Sunday, March 27, 2016

What my Ski Accident Made Me Learn about Ed Tech

It is the last day of spring break, and I hobble around on crutches. Our family travelled to our favorite spring skiing spot in Park City Utah where we had a fantastic time, and where I had a skiing accident.
I was skiing down the slope on the last run of the day. My skis got caught, and suddenly I found myself on the ground facing the wrong way with one string of thought flooding my brain: "pain, knee, stupid." Someone came to my aid (thank you whoever you are) undid my skis and called for help. Ski patrol took me down the mountain, and an enthusiastic intern at the clinic informed me that I had an MCL injury.
Having gone through this delightful experience has been an opportunity to think about what I can learn from the accident beyond being more careful when I ski. So, here are some of the lessons I came up with that are relevant to my daily life.

1. The affordances of technology. The first two items I got from the clinic were crutches and a knee brace. The crutches are ancient technology, effective and crude. The knee brace, though, is fantastic. The treatment for my torn MCL in the past would have been a cast for an extended amount of time. It being my right knee it would have prevented driving and exercising for a prolonged period. Instead, this knee brace is hinged, flexible and removable, allowing me to function more normally and start walking within days instead of weeks. We sometimes focus on the downsides of technology and the burdens it adds that we forget the joyful affordances it introduces into our lives.

2. The power of partnership. I was on the slope on my own. There were other skiers around but none that were with me. My dad (78 and till skis better than me) lamented that had he been there this would not have happened. After joking about the way we parent at any age, I started thinking that he was right. Having a partner that helps you have a perspective on the path if he is in front of you, on speed if he is by you, or the responsibility of leading, if he is behind, would have probably caused me to slow down and be more aware of my environment. The parallel to innovating with technology is evident. When we innovate with colleagues, we can prevent burnout (or ski accidents) by working with others. That someone else has to be on the slope with us to help us pace, consider our surroundings, signal when to slow down and rest and help us when we fall. Without this kind of collaboration may be doomed to refuse to put on skis ever again.

3A. Fear is good. A healthy amount of apprehension is good. It keeps us from making catastrophic mistakes. Yes, I fell and got hurt, but I up and about and will be able to do most things within a few weeks. Fear kept me from going much faster and kept me focused on the path.

3B. Fear is bad. I cannot let my recent experience dictate that I will never ski again. I will do so cautiously, but I will certainly try. It is common to fail the first few times we use new technology in teaching. These failures increase apprehension in many practitioners; we must make sure that it does not paralyze us from trying again. As teachers, if we model giving up, how can we foster a "try, try again" attitude in our students.
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