Everyone Should Showcase

IMG_30153 minutes.  Then the mic is cut, the spotlight turns off and you are back in the darkness as the showcase speaker on the other side of the stage begins their 3 minutes.

No pressure.  Ha!  It was a blast.  I’d submitted an idea for sharing a short story about taking my students on weekly field trips a few years back as a way to develop a sense of identity in the community.  I was surprised, as a rookie, that my showcase was selected.  21 in all, spread over two very-well-timed mornings.

I was on day two.  The interesting thing is how I felt so incredibly tense when I watched the day one speakers.  I wasn’t on deck for another day, but the almost-800 watching eyes makes for a large room that I’m not used to being at the front of.  Day one was incredible. Moving, emotional, inspiring.  Certainly imposter syndrome starts to rattle around a little during these events, but I kept telling myself I was selected for a reason.  Right?

The evening before the talk we were sequestered to the ballroom for a rehearsal.  I can’t say as though I’ve ever stood in a spotlight, but it is a strange feeling to hear your voice booming over the speakers with an audience you can’t really see due to the brightness.  You lose that connection – the feedback you get in a small space.  You had to just trust that your story is connecting with at least a few folks in the audience and just be yourself.

My practice didn’t go great.  There’s floor monitor screens and a countdown timer on the podium.  I had to cut a slide on the fly.  I knew I’d settle into it for the actual Showcase, but it certainly didn’t settle my nerves when I later left the ballroom and joined everyone else for dinner.

The morning of the talk I felt pretty good.  So long as I didn’t drop the clicker or talked too slow things would go well.

When the talks began we were seated at the front of the room in our order.  I was halfway through the pack and when the speaker before me was at one minute left, I stood and slowly made my way up the dark left side of the stage.  I could see on the monitor that he had ten seconds left.  I took a breath.  Applause for the other speaker began and then I was washed in light and the room went silent.

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3 minutes.  I actually had 3 seconds to spare.  I don’t remember much about the talk, or getting down to my seat, but I do remember trying to send a tweet afterwards and the combination of both sweaty and fear-frozen fingers made it challenging to tap the iPhone glass.

But I did it.  Do something scary once and while – right?

It’s something I won’t forget.  Thank you Apple for the opportunity and to the other speakers for being so supportive.  You were all fantastic and your stories matter.

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4 A’s for ADE Institute!

My mid-July this year included jumping on a plane and heading to Bethesda in the Washington, DC area to make new friends with teachers and others in the education world who see the use of apple products as a powerful way to get kids creating in, and out of, classrooms.  This bi-yearly Institute involved about 400 energetic people, most of whom made impassioned pleas in their application videos.  We gathered as ‘The Americas’ and representation came from Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, the US and Canada.

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It was a deep-dive into the world of Apple EDU.  Talk about slick.  The Apple staff were accessible and really pumped everyone up about features in the apps we all love but perhaps do not spotlight in our classrooms enough.  Working with alumni and mentors provided inspiration.  The workshops and networking opportunities meant we got to share stories, learn from each other and celebrate ‘crazy’ ideas.  The ADE Showcases (yikes – I got to do one!), Battlemania and highlighted speakers put the spotlight (literally) on teachers and administrators who truly live the #EveryoneCanCreate mantra.

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It was a special event.  You felt like part of something – a wave pushing forward with tonnes of force – tonnes of potential.  Every four hours my ‘project’ idea changed.  Sparks were flying.

4 A’s for ADE Institute! Sure, it could be my score for the immersive event – but more importantly it is a call to action. The four A’s connect to the pillars to which Apple Distinguished Educators holds themselves accountable.  Trusted Advisors.  Passionate Advocates.  Authentic Authors.  Global Ambassadors.  The heart of the program are teachers who are looking to be innovative and amplify student voice with technology and learning experiences that focus on creation over consumption.

Sound like anyone you know? Send them my way as I’d love to tell them more about the Institute.

There comes a time in life when you need to commit to an idea.  As I mentioned earlier, I had all sorts of project ideas swimming around during Academy.  In all likelihood I’ll explore a few different directions this upcoming year.

But here is where I’d like to start.

A conversation with a new Canadian friend from the west coast, Gail Stevenson, sparked my interest in the idea of collections.  She had visited the nearby Smithsonian Museum of Natural History earlier that week and took photographs of prompts around how viewing a collection of objects let’s us make inferences.  What does the collection speak to?  Does it give insight into identity, an event, differences, connections?

I thought about how we are all collectors.  I have access to many iPads in my classroom and want to explore the digitization process as students curate collections for different purposes.  Word collecting (something I’m toying with as a spelling program approach), collecting art samples, identity jar exploration, book-bento-style object representation for themes, even the idea of what the current collection of texts in their reading boxes tell us about their life as a reader. What if Keynote and Clips were used to document these collections and reflections around the curation of the collections?  How might this make us more inquisitive as we visit museums and explore collections put together by others?  Might a skillset develop that makes us better observers?

