The Problem With New Technology

We’ve all experienced it. The latest and greatest gets released and we think one of two things: “I HAVE to have this!” or “There’s no way they are going to get me to spend my money!”

I’m the latter kind of person. I hang onto phones, computers and cars as long as humanly possible. Does it mean I don’t long for the latest and greatest? Nope. I just am a practical, frugal teacher.

Last year, my beloved Camry that I expected to continue driving until well after I paid it off was struck from behind and totaled. I wanted to buy another Camry, but somehow the dealer convinced me to try a Kia Cadenza. “Does it fit a 10 foot board?”, I queried. “Seats don’t fold down, but there is a pass through.” I told him I’d bring it back if the boards wouldn’t fit. They fit. I was sold.

Now comes the latest dilemma: the new iPhones are out. My older iPhone 7 is acting up. Won’t install apps. Doesn’t raise to wake anymore. Refuses to do the simplest of tasks. My phone has plenty of memory. I’ve ditched a lot of apps that I just don’t use. I’ve tried everything I can think of. But still, it’s old technology. And Apple knows it.

Oh, Apple, how you know your market! The newest iPhone 11 comes in at the amazing price of $699.99. While still more money than this old Yankee really wants to spend, it’s still less than what I paid for the current phone I have. And the technology is SO much better!

Don’t even think to ask me if I’ve considered an Android. I won’t. I’m an Apple user tried and true. (Mostly!) My devices integrate seamlessly – except my work laptop which still plays well with them in the Cloud environment.

So what is my problem? My problem with new technology is that I just want my old technology to work. Just plain work. Not planned obsolescence. Not forcing me to upgrade. Not MAKING me do anything!

Alas, my job as a Digital Learning Coordinator requires me to have instant access to everything. Could I function without a phone? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be pretty! I rely on this little device that I use for just about everything. I even occasionally make phone calls. And while I’m not proud of my need for this, it truly has become part of my life. For better or for worse.

I have fought the urge. I have even talked myself out of a new phone several times. I acquiesced and went with my husband to sit at the store to look at new phones. But I didn’t make the move until today. Today the inability to download a necessary piece of financial software pushed me over the edge. I have officially caved.

My new iPhone 11 will be here shortly. Budget blown. But, problem solved. 😎

Aspirations and Inspirations

Tonight I spent two plus hours on an amazing webinar with Seth Mosley of Centricity Publishing who is “one of the most awarded and in-demand songwriters and producers in the Christian Music industry.” It struck me how important it is to teach others about our craft – no matter what that craft is – in order to fuel the world. Seth and his team were inspiring and encouraging about songwriting for people of all ages and abilities.

Why was I taking part in a webinar about songwriting? Because I’ve been a songwriter since I was a pre-teen. I have never done much with my songs, and I haven’t written much in recent years, but it is something that I have always done. A few of my songs have been performed and a couple have been recorded semi-professionally but that’s not what’s really important. What’s really important is that songwriting has always been a part of me. It is part of who I am.

I don’t think that I’ll ever become a famous songwriter. Mostly because I’m not willing to dedicate the time that it takes. At least not right now. Maybe I will feel compelled or driven or inspired to write more purposefully someday soon.

However, for some reason this week I needed a little more inspiration for my aspiration. I needed a confirmation that what I have done for joy and creativity isn’t just something to keep tucked away in multiple binders in my piano room. So I signed up for this webinar and I’m glad I did.

While I am not ready to revisit my previous songs right now, I want to think about my reasons for writing music. I want to understand why I write songs. I know I write best when there is something emotional going on. Thankfully, my life is not in emotional turmoil and hasn’t been for a number of years now. Maybe that’s why my songs are tucked away.

I love performing music. Thankfully, I have that opportunity every week by playing and singing on a Worship Team. I also love teaching private piano to my small number of students. It is somehow gratifying to know that while none of them will become a concert pianist (that’s not my style of teaching!) they will all enjoy playing for the sake of playing. Besides, they are really great kids!

Finding your inspiration for whatever it is that you may be passionate about is so crucial. Where do you find inspiration? What part of your life fulfills you beyond your job? Where do you find joy and creativity in your life? It can be something as simple as a quiet afternoon reading a great book. It can be that toddler that is a whirlwind during the day and looks so angelic asleep. Maybe it’s found in a silent look from the one you love or an amazing trip to a foreign destination.

