It's All About The Teacher Leader
I have been an instructional technology coach for 4 months, and I have learned one hard truth. Change can not come from the District. It can not come from Admin. They can both point the way, but real change in a school starts with teacher leaders. These diamonds in the rough, are tough to spot sometimes. They can be tough to bring out of their shell. They are however the essential ingredient in the change mixture. Without them, change does NOT WORK.
As a instructional coach, I am in 4 different schools. I see the change on a ground level every day, and the schools that lead are the ones with real teacher leaders. I am not talking about department chairs, PLC leaders, or that teacher that is the loudest one in meetings. I am talking about true, honest teachers leaders. We are talking about teachers that not only do incredible things in the classroom, but these are also the teachers who share best practices.
Right now, I have one school that is really hitting a homerun here, and much of their success can be attributed to one person. The other schools are doing great things, but one of the unique things about the district I work for is that they are a charter district. This has allowed schools to have quite a bit of control over how they use their local funds. One of the main reasons this school has hit such a homerun is they used those funds to hire a part time instructional coach. Now this may not be the answer for everyone, and it almost always depends on the actual person. This instructional coach though has done a fantastic job of spotting teacher leaders and pushing them to share. She has committees set up within the school to lead PD. These committees are made up of teachers leaders within the school.
You know what's also happening? These same teacher leaders are sharing. They are pushing their colleagues to step out of their comfort zones. I have seen a staff that has gone from being in their little bubbles to taking small ideas from these teacher leaders and making them happen. Kids are creating. Kids are having choices. Are they done with changing ways to personalized learning? No, but the process has definitely started.
I think another one of my schools would be considered by many to be the most ready to make a change to personalized learning in the district. You know why? They have respected teacher leaders who are pushing the charge at the school. They don't even have a great number of devices per class, but on any given day you can walk the halls and see a number of kids using those devices to create. This is a school that has school that has young energetic teachers that share. That's the common denominator.
Where does admin fit in all off this? Where does the district office fit in all of this? The easy answer to that is vision and growth. First, the vision of what classrooms should be has to come from the district office. They are the folks who have to allocate finances, and they have to use those limited finances in smart resourceful way. This means there has to be some sort of vision of what you want the classroom to be. If a teacher does not have the necessary resources change just simply can't happen. Another focus of the district office should be on developing teacher leaders. The district I work with has a great program to identify and task teacher leaders to become that in their own building. It is a great model other districts should follow.
Local school admin should be the main group challenging their best and brightest to become that teacher leader. They should be challenging those teachers to get out of their comfort zone. Have those teachers share with more than their PLC. Support them as they want to go to conferences, and not only learn but share with educators outside of their school. Give them incentives to be that leader.
If you want change to happen pull in the best and the brightest who are int he field every day. They can change their own classroom, and then that word spreads. Push others to see the cool and innovative innovative innovative these teacher are doing. Have them share as much as possible. Let them make decisions for your school. When teacher leaders feel like they have they have a say, real change will happen.
Now that I finally have the MYO on my arm (you can see my first impressions in a previous post), its time to dream big. It's time to write out my wish list. I am not a developer, so if you are one or you are the Great folks @thalmic, at least give me some credit :)
1. A Fixed Unlock Feature- Really, the only consistent problem I have is the unlock feature. If I am doing something such as washing dishes or picking up, I want to be able to use my Myo to control music and devices. The device is unlocking on a consistent basis while doing this which means the device kind of becomes a pain to use. Thiswas not the main reason I bought the device though, so I am still in love with the Myo. I know this is a problem Thalmic is aware of, and I know they are working on it. My hope is the fix will come soon, and my guess is it could be as simple as changing the gesture to something that is less natural to replicate.
2. Added Gestures- I would imagine the device can map more gestures. This could give added capability in more complex software
3. Ability to Change Actions of Gestures- I think some gestures are more natural for some people, and the ability to change which gesture does which action would be really helpful.
4. More Presentation Features- This is another one that I have a feeling may be on its way. I think the Myo could give presenters a new way to interact with presentations by adding features such as a laser pointer, annotations, and zoom fairly easily.
