Data that tells stories with Gapminder Tools

There is a big disconnect between perception and reality in a world of click bait driven media, profit driven news, and an overwhelming amount of content at our fingertips. Fortunately we are seeing more and more massive collaborative efforts to make data live, public, and easily accessible. You may recall Hans Rosling’s TED talk: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen from over 10 years which wowed us with data and the ability to delineate historical events, impact and similarities between between nations which once seemed so different.

Sadly since then, Hans has passed away but graciously he left us a legacy and his work lives on and continues to grow on through the efforts of this son, Ola and his daughter in-law Anna through the Gapminder website and their newly published book Factfulness.

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Gapminder Tools puts the data that wowed us a decade ago into the hands of anyone. Users can select from a from a large variety of datasets ranging from life expectancy to literacy rates, to energy, to name some from any country on earth over the past 100 years in various forms including maps, bubbles, ranks, or graphs, etc. Data comes to life, can tell a story, or unearth new truths for students. 

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Hans Rosling's FactPod: If you dig deep enough might be fortunate enough to stumble across the 18 part Factpod Series which addresses some of the world's most pressing issues such as Ebola, refugee crises and how Mexico is closing the gap on the US. What a gift for students and teachers. This is an amazing showcase of what his possible with data. I wonder what stories we will tell.

Discovery as Insight: The Third Teacher Book

In his book Change by Design, Tim Brown frames Discovery as Insight, Observation, and Empathy which has really resonated with our team. For now I am going to expand on "Insight" and reconnect with Observation and Emapthy in a later post. Insight goes beyond traditional research especially with the internet. Today insights are everywhere in digital and analog form and are free. For example, the thoughtless act of a student hacking a space to create a visual learning board offers a priceless insight into how they want to learn and can  transition into an installation in a redesigned space. 

Another great resource for Insight is the book The Third Teacher:  “79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning” which was developed by international team of architects and designers concerned about the failing state of education. Loaded with amazing interviews, case studies, facts, and research to support the transformation of all learning spaces. Featured contributors include, James Dyson, David Suzuki, Sir Ken Robinson, Raffi and Loris Malaguzzi who anchors the publication in the belief that “There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment.” The environment is the “Third Teacher”

At ASFM we have used this resources to gain a pulse into the current status of our spaces as well as invite our team of teachers to a conversation about thinking about spaces differently . A useful activity has been the creation of a collaborative Google Slide Deck which summarizes the 79 ways design can transform teaching and learning, highlights what this looks like on our campus, explores where else this in action, and connects us to an additional resource for further info on he topic. What a great way to start thinking differently about space by being collabortivly creative and active.  

If you are unable to get your hands on the book, The Third Teacher Flashcards are a great jump off point when working with your community to redesign your space. We like to print them out, divide them into their 8 chapters, then have participants select the 5-10-15-etc which resonate with them the most. From there we can launch into ideation and creation of prototypes which bring these concepts to life at our school.    

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When starting the process of redesigning learning spaces a few things are critical.  Firstly, a local community to share, learn, and bounce ideas off of. Secondly, if you are able to connect with an outside expert to assist as a mentor, guide, or consultant this is just as valuable a resources as the money you are going to spend on installations. For us David Jakes has been a invaluable asset, guide, and friend who has now become less of a consultant and more of a colleague/friend/mentor. Lastly, resources such at the Third Teacher Book are great to have on hand to spark new ideas, refocus direction, and to invite others to the conversation. I am going to be sharing more of these over the coming posts , I hope you find them as useful as we here at ASFM have. 

Inspiring Spaces: The Possibilities

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Sometimes it's hard to know where to start or what is possible while sitting in our 30 year old classrooms of desks in rows, fluorescent lighting, and beige paint. To be fair, anyone would struggle for imagination in that environment. Therefore we find it useful to preview the process with teachers before going full on into the Design process which takes a lot of time, is an intensive process, and is often unfamiliar to teachers.

