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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Yesterday I was wavering on whether or not to go for a run outside. I hadn't run in awhile and for some reason I was concerned that I would not be able to eclipse the two mile mark. The temperature was a balmy 31 degrees and there was still a thin layer of snow covering the ground. All of the variables in play suggested I stay home. As I continued to devise excuses not to run, someone very special in my life simply said, "Just get out there."

This simple sentiment resonated with me.

I suited up for a winter run and managed to chalk up 2.20 miles. Not only did I meet the two mile goal that I usually set as the standard for going out for a run, but I managed to go beyond this mark. Despite the frigid temperatures, it was a beautiful night for a run. I nodded my head in sync as I passed other runners along the trail. I stopped for a moment to run in place as I noticed the sun setting peacefully behind naked trees. I managed to take a quick snapshot of this scene. As I ran by the pond in the middle of Haverford College I noticed a gaggle of geese sipping water from an opening in the middle of a frozen pond. All of these scenes would have been lost had I given in to a simple excuse.

As I was running I started thinking about the words shared with me minutes ago. I thought about how simple and easy she made it seem. I thought about excuses. I thought about what generates an excuse. I tried to remember what a group of geese are called. A gaggle! I thought about how funny that word is. And finally, I thought about the amazing opportunity I had to "just get out there."

As these ideas were racing through my head well beyond the pace of my feet, I considered my experience in education. So many times in my career I have wanted to share this sentiment with timid or hesitant colleagues that resist any and all emerging technologies in education and social media. So many times we want to block it out or literally block a website from sight. We hear sensationalized news stories that warn of the distractions of using social media and emerging technologies. We deem new mobile learning devices "too difficult" to integrate into class and an outlet for trouble. All of these phrases snowball into one giant excuse.

Then I thought about my profession. I am in a profession of excuses. The education system and those that occupy its classrooms have become excellent at constructing and incorporating excuses. During this past semester I even started to collect excuses from my students and considered publishing them. Similarly, I heard the same rhetoric from many -- not all -- of my colleagues. I am not trying to generalize and say that all educators and only educators make excuses, but this is the profession I am a part of daily. This is what I hear.

I want to share this simple message and use it as a vehicle for eliminating excuses from the education dialogue.

Attend a conference! Just get out there and see what these forums have to offer. There are plenty of edcamps organizing throughout the country to attend. There are two ntcamps happening in Burlington, MA and Philadelphia, PA. Educon happens every January. ISTE is coming in June. Pick one and attend. Don't feel pressured to be an active participant. Just get out there and make the connection. See what others are saying about new and emerging best practices. Simply experience something beyond your comfort zone. Be open to learning something new.

Try something new every year, every semester, every quarter with your class. Don't feel like you have to reinvent the wheel, simply place your toes in the cold, unfamiliar water. Just Get out there. Vary your classroom instruction. Allow your students to have autonomy in the classroom and to learn from each other. Give them a sense of purpose for every lesson that is taught. And make these lessons applicable to their lives and necessary for their future.

Give social media a try. Don't feel embarrassed about not knowing how to use Twitter or Facebook. It's ok to fail, but at least try. Just get out there. Understand the media your students are using daily and make the connection. Learn how to connect with educators on Twitter and explore the plethora a resources that trickle down daily. Ask questions and provoke collegial debate about the use of social media in education. Don't just follow along, but understand the medium before taking the plunge.

Write a blog post on any subject. Simply reflect on your bad day or highlight a great one. Just get out there. Don't feel the pressure of having everyone look in on your work, just write. And when you are done, feel good about it because you wrote something. Walk away from your computer and don't get fixated on blog traffic or comments. If your blog receives one visit in one day and only manages one comment, then smile. Why? Because you have made one connection. And that one connection is more meaningful than one hundred comments, a thousand page visits, or an arbitrary award badge.

Don't miss your opportunity to just get out there. If you balk, you might miss out on something amazing.

Comments (10)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Shelly Hugghins's picture
Shelly Hugghins
High school Spanish teacher form White Oak, Texas

Wow, what a wonderful post! I am a teacher who has a blog and uses it intermittently, but I am really trying to be more active. Your blog post speaks to where I am this moment, and has encouraged me to continue "getting out there." I am certain that your post will be a great encouragement for others who are reluctant to share their experiences with a PLN or with their blog readers. Abandoning our fear of sharing is a lesson the we educators can learn from our students. Thanks again for this excellent post.

Kate H's picture

Andrew, Thank you for sharing this post. I agree with Shelly, this is exactly where I am in the sense of learning about social media. Your words are exactly what I want to tell my fellow pre-service teachers, give it a try. I hope this message moves beyond the blogging community to those who have yet to "get out there". Thanks again!

Ms. Greer's picture
Ms. Greer
Technology Integrator Specialist for 1-12 Boarding School in Philadelphia

We must be tuned into the same wavelength this week...
My last blog post on the 5th was titled: "Just Do It" and it speaks on a similar topic. It feels so amazing when you brush the excuses out of the way and just jump in. Thanks for a great post!

Andrew Marcinek's picture
Andrew Marcinek
Director of Technology & EducatorU.org Co-founder, Boston, MA
Blogger

Thank you all for reading and for the engaging comments. I hope this simple statement of "Just Get Out There" resonated with you as much as it did with me. Would love to hear what everyone is doing or planning on doing to "just get out there". Thanks!

