Learning Agility and the 21st Century Work Force

steIn early March I attended and presented at The Georgia Scholarship of STEM Teaching & Learning Conference held at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Participants included educators, students, industry professionals and research institutions who were invited from all USG colleges and universities, private higher education institutions within the state, industry, research institutions, and local area K-12 schools. The conference focused on STEM Initiative whose goals include: promoting K-12 student preparation for and interest in majoring in STEM fields in college; increasing the success of STEM majors in college; and producing more and better science and mathematics teachers for K-12 schools.

I was particularly excited to meet and hear the keynote speaker. Shan 11043252_10206196555535695_2324334824400984796_nCooper is Vice President of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company and General Manager of the company’s Marietta, Ga., facility, (which is also where my husband David has worked for the past 35 years!) She is responsible for the company’s operating locations in Meridian, Miss., and Clarksburg, W.Va. and serves as the company’s Vice President of Business Ethics.

Her keynote was titled “Educating the Future Work Force”. I listened carefully as she shared the difficulties of finding a work force with the skill set needed to design and build some of the world’s most recognizable military aircraft. She stressed the need for technically-educated, employees to sustain the company and industry. She shared that not every employee needs to be an engineer, that Lockheed had welders, aircraft technicians and mechanics making healthy salaries. She shared the difficulty the company had finding 400 employees that could pass the math portion of their application process. She empathized with the profession of teaching that has their game plan changed almost annually, unlike aircraft and security corporations which have five and ten year business plans.

Three key points stood out in her passionate and lively message. She was insistent that students needed these three skills in order to find success in today’s global workplace.

  • Critical Thinking –the ability to apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations. 
  • Problem Solving- The process of working through details of a problem to reach a solution.
  • Learning Agility……..hmmm what was the definition of learning agility? (I had to research the exact definition.) The concept of “learning agility” has been used to describe individuals who possess skills such as openness, willingness to learn, and flexibility. In addition, a learning agile person is curious about the world, has a high tolerance for ambiguity, good people skills, vision, and innovation.  In general, learning agility relates to adaptability and willingness to explore the unknown and learn from experiences. (I like this skill!)

As she spoke I couldn’t help but to relate these points to 21st Century Learning Design which is the platform of the Microsoft Innovative Educator program.
Knowledge Construction, Collaboration, Skilled Communication, ICT, Real World Problem Solving and Self-Regulation, tools to help our teachers challenge and guide our students. All involve critical thinking, problem solving and my new personal favorite, learning agility.

Ms..Cooper stressed the need for industry to join together with educators and schools in partnerships. Her belief is that corporations can help guide curriculum improvements by sharing information with educators regarding emerging trends, industry practices and technologies, and skills and competencies needed from future employees.

She ended her keynote by coming out into the audience and answering numerous questions. Once again the passion, commitment and caring of individuals who work in education was evident. Each question centered on the students and how best to serve them. It is always a renewal of spirit to see such fine examples of servant leadership. The combination of the keynote, the conference attendees and sessions renewed my belief that we are steering our ship in the right direction and our students will have the opportunity to be successful in a global environment.

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A Day in the Life with Office 365

On a typical morning in Ms. Ingrams fifth grade classroom, students enter the classroom, log on to their laptop or learning device and head straight to Office 365. Most had edited a biography PowerPoint class assignment from home and were anxious to tweak their final product before presenting. Others checked email in Outlook for assignment updates from teachers and looked over notes in One Note for an upcoming quiz.20150108_150829242_iOS

Student life “in the cloud” means no forgotten papers, lost homework, corrupt or washed flash drives or any one of a dozen common excuses given for not having an assignment. Soon to be unlimited storage in their OneDrive means plenty of space for all of their documents and projects.

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Student work is created in Office 365 from a current Office Suite including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and One Note. Documents are automatically saved and can be accessed anywhere internet is available, 24-7.  Mobile Apps found on smart devices add to the ease and ability to access and edit their work.

Having the capability to share documents allows for easy collaboration among peers or with their instructor for grading or editing comments and works well with 21st century digital learning goals. Student in our district from fourth grade to graduation have access to all of the apps available. These tools mesh perfectly with the district “Bring Your Learning Device” initiative and bridge the gap for those students who don’t own premium versions of Office on their home computers.

Office 365 also houses a full version of Microsoft Outlook with 50 GB of space allowing email communication within the closed network of the school district and full calendar functionality for planning and organizing. Our students email accounts are “in house only” giving them the opportunity to use these accounts as their professional account and giving us a great platform to teach digital responsibility skills.

A Day in the Life

Teachers enjoy the benefit of Office 365 as a one stop shop, where they can manage, communicate, share and collaborate with peers and students.  The addition of tools like OneNote Notebook Creator allow teachers to create “textbooks” for each class, housing content, a collaborative component and a page for each student. Homework assignments are easily copied to student pages and completed only to have a teacher grade and comment from a single location. The addition of OneNote Staff Notebook creator really offer application for our administrators at another level. Teachers love the Excel Survey app as another tool beneficial for collecting links to assignments and assessments.