5. A way to Move Between Apps Easily- This is going to tie right into Number 4 because I think that could possibly be an an answer, but there is a distinct need on the device to be able to switch between applications. The time I think of is working on my laptop and having to use the computer mouse in order to click on Itunes and change songs. I know that there have been hackathon videos where Myo/Pebble connections are circulating, and I would imagine if both companies partnered and got creative.
6. A partnership with Pebble- This is something that NEEDS to happen. To me these are two companies cut from the same cloth that could help each other in great ways. The application switching procedure is one idea. Maybe you could also use Pebble as a portal to switch bluetooth devices easily. Really, there are loads of possibilities that need to be explored. The combo could really give the Apple Watch a run for its money in my book.
7. Apple to Play Nice- I have read a couple of forum post on IOS development, and it seems that its pretty closed off and sandboxed which hinders Myo development. Hopefully, this will change for some of the more advanced wearables like the Myo. My guess is this may be the toughest task of all for Thalmic, as I would assume getting in with Apple is tough.
7. Siri Activation- Again, this may be tough because of Apple, but how awesome would it be to make a gesture and then through voice you could place a phone call, write a text, or have things read to you
8. A Youtube connector for all platforms- This seems to be the major thing missing in the media connectors category. There needs to be one that works effectively on all platforms. Could be a great add on for IOSs many people are now using Youtube on the go.
9. Connectors across all platforms- While we are on cross platform issue, the Netflix connector works on a laptop, but not on IOS. That needs to change. I am sure that this will be something in the future, but as Thalmic works with companies, they need to push for connectors that work on every platform.
10. The Debut of the Remote Control Connectors- I love my Sphero, and I want to have the jedi powers over it. I think this is huge for Myo as it extends the potential for the device. Hopefully, these connectors will debut soon.
11. Ed Tech Connectors- I think Myo's potential in the classroom is great, but it needs education connectors. I think these connections could be made easily as most of the edtech companies are smaller companies that are also looking for advantages. I would love to see Myo connectors for Nearpod, Kahoot, and Touchcast to start.
12. The Big Dream... Identity Verification- There are several bands and smart watches that are doing this today. I wonder if the Myo could read muscle signatures and use it to unlock things like website passwords and devices. Could it maybe even be a payment option at some point?
13. Something I Have Not thought of- I think the potential here is amazing, so I am sure there is something I have not thought of
I just wrote out a cheat sheet for a school I am working worth, and I believe its worth sharing. The school is very concerned about behavior management as they add more devices, and I am hoping this helps their admin team formulate a clear message. I think its also a great reminder to teachers that device management is really about the pedagogy. So here it is....
Pedagogy Tips and Tricks
Device Management in the Classroom is Not About the Tech. It’s about good Pedagogy and Practice.
Tools to Aid Teacher Mobility
Incentives (Tools to Help a Teacher Track)
The wearable category is the new rage in tech, and I have found the wearable I love. The pictures in the first part of this post are of my Myo. This is a device I have wanted ever since I saw it in Leslie Fisher's gadget presentation two years. It's been a device I have had to wait for. I saw it two years ago, but I did not bite the bullet on the purchase until September of 2014. Even then, I still had to wait because the device was still on pre-order status. In the two years since I had first seen it, the team at Thalmic labs in Canada had taken the device back to the drawing board in order to redesign the overall look and feel of it. I think what came out of that process may be a game changer.
At its core, the Myo is a gesture control arm band. It works y reading the electrical pulses that come from your muscles in your forearm as you make ceartin gestures. It then converts those readings to digital commands for a variety of devices. Each gesture you make tells the device to perform a certain action based on the software or app you have open. All of this works through a bluetooth connection which really gives the device infinite possibilities
Where this device is really a game changer is the fact that it works with so many devices. Right out of the box you can connect the device to a PC, Mac, IOS Device, or Android Device. The company also promises the ability to control things like Sphero, AR Drones, Home Automation, and based on the video below gaming systems such as Xbox and Playstation. I have not seen any wearable that even comes close to having that ability across devices.
