Word of the Year: 2021

Last year I was really excited about my word of the year. Less. Less seemed like such a good choice at the time when there was so much noise it was hard to focus. 2020 was going to be the year of less but better. A year to focus on the essentials and eliminate all of the unneeded stress and clutter in my life. Things started off pretty well. Then a global pandemic hit. The world turned upside down. The dumpster started on fire and well, forgive my crudeness, everything kind of went to shit. The Year of Less took on a whole new meaning and became something very different than what I originally had in mind.

2020 is over and we’ve made it through. I could spend this post reflecting on all the lessons learned during the shit show that was 2020. (Yes, despite it all, there were many lessons learned and perspectives gained that I will carry forward for the better.) But, this is the first post of the new year. Time to focus on the future. I’ll save my ruminations and reflections on the past for a future post. Let’s move forward, shall we?

Time to Restore

The Year of Less was full of challenges to say the least and there were many things I let go of just to cope and make it through. Some of those things I was glad to let go of and happy to leave behind. However there are things I lost that I’m ready to bring back. So, 2021 is the year I Restore. This does not mean I want to spend my year going backwards, starting over, or reverting to some past iteration of my former self. It means I want to restore some of the habits and mindsets that I seemed to have lost through the passing of time. The idea of restoring something is hopeful. It means the skills and knowledge need to accomplish this goal are in me because I’ve done it, or something similar, before. Ha! I can do it again. For me, restore does not mean restart or return. It means to renew, refresh, and rejuvenate. After a long hard year, I think we might all need a bit of rejuvenation. Don’t you?

The Goals

So, what do I have in store for the year of restore? Well, here is what I’m thinking. Some things on this list are specific while others are a bit more abstract and cerebral but together it makes sense to me.

  • Restore healthy habits. Move more. Eat well. Be mindful. I have done this before with success. I felt great, mind and body. But then bad habits became easier than good habits and easier felt good at the time. Time to put those habits back in place. I’ll feel better when I take better care of myself. Right?
  • Restore creative pursuits. When you are just trying to make it through the day, you don’t have much time for creative things. Last year was not the most creative year for me. This year I’m restoring creativity, whimsy, and wonder as priorities. More writing. More making. More exploring. More curiosity. To get me started I teamed up with some friends to make a temperature blanket! Nothing says creativity like learning how to crochet while creating a usable visualization of daily weather data! Yes, I’m super stoked for this project! Hopefully it will be my first of many new projects and experiments this year.
  • Restore connections. Last year was isolating. Both physically and mentally. So much changed in the way we interacted with each other. Some changes were needed and some were healthy. But some changes were damaging. This year will focus on restoring lost connections and reconnecting with people in meaningful ways. I don’t know about you, but I really miss people. I’m so thankful for my small bubble of folks but man what I wouldn’t give to feel safe standing in a crowded venue surrounded by the energizing buzz of strangers again.
  • Restore balance. My balance went a little wonky in 2020. Working from home and dealing with that ever changing “new normal” threw me out of whack. I’d over compensate one way just to then over compensate the other way trying to stay a float in a churning sea of anxiety, fear, doubt, and pressure. It was exhausting. It’s time to restore a bit of balance and calm. Don’t ask me how. I haven’t figured that part out yet. But I’ll work on it.
  • Restore joy. It was hard to be joyful last year. So much was happening to so many that even small moments of joy had cloudy film. I stopped doing things that brought me joy and just kind of existed for a while. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that life is fleeting. Why waste that precious time focused on the negative or worse, nothing at all? I know it sounds naïve but I rather spend my time spreading and sharing joy. Time to spread some happy!

The First Steps

Reading back through the bullets I admit I feel a bit overwhelmed. Those are some big goals there, 2021. Do we need to talk about managing expectations? I remember this time last year as I wrote my post and looked optimistically to the shinning promise that was 2020, the Year of Less, and then how quickly things shifted. So, this year I’m approaching the new year tentatively optimistic. Less of a shinning promise and more a sparkle of restored hope. The goals might be big but small steps can still move me forward. And that is ok. And forward I shall move.

So, as we clean off the layer ash from last year’s dumpster fire and sort through the debris from the shit storm that was 2020, I wish you all peace. I hope you all have a year that helps you restore what you need. Whether it is health or hope, faith or friendships, creativity or community or all of the above or something entirely different. Today is a new day at the start of a new year. It might not be a magic flip of the switch that will make everything better or “normal”, it is an opportunity to take a step forward in a new direction. A time to Restore, Renew, Refresh, and Rejuvenate. So, that’s what I’ll do. Happy New Year, everyone!

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?

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.

 

 

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!