Weaving a Story

I loved many of the sessions at SXSWedu. The problem was that there were so many to choose from and of course the ones I was most excited to check out overlapped. I was debating whether I should go to the session on Designing for Digital Natives by the IDEO crew or not. I had followed IDEO and IDEOu as an organization on Instagram for awhile. Hearing some of the team in person was exciting and it was bringing design thinking and our students’ lives together (perfect for a IT Coach). Seemed perfect except it was in the farthest hotel (a whole 5 minutes but heh) and there were 3 other sessions on my list.  I trudged along grabbing a seat at the back if I needed an escape route. Within the first few minutes of their presentation I was hooked and I didn’t want it to end. The 25 minute session was an artfully designed story woven together with visuals, take aways, humour and more.

There were so many take aways:

  • I need to up my Keynote game.  From an animated title screen to snapchat videos for their introduction page, to funky personalized fonts the slides showed the teams understanding of design and that visuals tell as much of your story as your words.
  • The team shared their design for an app for first generation college students and the process to making something that high schoolers would actually use and check in to often. As the story evolved you could see each step of the design process come to life, always with the user at the centre, sharing the failures and subsequent re-iteration. The learning was woven through a story.
  • And the story always came back to the learner, the user. As we are designing tasks, learning experiences. As leaders as we talk about change do we take a user centred design approach?
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  • As I was sketching out the 5 design tips for designing for digital natives, the take aways from their experience, I realized they each could be applied as we design lessons especially online learning experiences as well.
  • I think more than anything I was reminded how a well constructed story can affect change, innovate, try something new even in a limited time frame. More than a how to, more than a rally cry, a story often allows us to be completely human, completely authentic in our lesson.

So thank you IDEO team for sharing your story in such an amazing way. I’m off to weave my own story and play with Keynote!

 

 

Complexity, Consortiums & Maladjusting: Lessons from Dr. Chris Emdin’s keynote at SXSWedu

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the clip the first time I saw Dr. Chris Emdin. I do remember being so enthralled I ended up sharing it with the AQ course that night and then jumping on Instagram and Twitter to share a few quotes. So when I saw that Chris was going to be the opening keynote for SXSWedu I was pretty excited.

It has almost been a full week since his keynote. 5 days later I’m still digesting it all, reflecting on the ideas shared and questions that remain. There were so many take aways and just as many questions. Was I a frenemy at times? Getting stuck in traditions that were no longer essential? Was I lulling kids to sleep?

You can watch the full keynote address here:

 

As I listened and scribbled down ideas to remember a few have weighed heavier on my mind.

Beauty and complexity

Sometimes (often) in education we try to simplify things. Maybe it is just me. I know I can get caught trying to simplify content, approaches, even learners in an effort to stream line an experience and see success for students. How many times in that simplification was I missing the beauty and complexity of the context of my learners? Was I valuing the uniqueness they each bring to the activity? Was I valuing the beauty and complexity of the knowledge each learner was bringing? Chris’ talk again was a reminder that we teach beautiful unique individuals with which we need to engage in authentic conversations.

Are we as educators going to be humble enough to create spaces to allow young people to teach us what we need to do? Chris Emdin

It’s time to be maladjusted

It’s my 16th year of teaching this year and I think I may have been called loud & passionate a few times in those 16 years. I hope I have been. Now that I am in a type of leadership role (although a smaller one) I can see how the system sometimes takes over. I have seen how you can get stuck in structures and protocols that have been established. How you can get caught in the repeating traditions that may no longer be essential. More than anything I could see moments when I got scared and tried to make my point more palatable, to ask the tough questions or speak up. As loud and passionate as I can be especially over modern learning, was I afraid to have certain conversations? Was I so accustomed to the system that I may be missing moments to be maladjusted?  As Brene Brown mentioned in her closing keynote it’s time to be brave, have courage and be vulnerable.  Time to be uncomfortable.

If we truly want a I need to do what I need to do. I’ve been called to do what I need to do. Chris Emdin

We need a consortium

I think this take away was the most unique. Sometimes we look for a charismatic leader, a leader to take the helm and push us forward. We wait for the one individual who will be able to curve the movement, inspire change and rally the masses. Chris’ notes about martyrs reminded me that not one of us can do it alone. The ideas and approaches that were championed and then passed over. How can I foster a consortium, a collective that is willing to champion education for all and isn’t afraid to be maladjusted?

More than anything Dr. Chris Emdin started off the conference with a battle cry, a cry to action. No more excuses. High expectations for all our learners, following their leads. And if someone gets in the way we will just have to say…

Thank you for your service…we got it from here. Chris Emdin

As a side note I tried to catch some of the ideas from the keynote live in the sketchnote below:

 

#listenclosely for the big/small moments

Anyone else wonder how we got to March  2017? Feel like the year is flying by and you just want to push pause? I find the busyness can take over at times; swept up in my to do list, the grand plans that haven’t quite fallen in to place, wondering how to affect the most change. Then I have these BIG/small moments that remind me education always comes back to the learner and there is no better place to learn than right beside learners listening closely.

BIG/small Moment 1

The week started off co-learning with a grade 6 friend and her co-spaces creation. We often say we are co-learning but this was it. It reminded me of some learning moments with our jr media production team at Fallingdale. Two learners going back and forth trying to figure out how to code two characters to walk together. She figured it out.

BIG/small Moment 2

Then there was the passing comment to a friend that if he wanted to help me out he could make me a cheat sheet. He stopped everything to go find a piece of paper and make sure I knew the keyboard shortcuts for WordQ. Now I have a reminder on my fridge that kids can teach us and to not underestimate our words.