 

 

The Edutopia video series below showcases a relatable middle school classroom which is transformed over the weekend with the help of a team of designers and community volunteers, all for $1000. It’s important to understand that a classroom redesign is not going to other schools or on Pinterest to see what other spaces look like and what solution you can import into yours. We are redesigning an experience and the space is a resource/tool to enhance that. Therefore the important thing we need understand is the current reality and future preferred state.

Critical to the redesign of a space is the understanding and execution of the Design process. While watching this video, do so through the lens of a designer and watch for the various stages of the process.

 Courtesy of the d:School at Stanford

Courtesy of the d:School at Stanford

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Discovery: Gaining insight into the user experience, divergent in nature. Central to this is gaining empathy for all members of the learning community of that space, students and teachers. We are redesigning a space to reflect the learning aspirations for learnings in 2018. The 19th century classrooms were build for direct teaching and classroom management and paid little or no attention to the student experience or how these environments made them feel.

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Interpretation: Grouping the data from Discovery into Drivers and Constraints, convergent in nature. In this sample the drivers of collaboration, movement and ambience are translated into spatial concepts as drivers to support learning and you can see the impact immediately.

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Ideation: Bringing the drivers to life and creatively solving for the constraints, divergent. In this example I like how the Christian and Melanie anchored the Solution Session to collaboration, comfort and movement as well as aspects such as storage, entry and furniture, each with a unique provocations. As result their ideas are directly focused on solving for the experience.

 

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Prototyping: This is a tough aspect for schools to be able to really dive into. The goal is to bring to life various installations for the drivers and constraints but most schools do not have the resources to bring in various pieces of furniture nor have a construction crew to continually modify the space. Hence the importance of experience and low fidelity installations. The space needs be a living space, a space in progress, responsive to the needs of the learning experience.

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Evolution: You can see immediately the impact the space has on the faces of the students. Capturing those initial reactions is important. If they reflect the your drivers, you are on the right track. The initial buzz will wear off and a more indepth evaluation is essential but the reveal reaction is what you strive to replicate.

 

 

Hopefully this gives you insight into the what is possible and the process necessary to redesign a learning space. The more you commit to the process, the more of a positive impact the space will have on the learning experience. Redesigning spaces is not going through the Ikea catalog with the teacher. It’s spending the time in the desk with the students, facilitating group empathy activities, listening to understand, and including the community in the process to create the optimal climate for your community’s learning aspirations. Think climate control, not command and control.

Collaboration Tools: Don't Forget to Hit Save.

Yes the “Save” button still exists. Who knew? Of course I knew that when publishing with Squarespace I needed to hit “Save”, but I didn’t really believe that you if you forgot to, that you would lose all your work. Well, you do and will if you don’t. Even tech support coldn't help, how demotivating. 

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Save? 

Yes this still exists

For those of us who grew up in the pre-Google Docs world I am sure you can understand my frustration when I went to publish a new blog post and suddenly half my writing went missing. I was immediately transported back to 1999 when I pulled the plug on enrollment in Computer Sciences because of a similar frustration. Oh, how we forget.

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Now how does this relate to education? For me, this just reinforces the need for schools to give kids platforms which are easy to use and as stress-free as possible. I cannot believe the number of schools still not using the almost “Save Button Free” Google Suite for Education. When I think back to my pre-save button free teaching experience in the early 2000s, I recall with great clarity the student panic when they “forgot” to press send or save. Now I fully understand that this was a commonly acceptable and used excuse but I also understand the frustration and deflating feeling you get when it really happens.

Therefore, if we are going to ask students take risks, be creative, and solve real-world problems, let’s do our best to create the optimal climates for these experience and not lose them because of dated or obstructive technology. Especially when it’s free.

P.S. I know someone from my Google tribe is going to point out the places where Google has the Save button. Let’s hear it. I can only think of one places.

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e-Portfolios: Why Blog?

