I laughed hysterically watching would be thieves getting covered in glitter and fart spray. If you are not sure what I am talking about, there is a Youtube video making the rounds on the internet showing a gentleman taking revenge on some package thieves. He is an engineer and was able to create a package that took video, uploaded it to the cloud, tracked the package via GPS, flung glitter, and sprayed fart spray on a few people who stole packages off of front porches.
While the sinful side of me took joy watching payback unfold right before my eyes, I also reflected on the learning process that took place on the video and whether my students are walking a similar process in my class.
He started with an idea of what he wanted. In science class this would be called “forming a hypothesis” but we usually call it “making an educated guess” in history class. He decided what the goal was for his project. He wanted a package that did very specific things. In my classroom I do not think I use prediction as well as I could. Making an educated guess at events that might happen next is a skill that is developed over time. While not a “testable skill” it is a skill that students will need to develop in their lives to understand the possible consequences for actions.
Next, he used his resources to collect materials that accomplished the goals he set out for. I noticed at this point that while he does play to his strengths as an engineer, he did employ some help to accomplish his goals. He constructed something that looked like it would accomplish the goal of payback.
He used his knowledge in building the product to test his goals. He methodically tested each element (the GPS, the camera, the motor for the spinner, etc.) to make sure it did exactly what he wanted it to. He did not include a lot of this footage in the final video, but I would guess there was a bit of trial an error in a machine this complicated.
Lastly he put his product into the real world to see what it could do…and it was spectacular.
My reflections on this process are:
- Do I allow my students to come up with good ideas and put them to the test? This would be difficult in a history classroom, but I think it would be good for my kids
- Do I use real world application enough? Again, difficult in a history classroom, but I think it is possible during certain units of study.
The best laid plans for summer are created during the winter. The summer is a time that teacher’s covet because of the passion they put into their profession during the school year. It is a time to recharge and be with family and friends. It is also a time for world-class professional development opportunities that can be attended for little to no cost, so I choose to plan ahead to give myself the best chance at getting them.
The first step to getting great professional development is to know what is out there. Sure, your district or region probably has some good training opportunities over the summer, but what if you could get better? There are a variety of ways to find out about opportunities available. You could ask the curriculum specialist at your district, you can do a basic Google search, you could seek out Facebook pages dedicated to such things, you can check with your favorite college, etc. I wish there were a place that had those sorts of things listed out for me (and if there is, please shoot me an e-mail and let me know) but there is not so you have to go find them.
This process has lead me to a few outstanding learning opportunities that were either paid for or low cost. The Texas State Historical Association has a number of training opportunities scattered throughout the state every school year. Humanities Texas likewise has a number of opportunities that they will pay for subs to attend or pay for travel during the summer. I have also attended a week long training through Mount Vernon that was completely paid for. The common theme is that I found the opportunity and applied.
Apply and Learn
The next step is to apply. Seems simple, but every time I apply for opportunities in the summer I forget some of the applications due to the busyness of a school year. Make sure you follow up with recommendations if you need to. Make sure you format things the way they request them. Make sure it is completed on time.
Sometimes you will get picked and some times you will not. The key is to ask questions if you are not picked (if you can). If I am turned down, I will e-mail the organization and ask for feedback on my application. Use the rejection as a learning opportunity for the following year. If their response is you are lacking a specific quality, work on it over the next school year. Sometimes you will get actionable responses and sometimes you will not, but it’s worth an e-mail.
My Current Applications
For the summer of 2019 I am taking some big swings with my professional learning. I have applied for a number of trainings through Gilder Lehrman. These are very competitive, so I made sure to get my application in early. I also applied for a fellowship to help write curriculum for a national historical site. I am very hopeful for this one, and should I get it I will definitely update my progress.
As a teacher I have to be in favor of the educational process. It just so happens that I really like higher education and learning about things I am passionate about. I realized a few years ago the while I do have a Master’s Degree it is not in a field that is helpful to me in education. With that in mind, and my family’s full support, I began investigating the possibility of going back to school for a Master’s of Education.
The fundamental question for me was: What degree should I seek? When I set out, I had one of two ideas in mind, either Educational Leadership or Educational Counseling. I did a lot of research including talking with counselors at the school I work at and contacting various graduate schools to ask about those two majors. What I kept coming back to was that I was not passionate about either they just seemed like the next iteration of the education lifestyle. I was hoping for someone to change my mind, but that never happened.
At this point I was at a bit of a crossroads. If not either of these two options, what was I left with? I began looking at the universities that I had a connection to and I saw a major that intrigued me, a Master’s of Education in Instructional Technology. I began to research the program and look at the coursework and I liked what I saw. I was nervous though because the degree did not lead to a specific job in education. At least with Educational Leadership or Counseling I had a specific job that I was qualified for as soon as I attained my degree.
More difficult discussions lead to a revelation; while this degree does not lead to a specific job it is valuable to a larger audience. Technology is not going away in education both in a school environment and outside of schools. With this in mind I submitted my application to Texas A&M’s distance program and I start in the Spring. I am really looking forward to it. So much so that I am going to catalog my process here to help with reflection and implementation in my classroom.
A few other thoughts:
- I forgot what a pain the financial aid process is. I have complicated the process by applying for grants, but it is still more than I remember it being when I originally went through the process.
- Textbooks are expensive, although renting digital textbooks is awesome.
- I feel so old logging into the online portal. The had nothing like this “back in my day” but it is nice that everything is all in one place.
When last we left my attempt at amateur radio, I had passed my test and ordered a radio. I was awaiting my license from the FCC and looking forward to moving ahead. Since then a bit has happened.
Recently I attended my first local radio club meeting. It was a fascinating experience because I knew almost none of the vocabulary that was being used and I had no experience to use context clues to help me. I sat next to some very nice people who helped me out when I needed it. There were also a lot more people than I thought would be there. Like 90+ people in fact. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.
At this point my license and radio had come in. Being nervous of messing something up I had really only listened to hear what I could. I met a gentleman that was willing to help me program my radio to listen to the local (and not so local) chatter which was awesome. After helping me, I also got a tour of our local county emergency services building and I was in awe. I knew we had a lot of resources through the county, but I didn’t think it was so comprehensive.
As I’m writing this, I just finished up my first transmission on my radio to check in with a local net. Basically, I logged in to a conversation of local radio operators during a training session. Was I nervous? Yes. Was it as nerve racking as I thought it would be? No. So far, so good.