celebrate kindness

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Today is the day! 

I spent the morning gathering all my goodies as I packed my luggage for the annual International Society for Technology in Education Conference in Denver, CO. If you haven’t had an opportunity to participate in this amazing conference and you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow #iste2016 to learn the latest and greatest education practice for technology integration in and out of the classroom!

I have lots of exciting things planned for this trip. Tomorrow is National Day to Spread Summer Fun, promoted by Cathy O’Grady and Sophia’s Angels (www.facebook.com/sodiasangelsraok), so I plan to leave some jump ropes and toy cars around the city in hopes that someone might enjoy them. All 50 states will be represented in this event, leaving summer fun toys and playground equipment all across the US. Join with us and share your pictures on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #spreadsummerfun!


The official conference also begins tomorrow and I am giddy about learning from all the great presenters! Makerspaces, Breakout EDU, coding, and blogging are just a few of the topics I hope to learn more about. I’m also excited to reconnect with my PLN (personal learning network) – people I interact with through Twitter chats, but only see at conferences and state events.

I plan to leave little surprises throughout the conference, my own version of  “techy RAKs” – free compliment tags, “You’re Worth a 100 Grand” treats and, of course, a plethora of Nerds candy. I’m encouraging anyone who finds my treats to tweet a picture with the hashtag #isterak so others can share in the fun of kindness all week!

Monday will also bring joy to my soul as I visit The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation which has an office in Denver. Several years ago I became a Raktivist, committing to lead by example with kindness for others. I never imagined that I would have an opportunity to visit the foundation in person, and meet the people behind the mission, so this is like a RAK for me!

On Tuesday I will present two back-to-back Poster sessions: Bring JOY to the classroom with Passion Projects (1:15-3:15, Table 24) and Twitter Party (4:00-6:00, Table 22). My first session will showcase passions projects created by Mrs. Bambi Feighner’s first grade students (that’s right – six year olds!); my second session is a joint venture with friends, Margaret and Sam, whom I met on Twitter. Tuesday will be a stellar day for sure!

I can’t wait to see how this upcoming week unfolds. I’m sure my brain will be overflowing with new ideas and my heart full with new friends!

If you are on Twitter, I would love for you to tweet out any random acts of kindness you see, do, or receive. With 15,000 attendees all in one place, we have the opportunity to bless SO many people! Let’s get this adventure started!

 

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Recently, I found myself in a heated discussion with someone else about the role “random” plays in the phrase “random acts of kindness” (also known as a RAK or RAOK.)

“You can’t call it a RAK if it’s not random. The fact that you are pre-planning the event takes away from the novelty of it being a true random act of kindness.”

My first instinct was to fight. To argue. To defend my position on RAKs: my purpose, my mission, my style. I was caught in the whirlwind of surprise and disbelief.

And then I laughed.

Yes, it’s true, I have been known to laugh at the most inappropriate times. Humor is probably my strongest defense mechanism and I use it without thinking. What a wonderful world we live in that we can have such petty disagreements as to whether or not a RAK could be random or pre-planned!

So I bring to you my last set of RAKs from the ISTE 2015 Conference – a set of TRULY random acts of kindness that made my heart happy:

Portable Battery Charger

As many of you know, Twitter is the social media of choice for technology conferences. Even if you’re not physically able to attend the conference, you can easily glean resources and make connections using the conference hashtag. To get an idea of the power of a PLN, search the hashtags #ISTE2015, #ISTE15, #notatiste15 and #notatiste. There’s a wealth of resources right at your fingertips!

When you physically attend a conference, the worst thing that could happen is your device shutting down from low battery. I hate when this happens, so I always come prepared. While waiting for the first Ignite session, I sent out a tweet referencing my portable battery chargers (I had three in my purse, ready to go at a moment’s notice) and the power strip peeking out of my purse. Several people read my tweet and commented back, then the conversation was lost in a sea of retweets, mentions, and hashtags.

