Word of the Year 2020

Word of the Year: The Year of Less

Happy New Year!

For the last few years, instead of creating a list of resolutions that I am sure to break in record time, I have selected one word as my anchor and focus for the coming year. Last year, my word was Reach.

The Year of Reach

Reach seemed like a good idea at the time. I was going to spend 2019 reaching for my goals. Reaching outside of my comfort zone. Reaching for the stars or something like that. For the most part, I did. I reached for all kinds of things. I reached. And reached. And reached. As I was reaching, I learned that when you reach, you also stretch. And when you reach too far or for too much, you get over stretched. That was my year of reach. I was over-stretched, spread too thin and that left me out of shape, both mentally and physically. (I really did not intend to reach for 20 extra pounds but what can you do.) So, this year I wanted to find a word that would build on the good things I reached for and incorporate all I learned in 2019. But I also needed one that would remind me of reaching for the important things and what happens if you reach for too much. So, I tried a few words on for size. I tried, happy, joy, and even strong, but none of them really fit what I was looking for. None of them seem right. Then, as I stood in my house surrounded by stuff and thinking of all the things I had to do, it hit me. I don’t need more of anything. I need LESS.

The Year of Less

Welcome to 2020. My year of less. My goal this year is to focus on less so I can do more.

The Goals

Here are my goals for the Year of Less.

  • Purge the crap – Remove things from my life that cause clutter and are not essential. That includes everything from materials things to mental things to edible things. I have too much stuff to deal with. It is time for the extra and unnecessary things to go.
  • Focus on the important – Getting ride of the extra stuff will help me focus on the important things. When I have less to focus on I will have more energy to dedicate to the important things.
  • Stop ruminating – Worrying and stressing about…well, everything, has not been productive. I need to stop that. Less worry. Less stress.

I could keep listing all of the ways I want to embrace less but these three sum it up pretty well.

Getting Started

To get me ready for the year of less, I spent time on New Year’s Eve day unsubscribing from a ton of email lists. Oh my, that felt good. I even emptied out a junk drawer and threw out the broken toys that have lived there for the past 10 years. I’m not gonna lie. It felt good. This less thing might really work.

I also started reading the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I listen to him talk about Essentialism and the art of saying “no” on a Tim Ferriss podcast early last year. As a chronic people pleaser, his message really struck a chord with me. Through all the craziness of last year, my brain kept retreating back to his message. He stressed the importance of saying no to the nonessentials so you can focus on what is essential to you. Yes! With the help of Mr. McKeown and some of my favorite accountability partners (you know who you are) I hope to do exactly that!Less but better.

So, here we go. The Year of Less! I’ll blog my progress over the year so stay tuned!

What is your word for this year?

ISTE 2019 Recap

Summary of my favorite finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a month since the amazing ed-tech-a-palooza celebration known as the International Society of Technology in Education Conference or ISTE. There was so much to see and do this year that it has taken me a while to try to boil it all down into a recap. I have so many notes, flyers, and resources that it will probably take me until ISTE 2020 to really process everything. Good news, I have lots to explore for my next 30 tech tools in 30 days series coming this November. But, for you, my loyal readers, I will try to narrow down all that information into my finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

Old Favorites. New Tricks.

I typically spend a good chunk of my ISTE time in the expo hall checking out my favorite tools and looking for new ones to explore. It is great to reconnect with some of my favorite go-to tools and see what new things they have in the works. I love being able to talk to both the developers in making these tools possible and the educators who are leading the way in the classroom. These are some of my most valuable conversations. Here is what some of my old favorites are up to.

Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
  • Adobe Spark – Adobe’s booth is my first stop every year. This year was no exception. Not only got to meet the amazing Michael Cohen (aka The Tech Rabbi) and hear how he uses Adobe Illustrator to teach creativity and Math, I also got to talk to one of the developers of my favorite, favorite, favorite, tools – Adobe Spark. Animations are now available as part of Spark Post apps. (Coming soon to the web). Students can also now collaborate on a Spark project.  If you are not yet using Adobe Spark, then these should give you a reason to give it a try. Also, check out Camp Adobe for some amazing learning opportunities. You can read more about my feelings on Adobe Spark on some of my past posts – Spark Post, Spark Video, Spark Pages.
  • 3D Bear – One of the darlings of ISTE 2018 was 3D Bear an augmented reality app. Well, they have had a great year and showcased a lot of ideas at their booth. If you have not played around with 3D Bear, go check out the free trial and start creating. They have lesson plans and challenges that will help get your students creating in AR. Tons of fun. And I’m not just saying that because they have a dancing unicorn that you can play with.

    NASA Learning Labs
    NASA Learning Labs
  • NASA –  NASA was everywhere at ISTE this year. In their playground, they featured new lessons and activities from the STEM Innovation Lab. My favorite was the Eclipse Soundscape. An app that allows you to experience the solar eclipse through visuals, audio, and other sensory displays.  On the expo floor, they had more resources such as their materials that let students learn about all the amazing things going on on the International Space Station. You can find a ton of resources on the STEM on the Station website.
  • Bird Brain Technologies – Finch 2.0 is coming! I repeat Finch 2.0 is coming!! Learn more on their website and see what makes the Finch 2.0 a cool new addition to the Bird Brain family.
  • CommonSense.org – Everyone’s favorite ed tech review and digital literacy site brings you a curated list of their 50 favorite EdTech tools of all time. This one is well worth the browsing time.
  • Flipgrid – Flipgrid fever infecting the ISTE crowd. Shortly after the conference, Flipgrid announced a new Augmented Reality feature. The new FlipgridAR app update lets you add Flipgrid to everything!

