Coaching or Co-Learning?

It has been a large shift for me this fall.  As a new Instructional Coach, I get to be in classrooms every day.  The adjustment is getting used to not being responsible for a homeroom class of students of my own.  Instead, I get to plant seeds, answer questions and pose questions with grown ups.  After thirteen years spending the majority of my day interacting with kids, its a change I am still adapting to.

I ask the question of  ‘coach’ or ‘co-learner’.  I think the line is blurred for me as educators that are open to ‘coaching’ are truly ready to be co-learners.  They understand that I am not an expert but instead a fellow teacher excited to help out in any way that is useful for moving the learning forward.  It is such an enriching role – I get to co-learn and co-create with great teachers.  Bouncing ideas around is fun and it’s inspiring to work with professionals who want the very best for their students.

“Let’s try that!”      Music to my ears.

For every new direction I can support, I receive three amazing ideas back.  My brain is full of the sights and sounds of learning that I want to try with my students when I’m back in a classroom full time.  In the meantime, I’m absorbing every little morsel, and hopefully planting enough seeds to make a difference.

Here’s a quick summary of cool things happening in the buildings I’m supporting.  I hope to reflect like this every month or so.  Summarizing a few months of work into one page is a challenge and only scratches the surface of what 9+ weeks holds.   It’s a great practise for me, however, as it forces me to recognize all the learning taking place, both for the teachers I get to work with and for myself.  I’m becoming a better teacher every day – I just need to drop enough breadcrumbs to ensure that I can find all the good stuff when I circle back and need it.

Celebrate Teaching Fall 2018


Innovator Academy: Sprints & Sparks

The flight to LAX was a time to process a lot ups and downs (not talking turbulence here).  I knew that it was exactly the opportunity/spark that I’ve been looking for, but the idea of meeting, living with, and working alongside a bunch of strangers is very much a departure from my typical day.


This uncertainty immediately melted away when a car full of friendly faces was waiting to pick me up at the airport.  It was at this moment that I recognize the brilliance of having the cohort virtually get to know each other before the Academy via Hangouts, Flipgrid and twitter.  It was an instant level of comfort with my new edu-colleagues and inspiring friends.

A bunch of us arrived early to get time to bond a little and discover what Venice Beach is all about.  The beach, the street art, the people, the sunset.  The scooters.  A revelation in public transit.  You need to get to Venice Beach and try the network of electric scooters before they’re outlawed.  Ear to ear smiles for a low price – an Academy favourite.


The official Academy kicked off on Monday at the Youtube Space LA.  It was here where the entire cohort collected for the first time and met the Innovator Coaches and reps from Edtech and Google.  We toured a space designed for supporting the creation of content.  With only 10,000 subscribers, you too can book a studio space and get support from YouTube.  It’s a great concept – think maker space with potentially a global audience.  If you’ve had the opportunity to visit a Google space then you understand that their bricks and mortar locations are an exercise in flexible seating, inspiring spaces and cool design.  YouTube was especially cool in that it was housed on Howard Hughes’ old stomping grounds.  His spirit of innovation is alive in those hallways.

We headed back to Google Venice Beach and spent half a day learning about each other. It’s here we received our official Google Innovator t-shirts and our lanyards.  Break-out box stories, fun design-thinking process tasks, getting to know our teams and coaches – and letting it all sink in.  I’m here! (and did they make a mistake on my application…).


Food.  Humans connect over food.  We connected over food for three square meals a day, as well as the unlimited access to snacks and beverages.  Honestly, Google doesn’t mess around.  I could do a separate blog entry about Google food, but if I can say one thing it’s this: chorizo fried rice bowls for breakfast?  Game changer.

This cohort was a lot of fun. Our nights involved a ton of laughing, games, karaoke, pinatas, tacos, waves and riding scooters.

