Friday, March 24, 2017

MSDSC Technology Team


Moonshot Thinking

My moonshot thinking started about a year ago. I had long collaborated with Chantell Manahan (Director of Technology) for the need of a team of teachers with which I could collaborate, train, and encourage to develop leadership skills. Around December, this committee started to be formed. Chantell and I made a list of individuals in each building and sent out invitations. With the invitations that were sent out, I received responses from 16 individuals that will participate in quarterly meetings with myself and other various members of the technology department. We will plan professional development opportunities, analyze district needs, and provide support as MSDSC has many experts on utilizing technology. By forming this team, the members can glean information and resources from one another as we journey down the road of utilizing Chromebooks in a 1:1 technology setting. 

Our team had their first meeting here in March of 2017. It was a great experience to discuss dreams, goals, and vision for our district. To kick things off, I asked them to do some moonshot thinking; what dreams do you have in your classroom if there were no boundaries? Some wanted new furniture options, additional subscriptions to software/websites, new and fun ways to display content. Regardless, my point was that I wanted them to take the time to dream without restrictions. 


Mentimeter Word Clouds

Since this was our first meeting, we needed to establish expectations for the group. I utilized a tool called Mentimeter to collect their thoughts. These thoughts populated into the form of a word cloud. Mentimeter has other interactive presentation options, but I liked the idea of an automatic word cloud generated to accentuate consistent thought with the group. Mentimeter is a free product, but you are limited to two interactive slides per presentation (upgrades available). 

I started with the question of what the expectations were for the group as we met during meetings. It is interesting as we all desire specific elements. We want the opportunity to collaborate, communicate, and the sharing of ideas. We desire the time to be able to share thinking in a positive environment. We all need that support. If I were to write expectations for the group myself, the outcome would have been similar. My goal is to provide this opportunity. 
We also discussed the need for collaboration via the web. The expectations could be similar, but online learning spaces pose some different struggles. Commitment was a common theme as we discussed other virtual learning experiences in the past. Online learning requires involvement and commitment. It also involved a consistent meeting space. Though it isn't necessarily as flexible as I'd like, Google Classroom is a common place for us to meet as teachers already visit it. A school's learning platform typically makes for the best choice rather than requiring teachers to create new accounts for an unknown tool. 

Another major theme that stood out was the need for consistent deadlines. The team felt it was important to have specific days to expect communication and specific days on which they were to respond. By doing so, we will solidify the necessity of commitment and involvement. I was encouraged by the great ideas developed as it helps me plan and pursue meeting their learning needs. 

Leadership Graphic Jam

This team isn't as much about technology as one would assume. The main goal I have is to provide opportunities to grow as leaders. Whether is is opportunities to present and share with staff or collaborative discussions around the role of teacher leaders, opportunities are abundant. 

One way I'm working on my own development as a leader is through a few books I've been reading. (Which I am proud to say I've been doing while running on a treadmill. An amazing feat, I know.) One book in particular that I've found very useful is Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufe. This book has very little with being a teacher, but all about organizing teams and developing vision/direction. It is full of great brainstorming activities to motivate groups and drive project refinement. The game we used in our session is "graphic jam". 

During our graphic jam session, we looked at the 8 Characteristics of an Innovative Leader by George Couros. I took each characteristic and wrote it on the dry erase board. Participants then took post-it notes and attempted to visualize what those words meant or what came to mind as they thought about that word. They brainstormed in silence and posted their thoughts on the board. (Can you believe a technology coordinator is having the technology leadership team use post-its on a dry erase board?) 

A post shared by Lance Yoder (@edgaged) on


When it was all said and done, we did a gallery walk and discussed thoughts and impressions from the responses. We discussed what a leader was and that they have the potential to be leaders even if they do not encompass the eight characteristics George mentions in his blog post. We as a team can be that leader as we all have certain characteristics that stand out more than others. That balance is important as some characteristics are more pertinent depending upon the situation.

I did digitize this activity on my own. I did take each image and drop it into Google Slides. This will be an online activity shared with them to allow additional reflection and conversation as these teachers will explore how they can develop into leaders.

Technology Showcase

As part of the leadership building process, I asked the team to come with one technology tool they either use to aid in their teaching or have their students use. I gave each member five minutes to share examples, discuss use cases, and field questions from the group. Presenting in front of peers is an important skill to develop in a position of leadership. Most teachers will tell you that they can talk in front of their students all day, but once they get in front of their colleagues, fear takes over.

The goal here was two-fold:

  1. Provide the opportunity to present in front of a safe audience. This is a group of people that had already stated clearly that they wanted to be able to share and discuss in an environment free of judgment. 
  2. Introduce technology tools and tips that could aid in the growth of the entire team. 
Videos were created of each member's presentation. I took each video and put it into a shared Google Slides presentation. I promised the group that I would not share their videos publicly this round but hoped that it was something they would feel comfortable doing in the future. For now, I can share one of mine so that you get a feel for what took place: 

Final moonshot

I'm excited for this team of teachers. I'm excited to work with them and help them build confidence as leaders in their schools and across the district. Bringing a moonshot thought to the close of this post is very fitting. What if one of these members becomes a leader in education in the state of Indiana or even nationally?