This week Brett talks to Tara Martin, an educator, admin, coach, speaker, author, and founder of BookSnaps. Tara explains what being “R.E.A.L.” means and how to be REAL while using technology during remote learning. She wrote a book called “Cannonball In,” about her philosophy in life.
Listen to Episode 18:
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Don’t have time to listen to the episode? Here’s a peek at what’s inside…
Tara Martin’s Career in K-12 Education
Tara Martin began her K-12 education career as an elementary classroom teacher, moved to an instructional coaching role, and then moved to a district-level instructional coach role in which 24 elementary schools were supported.
From there, she became a mentor for novice tech coaches who mentored novice teachers, mentoring them with instruction as well as how to use technology in their classrooms. In that role, she was heavily involved in building their instructional coaching program from the ground up and used her previous eye-opening experiences to shape this program to best serve both their teachers and their students.
Currently, Tara Martin works for Dave Burgess Consulting as a mentor and works with both novice and experienced authors to help them through the fears and anxieties that are inevitable when authors are about to launch their first manifesto or book. She supports them in laying the groundwork for promoting and sharing their book with the world, and ultimately create a community around their books.
Thinking of PLNs as extended family
Tara Martin shared that she thinks of her PLN as an extended family, often referring to it as her PLF (Professional Learning Family). About 4 years ago, she didn’t really know that there was an opportunity to engage with PLNs who were all over the world, but after attending a conference she discovered the power of social media to creating PLNs.
After joining “The Twitter” (as Tara calls it), she joined Twitter chats, gained followers, friends, and was overwhelmed with how much information she could consume on the platform. She observed that people were raw, asked tons of questions, answered questions, and shared both their downfalls and their successes. To Tara, her new PLN (of PLF) felt like an extension of her colleagues – but from all over the world. She now had a group of people outside of her immediate world who could shed light on new things and ultimately make the lives of those around them (students, teachers, etc.) better.
#BookSnaps, Cannonballing, and being R.E.A.L.
If you are familiar with Tara Martin’s work, then these three topics probably all sound pretty familiar. Tara Martin has done a lot of work writing books, creating resources, and delivering keynote sessions for the K-12 education space. Through this work, she has established a strong foundation of themes that drive her professional development offerings.
Three of her most prominent pieces of work are #BookSnaps, Cannonballing In, and the R.E.A.L. framework. More information on these topics can be found on Tara’s website, but we will provide a brief outline as they were talked about in this podcast episode.
After Tara joined Twitter, she gained exposure to social media and became aware that students were increasingly using social media, and specifically observed the obsession with the app Snapchat via her son. She realized that as an admin her role was to help teachers take things that their students love and bring it into the classroom to bridge the gap and make learning more engaging for students. So her new goal was to bring Snapchat into her middle school classrooms in a productive manner.
The idea of #BookSnaps first came to her when she was reading Teach Like a Pirate and making little sketches on the side of pages to help bring her visualizations to life. This immediately prompted her to think of doing the same thing with students, but instead of writing on the book, using Snapchat to annotate their thoughts. She would have students take a snap of their page and use Bitmojis, emojis, and the text feature to illustrate and annotate what they were visualizing.
Tara shared her first #BookSnap on Twitter and it immediately gained traction. Now #BookSnaps is used in 16 languages across 18 countries.
The concept of Cannonballing In is from Tara Martin’s Book Cannonball In and is based on a story from her childhood. This story captures building the courage and confidence to take a risk and do something new, regardless of what others say to criticize you.
In this story, the protagonist cannonballs into a pool and receives criticism from “dabblers” on the sidelines. Tara uses this story as a metaphor to drive the point that in education we need to reach out to those who are cannonballing in by excelling in their field and learn how from them so that we can grow and cannonball in in our own schools and districts. It’s all about taking risks and being innovative. Tara explains that we can take feedback from “dabblers,” but we can’t let them stifle us and send us back to the shallow end.
The R.E.A.L. framework is something that drives everything that Tara talks about. At its core, R.E.A.L. is an acronym. R = relatable, E = expose vulnerability, A = approachable, L = learning through life. Tara believes that everyone needs to express these four qualities and empower those in their realm of influence to be R.E.A.L. themselves, in order to be effective in all aspects of life.
In a world that is constantly changing due to technology, and an industry that relies heavily on both human interactions supported by technology, Tara believes that AI will never replace the R.E.A.L. qualities that humans have. Being R.E.A.L. is, in a sense, job security, and our ultimate mission. By being R.E.A.L. we can empower people to embrace their identities and tap into their own strengths.