New Finds

In addtion to exploring my old favorites, I collected a list of new finds that I want to explore further. They are everything from new STEM activities to new technology. My list is long but here are the first ones I’m going to dig into.

  • Stitching the Loop – Free curriculum for students to explore computer science through e-textiles.
  • Wildcards – A new programmable expandable circuit board and an inexpensive and easy to use tool to help students explore electronics, computer science, and engineering. Designed by a team of electrical engineering dads.
  • 826 Digital – Free mini-lessons, lessons and other resources to ignite a love of writing in your students.
  • Pinna.fm –  Streaming audio service for students. On-demand access to podcasts, audiobooks, and music for PK – 6th grade.
  • Creator Bot Mini Bot – I would love to get my hands on this little bot. It is an Arduino powered robot kit that has everything you need to create a robot.
  • Get Media L.I.T. –  A new graphic novel series by Weird Enough Productions that helps students explore media literacy, social-emotional learning, and 21st-century skills.
  • Synth – This one is a new-to-me tool. You can create 256-second podcasts and share them with the world.
  • Science Journal by Google – Turn your device into a scientific tool through this app. It takes advantage of the sensors built into our devices phone and allows your students to collect data.

New Ideas

So, what are the hot topic ideas on the horizon of ed tech? There were several topics and ideas that stood out this year. From the playgrounds to the Mainstage, people were talking about creativity, computational thinking, and innovation. I left the conference with some new learning goals of my own. My top three: artificial intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. Google has experiments and activities for you to get started with AI. And I’m ready to start building with CoSpaces and Merge Cube. 64832451_10220359185996876_5431999139598565376_o

Whew! That is just the tip of the ed tech iceberg when it comes to new ideas from ISTE. Even with all of these new tools, my MOST favorite part of the conference was connecting with all of the amazing educators from around the globe. I get to see some of my education heroes and meet many new ones. I’m looking forward to all of the new collaborations and conversations that will fill the time until we all meet again in Anaheim at ISTE 2020.

Big thank you to all the folks who worked hard to make ISTE possible. And thank you Philadelphia! I had never been to Philly before. I got my first “real” Philly Cheesesteak and saw pieces of our history. It was a winning trip all around!

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Were you at ISTE in Philly this year? What were your big takeaways? I’d love to hear from you!

Friday Five: Five Board Games for Your Classroom

Friday Five: Five games for your classroom.

Earlier this week I spent a fantastic day with teachers talking about Gamification, STEM Read, and Games in the classroom! It was a fun day. I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to spend the day playing games with a bunch of fun teachers. The only thing that would have made it better would have been some adult beverages. Am I right? New PD idea!!!

Anyway. I digress. Let’s talk games!

Board Games
Our game stack.

Before we started to play we talked a bit about gamification and how to incorporate game elements into the learning environment. You know, things like leaderboards, avatars (not the bending kind), point systems, rewards, themes, etc. All the things that make games fun. There are many ways to use game elements and strategies to engage students in learning. That is a whole blog post in itself. (Read more about Gamification from ISTE – 5 ways to gamify your classroom)

Today, we want to talk board games! There are sooo many to chose from. The list can be a bit overwhelming. Once you find a new game, then you have to learn how to play it. for me, that is my biggest problem. I call it Game Launch Anxiety – the fear of learning how to play a new game. So, the second half of our gaming session let us all get our hands on some games and conquer our fears together.  It was tons of fun.

We had a whole stack of fun games but here are five that are super fun and easy to connect to your classroom.

Five Games for the Classroom

  1. Bring Your Own Book – This is a “game of borrowed phrases.” Each player brings a book of their choosing. A card is drawn and the prompt asks for a phrase, such as “Something you would find in a teenager’s diary.” All the players search their books for a phrase that fits and hilarity ensues. This game is easy to learn and fun to play. I’ve even used this one to spice up teacher PD. Instead of books, we bring lesson plans. Gameplay takes about 15 minutes give or take. I think it would even be fun to play in a foreign language class. First, they find their phrase and then they have to say it in a different language.
  2. Snake Oil – Get your powers of persuasion ready for this fast-paced pitch-o-rama card game! In Snake Oil, you do your best to sell a crazy product to a specific customer.  To start the game, one player selects a customer card. All the other players select two word cards from their hand to create a crazy product. Then they sell, sell, sell! How would you sell a Lava Boat to a Rockstar or some Hug Butter to Newlyweds? The best part, each “salesperson” can pitch over each other. Let the pitch battle begin! The one who drew the customer cards chooses their favorite product and the player with the most product cards wins! This is a great game for building speaking and listening skills, creative storytelling, and persuasive or argumentative reasoning skills. Snake Oil is technically out of print so it might be harder to find but worth the hunt. 
  3. Codenames – Two teams compete to see who can contact all of their agents first using their secrete codenames. But, beware the Assasin! We played the picture version, which I loved! The cards with the codenames (or codename pictures) are placed in a grid on the table. One person from each team provides one-word clues to help their team figure out which codenames belong to their agents. This game seems easy enough but it really makes you think. This game is a good way to stretch those vocabulary skills and think about synonyms. Also, it helps students look for connections or ways to group words or ideas. It is very easy to learn and there are tons of combinations for infinite play.
  4. Doctor Panic – I did not personally play this one but we heard the commotion it caused from across the room. You and your team are doctors and you have a patient to save and communication and collaboration are key. The game lasts only 12 minutes and those 12 minutes are intense. Watch out, if your patient goes into cardiac arrest, one person has to revive them with the whoopie cushion. Yes. The whoopie cushion. This is a hilarious way to build collaboration and communication skills. Great way to start talking about medical careers too. If the sounds of laughter that were coming from our play team are any indication, this one is a riot!
  5. First Martians – This game is beautiful. However, I will confess, this is one of those that gave me Game Launch Anxiety. In First Martians, you have to survive life on the harsh red planet. It is described as an immersive experience where players play through different challenging campaigns to survive on Mars. It looks like there are several different options for how to play. I’ll admit, it looks very interesting but it has a steep learning curve. It has high reviews on Board Game Geek so it might be worth the time investment to learn how to play. If you are doing a Mars unit or reading The Martian by Andy Weir, this might be the perfect game for you. I’m going to add this one to my list of games I need to learn.

