Creating #InclusiveSpaces in Education

I saw an interesting image on Twitter earlier this week that got me thinking about classroom design, shared by Tom Murray, the Digital Learning Director for the Alliance for Excellent Education:

I was recently exhibiting at FETC, and one glaringly obvious takeaway was that pedagogy and technology are evolving at an exciting pace, and teachers are eager to embrace this progress. Awesome! But how can this same evolution be applied to the physical space where students learn—in the classroom?

As I explored the expo hall, there was no shortage of classroom furniture vendors, but it was hard to discern how many of them could truly impact student learning. After all, changes in classroom design can influence learning and development by 25%.

The way students learn today is vastly different from a mere 10 years ago, let alone 10 decades. Yet classroom design has been stagnating since, well, forever. What gives?

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A Week of Realized Dreams and Heavy Hearts

Three days ago, I visited Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. I was acting a real fool the whole time, wide-eyed and full of awe at the impressive creation of Ollivander’s, The Leaky Cauldron, Knockturn Alley, and all the other minute details put into this small but extraordinary part of Universal.

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Supportive friends while unsuccessfully suppressing my utter glee inside Gringotts.

The first order of business was to go on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. The first time around was both thrilling and a bit of sensory overload (in a good way). The second time, I was able to really process what was going on, and realized that, quite literally, my childhood dreams were coming true. It was hard for me to contain my happiness, and my awesome friends were very patient with me.

Anyone who knows me for more than roughly 5 seconds, knows I am a die hard Harry Potter fan. I read my first book in sixth grade and grew up with the characters, waited in line for the midnight premieres of the books and movies (as soon as my mom would let me), stayed up most of the night and hid indoors finishing Deathly Hallows in one day (so as to avoid any spoilers), visited the London studio tour, saw a double feature of the Deathly Hallows films (part 1 at 9 PM, and the premiere of part 2 at midnight), and recently spent an exorbitant amount of money on tickets 18 months down the road to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, 3,000 miles away.

My point in all this is that Harry Potter—and I’m talking about the story as a whole, not just the character—is very much a part of my identity. It is, relatively speaking, a big part of who I am. It has been an ongoing source of happiness, escape, comfort, and fond memories with friends, family, and own imagination for most of my life.

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That Time I Authored an Economics Paper I Never Actually Wrote

I felt like I was in an episode of ReplyAll or Note To Self recently. So much, in fact, I had to tell them about it:

How did this all unfurl? It begins on a cold winter day, many moons weeks ago. ‘Tis a story of technological quirks that serve as a reminder that even the most powerful of technologies make mistakes.

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Building a Community Roadmap (and a Template!)

During the downtime that is Christmas Break, schools, teachers, and many other people are mentally checked out and taking some much-needed time off from work. Alas, not I.

I was recently tasked with building out a six-month plan for our community growth and marketing. It was an overwhelming task—not only to prioritize the many branches of community that I juggle, but also to what degree of detail I should cover, and to do so in a visual way. (If you’re like me, just the word “spreadsheet” induces dread, let alone building a relatively detailed one.)

Today, I spent most of my time building a community calendar using a Google Sheets template. I’ve made this template available for other community managers to use for their own planning.

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Photo Recap: CMX NYC’s December Drink-Up

I had an awesome time at the CMX NYC December Drink-Up last night. I work with a diverse and impressive crew of community peeps, and am always grateful for their support. Having David with us made it extra special, too. Happy Holidays to all!

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Serial is Back. Is the Excitement, Too?

Welp, I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone, but Thursday was a pretty exciting morning for podcast geeks:

Serial Season 2 is here! Rejoice, we once again hear Sarah Koenig’s distinctive storytelling voice, the twinkling of the (slightly different) opening tune, and a riveting, mysterious story? Maybe.

As per usual, my impatience got the better of me and I started listening to it at work. You’d think I would have learned by now that Serial is not the kind of podcast that one can really listen to while doing work (or anything that requires any level of focus, really).

Despite listening to it four times now, I still struggled to keep my focus, even for a relatively short 40-minute episode. Not sure if this is due to the lack of a hook, or my subconscious disinterest after learning that the initial conversation didn’t involve Sarah at all, but I felt a little “meh” about it… until, of course, I heard the preview for episode 2.