BIG/small Moment 3

The biggest learning this week came from some grade 1 friends. The librarian and classroom teacher had already done a lot of coding with Dash so we were going to try to push the thinking further adding an IF code block and have Dash and Dot interact. I don’t know what I expected but they definitely exceeded all my expectations. I listened to a grade 1 friend finding her own strategy to manage counting by 20. I listened to another groups of girls debugging their code so Dash and Dot would see each other. We may have had a small learning goal in mind but our grade 1 friends were showing us so much more and all it required was a small prompting question. How do you know? Can you justify? What could you change?

The big/small moments kept happening through out the week. A quote from How Learning Happens popped to mind.

edsurge-ignite-5

I can’t shake this feeling that if I want to impact change I need to make the time to  #listenclosely.

 

 

That Gut Feeling – More than Numbers

This blog post has been swirling for a while (see a pattern) but I kept second guessing it. Did I have the right to write it? Was it really that meaningful? Maybe this post is more a reminder for me than a learning piece for anyone else.

Have you ever had one of those weird feelings in your gut? That feeling that something doesn’t sit right, something is off, but you can’t tell why. I remember feeling that way whenever chatting about Social Risk Index data and I was baffled.

Then one day it hit me.

My final year of high school I remember going to an OSAP meeting in the library. I can still picture standing across from the OSAP officer and a guy I had a crush on (a small miracle considering I forget what I have for breakfast). We had been back from Italy for a year and I was still adjusting to the changes of high school in a small town. At the time I believed OSAP was the only way I was going to university (Looking back now, I’m sure my grandparents would have helped). My worry wart tendencies started to make me panic so I just went up to the OSAP officer, told her how much my parents made and asked if I would have any problems getting assistance. She chuckled and dismissed any concerns I had. I think that was the first time I truly realized how little my parents made.

For most of my childhood I would have been reflected in the social risk index. 

  • Speaking a different language at home
  • Moving every few years
  • Didn’t own our home
  • Mom dropped out of high school to raise us (Went back to university later in life. Way to go mom!)
  • At times my parents were on student visas not officially employed, at others making a limited income

img_1220See all those stats are true but they don’t tell you my story. I have had the luxury of often blending in which helped as well as the fact that going overseas makes it sound exotic today. It really was an amazing childhood looking back. As I was watching a 60 minutes clip with Bruno Mars shared today, I loved how he mentioned it was the best of times. As kids we often don’t notice any of the above.  Michelle Obama had a similar note in her commencement speech at CCNY, reminding us that our struggles are really advantages in the long run. Looking at just the checklist misses the lessons I learned, the adventures had, the strengths that I developed.

Then I got that terrible gut feeling again.

How often had I let a set of data, labels or checkboxes lead my conversation about learners (big or small)? Was I letting the numbers become an excuse or see them as opportunities for growth and learning? How often had I stopped to connect to the learner’s individual story?

What did I learn? Data is important. It helps us see trends, needs, a bigger picture. But data should never come before the wonderful being behind it. Humanity first, numbers second. Another reminder to #listenclosely.

 

Storytime Part 2

It’s been almost a month since we were all sitting in rows in the grand hall of a Berlin hotel anxiously awaiting the start of the institute. 400 or so Apple Distinguished Educators that made the treck from various corners of our world to learn together.

I’ve been thinking about the takeaway for my time together with such amazing educators and every time I’m led back to the idea of STORY. It was my takeaway last year as well (Storytime Part 1: read more here), the power that comes from listening and appreciating the stories of others or co-creating a story as a community.

The week was definitely chockfull of stories. Some of the most memorable came bright and early during the fast paced morning spotlights. House lights down and 3 minutes on the clock. Each story brought with it inspiration, from educators that took the risk and innovated their practice whether it was connecting on social media or having learners design their learning space, to stories of empowerment and student voice. I had to hold back the tears more than once seeing/ listening to the story of learners that found confidence and a voice through the tools and the support of caring educators.

Every lesson I shared about stories last year stood true: the humanity, the inspiration, the power to build community. This time I picked up a few more.

We often look for story in the words written on a page or spoken on a screen but there is a story being told all around us. As we had the opportunity to explore Berlin one day, I realized how much PLACE tells it’s own story. Definitely there is no greater city than Berlin to illustrate that each road, each monument, each dimple in a wall carried with it a story. It made me wonder if I was taking the time to listen closely, to observe and appreciate the story that was all around. Funny how you have to travel thousand of miles sometimes to be reminded of simple truths.

Sharing stories can spark new adventures. Our work group was massive at the institute. Many amazing folks with great ideas of how they had used STEAM with K-5 learners and how we could support fellow educators. I’m going to blame my inattention on the fact that I just finished an AQ course or my introvert-ish tendencies but Seth Godin said the good stuff happens at the edges, right? Well either way, as we sat on the steps Stuart shared his story of success with animation. It got me sharing my story with animation and math this year. We roped Matt and Mike in suddenly there was this spark with our small group that grew to even more by the end of the week. We could see the common thread between our stories of success as well as our stories of need. What we needed to share was #1smalltweak. (Stay tuned for more!)

We all tell our stories differently. I have been working on #the100dayproject and it came to an end right in the middle of the institute, actually the same day we heard from the team at EyeEm. I was excited to listen to a fellow photographer. As I sat and listened to her process I did have a moment of panic. Listening to her process it varied so greatly from mine. It took a few seconds to realize that was ok. We each have a different process, desires, drives for our storytelling and that is ok. It was a reminder to be open to different paths. To approach each story with open ears (eyes) understanding our different rhythms.

It’s amazing the power stories can have to connect, inspire, empower us. As varied as the storytellers or the formats, each story reminds us how much we have in common.