More Resources

This was such a short list. How does one only pick five when there are so many great games out there. I could go on and on. Do you have games to share? Or, do you have gamification resources and tools that you use? Share them on my Games Padlet! Leave a rating or comment too.

Made with Padlet

Share the gaming love!! I’d love to hear about how you use games in the classroom. Post in the comments.

I don’t think I said “fun” enough in this post. Fun. Fun! Fun!!

If you want to learn more about our Gamification and Games in the Classroom session, follow the link to our slide deck – https://www.slideshare.net/secret/IgaqUEXSGRUTzC 

 

ICE 2018 – Highlights

HotPinkTech’s highlights from the 2018 Illinois Computing Educators conference. #ICE18

The end of February is one of my favorite times of the year. No, not because of the unpredictable weather, it’s because of ICE. Not the hard water kind of ice, the Tech kind of ICE. The Illinois Computing Educators kind of ICE! The best kind of ICE.

ICE 2018 ran from Feb 26 – 28 and brought together educators, students, and vendors from across the state of Illinois and beyond. I love this conference. Every year, ICE is my chance to see old friends, meet new ones, learn about new tools and talk to and learn from inspiring educators. It is a place where I get to recharge my ed tech batteries. It is amazing. This year was even better. Three days instead of two and a brand new shiny venue. Amazing times two.

Let’s take a look at my highlight reel.

Presentations

STEM Read
Gillian King-Cargile and me sporting our STEM Read pride.

This year I had the pleasure of doing three presentations. Two snapshot sessions (really like this format) and one breakout. Monday, I focused on personalized PD and the Illinois OER website (IOER). On Wednesday, my partner in crime, Gillian King-Cargile (@gkingcargile), and I spread some STEM Read cheer. We had a great time telling everyone about the program and how they could bring it to their students. It was great to hear stories from teachers who have been to our field trips or who have used our resources in their classrooms. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories!

You can view the slide from all three presentations on the ICE Conference Resource Symbaloo or here in my Google Drive.

My favorite presentation of the week was from the very funny and energetic, Steve Dembo. His presentation, The Viral Video Effect: Storytelling for the YouTube Generation, made my day. It was packed full of ideas for integrating video into all classrooms. Even the littles. He shared video inspiration from favorite viral videos and discussed how to recreate the magic in your classroom. His message – don’t over complicate video production. Have fun with your students and show joy! Amen to that, Steve! He also shared what will become my new go to site for all things digital storytelling – The Digital storytelling DS106 assignment bank. Find it here – assignments.ds106.us. This is a huge list of video assignments. Check it out. I know I am going to dig in.

Shout Outs – Friends and Favorites

One of my favorite parts of ICE is that I get to reconnect with so many of my educator friends across the state. It is like homecoming week. This year was no different. I also get to see what some of my favorite ed tech products and services are up to. Here is a quick list of shout outs to a few of my favorite products and services. If they are new to you, I strongly suggest you follow the links and check them out.

zSpace, BrainPOP, CG Cookie, Common Sense Media
Love them! zSpace, BrainPOP, CG Cookie, Common Sense Media
  • zSpace – I first encountered zSpace a couple years ago (before they had a bus). This is a twist on AR/VR that is truly interactive and collaborative (which I love!). There is also a growing bank of learning resources.
  • BrainPOP – If you are not using all of the games, videos and resources on BrainPOP, stop what you are doing and go check it out. Go do it now. I’ll wait….
  • CG Cookie – CG Cookie is an online art education platform. Through their courses, you can learn 3D production, game design, clay sculpturing and more. Pricing is reasonable for access to all the amazing content.
  • Common Sense Media – Common Sense Media has valuable ratings, reviews and resources for parents, educators, and advocates. They are one of my first stops when I’m researching a new app or game. I also LOVE their Digital Citizenship curriculum. It is fantastic! If you have not explored their FREE resources, you need to.
  • IlliniCloud – They are not pictured, but I need to give them a shout out. IlliniCloud is a co-op of school across Illinois focused on providing tech solutions for K-12 districts. They always have cool projects in the works, such as eSports but I’ll get to that shortly.

New Tools to Explore

ICE is where all the latest and greatest ed tech struts their stuff. I always come home with new tools to explore and this year was no different. Here is my list of tools that I will be digging into over the next few weeks.

