Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Google Innovator Ride

I am sitting at the airport waiting for the flight that will take me to Toronto to the Google Innovator Academy. It is hard to believe that just one month ago I was biting my nails and wondering whether I would be accepted. Some people from past cohorts have said that becoming a Google Certified Innovator is the ride of your life. That picture fits my journey so far.

The first part of getting on a ride is to stand next to the marker that lets you know if you are tall enough. Like a kid who can't wait to grow, I have been applying to academies since 2012. Before 2015, they were called the Google Teacher Academy. The application process is rigorous and involves the creation of a video as well as some reflection pieces. I put together an application for the Mountainview academy in 2012, and application for Atlanta or Mountainveiw (one application for two cohorts) in 2014, and an application for the Texas cohort in 2014 as well. some of these applications were completed quickly at the deadline, others were the result of some significant thought and effort. None were accepted. I wasn't tall enough for the ride....yet!

The yet is important, I wasn't giving up. I spent time becoming a Google for Education Trainer in the hopes that this would help. I have no idea whether it does, but it was certainly a great learning process. I watched and waiting for the new Google Innovator Academy model. I completed my Level 1 and Level 2 Educator certificates in the summer of 2015. By the time the application for the first cohort came around in December, I was ready! I spent weeks trying to get everything just right. I was sure that I had it this time, only to find out in January that I still didn't make the cut. By May, I had decided that I would just keep applying forever if I needed to, until they had to accept me. My project proposal for that application was the best yet. The day of the announcements, I was able to spend with Sandra Chow, a Google Innovator whom I admire. I thought it was a great omen. When I finally heard that I still had some growing to do, I was pretty crushed. I think this was the first time I cried at being refused. I was so frustrated at having given it my all and having no idea which piece needed improvement anymore. 

But, if we are willing, we can keep growing, even in adulthood. This summer, I put together yet another application (number 6 for those keeping count - the 7th academy I was applying to), this time for Toronto.  Surely in my home country I stood a chance of being accepted. I listened to the advice from other Innovators in a Google Hangout. I showed pieces to colleagues and asked for feedback and advice. I also made an effort to change the style of video to something very different than what I had done previously and to draw connections between the various reflection pieces. I don't know if my project idea was judged to be more innovative, or whether it was one of these other changes, but this one was accepted! Finally, I would be allowed to ride the ride

Looking back over my applications (and yes, I've kept many of them), I can see the growth in my thinking over time. It is the documenting of this growth, like marking a child's growth on the door frame, that has caused me to leave all the videos from all my applications on my YouTube channel. We don't erase the marks from last year because a child is taller, and the child is not embarrassed by having been smaller. So to with my videos.

So, at the beginning of September, I got in line with the other members of my cohort. Like a really great ride, though we can see glimpses from the line, it is mostly hidden from sight as we wait. Have you ever been on a really great ride with a line filled with stuff to look at, things to think about, and even activities that get you chatting with the people waiting around you? That's what the past month has been like. We have connected together as a cohort and also as a team in solving a Breakout activity together.  We have given each other feedback on our projects, laughed and joked together, and even made T-Shirts!

Finally, today, we reach the front of the line. It is our turn to ride. In about an hour, I will board the ride and buckle up. I believe that the best ride experience is when you go all in. It doesn't matter much where you sit, but you need to give yourself over to the ride and experience it fully. So here is me, letting go and holding my hands way up in the air, getting ready for the ride.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Eating Humble Pie

While nobody looks forward to admitting they were wrong, there are times when eating a steaming dish of humble pie can be good for personal growth.

Over the past 2 weeks, I have been in a frustrating situation. I have been in a school, ready to work with teachers and students to get them up and running with iPads, Chromebooks, and GAFE tools from the start of the year. A series of events has delayed the deployment of the devices. Instead of working with students to learn new tools and with teachers to improve the pedagogy of their technology integration, I have spent the last several days entering data into a spreadsheet and checking which students are entitled to receive their devices.

Yesterday, in a cloud of frustration, I lashed out and snapped at one of the individuals making decisions about the deployment. It was unprofessional, and I know better. The deployment is the school's show, they get to drive the bus. Whatever I think of the driving decisions, my job is to ride along, not to be a backseat driver.

The incident left me tied in knots inside. I was still frustrated with the situation and decisions being made, but I was also frustrated with myself for losing my temper. I even skipped lunch because I was afraid that if I went to get it in the staff room, I might say something to someone about the incident and regret it later.  That evening, a colleague listened until I could explain my jumbled thinking and feelings a little more coherently. I am very appreciative of the fact that, not only was she willing to listen, but when I might not have bothered to talk, she prompted me to do it. I still was not sure how to move forward, but at least I wasn't spinning in circles inside my head. 

