New Academic Year Resolutions

And so the new academic year, 2017/18 begins…..

Firstly let me wish everyone all very best for the academic year ahead.

Following reading a twitter post be @darynsimon I thought this made a good opportunity for me to write down some of things which I hope to achieve in the academic year which now lies ahead.

Management Information

As I have previously written, in schools we have a massive wealth of data however I don’t believe we make the most of it.    I think there are two reasons for this, one being the fact that data is often held in the rows and columns of large spreadsheets such that it isn’t easily or immediately accessible to those who wish to use the data.    The second reason is that the data is set out to show us what we hope to already see.   For example showing the statistics of boys versus girls.    But what about the correlations which might exist which are not readily visible or expected.     As such one of the things I want to work on this year is trying to make data more accessible, including making use of Microsoft PowerBI to hopefully achieve this, and also trying to make use of various statistical analysis tools to analyse the data in new ways and hopefully identify new correlations which can then be acted upon.    I still believe it is what goes on in the class which matters most however my hope is that data might give us new insights and allow us to make better decisions.

Sharing and my PLN

I want to spend this year sharing my thoughts and ideas online plus further developing my PLN.   This includes developing a series of sessions on digital literacy and on preparing students for a digital future.    I also want to revisit using video and possible video blogging, which is something I looked into a couple of years back however failed to make much progress.   I would now like to get back to this and hopefully this time get further with it.

EdTech

As I now enter my second year as a Microsoft Innovative Educator I want to experiment a little more with a variety of edTech solutions during the year ahead.   I would like to try and be a little more creative with my use of technology.  Part of this will include looking to make greater use of the Office 365 suite in both working with colleagues and also in working with students.     Yammer is one resource in particular I intend to experiment with.     I also want to have a look at how Flow might be used to streamline my day and, as mentioned above, looking at how PowerBI might be used to better manage school data.

Reading / CPD

Over the calendar year so far I have started reading a lot more than previously and this is something I want to continue to do throughout the academic year.   I feel such reading is both relaxing but also a valuable professional development and personal growth opportunity.   In addition to this I am also challenging myself to prepare for a formal IT accreditation with plans to undertake the CISSP exam in December of this year.    This will represent a significant challenge in preparing for what is quite a significant exam however I consider the challenge to represent desirable difficulty.   In my view only by pushing ourselves can we truly hope to grow.

I look forward to the year ahead and to seeing what 2017/18 will bring.   I also look forward to sharing thoughts and ideas with other educators both in person and online during the year ahead.

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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.

 

 

 

Resolutions for 2017

2017-torSo it’s the final day of 2016 and the start of 2017 draws ever closer.   As such now is the time to conclude my 2 part blog, which started with a look back on 2016, by looking forward and setting out my plans, pledges or resolutions for 2017.    My targets for the year ahead are not as quantifiable as those set for 2016.   This is the result of reflection which has led me to conclude that the narrow focus of quantifiable targets, which although good for motivation, fails to allow for the appreciation of the richer nature of life and the achievements of a whole year.   As such this years resolutions are more broad strokes, with quantifiable and measurable targets set on a weekly or monthly basis as need arises.

So on to the resolutions:

#BeHappy

I think this is of key importance which I why I am listing it first.   All the achievements, success, etc. isn’t worth a whole lot if you are not happy.    I also give some thought to the book I have just finished, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.    He suggested that our feelings may have a link to our successes, so if I am more positive I am more likely to succeed.   He also suggested a link between feelings and health with someone more positive more likely to overcome colds and other common aliments than someone who is negative or unhappy.   For me this all links to mindfulness and being aware in myself of how I am feeling.   So in 2017 I hope to be more happy which will require me to be more mindful.

#BeConnected

I will continue my efforts from 2016 into 2017, continuing to blog and be active in twitter in particular however also engaging in conferences and other events as they arise.   I also want to continue to write and submit articles for inclusion in #ukedchat’s magazine.    This said, I will try to avoid myself feeling obligated or forcing myself to write a set number of pieces or tweets per week or per month.   Where more important matters arise my connectedness may fall however this is to be expected and accepted.   I need to keep a better eye on putting first things first.

#BeChallenged

I am not sure what my challenge for the year ahead will be, whether it will be to refocus on Google Certified Educator, on Microsoft Certified Educator Expert or on something totally different however in 2017 I will push myself to achieve some form of certification or accreditation.    As it stands I still await results from the CISA exam I sat in December.   Hopefully these results will be released in January and it may be that I choose to follow an industry IT route as opposed to an educational route for a while.  I will leave the specific decision as to the route I plan to take to some point towards the end of January.

#ToExperiment

In order to find the best solutions it is important to continually experiment and try new things.  In 2017 I want to make sure I engage in such experimentation as a leader, as an educational technologist, as an IT Director and as an individual.

#ReadReadandReadSomeMore

I have found re-engaging with reading to be very useful and also fun during 2016.    In 2017 my target will once more be to read a minimum of 1 book per month.   I would love to subscribe to do 1 book per week however I don’t believe this is realistic for me both in relation to time available and also in relation to my chosen reading materials which can seldom be considered “light reading”.  As such the target of 1 book per month seems more realistic and reasonable.   I will also need to try and ensure that the books selected cover a variety of different topics as I feel some of my more recent reading has converged on a single topic which therefore reduces the breadth of benefit I get from reading.

#BeHealthy

I repeatedly reflected on my poor fitness level and also my poor commitment to fitness overall.   In 2017 I need to do something about this.    So I will be restarting walking across school campus every morning as a starting point.    I will also be setting a weekly target for steps.     Key to me here is likely to be coming up with some sort of motivational reward to encourage myself to actually stick to fitness efforts.    This will become even more true if I am to take up something more strenuous than just walking, such as jogging.     The main aim here will be to close 2017 in a much more healthy and fit manner than I came into it.

#BeFamily

In 2017 I need to make more time available to spend with my youngest child, who is 11, and also with my wife.    I also need to make sure that it is “quality time” as opposed to just time.    One part of this will be to have some sort of family holiday in 2017, something which we haven’t actually done in many years.   I also need to be more “romantic” as I wife puts it; Something which doesn’t come that naturally to me being more of a pragmatist and get things done type of person.

2016 was a good year especially when viewing the quantifiable targets, and possibly more so if viewed beyond just these targets.     I hope that 2017 is even more successful.    And so it begins anew………

 

Photo “Terraces on the Tor” by Rodw, Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0