A few hours later as we made our way back to the conference center to listen to the first Keynote speaker, I saw this tweet in my newsfeed:

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Oh how funny! The tweet made me laugh, that someone actually remembered my previous comment. I tweeted out a photo of my charger case in response with the comment, “Hope you like pink!”

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Suddenly it hit me. This guy really did need a charger! Going into a Keynote session with only 23% battery life? He wouldn’t even MAKE it to the main speaker in time. It was then that the joking over Twitter transformed into a true RAK as I set out to find him, tweeting my location and searching the crowd to find his group.

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Yeah… 21,000 registered attendees and I was trying to find a guy I had never met. What were the chances?

Well, with a bit of perseverance, half a dozen tweets, and a great big dash of luck, we were able to connect and I gave him my portable charger to use. I walked away, thrilled! It was AWESOME to help someone else in their time of need, even if only for an extended battery life! I told him we had to take a selfie as proof (and no worries… we met up the next day when he not only gave me my charger back, but also gave me another I could add to my collection! A pay-it-forward RAK back!)

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The best irony of all? The person in this photo is Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey), principal of East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, IL. After I snapped the selfie with my phone, he said, “I loved your Ignite session on Random Acts of Kindness last year.” His comment left me literally speechless! Little did he know, I started following his #leydenpride hashtag shortly after last year’s ISTE Conference, blown away by his school’s commitment to sharing kindness through Twitter. What a small world!

Rain Jacket

When we arrived in Philly on Saturday night, the weather was nasty: cold, wet, rainy. The umbrella I brought was little protection from the wind and driving rain that pounded sideways against my skin. My coworker, Heather, offered up her rain jacket and I accepted with glee! What a perfectly timed, completely random RAK!

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Speaking of rain, a huge shout-out to Heather (@hcausey) and Stacie (@sctaylorITRT) who shared the driving responsibilities there and back in the midst of crazy traffic and endless rainstorms. These gals are AWESOME and you should definitely follow them on Twitter!

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Happy Birthday Flash Mob

As we were traveling to dinner one evening in the city, we spotted our dear friend, Chris O’Neal (@onealchris), who now lives states away from our district. We immediately ran up and did a “Celebrity Selfie Flash Mob” (where we quickly gathered around him and snapped a photo). As we finished, he made the comment that it was an awesome birthday present (“What? Today is your BIRTHDAY?!?!”) so we immediately serenaded him with the Happy Birthday song right there on the streets of Philly. Totally random and so much fun!

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The Liberty Bell

My oldest son is fascinated by coins. He has spent countless hours researching the images and words shown on coins and at a moment’s notice can give you a “Fun Fact of the Day” related to the history of any coin you find. When I told him I was traveling to Philadelphia, PA for the ISTE Conference, he said with amazement, “You mean where the Liberty Bell is? Did you know the half dollar has the Liberty Bell on it? And you get to see it for REAL?” To say he was excited for me to experience this little part of history was a grand understatement.

Due to the rain and our packed schedule (as well as hotel accommodations outside the city limits), it didn’t look like we would have time to visit the historical site. I tried to prep him the best I could when I called home the second day of the conference, but his disappointment was tangible, even states away.

And then… my amazing coworkers assembled one afternoon in the midst of rain storms and sun, grabbed me and said, “Let’s go!” We had no idea where we were walking; we took a turn right, then backtracked left, but eventually made it to the location of the famed symbol for independence. We made sure to take a photo to send back home to my son.

I have the best team EVER!

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May I Take Your Photo?

It may seem like such a small RAK, offering to take someone else’s photo, but what a wonderful way to help someone else capture a memory forever. I caught my coworker, Casey (@cnugentITRT), offering such kindness to a group of strangers as we were leaving a restaurant and made sure to capture the moment for my own Smile File.

