Stick with it until it becomes transparent


Teaching | Thursday, November 3, 2016

Stick with it until it becomes transparent


If it’s worth it, don’t give up. You’re probably about to reach a big breakthrough. (Public domain image via

I remember when my grandma started using FaceTime for the first time.

She’s in her 90s now and lives in Florida with my grandpa. (She’s the communicator of the two. He likes to listen and interject a comment occasionally while she does the talking.)

I was excited that they were going to try FaceTime. Being 1,000 miles away from my kids, our visits down there are rare. We have some fun memories (I’ll never forget how they got a kick out of watching my kids play shuffleboard at their retirement community). But the distance meant we couldn’t have regular face-to-face conversations.

Until Grandma learned FaceTime.

I remember the first time she used it. It didn’t come naturally. You could read it all over her furrowed brow and squinted eyes.

She finally got the hang of the user interface and can now make and receive FaceTime calls whenever she wants. The frustration and uncertainty isn’t all over her face anymore.

I realized something about my grandma’s FaceTime calls recently.

At first, she wasn’t comfortable with FaceTime. At first, she was talking to a cell phone, a confusing piece of technology. She was talking to a contraption made of metal, plastic and glass in her hand.

Now, it’s different. She isn’t talking to a cell phone anymore.

She’s talking to us.

The technology has become transparent. (At least until her phone does something weird and it disrupts the call.)

And I’m glad that she didn’t give up on it at first, because now I know that my kids and I can talk to my grandparents face-to-face whenever we want. (Even if I don’t call them as much as I should.)

How often does this happen in schools?

I’ve talked to lots of teachers that have gotten frustrated with using new practices and new technology in their classes. They find a new digital tool or a new idea to try out in class and they try it. And it doesn’t go smoothly.

Then the doubt creeps in. “I don’t want THAT to happen again,” they’ll say. “I tried it and it didn’t work. Maybe I’m not a techy teacher (or a creative teacher).”

We can’t give up when trying new technology or new practices if we have setbacks. Struggles are going to come. They’re supposed to come.

Our new ideas are a new skill, and we need practice to get better at them. No one ever learned to play the guitar without some sour chords or muted notes.

It will get better. You will get better. Your students will get better.

If you give it time and develop that skill.

I love Gina Ruffcorn’s example. She’s an elementary school teacher in Iowa and a Skype Master Teacher. But her first Skype call was a disaster.

Her students played a Mystery Skype game and had a rough time. Their questions weren’t great. They were disorganized.

But Gina didn’t say, “Well, that was embarrassing. I’m not doing that again.” She and her students learned from their mistakes and improved. Now, she does dozens of Skype calls every school year, and her kids are sharp Mystery Skypers.

They developed that skill. And now, Skype isn’t an obstacle to communicating for them. With practice, the technology has become transparent, and they talk to other classes and guest speakers around the world as if they’re right next door.

The photocopier was new technology at some point. It might not be the high water mark for current technology today, but we’ve learned how to seamlessly integrate it into education today. We don’t even think about the photocopier now. (Until it jams and we want to throw things and say bad words.)

Stick with those new ideas and/or new technology until they become second nature. Until they become transparent. When you and your students aren’t thinking about it anymore, it’s a part of you. Then, you can create with them mindlessly like your hand uses a pencil to draw or write.

Stick with them, because the moment you want to give up often comes right before a big breakthrough.

Be like my grandma, who stuck with those FaceTime calls even if it wasn’t natural and easy because she wanted to see and talk to her family.

Because in the end, the results are going to be worth it. Don’t give up.

[reminder]Tell us about your stories of struggles with new ideas or new technologies. Did you stick with it? How?[/reminder]

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  • Maria Caplin says:

    My stick with it is about flexible seating. 27 students. Three tables. One tall table. One bench. 12 stools. Conversations and decisons are based on the learners in our room. Ebb and flow of seating, choices, what’s the best location for your learning today? I am so thankful that I have a principal that supports me and when I do go crazy I pause and realize it’s what is best for my students.

  • I have tried using Flipgrid lately with my students in year 8, 9 and 10 science. I would pose questions via Flipgrid, had my students download the Flipgrid app to their phones and then post video responses to the grid videos I made. Some of my students were not quite comfortable of seeing themselves talking before a camera and recording their responses on video. But there were those who found this new way of learning quite to their liking, by reading first and preparing the things they have to say on video. One of the year 8 parents wrote to tell me that the idea of having students posting video responses via Flipgrid was something he finds helpful and motivating for his daughter. I must say his daughter’s video response was suprisingly well executed. She did a very insightful video recording of what she learned and likewise conveying her opinions about the topic we discussed in class. My year 8 were then studying about the implications and consequences of premarital sex and abortion. I’m into my second month on the use of Flipgrid. I am of a mind to continue using it until my students would become comfortable to letting me see what they actually learned in science, to include chemistry, in video response. I would think of ways of how we can spice things up a little in making the videos more interesting.

  • Jolie Terwilliger says:

    My 1st video creation of a book trailer. The students were challenged using the program and importing the needed criteria. After a LOOOOONNNG week, the finished products were worth the pains. After, they wanted to create them for all books that we read. We then utilized them for class reviews on books.

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