Reflections: 2017 so far

Having just turned 41 years of age, it makes for a good time to reflect a little on the year so far.   Firstly I think its important to note that this year appears to be disappearing very fast.   I feel at this point as if the Christmas period was only yesterday.   I suspect a quick review of past posts will show a similar perception throughout the year.   I may be able to draw positive conclusions from this, in that time flies when you are having fun, or negative conclusions in that I am that busy I am unable to stop and truly experience or review the events that have occurred.    A third option, and the one I think I will stick with on this occasion, is the that this clearly highlights the frailty of our memories to accurately reflect past events.

During the last few months I have taken to journaling to try and keep a record of the things I have done and how I have felt.   Sadly this has been a little hit and miss with some weeks consisting of daily records of each day while other weeks have been empty of record.    This is something I want to try and be more consistent with and I have been considering that maybe I will need to reduce my blogging in order to release time to facilitate this.   Given that one of the reasons for blogging is to have personal records of my thinking, which is the same reason for having a journal, this trade off seems logical.    As such this may represent the last of my blogs for a little while at least.

I found the recent Secret Teacher article in relation to English teachers not reading quite interesting given that I had set one of my targets or pledges to be reading at least 1 book per month.   I continue to progress well on this target with the hope that I will continue to do so.    I am finding the act of reading to be relaxing but also thought provoking as I explore subjects such as stoicism, culture and also how we think.     The Secret Teacher article strikes me as representing gross generalisation, which is often a feature of online educational discussion, although generally this is backed up by some research.

The area of fitness continues to be one of my weak areas.   Still I am unable to keep up more than a sporadic attempt at physical exercise.    As I have repeatedly said before this is an area which I need to continue to work at.    I am starting to wonder whether the issue here is that I am basing my targets on what other people do while my aspirations should clearly be much lower.     A quick glance at twitter highlights various teaching colleagues across the world who have engaged in their daily or weekly run.   Am afraid the best I can hope for is a monthly or yearly doddle.   Maybe the fact that it is in my mind and therefore I am making sporadic attempts is the best I can hope for.    I suppose I can also be positive in that I have played an hour or so of football with my son on the last three nights.   Progress is progress, even if it is little and infrequent!

My connectedness is another area which is giving me similar thoughts to the above.   I feel that I should be doing more in terms or writing blog pieces, contributing to twitter chats, contributing to publications, etc.    Now again this may be comparisons with others who appear to be doing more.   Again, twitter and other social media seems to present us with models to follow however I am increasingly wondering if these are the right aspirations.   Are the few education stars on social media distorting what I perceive as normal expectations or more accurately my expectations?   These stars are a very small percentage of the overall educational body of individuals across the world yet they are very public and visible.   If plotted on a graph of connectedness they would be outliers, being significantly more connected and active than most, however this has an effect of significantly changing the average connectedness.  Take them out of the equation and the average would be significantly lower.    In addition to this there is the psychological factor in that they are very public and therefore come easily to mind.   This ease with which they come to mind makes then seem common which again impacts on the perception as to the connectedness of the average educator.   This makes me think of Coveys book, “First things first”, and that there may be a need for me to reflect on what actually is my “first thing”.

Five months of 2017 have now be completed and I must say that they seemed to have passed quickly.   The summer period is now not that far away and I look forward to using some of the time over this period to reflect and plan for the start of a new academic year, to energise and also as discussed above, to re-evaluate and identify what truly is important.   I may also look back and review my previous evaluations of the year, as I have posted year over the last year of so with some regularity, to see if any patterns are emerging, however that’s for another day!

 

 

 

 

Reflections: The first quarter of 2017

And so April is upon us, and the 2nd term of the 2016-17 academic year comes to a close.    I have said it a few times already this year, but how time flies!

I thought now would be a good time to review the year so far and to look back on my resolutions for 2017 and evaluate the progress made to date.

When I wrote my resolutions I listed a need for mindfulness including an awareness of my emotional state, however I don’t think I fully appreciated the importance of this aspect of life.   My recent reading of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and also The Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday have both further brought this into focus.     Our reality is viewed through the lens of our perception, therefore if we take a more optimistic view, if we focus on what is in our control, then we can bring about a more positive reality.     With this in mind I think I have made some progress, for realisation is a step in itself.   This however will need to be something which I continue to consider, and to revisit.

