Prior to this era of social distancing, Inventionland Institute periodically hosted a free workshop offering Act 28 credits to educators called their Day of Innovation. The program involved giving teachers and educators the opportunity to tour Inventionland’s immersive work environment, network with one another, and learn new STEM/STEAM activities that they could take with them and implement in their classroom. Once at-home learning became mandatory and those seminars were put on hold, however, Inventionland Institute quickly realized how tough this transition would be for educators. Teachers who have never used online learning will not only have to figure out what tools will allow them to effectively host an online classroom, but also what programs and activities will empower their students to continue to learn in an online setting.
The Inventionland Institute team quickly began working to create a way to give teachers some assistance in these desperate times. They wanted to build a workshop that wouldn’t be a huge time commitment for busy educators, taught teachers about tools they can use in their online classrooms, and allowed them to share with each other methods and techniques regarding online learning. Thus, the Inventionland Institute Hour of Innovation was born.
Inspired by the Day of Innovation, the Hour of Innovation is designed so that educators can log in remotely using their webcam and watch as a fellow educator gives them a tutorial on an effective online learning tool. Each session begins with introductions where the Inventionland Institute team will introduce themselves and any guest speakers that will be presenting throughout the workshop. They will also briefly explain their chat feature, where teachers can ask any questions that they have throughout the presentation and have them answered in real-time.
Next, the speaker will begin to walk the attending teachers and educators through the first portion of the seminar. What this section entails depends on the topic at hand. For example, in the Code.org seminar, they began by explaining the benefits and parameters of the program so viewing teachers could visualize how it could be effectively utilized within their classroom. Whereas in their ‘Making’ workshop, where they provided maker-based lesson plans, they began by describing and demonstrating the first of several physical activities that they adapted for online learning.
There is often a second or even third section to the teaching portion of each Hour of Innovation session. When the team or a guest speaker is walking teachers through a digital program, the second portion of the seminar will typically walk you step by step through how to sign up, create a classroom, view assignments, etc. Whereas with physical activities, they will often either provide a second/third physical activity or they’ll walk you through additional ways you can change the activity for various grade levels.
Afterward, the guest speakers and ILI partners will briefly touch on their roles in education and list any additional resources they can provide for fellow educators. Finally, each seminar ends with a Q&A session. During this final section, the Inventionland Institute hosts pose a few questions to attending educators in an attempt to facilitate a group discussion. This portion of the workshop allows fellow educators to share tools that they’ve been using for online learning and to voice any struggles they’ve been having so they can find possible solutions among a group of peers.
If you’ve missed out on some of the past seminars, the Inventionland Institute team has made them available online to view for anyone who may want to utilize the information. Thus far they’ve had Hour of Innovation seminars on Kickoff, Tinkercad, Code.org, Storytelling, Making, and Inventing. The team at Inventionland Institute attempts to have a balanced combination of seminars regarding digital resources and physical projects that students can complete at home and record their progress. As educators, the ILI team is all too aware that teachers will have students with a wide variety of financial or technological restraints. They’ll have some students with Mac laptops and some students who don’t even have access to a computer, so the physical activities are a good option for students who have fewer resources at their disposal.
Since the Hour of Innovation launch, Inventionland Institute has received a positive response from the teachers and educators who have participated. According to a series of surveys, 83.9% of participants surveyed said they would attend another Hour of Innovation and 93.5% said that they’d recommend attending Hour of Innovation to a fellow educator. One teacher at Berkshire Local School District, Gina Kritz, stated, “I love the energy, creativity, helpfulness, and the collaborative, accessible approach from all the people at Inventionland. Thank you for giving us fun, inspiring tools to work with and facilitate ingenuity, creativity, and critical thinking in our students. You’ve been a fantastic resource. Thank you for offering the opportunity to connect with you through the Hour of Innovation!”
Educators have also been pleased to see a seminar that is creating a new way for them to learn about online learning portals and programs not from a technical standpoint, but from fellow educators who know how to actively implement them into a classroom setting. Another satisfied attending educator, John Heard of Par Excellence Academy, stated, “This meeting is great overall, I’ve never experienced anything like this and I think it’s great for others to experience. Especially since we’re walking into a different phase of learning.”
Although the program has only been running for a little over a month, the Inventionland Institute team has already been hearing back from teachers who have implemented the programs and lesson plans into their curriculum with a positive response from their students. One such educator, Michael Buckles of Mount Pleasant Area School District, stated, “These meetings are fantastic. I’ve used some of your ideas and resources throughout distance learning with positive responses from the kids. Thank you for sharing the creativity, innovation, and opportunity.”
Ultimately, Inventionland Institute is happy to be able to provide some much-needed support to teachers and educators during a very difficult time. The transition to online learning can be daunting, but having the guidance of fellow educators and access to peer support can make all of the difference in the world.