Friday, 18 August 2017

A More Beautiful Question - The Importance of Inquiry

"Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question." - e.e. cummings
Last summer I began reading (well in my world reading means listening to the audiobook) Warren Berger's A More Beautiful Question.  I credit the book as the read that spark my love of sketchnoting - my very first sketch was inspired by it.  As I listened I could not let the words and ideas escape me.  I needed to capture them.

Well, life got in the way last summer and I never finished it.  However, I continued to think about it.  So, I picked it up again a week ago and devoured it!  What a phenomenal read.  It spoke to me as a mother, teacher, learner and coach.  I think had I stuck to the sketchnoting it might have filled a whole sketchbook.

Much of the professional development I have done in the last couple of years was most definitely influenced by the ideas in this book (it is about 3.5 years old).  Ideas about mindfulness, ideation, cognitive dissonance, empathizing with your audience, and embracing failure are shared alongside real life examples of people and companies who have successfully incorporated these ideas into their work and/or life and flourished.

I don't want to spoil it but I will share three of my favourite take aways.

1.  While people will resist answers they are often very open to questions.
This idea struck me on two levels.  Firstly, as a coach I really reflected on how to help others.  Going in with all the answers might turn people off; offering questions so they can come to their own conclusions is far more empowering.  Secondly, it made me think about schooling in general and the importance of Inquiry.  If we as teachers just offer the answers than we can surely expect MANY of our learners to resist and feel disenfranchised.  Asking question, so learners can forge their own path is a far more authentic (and difficult) way of learning.

2. Follow someone you disagree with on Twitter with an open curious mind.
I am not very political, but being a Canadian educator I think my values align far more with the Democratic agenda.  While I was on vacation this year I met a number of supporters of President Donald Trump - one was even a teacher who took her students to a Trump rally during the election trail.  I really enjoyed speaking to these people about their reasons to support someone I cannot understand*.  I did keep my mind open and learned a lot.  Dissonance is good for growth.

3.  Mission statements as questions
This likely struck me the most.  When organizations have mission statements it suggest finality.  Missions should be, like their audience, dynamic, not static.  Posing a mission statement as a question allows for an organization to change based on audience needs, and gives a chance for employees to feel they have a voice in finding the answer to the question - hence creating a collaborative environment.  Think about adding How Might We in front of a mission statement and tweak it from there.

Bottom line:  Read it.  I might have to read it again - and I think I might go buy the paper copy so I can mark it up.

*I didn't want a political tirade to tie up my post but I cannot fathom someone who would support a man who has build a platform on what I see as racism, misogyny, homophobia, and hate.  That said, I do realise that I form these options because of the biased views I am presented with in the media I choose to read/watch.  For example, the people I spoke with gave me insight on the Chelsea Manning case I had not considered.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

TONS of New Flipgrid Features

Getting ready for the event at the ballpark!
"Voice is more than just spoken voice" - Charlie Miller, CDO Flipgrid

If you follow me on Twitter you likely see a ton of tweets about Flipgrid.  I definitely have #FlipgridFever.  Tonight, the fine folks at Flipgrid released a whole boatload of new features - just in time to play with before we go back to school in Canada!  Did you miss the live event?  No worries....here are (just some of) the great new features!!  For all the great features check our the Flipgrid blog.

(I will apologize in advance for all the exclamation marks - I am just so excited!!)

Note:  Most of the features can be turned on and off is you want - and all the info is kept - no refreshing.
  1. Purpose of the Grid - You can now have a blurb that explains what the grid is all about.
  2. Profile Photo!  Now students can see the face of the grid creator!
  3. See Grid Engagement - Look for "Engagement" - it shows how the grid has been engaged with - recording, re-recording, or watching Click it for a cool little tip (e.g., this is how long it would take to watch all Harry Potter films back to back 17 times!)
    I had a great time hanging with Flipgrid François this summer
  4. Share the Grid by URL - Now you can embed them in other places.
  5. Plan your semester by scheduling - Scaffold your semester in advance by setting the date when your topic becomes visible and when they freeze.

    New attachment options!
  6. Vimeo, Gifs, & Camera Roll - Along with YouTube, you can now upload from sources other than just YouTube.
  7. Spark Icon - Tag something with the spark icon and you can make a response a topic!
  8. Topic Attachment - A TON of new sources to be able to attach from a HUGE whole list!
  9. New Time Limits - Elevator pitch mode (15s) and 300s (5 minutes) - think mini presentations and Ignite Talks!
  10. Title for posts - Give a summary of what was said - and and to searchability.

