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.

 

 

 

The internet isn’t working!!

“The internet doesn’t work”

A statement heard in my home the other day as my wife tried to access an app on her mobile phone.    I am sure the very same statement may have been uttered in households across the UK and beyond.   In itself it seems like a simple enough statement.    The issue is that it is a gross over simplification.

So let’s work through some possible issues.   First of all the issue could have been with the specific app which my wife was trying to use.   The issue may instead relate to the operating system of the phone, which in this case was Android, or to the physical hardware of the phone.   Maybe Wi-Fi was turned off on the phone or it was in aeroplane mode.   If the issue isn’t in the software or hardware of the phone it could relate to a weak wireless signal due to interference or just poor reception relating from distance or from obstructions between the device and the wireless access point or router.   The issue may relate to the Wi-Fi password and/or the security settings for the wireless network.   This brings us to the wireless access point or router which may represent an issue in terms of its functionality or its configuration.    At this point there are already a large number of things which might account for the issue being so vaguely reported however this is only a small number of the overall possible causes.

Other issues could be an issue in relation to DHCP within the router, assuming we are looking at your average home network.    It may be that the router is blocking traffic possibly.  Another option is the actual connection between the router and the ISP.    This may be incorrectly setup or there could be a physical issue in the line.   Maybe I haven’t paid the bill and the ISP has cut my home off.    Issues with the Domain Name Server (DNS) are another possible issue as are issues with the actual server with which the app is trying to communicate.

And the above only represents some of the possible causes, with other options and combinations of options being possible, and yet for all the possible causes the issue is simply presented as “the internet doesn’t work”.

Technology has become a necessity rather than a luxury.       We need it for banking, accessing council services, accessing government services and communication among many other areas.    As such we expect it to work, and that is simple; it either works or it doesn’t.     So when it doesn’t we make simple statements, which I believe highlights our generally simplistic understanding of technology, and yet we bring more and more technological devices into our home.    Do we truly understand how this tech works?   Do we understanding the implications of using it?    Do we know how to use it in a safe and secure manner?

I would suggest the answer to the above questions is No and yet we worry about the lack of understanding of our students.   How can they hope to understand and be safe with technology when we adults, the ones who they are taught by, parented by and their role models generally don’t.   Lets stop using these concerns for limiting and blocking technology use, and instead lets explore technology use with our students and children, making mistakes, and learning as we go.

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.

 

 

A final reflection on 2016

merryxmasIt is that time of year when many people start posting their reflections on 2016, so I would like to lend my hat to the ring.   This is the first part of a two part blog marking the end of the year.   The first part, this part, will focus on my resolutions/pledges which I made back at the end of 2015, in respect of 2016, and how the year has gone in general.    The second part will set out my resolutions and pledges for 2017.   So here goes for part one:

When I set out my resolutions back in 2015 I tried to set out things which would be quantifiable in that this would make things easier when it came to review progress.  The resolutions I set are as below, along with comments as to progress:

  1. To Blog at least twice per month throughout 2016: My blogging generally throughout most of 2016 has been at a rate of a post per week, while in February as part of #teacher5aday I posted daily for the whole month.   Quantifiably I easily met and exceeded my target however I have found myself questioning why I blog and also questioning the fact that at times I have found arriving at a subject for posts to be difficult and even forced.   I now wonder if the rate of blogging was the wrong thing to look at, instead I should have focussed on measuring what I hope to get from blogging.   I also wonder whether if I would have blogged had I not set a quantifiable target;  The fortnightly target may have acted on my motivation and ensured I kept up the effort.
  2. To maintain my presence and contributions to twitter (1.9 tweets per day): Again like for blogging, I have exceeded the target achieving a rate of almost 5 tweets per day.    Looking back I don’t think I appreciated the use of twitter chats and the number of tweets generated when you get truly involved on a regular basis.     As such the target may have been on the low side.   The other thing which is key here is that the value wasn’t in the number of tweets but in what I got from the twitter chats in particular.   I may have tweeted less or tweeted more however still have benefited to the same extent.     I occasionally spent time, albeit a small amount of time, keeping my buffer account full while thinking about the 1.9 tweet target; was that time well spent?   I am not sure it was however again the quantifiable target may have acted to sustain my motivation.
  3. To achieve Google Certified Educator Level 2 status: I didn’t hit this target mainly due to never really getting started.   This was mainly due to focussing on Microsoft Innovative Educator status which I achieve and also on the Certified IS Auditor status for which I am currently awaiting the results having sat the exam recently.    So the target as far as I am concerned is met in that I achieved another status in MIEE status.    It is also an area which I value in challenging myself to work or study towards qualifications or other certification.  Thinking back though, and following feeling totally knackered for a week after the recent CISA exam, I do wonder whether I may have pushed myself a tad too hard.   Was I overdoing it?
  4. To read at least 1 book per month: I read more than 12 new books during 2016 and very much enjoyed doing so.   At times finding time was difficult however I found that once I got started I ate through books and from each book identified follow on books to read.     The idea of a persons knowledge being measured by the books in their library which they are yet to read, as mentioned in Talebs Black Swam, very much appeals to me so I intend to keep my library full of books yet to be read, and to keep on reading.
  5. To use tools such as Evernote and Buffer to allow me to work smarter: I think I made a limited amount of progress here in that I have developed coping strategies and approaches however these approaches may not truly be “smart”.   An example of this is emailing myself with interesting articles to read, for future review.   I could easily make progress here for example emailing to Evernote as opposed to my email account however this requires a change in established habits.   This is something which still requires work.
  6. To get involved in twitter chats: As mentioned earlier during 2016 I got involved in a number of twitter chats including #sltchat, #mltchat and #edchatmena.   I would suggest that the target of fortnightly was met, however again it isn’t the frequency which actually mattered, it was the value I drew from the discussions.    Did I enjoy the chats as they were useful, due to the fact they challenged my perspective and ideas or due to the fact they confirmed my perspective and ideas?    (Confirmation is easier to stomach than challenge of ones ideas and perspective however this doesn’t make it better or more beneficial, just easier.)
  7. To get involved in events and conferences: I did get involved in a couple of conferences and events during 2016 however I wouldn’t say it was to the same extent as I had been involved in the UAE.   As such I made a start on this during 2016 however there is still work to be done if I want to reach the level of involvement I would like to see myself achieve.   There is a question here with regards available time and trying to do too much and therefore I may also need to re-evaluate what is most important including whether event involvement is actually important to me.
  8. To experiment with video and YouTube: I did very little on this until December when I contributed a little video as part of #teacher5aday.     Thinking about it I wonder whether my target hadn’t taken into consideration how comfortable I feel with regards video;   It just isn’t something which sits easy with me.    As such I will need to consider whether pushing myself out of my comfort zone is an important factor as during 2016 it wasn’t and therefore I made little progress on this target.

