"Well, it looks like I'll be going to Hong Kong next month," I said to my husband sometime in early December. I had just gotten off the phone with ISTE's Sr. Director of the Standards who asked me if I would deliver an ISTE Certification CAP training to a group of international educators. My husband's response: "Well then you're definitely NOT getting a puppy for Christmas." <---- this comment was about potty training... as in, we both need to be in the country when we get a puppy so we can both contribute to potty training efforts. But I digress...
"Of course," I responded without hesitation, "I would love to!" I hoped that I sounded cool and confident on the phone call with ISTE. I was trying to pull off the "Oh yeah, I was just in Hong Kong last month" vibe... even though in reality, I've never been to Asia. Well technically, I was born in Korea, but I haven't been anywhere in Asia since I came to America at the ripe age of 4 months. My point being, I was far from feeling cool and confident... more like anxious and intimidated as I thought about this new experience, traveling THAT FAR, and navigating Hong Kong BY MYSELF. Gulp.
What was causing all this anxiety? Well for starters, I didn't know what to expect. I couldn't envision what it would all look like. Would I be able to find my way out of the airport and get myself to the hotel? How would I feel given the 15-hour time difference? Could I really handle being on a plane for so long? After all, I get motion sick. I could only plan so much for this new experience. And that, my friends, scared the crap out of me.
Fast forward to today (Jan. 22). I went to Hong Kong and I'm back home. The airline lost my luggage on my way there... but they found it and all was well. The training went great and I met some incredible educators. INCREDIBLE. EDUCATORS. I even stayed a few extra days and managed to:
I mean, sure... it was completely foggy the day I went to Victoria Peak and I could barely make out the view. And ok... I didn't actually walk up the steps to the Buddha because I cut it short to get to the airport on time. And it's true that I walked around for over 2 hours before I got up the nerve to go into a restaurant that didn't have an English menu posted outside of the establishment.
I've been facilitating professional development for teachers for darn close to 20 years now, specifically focused on best practices for infusing technology into teaching and learning. I love what I do, and most of the time I feel confident doing it (though there's always room to improve!).
I truly believe ed tech is the greatest subsection of education to work in. Part of what appeals to me is that it is ever-changing. New technologies lead to new pedagogical options for teaching and learning. Thinking through, then helping teachers implement these new strategies is my idea of fun. During sessions that I facilitate, I try to encourage educators to:
You see, I ask teachers to try new things. Things that they weren't taught in their teacher preparation programs. Things that they've not seen modeled because they weren't possible a handful of years ago.
Some teachers are naturally up for the challenge of learning new technologies and teaching approaches... and others are more apprehensive. What causes them to be apprehensive? Well for starters, they don't know what to expect. They can't envision what it will all look like. They wonder... Will I be able to engage all my students? How will it affect student behavior? Can my students really handle using the technology and learning content at the same time? After all, some kids don't have technology at home and may not have the skills to use it. Educators can only plan so much for this new experience. And that, my friends, scares the crap out of some people.
I get now, more than ever before that being comfortable with being uncomfortable is harder than it sounds.
You see, what I gained from my trip to Hong Kong was a greater sense of empathy for teachers who are stepping out of their comfort zones and being asked to explore unfamiliar technologies and teaching practices. Sure, I provide support, but let's face it -- when they step into the classroom, they are on their own like a Phoenix-girl stepping off the plane in the Hong Kong airport with no Hong Kong money and severe jet lag.
Empathy. Vulnerability. Willingness to take risks. <----- These are qualities I ask teachers to embrace. They are the same qualities I need to continuously practice in order to be the best trainer I can be.
Teachers, I adore and respect you. And even though I will continue to push boundaries when it comes to teaching and learning with technology, I get that you need to truly know WHY you're doing it and understand what difference it will make for your students. You need to feel confident that it will be worth the effort.
It's worth mentioning that not everything worked out perfectly on my trip to Hong Kong. I almost ate a meal at a restaurant without any means to pay for it because the restaurant didn't accept credit cards. But I learned from that mistake and didn't make it a second time. I also didn't have the nerve to travel via public transportation until my last day there. But I did it, and it was easier than I thought it would be. I gained confidence. All of this bears a striking resemblance to the experience many teachers go through as they begin to infuse technology.
It won't always go perfectly, but you learn from every mistake. Other times, it's easier than you think and you gain the confidence to do it even better the next time.
And at the end of the day, when you reflect on your teaching with technology practice, I hope you will think, as I did with my trip to Hong Kong....
I am a better teacher than I was before, and it was totally worth it.
I care deeply about helping educators cultivate healthy environments where every student and teacher can learn, grow, and thrive in this digital world!