Whatever your inspiration is, be sure to nurture it. Dream about it. Your aspiration to be or do or experience is just what your heart needs.

I hope to keep growing towards opening my tucked away pages again soon. Maybe I’ll even begin something new tonight. But this aspiration reminds me that I need to be the inspiration for all of the educators that I come in contact with. I might not need to teach them much more than to have confidence in themselves. Just as Seth really did in his webinar tonight. Maybe it’s really that simple.

Thanks for the inspiration, Seth. You have made a difference.

#SongChasers Full Circle Music

Coffee Cup Musings

Yesterday I sat in a restaurant in downtown Asheville waiting for a friend to join me for lunch. The entire vibe of this place was relaxed, yet inspiring. I listened to animated conversation between two men – one younger, one older. The young man was discussing his revelations and how it was affecting his writing. The older man nodded and concurred with the smile of a sage mentor. It was an exchange that inspired me to reflect on my own writing and who I am inspired by.

Having spent my life both doing the same thing as well as many different things, I have multiple people that influenced me previously and many that influence me currently. From my parents to my riding coaches to business mentors to educational professionals to friends. Even strangers in a coffee shop. The homeless veteran on the sidewalk that spoke of hope, faith in God and how many blessings he has. The friend that left the public school path for private music studio work and feels fulfilled and looks younger than I’ve ever seen her.

Each person inspires me. Each story adds to my story. Every interaction makes up this life, doesn’t it? While it can be easy to find myself crying or shaking my head in disbelief over events that happen or the behavior of people around me, I remind myself that each piece of this life puzzle is there for a reason. While I am not always aware of that reason, each piece is important. Each piece is part of the greater whole.

Who makes up your story? What interaction with another has molded your life today? Who will you inspire without even knowing it?

I think I’ll go get another cup of coffee and see who inspires me today.

What’s In A Title?

I look at the title of my blog and realize that I have written less about tech lately than about life in general. Tech seems somehow too impersonal to write about. I can share the latest gadget, or deal on some new device. But, I find myself wandering into what I really care about: Other people.

30+ years in education has made a profound impact on my life. The teacher and person I was when I began this journey has long faded away. Thank goodness! Those early years of teaching had so many failures. (No one was permanently injured that I’m aware of…)

Now that I work mostly with adults, I hope I convey the compassion that I have for fellow teachers. I understand feeling so tired that there is literally zero left at the end of the day. I understand isolated when you are a specialist and there is no one in your building that shares your struggles.

My title is Digital Learning Coordinator. My title is also teacher, facilitator, specialist, Mom, Wife, Daughter, friend and Grandma. Notice what titles come first?!? Why do I identify with what I DO instead of who I am?

Your title brings you a sense of importance, or power, or belonging. But it still can be an empty title if you forget your real purpose. Your real purpose is to care about others and to develop strong family ties. No matter what your family looks like. No matter if your family is your four legged pet or a significant other. Or your church friends or most importantly, yourself.

Work is important. Teaching is extremely important. But living your life caring for others and self is the most important role of all.

What title guides your life? Will your friends remember you for what you did at work, or what you did in life? Or best yet, both of those!

Should I retitle my blog? The title is Vinal Tech Blog. Maybe it should be Something Else? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

Developing Your Personal Best

What is your personal best? Is it cranking out social media posts at all times of the day and night? Is it picking up clothes that someone in your family has left (again) on the floor? Is it finding the perfect app to do the perfect thing?

Whatever your personal best is, let me suggest one thing: balance.

Balance is how you live a full life, work, love and play. It’s finding what’s right for YOU, not for what someone else thinks is right for you. It’s finding joy in working hard, or finding joy in relaxing well. It looks different for each person.

My personal best used to be working multiple jobs (that hasn’t changed!) and sleeping very little. I divided my time between students, a full-time teaching job, church musician jobs, DIY projects at home, and my family. Needless to say, something or someone always got short changed.

So how do you decide? How do you fit it all in?

Maybe I’m not the one to answer this. I’m more busy than most. I love my work. I love my family. I love my home. I don’t get enough sleep. I don’t always have enough left over to be fully present. I don’t have enough money – who does?!? But the reason I think that I have something to offer is that I’ve done it wrong a lot. I’ve failed at it a lot.

You might be thinking, “Okay. So how do I fix it?”