The other thing that is mind blowing are the possibilities that come with it. Right out of the box, the device gives you gesture control over Keynote, Power Point, Prezi, Itunes, Spotify, VLC, and Adobe Reader. You can then add a variety of other apps and controls through their Myo Market. I am so excited to see what they come out with next. My mind races with the possibilities here. This is the device that makes me wish I knew how to code so I could make some of these ideas come to life.
Well, now to talk about my week with the device. I got the device on Monday right before I left for the MECA conference in Mississippi. Yes, I hunted the mailman down to get it. I wanted to use it in my presentations, and MECA proved to be a great way to learn the ins and outs of the device. I set it up the night before, and I thought I would be good to go. Let's just the first two did not go as planned. In the end, I had to abandon the device for those presentations.
I then had a break in the middle of the day. That time was invaluable, as I really got to learn the ends and outs of the device. Myo has a learning curve so if you decide this device is something for you, you defintly need to be aware of that. Don't be like the people on their Twitter account and Forums that have expressed their frustration and have given up.
The first thing you need to figure out with the device is the sweet spot on your arm. The device has sensors that need to read the muscle activity so finding the best place for that is key. Once you feel like you are there, don't take the device off. One of my biggest issues was that I got frustrated by it not having the correct gestures and I kept trying to re-adjust. After wearing the device for a while, I began to figure out that it seemed to read better in the afternoon. My first thought was that part of that was the natural retention of water which caused a better fit around my forearm. I soon discovered it really gets to the fact Myo needs to time to warm up. When, you really think about it this makes since for a device that is built on sensors to pick up muscle activity. So again, once you feel like you have the right spot, be patient and don't constantly adjust the device.
The other thing you have to learn fairly quickly is to be aware of the devices vibrations. This is honestly a place where I think Thalmic needs to improve their messaging. The device has different vibrations for its unlock feature, lock feature, and when you are making gestures. If you try to make a gesture to quickly before the unlock vibration ends, the device won't perform the task. It also lets you perform multiple gestures when it is unlocked so you also need to be aware of when the device locks so you can unlock it again.
While we are talking about the lock and unlock, this is the place where the device really needs some improvement. The device simply unlocks to easily. This makes it difficult to do something like listen to your music while doing other task because the device is falsely reading gestures. Based on the companies comments on Social Media, I think this is something they are aware of and working on. Once they figure out the most natural course of action, I am sure this is something that can be easily adjusted through a firm wear update. My thought is that a quick and easy fix would be switching the unlock gesture with the fingers pread play gesture. The thumb to middle finger tap to me is a more natural gesture to replicate as you multitask then the fingers spread gesture is.
So after I finally figured out the learning curve, I was able to use it during the rest of my presentations in Mississippi. For the most part, every presentation went well. It was an amazing seeing the confused looks in the crowd when I was moving my keynote around with hand gestures. I had to stop a few times and explain the ins and outs of the Myo. I also had people stop me as I was walking around the conference and ask to see it. I also added the mouse control app towards the end of the conference which let me run a Kahoot quiz from the crowd hands free. Let's just say I think a may have sold a few for Thalmic that day.
The only issue I came across is in when one of the presentations the device kept un-synching. After working with the device and reading some of the responses in the forum, I think that can be attributed to the set up I had. I had several devices going at the same time, and there was interference. Really, when you are running a presentation with several devices, it is best to be on the side of the bluetooth adapter so it can get the best bluetooth connection.n the
ow. Outside of the Mississippi conference, I wore the device while I was traveling all week. I used it to control my music as I walked to and from the conference center. I also used it on the drive home to control my music. I have an IOS device, and I also have music ADHD. I am the type of person who constantly skips songs to find the right fit for the time, and the Myo allowed me to do that with ease. It was great on the drive home as it actually improved my safety through allowing me to 'control music without looking at my phone.
I can say with all honesty, I wear the device every day. I actually have it on right now. I feel like the music controls and computer shortcuts justify its use, and they honestly improve my productivity. Along with music controls, my favorite control right now is the ability it gives me to refresh browser pages and swith pages easily.
Since this is an education blog, lets talk about its use in education before we wrap this up. First, I think this is a tool that centers