Twitter has me hooked.

If you’re like me, you have a passion for learning. You feel as though you need to be as informed as possible on the latest trends and up to date with how pedagogy is changing to transform learning in the 21st century. This shift in how innovative educators are now thinking and doing is inspiring and motivating. Although I am learning daily and reading more than ever before, I remind myself that it’s a process. It takes small steps in the right direction, reflection, followed by action to make sure our practices are on point and congruent to the times we are living in.

Since November of this year, I’ve been connected globally through Twitter. I know, I know, you must be asking yourself “What took her so long?” … and trust me, I have this thought on repeat inside of my head; but all thanks to my best friend @AnnickRauch, I’m here now and that’s all that matters. You see, I believe credit should be given when merited and the “Get Nycol on Twitter Award” goes to her, and I couldn’t be more thankful and here’s why:

  • I never realized how Twitter could do wonders in my field. The seasoned and forward thinking educators are all on there. In just a few minutes, you can learn something new, ask a question using a hashtag and get answers from others who have tried and tweaked it. It’s effective and efficient. I have yet to read a Tweet on my feed from someone that has a negative attitude or a fixed mindset. You choose who you follow, therefore you surround yourself with others who share the same beliefs and can challenge yours to make you grow.
  • You’re instantly opened to new perspectives and points of view, which deepens your thinking and elevates learning.
  • You feel empowered. All of the people I’ve been following are doing AMAZING things that inspire me to follow suit because I know it’s what’s best for our learners. If they are doing it, so can I. It changed my “I can” to “I am”. 
  • Being influenced by many authors, I’m seeing all of the ideas I’ve read in books put into practice: student-led classrooms, design thinking, flex seating and more. Seeing more examples of how others are doing it allows me to highlight and adjust my own practices, always placing the student in the center of his/her learning. You don’t have to physically be in a classroom to witness all of its greatness.
  • The daily professional development is satisfying and literally at your fingertips from the comfort of your own home or anywhere you happen to be. Once the kids are in bed, instead of catching up on a good show, I’ve been flipping through the pages of a good book, reading someone’s latest blog post or looking at pictures or videos of events happening in classrooms around the world.  PD in your pjs? Yes please!… I mean, who doesn’t look forward to learning in their pyjamas? It’s a monthly occurrence in my classroom!

i-never-lose-i-either-win-or-learnTwitter is a tool I’m still discovering as I go. Similar to when I let go of some of the control and place it back into the hands of my students after I reflect and implement a practice taken from one of my inspirational reads. By allowing yourself to take risks, you reap the rewards. You can’t ever lose, you either win or learn. The same can be said for our students.

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This past month, I seized the opportunity to take part in the online conference #DitchSummit hosted by the incredible Matt Miller (@jmattmiller). It’s just what I needed during my Winter Break. Having watched all of the speakers, I’ve learned during my time “off” and have added some new titles to my Next on my reading list. It’s also quite inspiring to see and hear some of the authors who have influenced my thinking and teaching practices this year, Paul Solarz and Dave Burgess specifically, in action right before my own eyes. I still wish I would have had Dave as my history teacher in high school.

All of this Twitter Talk has me thinking of how I can incorporate this tool into my classroom. I believe all the points I’ve made above are more than enough reason to utilize this tool with students in the classroom. I see young minds using Twitter and it’s impressive. The possibilities are endless. I want that for my students as well while they learn all about their digital footprint. Twitter has got me hooked. I can’t wait to see where this tool will take me next and change another I can… to I am!

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At the heart of it all

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Although I express gratitude daily, this past holiday season has me thinking about how grateful I am for every opportunity I have, every ounce of love in my heart and all the “stuff” (what I call “fluff”) we own. With three kids at home and generous grandparents, you can imagine the amount of gifts my children received at Christmas. It makes me sick. Every year, my husband and I ask our parents to cut back because we want our kids to realize what is truly important in this world. How we can help others and the importance of being kind.

As I look around me and realize how lucky I am to have everything I need, I think of those students who don’t have their basic needs met. Whether it be a lunchbox full of sugar (or no lunch at all), not having the proper clothing for our harsh winter weather, or the lack of meaningful relationships at home, I think of my students all the time and how they are spending their break, knowing far too well, that a few would rather be at school learning and exploring with their peers.

I know some students who have built significant relationships at school  who are living difficult situations at home find being on “break” tough. This is true during Winter Break, Spring Break and especially before school breaks for the summer. Sometimes the lack of routine and the unknown causes them to be anxious, because not all students’ breaks are filled with family, friends and “fluff”.