  • Empatico & Participate – I’m listing these two together because they shared booth space and are some how related. However, they each have very different purposes. Empatico is a free tool for teachers that will help them connect their classroom to other classrooms around the world. Looks like a virtual pen-pal program with tons more interaction. Empatico is supported by the KIND Foundation (yes, the healthy snack bar company). Participate on the other hand, is focused on teacher PD and learning communities.
  • Nearpod – OK, so I’m a little late to the Nearpod party but it sounds like the party is still going strong. If you are new to Nearpod, like me, it is a platform for developing and managing interactive lessons across multiple devices. It includes a wide variety of content from both internal developers and 3rd party content providers such as Flocabulary, iCivics, PhET, and more. I was really excited to see their new college and career materials that even include virtual field trips to college campuses. Nearpod is definitely on my list of tools to explore in depth.
  • Bloxels – OK, now this one looks like a blast and I may need to invest in a kit. When I walked by the booth it looked like a simple black board with little cubes to create pixel art. That caught my attention so I decided to stop. What this is, is a kit that allows students to create their own video games. They create their art using the boards, snap a picture, and use the app to create their game. (See the image below.) This looks like a super easy way to do game development and one I’m excited to try.
Bloxels - How it works.
Bloxels – How it works.

The Buzz – The rise of the gamer!

Every year at ICE there is something that is creating a buzz. This year, you could not go anywhere without hearing about playful learning, gaming, and eSports. From board games to video games, the art of playing is hot right now.

Sample of games from Red Raccoon Games.
Sample of games from Red Raccoon Games.

In the Playful Learning Space (read more about it here), Red Raccoon Games, from Bloomington-Normal, IL, had a fantastic selection of board games that you could stop and play. I played a spirited round of Codenames, with a couple cool teachers and talked about all the ways you could use it in the classroom. They had everything from Settlers of Catan to Happy Salmon there for you to play and discuss.

I’ve added quite a few games to my wish list.

eSports made a big splash this year. The eSports session on Monday kicked things off with a few high school teams playing some head to head League of Legends. We heard from Illinois coaches and students about what they are doing with their eSports clubs. We even heard from one student who has an eSports college scholarship. Wow! There were several other eSports sessions and a gaming center set up in the Playful Learning Space. The push is to get schools out there to register their club on the IHSA Emerging Sports website to make eSports a recognized sport in Illinois.

eSports
eSports teams talk about their experiences and play League of Legends.

For all you young gamers out there…this is your time. Grab it by the controllers and have a blast!

So, we say good bye ICE 2018 and all the old and new friends we connected with along the way. As always, it was a fantastic conference. I loved the new venue and longer time we spent together. Well done, ICE planning committee. Well done!

Now we start the countdown to ISTE 2018 in Chicago, baby!! See you all again in June!

Speaking ISTE

Doodlers and Daydreamers: STEM Read Podcast Ep 6

The STEM Read Podcast Episode 6: Doodlers and Daydreamers. Talking creativity with Dr. Rhonda Robinson and Tom Lichtenheld.

We’ve all seen those kids. Off in the corner of the room. Staring out the window. Drawing in their notebooks instead of taking notes. We know those kids. Heck, maybe you were one of those kids. The Doodlers and the Daydreamers. The creative spirits who, with the right encouragement and support, might someday change the world.

Doodles
A peek at some of my doodle masterpieces.

In this episode of STEM Read Podcast, Gillian (@gkingcargile) and I talk to two of our favorite doodlers and daydreamers, Dr. Rhonda Robinson and author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld.

This was a fun episode. Not only did we get to talk to two amazing people about fun topics like visual literacy, creativity, perseverance, and collaboration, we recorded in Tom’s studio surrounded by art, books, and inspiration. And there were cookies there to boot. It was amazing!

Head over to the STEM Read Podcast page to give the episode a listen and check out the show notes. We have links to all of the books we discussed, information on visual literacy, and pics from the studio.

You can find the STEM Read Podcast on iTunes or on our home page on Northern Public Radio. Check out past episodes and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss new episodes. Also, check out all our resources over on stemread.com.

Want to learn more about teaching visual literacy and creativity in the classroom? Check out these past posts,  Friday Five: Build Visual Literacy Skills and Five Tips for Unleashing Your Creative Self in 2018.

 

 

Oh, what the first week of 2018 had to offer!

We are only seven days into 2018 and I’m already overwhelmed by ideas, resources, lists of lists, and new people to follow. So exciting!

Here is a quick rundown of my favorite finds from the first week of 2018. 

2018 – Off to a Great Start!

We are only seven days into 2018 and I’m already overwhelmed by ideas, resources, lists of lists, and new people to follow. So exciting!

Here is a quick rundown of my favorite finds from the first week of 2018.

Classroom Ideas

Classroom Resources

List of Lists

New (to me) Folks to Follow

Whew! If that’s what the first week of 2018 had to offer, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

STEM Read Podcast Episode 5

My reflections on STEM Read Podcast Episode 5. The one with all the swearing. Warning: Strong language.

The Rise of WHAT?!?

The fifth episode of the STEM Read Podcast posted on December 22nd. It has taken me a long time to write about it, not because I have nothing to say but because of WHAT I said.

In this episode, The Rise of F%@kwe discuss (you guessed it) swearing. We have a very colorful conversation with linguist Melissa Wright about why we swear,  the role it plays in culture, and how words became taboo. This is followed by an interview with M.C. Atwood (a.k.a Megan Atwood), author of the YA novel The Devils You KnowIn that interview we talk about how language, especially that of the foul variety, is used as a part of character development as well as how it helps us, the reader, form a connection with our fictional friends.

