February 6, 2009

Learning new stuff and not looking stupid

Filed under: about me,learning,Ok2Ask,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 4:39 pm

Apologies for no new posts recently. Family-member health and wellness trumped everything for a bit, but things are back on track for now…and so I have time to post.ok2asktitle.jpg

I did something new and risky last week and the week before. I ran the first few sessions of TeachersFirst’s OK2Ask: free, online, self-directed professional development sessions for teachers. I learned at least as much as the attendees did. And I am left with more questions.

The questions:

How bad is it not to be perfect when sharing in an online venue with total strangers? Does it make TeachersFirst “look bad” if I admit that the tools (in this case Elluminate) are new to me as a presenter? Is this any different from what teachers do every day  when they risk trying a new way of teaching or a new tool to make learning more personal and all-encompassing for the LEARNERS?  Isn’t it good that I model a willingness to make mistakes publicly? Granted, I did practice a lot and play with the tools over and over. But the second session was ALWAYS better than the first. Was it wrong to allow myself to do less than “nail it” the first time?

Geez I hope not.

What I learned:

Teachers are supportive, eager learners and cheerleaders, even to total strangers whom they cannot see. I knew this. I have seen it over and over for years. But to see teachers willing to get excited about small discoveries and to tell total strangers about them via text chat in a virtual “room” is very cool. Most of those involved had never done  a session like this, and they dove right in. And some came back the next week.

Nothing I did was that unusual. People have been trying out online teaching and learning for several years. There is loads of how-to wisdom out there on “best practices” in online learning. I read a lot of it. I play with the tools and imagine scenarios as I swim laps at 6 am (or lie awake at 4 am). The bottom line, IMHO,  is that the learning, online or other, goes best when we do it together. This is just as much fun as the first few classes I taught as a brand new teacher decades ago. Yes, I said FUN. I just hope my fellow learners keep on coming.


  1. I think that many people don’t try things because they think they need to be an expert and that is unfortunate – things change and we continually learn. Even in elluminate it is very different when you do have people there and things happen (there is always so much that can happen.) I always think it is much better when we are all learners and share!

    Comment by Louise Maine — February 7, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  2. As a kindergarten teacher, it’s my job to encourage students to try new things, like reading, adding, and helping fellow classmates. However, it’s also my job to make sure that they understand that it’s okay if they fail. It’s a part of life, no matter what the age. I think the same is true in your situation. You must try new things, and sometimes fail, in order to succeed. I have found that the best way to learn something new is to teach someone else. Learning new technology can be very scary to many, but if we never make attempts to learn it, our students won’t reap the benefits of learning in a different way.

    Comment by Brooke S. — March 2, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  3. I tell my 8th graders all the time that we are learning together. I teach them new things, and they teach me new things. I am not afraid to stand in front of my classroom every day and make a mistake- they actually like it when i do because i become more “human” to them. If they see me make a mistake and learn from it, then they realize that it is OK for them to make mistakes and learn from it as well.
    I have a poster in my room that reads “life is all about making mistakes and learning from them”. I refer to it all the time when my students get frustrated.
    I am learning to use new technology (such as blogs and wiki’s) and i am making many mistakes! The only way i will learn is by fixing what i did wrong and communicating with fellow educators about how to use the technology.

    Comment by Erin B — March 3, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

  4. It sounds as if your professional development session was a true example of a community of learners. By learning with each other we open ourselves up to the opportunity to look at things from different perspectives, which furthers ideas and leads to new questions and new ideas and answers. I feel I am often learning on my feet when it comes to technology, no matter how well prepared I think I am for the lesson. Learning in a collaborative environment has so many advantages, it is great for students of all ages. I imagine it was inspiring and helped to create a risk free environment for those attending your professional development session to see that their presenter is a lifelong learner.

    Comment by Carolyn B. — March 3, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  5. Having colleagues and other communities to collaborate with can help us expand our understanding and use of new technology. They are a great support and looking as though you do not know everything is ok. We are all there to help each other.

    Comment by Erin B — March 8, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  6. It’s comforting and reassuring to know that novice and expert teachers are all learning when it comes to technology. Staying informed about new software, hardware, and web tools require everyone, no matter the experience, to constantly be learning. I would much rather share in my learning experiences in a community setting, rather than by myself!

    Comment by Brooke S. — March 8, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

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