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New Year's resolutions for educators

By Karen Richardson
December 29, 2014
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December is the month when we look back — check out all the " "best of" " lists flooding the internet — while also looking forward at the coming year. Educators, normally working at breakneck speed and frequently putting everyone else's needs before their own, may finally find some time to relax and reflect.

As you settle in with family and friends, make sure you also find some time for yourself. Schedule it, announce it and follow through on it.

One way to use that time is to make some professional promises to yourself for the new year. It's common for teachers to put hours of planning and preparation into creating an innovative classroom but leave little time for pursuing their own interests and development. To put it in terms of the ISTE Standards for Teachers, teachers often focus on Standard 1, facilitating student learning, while giving the professional growth-oriented Standard 5 a nod only on in-service days.

But by really digging into Standard 5, we can find ways to promote better practices for our students in both our own classrooms and those of our colleagues, whether they are down the hall or across the globe. I challenge you to make at least one professional promise to yourself this year — then schedule it, announce it and follow through on it.

My professional promises for 2015 include:

Build my productivity

I recently approached a colleague with a question about CSS for my blog. In a 10-minute conversation, I learned more productivity tips than I could have imagined for using my everyday tools. He even introduced me to 1Password. I walked away wondering what else I was missing.

Take Evernote, for example. It's a tool I know a fair amount about, yet, I have a sense that I'm not using it as powerfully as I could. I still create to-do lists using pencil and paper, which is satisfying in a personal way but may be hampering my professional productivity. I'm not taking full advantage of this powerful tool that is available to me no matter where I go.

Build my knowledge

Making, hacking and tinkering has been something of a theme for me this year. I read Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom and was inspired by Sylvia Martinez at a recent conference to spend a day showing families everything from Makey Makey to Little  Bits to Strawbees.

I've learned a little, but I'm ready to get beyond the manual. I can make a banana piano; now what else can I do? I can turn lights on and off using Arduino, but what real-world problems can I solve?

My Raspberry Pi kit is still sitting in the box, waiting for me to dig out a keyboard and monitor and get to work. I still haven't built my Minecraft roller coaster, and I want to explore ideas for using Minecraft as part of the regular curriculum. (A warning to anyone taking one of my ed tech classes this spring: There will be Minecraft exploration.)

Build my community

My interests will help determine the areas in which I build my community in 2015, adding onto a foundation of general education innovators, thought leaders and journalists. My aggregator and Twitter feed are crowded with news, information and commentary.

Like many educators, I find it hard to make community a priority, a daily practice in which I learn and share what I've learned. One way I'm going to tackle it is to reduce my obsession with email and use that time to check on my PLN instead — monitoring Twitter, browsing through Zite and digging into my " "read later" " folder.

How am I going to do all of this? Schedule it by adding notifications on my phone for checking Twitter and scheduling two knowledge sessions each week. Announce it, which I've done here. Now I just need to follow through on it. I'll let you know how it goes.

What are your professional promises for 2015?

Karen Richardson is an education technology specialist and owner of Ivy Run LLC. Connect with her on Twitter via @witchyrichy.