Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why Do I Push Myself?

Official Presenter Tag for #cuerockstar Napa
Yes, I did it! I decided I could actually present outside my district again. After whining about the attendance numbers at my first attempt, I wasn't sure I wanted to even try this again. However, I sent in my application to present at CUE Rock Star Napa and was told by THE Jon Corippo that it was mine if I wanted it.

Now, the nerves. Now, the anxiety. Now, the self doubt. Who am I to be teaching alongside the likes of Will Kimbley, Nicole Dalesio, Jennifer Kloczko and Jon? These people are the superstars in the CUE world. Me? I don't even have very advanced tech skills. I like my computer, camera and iPad. But by no means am I a whiz at using any one of these tools.

My Presentation Tools
I have never had formal Google training (although I am about to fix that). I use a small number of iPad Apps- all related to classroom functions. I'm not a GCT or an ADE; nor do I have any other 3 letter title I could put on my business card.  Does the DEN count? It stands for Discovery Educator Network and I only have to talk about Discovery Education a couple of times a year to keep my status, and that is really easy. Except for educational authors Jonathan Bergmann and Dave Burgess, I don't have any famous contacts or friends in my twitter followers. I don't even follow many celebrities unless you count Hall Davidson, Reed Timmer and Dr. Lodge McCammon. These guys are only in my Twitterfeed because of my connection with Discovery Education. I am not a big fish in my own district. I wasn't even invited to present at our upcoming Technology For Instruction Saturday Workshop next week. Needless to say, I am not highly sought after as a speaker.

Day 1 Shred Session- CUE ROCK STAR  Napa
SO why do I push myself to present and invite myself to apply when I know I am not one of the popular kids on campus? I could just continue my work with my students - which is my PRIMARY goal anyway - without having all these anxious moments.

Last night, I just had a twitter conversation with one of my tweeps (@mhall209) about this very thing. How do I get better at presenting? Of course, I next wondered...Why do I do put myself through this? What do I want out of it? I had to give this some thought.

I always want to learn more. I am 54 years old and did not go to a premiere university for my undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology.  I was NOT a brilliant scholar of science, probably because I do not enjoy doing the math. I CAN do math, I just don't like it very much. I am actually more of a linguist. I love to read and write. I am proficient in Spanish and French. Language concepts seem to come easier than some of the more technical aspects of science content like Chemistry and Physics. Still, I would consider myself a true "Jack-of-All-Trades" and a "Master of None." I am kind of good at a bunch of things, but not great at any one thing.

Summer Learning- Micropipettes and Gel Trays
I am curious by nature and I want to know about all kinds of stuff. It follows that I would also like to learn more about the technology that I use in my practice as a teacher.  I learned a lot during those undergrad years in college, but we never really used any high tech equipment. I had to find ways to introduce myself to PCR and gel electrophoresis. I had to get more advanced science and technology skills to stay up to date with the textbooks in my classroom. I have been to many STEM summer workshops to learn more practical and technical skills for teaching my content.

My student learning to use a micropipette

I push the envelope for myself because I want to know if there is anything I can improve to help my students learn the concepts and skills I teach. If I learn ANYTHING that can have a positive impact on JUST ONE STUDENT, then I  have now made a difference to that kid- for life!  Still that does not explain why I am not satisfied to just stay in the seat as a learner, so that I can absorb more and pass it on to my students.

My student using the iPad to demonstrate learning.
Maybe the reason I want to present to adults is because I see that there is a need for those beginner level learners of new tech skills. I want others to be excited about the POSSIBILITIES for enhancing the experiences they provide for their students. I think having a role model like me- gray haired as I am- will show other seasoned teachers that learning is a fluid, constant process. We CAN meet the challenges that our students present to us with their gadgets and gizmos. We don't have to ignore the tools that they use inherently. We can be the classroom content expert and still provide opportunities to learn information and skills in a manner they understand with equipment they know how to operate.

Most of the tech presenters I admire are years younger than I. Most of the ones that are close to my age have been in educational technology far longer than I. I am at an age where others might think that I "should" be winding down; not ramping up my learning. In a way, that is WHY I do this! I want others of my age to know that if I can do this, so can they.   I also want those who are younger than I to get ideas for content and classroom management. I believe it when Jon says that WE ARE THE ROCKSTARS! I drank that Rock Star Kool Aid a couple of years ago. I do it because I believe there is a need for educators to see others in the practice doing what they do best!

We are all tasked with being leaders! I want to learn from anyone willing to teach me what they know.  If you have not considered being a presenter to other teachers, you should. Whether you show others what you know informally or at a "professional" workshop,  do it! I am certain that you have something vital to share- even it if isn't tech related.

Some of the most engaging presenters I have learned from in the last few years include:

Jon Corippo (CUE- Apple)
Rushton Hurley (CUE)
Will Kimbley (CUE)
Nicole Dalesio (CUE- Apple)
Jen Roberts (CUE)
Catlin Tucker (CUE)
Ramsey Musallum (CUE)
Lodge McCammon (Discovery Education)
Hall Davidson (Discovery Education)
Lindsey Hopkins (Discovery Education)

Let me know what you think? I would love to hear your ideas on how to improve my presentation skills. I would also love to hear why you present to other people in your profession. And if you are not a presenter, what is holding you back?


