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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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:

 

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.

#ThisSeptemberPrj: My Wish

IMG_0710So there has been this post-it note sitting on my counter for about two months now. Over the past year I have been involved in a lot of conversations around the purpose of education or a philosophy of 21st century teaching. How does it align with the basics? What is necessary? What has changed?

Whenever I tried to answer the question, I would get stuck on the words and I realized maybe I needed to look at it differently. What did I want for my nephews? For the kids I’ve taught and know? I started jotting down ideas for my wish and that’s where it ended  till now.

So when I started the project I knew that this would be the clip that I wanted to create. Something about a wish felt liberating. You aren’t constrained to the structures we often bring into conversations about education and it’s purpose. It also allowed me to look at a bigger picture and how we all, educators, aunts, parents, grandparents, family friends, play a role in  a child’s education. 

So after some awkward moments acting like a tourist in my own city, here it is:

For more check out the My Wish page on the project website.