Sunday, July 23, 2017

Play Well..Build On: Building a Lego team.

It's almost time to go back to school and educators are starting to think about how to bring people together to connect. Last year, I was inspired by the work of a teacher that I coached. He introduced me to the 16 Personalities Quiz. His goal was to use the results of the quiz to help students to better understand cognitive diversity. Cognitive diversity refers to the many different ways that we think, respond, create, learn, and interact with each other and in the world. The idea is used in the workplace to build strong teams. It is said that embracing cognitive diversity in a team can build innovation and is a powerful tool.

Regina Dugan, head of Facebook’s secretive Building 8, describes the importance of diversity to the creative process HERE. She says, “The ultimate goal is cognitive diversity, and cognitive diversity is correlated with identity diversity...You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are. We get better problem-solving that way.” 

As educators, we know that the foundation of an effective learning environment is trust and community. However, one of the most common challenges I have observed at school sites is creative differences within a staff. This got me thinking about how to use the 16 Personality Quiz as a tool for building inclusion and creating a foundation for teamwork at a school site. According to Mark Miller, VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International, "The power of having cognitive diversity in the workplace is the same power that companies try to attain through strong leadership and great communication. It's a more inclusive, collaborative, and open space where people feel empowered to create and implement ideas." Excited about the potential of creating a school culture that embraces cognitive diversity, this led me to design a HyperDoc for leaders to use with a staff in an effort to build inclusion within teams and embrace the culture of the people within the school.

The HyperDoc is called, Play Well...Build On. Inspired by the LEGO company slogan and culture, I designed a professional development training for educators that can be used as an all-day training or it can be broken up over time. All the work shared on the HyperDoc is intended for adults to experience learning, but can easily be modified to be used in a classroom setting with students as well. Follow along with the HyperDoc linked above and let me describe the pedagogy behind the lesson: 

ENGAGE: Begin by watching the LEGO career recruitment video. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, the LEGO Brand Group’s Chairman, describes the LEGO Group Culture and how they embrace diversity in the workplace to play, create, and build together. As the group watches the video, participants jot down their thinking on a shared Google document to capture all the thinking around the video during and after showing the video. (There is a lot of rich content packed into the 3-minute video. If needed, consider your time and watch twice. Watching video can be led like a close reading instructional strategy. There is new learning gained each time it is watched.) 
LEARN: During this section, teachers take the 16 Personalities Quiz. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to respond and gather results. 

EMPOWER: Everyone will have a chance to reflect on the quiz outcomes when they respond to the questions on the Google form. This form will only be viewed by the facilitator. This design is intentional. The leader will now know a little more about the people in the group and will be able to use that information to guide situations throughout the school year. 

GIVE: Guide and grow as a team when groups work together to design a Marshmallow Tower. The facilitator uses the personality quiz results to create homogenous groups for this activity. After the 18 minute challenge, discuss the process as a whole group. How did the group do with the challenge? How did it work with homogenous groups? 

OPEN: Be optimistic and open to new possibilities when the whole group solves a Breakout EDU challenge. During this challenge, the group will embrace the cognitive diversity of the team and work together to solve the challenge. Be sure to reflect on the process once the 45-minute timer is up.

CREATE and SHARE: Using the LEGO acronym, educators have had an opportunity to reflect on who they are and how they interact with the group. Invite individuals to highlight their superpowers when they create an Adobe Spark post that illustrates the talents and skills that they bring to the group. Share the posts on a Padlet for all to see and to learn about each other. Revisit this Padlet throughout the school year as challenges arise and embracing cognitive diversity is needed. 

BUILD ON: After a day of learning and creating together, choose one or all three of the videos on the last slide to share. Work together to build an amazing school year! 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How to Give Students a Platform to Practice and Exercise Their Digital Voice

Students have so much to teach us and to share! We just have to be listening. The Internet provides a space for anyone to have a digital voice by interacting with social media, designing websites, recording videos or vlogs, writing blogs, and sharing their message. But how do we teach kids how to navigate this wide open creative space of the Internet? Google recently launched a website called Interland. This website teaches students how to "Be Internet Awesome." They created a game for kids to learn how to interact safely on the internet and it also includes free downloadable curriculum for teachers to use in their classroom. This game and resources teach students "HOW" to practice using their digital voice. 

Now let's talk about the "WHY." Interacting digitally is not something that is a trend and it's not going away. If we don't teach them how, then who will? If we don't show them the strategies for having a positive online footprint, then we might miss their stories. Not only is it important to teach kids how to interact on the Internet, but also when they do, then we can capture the essence of their young selves. When I was a kid I was always making videos with my dad's VHS video camera or recording myself singing on a cassette tape. I loved being on stage. Watching those videos or listening to those tapes is like being in a timewarp. It's amazing to see and listen to my young self. For kids these days, they have a broader audience and they can showcase their ideas, stories, and talents in so many different ways. 