This year, I am lucky to have all of my students’ parents connected to Seesaw. This app is one of my favourite tools to use in class, and my first grade students love adding to their digital portfolios. With the tap of a few green check marks, messages are added, photos delivered, videos uploaded and learning is proven. I’ve always known and believed that building significant relationships and developing secure attachments with our students is critical. Without having their heart, you cannot possibly get to their minds. I believe we are all familiar with Dr. James Comer’s quote “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship”. A person who has influenced me greatly always said, “students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. These similar messages are also conveyed in all of my recent readings. From Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie, or any of the books from Dave Burgess Consulting Inc., it’s safe to say we (should) all agree with this message. Building positive relationships with students is the root of their success.

I encourage the teachers who read this to connect with their students over break. I have. For the students who are fortunate to have it all at home, send them a message with a hook (I love #tlap)  to have them look forward to what awaits them in class when they return. My hook is a special guest who will be spending a week with us in our classroom (my ball python they’ve been waiting for EVER to meet… but they’ll only know who once they walk through the door)! Whether it be by email, by Seesaw or any other tool you use, reach out and communicate with them. Who knows, for some of your students, you may be one of the few who took the time to truly connect with them in a meaningful way.

I’m on board and in flight.

Here I am, embarking on an adventure. One that is sure to take me to a place I never thought I’d travel. One that will challenge me to the point of pure growth. One to discover uncharted territories, to an unknown destination. This is what propels me forward.

Although I’m not sure who will read my posts or how often I will publish, I believe blogging will prove to be the best way for me to gather my thoughts in one place to witness my growth as a learner/a teacher. People who share my beliefs in what education should be and how we are making it so, will understand why I use the word learner. After reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, I came to realize that blogging would be a great medium to express and document my thought process and deepen my own learning, while sharing it with others who think alike. By writing for an authentic audience, we deepen our thoughts and ideas and bring self-reflection to a whole new level. By reading other blogs, I’ve learned greatly and have become inspired. I’ve become empowered to try new things and to take risks…. blogging included!

Before I delve into my thoughts and write my next posts, allow me to present myself and give you a sense of who I am and why I’m doing this! I am married to the person I was meant to be with. He listens to my crazy ideas, loves my enthusiasm when I share something I’m truly passionate about, and allows me to be me. Together, we have three children who make us want to be better and do better. Although being a mom is what I love, I was a teacher first. This year, I am responsible for facilitating learning for my 15 first graders. These 6 year olds keep me on my toes and I constantly question and think about how we are learning and what we are learning to ensure we are becoming the best version of ourselves, while being efficient in doing so. Self-efficacy is one of my great interests and happens to be the subject of my research paper as I complete my Masters in Education.

As I start blogging, I’m excited to put my I.D.E.A.S  on paper. In the many books I’ve read in the past year, I find acronyms to be quite popular. I’ve always loved mnemonic techniques to better remember information. I.D.E.A.S in elementary stands for Innovation.Discovery. Empowerment. Achievement and Self-Reflection. I believe learning should be innovative. As George Couros says, “innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better” (p.19). I believe students and adults should learn and discover new ideas and information about things they are truly passionate about. I also think that students need to be empowered and have a voice as to what they are learning and share their learning with others. Although there are set backs to learning and failure is a part of the process, achievement is important in my classroom because when students stretch themselves and try again after failing to succeed, they achieve a sense of pride and success like to other. These achievements are celebrated because they have worked so hard to get to where they are. Last but not least, self-reflection is an essential part of growth. As George Couros cited John Dewey in The Innovator’s Mindset, “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience” (p.112). I couldn’t agree more.

I believe learning should envelop other qualities too, such as creativity and collaboration. These are among those that resonate with me to the core of my physical being. I know I’ll get to these in later posts, but in the meantime, thank you for baring with me and being patient as I learn to use this new tool that will allow me to have my thoughts (mostly) in one place. Even though I am organized, I look forward to having all of my notes and reflections here, rather than on sticky notes, in margins of books and in journals.  I am grateful for the visual memory I’ve been given that allows to me remember where I saw it, when I read it and where it was on the page! I can’t wait to see where blogging  will take me both personally and professionally. Thanks for joining me while I share my stories and my thoughts on education.

Learning together to grow together. Lets do this!

Nycol