April 10, 2019 mgoudz

We Be Jammin?

We have a couple of Google Jamboards in our library learning spaces and yesterday I challenged myself to use the Jamboard for an entire meeting.

Summary: Google Jamboard is both a device and an app. It is intended for in-person collaboration as a digital whiteboard. It provides portability and an instant digital record, but takes some practice to use smoothly. This post captures one meeting using Jamboard.

What is a teaching “huddle?”

I was meeting with four instructors and eight undergraduate learning fellows for our weekly “teaching huddle” with instructors and undergrad learning fellows. (For more about the learning fellows program, see this great poster.) The structure of our meetings are roughly as follows:

Thorns: Each person submits one or more thing in advance (via Google Form) that was challenge, that they wished had gone differently, and/or they would like to spend time time as a group addressing. Then in our meeting we vote (2 votes per person) and discuss, brainstorm, and knowledge share about the topic. A frequent topic of thorns is how to support group learning when different members of the group have varying levels of skill (and preparation).

The week ahead: One of the faculty instructors gives an overview of the lessons and homework for the upcoming week. There are four sections of the same course and they all follow a shared syllabus and schedule.

Pedagogical Moments: Each week we spend some time learning and incorporating principles and techniques to support learning in the classroom. Frequent sources for these segments are How People Learn II (NAS:E&M, 2018) and Small Teaching (Lang, 2016).

Roses: This is the flip side of thorns. The prompt is something like, “What went well in class that you would like to share/celebrate?” This seems to quickly become a highlight of every meeting.

Let’s Jam Together

Google Jamboard is both a device (giant writeable monitor running Jamboard app), a mobile app (iOS and Android), and a web app. The experience is slightly different in each of the formats and I quickly found myself device switching to streamline my workflow.

First, I set up a three-page Jam (iOS)
page 1 – title & agenda,
page 2 – Thorns, and
page 3 – How people learn.

Then, I transferred the survey responses (thorns) to sticky notes on the jam (web app). In our room we meet around a round table so I used both the projector (source my iPad) and the Google Jamboard on the opposite side of the table. I told people that both screens would be the same content.

As people walked into the room I explained the Jam-o-sphere, and asked for everyone’s sense of adventure as we all tried this together. There was some immediate expression of skepticism about the replacement of paper sticky notes with virtual ones.

I then asked them to vote for two thorns with stickers. People approached the Jamboard grabbed one the fat crayons (the Google writing implement) and clicked through the menu to select stickers. I also passed around my iPad for a second input device to speed up the process. Some people jumped in to show others who were struggling to navigate the touchy drag-and-drop of the stickers. A few stickers were lost and some random lines streaked the page, but in the end all votes were recorded.

I then selected the top voted post-its. They were too small to read so I enlarged them one at time (two-finger drag in iOS), then returned them roughly to their spot on the board. The rest of the meeting, pedagogical moments and roses we used our analog technologies (popsicle sticks, printed pages, and index cards).

To Jam or Not to Jam?

At the start of our meeting, during voting, and our discussion of thorns I found my attention pulled to the tech

– Did people know how to use the Jamboard?
– Were both screens on the right page?
– How do I erase those stray marks?

As a facilitator I felt less focused on the process and content that wanted to be. That’s not entirely Jamboard’s fault, it’s a common experience anytime I’m using a new tool in front of a live audience.

I’m undecided if our meeting was better with the Jamboard, but I’ll try it again with the following modifications:

Google Jams are made for collaboration more so than presentation. Having multiple authors reduces the burden on the facilitator/teacher. Inviting and requiring others to jump in would help. In fact, I might ask someone else to drive completely next time.

Although Jam is an on-the-fly collaboration tool, planning its use, pre-building pages, and even using templates help a meeting flow smoothly and reduce the tech-stress.

The handwriting to text recognition is a great feature, however the timing of the conversion is touchy. Jam doesn’t always know that I’m still writing. Next time I’ll use more stickies with transparent backgrounds to add text (by keyboard in iOS or webapp)

Finally, inviting participants into your mutual learning journey of a new technology allows all of us to relax into our not-yet-experts space. That can be uncomfortable, but naming it helps.