In early October 2018 I was fortunate enough to present a few sessions at uLearn, New Zealand’s largest education conference.
During my sessions I definitely had a few struggles when it came to my tech. My computer is due for an upgrade and at times struggled to move through my slides, the internet was patchy and far more often than I would have liked it meant that things didn’t go my way!
At the start of this year (when I was brand new in this role) this would have made my palms clammy, my blood run cold and would have totally thrown me off the game. My mindset was that I needed to be perfect and as a “digital trainer” I should be able to manage and control every small detail about the tech that I was using. At this point in the year, I am so much calmer and more accepting when things don’t go as planned.
We can’t control everything. Anyone who’s presented to a group of people, whether it’s students or adults, whether it’s education or corporate events, will understand that things go wrong. Things that worked perfectly the evening before when you did your test run, now are misbehaving like a two-year-old in the lolly aisle at the supermarket.
What’s great is that with a calmer mindset I’m much more likely to be able to troubleshoot and solve the problem. And if I can’t – well, I should know the content well enough to talk about it and demonstrate without it until it’s sorted.
There’s a level of responsibility when it comes to presenting to people who have chosen to be in a room with you – and quite often have paid to be there. It’s still quite a strange feeling to me that people want to come and hear what I have to say or to show them. I want to make sure they walk away and have no regrets about their choice. Time is valuable and I owe it to the teachers who have given up their holiday time to listen to me to make sure they walk away with some valuable takeaways that will make their life better.
So what can we do to try to limit the panic when tech goes wrong, which it inevitably will!
I hate to admit this but I’ve been watching ‘The Bachelor Australia’. It’s cringeworthy but I just can’t look away. Please don’t judge me! The Bachelor on this season is Nick Cummins, better known as The Honey Badger, an Australian rugby player. He has a saying that I think is great…. ‘Prior Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance’.
[bctt tweet=”What do ‘The Bachelor Australia’, technology, teaching and presenting have in common? Click here to find out! #honeybadger #utbPD #keepcalm” username=”lara_kirk”]
I work hard to prepare for all training sessions. I probably over prepare but this helps me feel confident that I’ve got all bases covered. Teachers are great at this. We all know that when we have a well prepared and thoroughly thought through lesson or unit, things go better. It doesn’t mean all the learning is prepared in advance – that would limit flexibility and authentic learning contexts in the classroom. But, prepare by considering all the students we teach, gathering student voice and ensuring that the experiences we are curating are appropriate and engaging.
[bctt tweet=”Prepare for presentations by focusing on who is your audience – whether they are children or adults – make sure that what you’re delivering will have value for them!” username=”lara_kirk”]
Making sure that you’re taking advantage of storage in the cloud also helps to ensure you can access your files from any device – even if yours is sitting at home and you’re not, or it had a short lived trip on the roof of your car that ended in a less than desirable result. With cloud-based storage so reliable, cheap and easy there really isn’t a better way to make sure you can get to your files from anywhere.
[bctt tweet=”Cloud storage – you’ll be grateful when your laptop takes a short ride on the roof of your car which ends with less than desirable results!” username=”lara_kirk”]
BE OPEN MINDED – Learn alongside the people you’re working with
However, preparation can only get you so far – life is unpredictable and when you’re dealing with other humans, even more so! Often a question is thrown at me during training and I don’t know the answer. This would have made me panic at the start of the year. Now I honestly embrace a question that I don’t know. It means it’s probably going to add to my understanding, challenge my own thinking or change my perspective. I genuinely love this when it happens. I love it even more if I can’t Google the answer. The way a teacher responds to these types of questions/challenges from students in the classroom is so important – the look on an 11 year old’s face when a teacher says ‘Wow, I haven’t thought about it in that way before. That’s an excellent question and you’ve really challenged my thinking. Let’s discuss this more’ is priceless. Truly valuing their thoughts and demonstrating that you are a learner is powerful. Embrace it.
[bctt tweet=” Let students know when they’ve challenged your thinking – these moments are your most powerful teaching opportunities!” username=”lara_kirk”]
Accept that you are not in control of everything. Anyone who knows me well will know that this is a challenge for me. I like things to be perfect. If we’re going for lunch you can bet I’ve already thought through the streets we’ll walk down to get there, where I’d like to sit and probably already decided what I’m going to order. So when my slides freeze in front of 50 people, it’s hard not to panic.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ll have a good go at fixing it. Where suitable, you can get your students to carry on with something else while you get it sorted. But sometimes that’s not suitable. You either have to fight it or flex it and go with the flow.
I had a group of incredibly clever maths students one year – the level of their learning was something really out of my comfort zone. I’d prepared and thought I had it nailed. When I was with them I very quickly realised that I’d got something drastically wrong. These kids and I tried really hard to work it out together, but I’m pretty sure I was confusing them more. I asked them to stand up, back slowly away from the table and pretend it never happened. They laughed and did this. I did some more work on this, so did they, and the next day we all worked through it together. I know they respected me more for this.
Accept that things are going to go wrong and have a back up plan. When I interviewed with Using Technology Better this was one of the questions I was asked – what will you do when the tech stops working? It happens to us all.
In classroom when things go wrong with tech, use it as an opportunity to model problem solving. If you can’t find a solution in a reasonable amount of time or you’re feeling super frustrated, take a break and come back to it later. Your brain is far less likely to find the issue if you’re feeling stressed.
[bctt tweet=”Use problems with tech in the classroom as an opportunity to model problem solving and troubleshooting!” username=”lara_kirk”]
Build a great network of people that can support you. Do this within your school or digitally across other schools.
[bctt tweet=”Build a strong team that can support you! Talk about when things go wrong with these people and learn from them.” username=”lara_kirk”]
As I’ve said, I feel very different when working with teachers now than I did at the start of the year. It’s really cool to look back and reflect on how much I’ve learnt. I owe a lot of that to the awesome team of trainers that I work with who are always there to be supportive and answer any questions – no matter how thick I feel when I ask them. During training, or any time I have a question I can’t answer I put it out to the team and within minutes I’ll have a few responses – while we work remotely I never feel like I’m alone.
Being part of a team who share my passion for education, have masses of knowledge and experience in facilitating is an absolute dream. Mike, Sam, Adrian, Donna, Mark and now Tim – you guys are awesome.
Want more tips and tricks? Head over to the Using Technology Better website, check out the other great blog posts and find out when the next event is on near you.