One of my favourite professor comments from an English Lit paper I wrote over 20 years ago was ” you have written a little about a lot instead of a lot about a little”. For that particular paper, he was bang on. He was the best prof I ever had and he “called me out” on my paper. He was so generous in saying he enjoyed my ideas; I tantalizingly started an interesting point, but too often abandoned it. He wanted me to pursue my “great” ideas instead of just teasing them in the paper and not fleshing them out. (I do that ALL the time.) In that example, I needed more focus. In teaching, many subject specialists need that focus, but I guess I’m more of a “generalist” than specialist.
Why am I treading down this road? Well, a recent post on twitter had me salivating earlier this week, until I realized it’s not really in my wheelhouse at this particular time. Over the past few years, I have been following, attending, and participating in a number of technology conferences. It all started when an opportunity to teach an online course almost literally fell into my lap. I had NO experience in this arena, but was eager to improve.
All of a sudden, I joined twitter, followed people, started a blog, looked up apps, surfed for “cool stuff”. I was dabbling in features, widgets, themes, memes, gifs, you name it. I learned about conferences of which I had no previous knowledge. I didn’t even know such “tech” conferences existed. There is a place to go and learn about how to use all of these things in your class? What? This was amazing. I somehow convinced some superiors to let me go and instantly, I was hooked.
I was more than happy to share this information when I returned. I wanted everyone to know about how to start a class page, site, upload items, record yourself, record your students, add games, animations, quizzes, information feeds. Pretty soon, I was feeling confident enough to share this on a wider scale (and against all common sense), I was submitting proposals to present at these same conferences I had on recently discovered.
This leads me back to my earlier point about salivating over a post: proposals were being accepted for an upcoming tech conference. Me!Me!Me! I crave this stuff. I thought, “What will I present”. I didn’t think, “this sounds like a good opportunity” or that I should think of a proposal, or wonder what would teachers like to see. I actually wondered what in my vast repertoire shall I choose. UGH!! First of all, I don’t have a “vast repertoire” of anything. Second, I’m not actively teaching in a class right now, so I haven’t been practicing using a lot of technology tools. I really don’t know why I thought I’d be a good candidate. (on a side, but related note, I opened up a google folder with a substantial number of animated videos I created, but from 4 and 5 years ago! How cutting edge!)
Finally, I’m making my connection to the title. It dawned on me that I was no where near prepared enough to present at a tech conference. At first I was annoyed with myself that perhaps I have left my skills fall to the side.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was coming to the realization that I shouldn’t only care about an issue “until it happens to me”. So I decided that it is ok for me to not be prepared to present at this conference, because I’ve been focusing on a different area of education that is important to me. Instead of knowing a lot about a little, I was shifting to learning a little about a lot.
If there was one recurring thought I’ve internalized since joining twitter, it is “try one thing”. Heck, I even advocated that myself in MY presentation. Here are a bunch of ideas you can try. I don’t expect you to try all of them or even become an expert in any of them. But I do expect you to try at least one. Get your feet wet and see where you can go.
At this time, I’m happy to say I am climbing a new ladder from a little to a lot. Improving my knowledge base will make me a more well rounded educator and be able to reach as many students as possible. That’s a win-win situation, even if I won’t be at the lectern any time soon.