Finally, I was able to email my boss, explain my frustration, and own the fact that I snapped when I should not have.  We were able to arrange to meet this morning.  In a very short time, she was able to validate my feelings of frustration, remind me of the important aspects of what I am doing that need to be preserved, and point out that I had already owned my actions in my email, but that I needed to have a conversation with the individual in question. I will remember her advice for future incidents (yes, they will certainly happen...): Do it at the end of the day, that way you can cry in the car on the way home if you need to.

Still frustrated, but recognizing the wisdom of having the conversation before things festered, I set up the meeting. I thought about the things I wanted to say and set them aside. I started again with the things I needed to say and how I would say them to be sure they would come across as intended. When I am frustrated, things don't always sound the same out loud as they do in my head - planning is important. 

I went to the meeting and apologized. I admitted that I was wrong and that I needed to go along with the school's decisions. The individual nodded, re-explained the reasons why the decisions were right, and suggested that deployment can never happen sooner or faster in a school this size. I still cannot see the logic behind the reasons, but I remind myself that the intent is to address the needs of the students. I still believe we can do better, but stuck to planting a few seeds for next year.

In the end, I know that I learned about myself in frustration and have had time to consider better reactions in the future. I know that I apologized, even though it was barely acknowledged. I hope that I was able to preserve the relationship with the individual because I am learning how important good relationships are. And very importantly, I know that I am well surrounded by terrific people who are supportive and encouraging and who help me to see the right path, even when it is difficult.

The car ride home?  Well, let's just say that I'm glad it was over an hour so I had plenty of time to reflect. 

There are times when being professional means taking a big bite of that humble pie and smiling through it as thought it is your favourite dish in the world. While you won't exactly enjoy doing it, there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from knowing that you didn't shy away from your portion and, perhaps, you grew a little as a person.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My EdCamp Global Experience

When I explained EdCamp Global to some colleagues in June and invited them to join me, they looked at me as though I was crazy.
It wasn't in my mind, a couple even told me they thought I was crazy! Staying up for 24 hours to do online sessions? Not one of them wanted to join me.

Well, it was most definitely their loss! Here is some of the learning I have done over the past 24 hours.

I joined a Voxer chat about the importance of finding your people. The conversation was meaningful and, best of all, I added several new people to my PLN. Have you tried Voxer? It is such a nice way to have a conversation that is synchronous, but that keeps going into the asynchronous once time runs out. You can leave a voice message, so the conversation feels very personal, but you can share taxt and images too to convey what isn't easy out loud. I highly recommend that you check out Voxer.

The first challenge that participants completed was to each make a slide to introduce themselves in a shared Google Slides deck. I was asked to use the slides to create a collaborative EdCamp Global 2016 movie, something I have done for previous events. Here is the result:

I participated in more challenges and listened to more sessions, all the while connecting with fantastic educators from all over the US and Canada. I confess that I did not stay up all night, but I did stay up until 3:30 and start again at 7:00. Being tired, but motivated to keep up the intensive learning is part of the EdCamp Global fun.

One of my main goals during this event was to being broadcasting on Periscope.  I have been exploring the possibility of using Periscope for about three weeks since EdCamp Voxer. I decided that I needed some motivation to just start, and EdCamp Global was it. I participated in a session on the Power of Periscope with Heather Marrs (@hmarrs24) and Cassie Reeder (@reeder_cassie). The session was great because it included tips about how to do a good scope and how to get followers. We also shared our handles and followed each other. Now I feel like I have a group of buddies who are just starting out with Periscope too as well as some mentors to answer questions. I had a ball completing the scavenger hunt scopes for this session. I will definitely be using this tool to connect with teachers during the school year.

Here is one of my very first scopes. It is about my summer reading.

I need to go back and re-watch the #BookSmash and #AppSmash sessions to be sure that I remember all the great tools and ideas that were shared. That's the beauty of these session - you can go back! I added some of the Hangouts on Air that I wanted to check out again, or that conflicted with other sessions to a YouTube Playlist. I also added plenty of shared files to a folder in Google Drive. The EdCamp Global learning doesn't end this weekend because I can go back anytime during the year and access the information and tools when I need them. I watched scopes about Augmented reality and virtual reality, and generally dreamed of possibilities.

One of the last scopes I attended was about developing your PLN on social media. This session brought everything together. I need to promote social media and development of PLNs for our teachers this coming year.

Thanks for a great 24 hours, EdCamp Global. I think I'm fired up enough to get to Christmas!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Brainstorming at ISTE

There is no shortage of new ideas to consider and explore at ISTE. From attending sessions to
exploring the exhibit hall to chatting with friends and new acquaintances, we leave the conference each day with tired brains.