This cohort is also a collective of work-horses (there’s got to be a better metaphor – it’s just not coming to me right now ; ).  When it was time to SPARK and SPRINT, ideas flew, compliments and support was everywhere, and positively constructive feedback was key.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say that I learned so much in such a short timeframe.  It was tight.  I think that was the point.  Sharpies do not erase and being given extremely short timelines to ideate, empathize, and prototype meant that we didn’t have time to get hung up on the ‘what ifs’.  The time for fine-tuning based on user needs and feedback is what the next twelve months are about.   That being said, there is not an educator out there who doesn’t like being prepared, so giving an elevator pitch in front of brilliant people with very little prep time was definitely putting us outside our comfort zone.

There’s a reason that this ‘fail-fast’ design thinking process wasn’t stressful.  It’s because of the people.  Never have I worked with a group of individuals who were so supportive and generous, yet were thankful and accepting of feedback.  We were in this together and knew this chance to crowd-source feedback was a golden opportunity to help us tackle our edu problems.  No judgement.  Kudos.  Ideas.  What ifs.  How mights.  Yes, ands…

What’s a spark?  Les McBeth from Future Design School moderated the design process for the Academy and each team had an Innovator Coach to assist with the sprint tasks.  In addition, each Coach gave a spark talk – a short keynote.  It was great as our day was a great mix of working, learning and being inspired.  It was also cool that a few Innovators in the middle of the process shared with us via Hangouts.

We also had spark sessions choices (20 minutes) led by 15 of the Innovators in our cohort.  We could choose from a huge variety of talents:  app script, aquaponics, nail art, beatboxing, data stories, design, juggling and breakdancing!  It was fun and gave everyone the chance to share a passion.  (Imagine how schools could adopt this learning model…).  Let’s just say that I’m not a good beat-boxer or breakdancer, but appreciated the chance to dive into something different.

Fast forward to the last day of our Academy and the agenda shows ‘graduation’ at the conclusion of the day – a live YouTube event, no less.   It was a healthy day of sprints and sparks, food and icebreaker laughs.  Then it was real.  It was ending.  Our names were annouced, we received a certificate and pin, took team photos and drank champagne.  Some Innovators had to catch flights and just like that we were reminded that ‘day jobs’ await.  Luckily a large group booked flights for the next day so we had an extra night to connect and reflect a bit.  I’ve never seen such a huggy group – but the whole experience up to that point fostered closeness.  It was just a beginning, yet an ending too.


So once home I dumped all my swag on my kitchen table, much to my children’s delight.  Merge cube, lanyards, pins, stickers galore, and koozies from Districts around the US.  The personalized swag is special – we had some very talented design folks in our cohort.  The Innovator backpack and water bottle was cool.  The pins and cohort stickers and magnets are now spread across fridges and filing cabinets in North America.  Breakout boxes are stashed on shelves, just begging to tell a story.

People put endless energy into this Academy.  I’m grateful to have these mementos with me.  When I feel stuck and alone in my project, I can hopefully remind myself that I’m not actually alone – I have a bunch of truly awesome educators at my fingertips.

So I now hope to inspire others, take educators on a journey of empowerment and turn teacher voices up to 11. I’m going to ignore the hinting imposter syndrome and fake it until I make it.  Game on.

Thanks for the opportunity, Google.  A heartfelt thank you to the cohort – your warmth and big thinking won me over immediately and I’m thankful that we get to stay connected.  We sparked and sprinted our way towards transformation – personally and professionally.  Go make change.




Learning Transformed – A Year of 1:1 iPads.

481A4FC5-AC10-4130-99AD-D1535B88AB44I had great anticipation before starting this year.  1:1 devices!  I had ideas as to where I wanted to go with the students, yet did limited reading on the subject because I knew I’d learn alongside my students and wanted to develop an edtech integration approach that would meet our specific needs as we went along.

I quickly learned the difference between when tech amplified learning and when it was simply a substitution.  The SAMR model is one I held myself accountable to.  Substitution wasn’t going to cut it in my room.