So there it is.  I’ve said it out loud, and as such I’m committing.  In terms of authoring, I think this could be a set of lessons or potentially a small iBook sharing the idea of using collections in the classroom.

So I now have a creative focus for the upcoming year.  The Institute provided more thought fuel than I can probably digest, but my backpack is loaded with ideas that will engage my students and put their creativity to the fore-front.  It’s going to be a fun year!

 

Anticipation

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It’s time to change roles again.  A year working in an Instructional Coach capacity has been an incredible opportunity to learn, gain perspective, and meet so many inspiring educators.  Some circumstances out of my control meant that I was interviewing for a new classroom teacher position a few weeks ago.

I generally believe that things happen for a reason.   As it so happens, I successfully interviewed for a position in a building that has been on my radar for a while.  The people, the space, the diversity, the ‘feel’, the vision.  I saw myself there and now I’m so fortunate to have a classroom waiting for me this fall.

Anticipation.  I’m excited – even more-so than I thought I’d be.  Being invited to tour the space (generous!), meet the teachers and staff, hear the buzz of learning and see the manners on display by the students… yep – I’m 100% in!

Spring has generally meant that I start looking forward to the next fall.  Not that I don’t enjoy all the months of the school year…it’s just that class lists are usually created about now and supplies are ordered for the fall.  It’s hard not to start visualizing, or re-visualizing your classroom space.  What stuck from the previous year?  What needs to be reconsidered?  What connected most with the students?  It’s exciting to think about introducing a new crew of kids to a shared space designed to inspire.

I pull out my copy of ‘The Third Teacher’ (highly recommended) to remind me about the importance of designing a modern learning space.  The sea of vertical whiteboard spaces, ample natural light and flexible seating options in my new classroom certainly do not limit design options.  Out comes my sketching paper and a lot of my ‘how’ starts to unconsciously come together as I put pencil strokes down and consider what the walls, floors and configurations will look like.  Talk about anticipation – designing learning spaces is a lot of fun and can truly tell a lot about a teacher’s educational philosophy.

I’m already inspired by and looking to connect with my future colleagues and admin – I want to learn from them, and maybe offer little bits of assistance or inspiration in return.  I crave the opportunity to collaborate.  It doesn’t happen everywhere.  I feel the vibe walking into this school and I’m so optimistic that the positive working relationships (teacher/teacher, teacher/admin, teacher/students/parents/community) are the reason the building feels like a special place.  I’ll do everything I can to be a value-add to the community.  I’m inspired to do so – the new physical space is almost begging for student inquiry, collaborative learning, a “Thinking Classroom” approach, movement, creativity, and technology integration. Sign me up!

The PD day in June will be a chance to officially sit with colleagues as part of a school staff.  I miss that.  It will be great to belong.  I see the vision and I couldn’t be more excited about getting started.

To new beginnings!

My Personal Playlist Podcast

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I was both excited and intimidated when asked to be a guest on the wonderful Noa Daniel’s P3 Podcast.  I knew it would be great to reconnect with her, but the premise of choosing three songs (just three!!!) to help frame a lifetime is completely daunting.  A nostalgia song, and identity song, and a motivational tune.  The concept is wonderful.

I had months to think through my song options and it truly wasn’t until the last moment when I was able to settle on the songs that help tell my ‘story’.  Noa – well done.  You got me thinking!  I’m so pleased with the final result and it was a treat to share my stories and find parallel’s in my teaching life as we connected over music.

Noa is a busy person and also blogged about the experience. Here’s the link.

https://noadaniel7.wixsite.com/bobblog/single-post/2019/03/05/Create-Explore-Digitize-Reflect-and-Connect—Jay-Dubois-Mantra-and-the-Themes-of-His-P3

I’m humbled, Noa.  The whole experience made me smile.

 

 

Maker? IGNITed Again.

The always-inspiring Derek Tangredi approached me a while back about being one of the ignite speakers for a Western Education Research event:

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  1. I love seeing others do ignite talks (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide as they auto-advance)
  2. Cool venue (the new maker lab at the Central Public Library)
  3. I get excited to share the story about my 1:1 iPad classroom inquiries and creations
  4. You can’t say no to Derek.  His enthusiasm for education is truly infectious.

To be honest, it’s because of the people involved that putting time into preparing for these events is worth it.  I need to be ignited too, and educators willing to share their stories for the benefits and learning of others are my type of people.