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Expo Hall

One of the busiest places at the ISTE Conference is the Expo Hall. Hundreds of vendors, all vying for your attention, hoping to reel you in with the latest and greatest tool or “must have” addition to your school or district. Many times vendors come prepared to entice with freebies, small trinkets to give away to say “Thanks” or promote their business.

While I know the end result for vendors is to walk away with sales and commissions, I am repeatedly impressed by their generosity. One vendor had these cute little bee shaped figures decorating their space. When I stopped to admire one, the sales rep said I could have one. I thanked her, but declined; my three kids would fight over who got to keep the toy. She simply smiled and gave me three of them, then handed me three foam airplane kits, too. Wow! How thoughtful!

I stopped at another vendor station, enticed by their PLN buttons I had seen other people wearing. When I explained that I was doing a PD presentation focused on expanding your PLN through socia media, she reached under the table and handed me an entire bag of buttons. Not one. Not two. Not even five. AN ENTIRE BAG! I was so giddy, I could barely contain my glee!

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So much generosity. Sheets of stickers. Pointers. Keychains. If you’ve ever had a conversation with an elementary teacher, you know they are desperate for any toy or knick-knack to stock their prize box or classroom store. These trinkets were treasures indeed!

I even had Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), the amazing co-moderator of #satchat and #njed messaging me to give me a ribbon for my badge, a Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today shirt, and some travel bags. He was so kind to go out of his way to connect with me in the midst of this enormous group of people just to pass along his kindness.


As you can see from the stories above, the truly random acts of kindness are just as meaningful as the ones that are pre-planned. Many of you do these types of RAKs on a regular basis and never give a thought to just how wonderful your actions are for the receiver. For me, conferences are a fantastic venue to notice unique opportunities to bless others.

And to round out all the RAKs, I even had another gal compliment me on my favorite skirt. 🙂

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In addition to preparing Blessing Bags for the ISTE Conference, I packed some extra goodies to surprise conference presenters and attendees. There were three separate random acts of kindness, but each asked the recipients to tweet out the RAK using the hashtag #ISTERAK if they found them. The photos shared on Twitter were priceless and brought a smile to my face each day! Maybe these will give you some inspiration for easy-to-share RAKs with others!

Free Compliments

I printed a few sheets of paper titled “Free Compliments” with tear-off tabs at the bottom. Some of the compliments included sayings like “You’re Beautiful!” and “I wish I could pin you on Pinterest.” I taped the compliment sheets to the back of restroom doors, thinking they would be seen by many. Here are a few of the photos shared of this RAK:

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“You are tech savvy!”

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“You are tweet worthy”

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“I like your style!”

The biggest thrill came at the end of the conference when ISTE (@isteconnects) tweeted out a photo of my compliment sheet, all tabs taken, with this message for all their participants:

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“#ISTERAK spreading kindness at #ISTE2015. Attendees, you are all amazing!!”

Nerds

If you are looking for some “nerds”, a technology conference with 21,000 registered participants is the place to be! I left these boxes in random places inside the convention center to be discovered by whomever. Here are a few of the lucky “nerds”… how awesome that all four boxes were tweeted out!

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Here is one box I left on a seat. Below are the photos posted by others to Twitter.

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You Are Worth 100 Grand

I am a strong believer that you should compliment someone when they do something well. For this reason, I like to bring along 100 Grand chocolates with a little note saying “You are worth 100 Grand.” Here are a few people that received some sweet treats for their awesomeness:

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Right after Adam Bellow (@adambellow) and Dean Shareski’s (@shareski) session on “Hacking Keynote”, I ran up on the stage and handed them both 100 Grand. Their presentation was funny and informative with lots of opportunities for learning and sharing.

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I had so much fun touring the poster sessions, especially those where students shared their work. The Tech Ninja Squad was a technology club for 4th and 5th graders and these gals were very eager to share all the cool projects they made!

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Another poster session I loved had students sharing the projects they created with green screen technology.

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They definitely earned their rewards as they patiently walked me through each step of the process. Twice.

