Summer Innovation with Fair Chance Learning!

Well, here we are again; reflecting upon a trip that was inspiring, innovating and also very emotional for me too!

Being an Avid Twitter Follower of the remarkable, inspiring and incredible work Fair Chance Learning does not only for teacher support, students learning but also provide opportunities for ALL types of learners, people and situations as seen in today’s posts with Children’s Wish Ontario! I had seen a few weeks back the awesome learning environment / situation / experience they provided for Peel Students, I decided to reach out and inquire about the possibility of bring some kids from Grand Erie District School Board.

Martha (Director of Professional Services); responded back to me with an eager yes! Anyone who knows, witnessed or been part of a Martha Jez workshop would understanding this; ‘Eager Yes’…she is an incredible speaker, innovator and empowering leader in our field!! So, with this I would love to share our awesome-sauce (as current International Space Station Astronaut; Jack Fischer would say) adventure with Fair Chance Learning and Microsoft Canada!

So, I; myself am walking into a new school at Lakewood Elementary, new grade level (5/6) with new students whom I wanted to bring along to instill a passion of innovation from the best; Martha @marthajez and Dustin Jez @DustinJez, Derek Tangredi @dtangredi. Being tied closely to my former school (my home away from home) I also wanted to include them as well; so three students from Hagersville Elementary, our wonderful principal; Janice Hughes and her two boys came along as well. Alongside Janice (principal), a step father of one of my students this year came along (whom is a special education teacher consultant) and myself (classroom teacher) we had a lot of bases covered within Grand Erie @GEDSB with a small contingent. A highlight personally for me was that Fair Chance and Microsoft allowed my son; Xander (6 years old) to tag along as well with his little buddy.

After a little side work organizing we were all set and pumped for the big day! Carpooling and navigating through some intense traffic we arrived at our destination at Microsoft Head Office in Mississauga. On most trips this traffic would instill a sense of a strong desire for some coffee, however walking into a place of innovation, empowerment and invigorating passion to inspire, infuse and instill a growth mindset; coffee was not on my mind at all…..however, the washroom was!

Upon walking into the front doors you feel as if you were walking into a nerd/geek dream. A side note; my wife calls my trips and workshops ‘geekfest’ when doing anything related to technology and or computers, but I am totally fine with this! I could rock the Big Bang Show alongside the geek squad!

Martha met us; shook hands with each student, parent and introduced herself and welcomed them all with open arms into the world of Microsoft! After a hug for myself (yes, we geeks tend to do that when inspiring young minds is in hand for the day) we went upstairs where we seen the ‘brain trust’, the storage of anything and everything digital within the Microsoft World. Being an avid fan of the new series Salvation; I felt we were walking into Darius’ realm of innovation and meeting ‘Tess’ (his virtual brain working alongside everyone as an Artificial Intelligence being). We were brought into a room where the energetic, creative Derek Tangredi was to meet us (I would have been incredibly pumped; but Derek and I touched based the evening before via twitter, so I knew he would be there – If anyone gets a chance you have to sit with Derek sometime……talk about an empowering person to get behind and model your practice from!!). I also finally, officially met Michelle Valtas (Director of Marketing and Communication for FCL) Karen Truyens (One of Microsoft’s Leading Ladies) and my Buddy Alex from a TweetMeet I hosted a couple days before!

Karen welcomed us to Microsoft Head Office and partook in the days events with us; provided us with some awesome OneNote Avenger Capes for the students and us big kids as well, and as incredible as these were this was far from a highlight from the day! The highlight was watching pure eagerness turn into a desire, invigoration a passion to explore all the cool tech on the table in front from the kids! We had Makey Makey, Sphero’s, Windows Computers and today’s big exploration…..the new Micro:bit!! (Insert crazy fun music now!!)

With Derek at the helm leading the micro:bit education we began coding our initials; an easy simple starting point for anyone getting started! A few of my former troops programmed; when A/B both touched the LED’s lit up writing ‘My brothers feet smell’ and ‘My sisters are crazy’ (simple yet a step another step in the learning process of scratch / block coding). After some laughs and frowns from brothers and sisters within the room it was time to get funky!

Derek lead a lesson in creation of some awesome activities that could be used for physical education / DPA through coding and programming the kids coded programs that ran hula hoop counters, egg catching games and even limbo! Watching the kids learn the basics of code and the immediate application into a fun game right afterwards was awesome! Soooooo much fun playing the games with the kids….but the conversations were the best! I heard ‘I cannot believe I made that into a game’ and ‘coding can do this!?!’, ‘Mr. Archer I am going to miss this next year’ (former students), ‘Mr. Archer we have to do lots of this stuff this year (new students) and ‘Dad this is the stuff we do at home, but sooooooo much better’ (From my goofball; Xander).

Some of the key highlights was watching parents, my former principal and also the teacher consultant desire to dive in and try (all of which walked away purchasing a micro:bit by the way – so you know they were inspired!!), explore and ask so many deep and amazing questions that connected to curriculum content, clubs, activities, Camp 21’s and from one parent ‘I just love the smile on my kids faces when they are inspired like this’. One word comes to mind; empowering!!

On a more personal note; watching my son interact and learn from Dustin and Derek (two idols of mine in education was incredible to see). Xander is a really, really busy kid! He does not sit long nor attend to anything he is NOT into, however he was glued to each and every word these two said and time they spent with him. Something that does not happen often with Xander, yet another reason these two guys inspire and are models from my practice!!

We also had the opportunity to finally meet the Jez clan! The power couple; Martha and Dustin brought along their kids and a friend and seeing them pure enjoyment with the tech in them just drove home for me the incredible power we all have on and for our kids! In a place so far from home in a totally new environment it felt homey and very family oriented! Microsoft Canada; Karen Truyens and Fair Chance Learning not only spoiled us with an incredible day of innovation but also what seemed to become of rather larger new family of passionate people with a desire and eagerness for innovation!

To top things off we were even spoiled with lunch from Microsoft! If you talk to any parent; those dreaded brown bags lunches are dreadful (insert ‘oh crap’ September is around the corner on those lunches are coming back). We sat in the cafe; along with the buildings employee’s and even these people welcomed us with open arms and conversations too!

This little summer adventure just instilled so much more passion and desire to continue my learning journey with Microsoft and Fair Chance Learning in my own professional practice! Being an innovator as the aforementioned professionals within this blog takes hard work and commitment to be the best and explore, fail, adapt, change, fail some more and more and more and then you get it! But, then something new comes along and the process begins again, to be an innovator you have to get ‘uncomfortable’ as my friend Derek says! Growth is found in uncomfortable situations that are not the nor… innovating for you kids, students, parents and families people and most of all give anyone and everyone a ‘Fair Chance in Learning’ and explore accessibility, coding and differentiated means of delivering and accessing material using Microsoft’s O365 tools!!

The possibilities are endless….develop a PLN on Twitter otherwise opportunities such as this would not happen….twitter is my adaptation into innovation and global teaching, let it by your guide and voice as well!


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