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



Last night at a hip, modern (I think) art show in Austin a guy walked over and asked me and a friend to share our thoughts on what art is to us. I immediately retreated, literally back-stepping, and said, “Umm..I am shy. Maybe later…” knowing full well I would hightail it out of there before he found me again.

Fast-forward to 5:30 this morning when I got up and finished this painting of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is for my Aunt–in honor of my cousin who passed away suddenly this year. Soon before his passing he realized his life long dream of climbing to the summit.

In honor of my cousin, Todd Miller.

In honor of my cousin, Todd Miller. I thought about why I was afraid to answer the man’s question…I thought about why I am often reluctant to share my thoughts concerning things I don’t feel “qualified” to have a say about. You see, the type of art last night was very “different” from the art I am used to–no less beautiful of course, just different, and the conversations surrounding much of it seemed so far from my reach (not to mention I was definitely the only one in bootcut jeans and a ponytail).So, although I can’t go back and buck up and let the dude video my response here it is..

To me (at least today), art fills in the gaps where words can’t go. It offers a reflection of a time, a memory, a person, an emotion that can’t be described with words. It’s as if it fills in the holes within the words or shades the space within the letters to weave an incredible something that couldn’t have been there before. It transforms a feeling or an emotion into something entirely new and connects across language, social status (sometimes) and division. It can be therapy, comfort, catharsis.

Even the art I “don’t get”, I want to get…or at least apply my own meaning to it and understand the perspective of others. I like the challenge of being faced with seemingly random mixed media postcards and trying to understand what the artist was thinking when he created them. Art is…whatever the heck people want it to be–that’s why it is awesome!

In the edtech world, art and creativity just take a different form. Infographics have been my media of choice recently and the same creativity that launched me towards taking what was a boring list for a district into an infographic/thinglink combination influenced by a variety of minds, blogs, learning, reading and conversation… is the same creativity that glides onto my canvas when inspiration strikes and I look at other paintings, pictures and combine colors and shade mountain crevices and think about an imaginary sun and how its beams would hit the mountain.

So today I’ll post this on my blog and “ship it” even thought I’d like to edit it a hundred more times.
And tonight I’ll give my Aunt art where I have no words and hope it can fill in the gaps.
In honor of my cousin, Todd Miller.

In honor of my cousin, Todd Miller. The original painting by James Zeger can be found at his incredible site jameszegerart.com Special thank you to James for responding to my request to show my much more amateur reflection of his original work of art! Your talent is breathtaking!

Make & Do

When I was a child I had one of those sets of children’s encyclopedias. My colorful set had 15 different books, from World & Space and Places to Know, to Stories & Poems and About Me–there was much to explore. However, the pages of one were significantly more worn and tattered than the rest. There was always one missing on the shelf, tucked away in my backpack, covered in paper-mache as I attempted to read the instructions on creating my own piñata or tossed in the grass, open to the page with design plans on constructing a backyard fortress.

Make and Do.

There was something motivating about this book. Simple ideas for a craft or project with pictures and step by step instructions. Then you just make and/or do it! It was broken down, manageable, inspiring. When you looked at the beautiful finished piñata, the colorful materials and seemingly easy steps you thought to yourself–I can do that! And then you did.

The cooking industry has adopted the same philosophy.  Ree Drumound aka the Pioneer Woman went from homeschooling mom to blog & now Food Network sensation by taking true step by step pictures of a recipe that were artistic, authentic & enticing. The pictures provide a helpful guide so I can see what blanching green beans actually looks like and I can know right at my point of failure if my Three Cheese Macaroni doesn’t emulate hers.

Now, of course you can learn to do just about anything online from how to get soft, wavy curls like Lauren Conrad to how to have creative ideas.

What does all this have to do with iPads, tablets and the edtech tools, apps and resources that can make them so potent? Well, when I visit schools and work with educators I constantly see, hear & feel the need for TIME to explore these edtech tools; time to make connections between the content/curriculum and the possibilities for implementation. Yet, in many PD sessions and even innovative conferences I see presenters and trainers trying to disseminate so much information, so many different apps to try, web 2.0 tools to share… that we miss the chance to Make & Do something with that time.

I know it’s hard and I am absolutely guilty of this myself as a deliverer of professional development. I know there are logistical challenges & what ifs that abound: what if the internet doesn’t work right, what if the tool doesn’t work right even though I tried it a thousand times, what if some people don’t get it and I spend so much time trying to help them I can’t get to all my cool tools, what if I don’t tell them enough???

I get it…I do… But I think we need to really consider the need for changing the PD model and providing meaningful time for participants to explore and actually create something with the edtech tools we espouse. We often discuss the need for the teacher to become more of a facilitator in the classroom: Let’s model it in our PD sessions and presentations.

So, here are some areas I am going to try and focus on as I create new PD opportunities for the districts I work with.

10 Strategies for EdTech Make & Do PD

1. Give Time

Give educators time (lots of it) to create meaningful products and/or fully test and explore edtech tools.

2. Full experience

Allow educators to fully experience the tool just as students would. Create a sample lesson, use the tool throughout session if applicable, have willing participants demonstrate and be their sample student. See a perfect example of the power of getting into character in this video of Tammy Worcester and Kevin Honeycutt imitating student and teacher at ISTE 2012– captured by the incredible app curator (and much more) Lisa Johnson of TechChef4u.

3. Provide Resources

Provide step by step instructions, with pictures and notes if possible. Create an iBook with resources and instructions  Well designed resources to refer back to will increase the ease of implementing in their own classrooms. (Snapguides, Symbaloo, EdCanvas, Listly, iBooks)

4. Integration Ideas

Make connections for possible integration ideas for these tools. A short list could be included in resources as a springboard for their own ideas. Add educator feedback and ideas from sessions to future sessions, citing teacher who provided the feedback.

5. Authentic Examples

When possible, find real examples of ways the edtech tool is being used in the classroom and share. (Twitter, blogs, your PLN)

6.  Make it their own

Provide opportunities and spaces for participants to make their own connections and customize the session for their own needs. Provide resources to take their own notes, make their own graphic organizer, construct a list of resources they want to try, create a list of goals to complete following session, etc. (Popplet, Wallwisher, EdCanvas, Listly)

7. Connect with Peers

Allow open communication and encourage participation not only between you and participants but between participants. I often learn just as much, if not more, from the fellow participants at Edtech conferences who are willing to connect with me. Use a backchannel like TodaysMeet to post twitter names or hashtags to follow or blog links to store for later and read each other’s work. Add to your PLN throughout the session. (Twitter, TodaysMeet, Collaborative tools)

8. Share & Publish

Share products created in sessions, even if they aren’t complete. Create opportunities to publish then or later amongst the group and highlight educators making it happen! (Blogs, Wikis, Pinterest, almost anywhere)

9. Model best practices

Training on the flipped classroom? Try it out. Training on Brain Research Based teaching or Effective Questioning Strategies….use appropriate wait time and other strategies you are teaching.

10. Play (A.K.A. Disguised Learning)

Teaching is hard. Let them play and enjoy the time. Explore edtech tools in low pressure, fun environments.  Play bingo or other games with relevant themes or integrated learning opportunities. Imagine if our teachers looked forward to our PD opportunities! (Classtools.net– random name picker for prizes, Bingo Baker for iPad/electronic bingo,  Blabberize, Sock Puppets, etc).

Hoping to provide helpful resources for educators as I grow and learn from those around me!


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