I found each of our discussions fascinating and informational. (I know, I am a bit biased. I always find myself fascinating.) I learned a lot from both of our guests. It has even prompted me to do more reading on the subject. However, I have to admit, I was (and still am) a bit nervous sharing this one.

Me and My Big Mouth

Anyone who knows me IRL, knows that I am not a stranger to the occasional F-bomb or perfectly place curse. In fact, my use of prolific profanity is directly proportional to my level of comfort with you. In other words…I swears if I like you.

If that is the case, why is this episode giving me pause and causing me anxiety? I think it goes back to the idea of context. We have different norms for different situations. It also might have to do with the different ways language is connected to our different identities. The STEM Read Podcast is connected to my professional identity. Non professional me swears like a drunken pirate. Professional me does not usually use such “unprofessional” vernacular. Professional me usually keeps it, well, professional. For me, this podcast pushed me outside of my professional comfort zone. Even though I know what we discussed was intellectually intriguing, professional me is saying, “But you said F%@k. A lot.”

It was a show about swearing. What the f%@k was I supposed to say?

Listen Anyway

Language is fun. How we use it. How it changes from culture to culture. How it shifts from decade to decade. It’s fun to talk about language. In fact, as I was writing this post, a colleague stepped into my office and we had a 15 minute conversation about swearing. Imagine the conversations you can have with your students around language when you use books like Feed by M.T. Anderson or The Martian by Andy Weir. In Feed, the language serves a key purpose in the story. When you dig deeper into the language choice, you see that in many ways, the book is all about language and the impact technology has on how we communicate. The language used in the book is an excellent starting point for a conversation about the language we use and why we use it.

So, if you are easily offended by the occasional obscenity or two, or ten, you might want to skip this episode. Or at the very least, don’t listen to it around your children. (My 18 and 19 year-old kids..er…young adults, were in the car when I played it for my husband. Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable.) But, don’t let the extra expletives prevent you from queuing it up, giving it a listen, and having a discussion.

As I said in the show. “Don’t let the use of strong language stop you from selecting a book with a strong message.” The same holds true for a podcast.

Follow the link to listen to Episode 5: The Rise of F%@k. And check out the show notes for more info on our guests, resources, and other fun stuff.

Also – do us a solid and leave us a review. Pretty f%@king please. 🙂

Five Tips for Unleashing Your Creative Self in 2018

Friday Five: Five tips for a creative 2018

Imagine
A few of my creative supplies. Part of my Steampunk Rainbow Dash costume.

Every new year I think to myself, this year I will be more creative. For me that means, I want to spend more of my time creating things, trying out new things, and spending more time outside of my comfort zone. Some years are more successful than others. I had a knitting year and now I have more looms sitting in my attic than I dare admit. I’ve had jewelry years. Everything from beads to precious metal clay. (This year might be the year I fire the mini kiln back up.) My attic is filled with boxes of various art supplies from photo transfer paper, to rubber stamps, to paints and brushes, to fabric, to clay to photos of every size and shape. Each box contains remanents of my many creative endeavors. To be honest, it’s kind of my happy place. Every year I try to add more creativity to my life. It really doesn’t matter if I stuck with the medium or not. What matters is that I created something.

Some years I manage a small project or two. At least that is something. Then there are the years when I feel the creativity flow. These years are awesome. These are the years that I made creativity a priority.

Looking back at my efforts to be creative, there have been strategies that have helped me grow creatively. Here are my five strategies for having a creative year.

Tips for a creative 2018

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Join a weekly or daily challenge 

I love challenges. There is something about the goal of doing something every day or every week that I find very motivating. It is also incredibly rewarding at the end of the challenge to look back at what you have accomplished.

Joining a creative challenge is one way to add accountability to your creativity goal. Most challenges give you a prompt or theme for each day, week, or month of the challenge. This can be super helpful if you are trying to overcome a creative block. The prompt will give you focus and a starting point.

One of my all-time favorite challenges is the Photo A Day Challenge by blogger FatMumSlim. January 2018 kicks off her 6th year of providing daily prompts. Millions, yes millions, of people around the world use her prompts as inspiration for daily photographs.

My first year of doing the Photo A Day was 2012. Each day, I would look and the prompt start thinking about how I would interpret it. The prompt was always in the back of my mind and I was tossing around different compositions. Some days the prompts were easy and I knew exactly what to shoot, while other days took a lot of thought. It was fun to always have this creative problem churning in the back of my head.

To my own surprise, I made it the whole year. Not only was I proud to say that I actually did something creative every day for a whole year, I had a fantastic record of 2012. I took pictures of things I never would have photographed. Simple everyday moments and things captured in new and interesting ways.

I did it again in 2014 and 2016 and planning on starting again for 2018. (I have found that taking a break year after doing an entire year of pictures was helpful to prevent burnout.) It has been interesting to look back at these three sets of 365 images to learn about who I am as a photographer and how my techniques have changed over time. I apparently really like clouds.

Photo collage
A small sample of the photos from my first year of Photo A Day, 2012.

I learned so much about myself through this challenge, that I’ve incorporated it into my visual literacy and media literacy courses. It seems to be a class favorite.

Not ready for an entire year? Try it for a month and see what happens.