Here is an example. When I ask my student's what they want to be when they grow up, many will say that they want to be a YouTuber. They will work for subscribers and likes. Anyone who checks out YouTube can find hours of videos of kids being awesome! Check out this video in which a kid shows how he remixed a popular fidget spinner into an eraser fidget spinner. There are hundreds of versions of this online. While you watch, notice a couple of things: The YouTube Channel is a nickname, the profile picture is a scooter, the comments are disabled, and embedding the video onto other sites is disabled. (In order to watch the video, you have to watch it on YouTube.) These are four great strategies for having a safe and age-appropriate online presence. Rather than not allow access, show them how. Did you also notice that this video is a remix of the old "How to" speech standard? I wonder if this kid knew when he recorded this video that he was completing a speech requirement? I'm pretty sure that he made the video because he is hoping for those good old thumbs up "likes." Go ahead and give him one if you can. You'll make his day!

If you are looking for more resources on teaching kids how to practice and exercise their digital voice, then check out the Digital Voice HyperDoc. Here is an outline of the digital lesson design built into this HyperDoc: 
EXPLORE: The lesson begins with giving students time to explore examples of kids who have a strong digital voice. By exploring their stories and resources, students can study their digital footprints as a mentor text and think about the kind of footprint they want to create. 
EXPLAIN: Next students are taught what makes a good blog. They read blogs by other kids and the teacher can teach elements of strong writing. 
APPLY:  Finally, students are encouraged to launch their own personal blog.  This can take journal writing to a whole new level! On their blogs, they can practice writing skills, and they can practice speaking and listening skills when they record videos. The blog can serve as a digital portfolio for all that they create. It is a place to capture their stories, their learning, and their process. (Some people prefer to have students create websites instead of blogs. That works too! I prefer the blog because it can serve two purposes. It can be a place to update when inspired and it can have pages built into it like a website.)
SHARE: Unless the blog is shared, then it is the same as a Google Doc living in a Google Drive. Help students share their blogs with each other and beyond the classroom. Students can have pen pals in another school or within the same school. Blogs also can be shared with parents and families or on social media. One way to easily collect the links to all your student blogs is to create a Google form and have students share their blog links with you. Once shared, students will need to learn how to comment and give feedback on blogs. Don't forget to build in a lesson on digital feedback and comments. The resources are linked onto the HyperDoc. 

Blogs are just the beginning! They can be a place for kids to capture all of their stories, writing, and digital voice. If you have an example of students practicing their digital voice, please share in the comments. If you have a HyperDoc that teaches digital voice, please share at 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Discussion Strategies: Teaching and Tech

This HyperDoc provides resources for teachers to integrate various 
instructional strategies 

to engage students in discussion face to face and/or using technology. 
View resources at HERE
A teacher recently asked me, “How do I create a more active learning environment and provide more opportunities for my students to discuss ideas?” I offered suggestions based on the strategies that came to mind, but I wanted to go deeper with more specific ideas for the teacher. This led me to searching  for specific strategies to share. I came across this blog post called The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies by Jennifer Gonzalez. Her website, Cult of Pedagogy, is a wonderful resource for teachers to find practical tips and guides to teaching. When I created this slide deck, I included some of the resources she highlights in her blog. Each slide of this presentation has two columns. On the left, view the teaching strategy, the pedagogy or a video description. Thank You Jennifer Gonzalez for the teaching ideas!
On the right column of the slides entitled, TECH, I included ideas for how to take the good teaching practices and implement them using a web tool. This list is curated based on my knowledge of blended learning. If you have a new suggestion or idea to add to this slide deck, please let me know! I’d love to add to these resources. Additionally, if you try one of these strategies in your classroom, I’d love to hear about it. Please send me an email or a tweet to share your success or question to problem solve!  

Mindful Mentoring

A leader is a mindful mentor and continuously follows five steps to guide decision making, creation, and collaboration with colleagues. 

These five steps are:

  1. Question: Use this cycle of questions and ensure that all voices are heard. Start with asking about what is going well, then ask about challenges, hold others accountable for actions by asking about next steps, and finally ask for what kind of support is needed.  
  2. Listen: Practice listening with an open mind and an open heart. Make time to hear all ideas and suggestions before moving forward and listen without making judgments on the ideas presented.
  3. Acknowledge: Appreciate others for their contributions. Acknowledge positive and negative behaviors. Be fair, honest, and kind when interacting with others.    
  4. Suggest: Offer suggestions to solve problems and never push ideas onto others. When asked, provide specific feedback and always practice a growth mindset.
  5. Empower: Be empowered by surrounding yourself with positive mentors and continuous learning opportunities. Empower others with authentic relationships and mutual respect.  

This HyperDoc includes resources for students or staff to participate in a mindfulness mini-unit. 
View lessons at