IMMOOCing with colleagues: trying something new for Season 3

I was very much inspired by participating in the first two “seasons” of IMMOOC. Now, I will be honest that I did not complete every task that was assigned and each time, although I had high hopes, I only averaged three or four of the six blog posts. Despite this, I thought the concept of a massive on-line learning community was exciting, and the learning was indeed visible. In fact, I was jealous of those who were participating in IMMOOC as a group of colleagues from a school, or division, and dreamed that someday I might be able to also convince some colleagues to join in.innovators mindset

Then the stars aligned. George Couros announced an October 2017 IMMOOC Season 3, and several colleagues were wondering if I would be trying to gather staff into another book study. I took this as a sign that it was time to try the IMMOOC group participation that I had always coveted.

The back story to this is that I teach high school and over the last few years I’ve gathered some interested colleagues together to try a book study together -something that hadn’t really happen at our school previously. This was a new thing and I blogged about it several times years ago, as you can read about here and here. Some of the books had a greater impact than others, but the process always occurred over many months, usually at school, somehow connected to the school day. Some of my colleagues have been in all of the book studies and were willing to give this new 6-week power book study a try. We even recruited a fresh face or two.

In the end, it would be easy to sum up this dream IMMOOC group study as a failure. The every-week-for-6-weeks pace was just too much. In fact, I think my dear colleagues were mostly relieved when I sent out a message after Week 4 that we weren’t going to try to assemble for the rest of the weeks. I think that only one other person in the group even attempted to blog (thanks, Heather). I’m not sure that anyone commented on a single ‘strangers’ blog. I’m not sure that anyone else followed the IMMOOC learning after we gave up the group in Week 4.

Yet despite these perceived failures, I think that there is always some growth and learning that occurs when we try to push a bit of innovation forward. For example:

  • Some of my colleagues read Innovator’s Mindset for the first time.
  • Some of my colleagues started the book and will get around to finishing it eventually.
  • Several of these colleagues participated in their first Twitter Chat.
  • Other colleagues were reminded of the good learning space that Twitter can be.
  • We got to sit in each other’s homes and re-connect and talk about educational issues that we don’t get around to discussing at school.
  • Even though I don’t think we watched a single full video session from beginning to end, it was because we ran out of time because we were spurred to discussion by something one of the guests said that we agreed or didn’t agree with (ie. the definition of and debate about homework!)
  • I learned that a book study at our school is indeed best attempted over a semester or a year, not a month!

If nothing else, this experience is a good reminder that just because a plan doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a waste of time. In fact, doesn’t some of the best learning take place when things don’t go as planned.

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Sharing openly and regularly: #IMMOOC Season 3, Week 5

One of the prompts for this week’s “short blog challenge” during the Innovator’s Mindset #IMMOOC online book study (Season 3, Week 5):

“How do we share openly and regularly to further our own learning and development?”

That is the question! This is so hard for so many of us to do as educators. Both parts are hard: the “openly” and the “regularly”!

Many teachers find the “openly” part difficult, as it puts us in a perceived place of vulnerability. At the high school level, we rarely collaborate or share our classrooms due to doubt. Will people judge me? What if my lesson doesn’t go perfectly? Why does anyone else care what I have to say?  All of these doubts hinder us from engaging in learning and collaboration with others.

For time-strapped teachers, the “regularly” part is also difficult. I just finished sending an email ‘disbanding’ our #IMMOOC book club for the remainder of this season. My colleagues were too overwhelmed trying to meet together weekly, like this whirlwind #IMMOOC challenges us to do.  Our group members might be a bit sad that it has come to this, but I’m sure most are ultimately breathing a sigh of relief! Of course, regularly doesn’t have to mean weekly, but, inevitably, regularly becomes occasionally, which often becomes rarely. And sadly, amidst marking and report cards, our own learning and development often is a low priority.

