Talk to the Duck
Each school year during teacher inservice week, we host a small technology conference for our staff. It's called Tech-a-Palooza and it's always a great day of sharing and learning. Normally, we invite an EdTech colleague to keynote the event. This year we decided that we - the two Geeks and a Gal - would deliver the keynote address. It's not that we wanted the fame and glory of being on stage. Rather, we had a special message that we wanted to deliver to our teachers. We wanted to present them with three “challenges” for the school year to help them integrate technology deeper, make students’ learning more authentic, and strive towards becoming more reflective educators. Today's post is the third and final post in a series of three that detail our challenges to our staff.
Last year I had the opportunity to tour Lake Travis High School. While there, I walked into a computer science classroom and immediately noticed that there was a duck on every monitor in the class. I tried real hard to think on my own what the ducks could be for and couldn’t come up with an explanation so I asked a student. The student explained that when writing code, they often run their program only to find that it’s not doing what they expected it to do. When they faced this problem, they read their code out loud to their duck and typically discovered where they made their mistake (insert mind blown meme here).
This was one of the coolest things I had heard in a while and it made complete sense to me. How often do we just need to hear ourselves out loud to solve a problem? I, of course, began to notice this happening all the time at my office. One of the digital learning coaches called me with a problem. She talked it out, came up with possible solutions, and chose a solution without me saying a word. It became very clear that this idea of talking to a duck could be utilized on many different levels.
When presenting to the Fort Sam Houston staff at Tech-A-Palooza, the digital learning team knew that this was a concept we had to share. The third challenge we presented to the staff was to talk to your duck!
When faced with a problem, conflict, or question, before you hit the panic button, take a minute to reflect on the things that you already know about the situation. Let’s say you are having trouble with a student. What do you already know about them? What things do they enjoy? What is life like at home for them? When are they acting out the most? How are they doing in different subject areas? What have you already tried and what was the student’s response to these efforts? All of these factors play into behavior, but many times we don’t take the time to say all of this aloud to make connections.
Once you reflect on what you know, it’s important to take some time to think about the resources that you have access to. Google has a plethora of information if you just search for it. Social media like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Pinterest, etc… have tons of ideas. We live in a fix-it-yourself culture with YouTube; if you’re not sure how to do something YouTube is sure to have a tutorial. District websites and resource pages can also give you a lot of information. At Fort Sam Houston, ClassLink is a huge resource as it is a hub of all of the district paid and free subscriptions. Once you gather your resources begin your conversation with your duck (that might go something like this):
“Okay duck. I have this student that is acting up and I’m not sure what to do. I know that she has the most difficulty in the afternoon. She’s also not doing so well in math class and math is in the afternoon. Maybe those two go together. I also know that her mom is super supportive at home but has 4 other children to worry about and her husband is deployed. Sending extra work or activities home may not help. One other thing is that she is super into basketball. What resources do I have? I have access to Teachers Pay Teachers. Maybe I can search for some extra math practice, but with a basketball theme. I could also use GSuite tools to create a behavior chart. Thanks duck!!”
Now, I know that talking to your duck can’t solve every problem and many times we do need feedback and suggestions from others. This is where colleagues, professional learning networks, coaches, and specialists come in handy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you can’t find a solution on your own.
Reflecting on what you know and gathering resources both help you to have an awesome conversation with your duck and hopefully help you to come up with some great ideas on how to solve your problem. Get a duck that matches your personality. Put it somewhere that will help you remember this concept. You may need two or three or even four and that is okay. When you come across a problem, don’t panic, take a deep breath, and talk to your duck. Quackity quack quack!