Down-Time PD


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:

  1. I had to pay $170 admission.
  2. 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!

Practical SoMe: #MadWriting, post-#EdCamp


What happens to learning that isn't used? A high point of my life-long learner odyssey has been my discovery of #EdCamp last fall. But, given that EdCamp attendees come mostly from K-12, there isn't much that I can actually use right out of the box. I have to reflect a lot on what I see and hear. Which brings me to what happened a little while ago.


When I opened Twitter just before lunch this morning I saw the #MadWriting hashtag. Some of the people I follow use the hashtag to encourage each other to write, intensely I think, for periods of time of varying lengths. The writing session I had seen was for 30 minutes. It got me to thinking.

I'm an episodic blogger at best. Aside from the writing I do for work (I'm an instructional designer) the only other writing I do regularly is tweet. I like participating in #lrnchat, #chat2lrn, #txed, #tlap and some other tweetchats in the education and training spaces.

Curious, I asked the MadWriters (who happen to be scientists) if I had to be a member of that population to participate. I was happy to learn that no, it wasn't limited to scientists: anyone could participate.

So thus encouraged I decided to give it a try.


In February I participated in three EdCamps:




As I mentioned earlier, I'm an instructional designer. I like to create engaging learning experiences for the learners I support. I'm always on the lookout for new things to try: learning strategies, activities, alternative assessments to name a few. Some of things I've learned at earlier EdCamp sessions include things like Genius Hour, Problem/Project-based learning (PBL), Flipping, Teaching Like A Pirate (TLAP), Gamification, and Design Thinking (DT).


The first time or two I learn about something, Genius Hour and Gamification for example, I pick up enough to know I'm interested in finding out more. This is like a college 100 series class: some general knowledge and a desire to find out more, or not. A few more EdCamps and it's like TLAP 300 or PBL 400. By this time I have a good idea what it is and am beginning to figure out how it can inform my work and how it might be applied.


Of course during each event I'm taking notes. I started out scribbling rapidly, desperate not to miss something. Only of course I did. Later I tried Sketchnoting with mixed results. Lately I'm having more success with doodling my notes and taking pictures. Lots of pictures that I upload to Flickr. I think the photos and doodles help the most because they connecting me in an analog sort of way to the experience and I can remember more.


So the MadWriting session began at 1:30 ET and here it is some 42 minutes later. It's helping. Even though I'm immersed in the writing of this blog post I'm conscious that there are others writing, too. So the motivation isn't coming from encouraging words heard or read. It's knowing there are others out there banging away at keys or scribbling or whatever.


There are pressures though. My lunchtime is just about over. So the post has to draw to a close. I suppose I could save this and continue later. Only that's where my problem was before: not writing. So I think I should close on that note. Maybe later, during other MadWriting I'll start out with an outline rather than, more a less, just do an information dump. With practice comes mastery, right?