    SO many badges!
  11. Links - Add a link to a post which can be seen by teacher only or all viewers.
  12. Moderation at the topic level, not just the grid level.
  13. Custom Feedback - Create a rubric and it follows you! (Coming soon - ways to share them.)
  14. Badges - TONS coming - let's gamify this!
  15. Office 365 integration - Post a grid into OneNote and it appears!
  16. Custom Icons - Don't just like a post, tell people you got them thinking or even DROP THE MIC!  
    Drop the mic!!
  17. QuickView - Watching videos from within your Teacher Admin is also easier than ever with QuickView. Provide feedback, watch replies, share, and navigate between videos with a single click.
  18. QR Codes - know you don't only need a code, you will have a QR code to use as well!
  19. Use Hashtags to link responses - Hashtag responses and then you can view linked topics!!

    Stickies to track your thoughts
  20. Real time refreshing!
  21. Sticky Notes - Now you can make notes in Flipgrid to leave for yourself as notes as you record. 💗
  22. Stickers on Selfie - When you take your selfie you can customize it with stickers for personalization.
  23. Canvas integration - Flipgrid is now integration into the Canvas LMS.
  24. Private Links - Share videos with a singular stakeholder - read: parents can see how their child is being a digital citizen in class and download it to their camera roll.
  25. More Explorer series - Coming every month!  On Sep. 18 Jason Osborne - a paleontologist is coming to Flipgrid.  
Oh...and don't expect Snapchat filters...they will not be coming.  They want to keep the integrity of student voice.  #Amen

Finally, I tweeted it but need to put it here too - Charlie Miller should host the Oscars!  His energy is SO infectious!  

If you are not on it already...get the fever and join!  And you can use the code JENGIFFEN to try Classroom free until Sep. 30.  See you on the grids! <-- final exclamation point.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Google Infused Classroom

I just finished reading my first book of the summer - The Google Infused Classroom: A guidebook to making thinking visible and amplifying student voice by Holly Clark and Tanya Avrith and LOVED it.  I have been teaching for 16 years, and am very involved in the world of EdTech so, while much of the was not new to me, having it all in one place makes me so happy!! This will definitely be one of my go to resources when coaching teachers - and, in my opinion, a must have for all new and aspiring teachers.

Here are my biggest loves from the book:

  1. It Puts the Horse Firmly Ahead of the Cart
    The book is not really about Google, nor is it about EdTech tools, it is about good pedagogy.  It is about engaging students and giving them voice.  The book centres around good teaching practice and then outlines how and which EdTech Tools can support.
  2. It Addresses All the Things I Am Passionate About in Education.  The Google Infused Classroom clearly lays out the importance of rich assessment for/of/as learning, making learning visible, understanding by design, and constructivism.  It also introduced me to connectivism (something I believe in but didn't have a name for until this book).  All these ideas are explained clearly and succinctly - making it a great resource to introduce or remind.
  3. It Is SUPER Accessible.
    The authors have divided the book into four sections: formative assessment, demonstration of learning, tips for differentiation, and reflect & curation with a bonus section about digital portfolios.  I love that you can jump into a section to learn. Moreover, each section outlines why to do it and how it makes thinking visible & amplifies student voice.  Once that is clear they introduce an EdTech Tool that can support and outline information about tools including how it works, what it costs, and why it is great.
  4. It Is Full Of Great Quotes.The English teacher inside me loves the quotes the authors have included by other authors to drive home the importance of the pedagogy being discussed.  
"If students are sharing their work with the world they want it to be good.  If they're sharing it with you, the want it to be good enough" -Rushton Hurley
It is definitely a book worth reading - and be sure to follow the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #InfusedClassroom

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Lessons from a Try A Tri

A few weeks ago my colleague Trevor Krikst and I had a conversation at lunch about fitness.  Claiming we were both very out of shape, we decided to do something about it.  "Let's do a mini triathlon before work one morning!" we said. (Editor's note: we were at an in-service and now wonder if they had spiked the water.)  We did some research and found we could run to a local pool (2.5km away), swim there, and then bike back to our office.  We invited the rest of our team and about half said they were in.

This past Thursday morning, we did it!  We ran 2.5KM, biked 8.75KM and swam 400m.  I am proud of what we did and want to share five things I took from the experience.


