#GoogleEI #TOR16: A long overdue reflection
Nearing the end of the journey, nine months after the fact here in July, I find myself finally sitting down to formally reflect and tell the story of my Google for Education Certified Innovator experience. You’d think documenting such an experience in my life would have worked it’s way up my to-do list a little sooner, but such is life, right! Regardless of my commitment to sit down and tell the story, my experience with the #TOR16 #GoogleEI cohort has had such an impact on me personally and professionally, it’s goign to be hard to capture it’s significance, but here it goes. Trying to keep this relatively succinct, I’ve summarized into four categories:
The failures. Before being accepted as a Google Certified Innovator, I had applied for the certification and been denied, not just once, but twice. Comparing my third iteration of my project proposal, the District[x] Innovation Catalyst, to my first, Tearing Down the Walls of the Factory, there is definitely a common theme, but I think it fair to say, my failures changed (and improved) my line of thinking. As educators, we know the importance of teaching resiliency and of learning from our mistakes in having such huge gains and lasting impressions on our learning experience. Although the failures proved frustrating and somewhat, the experience to capitalize on the learning opportunities, and reflecting upon where I landed as a result, proved to be the most valuable experience of all.
The Academy. Being accepted as a #GoogleEI means taking part in the Google Innovator Academy alongside a host of amazing innovators, coaches and other Google-y people. Having the opportunity to connect with some of the most innovative educators from across North America was truly an experience that I will never forget. Spending a grueling two and a half days brainstorming and collaborating on our innovator projects through the likes of design thinking challenges, sparks (inspiring words of wisdom from some very smart people) and sprints (times to dig in and get to work), was some of the hardest, but also most rewarding, work I’ve been a part of during my professional career. Although all of the people I’ve had the opportunity to connect with and learn from during this experience have been inspiring, a special shout-out to my fellow #GSweet7 tribe members, our coach Rafranz Davis, and my current mentor, Dr. Marek Beck.
The impact. The work that went into the project proposal and application was just the start of the journey of implementing the District[x] Innovation Catalyst across my school district this year. With the purpose of building a culture of innovation, the District[x] project works to create teacher leader teams who work to brainstorm, design, share and reflect upon their instructional practice as it relates to growth and student-centered approaches to learning. Building these teams across our district (in the form of our Loveland[x] teacher innovation team), along with the support, input and leadership of our amazing building principals and inspiring district innovative instructional coaches, has required levels of collaboration and organization that have challenged me to grow and develop in new ways as a leader. My ultimate hope and goal, however, is not in my own growth, but for this impact to be felt by those teachers taking part in the experience. Most importantly, the hope is for the teacher growth and experience to translate to our classrooms to have positive impacts on our student experience. The challenge is what keeps this fun.
The results. With the 16-17 school year now in my rear-view and the first year of the Loveland[x] program wrapped up, this pilot year of our teacher innovator teams provided an amazing start to things. Working with principals to identify nearly 80 teachers across the district, representing a diverse mix of grade-levels, subject area expertise, and teaching experience, the ultimate goal of the team this first year was to consider and imagine what #TigerInnovation looked like in each of our classrooms across Loveland Schools. Inspired by George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset, the Loveland[x] team applied principles of design thinking to ideate, prototype and iterate on new ideas. As we consider the role of technology in fostering a student-centered classroom, communication, and collaboration of our adult learners led to some “inside and outside the box innovations” that we saw coming to life in our classrooms across our school district. Loveland[x] brought together groups of teachers who may not have normally had the opportunity to collaborate and work together towards innovative classroom solutions. Focused primarily on the ideas of innovation, personalized learning, flexibility and relevant learning experiences, our team strives to develop and implement a vision for the innovative student experience we wish to provide for all of our students.
Reflecting on this experience and considering the impact that this team has already had not only on the culture of those educators who took part on the team but also on our culture as a school district in regards to fostering and encouraging an innovator’s mindset, I think the true potential of Loveland[x] has not yet even been fully realized. I owe a huge thank you to the team of teachers that I get to work with so closely for taking a risk and joining this team, and the dedication, commitment, and energy that they put into this group this year. I can also not give enough props and praise to our team of Innovative Instructional Coaches who played a critical role in the leadership, logistics, and coordination around this group. It truly does take a village, and I consider myself pretty lucky to be part of a village that cares about their craft and their students as much of the team that I am a part of.
More to come.