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Activate Learning Innovators

by Miguel Guhlin

Change can be difficult. But it’s almost always necessary. So how can we activate learning innovators in schools? In this blog entry, we will explore key technologies and action steps.

Getting Connected

Today, we have access to new technologies.  Voxer, Appear.in, Edmodo, Twitter, blogs, Skype for Business, and  YouTube Live are only a few.  Decide whether the tool, such as GoogleDocs or OneNote Class Notebook, scaffolds learners’ efforts. Ask yourself, “How does this technology facilitate access and reflection across time, space, and devices?”

Growing from Network to Community

In a professional learning network (PLN), the more nodes (a.k.a. people) in your network, the richer the flow of ideas. Moving from information to innovative practice requires effort. Think of a PLN as a journey of learning and reflection. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) often involve groups. PLCs also describe a team’s shared journey of learning and reflection. Unlike a PLN, the PLC focuses on team efforts for achieving desired student outcomes. Which works best in your situation?

Activating Learners: Steps to Success

Allow me to share some action steps I have learned with past initiatives such as  Pathways to Advance Virtual Education (PAVE), EC3 iPads in the Classroom , and the Technology Integration Lead Teacher (TILT) Program in several settings. Take these action steps to get a similar effort started in your school or district.

  1. Organize learning around content that fosters innovation. That may be why one Texas district brought in George Couros, author of The Innovator’s Mindset, to lead #NISDTechCamp district-wide conversations (see my notes and  materials).
  2. Provide incentives that generate excitement among participants. Providing a stipend or technology equipment (e.g. iPad, laptop, Chromebook) that facilitates access is a common practice. When in a technology rich environment, offer options for various incentives. Remember incentives can also include badges for professional learning.
  3. Use a blended learning approach to meetings, including face to face and online. Be sure to bring the group together, face to face, at the beginning, middle, and end of the initiative. Social media has replaced cumbersome learning management systems (LMSs).
  4. Secure support from school/district leadership. Invite leadership to align strategic goals to your initiative and vice versa.
  5. Support participants in creating an online portfolio of work with video and audio reflections that results in certification.
  6. Let empowered individuals give back by helping others on campus.
  7. Celebrate, such as with a dinner or graduation ceremony. Celebrate the efforts participants have put into learning. This can assist them in assuming a new, influential role.

An Example: Innovation Cohort

“Reach for the edges,” says Ryan O’Donnel via a Voxerchat I’m participating in (connect with him via the ConnectedTL Tribe Voxer chat) as he shares his vision in this Innovation Cohort Application. Notice that there are several components, such as required meetings, designing an innovation project, site-based support, financial reimbursement for time, and an application process. Many similar efforts exist, such as the Google Certified Innovator program, Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), Discovery Education Network (DEN) Stars program, as well as many more (e.g. Seesaw Ambassador).

Invitation to Reflect

Please share in the comments what your thoughts are about these kinds of efforts. If you have participated in these efforts, how did they impact your work?


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