Ok, so, last week I had one of those week that just wouldn’t stop. You know, the kind where you hit the ground running on Monday and keep sprinting to the finish line on Friday. As part of the many things that I needed to do – and it seemed like the week was leading to this culminating event – was our Subject Council Chairs Meeting.
While one of my colleagues put the agenda together and invited department heads from across the board to the meeting, it was my job (and I volunteered to do this) to lead the group in a Google Hangout. You see, due to budget constraints, we cannot afford to bring all the department heads together for our regular Subject Council meetings. Solution to this problem? Technology!
The plan was for us to train the Subject Council Chairs how to set up and execute a moderated Google Hangout.
Of course, I was excited, passionate and enthusiastic about this “innovation,” and being what you might call a risk-taker, I volunteered to put a package together to support our subject council chairs in their learning a new technology.
From the get go, I knew that we would have to lay everything
out for a group of people who likely had varying degrees of comfort with technology in general. That’s why I put together a document outlining Google Hangout etiquette. Mute the mic when not speaking, turn the camera off when you need to step away from the computer, comment and ask questions in the chat box, and share screens. In addition to that, knowing some need step by step instructions, I put together screen shots outlining the process and even put together a video tutorial with a colleague – which was an interesting experience in and of itself.
I should have know, when my colleague, who through no fault of her own, couldn’t make it due to a family emergency, that this endeavour was going to take a turn for the interesting!
First thing, how would I put together my Google Hangout presentation in an effective manner? Lately, I have really been stuck on using Google sites as a container. The new Google sites that is, not the classic, which for me is like trying to exorcise the devil from the internet! The new Google sites allows me to embed text, images, documents, whole folders, videos, etc. in a very simple and graphically attractive fashion.
So you are probably thinking, why not put everything in a shared folder and be done with it? A folder easily serves that purpose, but if you are like me – when someone shares a folder with me, I maybe look at one document or two? At most? Using a Google site as a repository or a “container” allows me to direct people’s attention to particular information and allows me to create an interactivity with the material that a folder does not and because it is posted on the web, I can be continuously updating the information and people can bookmark the page and access long after the inservice.
I was so into putting it all together, that I decided, not only to put my Google Hangout together using a Google site, but I put the whole agenda for the meeting on the site.
Day of the meeting. I am chairing my first Subject Council Chairs meeting. I am in early to make sure everything is in order. I ask my admin assistant if hooking up my laptop in the boardroom is complicated? Oh no Lou. It is simple….
I get down there. Nada. I can’t even get the projector to work for me. My admin assistant comes down. Nada. At one point, even the lights go out leaving us in the dark with 20 teachers representing the subject councils from across the board. IT comes in to save the day…nada. Admin assistant runs upstairs gets a projector and we decide to go old school.
The whole time that this is playing out, I am thinking, I cannot let people see me get frustrated or flustered and I can’t give up! After all, it wouldn’t bode well for me to introduce a new technological innovation only to be stymied by a technological glitch. So I kept laughing and smiling and saying aloud, I am not going to let a laptop or projector prevent me from doing my job. I was all plan B, then plan C, and plan D.
Even when we jury rigged something, the wireless connectivity kept cutting out on me. In short, it was a technological nightmare.
I think, the thing that saved me, was humour and the video that I obviously had the clairvoyance to open up my session by Dr. Carol Dewek on “The Power of Not Yet.” I kept going back to the idea that this time might be hard, but the next time will be easier for me. I knew I had to model resiliency and commitment and I knew that we had to power through. The Google Hangout demo…well, I would like to say it went off without a hitch, but I warned them a head of time and I emphasized that while it might not be perfect YET, we will keep practicing and eventually, it will be a lot easier.
The outcome of the meeting? Well, instead of epic fail, I am happy to say, it was an epic win! Not only were the chairs open to the innovation, but they wanted me to do and impromptu walk through of Google sites and indicated that they would be willing to participate in few google hangout practices that I will schedule and moderate, so they can get they can become more comfortable in the environment. So in the end, they accepted the new practice (Google Hangouts for Subject Council meetings), with the pleasant by product being, an interest in the new Google sites simp because I had decided to used it as a container for information and documentation I wanted to make sure they were easily able to access and find at a mouse click or two.
The lessons to be learned? Modelling risk-taking, resiliency and a growth mindset or “not yet” attitude carry you a long way in the face of technological challenges and an uncertain reception to innovation. As teachers left the session, some made a point to shake my hand and thank me for a “fun” workshop, a workshop that was well worth for them and that’s how I like to measure success.
Oh yeah, walked into the boardroom about 30 minutes after we all cleared out of the room. The same IT person who tried to help me get set up was there with his laptop and guess what….it totally worked for him. Of course, but in retrospect, I am glad it played out the way it did and that I was able to model a good sense of humour and a “not yet” attitude.