Several “life mottos” constantly roll around in my head, but this one is my favorite: Life begins at the End of your Comfort Zone.  My trainer started repeating it to me 18 months ago.  She explained that when things feel easy, when goals are reached, when you stop sweating so much, then its time for a new challenge. Time to take it up a notch, get outside what feels good, and try something that you never thought possible.  I am a goal-oriented person. I started running three years ago, and set my sights on a 5K. Since then I’ve shaved 22 minutes off my half-marathon time, started training for a sprint triathlon and another Half in the spring. I started doing “boy” push-ups, squats, and sprints. I enjoy pushing myself to the limit, and then a little beyond.

When my 8-year old daughter suggested I try one of the Adult Ballet Classes at her Ballet School, I laughed. A leotard? No way. Truth-be-told, it wasn’t the dress code that bothered me, I was intimidated. The school is full of retired dancers and “real” athletes. What if the instructor told me I was in over my head? What if I couldn’t keep up with the class?

Tuesday night found me registering for said Ballet class – gleeful child by my side. As she went off to her class, I overheard her say “My mom’s taking ballet! Isn’t that cool?” My back-patting was brief -it was time to step into the studio. Eight women – all tall, graceful, and athletic were stretching out. Not everyone had on a leotard, but most. Ugh. I resisted the strong urge to walk out, but I stayed. Wednesday morning I could barely move, but I still got up to train.  I had used muscles in my body that I didn’t know I had. I was the shortest, and by far the sweatiest, person in the class. But I did it. Now I have a new set of goals to drive me.

Some people find their comfort zone at work. A few years ago my mother was transferred to a department that was almost completely paperless. She was given a computer with 3 monitors, an email account, and a hands-free phone. At 65 she felt much like a cat that had been handed a Rubix Cube and commanded to “Solve it.” My cat would probably hiss, bat the cube with its paw, and walk away. With fear and anxiety though, my brave mother slowly learned to send emails, file electronic reports, and send digital voice messages. She even purchased her own computer, a digital camera, and regularly has video chats with my kids. This is the same woman who called me a few years back looking for the Food Network’s website address, stopping me to slowly write out “w…w…w…dot, what again? And then do I hit return?”

My children are digital learners and have been their whole lives. They play Wii, games on the iPhone, iPad, and fight over who gets to use the computer next. My oldest likes to use Keynote to create newsletters. Her sister uses Rosetta Stone to practice speaking Spanish. My youngest, who is 5, recently solved an iSpy mystery on the computer that his 8-year old sisters couldn’t do. All 3 are expected to complete web-quests in school, and my daughters are expected to research a social studies project online. They make movies, they create music, they love seeing themselves on camera…..and this is how they learn. This is how their teachers reach them, inspire them, motivate them.

This summer, our Dataseam Instructors trained 544 Kentucky educators in the Digital Learning (DGL) Classes. 136 educators went beyond DGL to a 3-day iLife ’11 Workshop. That’s 680 opportunities for teachers to get outside their comfort zones. Some of these teachers have never had a computer in their rooms. Some only use them for email. Some couldn’t turn them on.

Technology in today’s classroom is a given. Teachers may be reluctant to explore something they know nothing about, may feel that it is a distraction from traditional and comfortable teaching methods. The world of technology is waiting to be explored, discovered, and shared with your students.

I challenge you to get outside your comfort zone. Do those difficult things, ask others for help, set up some time with your district’s technology department and have them help you. Explore our site for inspiration.

Take a look at some of the teacher websites created last year. Educators from all subjects and grades created websites loaded with classroom tools that you can use with your students. Read some of the blog entries from last year, there are helpful suggestions, and links to fascinating stories about technology in the classroom. Get on the Dataseam Studio and see videos created by teachers and students from all over the state. When you attended your DGL or iLife Class, whether mandatory or not, you took a step outside that comfort zone. Now jump, see what’s out there. Let us know what you find Robe De Mariée

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Blog. Create podcasts. Design projects and assignments that can only be completed on the computer. Run that race. Put on that leotard and plié like a fool in front of the experienced dancers. You have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Details are as follows

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