I don’t feel I have been as connected during the first quarter of 2017 as I maybe was in 2016 with a reduced engagement in twitter balanced out against a slight increase in my blogging.   I think this is reasonably fair and acceptable outcome.    I am starting to consider the depth of connection, with a view that some of my social media based connections are generally more shallow than corresponding in-person connections.     This seems to suggest that my focus should be more on attending events and building in person contacts however I am unsure as to how I will be able to fit this into a busy schedule.    I also wouldn’t want to lose out on my diverse range and highly valuable Professional learning network where it exists online.

My reading has definitely been going well so far this year.   As we reach the end of the 3rd month of the year, I have completed reading 6 books.     The books themselves have all been reasonably deep titles including Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.    I have very much enjoyed reading more, and even managed to find a single sunny day to spend outside in the gardening reading.   Hopefully the months ahead will provide more opportunities for this to happen.

As has been the case before the health and physical exercise side of things has slipped.    My planned walking across campus daily was adding time to my day albeit only 20mins or so and as such, and especially given the cold winter weather, I decided to stop this activity.   I now need to find some way to address this area in my life even more so having saw the news the other morning which raised the concern of the high percentage of people in the UK who live a sedentary lifestyle.    I suspect I am one of those people!

The family side of things have met with some success so far this year.   I am now spending a short daily burst of time with my son on his maths development in particular.   I have also managed to remember some of the key family dates and surprise my wife in doing so.    This is something I need to continue to work on.

My current book which I am reading is Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan.   I think it will be interesting to revisit my reflections having completed reading this as it has already raised some interesting ideas in relation to pleasure and purpose.   At this point I think I am more of a busy, or purposeful, person.  Am not sure yet whether this is a good thing or not.

I tried for a period to engage in daily journaling however this dropped away in the last month or so.    I think this may be an interesting practice to pick back up possibly using a purpose vs. pleasure framework for notes.     Hopefully this is therefore something I can recommence and sustain through the final term of the year.

All in all, I feel things are progressing steadily in terms of the things achieved, however time is seeming to fly by.   They do say that time flies when you are having fun, so for now I will be content to leave these reflections on that positive note.

 

 

 

4 Years of blogging. How time flies!

4thIt was 4 years ago today that I sat one evening in my villa in Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates, and wrote my first blog piece.   It seems like only yesterday!    My initial period of blogging was a little sporadic with some months containing 2 or 3 posts while other months contained nothing.   It has only been in the last year or so that I have tried to reach some regularity in my rate of posting with an aim of writing something at least on a weekly basis.

In the four years a lot has changed.   Four years ago I was an educational consultant working in UAE whereas now I am back in the UK in the independent school sector.    Four years ago I was in my thirties and I am now in my forties.    Four years ago my son was at the start of his school life however now he is towards the end of his primary education.    Four years ago I was relatively negative about the use of Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) and iPads whereas now I am very positive about iPads although my dislike of IWBs remains.   Four years ago I had a degree and a postgraduate certificate, now I have a Masters along with various other EdTech related statuses.   So in four years, more experience, four years older, a different country, a different educational sector and a different context.     Its amazing what can change over four years!

Looking back I have found my blog to be a useful window into my thoughts over the last four years.   It has been interesting the number of times upon re-reading an entry I have found my memory of events to have been challenged.    Being able to reflect and compare has been very useful indeed.

The actual act of writing a blog piece is useful in itself in that it forces you to order and organise your thoughts before, or as, you type them out.   The process alone has made me reconsider my point of view on at least a few occasions.

As an avid consumer of online educational content through twitter, Pinterest and the blogs of variety of different educationalists I am always conscious of the one-way nature of consumption.    Posting a regular blog allows me to contribute back to the online discussions even if no-one reads my posts, at least I am doing what is within my power and influence to put something back in.  At least I am putting myself out there.

Blogging allows me to offload thoughts and ideas onto the screen.  The human mind has a limited capacity for thinking, ideas, etc. and therefore the act of putting some ideas into a blog releases some capacity which can then be deployed on other things.   It’s a little bit of a mindfulness exercise.     Now I am no neuro-scientist so I can’t prove the above to be true but it feels right and some of my reading over the years has suggested the limited capacity of the mind to be true.

I will however be honest and although the majority of the reason for blogging is for me personally I still do occasionally check the statistics to see if people have been reading my posts.    I still get a little bit excited by the occasional reader comment which shows me that my musings are at least of interest to at least one person.     Or by the retweet or like on twitter relating to a post I have written.    I admit this is a little shallow however I am a human after all.  If it wasn’t about others reading then this blog would be document which only I could read.  I hope as a public sharing it is more useful.

So its now been four years that I have had this site running.    Here’s to the year ahead, and getting to five!

