different post).

    swimupstreamSo here I go again…

    On my own…going down the only… (just kidding–some of you are singing now–you’re welcome)

    So here I go again…trying to share my thoughts, reflections, hopes and especially fears. So I will stop saying/thinking… oh yeah I have a half written post about that in my Evernote account. Here is to telling the truth and reflecting for the sake of truth and reflection.

    And lastly…

    Just keep swimming…just keep swimming

    ~ Dori, Finding Nemo

    Up Next…

    A post reflecting on what happens when we do that which we are afraid of doing!

    *Photos from MorgueFile –that is the free use ones