Not ready for a daily photo challenge? Check out this 52 week photo challenge by Dogwood Photography. I gave it a try last year. It was a great way for me to work on improving my photography skills. However, I was not able to make it past the first three months. I  found a weekly challenge harder than a daily challenge. Might give it another shot this year.

Is photography not your thing? Here are a few other creative challenges you could try.

Pick your favorite creative outlet (or one you want to learn) and I’ll bet you my favorite seed beads that there is a challenge for it.

2. Find your creative peeps

If you want to be more creative, surround yourself with creative people. They don’t have to be into the same thing you are into, they just have to see creativity as a part of their lives. These communities of people who are also engaged in creative pursuits become your accountability friends. You share with each other, learn from each other, and encourage each other on those days when creativity is eluding you. When you surround yourself with people who have also made creativity a priority, they get you and why you are doing what you are doing because they are doing it too.Find your tribe

One of the reasons I like the challenges listed above is because of the communities that come with them. The Dogwood Photography, Photo A Day,  and Coaching for Geeks communities are all super supportive. Got a photography question? Post it in the facebook group and someone will answer. Want help with being accountable, Coaching for Geeks has your back.

Whether your community is IRL, virtual, or both, it helps to have people around you who can help you be your most creative self. People who are not afraid to nudge you when you need a nudge, critique you to help you grow, and celebrate your achievements even if it is as simple as taking one photograph for the day.

3. Share your creativity

Creativity is best when shared. It is perfectly fine to create something just for yourself. Go for it. However, something magical happens when you share your creativity with others. For example, the best part of the Photo A Day Challenge for me is posting my image on social media. At first, I only shared it with my Facebook friends. In 2016 I started sharing it with the larger Photo A Day community using the hashtags and groups. It was amazing to see how people from all over the world interpreted the prompts differently. Conversations were started around images. We learned from each other and about each other through our creative works.

When you share your creativity, you share a bit of yourself. Sometimes, it is a piece of yourself that people don’t usually see. It can be scary to put yourself out there. What if people don’t like it? What if it’s dumb? Those are scary questions. But, what if they like it? What if they want to talk about it? What if they want to help you get better? YOu’ll never know if you don’t share it.

I’m not saying that everything you do should be shared far and wide with everyone. Start with one trusted person. Maybe share it with your community.

4. Schedule time for creativity 

I wish I could say that it is easy to be creative. But, it is not. Our lives can be so busy that we feel there is no time for making something or writing something. Well, then make time.

Yes, we are all busy, but we can spare a few minutes to flex our creative muscles. Look at the 15 minute art challenge. Who can’t find 15 minutes a day to do something creative?

Put an appointment on your calendar that is your time to create. You schedule time for things that aren’t fun like dentist appointments and project meetings. Why not schedule time for something fun that helps you grow. Just do it. Schedule it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait… Oh, make sure it is a recurring appointment. If you do it regularly, it becomes a habit.

Still struggling to find the time? Turn to your community. They can help you find the time, make it a priority, and remind you to follow through. Your community is there to help you. Let them.

5. Leave judgment at the door 

If there is one thing we as humans excel at it is judging. The person we tend to judge the hardest is our self.

Judge free zone

Every time I start a creative project there is a good chance that it will not turn out as expected. The sunset does not look as good in camera as it does in person. The necklace is ugly. The hat fits funny. The blog post makes no sense. It happens. Mistakes happen. Bad art happens. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy making it.

I know people who will not start any project unless they know that the end product will be perfect. Where’s the fun in that?

Creativity is about the process of creating. Thinking about things differently. Trying out ideas. Making mistakes. Trying something else.

Sometimes the mistakes can be the best part. I mean have you seen the spectacular Pinterest Fails?

Stop being so hard on yourself and just create. You can’t be creative if you don’t start.

So, make 2018 your most creative year yet.

Follow along with my creative photo a day challenge on Instagram or Twitter (@kbrynteson). What is your creative goal for 2018?

make something amazing

2018 Word of the Year

Forget New Year Resolutions. Select a word of the year. 2018 is the Year of Boundaries.

Word, not Resolutions

In 2016 I decided to give up on New Year Resolutions. They usually didn’t last past the end of the month anyway and that was just depressing. Instead, I decided that I would choose a word that would be my word of the year. I’d spend the year focusing on integrating the word into my life and (hopefully) seeing positive changes at the end of the year.

2016: Nourish

My first word was Nourish. I focused 2016 on nourishing my mind, body, and relationships. It was about investing in me. Feeding my mind, body, and soul with what I needed to grow. I wrote my word on the whiteboard in my office. I tried to keep it front and center during the year. At the end of 2016, I spent some time reflecting on how Nourish guided my actions. There were some positive changes and it felt better than looking back at a list of resolutions that went unkept.

2017: Transform

For 2017, my word was Transform. This seemed an appropriate word not just for me but for my entire family. Both of my kids were hitting big milestones in 2017. One graduated from high school, started college, a great internship, and a pilot license. The other turned 18 and started planning for college. For them, Transform had a subword – Adulting. It was time to teach these kiddos how to be adults. For my husband and I, we started thinking about how we’ll transform as we transition to parents of young adults. I also focused on transforming my professional goals and purpose.

As we approach the final days of 2107, I have to say that I’m fairly satisfied with the year of Transform. The kids have exhibited some adult-like behaviors (Yay!). My husband and I have started making small changes to help us manage our new parenting roles and look toward our future as a couple with adult children (Yikes!). Personally, I have made some big professional changes that have reignited my passion for education and helped me refocus on some new ways to share that passion (Yippee!). Overall, The Year of Transform was successful. Onward to 2018!