Image “Fourth Four Indicates Happy Birthday And 4” by Stuart Miles from http://www.FreeDigitalPhotos.Net 

Reflections on January 2017

newYearsResolutionI cant believe it is February already.   Christmas now feels but a distant memory.   As such I feel it is a good time to reflect on the first month and on my progress against the resolutions I set myself.

#BeHappy

I would say this in a difficult one to measure especially given the speed with which the last month have passed.   I have been journaling my thoughts over most of the last month however my comments shed little light on my feelings and happiness.   Clearly it may be beneficial to at least allocate some journal space to a brief comment on feelings however for now I think this remains an area to work on.    All being equal though, time has flown by over the last month and they do say time flies when you are having fun!

#BeConnected

My engagement in twitter has been less in the recent month than previously although my blogging has remained largely static.    Overall I feel my contributions as a connected educator continue to be at a level which I am happy with.   The one thing that is different is that, so far, I have not felt the need to force myself to create content and to contribute.    The various posts so far have came relatively easily and long may that continue.

#BeChallenged

I passed my CISA exam which is good.   At the moment I haven’t yet decided what my next personal challenge is however I have been considering BCS Chartered IT Professional or similar status.   I have also looked at Apples Distinguished Educator status.    As such little has happened on this item however once I decide on my chosen challenge the work will begin.

#ToExperiment

Am not really sure I have experimented much so far although I did do some work on presenting achievement data as well as some work on the analysis of IT support metrics.

#ReadReadandReadSomeMore

Am now on my third book in The Herd.   As such am progressing very well against my plan to read 1 book per month.   The one thing I do need to watch is my tendency to select books based on ones which I have already read.   As such this may result in a narrowing of the subject matter I am reading.   I need to ensure as well as following a pathway of books related to a given topic, I also read across a varied number of different topics.      I will be giving this some careful consideration as I order my next set of books ready for reading.

#BeHealthy

I managed to meet my step target on 20 out of the 31 days of January.    Now of the days which I failed to meet the target, some were at the start of the month before I got started and some were during a recent period of illness.    I have restarted walking across campus and I have also found a way of ensuring I hit my target where I arrive home at the end of the day, still short of the mark.   Now the step target of 4500 steps isn’t great, however I next will up it to 5000, before increasing it regularly assuming I manage to hit the previous target for at least a full 7 days.     I also note that my weight has slightly fallen which seems to suggest a slightly healthier me.    January has only been the start, so now I need to build on this.

#BeFamily

January has seen a few family trips to the cinema however it has also seen a period of illness throughout the family.    I would say this is still an area which needs to given consideration and some continued effort.

Overall January has been largely a good month.   My hope is that this marks just the beginning of 2017, and that I can build on it throughout the year, allowing me to better address the various pledges which I have made.

 

 

Bett 2017

bettphotoA year ago I visited the BETT conference after a significant absence resulting from my time working out in the UAE.     At the time I was disappointed however I attributed a large part of this as related to a lack of planning on my part.   So for 2017 I had to make sure not to repeat this.

And so it was, that this time around I made sure I had a plan in place for my one day visit.   I had chosen to visit on the Thursday to coincide with some of our students working with i3 technologies, with the idea that I would be able to travel down with the students.   As it happened I ended up travelling down myself however stuck to the planned day with a hope to catch the students session.

Prior to BETT opening I sat down outside the venue and reviewed my plan making sure I knew where each of the stands I intended to visit were, marking them on the venue map which had been provided.    My initial plan included a number of vendors which I wanted to visit with a focus on solutions for monitoring internet traffic and e-Safety.    I also had decided upon five presentations which I hoped to see covering a variety of topics including e-Safety, measuring educational technology success and also using Windows 10 in classrooms.

My day turned out to be frantic as I tried to see all the vendors I wanted to see.   Quickly this made it apparent that I hadn’t left enough time between the presentation sessions.   I ended up only managing to see 4 out of the 5 sessions I planned to see and in 3 cases this involved being stood at the back of the room.   That said, they were definitely worthwhile.   I am a bit annoyed however that I missed @ictevangelist Mark Anderson’s presentation which happened on the following day, on Friday.

I particularly enjoyed the session from Andy Carpenter and Dave Strudwick from the Plymouth School of Creative Arts.   It was great seeing the various videos of their students and the enthusiasm which they had built through engaging and exciting projects.    I very much liked how they had achieved an environment where students were able to arrive at lessons and get started in learning immediately without having to wait to be told what to do by their teacher.  I think this is something we all need to strive for in developing our students as independent learners.

Having returned home and reviewing twitter tonight I note that #TMBETT is currently going on.   This sounds like it is worth attending and having reviewed my blog from a year ago I note I said roughly the same thing then.   I wonder whether it will be 3rd time lucky and 2018 will see me staying on for Teachmeet BETT.