Our DLRT Try-A-Try Team

  1. PLANS CHANGE AND THAT'S OKBefore the day of the event I had mapped out a route for our bike ride.  I made a custom google map, created a turn-by-turn map in the RunGo app, all to keep us all together.  The morning of, some of the team suggested that we change the order or the events so we would end at the pool so we could shower.  I wanted to end at the office - I had these romanticized visions of our other colleagues cheering for us.  Brushing my romanticized dream aside, I agreed - and I am glad I did.  It turns out  that swimming at the end was a great cool down and I am pretty sure it was the reason I was not in total pain the next day.
  2. IT IS IMPORTANT TO SHARE IDEAS WITH OTHERSTrevor and I could have easily kept this to ourselves, but we decided to open to the team to spread the fun.  I am so glad we did.  There is something magical about the communal release of endorphins.  We cheered each other on and created bonds different than we had had all year.  Sharing deepened our sense of community.
  3. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO LIVE IN THE PRESENTDuring our bike section, I realised that I don't know how to use my gears.  I also realised that the path I had planned was VERY uphill.  I actually had to get off my bike and walk it up one hill.  When I reached the top of it I saw that there was a level off for a couple hundred meters and then another hill.  #Yikes.  I got back on my bike, started to pedal, and just kept my head down.  I concentrated on my legs moving and a few meters in front of me.  It was a bit of a struggle, but I made it up that hill.  I swear it was because I did not look too far ahead and thus didn't get overwhelmed.  BY staying in the present I could focus on what was needed in the moment - and that made me successful.
  4. LITTLE GESTURES CAN MAKE A BIG IMPACT
    I was by far the slowest one on the route.  I came in last in the swim and the bike sections. About 3/4 of the way though the bike, my colleague and friend Royan Lee circled back to check on me.  I had told the team to go ahead and not let me hold them up.  (While most people do this sort of thing to beat or meet a time, I had a goal to just finish, preferable uninjured!)  It meant a lot to me that he came back for me.  Even more, when he realised that I was struggling with the hills, and when we faced the last hill of the route, he made me switch bikes with him - his was much better and I could switch gears for an easier ride.  It was no big deal to Royan, but it meant a lot to me that he wanted me to feel part of the team time and took measures to help relieve my struggle.  Thanks Royan 😁
  5. TAKE TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU
    I am proud of what I did on Thursday.  I took time to do something for me.  As a busy, full-time working mom of three boys, that's not always easy.  I have a lot of fun memories from that morning - not the lease of which was having Siri tell me not to curse at her when she couldn't figure out how to call my husband when I needed a pep talk.  We have also had other people in our office express an interest in doing it with us if we did it again - self car is contagious.
The team is talking about doing it again this coming Thursday, but unfortunately, I will be at ISTE.  Maybe next year.   😉

Monday, 12 June 2017

8 Books to Read this Summer


I love to read...but I never make enough time to read as much as I would like.  Most of my reading is actually listening, since the birth of my oldest son, I have been addicted to audio books.  This summer I hope to get back to the paper books now that my boys are little bigger!  So here is what I am hoping to get into:

Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom by: Amy Burvall & Dan Ryder
This book arrived in my mailbox today and I cold not be more excited!  It explores ways to meet typical curriculum expectations in creative ways.  Each idea explores how to do the activity, what students will take away, and links to different disciplines.  I also have the honour of joining author Amy Burvall in Washington DC this summer at the Google Certified Innovator Academy where she will be a trainer.  #WDC17!



IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry-based Learning by: Jennifer Watt & Jill Colyer
This one has been on my list of almost a year.  I think inquiry is imperative  in education (see my suggestion later for Trevor MacKenzie's book).  People in my office rave about IQ as an inquiry resource and some even say it is part of the canon of Inquiry Based Learning.  It is full of tools and suggestions on how to get started and running with IBL.





Making Your School Something Special by: Rushton Hurley 
I met Rushton at the Ontario Edtech Team Summit in Kitchener in April.  He was such an inspirational guy.  He captivated his crowd and was full of fascinating stories when I spoke to him one-on-one.  I look forward to reading about his ideas around making school a place wherein EVERYONE feels valued and celebrated.







Start With Why by: Simon Sinek
The one book I have on my list that is not written about education - we can all grow in other areas.  Sinek's TED talk is one of the most views of all time and it is no wonder why.  This book is all about WHY people do things...it gets to the root of motivation and shares how to inspire others.








Want more?  Here are some of my fav books I read this year.

The HyperDoc Handbook by: Lisa Highfill, Sarah Landis, & Kelly Hilton
Last summer I kept seeing #HyperDocs all over Twitter.  I read a few things and knew immediately that I needed to read this book.  I bought it an devoured it.  It revolutionized the way I think about lessons design and delivery and student choice.  I cannot stop talking about this and love the HyperDocs Tribe.






