What can I say about the Our Voice Academy? Habit two (2) of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” says to begin with the end in mind. In that spirit, I’ll begin by restating a tweet from the end of my experience and say #OVAcademy was the best professional development experience I’ve ever had!
My first experience at an EdTechTeam Summit was a couple of years ago in New Orleans. I had the pleasure of hearing Ken Shelton share about visual storytelling through pictures. He was so captivating and immediately became what I refer to as my EduHero. From that day forward, I vowed I would never miss another EdTechTeam Summit in my area and have kept true to that promise thus far. Ken is an inspiration to me, so I was honored when I received an email from him inviting me to the Inaugural Our Voice Academy! I was also nervous with anticipation.
I’ve been in the educational technology space for a few years now but this year was the first time I had the pleasure to experience ISTE in San Antonio. I had never seen anything like it and loved every minute of it! One of the highlights of the conference was seeing a keynote from a lady whom I had never heard of by the name of Jennie Magiera. A little lady with a big message. It was an overwhelming dose of encouragement that I needed for telling my story upon returning home and making the work I do even more impactful. I may not have heard of Jennie before ISTE but I will never forget who she is and the feeling she gave me. When I saw that Jennie was one of the lead facilitators for Our Voice Academy as well, I thought, “Oh my God! This is going to be AMAZING!”
Upon arrival in Minnesota, I was able immediately able to connect with one of my fellow cohort members, Rosalinda Jaimes. She and I split a Lyft, and so my weekend began. She and I talked about how she had just left the fires in California and how I had just left the, of all things, snow in Louisiana.
That night we were inspired by Justice Alan Page and his amazing journey through life. We also had the opportunity to tell quick 2-minute stories over dinner. It allowed us to get to know one another and share a laugh. My story was about my first day on my first job as an assistant principal. Remind me to tell you that story when you see me.
The event was held at Flipgrid Headquarters. Being a Flipgrid Ambassador, I was excited to visit their headquarters. It is the most unique, ideal space for creation I have ever seen. It was a joy to generate ideas in their “office” which is more like an entertainment space. Over the course of the weekend, we had exclusive, unfettered access to experts in their craft Jennie Magiera, Ken Shelton, Monica Martinez and Sarah Thomas.
- Jennie Magiera worked with us on organizing our stories, developing a keynote and having stage presence.
- She told us the most important part of a keynote is storytelling. She also shared a great example of storytelling by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
- She also shared the Two Parts of Voice and how to use them:
- Volume – the loudness of your voice
- Speed – the rate of which you speak
- Ken Shelton helped us with visual imagery and design.
- He stressed the importance of designing your presentation for the specific audience.
- Ken stated, “Designing a slide for general audiences is like writing a love letter, ’To whom it may concern.’”
- Monica Martinez helped us further refine our slide design skills along with messaging.
- She showed us how to keep the 5 senses in mind when designing a presentation.
- She also taught us about the Rule of Thirds. I learned to ask myself two questions when designing my slide:
- What are the points of interest in this shot?
- Where am I intentionally placing them?
- Sarah Thomas then capped us off with support for developing our personal brand and social media presence.
- She urged us to, “Tell your story or someone else will tell it for you.”
- She also encouraged us to surround ourselves with people with a common vision.
As a result of tapping into their expertise, I was able to develop part of my first keynote entitled “Don’t Believe the Hype!” I am hoping to deliver the full keynote at an event near you in 2018. The highlight of this phenomenal opportunity was the ability to network with other like-minded minority individuals from across the nation. The bond we formed was so strong that on the last day, during our closing reflection, we were all brought to tears as no one wanted to leave. None of us had experienced anything like it before.
My first ISTE experience was good but after ISTE was over, I had to go back to my silo. Unlike ISTE, the OVAcademy has left me more connected upon my return! The Our Voice Academy has truly given me a Professional Learning Family. Since the Academy, I’ve had daily communication with everyone who attended. I feel like I can lean on any of them if I need support and I’m sure they know they can lean on me if they need support.
Everyone has a story that needs to be heard. I challenge you to choose a medium, whether it is a blog, social media, podcast or whatever you can to tell your story. You never know what impact your story will have on someone else.
As all of the other participants found out, I am a big Marvel Comic fan! The specific tools and small group connectedness along with the various expertise that Jennie, Ken, Monica, and Sarah brought to the table and shared made me feel like the OVAcademy weekend was a heavy dose of gamma radiation to turn me from Bruce Banner to The Incredible Hulk! Everyone in attendance already had their own “superpowers” before coming to the OVAcademy but we all grew stronger as a result. I have committed myself to helping students, teachers, and schools give voice to their stories. I feel like, as a group, we are the Our Voices Academy Avengers! We are all fighting the war against educational ignorance in our respective area of the world but I can’t wait until the next time we assemble! Probably at ISTE 2018… 😉
Wiley Brazier, V
Our Voice Academy – Cohort 1
Google Certified Trainer
Baton Rouge, La