Ma ka hana ka 'ike . . . In working one learns

Who I was when I started in OTEC?

In the summer of 2008, I took ETEC 442 and our instructor Mike Travis had us complete a "bonus" assignment bestowed upon graduate level students in the class. This video introduction explains how I got here to begin with, and where I hoped to go. Funny, I mention that three years ago, gas was $4.67 a gallon on Maui. Today, it's $4.99 a gallon.

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I started in the 2008 OTEC cohort, in the summer of 2008.  After a year in OTEC . . .

Ten years ago we used email to communicate as an electronic post office, and we used the Web to look for information. Schools on Maui were wired for voice, data, and video, and teachers relied on software for keyboarding, word processing (ClarisWorks), spreadsheets, databases, drawing, and painting. Those who were "on the cutting edge" were using applications such as PowerPoint, DreamWeaver, and Inspiration. No one had cell phones, iPods or MP3 players, and connections on the homefront were dial-up.

In just ten years, we seem to live in another world. Almost every student in my classes has a cell phone, MP3 player or some kind of iPod, and spends more time on video games than anything I assign in class. The typical teenager sits in front of the computer on MySpace while working on a class assignment, googling something, while texting and/or talking on the cell phone, with TV on the side, IM-ing on the computer, and claiming to listen to Parent at the same time. All this on broadband, of course, or wireless connectivity.

Most significant is the advent of Web 2.0, a phenomenon that has qualitatively changed the digital domain in a positive way. We can use free tools to do nearly anything online. No longer do we go online just to get information; we can now communicate, collaborate, create and publish. No longer is access tied to a desktop computer; we can go online from any number of mobile devices, using wireless connectivity.

These changes have broadened our world beyond the limitations of geography and economics.These changes have rocked my world and classroom. I had no conception of the scope or nature of the changes in the digital dimension, just a desire to refresh my learning. The experiences provided by OTEC have caused me to reexamine my beliefs and practices about teaching and learning.

They have reinforced what I know, and given me a toolkit to meet everyday challenges in the classroom. My students have gmail accounts and use them to communicate and collaborate. They have learned to use Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. After hours we are online discussing assignments on gmail chat and DimDim. They receive assignments by email, and directions are sent via vokis, jings, and google docs.

So I am stretched, exhausted, overwhelmed and amazed by the possibilities.

What an exciting time to be a teacher!

Authentic learning - Working out the kinks in collaborating

Groupwork by assignment or choice is the norm throughout the OTEC program.  This part of the process is a critical part of the learning and it often involves obstacles that need to be overcome, or the fallout is reflected in the work.  This is an excerpt from a letter I sent to my team after finishing a comprehensive and challenging team assignment in the program. It was a letter of appreciation to recognize the contributions of each member of the team. This part of the letter addressed the serious issues we experienced  in working together. I know this is not a unique experience for online collaboration, so I'm sharing this as part of my reflections.

I learned a lot from this course, not just about the teaching process and how to design and develop instruction. 

I learned once again how valuable it is to work as a team, another validation of learning theory that expounds that learning is social, and collaboration yields a higher level of learning. It put me in the shoes of my students, who are expected to work in teams. I appreciate the major effort made by each person on our team. There was a lot of good discussion, give and take, and lessons learned.

I learned to accept [the instructor's] constant mantra that for this class, it's the process, not the final product. In the process of working through this module, we all gave many hours discussing and working through the details and making the big decisions together. We sought to fulfill the requirements of the group work and to excel. We were able to continue working when others could not be there, and accept that life happens, and we don't have the ultimate say in that one. It was in the process that the learning occurred. This helped to put the final product in perspective. This is one of the genuine transformations I have struggled to learn in OTEC. 

So if we are not able to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate the gifts and contributions of each team member as we progress towards our goal, we've missed
the most important lesson that this learning opportunity provided for us. If anyone of us walks away feeling unappreciated, we have actually failed.

As a teacher, appreciation is one of the greatest motivators I have ever used in my locus of control. As a human, appreciation is one of the greatest motivators I have ever used in my locus of control. It is not contrived, but genuine, and is the basis for life-long connections and relationships between us. Even this morning I ran into former students who probably can't remember a thing I taught them, but greeted me with a hug and aloha after all these years - priceless.

So, thank you, mahalo, doomo arigato, faafetai lava. This was intense. I learned a lot. I appreciate all your support and work and dedication. 

See you all online!



By January, 2010, Dr. Ho assigned a two-minute introductory video for ETEC649 that is a reflection of my state of mind at that time. Feel free to add a comment if you like.

