My innovation project for my Master’s at Lamar University is called “Appy Hour” and it took shape over the last 18 months, growing and changing along the way. I can’t take credit for the title, as I have seen it online, but my “Appy Hour” was created just for my campus, Moore Elementary. What I have seen at Moore is that we have a large population of teachers who aren’t all that comfortable with using technology in the classroom on a regular basis. They really are exemplary teachers, but a bit more “old school” than some other places. I gathered from many conversations that I had throughout the building, that several of them weren’t even comfortable with using technology in their daily life outside of school, and that was adding more of a barrier to them using it during the school day. So, “Appy Hour” was born, a chance for us to meet in an informal setting and talk about apps that we use in our daily life and in our classroom.
I started implementing my idea pretty much right after it’s creation. That was probably one of my first mistakes. Not the implementation, but not waiting to get further along in the process of creating and tweaking the idea. I am not a really patient person though, and diving in has always been my preferred method of doing anything. I also burn out quickly, which came about towards the end of my journey, but more on that later. My principal was very supportive of my idea, and even allowed me to give staff development credits for the sessions that we held. The push back that I felt was more the push back of time. I had many people interested in attending and in the idea in general, but fitting another piece into their already busy lives was not going to happen. It is worth noting that I had the biggest turnout of about 15 teachers on the day I was able to offer it during our “workday”.
What I realized right away, within minutes of having my first session last December, is that there are some people in my building who are very interested in leveraging technology in the classroom but they are lacking the skills to do it effectively. My co-teacher, who helps me run “Appy Hour”, and I came to the realization that we were going to have to show teachers on our campus things that we were able to do in our Kindergarten classroom, using technology. By using our own rooms as examples, where 5 year olds could use technology to do some amazing things, we felt like others might want to follow. It seemed like a good plan but like all best laid plans, there were some definite bumps in the road. Part of our issues stem from the idea that many teachers, in general, think that Kindergarten is maybe a little less academic than other grade levels. When presenting ideas, we would often encounter that look that says “because you have time, you can do these things.” What most teachers don’t understand is that Kindergarten is the first grade of the past. The things that we are asked to do in our classrooms is beyond their years many times. Gone are the days of home centers and play grocery stores, and they have been replaced with “workstations” that have the children working hard all day.
We had 4 sessions that Spring, and the same people attended most of them. Were they going back and using the ideas? We hoped they were. Towards the end of that Spring semester is when I was in the Measurement class. Finally, a chance to see if what we were doing was making a difference. What I learned through my measurement was that people could be motivated to talk about what were sharing for a chance to win an iPad party, but actually using a tool in their classroom was much more challenging. We had one participant actually go back and use a tool that we talked about, “Plickers”, in her second grade classroom. It was at that point that the frustration began to set in and “Appy Hour” began to shift it’s focus.
This past Fall, I was able to present my “Appy Hour” idea at our district technology conference. Not having a simulation, but actually the idea behind it and what we were doing at our campus. We had many people interested, but it remains to be seen at this time if anyone actually went back and implemented any parts of it on their campus. Again, a slight kick to the ego, and “Appy Hour” suffered for it. I was very hesitant to have any sessions that Fall, with the push back that I experienced before. But we were able to successfully have a “Appmazing Race” where our participants were able to complete tasks using apps. I feel like this was really the most fun we have been able to have and it really addresses the idea of not just sitting by passively and listening about apps, but instead using them in real time to complete tasks. I hoped to continue this idea for the rest of the fall. Then October happened. At my school October is the craziest month of the year, with Book Character Pumpkins, Pumpkin Carving, Hawk Fest, and many other time consuming activities.
The next transformation of my innovation idea was the online course, which I felt like could breathe new life into my idea. All the complaints about no time or ability to stay after school could be addressed by having a self-paced “Appy Hour” available to the staff. I spent hours upon hours trying to make the course a very open ended course that anyone could work on, no matter their level. When I finally put it out to the staff, not one person joined the class. I know we are all busy so I didn’t worry too much about it. But what I realize now, looking back, was it made me want to avoid the project for some time. I have a pretty tough skin, and I like to be out there on the front lines of education, trying new things. But subconsciously, I shut down on my idea. I could still write about it, come up with ideas for the next session, and even have discussions about it with my co-teacher. But I could not bring myself to schedule a session. It reminded me so much of a conversation that I had with my technology teacher about how she could not beg people to come to trainings and how she thought it was interesting how many stops I would pull out to get people to join my sessions. She was often the source of my frustration during the evolution of “Appy Hour”, only attending one session and being a bit critical in the process. We offered free iPad parties, fed them, and anything else we could think of. I was a bit put off when she said that, but now I realize I was doing a lot of leg work to get people to show up to these sessions. All while having the support of my administration in my building by allowing me to have the sessions but not having them present for all but one session. All while running my kindergarten classroom and balancing my own family commitments.
Fast forward to last month, when someone in my building asked me when I was going to have another “Appy Hour” session. I don’t think I have heard any person ask that this school year. All of a sudden, I felt a new energy. If I can change one classroom, or one teachers ideas of using technology to leverage learning in their room, I am creating that change that I wanted to create. No, it’s not on the scale that I planned on in the beginning. I’m not running a district “Appy Hour,” and I am not fielding technology and app related questions all day. But I am trying. And one of the most important lessons that I have learned through my innovation plan is trying is better than not trying. Doing what I do, being who I am, is the one tool that I can use to implement change in my building. I have also learned that although I will graduate with a degree in Digital Learning and Leading, it should be called a degree in Changing People Hearts and Minds. It’s not about the technology at all. It’s all about getting people to see what needs to be changed in their world, and doing something about it. I believe that “Appy Hour” will continue to grow and change throughout my career. I hope it becomes all that I dreamed it could. If not, I feel it will be the fire inside of me to create the next big innovation project. And that’s not such a bad thing.