Over the past four years my blogging game has steadily declined and it’s usually one of two obstacles which get the better of me. My own perception that I don’t have the time and the what I have to say is of little value.

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I believe we make time for the things we value and that the “lack of time” argument is really a lack of value statement”. I haven’t missed more than a handful Manchester United games in about 25 years. This dedication to supporting my favorite football team has resulted in me dragging my friends and family in the doggiest of pubs in various corners of the globe.

Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors, bloggers, and podcasters and all around thought provocateurs. Almost daily we have Akimbo on in the background and it always offers food for thought. As a writer I love Seth's approach in a couple of ways. Firstly, his done is better than perfect mindset. Secondly, his "ship daily" challenge. But it is his clip on blogging below which nudged me to pick up my blogging game. 

Why Blog by Seth Godin and Tom Peters

To summarize, It doesn't matter who reads your blog, what matters is the humility that comes from writing it. As you can see from the analytics from this blog below, no one has been reading it over the past year. The main purpose of HammEd.org has been an as a resource site for sharing at events and an online resume of sorts.  As Seth continues, it is the metacognition of thinking about what your going to say, about summarizing your thought, decisions, interests into a few paragraphs that matters. What I love about blogs such as Seth Godin's, is the everyday frequency of the posts and the variety in length and investment. He posts every day. Some posts are mere couple sentences while others are paragraphs with images, links, media, etc. As a Designer this really reinforces the belief that to have good ideas, you need lots of ideas. 

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Ain't nobody got time for HammEd.org

I've had course sites, personal and student blogs for ages and it seems that people did once find them useful, see below, but I think what has changed has been the frequency of posting. So that's what is going to change. I'm going to do my best to embrace the "Ship Daily", "Done is better than perfect", Quantity is better than Quality" mindset, and commit to posting multiple times a week. So it begins. 

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People had time for HammEd.org

in 2013

Google Alerts, Alarms

For years I have been preaching the necessity of registering your name with Google Alerts to further emphasize the importance of purposefully developing a positive web presence which reflects how you want the world to see you. For those who don’t know, by using Google Alerts you can monitor the web for content as it's published. All you need to do is register an alert and you will be notified when content is published with those keywords. Simple and effective for business, education, and beyond.  

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During this time however,  I have never come across an “Alert” which would anyone would mistake for being a misrepresentation of me. Most of the time the Alerts are notifying me of another Brian Hamm who is not in similar employment field or has done no harm and therefore of no interest to me.

Example 1      Example 2      Example 3

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Until January 1, 2018 when I received a Google Alert for “Brian Hamm” with the Headline, “Memphis man caught selling school laptops for $20 each, according to police.” As you can imagine my first thought was, Fox News really isn’t reliable or news, but I did find this alert a bit too close for comfort. Someone could easily mistake Memphis Brian Hamm for me if there was no other web content which they could check up on. But perhaps this would just be a once off. Unfortunately for myself and Memphis Brian Hamm, it wasn’t.

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In April 2018 it seems that my namesake was arrested again for the resale of school owned technology. Memphis Brian Hamm is said to be a 38 year old American Man who could easily be mistaken for being me, 36 year-old Canadian Brian Hamm who works in education as a Technology Director.  Now as an international educator who will probably change locations at some time, it is important that when a potential recruiter or school administrator searches me on Google, they come across a web presence which reinforces their school values which is probably aligned with felony burglary.

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So what can be done? Well as G.I. Joe says, “Knowing is Half the Battle”  and while the other half may have involved guns for G.I. Joe, for us who want to rebalance or control our web presence, it involves creating and posting content. Content which aligns with how you want the digital world to reflect who you are.   

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The reality is, when potential recruiters, colleagues, friends, partners, etc want to find out about who you are, they will go online first. More often than not, when I work with educators and students they have a digital presence which was not developed with intention and does not align with how they want the world to see them. The other half is to decide how you want to be seen by the world and then start creating content to reinforce that image.