Overall I found BETT to be a useful and worthwhile experience this year.   The extra time I allowed myself and the initial planning helped.     Next year I think I may even consider going for two days rather than one and I will definitely be adding in #TMBETT to my itinerary.    But that’s next year so for now all that remains is to say goodbye to #BETT2017.

bye_bett

Habits, and fitness

trainersThroughout last year as I reviewed each month I repeatedly identified health and fitness as an area which I needed to work on however also an area which does not come naturally to me.   As such my initial focus was on finding a simple way to introduce some physical activity to my day.    The approach I ended up settling with was to park across the school campus every morning meaning that I had to walk to get to my desk.    The walk isn’t particularly arduous, being around a 5 to 10 minute walk, uphill on the way in, in the morning and downhill at the end of the day.    This idea worked for me for a few months however when the cold weather set in I am afraid I dropped the idea and returned to using the main cark park which is a significantly closer.

My resolution for 2017 has been to revisit the physical and health aspects of my life however this time I didn’t want to just be content with a short walk twice a day.    As such I restarted parking across campus however I also set myself a daily step target.   My plan was to increase this target and hopefully move to jogging possibly.

The above worked quite well for the first week, with me hitting my target every day however the second and third week brought with them an issue.   It became clear that on some days I would meet my step target however on others I would reach home at the end of the day still having failed to meet the target, despite the walk across campus.     At the end of the day the prospect of going out for a walk, especially in the currently cold weather, was not particularly appealing.   If I wasn’t even hitting my initial target how could I hope to increase it over time?

I have been reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and he described situations where people’s habits included a plan for how they would deal with difficulties.   E.g. how would a smoker deal with that stressful moment which leads to them craving a cigarette.   I needed to identify a habit I could use to help me meet my step target.   Ideally a habit that was easy to start at the end of the day after a full day at work, and a habit which didn’t involve having to go out in the cold.

The solution I arrived at was to make use of the stairs in the house, to climb them, up and down, to reach my step target.  This represents a reasonable physical activity similar to that of walking uphill, yet is easy for me to get started and carry on until I met my target.   It is now my new habit.

I wonder what other activities, which are affected by motivation, might be helped by identifying a habit and plan ahead of those difficult moments.   I also wonder about how developing habits, aimed at dealing stressful and/or difficult situations, might help students.

 

 

Why do I blog?

keyboardI have found myself asking this question lately.    During my reflections at the end of 2016 I considered the fact that I had written almost a blog entry at least once per week throughout the year as well as on every day in February.     At times I had found identifying a subject difficult and at other times I had found identifying time to actually write something difficult.    I also had periods during which my motivation towards blogging was not at it highest, yet still I persisted and tried to get something written down and shared.

Recently I have finished reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown which has got me thinking about which tasks and activities I undertaken which are essential and which are not.   This has got me thinking about the effort I put into blogging.    Is blogged essential to me?      In trying to answer this it has got me thinking about my reasons for blogging.

Thinking about it there are a number of reasons which I blog.    One relates to memory.   My reading over the last year has highlighted the limitations of memory.    We often believe that our memory represents an accurate, video like, record of previous events however this is far from the truth.   As such blogging, writing down my thoughts, feelings and the details of specific events, helps in creating a more accurate record of events which I can review at some point in the future.    As such my blog represents a way to help me check that memories I hold actually represent the events I believe they relate to.

Blogging is also a way to offload.    The act of getting things down in a blog article forces me to order my thoughts.    It forces me to question my perspective.     I have found on a number of occasions that the act of blogging has resulted in my re-examining my perspective.

Writing a blog is an act of contribution to the education domain which exists online.    I have often found this domain to be very useful, finding ideas, perspectives and resources which I have either been able to use, or which have helped in shaping my thinking.    I could just have remained a consumer of resources and ideas however if we all did this then the educational domain would be lesser for it, as there would be far fewer contributors.    As such my blog is just one part of my attempt to pay back the online education domain which has helped me so much.   I admit there may be no-one or few people that ever read that which I have written, however if there is even 1 person who has found my musings to be useful, then at least in part I have repaid the help I have received from educators online.

Having given it some thought, maybe blogging isn’t top of my essentials list however I do think it is important.    I think the key here is maybe that my essentials list may focus too much on the here and now, however blogging may prove to have been a productive activity only when I find myself reviewing my thoughts some years from now.

As it stands, I will try to continue to find the time to blog, so here’s to many more posts throughout 2017.