I also learned quickly that students are enamored with creating digital products that look like authentic real world samples.  We could communicate our thinking in ways that looked like something a grown up might do, and that seemed quite novel to the students.   Our digital sharing nights for parents were so eye-opening. Parents were amazed with the websites, AR, and multi-modal digital media pieces that seemed so effortless to the kids.  Students wore smiles of pride.

So as I transition to a new role this fall, I leave this beautiful 1:1 environment but can share forward the powerful and authentic learning approaches that engaged students all year.

My list of why 1:1 can revolutionize classroom learning (especially in my present context of a P/J school environment):

1) It’s learning in the go – we took the iPads everywhere with us, uncovering curriculum where the curriculum lies.  We became pro photographers and brought the content back to the classroom in the form of snapshots and videos.  They created the content.  We rarely needed to source videos made by others.  Macro lense clips helped us tune into the world beneath our feet.

2) Lack of tech-access bottle necks slowing us down at any point.  Not needing to continually log in and out was a gift, and privacy concerns became moot points. I was able to have students focus upon the accountability of the use of the device and practice positive digital citizenship behaviours daily.

3) Providing choice in how students shared their thinking was easy.  Here’s the ‘what’, now you choose the ‘how’.  Assess based upon learning criteria and focus upon the process of making thinking visible.  For some activities, up to seven various approaches were selected. Awesome.  Choice = voice.  The tech provided that choice and everyday access to devices meant lots of practice opportunities to become efficient with many iOS and Google apps.

4) Differentiating learning.  I never really thought a lot about the link between differentiation and choice of sharing method before.  Do you like telling, representing or writing?  You choose.  Just provide me with the thinking I need to see.

5)  Language supports in all apps!  Predictive text! Speech to text! Now speech to text is far from perfect, but still requires writers to be active thinkers as they structure responses and ideas.  It’s interesting how Siri became the dictionary and spell check of choice.  I’m trying to remember the last time I saw an adult use a dictionary…

6)  Photography and screenshots means active documentation of all learning – an ever growing e-portfolio that is added to on a daily basis.  We typically gathered our thinking in Google Slides for various subjects.  Videos, photos, text boxes for extra annotations.  Add a slide, insert new thinking.  Watch content knowledge grow.     I called them digital duotangs, and students shared them with me so I could peek in whenever needed.  I’m so proud of their ‘Math Thinking’ slidedecks.  They took seconds a day to maintain. Did I mention NO PAPER!?!

7) Students are able to put themselves and their creations into their work.  Green screen tech is so simple, yet always so fun for kids.  We once put our straw bridge structures into far away locations like the Grand Canyon.  Then, usually using pic collage, students annotated their thinking and created fantastic diagrams worthy of a non-fiction text.  Putting themselves into their art and adding speech bubbles to share learning was effortless and visually powerful.  They could see themselves in their learning…literally.

8) I found that iPads in the classroom reduced the usage of my smart board. Instead of projecting one image for a bunch of eyes, instead airdrop or share the work with students and then interact with it both independently and together.  The Apple TV wireless sharing capability let me ‘de-front’ the room regularly.  Students never tire of showing their work on the big screen.

9) Getting outside! All the time! Outdoor learning! Environmental links to curriculum as much as possible! Otter boxes save the day and reduce any stress of taking devices to the creek, forest or sandbox.

10) Airdropping! I shared work instantly to all the iPads and students took care of each other and would airdrop missed work to peers or offer to share their photographs with those who’s photos didn’t quite work out.  It was neat to think of all the digital files flying around the room every day.  Super cool.

11) Understanding that access is a privilege, and partnering with grade 1 classes as tech buddies to share the wealth and build capacity with younger learners.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and somehow provide funding for all students to regularly have access to their own documentation and learning tool.  Oh, the places we could go!

Instead, I have a year’s rich experience of watching intensive student exploration and have learned a lot of lessons to apply to situations where devices are shared.  The Board is building capacity with tech integration and it’s exciting, and important.

Let’s empower kids.  Let’s provide the tools that amplify voices and make rich tasks real.

