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One Word 2017 Reflection

Looking back at 2017, my one word was ‘discover.’ It is safe to say that this was THE perfect word that I landed on for the year. I had no idea just what I would discover at the time of choosing my one word for 2017 but here is my reflection and look back on the year.

What exactly did I discover?

I discovered that so many of our teachers are moving forward in terms of trying new things in their classroom with educational technology. I love their attitude and openness to new ideas. I also discovered that nobody knows their classroom better than them. By acting as a thought partner and not through me fully driving the direction of the lesson, our collaboration created better learning experiences.

I discovered ways to amplify student voice. From throwing a random tweet at Sean Farnum about collaborating on a student podcast (which led to this and this and this) to harnessing the power of tools like Flipgrid, Buncee, and Seesaw to hosting a student edcamp, I not only discovered ways of amplifying student voice but the real power and value that comes from doing so. Just tuning in to what students have to say is powerful. Listening to the Student Ignite sessions at ISTE 2017 is something I recommend. Check out Curran Central’s talk here to get a taste.

I discovered the true value of a PLN, or PLF as Sarah Thomas remixed the term for the better at ISTE 2017. This PLF exists on Twitter and in my own backyard. Folks down the hall and teachers in the region at our regional educator forums are a wealth of experience, knowledge, and resources. We share the same vision and the face to face conversations and sharing is always special. I am grateful for Andrew Wheelock and Melanie Kitchen leading and facilitating these sessions. On Twitter (and Voxer), social media has been such a powerful way to connect. The folks here are truly dedicated and looking to create the best possible learning experiences for their students. I discovered that so many of them go out of their way to help, encourage, support, stretch my thinking, and most importantly, share some smiles and laughs together along the way.

I discovered the need to move from digital citizenship to digital leadership. Are we providing these opportunities? Digital citizenship cannot be taught from a textbook, worksheet or lecture. Discovering the book Social LEADia from Jennifer Casa-Todd was a game changer for me. I was grateful to meet her at Canada Connect Conference this year and also connect with her coding club over a video Google Hangout session. Meeting Marialice Curran also helped shape my view of what positive digital citizenship and leadership can look like. Discovering Dig Cit Summits and following along with them led to some great learning and new ideas.

I discovered failure. That’s right. I messed some stuff up. Not that I haven’t experienced it before, but I discovered looking at it differently. Things did not always go as planned. Nobody got hurt and I did not lose my job over it. One of my flaws is that I am often concerned with how other people view me or think of me. Trying to get things perfect comes along with that. This past year I let go of that worry and it was freeing. If I could travel back in time and give the high school me one piece of advice, this would be it.

I discovered the Teach Sustainable Development Goals movement thanks to Fran Siracusa. I was fortunate to be able to connect virtually to learn about how technology can help make the world a better place. Through this tweet she shared, I also discovered #CelebrateMonday, eventually connecting and learning from Sean Gaillard, the founder of #CelebrateMonday! I took the pledge shortly after and promise to keep the conversations active. Through Fran, I also discovered Connections Based Learning and some amazing projects their team led by Sean Robinson participated in. It completely changed how I look at the integration of educational technology. It is so much more than just improving academics (while that is important) and test scores.

I discovered global connections and collaborations are amazing. I have yet to experience a global collaboration and thought I could have made a better use of the time or done something differently. Each one is unique and each one helps students ask more questions than provides answers. I want all learning to feel like this. Buncee Buddies, Belouga, Empatico, STEM Hub, Mystery Skypes, Global Maker Day, K12 Valentine, Awesome Squiggles, Gingerbread STEM, Best Class Podcast, Minecraft Literature World, Read Across America, Global Speed Chat, PenPal Schools, Seesaw Connected Blogs, Skype-a-Thon, and even a high school Student Twitter Chat (#usetech4good – #positivelykind – #digcit). I will aim to discover even more of these learning opportunities in the new year and beyond. I really appreciate the hashtag created by Bronwyn Joyce, #OneWorldOneClassroom.

I discovered just how much I don’t know and how much room I have to grow. As a father, as a husband, as a friend, and as an educator. I am on the right path but discovering and identifying this will make me better.