Fortunately, trying out voluntary book studies as a staff has pushed some of our school staff members to further our learning and development. As a result of doing book studies together:

  • we’ve tried new literacy activities (Thanks Kylene Beers!).
  • we’ve adopted some school wide literacy initiatives, such as a high school wide Word List
  • we’ve had great conversations –the kind that never happen as you fly past one another in the hallway at school
  • we’ve shared openly and developed new ideas together

 

Innovator = Reflector = Cursed?, #IMMOOC Season 3, Week 2

One of the topics for Week 2 of Season 3 of the #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course) asks us to examine George Couros’ 8 Characteristics of an Innovator and discuss which of these we might exemplify. In IMMOOC Season 1 I wrote about risk-taking and resilience. and in Season 2 about being reflective.

This time around, I will reflect once again on the innovative habit of “being reflective”, but without re-reading what I wrote last time – this will make for some interesting real life research! The first thing that comes to mind as I think about being reflective is that it can be a curse.

My son has just started his college undergrad courses on the road to becoming a teacher. In his first month of college, he is doing an observation practicum in a kindergarten class. Yesterday he was labouring over his first journal-type entry as a “reflective practitioner”, as his text book describes it. So this got me thinking about how very naturally and continually I reflect on my teaching practice. I guess the habit has been ingrained since my pre-service teaching days when I had to do post-lesson reflections, written down on paper.

Of course as full time teachers, most of us do not have time to sit down and formally journal about the successes and failures of our many lessons a day. Despite this, my lesson plans and student handout materials are scrawled with suggestions and changes for next time. My methods and work are constantly evolving, although not always in significant shifts. Often the changes are to increase clarification or because I’ve found a better source, or often, a new technology tool/approach that I think would be engaging for students.

Thus the curse: being reflective causes a teacher more work. I often am jealous of my colleagues who are not wired to be as reflective. They can make a lesson once, and whether it was mildly or wildly successful or not at all, they can go on to teach it semester after semester with nary an alteration. I do not have this ability. I am often jealous of those who can just keep teaching the same ol’ thing. Semester after semester. Year after year.

Often jealous, but not always. In the end, why do I go through the torment of reflection and the resulting revision? Because it is probably best for our students. If we expect our students’ best work, and require them to revise and rework their submissions, knowing that they can create a better piece of work, it would be hypocritically if we were not willing to do the same.

Innovator’s Mindset – trying a staff version of #IMMOOC 3

innovators mindsetThis is our staff’s 3rd attempt at doing a book study together…. but a very different approach.

Some EBHS staff will get together to participate together-ish in the 3rd online edition of #IMMOOC with YouTube lives sessions to watch, Twitter Chats, blogs posts and commenting on the blogs of others. This will undoubtedly push some members out side of their comfort zone….just what an innovator should do. I’ve personally participated in the first 2 online #IMMOOC sessions, and am glad I’ve finally been able to get a crew to join me (from the many who purchased his book when he was at our 2016 Teacher’s Convention). Here’s to trying something new! I hope we can stick with it!

Post Script: Wondering how it went? Click here

The Elusive ‘Open Culture’:#IMMOOC Week 4

I am doing my best to take part in #IMMOOC Season 2 : a world-wide digital book study based on The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. It is week 4.

You can’t build an effective wall if your first foundational layer is weak or non-existent; every time you try to add another layer it will collapse within relatively short order.  I love that George has illustrated “Foundations for Innovation” with this wall image. 

The high school that I work at is wonderful in so many ways. We have ‘built’ many great programs and traditions in our short 20 year history.  But one wall that never gets very tall is the innovation piece.  When I consider this image, it all becomes clear: innovation doesn’t flourish in our school because we can’t seem to “Embrace an open culture” – the very base or foundation of the wall in the image.

Most change that we experience is calculated and strategically implemented in response to directives from the province or the school division, but change of the transformative, “this-looks-different”, out-side of the box type doesn’t happen. Of course, like in any school, there have been pockets of innovation. Often times, those innovative ideas have been relatively short bursts of success that haven’t lead to long term change or impact.  The wall image would indicate that without an open, collaborative culture, this is to be expected.

