Wednesday, May 31, 2017

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: Discuss #Infographics with @Easel_ly & @Piktochart

On Thursday, June 1st at 6 pm, we invite you to join the #NYCSchoolsTechChat where we will discuss ways to use infographics to support teaching and learning.  Our special guests include Clemencia Acevedo (@Acevedo493) a teacher who uses infographics to support her work as well as representatives from two popular infographic providers, @easel_ly, and @romikid from @piktochart. They will, help us discover ideas, strategies, and resources to support teaching and learning with infographics.

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon (@eileen_lennon) moderates with me throwing in my two cents.

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

    Q1 What are types of #infographics you might use in your school? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
    Q2 Why are #infographics an effective tool to support student learning?  #NYCSchoolsTechChat
    Q3 What are positive results from having students create infographics? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
    Q4 What are your fears & challenges around creating #infographics? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
    Q5 Share do’s and don’ts of using infographics for teaching & learning. #NYCSchoolsTechChat
    Q6 Have you used an #infographic or the closest you’ve come to an infographic to support learning? Share links! #NYCSchoolsTechChat
    Q7 Give a shout out by RT, like, or reply to someone who has inspired you w/good ideas abt #Infographics in today's #NYCSchoolsTechChat

    Chat details are below:
    Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.

    We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at

    Sunday, May 28, 2017

    The Most Important Element for High-Performing Teams Is This

     Illustration by James Graham, New York Times
    Coaching Psychologist Yaron Prywes (@Yaron321) who specializes in innovation led a full-day workshop where among other topics, he shared what Google learned in its quest to build the perfect team. In fact while there are many important elements in building a team, if this one element is in place you are well on your way to success.

    The most important element required for high-performing teams is this:

    Psychological safety

    This is defined as a group culture that has a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. It is a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up. It is a climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.

    What this may look like is a meeting where team members speak over one another at times, go on tangents, and socialize before coming back to the agenda. While it may look inefficient to a casual observer, team members actually are speaking as much as they need to and are sensitive to one another's moods and share personal stories and emotions. It is what coaching psychologists like Yaron may call "conversational turn-taking" and "average social sensitivity."

    Here are four additional key characteristics of successful teams:
    1. Dependability: Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.   
    2. Structure and clarity: High-performing teams have clear goals, and have well-defined roles within the group. 
    3. Meaning: The work has personal significance to each member. 
    4. Impact: The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.
    The research is called the Aristotle Project and you can read more about it in this New York Times story and this article in Inc.

    Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    A @CommonSenseEd Approach to Preparing #Ss for #13ReasonsWhy

    Innovative Educators know how important it is to be connected to what is happening in the lives of their students. If you teach secondary students then you know 13 Reasons Why is what's happening. The Netflix series is based on the best-selling 2007 book about a teen girl who commits suicide, leaving behind a series of tapes that hold the story of her motives. The story takes place in the modern day where the element of digital drama and confrontation plays a distinct role.  

    When important issues like this make their way into the mainstream, it is important that the school community comes together to support students. In the case of 13 Reasons Why this means combinations of school community members which might include roles such as the innovative educator, the librarian, the guidance counselor, the parent coordinator, students, and family. 

    Common Sense Education has compiled helpful resources to support the school community. They include resources such as:

    You can also find appropriate Common Sense Education's digital citizenship lessons which can be used to start conversations in the classroom on key topics from 13 Reasons Why such as:

     You can check out all the resources from Common Sense Education here.

    Sunday, May 21, 2017

    Even If You Hate Interactive Whiteboards You'll Love #Jamboard

    I’ve written more than a dozen articles sharing why I hate interactive whiteboards. So I was a little surprised, that when I saw Google’s Jamboard, I liked it.  

    Here's why.

    To understand why, we have to start with what I hate about the interactive whiteboard design. What I hate is that the board is really designed to be interactive only for the sage(s) on the stage. So, while it is “interactive,” it is NOT collaborative. I’m not saying it’s impossible to collaborate with an interactive whiteboard, but the form was not designed for that function.

    The Jamboard is interactive, but it is not focused on being an “interactive” whiteboard and that’s a good thing.

    Instead, the Jamboard is focused on being a “collaboration" tool.

    That shift in thinking and design makes a big difference.  
    Rather than being it’s own special software, the board is designed to integrate with the G-Suite. If you care about collaboration you use Google cloud-based tools and that means this board is intuitive.

    Whether it’s doc, sheet, slide, or draw, you can use the input panel on the Jamboard to share your Jam and add collaborators.  This is one of the beauties of the board. It is designed with collaboration in mind, so while there is a board sitting in a room, the people contributing to it can be doing so from anywhere in the world using (you guessed it) Google hangouts for meetings. There's a camera right inside the board. When you have meetings, that often means there are slides. Those slides can be embedded right inside the whiteboard. Just bring in your deck and show it. You can do the same with docs and sheets. Pull them up and start collaborating.  

    The power of this is that unlike the competitors, you use the tools you already use for presenting and collaborating right on the board, which also serves as a great space for whiteboarding. Run out of space, you just swipe to get more. When you’re done, no need to take a photo.  All collaborators can save it to their drive.  

    The platform design in essence is a platform that let's you bring in and use all the tools that you and your students already use, rather than the platform being what you use to present as it is with brands like Smart and Promethean.

    As a whiteboard, simplicity is key. There is no latency when writing, and when you erase you see little specs of ink flake away. The pens just work with the color you choose on the palette. What's more, all the cool things you might use to whiteboard are just there digitally. There's post it's, pens, highlighters. You can talk about something, search it, and embed it into the board. Grabbing images is a snap and the ones you can grab are labeled for reuse. You can drag, drop, and move around what you've written. Whiteboarding notes can be come useful infographical-type notes, think sketch-notes, much more easily than without the device.

    This is a board made for business and made for the classroom.  No complicated software to learn. No sage on the stage required. It’s simple. It’s collaborative. It’s ready to go.  

    It’s the first board I would actually use if given the choice.

    You can see it in action in this video.

    Well the price structure.

    While the board is competitively priced coming in just under 5k, there's a pesky $600 a year management and support fee. This is something that simply can not be easily integrated into most school systems today. Right now that doesn’t matter as the board is available solely for business and it seems the demand outweighs the supply. When things settle, and if Google can figure this out (maybe bundle with a Chromebook cart support package?), the Jamboard, has the chops to be the next device in Google's success in taking over classroom whiteboards the same way Chromebooks has disrupted the student devices market and G-Suite the software market.

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

    The 3 Hottest Posts on The Innovative Educator

    Haven’t been keeping up with The Innovative Educator? Don’t worry. That’s what this wrap up is for. Here are the three hottest posts that you don’t want to miss!

    What's hot this week?
    1. Digital drama and confrontations
    2. How to avoid commenting turn offs on Facebook
    3. Ideas for rewarding failure in the classroom

    Making its way to the top for the first time is a post that acknowledges the fact that at some point everyone will experience digital confrontations, digital drama, and you may even make a mistake. It is what you do next that matters.

    Next up is a post that provides 6 strategies to avoid commenting turn offs in Facebook groups. The article hits on ideas like being clear on what the group stands for and how to turn off commenting when it is time for a conversation to be finished.

    Rounding out the top is a post that looks at a strategy that Google uses with its staff: Rewarding thoughtful failure. This post shows how a New York City educator who was featured in the NY Times successfully brings this concept to life in her classroom.

    So what are you waiting for? Now's your chance. Take a look at the posts below and click the link to read one(s) that looks of interest to you.

    Apr 25, 2017, 
    May 6, 2017, 
    May 14, 2017, 

    If you like any of these posts, I hope you’ll share with others on Twitter, Facebook, email or whichever platform you like best.

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

    Can the Quadratic Equation Solve For Better Education?

    A comment in The New York Times article How Google Took Over The Classroom struck a nerve for many readers. In it, Jonathan Rochelle, the director of Google’s education apps group seems to question the value of teaching all students quadratic equations and also the reluctance of some teachers to allow students to use Google when they want to learn something.  

    Here's the quote:
    That resulted in a slew of angry comments like this one:
    Here’s why those angry commenters (and those who gave such comments a recommendation) got it wrong:

    First, the comment is too easily misinterpreted when taken out of context, as it was. Rochelle shared these Tweets to help make his view on the topic more clearly understood.
    In context, and with the clarifying Tweets, we can see Rochelle is not saying students don’t need to learn or understand quadratic equations. He is not saying he doesn’t understand what quadratic equations do. Nor is he saying what kind of career possibilities he is, or is not, interested in his kids being preparing for.

    Instead, we see that what his comment addresses is that schools too often do a terrible job of making clear to students, and their parents, why they are learning what they are learning. This is evident when looking at the percentage of students who find school boring and irrelevant. They don’t see the value in what they are learning. Not familiar with those stats? You can start by reading this. Employers who are hiring these students agree that students learn in school does not prepare them for success in the workforce.  

    Rochelle’s points to an uncomfortable truth. Far too often, school teaches students without context and has not adjusted to the new role of the teacher in the age of Google. Students get this. Parents like Rochelle do too, but for the most part, schools are not hearing or understanding that the role of the school and teacher must change.
    In his book, Instant Relevance, Denis Sheeran puts it this way, “Students don't need teachers for information. Students have free access to information 24/7. What teachers can offer students, that digital options can not, is relevance. Unfortunately, as Rochelle points out, for the most part, schools are teaching siloed subjects out of context without connection or correlation to how what they are learning is applicable outside of school. Students are focused on memorization rather than true understanding.

    The question we should be asking, which was not addressed in the New York Times article, is this: What should learning look like? Here are some ideas:

    Rather than...
    Help and empower students to...
    Presenting facts and algorithms for students to memorize and asking them to practice rote recall and execution...
    Discover relevant ways to use those algorithms which they can relate to.
    “Teaching” disconnected facts and algorithms…
    Determine and develop their passions, talents, interests and abilities.
    Having students learn because they “might need it someday” or “it will be on the test”…
    Do real world work and make real-world connections so that they can answer for themselves why they are learning something like quadratic equations.
    Telling students they can’t Google something…
    Use real world tools like Google. Then teach them how to critically evaluate the information they find.

    Innovative educators know there are some school models that do  this, but Rochelle’s insights point to the reality that such models need to be the rule, not the exception.  

    Sunday, May 14, 2017

    #HowGoogleWorks - Reward Thoughtful Failure

    I had the opportunity to hear Jake Shea explain "How Google Works" sharing lessons from the book, "Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That will Transform How You Live and Lead." Shea shared several insights that work at Google and challenged those not at Google to think about how those insights can be realized where they work. One of the insights we were asked to think about was how we "reward thoughtful failure." He explained that risk-taking needs to be rewarded otherwise people simply won't take risks. 

    In the Work Rules! book, we learn from David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, that the biggest thing he learned from working as a commercial fisherman was that hard work doesn't always pay off. If you work on the wrong thing, it doesn't matter how hard you work, because it's not going to make a difference. 

    But trying new things can be risky and result in failure. Even the best of us fail, but what Shea asked us to consider is the response to that failure via the lens of the person failing or the supervisor of the person failing.  

    Shea and the book share inspiring stories of rewarded failures (p253 - 257), but I was left trying to think about how failures are rewarded in schools and/or administration and I came up short. 

    Ironically, the next day an innovative #NYCSchoolsTech educator named Christina Basias was featured in the New York Times in an article about how Google has taken over classrooms.  There is an excellent 10-slide spread on Basias and her students. Not surprisingly, one of the slides features how failure is rewarded in her practice. 

    Here it is:
    save image
    Check out all the slides here
    At the end of Christina's lessons, she has students evaluate her work using Google forms. She uses their feedback to improve her practice. The NY Times says this, "In a role reversal, at the end of English class Ms. Basias asks the students to use Google Forms, a questionnaire app, to critique the sonnet assignment she gave them." Here are some of the results:

    Image may contain: text

    In this lesson Christina explained the evaluation "showed her how much trouble the kids were having with the different categories of the sonnet in an honest way." The results show her ways she may consider adjusting her lesson in future and indicates where she can follow up with support for these students. 

    Christina has re-framed what might be seen by others as failure and transitioned it into an opportunity to improve practice and support student learning. 

    Some other ways this can be used in the classroom is to give students opportunities to learn from their mistakes. If they have wrong answers, give them a chance to get them right. Allow them to collaborate and use the tech they'd have access to in the real world. It they turn in a project that could be better, allow them to make it better.  

    Does your school or district reward thoughtful failure?  Please share your experience in the comments.