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 ; )

 

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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?

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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!

IGNITEd

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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.

 

Blogging for the EdTechTeam.com Site

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It was an unexpected surprise to be approached by the EdTechTeam to write a blog for their site about the digital work my students are regularly creating with Google and mobile tools.  At first, I thought “what am I possibly going to be able to teach others”?  I suppose if there is one thing that I sometimes notice it’s that the discussion about the edtech-amplified work of our younger learners is not always readily available.  In primary especially, there are so many factors that impact the ability for teachers to dive deep into tech-integration (e.g., access to tech, the time and scaffolding required to learn new apps, logging in, etc.).  I have been so very fortunate to be able to fund a 1:1 device classroom, partly due to Ministry TLLP funding.  As such, I am agressively developing the ‘digital toolbelts’ of my grade 3’s as much as possible in an effort to determine trends around their selection of tech tools and apps that I can then share forward with others.

Students are very proud of their work.  The wow-factor in ‘publishing’ their daily thinking digitally every day is seen on the faces of parents during sharing events in the classroom.  The engagement factor of using digital tools to share thinking has not wained in the least.  Students are solidifying new modalities for communicating their knowledge. I decided to focus on our class mantra ‘Create-Explore-Digitize-Reflect & Connect’ and piece together a blog that leans towards the big wins in my classroom this year.  There are too many to include in a short piece of writing – but I consider that a ‘win’ as well.

Click here to read my EdTechTeam.com Blog on Amplifying Student Voice with Edtech

For the full-colour, chock-full of samples version, check out the Google Site I created to build my blog ideas here.  I am so fortunate to have a group of students and parents this year that are open to sharing work with other teachers as part of our TLLP sharing. I cannot take the credit for the work of my grade 3’s – it is such a treat and honour to be able to showcase some of their thinking and creativity with an authentic audience.

Transitions

02309B84-B4EC-453F-8F8C-23DA2E39E964It’s official.  This is my last Spring as an elementary school homeroom teacher for a while.  The school where I’ve spent the last thirteen years succeeding, failing and improving will be in my rear-view on the last day of school.  I don’t know how I feel about that yet – ask me after June 28th.  I have accepted an Instructional Coach position for the Board effective this fall.

I’m thrilled.  It feels right.  The timing is good.  There is certainly uncertainty about what this new role, new direction, will feel like.  I’m quite used to the great peaks and pitfalls of daily classroom teaching. No two days are the same and students keep you on your toes at all times.  The 3:30 bell usually arrives before you’re ready for it.  How long will it take to adjust to a role less defined by bells?

I really do like change, as long as I feel as though I have something to offer.  I feel that a lot of my recent experiences will serve me well in the coaching role.  I will have the opportunity to be a teacher resource in a small grouping of schools.  A friend and colleague of mine told me to enjoy the role as it is a gift of a position.  I’m holding onto that sentiment tightly.  I’m an appreciative guy, and I already feel richer for this upcoming experience.  Pay it forward.

Post-Summit Round-Up

7715120D-BD60-4B17-B034-3E606CE2F71AThe Ontario Summit hosted by the EdTechTeam in Cambridge was last weekend.  It was a sold out crowd of 450 educators spending their weekend learning from, and with, each other.  It was my third Summit and I again offered a session on google applications in a primary/junior classroom. Math was the focus this time, primarily as my Ministry TLLP project has really focused my edtech exploration into the math world.

For those who haven’t been, imagine a huge buzz in the halls, starting with registration and lasting until the final keynote the next day.  Lunch is noisy as connected educators finally meet face to face after having following each other on twitter months before. Sessions overflow onto floors and into hallways.  Selfies are taken and personal devices become loaded with ideas to use back in the classroom.  Twitter feeds quote speakers and share new learning.  It really is quite an experience.

Presenting a session is usually a blast.  I must admit, it’s tricky to keep your mojo when people are sitting everywhere and the screen is across the room from the computer station running the slide deck, but hey – we’re pros, right?  It is so satisfying sharing ideas with 45 eager learners.  It truly is putting yourself ‘out there’, however I find that the sessions have opened me to new learning and opportunities to work with others, all the while providing me great feedback on how to run PD for adults.  I highly recommend that all teachers offer a session at some point.  Everyone has unique insights that others can benefit from.

New challenge for this Summit: ‘digital playground’ sessions.  Here I offered three 10-minute sessions on stop motion animation with Google Slides.  Just chairs in a group, laptops out, me using my big voice to cut through the noise in the gym. Wow.  Let’s just say I gave three crash courses back to back. Whew!

Until next time, Ontario Summit.  Thanks for the learning!

PS (1) – the Google Waterloo headquarters tour prior to the event was SO eye-opening . That company really practices what it preaches and brings the idea of flexible seating to a whole new level.

PS (2) – Shout out to my TVDSB colleagues.  We represented!

PS (3) – The Google Innovators at the event were so open, approachable, and provided great coaching.  Come on #LAX18!

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