Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Fostering an Innovator's Mindset in Children



Over the last couple of weeks I have been reading Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by:Tony Wagner.  The books discusses what parents and teachers need to do to develop an innovator's mindset in children.  Through the presentation of various case studies, it boils down to the 3Ps: letting kids PLAY, allowing them to find and experiment in their PASSION, and to ensure they feel they have a PURPOSE.
My sketchnote on the first few chapters of the book.
The book made me really think about the way I parent and teach.  It reinforced many things I do, and made me relinquish some controls in other areas.  It questioned schooling in general and talked about how school is a place to get "credentialed", not a place of inspirations for many creative, innovative kids.

"Creativity is treated as a bad habit...The system doesn't encourage risk and penalizes failure."

My favourite part of the book began on Page 222 wherein Wagner shares Jeff Hunter's 2007 blog post (which I can't find online!) that outllines Hunter's frustration with what students must do for success in school vs. what skills they need as future innovators.  I have shared it below.  I hope it speaks to your heart as much as it did mine.

~My Son Won't Do His Homework, by Jeff Hunter~
"I am going through hell with my son. He is twelve, and no matter what I do, no matter what my wife or my oldest daughter do, he won’t do his homework. We ground him, we take away all his gadgets, we prevent him from going to birthday parties and other social events that he loves. Other than corporal punishment (which is a place I won’t go), we have tried everything. It doesn’t matter… he doesn’t care. We can't force him to do something he thinks is wrong. And my personal hell is... he is right.
My son can listen to the radio and pick up his saxophone and play whatever he is hearing. Or, if his sax isn’t handy, he picks up whatever other musical instrument is around and plays that.
But he doesn’t do his homework.
I bought him a book about drawing and he gets up at night and reads it and sneaks around the house sketching things. The portraits he does are incredible. The comics he produces are funny, insightful and engaging. Everyone asks him to draw for them.
But he doesn’t do his homework.
My son is rarely if ever unhappy, and people are naturally drawn to him. He has a great delivery on jokes and has a photographic memory for any piece of pop culture he has seen. We riff on Simpson’s lines all the time, cracking each other up in the process. Then he’ll tell me movies he saw three years ago, shot by shot, line by line.
But he doesn’t do his homework.
My son is intellectually curious. He loves to learn new things and is always asking me “Why does something work this way?” or “What about that?”
But he doesn’t do his homework.
My son loves video games. I work at a video game company so I know how long it is supposed to take to finish all the missions in your average next gen video game. My son takes half that time. He holds competitions with his friends where, after he beats them, he shows them all the tricks that he has figured out about how to beat the game.
But dammit, he doesn’t do his homework.
The other day I insisted that my son finish a piece of homework. I sat down next to him and taught myself math that I never learned in all my years of high school and college (remember, he is twelve). I stayed up until midnight with him, browbeating him the entire time, my anger unchecked. Finally, we completed the problem, which had to do with plotting the parabola of a quadratic equation and reducing the result set to a graph of the system of inequalities. The project was about finding the cross section of a river based on a given quadratic equation.
The next morning my son woke early and went down and made his project interesting to him. He put in cartoon characters exploring the depth of the river, and drew a shark (which he labeled with his teacher’s name) about to eat a happy little duck (which he labeled “My Grades”). He drew a fisherman packing gear and assorted other fish and life. These were not just doodles – he actually helped clarify some of the information that he had been struggling with. By drawing the characters he was helping himself understand what the lesson was trying to teach.
My entire family was completely enthralled by what he had done. It was not only artistically creative and engaging, it actually helped clear up the very nature of the project. Justly proud, we anxiously looked forward to hearing how his teacher responded.
My son returned home from school downcast, shuffling his feet. I asked him what was wrong. “My teacher didn’t like the project, because I put it on the wrong size paper.”
I don't have much hair, but I am ready to tear what little I have out at the roots. My son doesn’t do his homework because his homework is stupid. I have spoken to educators and principles and academicians and grandparents and probably a hundred other people , and nobody has given me a decent answer to this question: "Why are you so convinced that my son is going to be an academic or an investment banker?" Because as far as I can tell, those are the only two things that schools prepare kids to be.
I have been sitting by my son's side for 7 years, doing his lessons. I believe I can state with the unequivocal clarity of someone that his given valuable time to a task that is largely worthless but required... the homework is just plain dumb. It is boring and condescending and even my son, at the age of twelve, can figure out that the rules are arbitrary, that they are enforced in a haphazard fashion, and that the stuff that he loves (art and music and video games) will be a great future for him and the stuff he hates (math and science) is something he will never compete in, never have a chance at.
But school doesn’t care, because school does not have the objective of helping my son produce the maximum amount of value in the future that he will probably encounter. School cares about ensuring that he knows how to take tests, follow directions and can do math that he will never have to care about for the rest of his life. School cares that he can either prove that he is worthy of being in the top 5% that will go on to be homogenized and brainwashed in a top-notch school so that they are almost completely without originality of thought or perspective or that he gets the hell out of the way for those kids that meet that description. School cares that he can be measured and managed, so that he will be a good little cog in a habitual big wheel.
As a parent I am caught between two worlds. I am 100% certain that school is doing great damage to his future prospects, but I also know that the game is rigged to be in favo[u]r of kids who get the right grades. Because recruiters can’t seem to get off the “experience and education” kick that does so much damage to our society and our children, I know that my children’s future job prospects are being controlled by people who have never once taken a critical look at what really goes into producing value for a business or market. They just know that their client (the hiring manager) told them they wanted somebody from Stanford with a certain GPA. And if they can get that butt in that seat they can then go deal with the next client.
I want to focus on what will make my kids successful, on what will allow them to provide the most possible value to their clients, their society and themselves. But I have to focus on what will get them work, even if that will hurt them, society, the companies that hire them and everyone around them. This is the very definition of broken system, the very epitome of how we are driving ourselves off a cliff all in the name of safe driving."