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Graduation . . .

Well you know that's just a piece of paper. What am I really graduating with?
  • better able to meet the needs of my students
  • better understanding of collaboration; better collaborator
  • smarter ;-)
  • enriched with friends and networks
  • 25 more pounds
  • the lesson for my sons that education never stops, even if my world stopped.

 Acceptance speech, 2011 Burniske ETEC Award . . .

Ok, look at me. Maybe I coulda woulda shoulda retired to work in the garden at this point in my life, but obviously, I chose to enter the OTEC program.

Of course, if you know me, you would believe me when I say I had no idea what I was really getting in to, including how much it costs to go to graduate school these days. I read an email passed on by the principal to the staff and thought, this sounds interesting, I think I can do this. When I looked at the program website, the only thing that really stopped me in my tracks was, ironically, the idea of creating an e-portfolio.

So here I came, to Wist Hall for the weekend. Met my teachers, met my 2008 cohort, met the Burniske Award winner, Craig Okumura, saw his project. I was convinced that I would never be doing something at that level. So I was surprised, shocked, really, to hear that I had been chosen to receive this award. It was the farthest thing from my mind. By that time I was in full survival mode thinking, one assignment at a time. You’re almost there; can’t stop now. The end is near.

When the conversation ended, I sat there stunned. I honestly wondered why I was chosen. So I went back to the Burniske website, which I had not revisited for three years, to see if that would shed light on this.I found a wonderful piece he wrote about running downhill, something he did as a child in the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. He said that for him “it was simple, just stay on your feet, letting your body hurl you faster than it seemed you could possibly go.” He loved it, and then reports, “It seems I have often been running downhill, going just as fast as I could, letting my arms and legs carry me faster than even I imagined that I could go.” And this disposition to run downhill led him to adventures most of us only dream of.

In another piece he goes on to speak of gathering the courage to confront one’s fears; embracing the uncertainty in life.

It must have been remarkable to be in his classes.

I began to get it.

For nearly 22 years, I cared for my incredible daughter Naomi Nahalaimalama Adams, born with a congenital heart condition, whose heart gave out while she was waiting for her second heart transplant at UCLA Medical Center in March 2007. She taught me well about the cone of uncertainty that Dr. Burniske refers to as the place of life. She was much smarter than me. She made me laugh; she made me strong; she taught me what was really important; and what was real. And that I must make every day count.

So I chose OTEC instead of gardening, I chose to take on new challenges and live life to the fullest; to make each day count. After my world stopped over and over in those years, I had internalized the reality of uncertainty and the choice to be courageous.

Our instructors told us from the beginning that it’s not about the technology, and you didn’t lie!

After teaching for over 30 years, I thought I knew something, and then I started something that took me to a place that reaffirms the importance of lifelong learning, that opened my mind to places I didn’t know existed, I ran downhill for three years, and I am a different person today. What a run! It was exciting, challenging, engaging,

It was about becoming a better teacher, about learning about the unlimited potential of technology in our classrooms that had now become the world. It was about stretching – running downhill – but not racing my peers- usually racing against time. It was about pulling together with my peers, in every single course, And the better I became at that, the better the learning was. All of the graduates here today – you taught me the most important lessons about teaching and learning – we lived them.

Don’t you find it amazing that we were really virtual strangers, who because of this program were brought together to work and learn and create, and become friends? Yet many of us have never even met in person? What does that say for the future of global relationships?

It’s not my moment, if anything, I represent what we ALL went through, and we literally went through it together, collaborating, supporting, coaxing, learning, we did this together gang, and that’s why this day belongs to ALL of us.

I am truly humbled to have been chosen to receive the Burniske Award. It seems that everyone in this department has been inspired by the life and work of Dr. Burniske, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study and grow with you. You just didn’t turn out to be the unapproachable ivory tower gods and goddesses I expected (except when I was actually in your classes, of course).

This is what you have all reaffirmed in me, the genuine feeling that it is good to be alive, that life is good.

I am so honored to share this day with you. Mahalo nui loa from the bottom of my heart. we have finished, and we may be better technologists, we may be better educators, but what really makes us special, I believe, is that we are better people.

So thank you to Dr. Burniske. It’s obvious he’s around here, as is my daughter. They are certainly in our hearts as we keep alive their legacies.

Mahalo to the Burniske family and the College of Education for providing an opportunity for us to celebrate our work. And for an opportunity to teach my sons about life.

Hohonu no ke kawa. A deep diving place indeed. A topic that requires deep thinking.