How many of us take a moment to be conscious about how we want to be seen and actually summarize that into a statement, a 6-word memoir, or a few keywords?. Try doing so, then post content which reflects that.

For example, my drivers for life and how I want to be seen are; leading and loving with integrity. It shouldn't be a struggle to find content which reflects that online.  

Leading: I believe in relational leadership as opposed to a managerial approach and that by serving others I can best play a small part in helping us all create more inspirational, student owned learning experiences.

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Loving: I believe that if we anchor our thoughts, actions, and exchanges in love, we can achieve happiness ,fulfillment and more meaningful relationships. I am fully aware that when people meet me, or those who know me, would not think of me as an overly affectionate loving person but that is not what I am or intent to be. For me, acting from a mindset with “love” means investing whole-heartily in the things that matter the most to me. My family, my communities, my colleagues, etc. My friend Jeff Heil contrasts platitudes vs beliefs, and states that beliefs are the things we will work tirelessly and relentlessly to realize. Platitude are things we say to make ourselves feel better. For the things I “love”, I believe in, I work tirelessly for from mindset of understanding and devotion.

  Saturday night Headband shenanigans!  Charlie’s first question: is it a pink pony? No Is it an animal? Yes Is it a pink pony?  No What colour is it? Grey Ooohhh! Is it a flamingo? No Big or small? Small Oh! It’s a dolphin! No Where does it live?  In fields, cupboards, roofs, walls, it eats cheese and has big ears.  A mouse! 

Saturday night Headband shenanigans!
Charlie’s first question: is it a pink pony?
No
Is it an animal?
Yes
Is it a pink pony? 
No
What colour is it?
Grey
Ooohhh! Is it a flamingo?
No
Big or small?
Small
Oh! It’s a dolphin!
No
Where does it live? 
In fields, cupboards, roofs, walls, it eats cheese and has big ears. 
A mouse! 

 

Integrity: I believe that if we are genuine, fair, honest, and morally conscious in our lives and relationships that this can serve as a foundation for transformational relationships. Without integrity, trust and reliability, the foundations for real relationships is impossible to attain. 

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We are born into the physical world with a variety of traits, histories, genes etc which we have no control over. As my friend David Jakes says, "when we create ourselves online, we are literally building ourselves into existence." How provocative is that? More often than not our digital selves are created with little intension and do not reflect the real us or how we want to be portrayed. Think of yourself as a digital brand of you and be as bold as you like. 

Keep it Together: with Google Keep

Meet Google Keep, in my opinion, Google’s most underrated collaborative task management tool which embeds various forms of media including audio, photos, annotations, among others. Think collaborative Post-it notes with embeddable media. What really sets Keep apart is the syncing capabilities between other Google products, the mobile app, and of course the ability to search within Keep. 

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If you have students working in collaborative teams Keep could be used to assign tasks with a checklist and due dates including integrated links to resources. All this in one place, in real time, and shared with all members of the group. Imagine this, in one place, amongst all your teams/groups. 

Try getting started by: 

  1. Creating a weekly to do list: 
  2. Adding notes from a conference, book, or YouTube Video you’re watching
  3. Expand on those notes by opening Keep in Google Docs
  4. Share a shopping list
  5. Add a photo to share with annotations 
  6. Record a voice recording. Keep will translate to text. 
  7. Translate Handwriting to text (Android Only) 
  8. Set a reminder based on a time and date
  9. Set a reminder based on a location 

For example: 
1. Create a list and click on the reminder icon at the bottom left of the list. 

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2. Select “Pick Place” 

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3. Add a location. Whenever you or collaborators on this list come within close proximity to the location, they will receive a notification which will remind them what is on the note/list. 

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4. When you’re finished, you should see the location at the bottom of the note/list. 

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If you would like to learn more about how to leverage Google Keep as a task management and idea capturing tool, check out my "Keep it Together: with Google Keep" workshop