Tasked with gathering information about Maker Spaces to bring back to our school board, Cheryl (@ETSBMathSci) and I have attended several sessions touching the Maker movement and explored various tools in the exhibit hall. We have also had substantial time to discuss our respective understandings of  what Making entails. Today we brainstormed a bit about our vision for what we would like to create next year in our school board.

We would like to create a Learning Commons space at the school board office. This space would include comfortable seating for reading and researching with chart paper and markers handy for planning and recording discussions. Ideally, we would like to have some adjustable standing/sitting desks or work stations.

Once we create this space and make it welcoming with the right furniture, we will need to add some maker materials. Teachers in the Eastern Townships School Board are issued their own laptops and iPads (depending on the grade level they teach), so we will not need to provide this type of machine. It might be useful to provide some speakers, earbuds, and of course, power bars to plug into. It would be great to have a green screen as well as some kind of tripod that will hold an iPad. Eventually, a Swivl would be fantastic! It is important to us that we not stop with the technology side of things. We would stock the space with materials, but we have not yet made the list of these.

Now comes the fun do we see this space being used? The Learning Commons could be used by Pedagogical Services team members as needed. It would also serve as a breakout space for small groups of administrators during principals' meetings. While these might be the immediate function of the space, the intention is that this Model Learning Commons would be a space to teach principals about the kinds of spaces they can create in their schools. Principals would even be able to reserve the Learning Commons for a Pedagogical day and bring their teachers to the central office for a full-day of whole-staff professional development. This training would include information about learning commons and maker spaces, as well as some hands-on experience with Making.

Cheryl and I are both excited to see what kind of space we can create and how we can share the idea of learning commons and fitting Making into teachers' lessons. We are hoping that some ISTE participants will help us out with some suggestions for technology and non-technology materials that we should include. Please let us know what you think will be essential. We can't wait to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Getting Ready for ISTE 2015

We are now into the final countdown of hours before leaving for Philadelphia to attend ISTE 2015. I have started to explore the session, but still don't feel like I am getting anywhere. While I have been to ISTE before, I have a feeling that things might have changed a bit since 2008! I carefully read the tweets and blog posts containing advice for getting ready for your first trip to ISTE, but there doesn't seem to be enough time!

From last time, I know that I want to spend some time in the Blogger Café. In 2008, this was a great place for informal conversations and I did a lot of connecting and learning there. I have not been very successful at regular blogging, but I do value the reflective practice and sharing of ideas in this way. I am also hoping that with my new position and renaming this blog I will be able to manage more frequent posts.

I also know that I want to meet up with friends from Twitter and am planning on attending the live #4thchat on Monday evening. I will try to connect with a few others as well.

Last time, I more-or-less ignored the poster sessions in favour of the more formal sessions. I only discovered what a goldmine these sessions were on the afternoon of the very last day. I definitely plan to work the poster sessions into the schedule of things to see at some point.

So tomorrow I will be packing and Sunday heading to ISTE. If you see me wandering around (possibly looking lost) or sitting at the Blogger Café, please say hello!

A New Name...

Today I received the official confirmation that I am changing jobs! I have been lucky to be the replacement Math, Science and Technology, and Early Intervention Consultant during @MsEnright's full-year leave of absence. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As it turns out, an exciting new opportunity has presented itself and I will not be returning to my grade 4 classroom as I had planned at the end of my year. Instead, I will move to the board office on a permanent basis as the Educational Consultant for Information Technologies.

Since 2011, this blog has been called "Blogging Fourth" and I blogged about teaching in grade 4. I did not really want to archive these posts and change blog addresses, but the old name no longer describes what I will be posting about. The decision to simply re-name my blog is helped by the fact that, thus far, I have not really promoted my blog and do not really have followers. Maybe now is the time for me to change that.
So welcome to Meacher's Meanderings where I will post about teaching and supporting teachers in teaching with technology.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I'm Going to ISTE 2015!

When I first got the approval to go to ISTE in Philadelphia this year, it didn't seem quite real. I kept feeling like something would happen and I would not be able to go. Now that June is here and ISTE is right around the corner, I am starting to believe.

I am very lucky that a number of people are coming together to make this possible for me by driving my son to summer camp, looking after my daughter while my husband works overnight, and more.

I am very much looking forward to a whirlwind few days with incredible amounts of information. I am also looking forward to kick-starting me blogging again and spending some time building up my Twitter PLN. Best of all, I get to share the whole experience with a colleague and I couldn't ask for better than @ETSBMathSci.

Now, back to a very busy last month of the year!
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