I am a Lucky Girl – Gender in EdTech

We had a guest visit with Audrey Watters on the topic of Gender in Educational Technology. Completing the pre-reading for the night left me with a new vocabulary word: “mansplaining”. I’ve experienced this in a variety of ways in my career but also personally. My husband is very adept at navigating this when a salesperson begins deferring to him when I am the potential customer.

I enjoyed Audrey’s visit with us and her passion for creating an inclusive community online. She is well-researched and has a great sense of humour. As Audrey spoke I reflected on my own journey as a female edtech dabbler.

I think that I have an unfortunate bit of a Pollyanna perspective on gender issues. This comes from a sincere place in my heart, though. I have been a lucky girl. I have also been a stubborn girl. I know that there are huge imbalances between the way women and men are treated. I know that this is true historically, and continues in our present day. I have witnessed and been subject to unfairness that seems to be based on my gender. But, I am a lucky girl. I was raised to believe that I could do anything that I want to do. Being told “no” (whatever the reason I was given) was an invitation to begin negotiations. My parents encouraged and supported my explorations, my curiosities and my passions. I came home muddy, bruised and exhilarated. I pushed boundaries and asked endless questions. And things did not always work out how I had hoped, and when disappointments ensued, my parents were there to answer my new questions, offer the insights that I missed, and to encourage me to dust off and try again.

While Audrey spoke, I actually took a moment to text a quick “Thank you” to my Mom. I’ve loved technology since before my parents brought home our first computer. We used to record audiotape letters to send to my Great Grandma. My parents shared a tape with me where the toddler me was demanding “Heidi do” to set up the taping that day. Dad kept insisting “Daddy do”, and had apparently already “done” setting up the taping, forever capturing my stubborn young self attempting to take charge with technology.

Our Vic 20 later upgraded to a Commodore 64. My parents encouraged my use of this technology and I remember sharing our discoveries about these tools as a family. Print Shop became one of my favourite obsessions, and I created endless streams of dot-matrix brilliance. Looking back now, I can’t believe that my parents didn’t shut me down about wasting printer ink, reams of paper (who needs another banner??!?), or even my time – maybe I should have been doing more homework? My parents ensured that I lived a balanced childhood, and I still carry my love of technology AND my love of the outdoors with me. I should be saying thank you more often. I am a lucky girl.

Audrey’s talk, and my sense of feeling blessed makes me wonder what my role is in supporting others. My road has not always been easy, I have had my ideas belittled, stolen, and claimed by others. I have been asked to feel shame because of my emotional nature. But, I storm on.

(I often cry first, but then I storm on)

How do I stand beside those who are being left out? How do I ask the right questions? Who do I ask? Where do I reach out my hand? I take my parents’ teachings and practice them with my students. I know that they can do anything. How do I extend this mindset beyond my classroom walls?

I am a lucky girl. And I should be doing more to help.

(Thank you, Mom and Dad)

My Stress Floats Away

I married an amazing man. He has supported every step of this Master’s journey, including my Learning Project about meditation. Shortly after my birthday in January he told me that he had a gift idea that went hand in hand with my Mindfulness project. He wouldn’t tell me what it was until I cleared a date in this crazy schedule.

My gift was a session at the Float House: a sensory deprivation and floatation center in downtown Victoria!

I had several friends reference the Simpsons episode prior to my visit to the Float House. The Simpsons did get one thing right: you will feel better after your floating session. I found far more helpful information online and from visiting the Float House websites. Essentially, floating involves just that: floating. You enter a private tank that has about 10 inches of water with about 800 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts in it! Your body is buoyant, and there are no pressure points. The tank is light proof and sound-dampening. The research indicates that there are benefits for both mind and body by participating in this practice.

I was excited to try floating. Most people worry about claustrophobia when floating for the first time. My worry was about being warm enough. I am always cold, and the water is only heated to body temperature. I followed a link through the Floathouse’s Twitter stream. It suggested to have a cool initial shower, dry your face and chest completely and not to move too much once you are in the water. All of those things worked for me!

My experience was great at the Float House. I was welcomed in, invited to have some tea or lemon water, and to chat with the other guests. They only host floats on the odd hours so that the pods can be filtered between guests. After everyone arrived, the experienced floaters were sent to their rooms. There was only one other person who had not floated before, so we were given a tour.

Once you are in your private room you are asked to shower and use their special unscented soap on your hair and body before entering the pod. The pod has a light inside that softly changes colours. The pod is quite large inside. You are given foam earplugs and the advice is to use them if you can, as they keep the salt water out of your ear canals. Once in the pod, you lower the dome and lie back. At first I found myself straining to keep my head up and then I remembered that I would float and relaxed back into the water. There are controls in the pod to keep the light on or off and to add music or not. I turned out the lights and kept the music off and prepared to relax.

My pod at the Float House. Picture taken with permission of staff.

My pod at the Float House. Picture taken with permission of staff.