Given that this story held national attention prior to Serial, I do wonder if there will be preexisting or inherent biases from listeners. Much like Koenig, I too was “a very uneducated consumer of this story,” and I look forward to seeing what they opt to share, and how they will frame it as part of a larger story.

My initial gut reaction is that this story won’t be as satisfying as Season 1, but that this is more of a way to hold listeners over until Season 3 (which, IIRC, was supposed to be Season 2, but after learning about Bowe’s audio tapes, the pushed it back).

P.S. – As a librarian, I loved her reference to Zoom. If you have any little ones on your holiday list, that book is a solid choice.

Stories of Siblings

Sometimes, you hear a prologue on This American Life that reminds you that, as unique as we are as individuals on this pale blue dot, we share many of the same experiences. I suppose that’s the purpose of the show, and they nailed it in the prologue of “Regrets, I’ve Had a Few.”

While listening to it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many instances of bickering with my big sister, when she would do all sorts of mean things for no reason, like dump water on my head in the paddling pool, pour sand down my bathing suit, throwing things at one another—yunno, the usual. The prologue tells a similar story, that I think many of us from sibling families can relate to:

RegretsTAL

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CMX NYC’s Holiday Drink Up

Ahh, could that gingerbread man be any more relaxed in his latte hot tub? </chandlerbing>

I envy that lil guy right now. These past couple of weeks have been Stress City, AZ, and not much time to focus or reflect on community work. In an effort to not completely desert this place, I come bearing good news!

For community folks in NYC, please join me and the rest of the CMX NYC team at West 3rd Common for our Holiday Drink Up. We’ll be schmoozin’ and boozin’ with other community peeps, and a certain David Spinks will be with us. Reserve your spot today!

Drink Specials

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Back from Berlin

I’ve been MIA for a little while. Life has been busy—my community work picked up a fair bit before the upcoming lull in the holiday season, I’ve had friends from around the country swing by New York, I started freelance writing, among other things. I have all sorts of news I want to share, but there’s no time for that yet. I do, however, have time to share some photos.

My company has a “satellite team” in Berlin (I’m not keen on that phrase, because everyone there plays an integral role in the company’s success, and is definitely not a group of people on the periphery of our main “HQ” in New York). Anyway, I visited it last week with a longtime colleague. It was an amazing community experience in and of itself, but more on that later. For now, here are a handful of photos from this amazing, flourishing, richly historic city.

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About Those “Serial” Expectations…

A few weeks ago, I was griping about my disappointment with newly minted podcast fans (in thanks to Serial‘s explosive growth) and their lack of continued interest in the story that captivated them for months, mainly when curious developments in Adnan’s case hit the news.

I questioned if this lack of enthusiasm was tied to a dissatisfaction with how the season ended–essentially, people were anticipating a nice, neat conclusion, and Koenig didn’t deliver (understandably so). That said, I sure hope this news will pique their interest:

 

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Content & Community: A Marketing Power Couple

It’s been a busy week, and no time to write! I had at least five calls with community members (and even more emails), a face-to-face chance encounter with one of our influencer friends (always a fun experience), and our lil team started preparing for the onslaught of events coming our way in Q1 of 2016.

I’ve been feeling pretty good about my work as of late, so you can imagine how pleased I was when my friend passed along a Digiday article, Content is Still King, but Community Management is Queen, which argues that content marketing and community management are a dynamic duo for brand loyalty. Having transitioned into my CM role by way of content marketing, I’ve always seen the innate connection, but haven’t noticed much discussion of it.

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A Bone to Pick

A recent op-ed article from The New York Times gave me some pause. “Reinventing the Library,” although well-intentioned, leaves me feeling like I can’t help but go on the defense. Bear with me, here.

The article argues that librarians today wear more hats than they previously did. Which is true! I have played the role of social worker, travel agent, and babysitter more times than I can count during my five years serving the public. And while our library staff does our best to help patrons, we always remind them that they would be better off consulting a professional to solve the aforementioned types of issues. (Unless they’re leaving their kids in the library for hours on end, then we give them a stern talking to. Pro tip: Please don’t do that.)

What sparked this post was one comment in the article: “[T]he role of librarians could be drafted by diversifying their mandate, but such restructuring must also ensure that the librarians’ primary purpose is not forgotten: to guide readers to their books.”

