I love to remodel houses. There, I said it. I am the daughter of a handyman/builder who had no sons. I learned the art of deconstruction of an abandoned house on our property, saving boards, and pulling nails so we could reuse them later. I learned the mastery of the “Adjust-O-Matic” (known to most as a sledgehammer) at the ripe old age of 10. These lessons taught me that I needed specific tools for some things, but I could make do with other things that hung on my toolbelt depending on the job.
My digital toolbelt changes depending on what my school district approves, of course. But, I have some digital tools that I use to save time. I have digital tools to be more productive. I have digital tools that just feel right to me. So what’s in your digital toolbelt?
Some of the items I use daily are productivity tools such as ClickUp – a task manager; 1Password for my 1200+ unique passwords; Calendly for ease of others scheduling with me; Grammarly to fix my sloppy typing and somehow less than accurate spelling; Emoji keyboard to enhance my work with visuals and of course the Google Workspace for just about everything.
While these aren’t the only tools I use, they are the ones in my digital toolbelt. The others I have tucked away in my toolbox for when I need them. Chrome extensions such as MyBib for citations, Screencastify for video and audio recording, and the Marvellous Suspender that works in the background and suspends my tabs when I’ve been away from them for a while.
There are many others that I use in my daily work as a Digital Learning Coordinator. Some are used by my school district and have a strict safety policy (thank goodness!) And others that I use exclusively for my home business such as multiple Filemaker databases, accounting software, and scanning software.
Is it time to clean out your digital toolbox? Have some of your tools been a fad and have now evolved or maybe not improved any over the years? I try to simplify my workflow so that I’m not so dependent on one or two tools that if they happen to crash or suddenly not work I won’t be in a panic. Right. That’s easier said than done!
How well do your tools work for you? Maybe it’s time to look for tried and true and realize that the next great thing might seem great, but your standby really gets the job done with the least amount of effort. Spring is here and digital culling might be on the agenda.
What are your favorite tools for your workflow? Why? I’d love to hear your thoughts! ~B
The latest and greatest tech shows up. If you’re like I am, you are curious to see if it’s better than something you already use or different in the way it approaches a problem. Maybe it has lots of “bells and whistles”. Maybe the interface looks great. Whatever the reason, discovering new tech can be exciting and almost heady as we explore some great new apps or software.
What is the reason for using the new tech? Is it just because it’s shiny and new? Or does it really have a purpose that will greatly improve your life or the life of your students?
My job is the help teachers and staff learn to use technology in a way that supports their curriculum and enhances their teaching and learning. Sometimes the needs are obvious – “How do I?…” or “I can’t seem to get it to…”. These statements have simple answers (usually!) Yet how do you help someone who doesn’t even know the question to ask?
Like any sound educational practice, looking at the ‘Why?’ behind the use of technology is a great place to start. We set goals and objectives for our students. We determine a standard of what needs to be taught. Why don’t we do the same for teaching adults to integrate software into their teaching? Maybe you already do. I certainly try to do this!
My “Why” for teaching teachers has many facets. Each teacher is different, yet each teacher should exhibit the same end goal. Something that is best for students. The “customers” are our students. They deserve to have an engaging education and that must involve various forms of technology. They have grown up in a tech world. They are easily bored. Rather than just throwing the tech at them for the WOW factor, we need to be encouraging them to utilize the tech as a tool. A stepping stone to get to the skills they need to get employed. And it has to start in Kindergarten. If we wait until fourth or fifth grade, we have waited too long.
Technology can open the world of creativity for students. They can use it to collaborate with others globally, to be self-motivated, to set deadlines and personal goals. But only if we teach them how to do that. We can’t ever assume that students, or teachers, have already mastered self-discipline, time management, collaboration, or communication. In other words, teaching soft skills.
While I’m not a fan of the term soft skills, it is used with regularity in the business world. What are soft skills? Will Kenton describes soft skills in this way:
Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered to be a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills. Sociologists may use the term soft skills to describe a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) as opposed to intelligence quotient (IQ).
Soft skills have more to do with who people are, rather than what they know. As such, they encompass the character traits that decide how well one interacts with others and usually are a definite part of an individual’s personality. In a competitive labor market, employees who demonstrate they have a good combination of hard and soft skills often see a greater demand for their services.
Quarantine taught us a lot about the lack of self-discipline. Both the self-discipline of our students and the self-discipline of ourselves. I’m a scheduled person. I thrive when I have my calendar completely organized well in advance of dates. I organized calendars for my family and manage multiple calendars. I like this. Many people don’t. It makes me calm and helps me plan. I still manage to miss or arrive late to meetings, but then it’s my own fault for not allowing enough time. I do that a lot. Time fleets.
Soft skills became a necessary thing to acquire for students and teachers thrust into learning from home. Some learned it. Sadly, many did not. But don’t underestimate your students! They are quite resourceful if you let go of the control just a little bit. They become motivated when it’s something they want to learn.