Launch by: AJ Juliani & John Spencer
This was my other OMGoodness book from last summer.  Spencer and Juliani outline project based learning (PBL) to show how accessible and important it is to boost student creativity and instil the maker mindset in students.  It is a call to take back what it important in education to re-engage learners.








Dive into Inquiry by: Trevor MacKenzie
As I mention above, inquiry fascinates me and I hold it as a cornerstone in engaging education.  Until I read this book I never knew how to start.  I thought I had to dive into Free Inquiry.  Trevor outlines the process in a clear, and accessible fashion and made me realise how Inquiry can be done in any class, in any grade!







Teach Like a Pirate by: Dave Burgess
Earlier this year I ran a virtual teacher book club and our first book was Dave Burgess' - we loved it!  It is full of strategies to engage students and find your passions as a teacher.  Dave discusses the PIRATE acronym: passion, immersion, rapport, asking & analyzing, transformation, and enthusiasm.  He also offers 30 hooks which are surefire ways to engage.  If you have ever seen him talk, you can definitely feel his energy through this book.





Guilty pleasure....OK, it's not all about reading for work...a friend sent me Big Little Lies...it will be my beach read!



Do you have others on your want to or must read list?  Share them with me in the comments and consider adding to Hollie Sisk's Flipgrid!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

How to use Flipgrid BEYOND the classroom

I have definitely caught #FlipgridFever.  I am using it every chance I get to capture voice...there is something rich about hearing someone's intonation and see their facial expressions.  About 6 weeks ago, I read Karly Moura's great post about how to use Flipgrid in a class.  I have shared that post MANY times with teachers beginning with, or looking for new ways to use Flipgrid.  BUT, I am not a classroom teacher and get called on a lot by other coaches or administrators to see how they can tap in to the features of this great tool.  I have been sharing ideas with them and thought it might be time to go more public with these uses...afterall, Flipgrid has many great uses beyond the traditional classroom.





10 ways to use Flipgrid beyond the classroom

  1. School Announcements.  In my experience students rarely listen to voice announcements, and people often want to read their announcement themselves.  Why not have a grid for people to post announcements?  Teachers could find time in class to share the grid AND it would be available to the larger school community.

  2. Teacher Daily Reflections.  Having daily reflections is  great practice for teachers.  Why not start a reflection grid that you can keep private, or share publicly?  Check out how Ryan Matthews called out his district and asked for their reflections.

  3. Speaker Corner at Conferences - Until about 10 years ago in Toronto we had a TV show called Speakers Corner.  There were video booths set up around the city for people to use the voice their views, concerns, happiness disdain, with any topic they wanted. It was then edited and shared on the show.  Flipgrid can provide that same opportunity. Why not set up a photo booth of sorts for delegates to share thoughts? Check out how EdTechTeam TN used it for reflections.

  4. Teacher Book Clubs - It can be tough for teachers to carve out time for rich discussion in to a typical school day.  Why not make discussions asynchronous?  Consider starting a teacher book club wherein teachers read a book and share thoughts on a grid?  Not only will you have discussion but it will be archived and shareable!  Check out this one I did with some colleagues about Trevor MacKenzie's book Dive Into Inquiry.

  5. Interviews/Podcasts.  Have you ever met someone great at a conference or PD session?  Have a colleague whose ideas you need to share?  Consider starting a great ideas grid wherein you have colleagues share their thoughts that resonate with you.

  6. Make Introductions.  Nerves are at their peak the week or so before school starts with the unknown faced by students and parents.  Why not introduce your school to community before the school year starts?!

  7. Build community among staff.  Consider having a grid whereon staff share summer adventures and/or learnings.  This will build community and create great back to school conversation beyond the regular small talk.

  8. PD Opportunity - Do you have something you can teach in a few minutes or less?  I have tech tips I post on YouTube for my district every week.  Why not use a grid?  Joe Merill does a great job on his board about appsmashing with Flipgrid.  (Thanks for pointing me to that Jornea Erwin!)

  9. Virtual Cards - Use gruds as virtual thank you and encouragemetn cards.  Someone retiring?  Why not ask people to add messages to a grid?  This way the card does not get lost and poeple from other building can also contribute!  This can be done as thank you cards as well - see this great tribute to mom.

  10. Have Fun! Claudio Zavala's sing a song board speaks for itself here...unleash and have fun!


    Do you have another idea?  Share it on this grid!  Looking forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cool Ways to use Flipgrid in your class and practice

Looking for some fun ways to use Flipgrid?

 Consider these! Use Flipgrid to....



Explain!

Review and Discuss Books! 
Debate!
  
Give thanks!
  
 Discuss with an expert!   
Have Fun!

Appsmash!