At first I was totally aware of being in water. Every inhalation and exhalation had the water level changing on my body. I had a brief sensation of movement, as if I was travelling upwards (the direction my head was) and a little to the right. In reality it was the exact opposite, as eventually I drifted into the wall on the lower left part of the pod.

The time flew by. I attempted to follow some of the guided meditation techniques I had been learning. I don’t think that I actually meditated, but I never became lost in thoughts as I often do while trying to meditate. My only thoughts were about things immediately inside the pod. I was aware of my breathing, my increasing sense of calm, how comfortable I felt, the silky smoothness of the water and what it felt like to be buoyant. I was very calm and relaxed and felt quite soothed by the experience.

Music signals that the session is about to end. After the music plays for a bit, the lights in your pod are turned on to indicate that it is time to leave. When you leave the pod, you shower again to remove the salt from your body. There are different products to use post-float. You return to the lobby to enjoy some tea or water with the other guests.

My calm state and relaxed body lasted all day. I was tired early and went to bed for one of the best nights of sleep I have had all term!

I would highly recommend this experience to everyone. I intend to go back as soon as I can.

Reflective Teaching – Day 26

Te@chThought‘s Day 26 Challenge is: “What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

Two years ago, this would be an harder question to answer! My go-to sites included SMARTTechnologies SMARTExchange, Youtube, and just general Googling!

Now, I am primarily using Twitter. I curate great ideas by favouriting tweets, or reaching out to the author for more information. I post questions with hashtags and seek out answers, tagging in people I think that may be able to help me.

I am filled with gratitude to be teaching in a time where global connection and collaboration are celebrated and invited. Ideas and resources are shared freely and conversations spark innovation. It’s exciting!

Go-to sites are shared quickly. Teachers also create and share their own resources. It is no longer a matter of bookmarking key sites to return to repeatedly, social bookmarking has become more important for the flow of ideas. There is a growth mindset about teaching and a desire to support others in their own learning and efforts.

What a great time to be teaching!

Reflective Teaching – Day 22

Te@chThought‘s Day 22 Challenge is: “What does your PLN look like, and what does it to for your teaching?

My PLN (Personal Learning Network) is composed of people I know face to face and amazing people I have never met in person, but have received tremendous support and encouragement from online.

My local PLN has a few key players who are always pushing the envelope of innovation. They encourage me in trying new things in my classroom and in my own life. I would not be pursuing my Masters degree without these people in my life! My local PLN has many dedicated teachers in it, but also several non-teachers. I have benefitted deeply by seeking out the opinion of people who are not classroom teachers because they are able to often add a perspective that is missing when you only interact with colleagues. Some of my PLN are the parents of former students or of students I have never taught, one is my husband who sees things with such clarity, and others are friends who are connected with schools in some way but do not work as teachers. I am grateful to have people who are willing to share their ideas and opinions with me.

My extended PLN is mainly my Twitter community. I do not have a huge group of “followers”, but I have been lucky enough to connect with some amazing educators, parents, and administration who are eager to pay it forward. Twitter is also great for actively learning from people who are sharing out their ideas and work publicly for all to benefit, not just close friends. I feel grateful to have found a few people who will frequently respond when I post a question or I need help or ideas. I love the energy that is present on Twitter – once a conversation gets going, people jump in from all directions! Twitter chats are a great place to grow your digital PLN. Some of my favourites are #bcedchat, #mschat (middle school chat), and #BYODchat.

My other source for my PLN has been my Masters cohort. We’ve become quite close, and can count on each other for support as we learn together.

Reflective Teaching – Day 10

Te@chThought‘s Day 10 challenge is:

Share five random facts about yourself.

  • I love to read
  • I love to swim and usually swim in every body of water that I encounter
  • I am a former volunteer fire-fighter/first responder
  • I have quite tiny feet for my height
  • My favourite flowers are Sweet Peas and Lilacs

Share four things from your bucket list.

  • Go back to Cuba to celebrate our wedding anniversary
  • Sail on a liveaboard somewhere warm. Maybe the South Pacific?
  • Eat lobster on the East Coast
  • Dive historic shipwrecks

Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.

  • to extend a growth-mindset into more areas of my life
  • to narrow down my Masters topic!
  • to listen to my learners (past and present) to ensure that I am growing as an educator and providing dynamic and inviting educational opportunities

Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.

  • Laugh: too many to count! Middle School is hilarious. The “inside jokes” keep me going. Unexpected phrases that have little meaning to others, but cause uproarious laughter whenever they are uttered are priceless! Some examples include: “base-jumping bacteria”, “we’ve got the sauce” (screamed in the IKEA “start the car” fashion), “squirt”, and “Ducky”.
  • Cry: the times that I could not find my way in. The students I was unable to support in the way that they needed. The relationships that never quite gelled. The kids who didn’t feel connected to the classroom community.

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

  • I have an outstanding family. My parents work hard and care deeply about my brother and me. We had a great childhood. My husband is an incredible man. He supports me and encourages me in my journeys. I am surrounded by loving, thoughtful and generous people. My family taught me to read, gave me a love of play, keep me young, and encourage me to celebrate – often. I feel blessed.