So back to technology tools. Tool training is important, but not for the reason you might think. Tool training is important because it is the foundation to get to the end goal. It’s not about the tool. For example, you can’t build a house unless you know how to use a ruler, a saw, and a hammer at the very least. So learning how to use the tools matters. Over time you learn the nuances and tricks of the trade with those tools. Just like software.
Start with your “Why?”. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with someone to test things out. Build the capacity of your students and colleagues by sharing what you learn, what you create, and how you do things. No one has all of the answers, but getting some tool training can help you to be more productive, innovative and lead the way for your students to thrive. ~B
The world is certainly a precarious place these days. Working for a public school brings up a host of emotions every single day. Am I a valued employee? Is what I do making a difference? Even though I want better pay, isn’t the satisfaction of a job well done part of what I signed up for?
So many things have changed in education over the pandemic years. Online has more validity than before. Blended learning (a combination of face-to-face and “flipped learning” done at home) is better understood. Students overall have learned to navigate the digital world. But is all of that enough?
Tired. Overworked. Afraid. Anxious. Worried. Angry. Did I mention tired?!?
Caring about students and teachers doesn’t pay the bills. With rising costs of everything and no pay raises, one can’t help but wonder if this is worth it. Could I do something else? Should I take that higher paying job and step into the unknown?
Maybe. But then again, students don’t have that choice. Students in a public school come to the building with a need for support, trust, and skills. We signed up for that. I signed up for that.
Getting weary from “fighting the good fight” is normal. The external pressures in a pandemic aren’t normal. But they’re real. The negative comments, the taking of sides based on a belief, and the constant barrage of new rules can take a toll on adults. But it affects kids in a more profound way. They are looking to us to lead the way. They want reassurance that we will rise above the petty, divisive cultural mayhem that has ensued. They need us to have level heads.
Does it get to me? You bet. Do I sometimes want to quit my job and move far away and live off the land? Yes. (But only if I can take my tech with me!) Do I literally cry out with frustration at the state of things? Sadly, yes.
But hope always exists. The smile on a child’s face when they realize you care about them. The gratitude of the overworked teacher when you move alongside them and lift the burden. The realization that we are all in this together regardless of how we approach it. Those things make it worthwhile.
Find your moment. Find your smile. Never give up on the possibilities of those around you. And take time to reflect on what really matters to you. Continue to persevere.
I know I sound idealistic. Yet I can’t help but think that we can make every day better if we only choose it. Choose kindness over pettiness. Choose hope over despair. Choose the common good over selfishness. Choose to live each day with purpose.
Tired? Yup. Financially burdened? Yup. Blessed beyond belief? You bet. It’s all in your perception of what truly matters. You matter. ~ B
Teaching is hard. Not the actual teaching part of it. The planning, designing, orchestrating, thinking and delivering is the hard part. Good teaching takes a lot of work in the background that only educators understand. Great teaching means other things get sacrificed in your life. Time with you family can be reduced. Ability to just sit and relax (what’s that?!?) can be non-existent. Often educators have a second or third part time job just to try to pay the bills.
Non-educators might have gotten a better idea of what it means to be a teacher when we shuttered our schools and students were learning from home. Many families began praising teachers and thanking them for the work they’ve always done. This is greatly appreciated. Now if only that could translate to income! Just kidding. Kind of.
Educators didn’t go into the profession to get rich, or even to earn a livable wage. While it SHOULD support a family, the reality is that it doesn’t. We became teachers because we believe in people. We believe in growing a young human into a better one. We want the best for every single one of those children and young adults. For those of us that teach adults, we want what’s best for them too.
By now you might be nodding your head and thinking, “Yes! That’s what I want!” But, you’re tired. You’re stressed. Maybe you’re even a little fearful in the environment that we find ourselves in right now. It’s hard to find joy in things when everything seems different and maybe even scary.
So, what to do? How do educators manage to survive?
I know that I don’t have all the answers. Nor do I even have the right answers for you. You need to find the right answers that fit your situation. But, I DO know that we need to provide self-care and find the good where we can. I DO know that it’s hard. I DO know that we can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude about them.
I have needed an attitude change. I have to remind myself daily to stay positive, remember the goal of education, and give my best every day. Even if it’s not 100% some days, it’s still my best for that day. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I might have less to give, but I’ll still give as much of me as I can. With grace, I might even be able to give 100%. But that’s never a given.
Give yourself grace. Remind yourself that you never know how you might affect someone you meet, or work with today. Shine your light brightly. Thank you for being an educator and know that you make a difference. 🎹 BV
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.
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.
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!!
We don’t do it for the money. We don’t do it for the long vacation time. We don’t do it for the short hours. We teach because we truly believe that every student has potential. Every teacher has potential. Every administrator has potential.
While we may never see the fruits of our labors, we never stop trying to impart knowledge. I view my role as a chance to give teachers an opportunity to grow and learn. I also view my role as my own chance to grow and learn. It’s truly all about the journey.