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I had my first “celebrity selfie” moment where their teacher (Pam Craig – @Pcraig911) looked at my name tag and said, “I follow you on Twitter!” What a fun moment – I’m not used to being on the receiving line of that statement! (And yes, I’m wearing a cape. You didn’t know I was a superhero? Ha!)

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After using my cell phone and iPad all day, it was time for me to find an outlet and charge my devices. As another random act of kindness, I carry a power strip in my purse a conferences so I can share my multiple outlets with others. It’s a great way to meet new people, too!

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One person I sat beside had THE most amazing accessory holder for all his chargers and cables. I was so impressed, I left him 100 Grand, too.

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Speaking of chargers… there were all these little lock boxes at the convention center and in Reading Terminal Market where people could charge their devices for FREE. Talk about a random act of kindness – that was AWESOME! Each box contained a key where you could lock your device and leave it. I predict we will see a LOT more of these around town – in classrooms, too!

These random acts of kindness were fun to share throughout the conference and cost me about $6 in all. If you want to see who posted what, search the hashtag #ISTERAK on Twitter!

If you’ve read my Pollyanna blog, you have some background knowledge of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference.  I was chosen as an Ignite presenter, which was such an honor, and challenged me in so many ways as a motivational speaker and educational presenter.

My presentation, only 5 minutes and 20 slides in length per Ignite specifications, focused on Blogging Random Acts of Kindness.  I wanted to share my experiences on a global platform – not only my personal contributions with doing random acts for others, but how this concept translates into the classroom with student bloggers.  (You can view my presentation here thanks to my friend, Stacie, for capturing it on her cell phone!)

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Prior to my presentation, I wanted to do a Random Act of Kindness which I felt would be a perfect way to calm my nerves and share my joy of being at this conference.  A few weeks prior, the company Atomic Learning sent me two shirts with the note below:

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I couldn’t wait to pay it forward by giving away the shirt!  But the Ignite session was shared by several presenters, so I couldn’t do a drawing… and tossing it out to the audience didn’t seem like an appropriate choice either. I finally decided to put the shirt in a brown bag along with a 100 Grand candy bar that included notes like “I think you are worth 100 Grand” and “You are Tweet Worthy”.  I also included a handwritten note for the recipient to tweet out the RAK using the hashtag #ISTE2014RAK and to pass the shirt along to someone else if it didn’t fit.  When we arrived in the Murphy Ballroom, at the Georgia World Conference Center, I asked my friend, Heather, to put the bag on someone’s chair somewhere in the middle of the room.

Many times when I do a random act of kindness, I don’t have the privilege of seeing the reaction live.  I often wonder, “What did they think when they got my surprise?  Did they smile?  Did they laugh?  Did it brighten their day?”  Today, however, I got to experience the reaction with full gusto!

About 5 minutes before the Ignite Round 2 session began, I saw my friend Heather approaching my chair.  “Ummm… I think someone discovered your random act of kindness!”  There was a sense of excitement and awe in her voice, and I turned to see what she was pointing at.  Sure enough, there was a lady standing up in the center of the room exclaiming her joy in my RAK!  Oh my goodness, what an amazing feeling to know that someone was experiencing such joy because of something I did!  WOW!

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Without even thinking, I got out of my chair and approached the woman and introduced myself.  “YOU did this?  How wonderful!  I love it!”  We laughed, hugged, and even had someone take our picture together.  It was an AMAZING way to begin the Ignite session and, quite frankly, I forgot about the fear and nervousness that had inched its way into my brain that morning.

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I returned to my seat with barely a few moments to spare, and as I was reviewing my notecards one last time, I heard a polite, “Excuse me…” and looked up to see a different woman kneeling in front of me.  “I was sitting behind the gal who got your random act of kindness… My name is Susan Williams and I’m with Atomic Learning…”  Wait… what??  You’re with the same company who actually sent me the shirt to give away in my session?  And you ended up sitting directly behind the gal who received the RAK? What are the chances of THAT happening?!