I discovered the power of gratitude. I have always been a grateful person. My parents raised me this way. However, I never gave much thought to just how powerful gratitude can be. When at the Children’s Book Expo I stopped at a table with a sign reading 365 Days of Gratitude. I met a student author, Muskan Virk along with her mother, Meera. I picked up a copy of the book. Inspired by her message, I invited Muskan to Skype with our school. She agreed, shared her story and her message with students and teachers. It was a highlight of the school year and will leave a lasting impact. I look forward to connecting with her again to discover other ways she is making a difference in the world.

I discovered the real value in Minecraft Education Edition thanks to Mark Grundel and Garrett Zimmer. Their MOOC helped me learn so much about game-based learning and taking risks. It carried over to our classrooms and our students benefited. I took the leap and applied to become a Minecraft Education Global Mentor and was accepted into the program this December. It will run throughout 2018 and I am excited to discover more possibilities from others around the globe part of this community.

I discovered the need to give myself a break. Sometimes I push and push and push to the point of exhaustion. I discovered while the push helps me do what I do well, that pushing too hard will never bring about the best version of me. It is all about balance.

I discovered the power of leaning on your support. Doing it alone will always be an impossible climb, even if you think otherwise. The term “better together” is the truth.

I discovered to appreciate the unknown and what might lie ahead. We’ll never be able to predict our journey but appreciating that we are on one with great people around us is something special.

I probably discovered much more than I am even capturing here but this is what jumps out. I encourage you to take the one word challenge. If you want to take the idea a bit further to your students, check out what Dene Gainey did with his class here. That’s right, he turned it into a writing activity for students and created a podcast from them!

Goodbye 2017. Hello, 2018! May your one word help you discover as much as it did for me. 

Miles of Smiles

As an educator who seeks to bring creativity and imagination to the classroom, often through educational technology, I have experienced first-hand the power of Buncee’s Buncee Buddies program. Past project themes included International Peace Day, Earth Day and U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Empathy is at the heart of these Buncee Buddies projects. Empathy isn’t a subject taught in school but a topic that can be woven into activities that can leave a lasting impact on students. Educators striving to make a difference in the lives of their students can do so by creating opportunities to build empathy in students. Another important aspect of these projects is community building. A community is built within the classroom amongst classmates and it is also built between partner classrooms many miles apart though appreciating similarities and differences. To extend building empathy and community beyond the school walls, we created a Buncee Buddies spin-off.

For many of us, the holiday season will bring smiles as we spend time with family and friends. Knowing this is a great part of what makes the holiday season special, the idea of Buncee Buddies Miles of Smiles was born. When we asked our students if they would be interested in creating a slide (or slides) using Buncee for someone outside of the classroom, their reaction of smiles and cheers reinforced to us that it was worth the effort. What can be created? Anything (since Buncee is a tool for creativity and imagination) one can think up that is smile-inducing but our ideas were: holiday humor, holiday stories, a holiday song, and holiday stickers and animations.   

The Buncee Board (collection of Buncee creations) reads:
#BunceeBuddiesMilesOfSmiles – Have a Buncee that is sure to make someone smile? Add it to this board! We’ll be sharing these with folks away from home for the holidays serving in the military, in retirement communities, nursing home/assisted living facilities, hospitals, etc. Let’s use our creativity and imagination to bring smiles for miles.  *Add a QR code to your Buncee to activate any animations, video or audio features you add.

If you are interested in spreading some smiles for miles, feel free to create a free Buncee account, create a Buncee and copy your Buncee link to the Buncee Board. Don’t be surprised if creating brings you a smile in addition to bringing a smile to many others. We cannot wait to share these with others. Anyone can view and share the board link. Buncees can be downloaded and printed or viewed digitally on any connected device.

Thanks to Buncee for supporting this idea and to everyone who has shared or contributed to #BunceeBuddiesMilesOfSmiles in some way. An especially big smile was created when Shannon Miller, fellow Buncee Ambassador, shared out a blog post on the project this week. At the time of this post, the Board has over 75 Buncees, almost 400 views, over 300 reactions, and over 50 comments. That is A LOT of smiles.

Enjoy the holiday season. Take time to create and especially take time to smile and spread smiles!