2018: The Year of Boundaries

In a few short days, we will welcome 2018. New year. New word. 2018 will be The Year of Boundaries. 

I’ve been tossing this word around in my head for a couple weeks. Trying it on and testing it out. Comparing it to other words like courage or strength. The more I think about it, the more I really like this word and I am excited to make it work for 2018.

I know it sounds a bit weird as a goal word but let me break down my thinking. Let’s look at the definition of Boundary. A boundary is a line. A line that defines an area or sets a limit. According to the book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (One I read many, many years ago as a new mom and highly recommend.), personal boundaries help us define who we are. Some boundaries are good while others may be bad or hold us back.

 

A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not.

Boundaries, Cloud & Townsend

My daughter and I have been talking a lot about boundaries lately and why it is important to have personal boundaries in our lives. However, it can be a difficult concept to understand let alone apply. I was well into my adult years before I learned about the idea of personal boundaries. I hope to teach both of my kids about the concept now as they are becoming adults. As I teach them, it will be a great time for me to reflect on my own boundaries.

Why Boundaries?

Without boundaries in your life, especially your relationships, it is easy for someone or something to consume you. You might lose yourself to an overbearing friend or an overdemanding job. Making everything but you a priority. Not being able to say “No.” when you need to is a great example. This can be exhausting. Especially if you are a “people pleaser” like my daughter and me. Learning how to set boundaries is not just a nice to do but a must do for a healthy, balanced life. Yet, you might have other boundaries that are preventing you from forming close relationships or preventing you from taking risks that stretch you out of your comfort zone and into something amazing. You might have a little voice that reminds you that you might look foolish or fail if you try. Thus, keeping you contained within your comfortable personal sphere of activity and not trying anything new. Not a healthy boundary that helps grow but one that limits who you might become.

Again, some boundaries are good while others are bad. The trick is figuring out which is which and making changes.

So, 2018 is the year of Boundaries. My year for identifying and understanding my current boundaries and making adjustments as needed. Setting (or strengthening) healthy boundaries and removing unhealthy ones or those that have been holding me back. We’ll see how that goes. At the very least, I’ll be more reflective about my priorities and goals. At the best, I’ll have boundaries that help me establish new priorities and goals that will allow me to nourish my body, mind, and spirit and transform into something amazing! Sounds like a win, win either way.

Happy New Year!

What’s your word for 2018?

Level Up! What I Learned Doing a 30 Day Challenge

What I learned doing a 30-Day blog challenge.

The Challenge

Thirty-three days ago, I started on a journey. One that helped me break through a wall and level up.

Back in October, I found a Facebook group called Coaching for Geeks. I thought they looked like a fun and interesting group of folks. So I joined. Not thinking much of it but enjoying some of the posts that appeared in my newsfeed.

Shortly thereafter, they announced that November would kick off a 30-day Level Up challenge. The rules were simple. You pick the stat and provide evidence to the group every day that you mad progress towards your goal. They didn’t have to ask me twice. I was in. I just wasn’t sure which stat to chose.

Health is always one that needs attention. I lost over 20 pounds last year (Yay!) but, somehow, they all found me again and brought some friends. So, yes, health would have been a good one to choose. However, in the back of my mind, something different was lurking. Something that needed to be addressed. Something that I have been working around and ignoring for quite some time now. My fear of writing.  Yes, I am a blogger and an academic who is terrified of writing. Here was my chance to defeat that fear.

Backstory – My Relationship with Writing

I use to love to write. I wrote in my journals, I wrote short stories, poems, you name it. I found joy in writing. Then came grad school. In grad school, you write. You write a lot. I enjoyed it for the most part. Researching topics, formulating ideas, synthesizing knowledge. It was kind of cool. However, my dissertation ruined me. Don’t get me wrong. It was an amazing experience. My dissertation committee was great and supportive. The teachers and students I worked with were fantastic. It was the writing process that ruined me. The dissertation process was not the only thing to blame. My new job contributed to it as well. During that time of my life, everything I wrote was examined under a microscope and edited, re-edited, changed, and reworked. The rational part of my brain knew that that was just a normal part of writing. Each edit and bit of feedback was making me a better writer. The irrational part of my brain was losing faith in me. I began to believe that I could not write. Even though I successfully completed and defended my dissertation (you can find it here), the situation destroyed my self-confidence as a writer. Every time I wrote something a voice would tell me that it wasn’t good enough. Not academic enough. Not cohesive or well organized enough or my ideas and conclusions were wrong. No one said this to me, just my own internal editor mouthing off. I became afraid to write anything.

For the next five years, I wrote as little as possible. When I had to write something I’d stare at a blank screen for hours. Thoughts and words swirling in my head forming into to ideas but falling apart when I tried to capture them on the page. The sentences were not good enough. My word choice was bad. My grammar and structure were too terrible to keep. In fact, I think I deleted more sentences than I wrote. It was a painful struggle to write even the simplest thing. Despite this mental barrier, I was able to collaborate on several articles, a few grant proposals, a book chapter, and even co-authored a short form book. It was never published but it was written. Every article, every chapter, every proposal was painful. That internal editor inside my head that kept telling me that I was not a writer. I shouldn’t even try. I was an imposter. As someone who works in a university setting, where writing and publishing are important, I was struggling with a mental barrier that was holding me back. My fear of not being good enough was holding me back.