I’m not sure I consider myself to be a ‘maker’ in the hands-on, messy sense.  I do like bringing materials into the classroom but I’m certainly not doing anything innovative in that regard.  I wanted to focus on the digital making my students did as part of a innovation/entrepreneurship design-thinking project last year.  It was awesome as they fluently app-smashed, digitally documented and designed an engineering firm sales pitch for a library redesign.  The communicated their thinking with Sites, elevator pitches, graphic novel recounts, logo and branding design.  They always held the user in mind (including an all-age, all-ability focus) and gathered digital survey feedback from visitors to their trade show event.  It was a lot of work and I’d do it again in a heartbeat as ‘project time’ was a highly-sought part of the day.

There was so much to assess that I didn’t even know where to begin.  However, I knew I wanted students in the driver’s seat with assessment – single point rubrics to save the day!  One of the points I made in my ignite talk was that makers self assess.  I believe that.  It’s a future-ready skill.

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I’m so fortunate to call Lesley and Kiersten, two speakers who did their first ignite talk at the maker lab, friends and honoured that they are part of my Crowd-Sourcing Promising Practices team (bit.ly/TurningUpTeachers … check it out if you’re into selfless sharing and cool classroom-ready ideas).  Every teacher has a story to tell and there is so much that we can learn from each other.  It was also great to see Scott Armstrong share his wealth of knowledge – he’s such an asset to our Board and I always learn something new from his unique perspective.

All in all it was a warmly-received event on a cold night…those involved didn’t want to leave.  Conversation with inspiring educators can be hard to beat sometimes – especially with an electricity in the air that participating in an ignite talk can create.

Go and make! Any way that’s fun for you.  Then try to bring it into the classroom and see how it goes.  You’ll find curriculum connections – I promise it’s worth it.

ADE Shot Number Two

Once upon a time I applied to the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute.  It didn’t pan out but the experience of reflecting upon successes and ongoing inquiries was a good practice.

Two years has passed and the application window has again opened.  It’s not easy summarizing your ‘why’ and your ‘so what’ in a two minute video.  What story did I want to tell?  I’ve had some unexpected and fantastic edu experiences the last few years.  A good friend gently asked what makes my story different.  Again, time to turn inward and look in the mirror (hence the deep-in-thought mirror image above – good, right? Haha).

So here’s my ‘different’.  Learn outside.  Uncover curriculum.  Have students reflect and self-assess often.  Let’s create future-ready students.

It’s how I roll in a classroom.  I get that this isn’t the norm.  But innnovation isn’t ‘normal’.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Best of luck to the other applicants.  Keep pushing, keep mixing it up.  Keep asking questions.

Reset?

It’s been a while.  My blog output has really decreased since leaving the classroom capacity and navigating the Instructional Coaching world.   Things are cooking again, though, with some thought fuel pieces of the puzzle coming back into play.

I once blogged about being ‘ignited’. I did my first IGNITE talk last year and was recently invited to prepare an IGNITE for a Faculty of Education / Public Library venture into discussing ‘making’.  I might have the least-makerish talk out of the impressive list of speakers as I plan to dive into the creation and innovation opportunities a design-thinking approach provided my 3s last year. It was a joy to take them through the process and is a professional highlight of my career.

I look forward to the opportunity to share classroom successes.  It’s what I’m all about.  This spark of edu-extracurricularism is something I hunger for.  A community of educators talking education for the sake of talking education.  No payment.  Lots of nerves.  Powerful though, and fire-lighting.

Reset.  It’s a word an Innovator colleague has brilliantly harnessed when naming her transformation project resetEDU.org.  Gosh, I love it (and the swag is sweet, Jen!).  So I turn inward and re-examine the successes (and fails!) of my new role.  I think I feel confident in having built the ever-so-important relationships necessary to foster collaboration.  It feels good to have students in multiple buildings call you by name and ask if you’re returning to their room soon.  Pretty amazing.

Reset. Time to get real with my Crowd-Sourcing Promising Practices community / Google Innovator project.  Bit.ly/TurningUpTeachers has been so many different things for me.  Learning opportunity.  Lesson(s) in humility.  Empowered colleagues. An attempt at trying to make sharing contagious.

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It’s not contagious yet.  That’s the reality.  I look back to my aggressive OKR’s (a googly term for quarterly objectives).  A six-month check-in with 45 of us simultaneously doing a Google Meet reminded me that NOT achieving your goals means that you set a good and challenging goal. It was reassuring because instead we default to feeling unsuccessful when goals aren’t met.

I need to reach more teachers.  I need to relaunch my brand with more marketing (hello Instagram and Facebook – yikes!).  A slight pivot on my digital workflow needs to happen. That is clear.

I’m hitting ‘reset’ and digging in anew.  I need to be hungry.  Once momentum occurs I’ll just hang on for the ride and watch my project become it’s own entity.

So that being said, connect with me.  Hit ‘reset’, take a risk and inspire classroom teachers with me.  Share something small but meaningful for students.  There’s an audience for your insight.

Let’s make sharing contagious.

 

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