Shifting My Thinking from ‘IF’ to ‘WHEN’

“Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

It’s always been important for me to plan ahead. In my personal life, I’ve steadily organized details for family trips, scheduled appointments in advance, managed finances to save for extra expenses and worked out logistics for my children’s sports. In my work with educational technology, it’s quite challenging to plan ahead when the next trend or tool is unknown or newly designed. Over the years, I’ve searched for reliable sources for information about trends and developments. One such resource has been the Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium (NMC). These annual reports identify trends in one year, two year and five year increments. They identify challenges and developments in educational technology that will or may impact the life of teachers and learners.

When the opportunity was presented for me to attend the New Media Consortium Summer Conference, through the generosity of board member A. Michael Berman, and engage in face-to-face conversations with fellow Virtually Connecting participant Autumm Caines, my organizational planning kicked in. My thinking shifted from if I ever get to meet Autumm to when I get to meet Autumm. This was an exciting shift – full or possibility and potential. No longer just a wish or a dream, this shift required action and planning.IMG_1157 copy

This shift extended into the potential of meeting other people in the ed tech field, presenters listed in the New Media Consortium Conference program. I read and reread the conference booklet, planned and re-planned ~ if I would envision futures with Bryan Alexander, if I could talk about the SAMR model with Ruben Puentadura, if I could learn about virtual reality from Maya Georgieva and Emory Craig. My wishful thinking and dreaming of future events didn’t require any action, until …… Virtually Connecting shifted my thinking.

IMG_1152 copySuddenly things moved from if to when. Planning and action was required. Emails, tweets, schedules, contacts and technical details were organized through the Virtually Connecting Slack channel, with a community of support. I found myself in the midst of the excitement. My thinking adapted and shifted to when I meet these thought leaders and people who are shaping change in ed tech, what will I say, do, or need to know. I realized there was some serious learning I needed to do in order to understand and be understood. There were details that needed to be worked out. I needed to prepare myself in order to better adapt to the potential changes and challenges that would occur when I reached the moment of meeting and connecting in the conference setting. Lots of unknowns will occur, but that’s expected. These unforeseen glitches are part of living and learning in current ed tech contexts.

I couldn’t help but draw connections from my own experiences to the Horizon Report that the New Media Consortium distributes to K-12, Higher Education, Libraries, Museums and various global contexts. These reports are framed as potential possibilities and require a shift in thinking from IF to WHEN. As an educator of a future generation I can no longer think in terms of if certain tech trends and developments, such as augmented and virtual reality, will be part of my student’s world or if digital literacy should be incorporated into teaching. As an educator I need to be aware of what’s on the horizon and I need others to look to that horizon with me. It’s going to take a collective, community effort to plan, organize and prepare for the potentials of new trends in technology. When robotics is part of the everyday educational learning landscape, what will I say, do or need to know? What serious learning will I need in order to understand and be understood? What details will need to be worked out and who will work with me?

While at the conference, it was energizing to realize that I was not alone in this quest to shift from IF to WHEN. The NMC Town Hall meeting was an effort to collectively plan and envision future directions for the NMC organization. The sessions relating to the Horizon Report allowed for conversations about when new trends and developments will be realized in education. One session shared the newly released digital version of the NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition shifting thinking from if there is an interactive, digital version of the report to when there is an app for that. Many conversations revealed how planning and collaboration can support the shift to WHEN. Videos of keynotes from the conference can inform your own shift in thinking. Bryan Alexander’s closing keynote is particularly informative in shifting thinking away from IF and into the realm of WHEN.

My shift in thinking after attending the NMC Summer Conference is shaped by my experiences, the people, the conversations and the events. I no longer think in if’s.

  • Not if but when I share space and time with Autumm, it’ll feel like we are lifetime friends.
  • When sharing conference experiences through Virtually Connecting hangouts, I am sure to enjoy conversations and ideas that would not have otherwise happened.
  • When I share my voice in digital spaces, interesting connections occur (thanks Aras for capturing these in time and space).

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  • Not if but when I share the experience of eating candied bacon with Bryan Alexander, the flavors, like the ideas, will burst forth.
  • Not if but when I share a car ride with Ruben Puentadura, getting to the reception for the conference, I can enjoy the journey because it’s sure to venture onto paths untraveled, no GPS required.
  • When I share laughter and a story over an IOU written on a playing card with Joe Lambert, I am sure to get more than a story to tell.
  • When I share an Ethiopian meal with Maya Georgieva and Emory Craig, it’s going to lead to discussions about more than alternate realities in real or digital spaces.
  • When I venture to try virtual reality at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I will experience new places and meet interesting people.
  • When I have to quickly leave the NMC conference due to a sudden death in my family, I can be sure of a warm hug from A. Michael Berman and Crista Copp at the door and that people in my real and virtual communities will share my sadness and care about me.

Life and thinking will continue to shift from IF to WHEN – that’s reality. No virtual or digital involved. It’s not a matter of if….. it’s a matter of when. As I’ve learned from my NMC and recent family events, it’s important to take time to think about it, plan for it and be ready for the shifts, so they don’t take you totally by surprise.

How would your thinking shift when you move from if to when? How will changes and life events, both real and virtual, potentially impact that shift?

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4 Responses to Shifting My Thinking from ‘IF’ to ‘WHEN’

  1. Rebecca says:

    I used to be the person who did the planning. I was the one who figured out where we would be when. I totally understand that trait – I used to share it. But now I do focus more on making the things that I want to happen happen… the meeting of people that I want to meet. Perhaps it will be NMC in Boston next year that our physicals paths cross … or maybe sooner … I’m hatching a plan now to get to OpenEd … we’ll see if I can pull that one off. It is so cool to see two buddies get together and share physical space … I love it when virtually connecting brings people together both physically but also virtually.

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Thanks Rebecca. I am open to the possibility of ‘when’ we can meet in physical time and space. In the meantime, it’s great to know we share thoughts, ideas and collaborations in digital locations. When these happen, they are memorable and magical. My memories of editing together make me smile! 🙂

  2. autumm says:

    I’m so grateful that we got to share this experience together Helen. I just love this post – I agree Virtually Connecting also helped me to shift my thinking from if to when. You have articulated this really beautifully here. Thank you for everything.

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