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The Value of Reflection

I'm sure all of us at some point in time has stumbled upon some old photo of ourselves and gone, "What on earth was I wearing?" Or perhaps you've kept a written journal and looked back and said, "I can't believe I used to think that." Or even as simple as a Memory popping up on Facebook and you've said, "Really? I used to think that was important enough to post?"

Consider, however, that these photos, these musings, these posts are all part of who you have become. Your fashion, your thoughts, your posts may have morphed since then, but yes, they are important to see where you began and to offer some insight as to where you will go.

I'm not here to get all philosophical, but I do want share what I stumbled upon the other day and offer a challenge at the end of this post.

In recent months, I have made the major transition of moving out of the school system to become an independent Technology Integration Specialist. As such, I've had a difficult time recalibrating and figuring out where to go next. I mean, for forty years of my life, I've been walking into a school building, walking into my classroom, either sitting in a desk or standing in front of a class, and been driven by the bells and school calendar. I've had security in routine and a job description.

And now I don't. And it's rather an uncomfortable place to be at the moment.

So this week I spent a lot of time going through my hard copy teacher portfolio (yes, I still have one) to see where I've been in the hopes it would provide guidance as to where I'm going next. I came across three things that gave me inspiration:

-A reading response I did for a class at Grad school in 2003

The chapter I had to read was called, Technology: Power Tools for Writing. According to my response, "I LOVED this chapter!!!" I went on to explain that I was currently seeing its value in my role as TA for an undergraduate course. I was using technology to email and communicate effectively with the 80 students I was responsible for. I had learned how to edit their essays online and was so thankful for the expediency of this type of communication. I was excited to get back to my classroom to have students learn how to edit their own essays online or in a computer lab so their peers could be involved with editing as well. I was excited about the possibility of a classroom "Chat Room." I ended my entry with, "I am in love with the idea of creating a classroom inebriated with the internet." Inebriated? GAWD, I can't believe I used to say stuff like that.

-An example of student work from 2004/2005

I gave my students a choice to do either a photo essay or written report/essay to demonstrate their level of understanding for the French Revolution. This was new for the students as most of their summative assessments had been of the written variety. I had a few students take a chance and do a photo essay: a collection of images, drawings, artwork, or whatever they needed to convey their understanding of the conflict at that time. I had an art student take on the challenge and, even though she was limited in her understanding of technology, she created a great photo essay using Power Point. Simple yet effective.

-My Philosophy of Teaching from 1995

"Don Starkel's quote is the basis for my philosophy of teaching. It is the ability to instill a love of learning in the student by engaging the imagination of the individual. Through the awakening of the imagination the student becomes curious as to the world in which he/she exists. This, then, through the mediums offered in an English classroom, helps to shape, mold, and challenge the student to be an active and positive member in his/her community.

There is a lot more that I wrote but I wanted to highlight this particular paragraph.

And now the zillion dollar question: SO WHAT?? Why are these findings important to me? Why are they relevant to you? First question first.

These artifacts provided me with the confidence to know that at my core, my pedagogical and professional values have not changed:

  1. I love learning and I look at my text response and realize that I have spent the past 14 years learning how to create a class inebriated with technology. I experimented, I allowed students to experiment, I went back to school for a degree in education media, and I learned along the way.

  2. I was pleased to see that I have valued and encouraged student voice and student choice for a long long time. Students need to be given choices in their learning and they need to create content for a real world audience (I'll be writing about this in a future blog post).

  3. Education is all about instilling a love of learning by engaging the imagination and empowering a learner to take action (Another future blog post).

As I look forward to where I'm going, I know that I'll continue to learn, experiment, and do what is necessary to empower learners (and by learners, I mean administration, teachers, students, and parents). I know I'll continue to foster and promote learner agency, voice, and choice. And I know I'll forever be seeking ways to ignite the imagination of the learner to cause curiosity and desire to take action.

And you? Why is this important to you? The value lies in the task of deliberate reflection of learning. It's making that time to put thoughts to paper or the Cloud of what you're thinking, of what works, what doesn't work, of ideas for the future, and general observations. You never know when you'll need to look back before you go forward.


Take a look back at how far you've come technologically in the past decade. Fourteen years ago I thought it was awesome that I was emailing students and editing a paper online. Now I am doing a whole lot more (videos, posters, eBooks, etc). How about you? I'm going to wager a guess that you will be encouraged by what you find as you go back and reflect on your practices of months or years gone by.

I'd love to hear from you and your answers to: Where have you come from? Where do you want to go?

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