I’ve worked in many school districts in multiple states. Each job in varying roles provided the foundation for where I am now. No job is without its challenges – big and small.
How you handle and grow from those challenges is what defines you. It’s the unreasonable administrator (who ultimately drives you to earn an advanced degree). It’s the difficult colleague that sets you up to fail. It’s the challenging students that turn your hair gray. And each one of them is part of your story.
We can choose to be defeated by the negativity, or we can choose to find the positive side of the equation, even when we don’t really feel like it. Never let someone else’s bad day define your day. Sometimes much easier said than accomplished!
If your passion for what you do has diminished, maybe it’s time to renew your strength. Maybe it’s time to adjust your job. Maybe it’s time to adjust your attitude.
How deep is your heart? How passionate are you about educating others? How do you find what you need to carry on in the face of time constraints, new curriculum and pressing demands? I look for the little things. The student in the hallway that needs a shoe tied. The educator who suddenly discovers how to use a technology tool. A colleague who reaches out to share their frustration. Every moment is an opportunity to reach deep into your heart and share with someone else.
I feel so honored to be where I am. My journey, much like yours, has been rocky and full of challenges. But I wouldn’t trade it for a different journey because I wouldn’t be where I am right now. And where I am is full of excitement, wonder, challenge, and joy. My heart will always be an educator’s heart. How about yours?
Every day of summer vacation includes some professional time. I’m not one to take the summer off. Even if I could truly take the summer off, I’m sure I’d fill my time with professional development or a project of some kind. I’m not good at vacating!
While summer gives me time to regroup and change up my routine, it also allows me time to reflect on what’s truly important in my career as well as my home life. What parts of your work life spill over into your home life? If you’re an educator, then probably a lot.
Educational professionals lead a different kind of life. There is a constant need to reinvent oneself as technology changes, curriculum changes, schools change and demands change. It can cross into your personal life in such a way that you never truly feel like you are away from your job.
So how do you balance it? Every person does it differently, but I find that I have to still teach all summer. Maybe you teach at a summer camp. Maybe you give professional development sessions to other teachers. Maybe you teach your own kids. Or maybe you teach yourself new things. I try to combine as much of that as I can but on a less demanding schedule than the traditional school year.
I teach teachers online for the New England Institute for Teacher Education. Two of my established technology classes are running concurrently right now. The summer is the only time to run two at the same time while working full-time! This adventure is full of new things every time I do it. These teachers find new angles that I hadn’t even thought of! I get a “2-fer” – I get to teach and I get to learn at the same time. Now that’s a great summer!
The nature of my summer might look a lot different than yours. Yes, sometimes I long to go take a really long walk on a beach somewhere, but my family has other demands that just don’t allow for much of that. It’s all good, though. I’m able to help them out and still get to do something I love: educate and learn.
At least once a week I ask this question: “Am I really making a difference?” I don’t ask it out loud. Sometimes it’s so subtle that I’m not sure if I really want to know. But every educator asks the question sometimes. I just find myself asking it more often lately.
No, I’m not looking for a pat on the back or even an affirmation that I’m really functioning well. Mostly I’m wondering if I’m “doing enough” or “making my work worth it”.
Do you ever feel that way?
So why do we question our ability when we know we’re doing the job?
Because the true educator is never satisfied with pretty good or finished. The true educator tries to find a better way or a more engaging topic. The lesson plan always evolves.
It feels like a restlessness. It might come across as if I’m unhappy with my job. I’m not. Not really. Mostly I’m feeling as if I could do more. Help more. Facilitate more. Listen more. Communicate more. Care more. Okay, answer fewer emails and phone calls!
Yet, I’m passionate about learning. My learning, my students’ learning and the teachers around me learning. But I can’t do it all. There. I said it. “I can’t do it all”. Not at work. Not at home. Not anywhere. So I start to feel like less than what I am. Silly, right?!?
Maybe you’re nodding in agreement right now. It’s okay. All educators feel it. Even you. Maybe especially you.
So do we look for a different job? Always. Do we change up what we do? You bet. Do we try to stop long enough to let the truth sink in? Probably not enough. The truth, friend, is that we are burned out. Our emotional bank is overdrawn. Our light is dimming under the bushel basket. And our energy is depleted.
Does that stop us? Briefly. Or maybe it paralyzes you like it can me.
So I cope. And I look for jobs. And I realize that I am what I do. I AM a teacher. I AM a coach. I AM a mentor. And all of those things meld together nicely in my life.
Do I need a change of scenery? Maybe. Do I need to reinvent myself yet again? Maybe. But the bottom line is that I love people. People of all kinds. People who need me just as much as I need them. To quote Barbra Streisand, “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”
So, am I really making a difference? I think I am. Are you making a difference? Don’t be afraid, speak up. Tell someone. Tell me. We are stronger together.
Edutopia provides so many incredible tools. As I explore their site even more in depth, I’m amazed at the plethora (love that word!) of information that they share so readily with others. Here is this week’s video: