Monday, 29 June 2015

Weirds of a Feather: Finding my Tribe

At a time where I was being deafened by the sameness of the education world online, I was refreshed to find voices that stood out for their difference in what was amounting to an echo chamber on Twitter. For the last year, Wednesday nights have often been marked with #WeirdEd chats hosted by Doug Robertson. In his characteristic way, Doug looked at Twitter chats and found a way to make them weirder. Topics range from goofy to innovative to controversial. The remarkable thing is, whether we're talking tattoos, making a thing or most recently, Charleston, people who are in these chats push their thinking, make great (and not so great) jokes, and open my eyes to new ideas.

When I first discovered Twitter chats, I was ALL IN, often participating in multiple ones each day. For a time, I even had my iPhone alarm full of notifications 15 minutes before daily chats so I wouldn't miss out. I soon learned that the way I was taking part was very surface level, sharing about things I'd tried, but I was not getting into any genuine conversations or challenging my own thinking.

#WeirdEd lets me face things head on and learn from the unique perspectives of other people. The people who join in are hugely varied in opinions and backgrounds, but you can almost literally touch their passion when communicating with them.

Pretty soon, the once weekly chats weren't enough. Connecting with participants in the chat throughout the week helped, but things were brought to the next level when the groupthink came up with the idea for a book club. A Google Doc appeared, a Voxer group started and weekly satellite chats, #WeirdTBC. Things got real. The stories got more hilarious, there were more opportunities to collaborate, people supported each other through the challenges that life throws at you. I found my tribe.

image via the Queen of Sketchnotes, Sylvia Duckworth

Lest you think this is the Cult of Doug, the remarkable thing that has emerged from his book and chats is the ability to connect not with like minded humans, but fascinating humans who, not only march to the beat of their own drums, but throw the drums out completely. I'm not sure I could have found these people in person. I don't know that Sally, Melissa, Kory, Amanda, Maria, Nathan and I would have spotted each other across a crowded room and just *known*. I don't know that Rosy, Derek, Sandy, Sarah, Ross and I, sitting in a session about Google, would have sniffed each others' weirdness out. I don't know that Courtney, Jenn,Vickie and I would have locked eyes in a crowded Expo Hall and shared stories about our lives, families and students. Yesterday, though, I got to hug and see and laugh with many of those people in person, in a balcony area they're calling "The Bloggers Cafe". The opportunity to connect with these people online before meeting in person has been really special. The stories Doug tells and the questions he asks have brought out a real, genuine side of me and allowed me to find people who really genuinely inspire and excite me. The opportunities that Doug has created are the gift I've gotten from him. (Sorry all, I do realize this is likely to make Doug's ego even bigger!

To celebrate weirdness in teaching, we have created a session that is taking place at ISTE today. In the true spirit of #WeirdEd, there will be some surprises thrown in. Everyone is warmly and enthusiastically welcome to join the Birds of a Feather session, that we affectionately call "Weirds of a Feather". This is a time for those of us who like to do things differently, want to do things differently or want to hear stories of people doing things differently to get together in the same room, in the same time zone, at the very same table and share, support, connect and laugh. You could not be more welcome. I could not be more excited.

We're hoping for laughter, but not so much crying and hurling.
Disclaimer: the names mentioned above are people who I am thrilled to be connected with and learn so much from. I hope they feel the same way! There are many many many others who have had a huge impact on my learning as well! If I missed your name here, it is totally my fault and only because I am in a rush!

ISTE Day 2

Today, people were pouring in from all over the continent and world to ISTE in Philadelphia. That means that the Pennsylvania Conference Center was flooded with incredible, passionate educators. I am lucky enough to know some of them, in real life and through social media, and got to chat, hang out and learn from them today.

Dance Card
Top Three Ideas from the Day (idea via Jennie Magiera)
will change throughout the day
  1. Ignite presentations are best when the presenter is passionate, asks great questions and looks at things in a new way. I don't care if they have their speech memorized or not.
  2. How can people of all races and backgrounds show empathy and understanding to others who are being discriminated against?
  3. The Wonderment is everything. A great initiative run by passionate people. You can sign up to be a Wonder Guide.

After a full day yesterday, my day began with a beautiful stroll through Philadelphia and then the first set of Ignite presentations. I'm pretty sure they stack this one with the all stars, which makes me think that by the time I present mine on Wednesday, there won't be a big crowd. That's definitely a good thing for me. The Ignites were incredibly well attended, there were thousands of people in the room to see the first fourteen five-minute presentations. Here are some things that stuck with me (thank you to Andrew Parent for tweeting some of the best bits, as I was Periscoping several of the presentations!):

Doug Timm - “Your students and work are worth showing off. Everyone has Youtube; create a channel to share with the world and connect to staff, parents and students.”

Mr_JSpike - “Your digital footprint isn’t just what you create, it’s how you conduct yourself online. Treat others with kindness.” (best thing to do to a Youtube troll is visit their channel and leave a positive comment)

Christie Fennewald - “Students rock at PD. They can often identify where teachers need help with tech and design interventions”

Rafranz Davis - “Real change is intentional. Diversity won’t happen by chance. Let everyone see themselves in what we do.” Rafranz's Ignite was so powerful, she was asked to repeat it to open this evening's Keynote presentation!

Global Nomads - they create virtual exchanges, “All students should and can have meaningful cross-cultural exchanges.”

Pernille Ripp - admitted she wouldn’t have wanted to be in her own class, but has made changes. Her honesty and genuine, kind nature make her compelling to listen to. “We cannot change our students, so we must change how we teach.”

Robert Dillon - is from St. Louis and spoke with passion about the race issues in America today. He was captivating and raised hard truths.

I was happy to hear a mix of edtech successes and real world issues mixed into this first set of Ignite presentations. Stories of great things happening in classrooms and people asking hard questions make for terrific learning opportunities.

The rest of the day flew by in a blur. I got to meet many more incredible educators in person, which is endlessly exciting. Even though I've only been here for a day, there are new friendships forming that I am BEYOND excited about. Seeing familiar faces throughout the day makes this feel a tiny bit like a high school reunion. If I went to high school with the most devoted, engaged humans of all time.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The People in My Neighborhood at ISTE

Day one of ISTE, which was actually basically a pre-camp day is over. As with so many events that are chock full of activity, it's hard to believe that it's only been one day. I easily surpassed my 10 000 step goal on my new Fit Bit and participated in some incredible sessions and discussions.

Most importantly, however, I connected with people I've been working with online and others who I met for the first time today.

Jenni Magiera, an educator who I really admire, suggested in an article to create a "Dance Card" and have only three spaces on it. In those three spaces, list the three most important things you learned each day. I love this idea and used it during the HackEd15 un-conference today.

Here are a few of the most important things I learned:

  1. When you are using PBL, be purposeful, ask yourself if what you are doing is project oriented or project based. BIE 8 Essential Elements, TRUCADOT, Classroom Observation Template
  2. Supporting students on social media: When you decline to create or curate a culture in your spaces, you’re responsible for what spawns in the vacuum. - Alexander, 2014
  3. The teachers who are here are already converted into integrating technology into effective classroom practices. How do we go back and give the less proficient educators assistance and make them have agency?

Every day, I'll share my learning on Google Docs. Today's learning is captured here.

So, you've read this far and you're wondering, who are the People in Your Neighbourhood, Shauna? As always, I've taken a circuitous route to getting where I'm going, but I'd like to share with you some of the amazing connections I made today and the lessons I learned.

Lesson #1: Wave Your Weird Flag
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I love Doug Robertson's book "He's the Weird Teacher" and have been so happy to connect with other members of his ever growing Weird Army. I love people who push boundaries, aren't afraid to be themselves and stand out in a crowd. More teachers from #WeirdEd have arrived tonight and I look forward to meeting them tomorrow, but I got to meet some totally unique and exciting educators today.
I was thrilled to connect with an energetic and inspiring Matt Fratt when I plunked down next to him for the three-storey HackEd group photo. We didn't even pose, we were so busy chatting. We shared a lovely lunch - or rather, we shared a lovely line up for lunch when Matt had to run, thinking he was running a session after we stood in line for an hour for cheesesteaks! Matt led an incredible, interactive session after lunch and we created a ridiculous short film. By being fearless and weird, we had a blast!