Jessica Piper's picture

Wow...I take a little offense to your post. Teachers are not "usually close-minded individuals". That is a fallacy and should be exposed as such. I'm in my 6th year of teaching, and have done nothing but look for more and better ways to get info into my students brains. All the teachers that surround me are looking at best practices, plowing through everyday and trying to wring every second out of every minute for the betterment of our students...always learning; always sharing.

Maybe you should take a step back and look around you. You seem to be the close-minded one.

http://msjessicareeves.edublogs.org

Shelly Hugghins's picture
Shelly Hugghins
High school Spanish teacher form White Oak, Texas

Andrew,

You have challenged us all again by asking what are we actually doing to "get out there." I have made a small move this week by joining the Teacher Blogging Challenge supported by EduBlogs. The challenge is designed to bring teachers together for collaboration and professional develop by challenge participants to become better bloggers. I have already connected with a teacher from Chile. She visited my blog and commented on some of my students' blog posts. My students were so excited to have comments. Thank you again for continuing to encourage and challenge educators.

Teacher Challenge for those looking for a way to "get out there:"
http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/

My Blog:
http://hugghinss.wonecks.net/

Brian Wyzlic's picture

It's so important for us to continue to try new things. How else are we to grow?

"Just get out there." Yeah.

Faye Fulton's picture
Faye Fulton
Staff Assistant/Clerk at DPD & Student at Kaplan University

Just get out there? Well here I am. This was and inspired writing of mine, I hope you will read it and tell me your thoughts. Its two pages long but I did not know how to send in as an attachment. So here it is.

What Did You Do With My Dream?
Written January 17, 2011

We need to keep education alive; many of our older Christian brothers and sisters have retreated to the cushioned pews seats of their religious houses and have folded their arms because now they are in their reclining days and God is all that matters to them. Getting to heaven is all they want to do.

Who in our culture, in our society has continued to really march on to ensure that the African-American child and all other children; have sought to make sure that in keeping education alive assures them of not only the bright spiritual dreams of heaven but also the American dreams of here and now.

Who, tell me who, has really continued to uphold the mantel, for us as a black people to cry aloud year in and year out of what Martin Luther King's dream really was about. The dream Martin had for his children; making it possible for our children to be a part of the real American dream. It's no longer valid or appropriate to waste young people's minds and talents on the old songs of Glory, Glory Alleluia we shall overcome here in the 21st century.

A new song is on the horizon, a new song is ours to proclaim and to declare, the day that a "mind" really is "a terrible thing to waste", so why waste it? We must stop dreaming the old dreams and take hold of a new destiny with the foundation of "I had a dream" We've heard the old adage "if you keep doing things the same old way, you will get the same old results" yes Martin would gladly appreciate the many years of reflection, and recognition of what he and others had accomplished, but I tell you today, Martin would be more appreciative to know that we have moved from this old mountain into a new land of promised opportunities availed to every people of today.

His question would no longer be whether whites and blacks, Jews and Gentiles could hold hands and get along; his question would no longer be whether his sons and daughters can make it and have access to good education that is afforded to us all right here, right now. Or whether we could live now in any neighborhood of America and not find a cross burning in the front yard. No, Martin's questions would not be these things that we still hang on to finding ourselves engulf in complacency because doing nothing is far more easier than doing something desirable; rather wanting to be under achievers. Martin's question's today would be, what did you do with the education I died for? What did you do with the freedom to come and go as American citizens that I got sent to jail for? What did you do with the pain and suffering that my family and I endured for you so that your family could hold their heads up high; and not be ashamed? How did you spend your days during the fight that I and so many died for freedom that you might live in an abundant society making your own dreams a reality to become true?

No, Martin would not be glorying and basking in his own accomplishments an accolades if he was here today. He would not be asking us, here in 2011, what we did for him in the freedom marches so well organized around the country ever January in his honor or presentation events during Black History month No, Martin would not be wondering why he did not receive another Noble Peace Prize.

I believe, he would have only this to say, what did you do with my dream of freedom I gave my life for? Did you get that education that led you to better jobs, which leads to a better quality of life for you and your family? Did you take hold of the free enterprise seeking wealth and prosperity in the free marketplace? Did you build someone up and help them along the way or did you turn your backs echoing the sounds of it's your problem not mine? Did you love those that were different than yourselves or did you despise their shame? Or did you just throw the dream away all together?

The dream I dreamed for you, did you also slap and spit in my face again like so many whose hearts were so hard they could not see 'justice and truth rolling down like a mighty stream." My friends, my friends, you would be no better than the man who pulled the trigger ending my life before I had a chance to see my dream in America and see your dreams also come true.

Tell me, what did you do with my dream? Please tell me.

Author: Up and Coming Dr. Faye T. Fulton PhD, 2013

Corey McKinnon's picture
Corey McKinnon
Middle School Teacher from Minnesota

I really appreciated this article. When it comes to the technology spectrum I would have to place myself somewhere in the middle. I have a decent amount of experience in the "basics" of technology however I have a lot to learn. One of my greatest stumbling blocks is the concern over what I do not know. This article was refreshing in that it depicts exactly what I believe to be true about anything in life...technology, sports, friends, etc... Sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zones and GO!!! I especially connected with the: Give social media a try. I believe that the only limits that exist in life are the ones that we place on ourselves. Therefore, like this article says...the only way we ever make progress is to "JUST GET OUT THERE!!!"

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