A Case for Meditating on the “To Become” List

I think that we can go through years and years of our lives without really thinking.  Really.  I think that we wake up and we rush to work.  We teach or support people all day at the College, checking things off our long “to do” lists one by one.  We get the super urgent items done, we table the rest of the tasks and we rush to get home.  If we have kids, we get them where they need to go, piano, or soccer, or some such thing.  If we don’t, we delve into dinner.  One way or another, we all have to eat.  Once that’s over, we read, or dive into Netflix or, truth be told, we go back to work at the computer.  Then, we hit the sack.

No time in there for thinking, you might have noticed.

Of course, we do think, but do we think about anything of substance?  Do we meditate and ponder about improving what we do, not just moving through this life, but moving onward and most importantly, upward?  I know that I don’t.  Not usually.  It seems like this life is passing through me, not me through this life.

From an educational standpoint, what are we doing to improve?  Are we ever-improving our educational prowess for our students?To do,become list

I want to consider making a “to become” list for ourselves—for what we do here at YC.  We all have our “to do” lists, but we don’t often consider a “to become” list.  The “to dos” are all of the “urgent” items that have to be completed.  FTSE, mid-term grades, essays to be graded, lesson plans to be set up, mail merges to run.  But the “to become” list is more than that.  It would have things like, “become confident that my assessments are truly measuring my students’ growth in the learning outcomes” or “become the best timely feedback instructor at the College” or simply “become a compassionate instructor that students want to come to when struggling with my course”.  It’s easy to measure progress on a “to do” list, but a “to become” list is harder to measure.  It’s important to realize that not everything that’s important is measurable and not everything that we measure is important (don’t let my SLOA amigos know that I said that).  The “to become” list is something that can only be viewed in retrospect, after a lifetime of correct choices that lead us into being the best instructor we can be.

All of our decisions throughout the course of the day contribute to who or what we are becoming.  I think we have to stop and think deeply from time to time, about what our “to become” list is starting to look like.  We have to fight the tendency to let the urgent things on our lists push out the important things.  When we shoo a student out of our office who could have benefited from doing one more practice problem together, are we bypassing our “to become a more compassionate teacher” goal with our “to do a few more emails” check box?

When we take time to still the busyness of our lives and truly meditate and ponder on our “to become” list, our behavior changes.  We get lest irritable about the short term and more motivated and inspired by the long term.  As we ponder “becoming” we might change the projects that we take on here at YC.  We might begin to say “no” more, and we might even start to seek out and say “yes” to projects we’d never even considered, or previously imagined beyond our skill set.  The refining process of considering “becoming” will drastically alter our “doing” and we, our students, and the College will be better for it.

Pokémon Go – What It Could Mean for Education . . . And My Sanity

I just happen to live across the street from my own church.  As a concerned parishioner, I try to keep an eye on the old place.  It’s been vandalized a few times, as many churches are, so I try to keep abreast of any suspicious activity and report it whenever possible.  In today’s world, you never can be too careful, right?  The last few days have been weird though.  People have been flocking to the church during odd hours, none of whom I recognize as fellow congregants.  Who are these people?  Mostly teenagers walk through the parking lot and hang out on the grass and grounds in tight little groups.  Cars stop by, park for a few minutes and then leave.  What’s going on?  I started to notice that most of these clandestine visitors have their phones out the whole time and are looking intently at them.  Avid geocachers?

Last night I was leaving the church about 7:30pm and I nearly stepped on a tightly huddled group of suspicious looking teenage boys all staring at their phones.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“Pokémon Go” they replied, almost in unison.

If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go yet, you soon will be sick of hearing about it.  Mark my words, this game, started just a few days ago by a Nintendo subsidiary, will soon be a major story on nearly every news outlet in the nation, and if you have any stock in Nintendo inc. Pokémon Go has already made you a lot of money.

Getting Meta

Students think about the target content a lot.  They are trying to learn or know biology, math, history, and welding, all at the same time.  However, few students think about “how” they are going to learn or know the target content.  Typically, students don’t think about strategies for learning.  Metacognition is the way in which students think about thinking and students don’t often do it.  You wouldn’t mix up pancake batter with a concrete mixer and by the same token, you wouldn’t prepare concrete in a KitchenAid, yet students indiscriminately often try to apply the metacognitive strategies that “really worked” in their high school art class across all discipline types and learning outcome types, whether they are learning facts, concepts, rules/principles, or procedures.  Truth is, each discipline (and even within each discipline’s different learning outcome types) necessitates different metacognitive strategies for learning.  It’s about using the right tool for the right task. 

Let me introduce myself…

For those of you that may not know me, my name is Jared Reynolds (originally Spanish faculty) and I will be helping fill some of the vacuum that Todd left on his way out!  I just wanted to take a minute and say a few things about my experiences with Canvas.  Up until this point I have used many different resources for the classes I teach.  However, I have been using canvas for EVERYTHING lately.  I use it for instructional videos, for grading, making assignments, calendaring, quizzes, tests, etc. and I love it.  It works very well for me and I learn something new every day that makes me want to use it even more.  I recently learned the ins and outs of a plagiarism and grading tool called Turnitin and it is awesome!  You can do everything within Canvas!  It is possible to mark up an essay within Canvas; no downloads, uploads, email, etc.  There are so many things that can make your job easier!  Stop by the office sometime and I would love to show them to you!

Skype for Yavapai

Since the college has decided on Office365 as it’s new email platform last month, a couple thoughts have been going around in my head. Yes, just two thoughts – I’m a simple man! One is: why we didn’t go with Google? The other is: when do I get to try Skype for Business?

I’m quite fine with the Microsoft solution. I’m going to continue to use Google apps in my work life as much as ever, and I’ll get the chance to learn something new. Lot’s of folks have told me how great OneNote is, and I already use the online version of Outlook more than the installed client (and appreciate its ability to let me add an avatar to my email). It’s all one big learning experience after all, with change the only constant. Yes, you caught me on a good day.

Skype for biz does excite me a little.

I’m already a huge Skyper, and the business version is supposed to pile on the features: remote screen control, unlimited users, and everyone at YC already in my contact list. Skype has been such a boon to my work as well as personal communication, I’m truly excited that it might be easier to employ it for our online courses to bring learners in closer proximity. There is nothing like hearing the voice behind the screens to lend humanity to learning.