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My Life as an Innovation Consultant: What Will 2016 Bring?

It's the start of a new year, and I'm re-organizing my professional life, setting goals and reflecting on nearly six years as an independent innovation consultant.

People often ask what I do and the answer is complicated. I have many professional interests revolving around innovation, educational technology,  social media, and global education. Perhaps the best title to give me is non-traditional educator.  I am an advocate for students and teachers, yet I am not employed in a traditional school setting. Instead, I partner with a variety of people, schools, organizations, and companies to lend my expertise and to promote educational change. Often educators are considered out of touch and less relevant if they leave school settings for consultancies. I would argue that my knowledge base has been greatly expanded because of my experiences.  I love what I do. 

Here's what's going on for me this spring and this may give you an idea of my current projects:

  • I attended FETC last week, gave a presentation on global project-based learning, and participated on a panel moderated by the US DoE's Zac Chase on closing the access gap.
  • Check out my blog post  on Participate Learning (formerly Appolearning) that highlights their unique Participate Chats feature. I've worked with this group off and on over the last years. 
  • The Waukegan Public Schools is hosting their annual Google N'More conference. I'll be there Saturday to talk about global project-based learning.
  • I began working with Edmodo to help guide their thought leadership around connecting to teachers. Stay tuned for more artifacts from this work. 
  • The annual Student Technology Conference run by Marymount of New York students takes place on January 30th. Proposals are still being accepted from students in grades 6-12. All are welcome to attend to learn from a great group of young technology leaders. 
  • Project Tomorrow runs a career exploration program for high school students in California and I'll be designing flipped modules for these students to learn about technology integration this winter. 
  • The Illinois Computing Educators conference takes place at the end of February and I'll be there as a conference committee member and as a presenter. Join us! It's really a fun and engaging professional development event. Note that there is a pre-conference free EdCamp After Dark event on Wednesday evening of the conference week among other special activities.
  • In March, I'll be attending the SxSWedu conference in Austin, Texas to learn and network. This conference has proven invaluable during the last few years.
  • The CUE National Conference takes place in mid-March and I'll be reprising my role as the official #notatcue ambassador. This means that I strategize with CUE and virtually monitor social media for this event. I've done this for their past two conferences, and it's really fun. I learn a lot and get to help out with an incredible conference. 
  • Don Buckley, Brandon Wiley, and I will be conducting a workshop for NYSAIS at Rye Country Day School in New York on April 16. Entitled Developing Global Connections in Your School, this experience will help participants apply the design thinking process to coming up with a plan for globalizing their school. We are also doing a mini-version of this workshop at the CoSN annual conference earlier in April. 
  • Finally, Steve Hargadon and I are gearing up for another round of  Globaled Events, pushing the global education agenda beyond our annual Global Education Conference. We are starting a publication on Medium and a webinar series in February. Soon we will announce Global Leadership Week which will take place at the end of April with a face-to-face event in Silicon Valley and a virtual mini-conference focused on inspiring action in the global education field. We also will be reprising our Global Education Day at ISTE meetup in June. All of these events are free for teachers; if you're interested in connecting to highly motivated, tech-savvy educators through our work, consider getting involved as a sponsor. Contact Steve Hargadon at for more details.

The aforementioned list of activities shows the range of workin which I engage. I really enjoy this variety as well as getting to know people through these projects. During the last few years, I've had the opportunity to serve as an innovation coach in several schools including Mercy High School in Michigan, D230 in Illinois, Falconer School in Chicago, and the Dwight School in New York and I've conducted several customized technology audits at schools for Educational Collaborators (EC, by the way, is a great community of ed tech leaders who can be deployed for any project). I really love helping schools strategize around innovation and this work has been immensely professionally satisfying. It's exciting to see schools move forward and tackle pressing issues, and I can help with providing resources, connections, and ideas for infusing innovation into their culture.

During my last innovation gig, I partnered with Don Buckley, formerly of the School at Columbia and now with Tools at School, to tag team the innovation process. Don turned out toe be a great thought partner; he worked with faculty using the design thinking process and advised the school's leadership team while I focused on professional development and overall management of the year-long project. This school is now positioned to take on this work themselves, and it's exciting to see new growth within this school. 