Lesson #2: Be Aggressively Friendly
After learning that this is a trait that Disney Cast Members are expected to have, I reflected on the way I behave in new situations. Although I feel nervous, I always try to be approachable and friendly. Disney uses the term, "aggressively friendly", which I love. Push yourself to be friendly and personable, even if it feels awkward. Oftentimes, you'll win someone over. Sometimes you don't. Aggressive friendliness helped me connect with Brenda Druecker, who I am pretty sure is a kindred spirit. I also managed to make a friend with our totally overworked server at an after-party and get wonderful service.
Recognize, acknowledge and show your excitement when you see someone you've worked with in the past. I was thrilled to hang out with

Lesson #3: Back Off
Sometimes the people you interact with online seem different in person. You may have the expectation that you'll be fast friends and it just doesn't work like that. It doesn't mean you'll never be friends, but sometimes you just can't speed up the process of getting to know each other in person, now matter how much you felt like you knew someone online.
If the person you are talking to checks over your shoulder constantly, looking for someone else to talk to, take the hint. I had to do this several times today. Clearly, connections were not as natural as I had hoped and I let things be. I'll try again later!
People are here to meet up with their tribes, their people, and aren't always interested in welcoming someone unknown into their group. For some people, it just takes time.

Lesson #4: Sometimes Things Just Click
Today, the Voxer group I've been talking with for months headed to Rosa's Pizza to enjoy inexpensive, fresh pizza and buy slices for needy folks in town. It was terrific. The hugs, laughs and selfies (and #turnies) came quickly and naturally. I feel so happy to know these people.
At Rosa's, I approached a trio who were there at the same time and asked if they were participating in ISTE. They were educators and administrators from Pittsburg who were full of interesting stories and shared my sense of humour. A great instant connection occurred. I look forward to continuing to get to know them.

Lesson #5: Go Up and Say Hello
I spend a tremendous amount of time (entirely too much) online, reading blogs, participating in Twitter chats, listening to podcasts, watching videos, etc. and the same edulebrities (yep, that's education + celebrity!) pop up time and time again. Thought leaders emerge and are embraced by huge masses of educators and I, myself, have been so incredibly inspired by so many.
Seeing, hearing, watching and reading the thoughts of certain people makes it feel like you know them, but they are still surrounded by the magical aura of celebrity.
If you know me in my non-educator life, you know that I have no shame and will always approach well known or famous people, chat with them, take photos and interact.
I am the same with edulebrities. If I have learned a ton from you and admire you like crazy, I am going to come up to you and say hello and thank you.
Today, I got to meet personal heroes including Ginger Lewman, Kevin Honeycutt, Pernille Ripp and Angela Maiers. They were all as delightful as I could have hoped. Even if they weren't, I was proud of myself for going over and saying hello. I think that people deserve to know the difference they've made in my life and my career.

Lesson #6: Embrace the Super Connectors
Rodney Turner is a Super Connector, and he knows it. He is so easy and fun to talk to and finds ways to connect educators to one another. He is happy to take the time to sit and talk with a new connection and then find ways to enhance your experience. If you're lucky enough to know a Super Connector, take advantage of their connections. Through Rodney, I met Sue Levine, who captivated me with her stories, made me laugh, think and reflect. I've already told Rodney that we need to have a daily sit down with Sue.
Ashley Hurley brought tons of us together to eat pizza and help those in need through her Rosa's Pizza Meet-Up tonight, she even made sure to document the moment.
If you're lucky enough to know a Super Connector, or a few of them, cherish the things they do for you. They're as close as education comes to Fairy Godmothers!

Lesson #7: When in Doubt, Hug it Out
I've seen people questioning whether to hug or handshake when meeting. I try to remember to ask before intruding on someone's space, but I gave a lot of hugs today. Four hugs a day, that's the minimum, right? Even though you may have never met this person, if you've connected with them daily, weekly or monthly, or they've made a significant contribution to your life, a hug never hurts.
Once you've had a chance to meet someone new, why not seal that new friendship with a hug?

Lesson #8: Be Yourself, Even if That Means You're Psych-Oprah
I can seem a little bit intense, I know. I love to meet and talk to passionate people. I want to know what makes them tick. A friend described this characteristic as Psych-Oprah. That's not psychologist + Oprah or psychologist + Oprah, it's psycho + Oprah. It's a reference to my questioning technique. Exciting people excite me. I love busy brains. If you feel like I'm giving you the third degree, it's because I'm super interested in what and how you think. I love humans. I love peculiarities. If I sniff out what makes you unique, I want to learn more.
Even though this is part of what makes me weird, I can't stop. People fascinate me. Fascinating people thrill me. I can't help but bring out the Psych-Oprah if what you're saying is compelling. My interruptions to seek details or clarification just show my intense interest.

