education, ITRT

Innovation Transformation

I have a secret to confess.

Right here.

Right now.

I have no idea how this will all turn out and there are moments when I’m completely terrified by the thought of failure, but I’m willing to take a risk and make a change because I know it’s the right thing to do!

Last night, as I was scrolling through the #IMMOOC Twitter posts, I came across one by Alice Keeler that stopped me in my tracks:

It was only one sentence, but those words were confirmation that making a change in our room layout was not only a vision and hope, but essential for innovative learning.

For the past ten years our laptop lab has looked the same.

Twelve Tables. Six Rows.

Twenty-four chairs.Twenty-four laptops.

Headphones. Mice.

Stark, white walls.




Last year I took a stab at innovation and modified one-fourth of our lab space into a Tiny Tech Cafe, complete with sofa, bar stools, tables, refrigerator, and Keurig. We raised funds with a GoFundMe campaign and discovered the impact of community generosity that went above and beyond our expectations.

We added a tall bookshelf and created a lending library of current, trending educational books that teachers can read by choice, not requirement. We were humbled by the kindness of authors and publishers who provided books for us to share.

The Tiny Tech Cafe was created to encourage casual collaboration, a comfortable place where teachers could plan together, conference with students or just grab a quick cup of coffee during their day.


A special thanks to Dave Burgess for jump-starting our collection!


After one year of operation, the Tiny Tech Cafe was a huge success! I saw an increase of teachers “just stopping by,” which almost always led to deeper discussions about technology integration and professional development needs. We strengthened relationships as we chatted about this and that and I learned that sometimes the best way we can help one another is simply listening and engaging in conversation.

Now we’re taking that delightful medley of culture, communication, and collaboration and stretching it through all four quadrants of our traditional laptop lab to include students as well. With the generous support of the Hanover Education Foundation and Mechanicsville Elementary, we are creating an Innovation Transformation.

We are transforming our learning space. Instead of immobile tables outlined by battery power cords, we now have sturdy portable tables that fold in half for quick and easy setup and tear down. We have equitable access to common supplies so students can use whatever they need for learning without having to bring it themselves. We have bins to collect consumables so students can build, create, and innovate. We have Legos, a green-screen wall, and a recording studio. We are a constant work-in-progress as our space adapts for lessons and ideas yet to come.




We are transforming our seating. Instead of only offering hard, plastic, one-size-only chairs, we now have multiple seating options. Students can sit on the carpet with pillows or choose an over-sized cushion to sit on the floor. We have wobble seats, stools, a sofa and bar-height tables for standing. We are learning how to “let go” of making students sit in rows and embracing the freedom of providing students choice. We are realizing that there really is such a thing as organized chaos.




We are transforming our activities. Instead of using laptops for interactive games or “everybody use this website” lessons, we are discovering the joy in learning by providing students tools that showcase students’ creativity and innovative spirit. We are taking risks by having them teach us how to use green screen apps and design digital collages. We are offering activities that allow students to create and fail, then iterate with an improved design. We are using technology as a means to an end, not the end itself.






We are transforming our mindset. Instead of “going to the lab,” we are pondering new ways to use our space to fit our purpose. We are taking risks by doing things we’ve never done before, like allowing second graders to sit on a sofa with a laptop and encouraging fifth graders to share their design process with peers.

We are embracing our vulnerability in not being the experts, not knowing the end result, not having all the answers in our grasp. We are breaking through the #TeacherMyth that perfection is progress. (Thanks, Aaron Hogan!)

We are nervous.

We are terrified.

We are intrigued and paradoxically intimidated.

We are struggling to overcome the panic of “never having enough time” as we discover that time well spent is time recaptured.

We are part of a grassroots movement, with some teachers ready to dive in and others standing along the shore. No matter our proximity, we all want to be the best teachers possible for our students.

We just need some time to figure it all out while we are learning ourselves.


“The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros


We are transforming our perception of technology integration. Technology is simply a tool that allows us to strengthen our school culture, facilitate collaboration, and effectively communicate with others in ways we’ve never experienced before. We can use technology to showcase our creativity while also learning required information and curricular standards. We are shifting our views of “I can’t do technology” to understanding technology isn’t something you “do” in the first place.

The first four weeks of school are now complete. We’ve changed the month on our calendars and are taking small steps towards innovation by embracing our transformation:

With our learning space,

With our seating,

With our activities,

With our mindset.

Now it’s time to create!









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