Monday, June 29, 2020

The Innovator's Mindset Course Reflections

In the final weeks of this crazy school year, my colleagues and I have been doing a book study of The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros, guided by the online course offered by George Couros and Katie Novak. The course has a video for each chapter, prompting us to consider the Innovator's Mindset in the context of Covid-19. There are also a large number of supplementary articles and videos to read. My colleagues and I have enjoyed jigsawing these resources and discussing them together.

It was during module 7 of this course that George Couros discussed his own blog as his digital portfolio and explained about the process of reflecting publicly to deepen his thinking. I realized that my own blog had been sadly neglected for years, but that it was a tool that I should be using much better. As such, I have assembled the reflections that I have posted during this course into a Slide deck. This way they are saved here and can be viewed at a later date.

Innovate Inside the [Virtual] Box Course Reflections

In May and June of this year, a group of colleagues and I did a book study of Innovate Inside the Box by George Couros and Katie Novak. We took the course offered by the authors which gave use many related articles and videos. It also allowed us to read the book with the particular lens of emergency remote instruction during the period of time that schools were shut down this spring because of Covid-19 and while they were slowly and partially reopening.

As promised in my previous post, I have collected the reflections that I shared for each of the modules in this post. For easy sharing, since they are in various media, I have added them all to a Google Slides presentation. I created four sketchnotes, two videos, and two traditional text reflections. I am saving them here in an effort to document my thinking now so that I can look back on it later. Another reason is that this is a somewhat public forum, and as I get into the habit, I will be able to benefit from sharing my ideas with others.

Resurrecting This Space

Over the past several weeks, I have been taking some online book study courses with a group of colleagues. The books are The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros and Innovate Inside the Box by George Couros and Katie Novak.

Throughout the process I have enjoyed discussing and making meaning with my colleagues, but I have also enjoyed creating reflection pieces for each module of the two courses in different media. Not only have I remembered how powerful the process of reflection in a public space can be, the most recent module has reminded me of the importance of being able to look back at my digital portfolio. How has my thinking developed, changed, and hopefully, grown over time?

Well, this blog tells a sad story of neglect. I have not even composed a post for 4 years, and before that it was spotty at best. But, it still exists, and having some record is definitely better than none! I am definitely pondering on ways to make blogging a more regular part of my routine without it becoming "just one more thing." How do you remember to come to a space like this without it becoming a job? 

I'm not sure, what the answer is. Right now, in the midst of emerging from Covid-19 shut-down, it feels like there is way too much on my plat to add something else. On the other hand, I am doing more new learning than I have for a long time, and it seems like this is a great time to document my thinking. For the moment then, I will begin by using this as a collection space some of my notes and reflections on my online courses and some of the learning that I will do over the summer and see where that takes me. Perhaps a better blogging habit will grow out of the process.

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.