Why Innovation? #IMMOOC

Why Innovation? #IMMOOC

Culture of Change

It wasn’t so long ago that most of us led fairly predictable lives. Change was an upset in the flow of things. A rock in the river. A crack in the dam. Then our environment started to change. I remember a time even more recently when it felt like an accomplishment just to be able to say, with some verity, “I embrace change”. Now, it seems that we need to be change seekers, or even change creators. And, of course, whatever we create or innovate should make an old idea “new and better” as defined in The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Innovation is crucial today because the way we live in this world is changing so rapidly, that to maintain any kind of social existence we need to reinvent effective ways to communicate and that includes teaching and learning.

Innovation in Education is Crucial

Most of us in education were not born into a culture of change, but the students that we teach were born into it. Many are born innovators. I haven’t had a class yet in which a student didn’t surprise me by the unique way he or she would use an educational tool be it low tech or high tech. Just look at the way students communicate using Instagram or Snapchat. They are masters at back-channelling and selfie-taking. Social communication apps are constantly changing and the kids change with them, finding new and creative ways to share information with each other. So, If we as teachers do not become master innovators, how can we teach innovators how to innovate better? How do we teach them to innovate for the good of the world? We can’t. It’s that simple.

Fight Adversity with Innovation

The definition of education is the process of facilitating learning. The use of the word “facilitating” here hints that a certain level of adversity is inherent in education. Everything from limited funding and over-emphasis on standardized testing to lack of parental support and student preparedness creates hurdles that many teachers, me included, sometimes feel powerless to overcome. However, innovation has helped with some of these hurdles. One of my hurdles was the logistics of giving homework. There was a unique dynamic to this problem. First, our student population includes those who have limited resources at home, and therefore, can not do homework at home. Second, there is a trend to lessen homework or get rid of it altogether. And last, I wanted to start flipping my classroom, but students would need to do their homework. This made flipped learning inequitable for our student population. Then, I stumbled upon Jennifer Gonzales’ video that explained The In-class Flip. This method of lesson delivery is perfect for my students because our school just evolved to having 1to1 student Chromebooks. Therefore, each student has access to my video lesson at the start of class, and can replay it as needed while they complete the related tasks. This frees me up to walk around and facilitate, and makes learning more equitable. Adversity solved with The In-class Flip!

Collaborating Online With Slack

Collaborating Online With Slack

Collaborating With Slack

Slack is a communication tool for teams.  It is especially useful for groups who may work different people in different groups at different times.  The element in slack that handles this dynamic is its channel feature. anyone can create a channel and invite colleagues to collaborate by video conference, text discussion and sharing documents.  All of which can be saved and accessed or shared later.  More focused discussion can happen by direct message.  Channels can also be designated as private or public.  In short, Slack is a great tool for facilitating and organizing collaboration that is very user friendly.  The only challenge that I faced was when I switched from my iMac to my iPad.  There was a slight learning curve to figuring out how to work with the features on my tablet.

Slack at School

I am excited to introduce Slack to my colleagues.  In the English Department, we often collaborate through email in between department meetings and Slack would be the perfect tool.  There would be a designated channel for specific conversations related to common assessments, MCAS practice, data collection etc.  This way, we would not be searching for emails to find the last discussion on a given topic.  This would also be a fantastic tool for the Technology Coach to use to facilitate and share conversations regarding, technology questions, issues and trainings.

What Does Slack’s Interface Look Like?

This is an example of the main discussion thread (center), side thread (right), uploaded documents and the channels (left sidebar).

 

This is an example of a direct message thread.

Give Slack a Try!

Signing-up for Slack and its basic features are free.  Check it out at Slack.

 

 

G Suite Updates: Google Form Features

G Suite Updates: Google Form Features

    

The Checklist/ Multiple Choice Grid Hybrid

On July 10th, 2017,  Google announced updates for Google Forms.  The most exciting Forms update is the addition of the Checkbox grid.  This functions just like the Multiple choice grid question, except you can choose more than one answer in a row!  And, you know it functions like a Checklist question because the clickable fields are square.  They function the same way!  So, let’s say you want to create a form for class t-shirt/sweatshirt sales, and your row headings are the shirt types, and the column headings are the sizes.  If a student wants a sweatshirt, and so does his little sister, he can choose the two sizes.  In an original Multiple choice grid question, that would not be possible.  There are many ways that you could use this in the classroom for quizzes, polls, questionnaires, order forms, et cetera.

One of Several Updates

This feature is the most exciting for me, but there are more! Below is a short video example how the Checkbox grid works.  Also, you can access the original Google Forms update article here: “G Suite Update Alerts:  Smarter Google Forms”.

Pfff…Who Needs Relaxation? Create a Blog!

Pfff…Who Needs Relaxation? Create a Blog!

Educational Technology Makes Everything Easier = Oxymoron

The idea that we use technology to make our lives easier is funny because sometimes learning to use it (initially) makes things harder.  And, that’s OK.  I experience this all the time.  And,  I have recently found this to be especially true while creating this new WordPress blog about educational technology.

Learning New Tech Takes Time

You see,  during the summer I love to read.  I become immersed in books because it is relaxing and rejuvenating!  It’s my escapist pleasure.  This summer, however, I decided to flip the coin and dive into writing more than reading. My rationale was simple. I have created classroom websites before, and I’ve helped students create their own Google websites. I thought creating a blog would be a fun summertime hobby.  Well, I was right!  This has been fun!  However, the realization dawned that reading is a walk in the woods, and creating a blog from scratch is akin to scaling the rocky peaks of a mountain.  I could have gone with a more user-friendly platform, but I wanted the flexibility and performance that a site like this can offer.  I just had to commit to it.

The Learning Curve is a Slope

The tricky part for me was climbing mountainous slopes of actually assembling the website itself.  It is a creative endeavor; it takes work.  Navigating hosting services, WordPress templates, customized headers, plugins (I love plugins), gadgets, et cetera, can be daunting!  Even though deeper learning of technology can be time-consuming, the process is valuable! Many things that I have learned can be used for my classroom, and for my own professional development.  So, if anyone reading this thinks this might be fun, this is a great beginning tutorial: WordPress Beginner Tutorial

Almost There…

For those of you who found me, you are witnessing my first plateau during this climb.  I am feeling very accomplished at this moment; it’s time for an exciting summer of blogging about my favorite topic: educational technology!  Not quite as relaxing as reading, but gratifying just the same.

My next topic:  Form Publisher and ways that you can use it in the classroom.