A new experience for me in 2015 was working with the startup Remind conducting teacher outreach. I love this tool, learned a great deal how it can be used in classrooms with surprising creativity, and had time to think about what teachers really need. Partly because of my work with Remind, I've also started to network more and I've particularly enjoyed a Chicago Hive meeting and two dinners with the Chicago DOLS group. I'm looking forward to continuing those activities.  And, perhaps the most out of my comfort zone experience I had in 2015 was attending an IBM data analytics conference as a social influencer and representative of the education field. This event was so different for me and expanded my interest on how data is used and perceived in the education world. I'm hoping to explore this further during 2016 and become a more active and aware data citizen. 

At any rate, I'm grateful for 2015 and am looking forward to what 2016 brings to my professional life! As always, I hope to continue to learn from and by inspired others around me, applying this knowledge to new projects. Professional generosity makes the world go around, and I look forward to working with people who share this vision on initiatives that matter. What's on your plate for 2016? 

4th or 5th Grade Collaboration Opportunities - Mystery Location Calls and Virtual LitCircles

Fourth and Fifth Grade Teacher Friends - 

I've been coaching teachers at Falconer School in Chicago for the past two years as part of a pilot project through Kajeet and funded by Qualcomm's Wireless Reach initiative.  I conduct professional development with these teachers about once a month, and towards the end of the year, I typically help out with projects in classrooms. 

Four classrooms (three currently) for the past three years have been given Android tablets to use as personal learning devices. The teachers in these classrooms have embraced educational technology, trying out various tools and growing their professional learning networks. These devices are enabled with filtered 4G connectivity through Kajeet and the students are allowed to take these devices home. It has been a great project; it has been a privilege and honor to work with the students and teachers involved.

We're in the process of thinking about culminating activities for this school year, and are seeking other classrooms for a couple of projects. Here they are:

  • We would like to start holding weekly mystery location calls with other classrooms and perhaps track our calls through a Google Map. The Falconer teachers are open to using Skype or Google Hangouts. We would prefer to do this with other fifth-grade classrooms, but we are flexible.
  • The students are reading two books starting in mid-May that could lend themselves to virtual literature circles in Edmodo. We would set up groups for each class, you would have your students join these groups, and teachers would post discussion questions and other activities for each class to do and share. We've done this in the past with two of Grace Lin's books, and it's particularly worked well when each teacher takes responsibility for posting lessons for a week at a time.  Since these book groups are taking place at the end of the year, we could get creative with other supplemental activities. We are planning on starting Bud Not Buddy in mid-May. Maniac Magee would be the last book covered during the last two weeks in June (Chicago Public Schools gets out fairly late, probably due to snow days.) Fourth, fifth or sixth grades with fairly good access to technology devices would be ideal. The type of device used by another school is not an issue; we'll use tools that are not platform specific.  Ideally, we'd like to hold a planning meeting with interested teachers before any of these units are taught, too. 

For more info about what this fifth grade team has been up to, check out  teacher Tasia Pena's Weebly site, her class Kidblog, and her Twitter feed.  Another teacher Jackeline Rivera also posted this Weebly site as well. 

If you'd like to work with us, email me at elemenous at gmail dot com or send me a tweet at @elemenous! Looking forward to finding new friends for my fifth grade team! 

Presentation Materials for #ISACScon

I'm thrilled and honored to speaking at the annual ISACS conference today! Please feel free to download my materials so that you don't have to take copious notes. In my YouTube and global presenations, there are many hyperlinks to resources that are clickable, including some photos. I've included my slides in Apple's Keynote format as well as PDFs. I've also added my slides to Slideshare. If you are working on an iPad, the Keynote and PDF options will probably work best for you.

If you need to follow up with me, please contact me at lucy@lucygrayconsulting, @elemenous on Twitter, or @GlobalEdCon on Twitter.

Our backchannel for questions, resource sharing, and conversation can be found at:



Chatting with Author Grace Lin This Morning

As part of a mobile learning pilot through Kajeet, I've been coaching teachers and students using tablets this year. The kids get to take them home and are supplied with 4G connectivity. Everyone has been a joy to work with... the teachers tackle new challenges on a regular basis, and the kids are enthusiastic about their work.

As a culminating project, we've invited noted children's author Grace Lin to a Hangout on Air conversation today. These fifth grade students read her book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and participated in book discussions in Edmodo with kids in another Illinois town and in Massachuets. We're all coming together virtually today to listen to Grace and to ask her questions about her work!

You can view from our event page or right here on my blog!


Many thanks to all the great teachers (and their students!) participating: Donna Roman, Jen Teahan, Tasia Pena, Jeanette Franchi, Jacqueline Rivera, Sheila Clark and Dylan Underwood