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!

 

 

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#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.

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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.

 

Just Right – A Reminder

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We know the story of Goldilocks. This little blonde girl somehow is wandering without any adult supervision.  Her exhaustion gives her permission to break in to a house, leading her to find the ‘JUST RIGHT’ things she was craving. Crazy when you think about it but I love Anthony Browne‘s backstory if you have never read it.

There is some thing familiar to Goldilock’s JUST RIGHT moments that makes us keep coming back. To be honest I don’t really remember the story as a kid, but I know I’ve used it or heard it dozens of times as an adult. As Goldilock’s Principles, Strategies and Rules popped up in a quick image search, the idea seems to fit many worlds and situations. Maybe it is because the concept seems universal. Who isn’t in search for that JUST RIGHT pair of jeans, work out, car, home, book? Last week I was reminded that there are  JUST RIGHT edtech moments too.

It was a Thursday Lunch and Learn and I was nervous. There was a tool I had been introduced to a year before but never found the right setting or group. It was an audio feedback tool that allowed you to annotate artifacts with personalized written, audio feedback or lesson links. I was a little apprehensive to share it.I must have re-read the email request a dozen times. It wasn’t an idea I had tried, tested and perfected but I couldn’t think of a better option for what they were searching for. The day came and as we chatted, the questions started flowing. We started exploring the different uses. We signed in as student’s would to see their experience. It was so awesome to see it was possibly a JUST RIGHT fit for some of the tasks they had ahead.

Friday I was sitting with a few colleagues that work in a very unique situation. I had grand plans of what we would work on for the afternoon. The go to standards; the newest and brightest tools. We started chatting and sharing about our learning communities. As I listened I realized there was one particular need that kept coming up and the  JUST RIGHT tool to address it may not be what I had planned, but rather a simple, free app. We tried it out and I could see the excitement growing. I love those moments when educators see the possibilities, the potential the tool has to enhance the learning experience. It was a very different tool from Thursday’s Lunch and Learn but none the less it was JUST RIGHT.

 

In Edtech we sometimes have a tendency to create really long lists of possible options or champion the newest and greatest. I know I’m to blame as much as the next person. I love to find new tools and think of the possibilities. Sometimes we feel we need to use a tool because others are championing it. It’s been tweeted by our role model or a district leader so it must be the right fit. Sometimes we feel we need to show we are innovative by using the newest, flashiest tool and other times we keep reusing our GO TO tool because it just works.

Last week’s experiences reminded me that maybe innovation in education is less about the flash of an app or the release date of a tool, and more about finding that JUST RIGHT tool that will enhance the learning experience.

How would learning change, how would our discussions change if we focused on the JUST RIGHT tool, at the JUST RIGHT time, for the JUST RIGHT learner?

Grateful for the reminder that maybe more than anything my role is to slow down, listen and find the JUST RIGHT tool for the learning & learner.