Fast Forward – Challenge Accepted

Back to the present. Coaching of Geeks put out a call for the 30-day Level Up Challenge. I decided that this was my opportunity. I would tackle this fear head-on. I decided that I would blog every day about fun tech tools. The best way to defeat a fear is to rewire your brain. So, writing every day about a topic that was fun and interesting to me was how I was going to defeat my fear and overcome my barrier. Brain re-wire here I come.

I will admit, even before I started, I assumed that I would fail. I figured I’d last three maybe five days before I’d let the typical excuses get in my way. I don’t have time. I have nothing to write about. My posts are dumb and not worth reading. So I went into this thinking I would fail but willing to give it a try anyway. That was the first step on my journey. Telling myself that even if I might fail, even if my posts really sucked, it was worth giving it a try.

Challenge Completed!

Here we are. Thirty-three days later. Thirty blog posts later. Yes, all thirty. I did it! Have I completely beat the boss and leveled up? Maybe. The fact that I am still writing and have a head full of new post ideas makes me believe that I have at least won a battle.

I give all the credit to the Coaching for Geeks Challenge. If it was not for that, and the supportive group of people who were also doing the challenge, I never would have accomplished this goal.

Breath and Reflect

So, now is the time in the process when we step back and reflect on what we learned. No achievement is complete without a bit of self-reflection.

Lessons Learned

  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just write. I think my fear came from needing to be perfect. My writing had to be good enough before I could share it. I was in that mindset where it had to be exactly right or it wasn’t worth doing. Writing every day and having to post it as evidence helped me begin to get over that. I’m not “cured” by any means. But I think I’m better. The posts weren’t perfect. Heck, some of them probably sucked. I know I broke grammar rules. My tenses switched. My metaphors mixed. I had participles dangling all over the place. My spell checker was overworked and a couple times just said WTF. But it didn’t matter. I wrote. I shared it. People read it. And some even liked it or shared it. I wrote. It wasn’t perfect. And that was OK. Whatever I was afraid of didn’t happen. It was OK. I got a good laugh this morning with this memory popped up on my Facebook timeline. “even if its crap, just get it on the page…” Seems fitting. It’s my new mantra.

    Facebook post
    I knew the secret back then.
  • The more you write. The better you get. My writer friends have been telling me this for years. It makes sense. You can’t improve if you don’t practice. The only way to become a better writer is to write. A lot. Over the course of the thirty days, my writing got better. I could write faster. My blog formats got better. I researched formatting and read more blogs to learn best practices. I feel that overall, I improved. I still have a long way to go but I improved. That improvement wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t commit to writing every day. It was fun to read the reflections of the others doing the challenges. Even though we all went after different goals, we all saw something happen in the end. Some now know more words in a second language than they did before. Some got healthier and now their pants fit better. Others made things or cleaned things or organized things. Whatever our goals were, buy attacking them every day, we got better.
  • Excuses are just excuses. What do you know, I do have time to write. I just had to make it a priority and turn it into a habit. Who knew?
  •  I write to learn. For me, this challenge was two-fold, 1) improve my writing and 2) explore more tech tools. The world of educational technology is huge! I felt like life was preventing me from staying on top of the hot trends and I was losing touch with the new tech tools out there. I had a blast spending the last 30 days digging into some tools. Not only did I get to explore them and write about it. It started several IRL conversations. Just the other day I had one of those conversations that goes something like this…”Hey, have you seen this tool?” “No! Cool! Have you seen this tool?” “Holy cow, no! It reminds me of this tool. You should check it out.”  Loved it!! I have several new tech tools to explore..and write about.

And finally – this is the big one.

Gamification strategies are an effective way to support self-improvement and learning. – I have been a believer in gamification in the classroom ever since I took my first grad class on the subject and read the book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by Dr. James Paul Gee. That was almost ten years ago. Since then, I have taught workshops on how to use game elements and strategies in a classroom and I’ve used these strategies with my learners. However, this is the first time I really saw it from the learner’s side.

Actually doing it and being in the role of the learner, helped me understand why this can work so well.

Here’s why.

  • The overarching storyline kept me motivated. Every morning I looked forward to logging on and seeing what was happening in the story. They were revealed just in time and kept me interested. Plus they were fun and funny. I also had fun reading others responses. 
  • Even though our goals were all different, we worked together as a team and were accountable to each other. I made sure I had my evidence posted early every day just to make sure the time difference didn’t make me miss a day. I didn’t want to let the group down and break my streak. The group needed me.
  • This showed me how powerful personalized learning can be. Even though we were all part of the same challenge, we all had different goals. The challenge was meaningful and personal. Yet, we were there to support each other and celebrate our wins. We were not competing with each other but with ourselves. And it worked.

I commend Robin Bates, our challenge master, and the entire team at Coaching for Geeks (CfG) for creating such a fun and engaging challenge. And big congrats to everyone who completed the challenge. No matter if you had a solid 30-day streak or an any-day streak. We did it! We were able to level up, make progress towards our goals and achieve the power level needed to defeat Nega-Robin. Yay us!

I highly recommend following CfG on Twitter (@CoachingGeeks‏). Join the Facebook group. Find them online, read the blog, listen to the podcast, and check out their courses. They are a great group of folks. They helped me overcome my fear and find joy in writing again. Thanks all!

So, what’s the next challenge? Bring it on!