  1. Au contraire Kathleen, you are a rock star. We didn't invite you to present because you are our friend, nor did we do it out of pity. We invited you because you are the real deal. We know WAY too many 'big name' presenters that have been out of the classroom for so long it is hard to understand how they can be relevant. You are using tech in real and authentic ways where it counts the most - the classroom.

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  3. Hey Kathleen, this is a cool piece. I particularly like "curious by nature and I want to know about all kinds of stuff" - that's the point of departure for meaningful sharing with colleagues, I figure.

  4. I appreciate your confidence in my abilities. I have always been my most persuasive detractor. I am a bit myopic when it comes to myself and my skills. I do some exciting projects with my students and I love to share about what's happening in my classroom. I am a passionate educator and my students come first. If they like what we do and feel like they are learning that is the most important thing. But I am also a passionate learner and my presenting to other teachers helps me to learn and focus what I need to do to improve my practice.

  5. Hi Kathleen,
    I love this post! Your voice and personality really come through! I think when you described yourself as a passionate learner, you hit the nail on the head. That's what makes a true "rockstar". I love just being in the same room with passionate lead learners like you! Thank you for including me, I'm honored to know you and would have loved to attend your session. So happy to know you!

  6. Wowee. You go girl. You have all you need: self awareness, the desire to share, and a willingness to work hard. Plus a few bonus languages, you full-brained person. Sorry I missed it. Rock on!

  7. You and I already discussed this...we "newbie" learners of technology in the classroom need presenters like you to show us the beginning bells and whistles. Otherwise we get scared off by the flashier presentations because we are aware that we are so far behind everyone else at those levels. So THANK YOU for desiring to help the new people out. I watched those 2 young girls in your Day 3 session get SO EXCITED about being able to create a screencast for their classroom. YOU inspired that!! Be proud of that accomplishment and OWN it, even if it is only a few people at a time. WE NEED YOU!

  8. Why do I present? Selfishly, because I like the conversations that happen during and after it. I get to set the table and people get to teach me some really cool things. Those Rockstar camps started out in my head as an honor to "present" this information that I knew (which, really, was nothing compared to so many others). However, it quickly evolved into an honor to be a part of a discussion around a topic that I had the chance to frame. Your small numbers in the previous camp would be discouraging to me as well, as I had 6 people in one of my sessions at Lake Tahoe. The cool thing about it? The 7 of us had a KILLER conversation about collaborative projects. While it's completely natural for us to doubt our abilities (even I, sitting in the role that I am now, have doubts about whether or not I can adequately support our teachers this Saturday), we also need to be excited to be the agents of change that we are. You are an inspiration to so many and, although you may not see it firsthand, your impact is felt district(and beyond)wide.

  9. Yes, yes, yes. My story comes close to yours, except for the math. I teach math and actually love it and I am 52 years old. It has taken me some time to build my confidence to get out there and present, but this past Saturday, March 1st, I presented with a colleague and it was amazing. Working with others that struggle with the technology, but are anxious to learn was extremely fulfilling. I so often feel like I am the low man on the totem pole at the school I work at (Minarets High School) when it comes to understanding the technology and how to implement it into the classroom that I don't realize how much I actually do know. When the opportunity came up I decided that I once and for all was going to overcome the fear, the insecurity and just do it. Even though I presented with a colleague it opened up my eyes to the great need for us as educators to share with each other and no matter how old or young we are there is something we can learn from each other. It was definitely a positive experience and I finally feel I gained the confidence to do it again.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Welcome to the fold, Denise! As for me, I will continue to grow my skills and present as often as I am able with my schedule. I also spend at least a couple of hours a week on Twitter learning AND sharing what I know to others. It is the most positive teacher's lounge ever. I know exactly what you mean about working with beginners on tech being fulfilling.

      From what I understand, Minarets is a technology wonder and I am sure I would be the "low man on the totem pole" as well. But, I love that Jon Corippo believed in my skills enough to offer me that spot on the Napa CUE Rock Star Staff.

      We do ALL have something to share- even if it is not about the technology. Teaching is teaching. Good practices are important in all aspects of pedagogy. At our most recent School Wide Staff Development at school we had 2 presentations that were not tech based. One was about being a co-teacher (gen ed and special ed) and the other was a discussion group about Common Core and Collaboration between content areas. If I had not been presenting that day,I would have attended the Common Core/Content along with several of the other presenters who couldn't go- we will most likely meet outside the regular school day for his important dialogue.

      Keep it up. Most of all- believe in yourself. You know you have skills to share. Presenting with a colleague is a GREAT idea! I have done that a couple of times and it's great because it strengthens your relationships at work and gives you someone to "go to" when you have questions or frustrations.

      Thanks for sharing back!