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Alternate way to access Bitmojis on an iPhone

I love using Bitmoji!  But the keyboard set up makes me so frustrated!


I hate that it pops up when I am trying to toggle between letters, number and emojis.  Then, last week, I found a phenomenal new way to use Bitmoji on my iPhone and LOVE it.  Here it is in pictorial instructions (read left to right, to top to bottom).

Make Bitmoji an app...not a keyboard:







Want to see me do it in action?  Check out the video:

video

Note:  At the end of the video I say to erase the Bitmoji keyboard - if you do this you will ONLY be able to use Bitmoji in iMessage.  It will be gone in Twitter, Google Hangouts, etc.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Clear your iPhone photos with Google Photos


While I love using Google products, my devices are all Apple.  I have both a MacBook Pro, an iPhone and two iPads.  But... get these...
...a lot.  I don't want to pay for extra storage so for years I have backed up my photos to my computer, then transferred them to an external drive.  Then, I would go though the onerous task of erasing all the photos from my phone to clear space.  Then, when I would want to see that photo from a few years ago (yes this happens to me a lot), I would have to pull out the external drive and find it.  NO MORE!

Thanks to my pal Jeffrey Humphries' session at the HPEDSB EdTech Team Summit, I can now back up all my photos to Google Photos (unlimited, for free!) and free up all the space on my iPhone!


How you ask?  Here's how:

1) Download the Google Photos apps to your device.

2) Open the app and Click Get Started.  

Note: If you have Google Photos already and you have opened it before, you might not get these prompts.  In this case skip to step 7.

3)  Be sure you are Signed in to your personal GMail account.  Teacher friends - as Jeff pointed out - do not choose your EDU Google account because then your district owns the photos - and will be able to see your Saturday night activities.

4) Be sure the switch beside "Back up and sync" is toggled over to the right (it will be blue).  Click Continue

5) Now, under Upload Size you will have two options:  High Quality or Original (see the note below for clarification between the two).  Selecting High Quality will allow you to save an unlimited amount of photos for free.  Choose High Quality.  Click Continue

Note: this might reduce the quality of the photo.  From my understanding this basically means if you try to print an enlarged photo it will become pixelated when it is larger than 8x10.  If you choose to do the original, the space the photos take will go against your quota of free space eventually you will have to pay - like iCloud.

6)  Now you will get some tutorials about how to use Google Photos.  Read them and click through.

7) Along the bottom you will have 4 icons: Assistant, Photos, Albums, Sharing.  Click Assistant.

8)  You should see a prompt that says "Back up and sync is off  TURN ON".  Click Turn On

9) Toggle the switch on by tapping it. It will turn from grey to blue.


10) Ensure your Personal Gmail account is selected as the back up account.

11)  On wifi devices (you may not see this on all iPads) you can choose when to back up.  If you turn mobile data to back up for photos and/or videos then you will use your data and might incur overage fees if you do not have a lot of data.

12) Click the arrow pointing left at the top left.

13) Click the Assistant icon.  It will show you how many photos and/or videos are left to upload.  Once the back up is complete, you will see this.
14) Now, here is where you get to clear up all that space.  On the Top left corner, beside the box with "Search..." written in grey, click the three horizontal lines.  Select "Free Up Space".  You will be prompted asking if you want to remove the photos and videos from your device. Click Remove.  You might get some additional prompts here about deleting burst, etc.  Read the prompt(s) and decide to allow or not.

Settings Icon
15) Now it will say "Just one more Step".  Your iPhone stored deleted photos and videos for 30 days.  If you can wait that long, do nothing, if you want the photos gone now to free up space...do the following step.  Personally, I did step 16 the first back up, but not after that unless I am in need of space on my iPhone.

Note:  I really like the satisfaction of seeing how much room I am about to clear.  If you want to do this, go to Settings on the iPhone (or iPad) and click General.  Select Storage and iCloud Usage.  Under Storage if will say "Used".  This is how much room you have used.  Check back here (you might need to close and reopen the Settings app) after step 16.

16)  Go to the iPhone (or iPad) Photos app.  Click the 
Photos Icon
Album icon on the bottom bar (on the left).  Scroll until you find the "Recently Deleted" album.  Click it.  Once you are in click Click Select in the top right corner and the click Delete All in the top right hand corner.  Now all your photos will be off your device and you'll have more room!

Note:  This is when you can check how much space you cleared as instructed in the note in Step 15.

17) All your photos are now in the Google Photos app - and not in your Apple Photos.

Moving forward you can back up all your photos to Google Photos as you take them.  In this case, you would need to open the Google Photos app and ensure they all download like in step 13.  Alternatively, you could just do this when you want to create space on your phone.  In the later situation, you would have photos store in two apps.  Photos that were back up will be in Google Photos, the ones that have not been will be in Apple Photos.

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.   😉