Office 365 moves the teacher and the learner beyond the walls of the classroom, anytime, anywhere. Creating mobile learners with access to educational tools and preparing them for success in all types of environments.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Certifying an Entire School as Microsoft Innovative Educators but Were Afraid to Ask…

After attending the refresher MIE course in Atlanta focused on 21st Century Learning Design and getting my hands on some of the new tools for teachers, a plan began to form. Approaching my STEM Academy Principals with the idea of certifying the entire school and providing 20 hours of professional development centering on the MIE concept was just the beginning.

Wanting the focus and journey to be completely immersed in OneNote for the duration, I began to build a shared MIE OneNote notebook personalized for the school. Our initial meeting was a large group in the cafeteria (not my favorite training environment) with 68 teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and additional staff members….all attempting to open a shared notebook at one time!! Amazingly, they all were able to log in to their Office 365 accounts and open the notebook with only a few exceptions.

Our first meeting focused on explaining the program, a single learning dimension and an introductory course in OneNote. The energy was good and we were on our way. The first assignment was completing the self-assessment on the Microsoft Educator Network and submitting their results on a survey created in Excel survey. Providing me with this feedback gave me information to augment my future lessons.

Future meetings divided the group by grade level and met in the computer lab making a much more manageable group. Each class included a 21st Century Learning Dimension, lessons plans and rubric study as well as introduction to new tools. Homework and follow up for each class was routine. Occasionally trainings took place on a grade level basis during the teachers planning periods for more specific content.

We delved into Office 365, sharing documents, creating surveys and exploring sites, explored OneNote in depth and used OneNote Notebook Creator, researched using BING in the Classroom (which has since replaced our district default search), held Mystery Skype sessions and connected with classrooms through Skype for Teachers.
Office Mix was a party favorite and each staff member contributed a Mix to our Excel Survey list. Different ways to collect information from my teachers included Poll Everywhere, Todays Meet, Padlet and Lenoit. Of course this certification would not be complete without introducing them to the magic of SWAY! Free tools were a hit including, AutoCollage, Songsmith and the cast of thousands.

With our motto of “Go Big or Go Home,” the 20 hours of blended learning culminated with an overview of the Microsoft Educator Network site and future professional development opportunities. I truly wanted to validate this experience for everyone who participated in this certification to honor the efforts made. Special guest including Cara Atkinson,
Education Solution Professional and Lindsey Craft, Strategic Accounts Manager- Education from Microsoft, our Supervisor of Instructional Training, Debbie Childress and District Facilitator, Esther Brenneman. Additionally a special message from our Assistant Superintendent of Technology and Accountability, Bobby Blount was created in Office Mix and shared.

Each participant received a certificate, a framed placard for outside their door and a t-shirt stating “I’m Certified!” We shared a beautiful MIE Congratulations cake and loads of photos to celebrate the achievement. I could not have been more proud and truly feel this was one of the most rewarding experiences in my career in education. I think some of the comments from the final survey say it best.

“The knowledge gained through this course sets me up as an educator with the tools needed to stay relevant in an ever changing world. This allowed me to learn many of the new platforms available to help me plan, create, and teach with in my classroom. Using One Note was an ahhh ha moment for me, I thought of the many ways I can use One Note in ways that I use EverNote right now. One Note is a great place for me to organize my thoughts, share them, and best of all be able to go back and reference them as often as needed. I love that I can click on links through OneNote to get to resources I might want to use in my lessons.” Karina

“As a parapro I am not responsible for the overall teaching. This has opened my eyes to the many things that can be done in the classroom. It gives me a better understanding of the different concepts that my teachers use.” Kristi

“I feel I have been given some great ways to implement technology in the classroom and some neat ways to share learning in the classroom with parents.” Jennifer

“I think that this course helps educators achieve instructional goals in innovative, engaging ways by incorporating technology in a manner that enriches the learning of all students.  It helps educators analyze good lessons and identify ways to make them even better.” Donna

“The philosophy of this course is so important. We are learning how to create more opportunities for learning in our classrooms. I can’t think of a better way to produce excellent teachers. The tools are so important to education, and we have to develop at the same speed as our students. We need to commit to growth and this course helped me so much!”

For more photos check out our video here

Resurrection of the Blog…

blogIt was time to revisit the site where it all began. This year I was chosen along with 800 other unique individuals on this amazing planet involved in the world of education to be a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. While most of the time I don’t feel like much of an “expert,” I was thrilled to have been selected.

My current blog is part of our organization Office 365 account and not visible to the public. In order to share with my fellow MIEE friends, I needed to move back to this site. Welcome to the Garden…

Great Blog Post

As we transition from our Web 1.0 web pages to our new SharePoint collaborative, concise design this is timely. Parents really want one thing, easy access to the information that they need for their kids.
Read on


Photo by trimmer741
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