Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Technological 5K

The first time I ran a 5K race was two years ago. It was on my bucket list, but that’s not why I did it. I did it for the pizza.

Every summer my in-laws’ hometown sponsors a 5K. Anyone who runs, walks, or limps over the finish line gets as much free pizza as they can eat. As if I needed any more motivation.
Now, I’m not a total neophyte to jogging; I run every summer. Then school kicks in, and I really don’t run until the next summer comes. Over the course of each summer, I build up my stamina and lose some weight. But taking the plunge to run a 5K race? That was stepping up competition. I run more like a tortoise than a hare. What if I finished last? Someone has to.

My fears about running in an official race, as opposed to just jogging to work out, are very similar to the fears teachers have with technology. It’s one thing to try something in the comfort of your own classroom or office; it’s another to do this where others can see you. What if everyone finds out you’re not familiar with the technology you’re expected to use? The questions mount. The fears multiply. That’s why it’s easier to run on a treadmill or on a track when you’re alone. No one knows when you started or how far you’ve gone.

In order to ease some of my fears about running the “pizza race,” I enlisted a coach. My sister-in-law had run a marathon, so she talked to me about the mental process of 5K training. I also went to a nearby running store, where the salesperson chose a few sneakers for me and watched my stride as I ran on the store treadmill (yes, they had one, and it was cool). I even found a dog-walking club and walked long distances with them and our dogs to build up my endurance.

In the end, I ran the entire five kilometers. I didn’t come in last. I felt good about myself. And I crossed something off my bucket list. I didn’t become a runner overnight; it took time. I still struggle with getting outside or on the treadmill to run. I set small goals for myself, celebrate those wins, share them with anyone who will listen, and set new ones.
Your mentality towards technology can be the same thing as training for a 5K:
  • Set a technological goal that is manageable, clear, and makes sense for your current role.
  • Accept that it may not work perfectly all the time, just as there are days I can’t fit in a run.
  • Learn from it, as you teach your students to do when they fail. And grow from it, as we are all lifelong learners.
  • Be creative about how you choose to learn about technology. Try to make it something that you can enjoy.
  • Find a coach or a team that you’re comfortable with openly discussing your knowledge of technology (or lack thereof).
Teachers and administrators, at their core, are helpful people. Nothing makes us feel better about ourselves than when we leverage the learning of our students, scaffold their knowledge, and move them through their zone of proximal development. You can be that teacher. Or that student. You’re never too old to learn new technology.
The current oldest 5K runner, Fauja Singh, is 101 years old. He completed a recent 5K in 40 minutes. He wasn’t the last to finish, either.