The gal sitting beside me captured this moment. :)

This moment was captured by the gal sitting beside me. 🙂

My Ignite presentation went well, I remembered all my speaking points and ended right on time.  It was an exhilarating moment to be on stage, facing so many people, sharing my experiences with random acts of kindness.  In fact, when I got to the part at the end of my speech where I said, “Maybe even you’ve experienced a random act of kindness at ISTE” the crowd erupted in applause! WOW!

As I stated in my presentation, I truly believe there is good in this world.  I am so blessed to be living in such a connected, digital age where I can share my stories with others and inspire more good to be done.  YOU are a blessing to me as well.  Knowing you are reading my blog holds me accountable for not only working to perfect my writing skills, but to find fun, creative, and easy ways to bless others.

“Imagine how much good we could put back into this world if we all committed to doing just

one random act of kindness a week.”

Be inspired!  Share your stories with others!  You will be surprised how good it makes YOU feel to share in kindness.  And maybe, just maybe, in all your days of doing RAKs… you might just get RAK’d back.  🙂

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POSTSCRIPT:  The gal who received my RAK in the session did pay it forward by leaving the bag for someone else.  How did I find out about it?  On Twitter, of course!  The new recipient tweeted this pic which only added to my joy!  🙂

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One of the favorite parts of my job as an instructional technologist is presenting at conferences. I love sharing my enthusiasm with others! Today I presented a session on Edmodo (a social networking platform for administrators, teachers, and students) at the annual Virginia Society for Technology in Education conference. The session was packed, standing room only, and the hour flew by.

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After presenting, I was allowed to return to participant mode. Since this conference is one of the only conferences my teammates and I attend to receive our own professional development, I was excited to learn new things from other educators and technologists. I made it into the next room and got settled just in time for the presentation to begin.

Not even five minutes into the session, I could tell there would be issues. Apparently this particular room was the infamous black hole for wireless Internet and it seemed everyone was having difficulty accessing the resources due to this limitation. Most people handle this setback in stride (even if slightly irritated on the inside), but in this particular session there was one gal whose frustration had reached a boiling point. You could see her from a distance, huffing and puffing, making not-so-quiet comments under her breath… and with each passing minute her anger was rising to a crescendo.

While I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do about the wireless issue, I still felt obligated to do something (anything!). The other participants sitting near her were visibly disturbed by her erratic outbursts and I did not want the actions of this one gal to negatively impact those nearby (or the session presenter!)

There was an empty chair beside the disgruntled lady, so I took it upon myself to sit there and become her very own sounding board. I quietly packed up my belongings and moved to the seat beside her. “Is there anything I can help you with?” I whispered as quietly as I could so as not to disturb those around me. Well, that intro question was all she needed to rant and rave about allllllll the issues in her life. Keeping our voices to a minimum, I listened to her problems, then nodded my head consolingly as she described her frustrations. By the time this session was over, the lady was smiling as she thanked me for listening. She even apologized for being so irritated at the beginning. Realizing I had just sacrificed an entire hour of my own learning time, I just laughed and replied, “We’ve all been there. It’s OK.”

I really think she just wanted to be heard. Because having someone take the time to listen validates your world. 🙂

After the conference, I decided to surprise my best friend (whom I hadn’t seen in 5 months!). I took her out for a quick dinner at a local Chinese restaurant and a Starbucks for dessert, all the while listening to her frustrations of the day. By the end of our visit, she was all smiles, too, as she thanked me for being a friend to listen to her struggles.

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It was then that I opened my fortune cookie from the dinner.

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Wow! What a fitting fortune! It made me smile knowing that my little acts of kindness today may not have been sweeping grand gestures, but were still important because they came from the heart.

I hope you will find a way to bless someone today, even if it is only to stop and lend a listening ear. We are all in this together, so the more we take time to look after one another, the happier a place it will be!

Be blessed my friends!


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