Overall looking back I feel I achieved well on the largely quantifiable targets which I set myself.    I should be happy about this in the easy way with which I can measure the success of 2016 however is a years worth of effort, sweat and toil meant to be easy to measure?    Is life that simple?    I would suggest that it isn’t and therefore maybe the targets, albeit easy to measure, weren’t as valuable as they could have been now that I reflect on 2016.     Their quantifiable nature also hides any real discussion as to the importance of what I was looking to achieve.     The flip side here however is that without the quantifiable targets I may not have sustained my motivation in the way I did during 2016, and some of the targets may have fallen by the way side.

As I look to consider targets for 2017 I need to bear the above in mind.    On reflection I may have posed more questions than I have presented answers however as I mentioned before, maybe this is due to the fact that life just isn’t simple.    That said, I would say 2016 was a busy and successful year.  I think I achieved a fair amount although maybe the figures associated with the targets above just don’t tell the full richness of the story of 2016.    I would like to hope that 2017 is successful first, and possibly busy as a secondary attribute!

 

 

 

December: A time to reflect

xmas1It is the 2nd of December, the festive season begins, the first term of the 2016/17 year draws to a close and its almost time to consider my resolutions for 2017.   But before I get to that I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the year so far as it nears its close.

Back in December 2017 I set myself a number of new years resolutions which I have revisited throughout the year.   Generally I feel I am doing pretty well with them however there are some areas where there is room for improvement, as there always is.    There are also things which have arisen during the year, which were not on my resolutions, which I should give thought to.

Looking back at my resolutions a number of them revolved around engagement with the wider educational community through the use of online tools.   This included contributing regularly to twitter, blogging on a regular basis and engaging with various educational twitter chats.   In each of these cases I have significantly exceeded the SMART target which I set out to achieve.   As the year has gone on though this has raised a question with me.   My contributions take time;  could this time be better spent on other areas of my life, job, etc?     Now I don’t have an answer for this as it is not an easy questions.    Blogging for example takes time, however in the future provides a useful window into my thinking at specific times in the past.    Looking back now to 2015 I did not blog anywhere near as much as I have been doing and now looking back I wish I had, as I am sure I had specific thoughts and ideas, found resources, etc. however as I haven’t committed anything to a blog I don’t have access to my thoughts.   Looking at 2016, my various blog entries and tweets provide quite a detailed view of my thinking and the issues arising at various points throughout the year.    I also wonder about the overall global educational context.    If everyone who blogs suddenly stopped then the online educational world would have lost a lot of its richness, being only filled with those educators with sponsorship or advertising deals.    As such I see my online contributions as something I need to continue however also to monitor.     It is important to keep focus on what matter, or “first things first” as Covey put it, so I need to continually reassess if my contributions matter.

Reading was another key target I had set myself as prior to the start of 2016 I read books only very occasionally.   Throughout 2016 I have endeavoured to read a variety of books, with one new book per month.   I have pretty much managed to do this and feel that this is something which I definitely want to continue.   The books I have read have allowed me to question some of my own assumptions and to explore new ideas.   As Taleb put it in “The Black Swan” the important factor isn’t however the number or titles of the books I have read, but the books I am yet to read.   As such I am already intent in 2017 seeing me reading even more frequently and seeing more books added to my library of books still to read.

Back in December last year I had also set myself some targets as to new things to achieve and to try.    These are the items which I have succeeded to a lesser extent.    Looking back though I think that may have been due to the fact that I saw these items as of a lesser priority.    Sadly the priority of the resolutions was not identified when I listed them; This is something I need to take into consideration when it comes to creating resolutions for 2017, to list them in priority order.     At this stage I haven’t achieved my Google Certified Educator Level 2 however I did achieve Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.      My work smarter target hasn’t really seen me use Evernote, although I have experimented with a number of apps.   I would say there is still work to be done here.    And as to video blogging or other video contributions this isn’t something I have made any real progress on this year and therefore is either something to carry out to 2017 or something which I need to put to the side as no longer being important.

As the year draws to a close I cant quite believe how fast it has disappeared however I will take that as a sign that I am enjoying things which can only be a good thing.    2017 represents a new year, new challenges, new opportunities and an opportunity to try new things.    I look forward to 2017 and to continuing to record my thoughts and ideas via this blog.

Merry Christmas to all!