Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dancing and Innovation

Dear Teachers,
The other night I attended a semi-outdoor concert (it had rained all day, but cleared up enough for the band to be inside as the audience spilled out into the surrounding area) featuring a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. It was lots of fun. There was a group of kids there, 5 or 6 of them, who all had "Born in the USA" shirts, with their birthday on the back, and they were among the most entertaining part of the evening. I'm guessing they all slept very well that night, because they just danced their little hearts out to every song in the first half of the show. They were having fun, completely uninhibited, not especially good dancers, and I would guess that everyone in the audience found them completely charming, as my husband and I did.

And then there was this other guy, this adult. He also started dancing, right up there with the kids. He too was having fun, completely uninhibited, and not an especially good dancer. (He was also a lot taller, so he made it harder to see the band.) I watched his dancing with some degree of interest because it was well, unusual. I also watched the reaction in the audience. There was some eye-rolling, some laughing and not particularly subtle pointing. I was actually recording the harmonica playing in this video, but you can get an idea of the dancer's performance just off to the side.

Anyway, the juxtaposition of the delight of the kids dancing right next to the odd-ness of this man dancing got me to wondering. At what point in our lives does joy for dancing become weird? I often try to make up scenarios in my head for the reasons a person might do something. I find this particularly useful in traffic, when someone behaves like a jerk. "Maybe they just got a call that their wife is in labor and things aren't going well." or "Maybe they are going so slow because it is they know it is their last trip to the hospital and they just don't want to face what they have in store." Stuff like that.

So for this guy, I was imagining what might lead him to just absolutely not care that he was kinda making a spectacle of himself. Maybe he just got out of rehab. Maybe he was celebrating being cancer-free, or maybe he just got the opposite diagnosis and had been given only a short time to live. Maybe he just retired. And of course, maybe none of those things; maybe he just likes to dance and was not about to let society's rules say he couldn't do so on a beautiful spring night.

For the better part of the first half of the show, it was just him and those kids. And then one woman, who didn't seem to have any connection to him whatsoever, got up and started dancing with him. It was so great, and it was just like this video of the "first follower." You may have seen this one at some leadership development thing:

What was interesting to me is Thursday night's dance party worked EXACTLY as the narrator describes in the video above. The first dancer attracted some attention, but it was the first follower who really got the dancing started. After she sat down, a few more people got up to dance, and then a few more - momentum! But after the ice was broken, it was hard to find a spot in the dancing area because it became so crowded.

Although the dancing man did make me a bit uncomfortable at first, I have to hand it to him for starting the trend that ultimately made the rest of us follow his lead. Maybe he was aware of the eye-rolling he was inducing and maybe he wasn't. But he wanted to dance, and he wasn't deterred when he didn't get immediate accolades. And maybe he didn't even care that much when people finally started joining in; he just did what he felt compelled to do.


I didn't get in to the Google Innovators program this round. But I'm going to take a tip from the dancing man and keep doing what I think needs to be done for digital literacy and digital citizenship, and hopefully others will take notice and join me on my quest. I hope some of you will follow me!



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Innovative Self

Dear Teachers,

A few weeks ago I wrote about my fervent hope that every teacher, in every classroom, every day, would work to educate their students not only on their curricular goals, but also in the concepts of digital literacy and digital citizenship. And at the end of that post, I said I was going to submit my idea as a proposal to the Google for Education Certified Innovator program. And I did make a submission!

Along the way, my ideas went through many iterations. Since "magic" is probably not something that Google can actually offer me (even though it does seem that many of their products are nothing short of sorcery), I scaled back a bit to come up with "E-skills for Everybody" as my project title. The basic idea is that kids need digital skills, and they need to learn those skills right alongside the things they're learning in the curriculum. And even though kids need those skills, many teachers are just too stinkin' busy to stop and give the kids a lesson on Excel or the difference between "Save" and Save As.." Or maybe the teacher assumes that the kids "already know that" (since you know, they're digital natives and all. *rolls eyes*).

So my idea is to make it super easy to assign short videos focusing on digital skills at the same time teachers are making their curricular assignments in Google Classroom. I submitted everything yesterday and already I'm making improvements in my head, the main one being is that the STUDENTS should be the ones making these short videos! Wouldn't that be cool to be able to pull from a database of student-created work to assign in your own class? The videos could be watermarked with "Created by John, fifth grade, Wyoming" or something. And maybe students could give each other feedback on the videos there, too, giving them experience in actually DOING digital citizenship. But alas, I'm getting ahead of myself.

If you'd like to take a look at the slide deck I submitted, you can click here. And the video I created (using iMovie) is here:

In addition to being completely obsessed with this Innovator project, I'm finishing up my second class in the new Master's program I started - it's an M.Ed in Digital Learning and Leading. These classes are only five weeks long, so they go by screaming fast! The second class had the purpose of really thinking carefully about what artifacts should go in an online portfolio. My e-portfolio, too, continues to evolve, and it's been a really gratifying experience to spend time the last few weeks pulling in examples of my work over the past couple of years. So (always with the shameless self-promotion, I am) if you want to take a look at how my website is shaping up, you can find it at I'd be pleased for you to offer any suggestions for improvement.

Thanks, everyone, for taking a look at my Innovator materials! I'll let you know next Friday, May 20, if I was accepted. In the meantime, I really loved this quote that someone on the #GoogleEI hashtag on Twitter posted: 

I think I'm going to start using that quote for just about everything I do. 

Hope everyone is surviving all the testing! Let me hear from you.