Here's two cliches you may be familiar with:
- The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.
- The spirit is willing but the body is not.
I had hoped to travel the 300 miles from Phoenix, Arizona (home) to Palm Springs, California to catch the Saturday session of CUE14. I was home instead of in Roswell, New Mexico (much nearer to where I work than Phoenix) getting ready for my move to Southern California in two weeks.
Waking up at 2:00 a.m. Saturday (it's a four hour drive to Palm Springs) I gave the CUE14 Saturday schedule a last look. Two things immediately occurred to me:
- I had to pay $170 admission.
- The list of events I was interested in were the same ones I've been learning about at the #EdCamps I've been going to.
So I thought, “Why go then, if I can get the learning for free?” I still intended to go, because getting input from diverse sources is a good thing. What kept me from leaving for Palm Springs was #satchat, a Saturday early morning gathering of (seriously motivated) educators on Twitter.
I was immediately immersed in the conversation, which had to do with digital tools in the classroom. That's my interest, my reason for being in education: applying technology.
I was hooked alright. For the next hour I read, reflected and responded. It's an odd thing that the highly rated high school my kids go/went to doesn't really use #EdTech, so far as I know. I asked my youngest daughter, 17 year old junior, if she had lessons or assignments using digital tools. Her reply: “We use Word to write reports.” wasn't satisfying to me. A couple of years ago, during curriculum night, I was dismayed to hear her science teacher brag about the black box in his lab coat pocket that disabled cell phones. My last tweet said I'd call the school to learn more.
The question I'll ask the administrators and teachers is “How vital are digital tools like devices and software to the learning experience?” The problem is that today, Monday, is my last day home before going back to Roswell. Today is also the last day of Spring Break so I'll have to go with the phone and email to reach out.
I like asking questions in person, face-to-face with the person with the answers. Email is too simple for me, too plain. I usually stuff emails with chatter to make me feel the information exchange is more human. A phone call is better, because the sighs and pauses umhs and ahs convey non-verbal information that sometimes says more than words. But missing are all the other non-verbal indicators of connection, of understanding. But, given my work situation, far from home, what else is there?
Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, that's what. These and other digital tools enable real-time I see you you see me conversation. Only I don't know that the school supports it. I have had the hardware and software necessary to do so on my iOS device for years. Does my kid's school? Another question to ask.
All this went through my mind while I should have been fathering my digital gear and heading out the door to CUE14. So no, I didn't make it.
I blog infrequently. This post and the last one were made possibly be by #MadWriting, a Twitter phenomenon I recently became aware of. Really smart people (scientists I follow turned me on to it) I'll probably never meet, though I'd love to, silently urge me to write. I suppose they feel the same from me: write, write, write!
Which brings me back to the title of this piece: Down-Time PD (Professional Development). I learned something while I was doing something unrelated to learning. I was motivated to do something, to ask something of my kid's teachers. This is huge for me. Being a mostly remote father it helps me engage with my kid's life.
One more thing: two #EdCamps coming up March 29. I'll be in California the weekend after. It'll be my new home away from home while working with the Veterans' Health Administration. #EdCampTulsa, 550 miles from Roswell or #EdCampESC5, 750 miles away. That's how motivated I am to learn more about my craft, to mingle with other energized people and learn on a Saturday.
Here's to down-time learning!