Bone, let me pick you for a bit.

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Rambling Review: The New Yorker Radio Hour

The New Yorker Radio Hour premiered this week on WNYC. Much to my chagrin, Car Talk has been taken off the air as a result. Personally, I am really bummed I will no longer spend my Saturday mornings listening to Click and Clack chuckle while I catch up on emails, pay bills, and sort my laundry.

That said, I understand why WNYC replaced Car Talk with The New Yorker Radio Hour. In recent years, they have gradually tweaked their weekend schedule to better appeal to a new generation of listeners (or so I imagine). Their first move by moving Jonathan Schwartz to Sunday was a great idea.

While I will miss Car Talk, I wanted to give this new show a listen, to see what could possibly top brotherly banter between Click and Clack. With minimal revisions, here are my initial thoughts on the show, segment by segment.

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I’m Texas-bound!

Some exciting news to share today. The SXSWedu 2016 panels were announced on Wednesday, and the one that I’m on was accepted! (Granted, SXSW misspelled my last name, but I promise it’s me who will be there.) I’ll be reppin’ Imagine Easy on an #EdTechBridge panel, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I first discovered #EdTechBridge in my Twitter stream about a year ago, and it has been an invaluable resource for my company as we have made our way through a challenging, pivoting year. I can’t wait to join my friend Steve, and two other ETB community members, as we share stories of collaboration between vendors and educators, and how this important (and often undervalued) interaction is shaping our products and design process.

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Serial, Its Hype, and Misconstrued Expectations

About a year ago, I was spending my usual Sunday evening winding down listening to This American Life‘s newest episode. At the end, I heard Ira mention in his speedy, rhythmic, nasaly voice that the following week’s episode would also be the debut of TAL‘s first spin-off podcast. Never would I have thought a podcast would become so popular that it could form its own spin-off. Surely it couldn’t stick?

After listening to the first installment of Serial during the following week’s TAL episode, I was hooked. Soon after I was talking about it with my sister, my podcast bestie. Then, Mama G joined our discussions. I was happy my existing podcast pals at work were into it, too.

A few weeks later, I started to noticed some peculiar happenings.

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Bucket List Item: Checked

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Being interviewed on a podcast about education? Aww, yeah.

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while, but between traveling and catching up on work (my inbox is a permanent disaster area), somehow it’s mid-October (!) and it still isn’t up on the blog.

As I wrote about in one of my first posts, when podcasts and education collide, it’s my favorite thing. So, you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to be interviewed on a podcast, about education.

The podcast, On the Vendor Floor, is spearheaded by Melissa Emler, an educator who coaches teachers in tech across 31 districts. Melissa managed to find our booth at ISTE this year, which in itself is quite the achievement, considering we were all the way at the back, along the perimeter, and hiding behind an enormous, curved standing banner from a neighborly vendor. When we spoke about this off the air, she made a sweet comparison, saying, “All the good stuff in most big stores is in the back, around the perimeter.” Shucks. :3

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CMX Series NYC: Our first event!

Working in community management involves a bit of a learning curve for many of us. Earlier this year, I found CMX, a wonderful resource for all things CM-related. The CMX East Summit was incredibly valuable, and gave me a lot of food for thought.

When I saw an announcement on the busy CMX Facebook group about helping out with a New York-based meetup, I jumped in. Working with other awesome CMs on the leadership team, we’re excited to announce our first event next Wednesday, October 21. It’s at Trello HQ, with free food and booze, and we have lots of fun things planned. Check out the event on Facebook, and follow the trail to the Eventbrite page to reserve your spot today.

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Hump Day Happiness

It’s Hump Day. These days can be tough, especially during a week when New York City is going haywire in preparation for A Very Papal Visit on Friday. Despite the excitement (and mild panic), a couple of fun things happened today that I want to share.

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When First Impressions Fail

I read an article on EdSurge this week, Why Edtech Companies Can’t Explain What They Do. Essentially, it argues that most ed tech websites are vague, leaving educators (and prospective buyers/users) feeling confused, uninterested, or apathetic about the tool they just learned about.

Ed tech companies primarily create digital tools that require a web or mobile connection to work, so what does it say about the company (or the product) when its own website can’t communicate what it does? It’s not a great way to make an impression in an industry swamped with competitors vying for buyers’ attention.

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