Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vacation Inspiration for a Blended Learning Environment

A family road trip from Michigan to Maine reminds me that as much as technology is an important tool, human connections and communications still can be the most effective tool to trust!
                My family spent 9 days traveling in our minivan from Michigan to New England a couple weeks ago.  We ventured out with only one set plan…to be in Hopkinton, MA by dinner on Thursday, as that was our final destination to celebrate our friend’s 40th birthday!  Prior to departing, I had spent time online trying to get an idea what was available, as far as tourist destinations.  I also stopped at my local AAA office to get the Tour Books, as I still love the have hard copies to refer to.  In addition to the Tour Books, they also gave me some maps.  In addition, I created an Evernote page that housed the links to the Google Maps I created, the webpages of tourist destination sites, and any other notes that I thought would come in handy.  I did enjoy having all of the information saved on one page, and I do think I will create other Evernote pages for future vacations, as it was easy to access on any of my devices! 

                Our first night was spent in Hornell, NY, as a quick overnighter off the highway.  At this point we were still not sure where we were headed.  As we drove that day, I looked ahead at possible routes, on the map. (The real map…I am still a visual learner that likes to see the big picture instead of scrolling around a small screen.)  I found Lake Winnepausaukee, New Hampshire as a possible next stop.  We figured out that we could get for dinner, and I actually thought we would be able to enjoy a morning and lunch near the lake before traveling again.  Once we settled on the destination, it was time to bring out the technology devices to find a hotel. We settled on Fireside Inn and Suites in Gilford, NH.  As we drove through the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, I enjoyed driving through small towns with a long history (many settled in the 1700’s) and enjoying the picturesque views of the White Mountains.   Although I had the route on my iPad and phone, we got a bit jumbled up close to the hotel and needed to refer to the hard copy map.  We checked into the hotel and got a great recommendation for dinner by the front desk attendant.  We went to a pub that had Live Trivia, something I had never been exposed to.  Essentially a DJ runs the questions and teams compete. When the host handed out trivia pages, I assumed everyone would get out their smartphones, but as I looked around, people were truly engaging in conversations about the answers to the questions.  I was so proud of the honor system that night, and reminded about Daniel Pink's book Drive, as people love to challenge themselves and are motivated to showcase their intellectual side.  
                When I asked my kids, ages 5 and 7, what they wanted to do on the vacation, my son said he wanted to go to an amusement park, and my daughter said that she wanted to go to a water park.  I found a place that had both in Saco, ME…Funtown Splashtown USA  Prior to heading into the park, we stopped at a small diner.  While we were finishing our meals we got into a conversation with some local folks about good beaches to travel to.  They suggested that we go to Wells Beach, ME.  I had through we would be going to Old Orchard Beach, as that looked like a great place to stop with kids, however, that was not even on their list.  Before entering the park, I went on a Googling adventure to check out Wells Beach and found a hotel…The Lafayette Beach Resort which was right on the Atlantic Ocean!  It was a wonderful resort that had dated charm in a great location!  Again, we looked to the front desk to recommend a nice place to eat with kids…and we were pointed in the right direction! 

                We settled on Mainiax restaurant and were seated close to a grandmother, father, and son that were enjoying a fresh lobster meal.  I was eager to get a lobster, yet unsure of how to really break it open and enjoy it the correct.  I was thankful for the family sitting close to us, as I was coached along the way by veteran lobster consumers!  The coaching led into conversations.  The father was a secondary teacher, and the grandmother was married to a retired teacher.  So we chatted about schools, but then we also chatted about what there was to do around town.  We had to go to the Scoop Deck to get ice cream, as they had 72 different flavors to choose from,  and we were told about a putt putt golf center that would be perfect for our kids. 

         The following day I had a Google Hang Out with the Brighton Area Schools Technology Committee and Dr. Yong Zhao.  Although the hotel had wifi, it timed out every 20 minutes, so I was thankful that my phone and the Foxfi app worked and allowed me to connect the entire time!  (Blog post coming soon about this topic!)  While I was on the video chat, my husband took my kids to breakfast and to the ocean.  After that, we went on a journey to check out the putt putt and ice cream.  We were thrilled to know that there was a public trolley system that ran through several coastal towns.  For $3 you could ride unlimited all day…and kids were free!  We were able to take the trolley everywhere that day…putt putt, ice cream, and dinner.  It was lovely to be in the open air trolley and get a better picture of the area around Wells Beach.  

          The next morning I woke up early, so I took the book I have been reading, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Yong Zhao, to the lobby.  I did read a few of the pages, but then I got into a conversation with 2 men from the front desk.  I inquired where we should head for on our way to Hopkinton.  I had researched it the night before and found Gloucester, MA and Salem, MA as potential day trips with a boat tour.  I thought the kids would love to see Salem, but I also saw reviews that the witch museum was a bit scary through the dungeons.  When I asked the men, they said I should go to either Kennebunkport or Ogunquit, which were the towns on either side of Wells. They also told me about the Finestkind, a boat that leaves out of Perkins Cove.  Since all of the advice we had received had worked out best for us, we decided to continue to trust the locals, and we headed to Perkins Cove.

                I used twitter to get a feel of what was happening at Perkins Cove and saw great photos of people that were already there.  While I was at it, I checked into other local tweets.  There were a few from Carson Kressly, who was in town for a musical, as well as tweets about people seeing that the Bush’s were in town.  I love using twitter to get another real feel for what is happening in towns, yet that was the first I had used it for that purpose on the trip.  We enjoyed a wonderful and affordable lobstering adventure on the Finestkind. 

 I wore my edmodo t-shirt from ISTE that reads, “I’m a Teacher,” which is a neat shirt to wear in public spaces.  Upon boarding the boat, a man said, “Good for you, Mam.”  I later talked with him to find out he was a retired professor from a local college.  Captain Tom also mentioned he was a teacher when my son wanted to get a closer look at the lobster when the trip was over.  Captain Tom teaches high school, and he suggested that I take my kids on the lobstering boat when I do the crayfish unit for my third graders.  I told him that I lived in Michigan, so unless the boat had wifi, I would have to pass.  He was intrigued and actually pondered the idea.  He said that we just may be able to work something out, as he always tries to teach his high schoolers that it is important to reach out and help others outside of the classroom.  I left the boat with a great smile in the random connections and possibilities that come about through conversations!  I look forward to connecting his students with mine at some point during this school year for a virtual lobstering experience. 

Therefore, throughout the entire trip, I was actively using my devices to help plot our points on our New England Adventure, but the connections and conversations with the people we met along the way were the true guideposts on our journey.  Like it is said over and over again, technology will never replace the power of human connections.  Both are needed to get the fullest potential out of life! So, I encourage you to take a random road trip and see where the road takes you!  It was an awesome journey, and a great way to end my summer vacation! In addition, I encourage you to remember this in your learning environment.  Technology is an awesome tool, but so is your voice, your eye contact, your wisdom, and your heart!  Make sure to create a blend in your classroom each day! 

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big traveler myself & have done a road trip from Alabama to Canada & back down the east coast. Any time I travel, I treasure my SmartPhone as well because you can find so many things that you need instantly. However, some of the best experiences come from meeting new people and taking their suggestions about local entertainment. I love this story and how you related it to your classroom. I am an 8th grade computer tech teacher. I believe a relationship built with the student is just as important as teaching them technology. I have worn my edmodo shirt in public too, and I get some many comments & questions! :) How fun. Just wanting to say thanks for writing!