Lesson #9: Your Avatar Should Match Your Current Look
On Voxer, I used a picture of me that shows me with straight hair. On Twitter, I'm pulling faces with Jim Carrey. On Facebook, NPH is photobombing me. On LinkedIn, I'm sitting at my desk in my classroom, with curly, unruly hair on display. LinkedIn has my most accurate picture. The others are ones I adore, but make me less recognizable to those who only know me online.
I've decieded to change my Voxer photo daily during ISTE to match how I look each day. I can't let go of Jim or NPH and those pictures showcase my quirkiness and joy and I can't think of better, more happy-making representations of me right now.
If you want your PLN to know who you are, at a glance, make sure that your social media avatars are current, accurate and showcase something awesome about you. Mine are conversations starters, for sure, but not necessarily my day-to-day look.

Lesson #10: Say Thank You
People have a lot of options of things to do and people to see at a huge conference like this. When you really connect with someone and get to share a meal, a drink, a walk or a conversation with them, that's a privilege. I strongly believe that taking the time to appreciate others is never wasted. A thoughtful comment, a call-back joke, an idea to extend someone else's learning, an introduction to new people or a huge hug shows gratitude and, hopefully, will be remembered.

Friday, 26 June 2015

'Twas the Night Before ISTE

'Twas the night before ISTE, and sitting in Philly,
Butterflies in my gut flapping willy nilly;
The devices were charging up in every plug,
In hopes that wifi is a cheetah, not a slug.

The teachers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Google Glass danced in their heads;
My friend's snuggled in bed, I'm on the couch,
Unable to settle, but affecting a slouch.

My little driver, so lively and quick,
Got us straight to Philly, lickety split;
We had time to wander, chow down and rest,
And prepare to begin our learning quest.

When up on the Twitter, there arose such a clatter,
That I clicked on the app to see what was the matter;
Away to my TweetDeck, my fingers did flash,
Looked at the hashtag, it's making a splash.

The online hype about #ISTE2015,
Expressed by educators, lifelong learners so keen;
Makes me feel like I'm in for a really big treat,
Incredible discoveries, but really sore feet.

More rapid than eagles, my PLN starts to arrive,
To meet face to face, push one and other and thrive;
Though there are many with edulebrity fame,
I just can't wait to put faces to name.

From Ottawa last year, I felt FOMO syndrome,
Now I'm happy to be here, not watching from my home;
It's time to be learners, with failures and a-has,
To build ourselves up and erase end of year bla-ahs.

The days will be chock full of events and sessions,
Lucky there's time to make good impressions;
Participating, collaborating, that's the name of the game,
So many great chances, I'll list them by name:

There's meet ups and tweet ups and lounges and playground,
Selfies, Turnies and Groupies, new friends to be found;
Topics to propose on the HackEd session wall,
And lectures and keynotes and vendors for all!

Weird Army, SatChat and others from Twitter,
I can't wait to see you and coat you in glitter;
Mystery Skype partners and Global Read Aloud,
Give a smile and a hug and stand out in the crowd.

Future schools are coming, what are their features?
Wayne and Garth will talk about Weird Teachers,
There are stories to hear, ideas to be challenged,
With sessions and parties, the week will be balanced;

There are some people who live in my phone,
I find them on Voxer, I'm never alone;
Only one sleep 'till I see them for real,
When I watch them talking, it will make me squeal.

On the very last day, I'll share my Ignite,
You'll learn about Disney, if I don't get stage fright;
For those five minutes, I'll talk till my voice gets all croaky,
Well, that's my excuse to not do karaoke.

I know that meeting new people can feel like hard work,
But as long as you be brave, you don't have to lurk;
My goal for the week is to be friendly, aggressively,
So that I make connections and giggle excessively.

Making magical classrooms is the thing that I do,
I am so looking forward to learning from you;
My mind will be blown, my body goose bumped,
As I discover the things that make your kids pumped.

I have sketchnotes to make and people to see,
The butterflies are sleeping and I think so should me;
Now I finally upload this poem to my site,
Happy ISTE to all, and to all a good night!

apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, author of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"