I presented at a conference

July 18th, 2012 | Filed under: Graduate School

Introducing the keynote.

Yep. I did that. It was scary and awesome.

In the second year of the MAET overseas program, students plan and put on a free ed-tech conference. A focus of our work in the second year is leadership and what better way to test your interpersonal skills, your planning, your leading and your teamwork than by being asked to create an entire conference in two weeks? To be honest, this aspect of the program almost scared me off from it completely.

However, after it was said and done, I fired off an email to my advisor saying how happy I was that I did it. There’s a lot running through my mind right now about what it was like, what I learned, the people I met, the things I would change/improve if I could do it again. But for now I’m just basking in the completeness of it. It’s done.

Photo by Leigh Graves Wolf

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Workflow Thinking Project

July 8th, 2012 | Filed under: teacher productivity

I just finished my first week in the MAET overseas program. I’m living and studying in Dublin this month to complete three courses toward my master’s. It’s been an information-packed first week, but the item lingering most on my mind (and that is often back there bouncing around all the time) is my workflow. 

Our teacher Leigh asked us to write down the tools we use to get our work done and to organize them into piles of tools that “talk to each other” and tools that stand alone. This was a pretty confronting activity for me. I had so many tools on little cards and kept thinking of more. I realized during the brain-teasing activity that the many tools might be part of why I can’t seem to “figure out” my workflow – a task that has been gathering dust on my to-do list for some time. 


In many ways I was a bit jealous of my classmates who were new to many of these tools and therefore had only a few tools to deal with and think about. They could use this experience to set intentions for what they need to get done and how and then build from there. I started with a bit of a mess. 

Another irony of talking about productivity is that you’re usually doing it at the cost of producing things. I’m a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, but sometimes I fall into the trap of trying to perfect my system and not actually getting anything done. Systems and tools are supposed to help you do things and create things, but they’re of no help if you just spend time tweaking them. Perfectionism at its worst. 

My classmates asked me about the tools I use. I happily passed them around and tweeted out links and tips, but felt I also needed to take a step back and look at the system as a whole if I was to confidently recommend anything. 

I struggle with attention issues and procrastination. Messing around with my tools or apps is one way I get a boost of dopamine from the feeling of “doing something,” but without actually doing anything. I think often of this study that talks about why we multitask even though we know it’s not productive. It’s because it feels good…literally. 

A perfect example of a tool I used that turned out to be too “fiddly” was GoodReader. I love it for reading PDFs and highlighting and annotating. However, I also tried grading essays with it. I had my students send me PDFs of their essays and I got to work using GoodReader to annotate and highlight and underline. I spent a great deal of time and I’m not sure it was any better than if I had just printed the essay and marked it with a pen. In fact, I would argue that for me (I’ll be using that qualification a lot), it would have been better to use a pen. And I would have returned the essays to students much sooner*.

So this month one of my goals is to take a hard look at all the things I use in my so-called system and either keep them or toss them. Sort of like going through your closet and getting rid of the flashy outfit you got because of a trend but realized it wasn’t for you. Not every dress fits every woman the same. You get the metaphor.

During my time here in Dublin I’m going to do a series of posts about the things I use and reflect on why. Part of this is for my own thinking and part of this is because a few classmates want to see what I’m using and why. Verbalizing the “why” part will be a good exercise for me on this journey. We’ll see where it goes.

*A professional goal for me next year (and the only one I am setting) is to return assessments to students within one week of the date they send it to me. This timeline is important for me so that I budget for it in my planning and because prompt feedback is crucial for feedback to be useful. I returned things so late this year that I felt the assignments in some cases turned out to be wastes of time for me and my students. Not a feeling I want to experience again. 

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I’ve started grad school…

May 4th, 2011 | Filed under: Graduate School, professional development

This week I started life as a student again. Like riding a bike!

This week I started course work through Michigan State University’s online program toward my Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET).

I’ve realized over the course of my brief but intense teaching career that technology in learning is something I want to know more about. I’d been asked by many why I didn’t just get my Masters in Education when I got my license since I already had a degree under my belt (and the classes were the same), but at the time it didn’t seem like something I wanted to pay extra for. At this moment I have no aspirations of being an administrator (though it seems that every back is wearing a target in education these days) and a Masters of Education seemed like a stepping stone towards that and little more. I’d toyed with the idea of getting a graduate degree in something more content focused, such as history or media or even literature again, but none of those grabbed me.

I am an English teacher, but I always felt a little too interdisciplinary for the English department. I liked to walk around, talk to other teachers, and daydream about collaborative projects we could do together if it weren’t for state testing, time constraints, and all the other excuses you can imagine. I needed something that wasn’t an umbrella degree like education, but wasn’t so focused that it limited me to certain content. I found in the MAET program something that spoke to me – a chance to take all of my raw ideas about tech and learning, reflect upon them, and hopefully coax them into some focused philosophy while picking up skills along the way, though that philosophy part might be a reach. My education philosophy seems to change with every day I learn in virtual networks or even talk with a fellow teacher. One shared link on Twitter can get me thinking and wondering about everything all over again. Uncertainty – it’s a nice place to be sometimes.

I’ve started a blog (Mary gets her MAET…still working on that title) separate from my usual teaching blog (See Mary Teach), because I want to keep my course work separate from my usual ruminations in education. Also, some of the content of my MAET blog might be a little dry for some (I’m getting ready to write an example blog post about the differences between web pages and blog posts for my CEP810 course, for example). This is always a challenge for me – to decide how I am going to use one space over another and what tools I’m going to use to achieve the goals. I’m an early adopter of many online apps and tools and often find myself saying things like “wait a minute, I have 45 different ways to take notes…is that necessary?” And determining the answer to questions like that – to finding the right tech tool for the job – is something I hope to become better at through the course of this program so that I may model it for the students I have next year and in the future. And I’m just excited to be talking about teaching and learning in another space in such a complicated time.

I will be cross-posting content from See Mary Teach and vice versa from time to time and while my grad blog is separate, I encourage anyone interested in following it to do so. I plan to be transparent in my learning and opinions of the courses and program as I move through them and I welcome your feedback and interaction.

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