Unfortunately, it feels like we are stuck. Some colleagues fall back on the “high schools are just less open, collaborative places” mentality. On the other hand, I work with several collaborative, open, sharing colleagues and some of them do amazing things for and with their students. Yet, because of our lack of open culture, other teachers in the school aren’t even aware of these amazing things. We celebrate sports victories, musical achievements, and art contest successes, but, we don’t have a vehicle for celebrating the cool things that teachers are learning and trying with their students inside the walls of the every-day classroom. At best we might have a spoken staff-meeting moment of some of the things that are happening, but we don’t make or take opportunities to go watch and experience what is happening beyond the doors that line our hallways.

Some of us have been chipping away at creating a more open culture for a few years, but success has been limited. We tried a “pineapple chart” approach a few years ago before there was such thing as a pineapple chart. It was exciting for a few teachers, but fizzled out because the buy-in pool was so limited, despite efforts to grow it.

During #IMMOOC Season 2, I’m enjoying the opportunity to read about what innovation and cultures of sharing look like across the continent.  As a non-administrator, I’ll keep encouraging different ways of trying to get a wedge into our not-so-open culture. I know there is no magic bullet, but one day maybe we’ll find some bricks that help to build that “open culture” foundation.

I would love to hear how your high schools work on that open culture piece!

Creating vs. Consuming: #IMMOOC Week 3

I am doing my best to take part in #IMMOOC Season 2 : a world-wide digital book study based on The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. It is week 3 with a “short blog” challenge.

School vs LearningI believe that there certainly is a danger as we implement technology into our classrooms that we fall into the CONSUMER trap.  So many apps, especially it seems for younger learners, are what I would call CONSUMER apps.  Students have access to a variety of apps where they play games to help them practice reading, writing skills, math skills, geography skills. They are fun and engaging for a time, but kind of like the TV/iPad as babysitter idea.

I teach an edtech college course to pre-service teachers and I try to expose them to tech tools that they can use with their students to CREATE. It is these CREATING tools that really move our classrooms from school to learning.  When you give kids a device to capture their learning in picture format, video format, digital poster format, meme format, book snap format, etc., the wheels start turning and all sorts of wonderfully creative divergent thinking can pour forth.

That’s what learning looks like.

Risk-taking and resilience cycle: #IMMOOC week 2

I am doing my best to take part in #IMMOOC : a world-wide digital book study based on The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. It is week 2.

8-characteristics-of-the-innovators-mindset

This image is a summary of the 8 characteristics of an innovator that George Couros shares in his book. This week the book study community was challenged to reflect on how we embody the characteristics of an Innovator’s Mindset. While I’d like to think that I have little snippet’s of all of those characteristics, the ones that jump out for me recently are “risk-taker” and “resilient”.

While I do not consider myself wildly innovative, I would say that  I’ve become more of a risk-taker. And I think that in order to be a risk-taker, one must be resilient. In my experience, those risks, no matter how well-prepared you think you are, often lead to some degree of failure. If it wasn’t for the resilience, one would never rise again to take another risk!

I am most comfortable taking risks in the area of technology in the classroom. When I look back over my career and technology, the lure of the possibilities that a new technology could bring to student engagement or learning always seems to out-weigh the potential road-blocks or failures. So, again and again,  I’ve gone ahead and tried something new, usually prefaced with :”Ok, we’re trying something new and different today. We’re being pioneers. Hopefully this works.”

Sometimes a new tool works even better than expected (like Goosechase or QuizletLive) and the kids say things like, “Why can’t we do this all the time? How about tomorrow?” Sometimes there are glitches and unanticipated stumbling blocks (like Spiral.ac), but the response from students still might be, “Why can’t we do this all the time? How about tomorrow?”  Sometimes things go totally disastrous (like anything to do with Office 365) and students wait somewhat patiently while I trouble shoot, and the student  response is, “Why don’t you just give up.” And I might say, “This isn’t working today. Here is Plan B for today, we’ll try this another day!”

Thus goes the risk-taking and resilience cycle.