I am so thankful to the Ministry for a golden opportunity to be able to explore 1:1 device usage.  It’s changed so much in terms of how I view my role as an educator.





Riding the Wave to Google in Venice Beach

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I applied, and I waited.  The announcement was to come ‘the week of May 28th’ and I know I wasn’t alone in checking my inbox 40 times a day for the first few days of that week.  By Wednesday I decided to move on – it was a long shot, right?  Only 35 Google Certified Innovator spots for all of North America.  The youtube videos created by other applicants were inspiring and it was only my first time applying.  Chalk it up to experience.

Then my phone notifications went berserk.  First I had ten new twitter followers in a span of five minutes (“odd”), and then I looked a little more closely and saw that I was added to a Twitter list entitled “#LAX18 Innovators”.  I jumped on gmail and found the image above waiting for me.

Now, I get excitable.  I do.  But this was ridiculous.  My beautiful wife and kids were jumping up and down, and my phone was ringing.  The list of links and communications from Google was long and overwhelming and I knew that I had to book flights and lodging and all that good stuff, but it didn’t matter.  The relief!  I wasn’t even aware that I had put pressure upon myself, however that feeling of acceptance is unlike any other. Venice Beach, California.  I was invited.  I have something to offer.

I love that it’s 2018.  I made digital connections with the other 34 Innovators (all American except for me!) by night’s end and now have a completely new circle of influence to add to my already inspiring PLN.  Google Hangout Chats, twitter lists, email lists, Google Classroom, FlipGrid, Google Drive shared documents… very connected, very quickly.

Then it sank in.  The wonder.  The wondering.  “Why me?”.  The panic.  Imposter syndrome.  I simply want to look at celebrating teacher voices in a grass-roots, crowd-sourced PD model that works for time-strapped educators.  Is that Innovator-worthy? I’ve decided to tell myself ‘yes’ and MAKE it Innovator-worthy.  My idea was accepted, so my selected challenge must be resonating with others.  Are teachers sometimes feeling diminished or completely overwhelmed with the way PD is sometimes delivered?  Does one model of PD fit everyone’s learning style?  Is there differentiation in the access to PD?  How are new teachers coping with all the new learning?  These are questions worth digging into.

I feel like someone has been hiding horseshoes around my classroom.  I’ve had such good fortune this year.  Ministry action research.  A DREAM 1:1 iPad classroom.  Forest-school alternate-learning opportunities.  A career-sidestep into Instructional Coaching (starting this fall – I updated the blog header just now as I am ‘all systems go’ and simply can’t wait to being this role).  And now acceptance into this competitive program.  I feel like the stars have aligned – I have momentum and the hunger to make things happen.  I have met the most incredible colleagues in the last few years and I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants as I move forward with these new opportunities.

A bit about the Innovator Academy.  It’s 2.5 days of mentorship, coaching, moon-shot thinking, relationship building, and failing fast.  I hope to become emotionally detached from my project in the hopes that I can make decisions that work best for the project, not just for me.  We work in the Google Venice offices, get tours, feel the vibes, bond and pay it forward.  It’s truly an amazing opportunity.

…and I get to sleep here:

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…because there are very motivated people in my cohort.  I’m responsible for my own flights and lodging and an incredible new friend from the US booked this AirBnB for 16 (sixteen!!!) of us to stay in, within walking distance of Google and the ocean.  It is going to be our own version of MTV’s Real World – education style!  I know that I’ll meet some unique people here that could really have an impact on my approach to education.

As a cohort we design our own logo, t-shirts, and swag.  The #LAX18 hashtag will be something that will connect us as we move beyond the Innovator Academy and role out our transformational projects.

Riding the wave, indeed.  All year long.  This is literally sprinkles.  Sprinkles with a GREAT view.