Really evaluate your life. Separate your “work” self from your “home” self. Find a spot in your living space that you can remove yourself to when you need to get something done for work. Try not to do work in your “home” space. Physical separation from what is perceived as work will help gain your balance.

If you can afford to have separate computers or devices for work and for personal use, that is even better. Set your personal one up so that your work email isn’t even accessible on it. Keep your cloud drives separate. Put a game or two on that home device.

Today’s societal pace is every increasing. The demands on your time feel as if you will never, ever get it all done. And maybe you won’t. But by balancing your world, you will slowly find a peace that allows you to do less than 200% so that you can maintain 100% of your life. Slow down. Smell the roses. Don’t feel guilty for spending time doing nothing. And remind me to take my own advice.

#balance #relax #teacherguilt

Thoughts of a Conference Presenter

Presenting at state conferences is always so rewarding. When I accept an opportunity to present, I feel a sense of excitement and a bit of a thrill. “I can’t believe they want me!” Then as the weeks go by and work/home/family rolls along, I begin to think that maybe I shouldn’t have accepted. Maybe it just costs too much since there really isn’t any money in our budget for this trip. Maybe no one will come to my sessions. Maybe I’ll wander around aimlessly feeling lost because I only know one or two people that are in attendance.

Fast forward to the week before the conference. Oh no! I’ve hardly worked on those presentations that I started when I was first accepted. What was the description again? What have I learned about this topic since I first submitted my proposals? What has Google changed that I need to alter from where I was back then?

Even though I may have presented this very topic multiple times, I still have to customize the presentation for the audience and the venue. Some people might think the presentation part of it isn’t that important. Some of the sessions I’ve attended in my career certainly focus on content and not esthetics! But I feel that the visual part of the presentation is just as important as the content.

I recently spent several days learning about The Art and Science of Presenting from Phil Echols @PhilEchols and Chrys Brown from the Office of Professional Learning in Wake County Public Schools in Raleigh, NC. These two excellent presenters provided multiple strategies that I have since continuously employed in my presentations.

Having a consistent template for slides makes the presentation look so much more professional. Providing links to the materials either at the session or before is really important for those that use the app or website for the conference. I’m guilty of forgetting to post the links prior to the sessions!

So why am I ruminating about all of this? Because sometimes attendees think that presenters breeze in and don’t have to do much. Because sometimes presenters try their best and the WIFI doesn’t work or the slides are out of order or they have too much content for the time allotted.

Presentation is a craft and an artform. Am I great at it? No. Am I good at it? I think so, but those of you who have seen me present should tell me what I need to improve on. Your feedback – both good and bad – help me to grow my style and improve my craft. If you have ever attended a conference, please be sure to provide feedback. If you’re a conference organizer, please provide that feedback to your presenters. Assessment is a key component of the process.

So now that I’m headed home from this conference, I am so appreciative of the opportunities I had. I filled my schedule with Music Technology sessions. I heard some great music by High School and Collegiate groups. I connected with people that are actively using technology in their band rooms, classrooms and choirs. And I have met some true pioneers in the field. Thank you, TN Music Educators Association for one of the best conferences I’ve been to in an amazing city full of music. #TnMEAConference

Friday Night Musings

teachers at training As I reflect back on the previous week, I find myself returning to the same conclusion. Using technology and using technology well is an ongoing goal. While some might think I know a lot, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I have so much more to learn.

Maybe it’s age. But the more I work with teachers and principals, the more I realize I need to learn much more than I know.

I have never considered myself an expert. I know a lot about certain things but I have so many areas that still need so much work.

Where are you in your Digital Learning? What are you doing to build your skills?

Fortunately, those that I work for have a vision of building capacity and reaching as many teachers as possible. In our 24 schools, we have worked with more than 475 teachers since the creation of this position. We have begun building relationships that I hope will sustain the work that we have started.

After three days as part of the NCTIES Conference as a learner, partner in education and presenter, I am further convinced that I have so much to learn.

#NCTIES19

How will you sustain your excitement about your latest professional learning? Will you share your excitement when you return to the classroom? Or will you tuck your knowledge away in the “been there, done that” file?

Let me encourage you, no, implore you, to extend your experience. Step out of your comfort zone. Take a risk. Fail forward. Model this growth mindset for your students and colleagues.

Public education is an amazing place. You make it an amazing place. WE make it an amazing place!

Spread the word, the ideas and most of all the enthusiasm that you have for each child, every day. You’ve got this!!