edtech

Change

I have been thinking a lot about change lately. I look at how my life has changed over the last twelve months and I’m in awe. Those closest to me know about my latest struggle, one which I have been overcoming thanks to luck, a great deal of self care and, well, change. But this change that I am talking about here is of a more primal nature. It has been happening in many inner dimensions and it has now come to a stage where it’s impacting my outer life – how I show up in the world. I want to reflect on that here because it means a lot to me. It means I am still here and I am pursuing the idea of a metaphor for learning, which I suspect is strangely connected to another metaphor – rhizomatic learning. And that’s where it all began. It’s where change began.

Learning is changing. Depending on the nature of the learning, the deeper the change. We have all heard of (or lived through) life-changing experiences, experiences in which you learn something so impactful that it alters who you are, how you show up for others. It’s a natural, evolutionary process; we are always learning, and we are always changing. To learn is to change. My Rhizo14 experience changed me, it greatly contributed to who I am today, how I view education and learning. Why? And how was it that it managed to do that? First, I had choice. In fact, I had all the choice I wanted, to participate whichever way I wanted. To engage with people the way I wanted, to share and show my reflections the way I wanted. To approach the prompts from the perspectives that made sense to me, and to me only. But also the very choice to keep engaging was a powerful drive. I kept choosing to keep engaged. So choice is the initiator and the driver of change.

My engagement came from collaborating and communicating with others. It was born of the connections, and it gave birth to connections with other people. We celebrated each other in our connections. We were curious about each other’s change process, the words, the artifacts, the play. Now it needs to be said that I was a newbie to the whole digitally connected educator ethos. My Rhizo14 fellows were already swimming in that pool with lots of confidence, but that was not a hindrance, that didn’t prevent me from feeling connected to them. I felt appreciated. The virtual company of my ideas was being appreciated. Celebration. It changes you.

So I suspect there are certain behaviors, certain actions that promote change when an educator purposefully engages. Change is driven by constant choice. Change happens in collaboration with each other (create together). Change happens in communication with each other. Connection equals collaboration + communication. And change happens in celebration of each other. I will be pursuing this idea, the articulation of these 6 C’s of BECOMING a 21st Century Educator.

The EdTech Team Brazil Gafe Summit

So.
This is a hindsight post. You might be finding this a bit awkward but trust me, there’s a good reason for that. The EdTech Team Brazil Summit featuring Google for Education (São Paulo, May 16 and 17, 2015) was certainly the most intense learning experience I’ve had this year. We spent two days attending great sessions and networking with other passionate professionals and educators who were eager to share and connect. My group (Carla, Samara, and Sílvia) put together a long Google doc in which we recorded the ideas and insights we got attending the sessions. Going over it now, half a year later, I am reminded of the exhilarating feeling of learning something new all the time. Talk about real flow.

If I were to forget every detail of the summit and be left with a single word or feeling, it would be EMPOWERMENT.

I learned how empowering it can be for a student to have the opportunity of creating a solid digital portfolio that showcases his talents and achievements. A well-cultivated digital portfolio will follow a student for years, even into his academic and professional life. What a wonderful and rich addition to one’s résumé a strong portfolio can be. These ideas were discussed in Holly Clark‘s inspiring session Rethinking Assessment with Digital Portfolios, where she also shared some practical tips on how to help students build their portfolios, as well as how to enhance learning by means of self-assessment. Again, the word that comes to mind is empowerment. If done right, growing a digital portfolio may actually become a sort of map for the student to find his calling. It could be the beginning of one’s life work.

In my a-ha moment in this session, I wrote:

Digital portfolios are all about digital citizenship and building their (students’) personal brand online. The stuff they curate shows who they are. It teaches them about design. (Friends don’t let friends use word art **lol**) Students need to learn to purposefully populate what they have associated with their name online.

I also learned the empowerment that comes from the connections we make, and what we learn from people who share a common passion. Being immersed in this edtech environment has taught me a lot about what I’m going to call the edtech ethos, that is, the characteristics and behaviors of a specific group of professionals. These guys were all about learning by doing, discovering new ways, hacking new paths. And they were also about the pleasure of sharing something they just learned with the person sitting next to them. Feeling that everyone has something to bring to the table is empowering, indeed.

In hindsight, the experience I had in this event inspired me to push forward in my professional projects as an Ed Admin. I basically learned that wonderful things can happen when you bring together a group of people who share a common passion and a purpose: to learn as much from each other as possible so that we can impact the people who make us teachers who we are: our students.

The next stage of our Google Classroom project was major. We went from 12 to 50 teachers using Classroom in our school. That happened a couple of months after the Summit. I can’t help but feel that we’ll be seeing more ripples become waves after this awesome learning experience.

A ripple that has become a wave…

mywhy

Starting Afresh with Ipads in the Classroom

Yesterday I taught my very first class to a lovely group of upper-intermediate teenage students in one of our many outposts. I’d made up my mind to try something different and fresh this semester so I went for an ice-breaker activity using Ipads in the classroom. Here’s how it went.

My PicCollage

My PicCollage

We used an app called PicCollage, which allows you to create posters with photos, stickers, and text, among other cool features. I had previously used it to prepare a poster of my own, so I began the lesson showing it to students so that they’d get to know me a little better. I then asked students to pair up and, inspired by the imagery, come up with some questions they’d like to ask me about the poster and about my life.

After about five minutes, students began asking me questions, which were, at first, mostly prompted by my poster, but once they began feeling more at ease with each other (and with the teacher), they began asking me other questions, such as “what does your tattoo mean, teacher?” (They never fail to ask me that one, I tell you.)

Now it was time for the fun part. Each student got an Ipad to make a poster of their own – a small snapshot of who they were, so that later they would share it with everyone else in the group. I could literally see their faces light up the minute I unzipped the two suitcases and began handing out the Ipads. That in itself already gave me such a heartwarming feeling. They were truly engaged! So off they went, and began to work on their posters. I set a time limit of 10 minutes and made myself available throughout, walking around and monitoring. Some took a little longer to get started, as they were figuring out how they’d add their photos to the app and some ideas began to came up. Pairs were helping each other and English was being used for an authentic purpose (how delightful!) right off the bat, on the very first activity of the very first day of class.

It's sharing time!

It’s sharing time!

Once they were finished, it was time for them to share. I asked them to stand up and walk around the room, showing each other their posters, asking each other questions. I did, however, give them one very specific piece of instructions: they had to first talk to people they didn’t know so well or had never met before. I also gave them a clear goal: in the end, they’d be asked to share something interesting, funny, or surprising about someone they had talked to during that stage of the acitivity. This stage lasted for about 10 more minutes. There were 12 students in the group so they could talk with absolutely everyone. We rounded up by sharing interesting things we’d found out about each other.

The entire activity lasted for about a half hour and it was worth every minute. Students were using the language authentically at all times, they were curious and engaged, and were fully energized for the rest of the afternoon. They got to know me a little better, they got to know each other a little better, and I have a feeling they actually enjoyed themselves in their very first English lesson of the semester. Talk about good first impressions, huh?

How about you? Would you be willing to try something like this? I certainly hope so!

First posted on ctjconnected.blogspot.com

Students showing off their posters!

Students showing off their posters!