My thank you card list is super long.  Time to get to work on that ; )


Crowd-Sourcing Promising Practices ~ A Google Innovator Application

My Google Certified Innovator Application Video

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Finding Solutions to Problems

This is it.  I’m sharing my Google Innovator #LAX18 application video online.  My application took a lot of time, pivoting, confering and brainstorming.  I’ve thought, re-thought, changed directions and eventually come to a comfort level with a ‘problem’ in education for which I think energy is deserved for developing a potential solution.

I’m putting myself out there by blogging and tweeting about my idea as I want to practice what I “preach”.  Transparency.  Being okay with failure.  Earnestly hoping to be successful so that I can develop my own skills and amplify the voices of the many educators who have the GREATEST ideas to share, but not necessarily the platform.  I want crowd-sourced, cross-silo sharing to inspire both contract teachers and teacher candidates.  I want to turn the volume to 11 and help teachers find that perfect little bite of PD…just when they need it.

PD should be igniting passions, not fueling insecurities.

Cross your fingers and wish me luck on my application.   Lets celebrate and exchange ideas together.

Why EdCamp?


An opportunity to join the team for organizing the 2018 EdCamp London #edcampldn was one I jumped at.  I’ve actually never even heard of an EdCamp before, yet I knew the prospect of energetic teachers gathering for teacher talk, coffee, food and ignites was promising.

Was I ever impressed.

Basically in an EdCamp format participants arrive and jot down some topics of interest (literally all over the board) and the team then link together ideas into big themes and assign rooms in which participant-led conversations to happen.  It’s organized teacher talk time – with coffee and food!

How does a session, let’s say,  on ‘google sites’ come together? Naturally, in a room a few experienced teachers are there to share their expertise, potentially connecting their device to the projector. Others then start to share their experiences.  You get a feel for the room and ensure that everyone is getting something of value from the session (or they can move on to a different session if they like).

I observed educators sharing and celebrating ideas and new learning.  Beginners in one session are experts in another – it’s buzz-worthy experience where questions are safely posed and honestly addressed.  Because there are no official speakers, it felt more like an awesome prep where your favourite teachers are in the staff room at the same time.

Time flew, and I left in an amplified mood.  It’s feels great to share, and even better to learn.  I made new connections, grew my PLN, and had the opportunity to try something new (read below👇🏻).

The mood made this event a success.  Sharing, re-connecting, being inspired.  Imagine if PD days were like this?

Until next year, EdCamp.  Big thanks to some great educators in the photo above (David, Sue, Dawn and Heidi).  It was great to learn to the ropes from/with you!



20 slides. 15 seconds per slide that auto advance through a total of 5 minutes.  Fun math, an exercise in conciseness, and a healthy dose of practice time come along for the ride.

I jumped in, and wrote it in pen with commitment! (“Write it in pen” was the theme of my talk).  Why? Who knows. Haha – but I DO know.  Trying something a bit outside of my comfort zone has proven fruitful for me lately.  “Why not me?” my brain questions.  I say yes, and then figure it out along the way.

I often approach teaching this way.    I find inspiration for an idea that will engage students, and then find the curriculum that uncovers itself along the way.  There is always way more curriculum to link than you would first think.  Just try and name a literacy strand that doesn’t marry itself nicely to most subjects and projects. Integration, empowerment, choice and student voice are the vehicles that let us make curriculum meaningful.

I asked to go first for the Ignite talks at EdCamp London 2018.  I didn’t want to follow a seasoned pro on my first time out.  As it always goes, it was a blur in the minutes up to being handed the mic.  Then ‘go’ and the well oiled machine comes to life.   I had a blast.  The feedback was great.  The audience was forgiving – the audience was teachers and we can all recognize and empathize when risks are being taken.

Props to those seasoned speakers out there! What looks so organic is the result of hours and hours of fine tuning, practice and failing in front of audiences.  It’s not a natural gift – it’s an educator so excited to share good things that their energy pulls you in as they frame their experiences with a message or take away.  A joy to watch.

My message: try something new or different every day and write it in pen as a promise to yourself to take that risk.  Do it! And say yes to doing an ignite talk if you get the chance! You’ll be richer for the experience.