Celebrating Changemakers: 365 saves time, so educators can save programming

Hello, fellow changemakers! I’m Joe Archer, a 6th-grade teacher now in my tenth year of teaching at Lakewood Elementary School in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada. I’ve been a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert since 2013, earning over 150 badges and certifications along the way.

The Grand Erie District School Board, where I live and work, has made it a priority to integrate educational technology into the classroom in recent years. I serve as one of the district’s trainers, helping fellow educators to learn the ins and outs of all that Office 365 has to offer.

The results of the district’s focus on tech have been a number of unique new projects in the classroom, including Write to Give (W2G), an initiative first started by Amy McLearn in partnership with her charitable foundation, Village Impact.

For seven years, the program involved educators and students producing primary- and junior-level books which were published and sold to parents, family and friends. All proceeds were used to help build schools for internationally displaced families living in Kenya’s Nakuru Valley.

This year, Amy announced that the program would be folding due to a lack of time and support. Having witnessed firsthand what it meant to the students who participated, I knew I had to do something to save this amazing program that benefits so many.

As educators we have lots of resources, creativity and imagination to pull from—what we don’t have in excess is free time. I turned to a symphony of apps, including OneNote, Skype in the Classroom, Forms and Flipgrid, which I’ve used extensively in my class over the last three years—and which have helped me streamline a number of previously time-consuming tasks.

In this first year of me overseeing the process, we’ve produced one book. I designed a four- to five-week writing program around sustainable development goals to inform the book’s content. As both an educator and a parent, I am thoroughly invested in helping my kids understand the importance of SDGs. Microsoft Teams helped me bind the various pieces of the project together and seamlessly manage the workflow across multiple continents.

I was extremely fortunate to travel to Kenya with Village Impact this summer to visit the beautiful schools, amazing staff, dedicated students and supportive communities. Suffice to say, I came home very humbled, inspired and changed having experienced the impact that the work is able to make in real people’s lives.

My dream is that in 2020, we can enlist educators from throughout the Microsoft Educator Community to help us set a new record in the number of books created.

The program has the potential to bring tomorrow’s leaders together today—and for a good cause. Through it, students understand that every voice matters and that anyone can make a difference if we just find ways to work together.

Being a #ChangeMaker means stepping outside oneself, empowering and creating a desire, passion and drive to inspire hopes, dreams and future aspirations in everyone. It means being creative, innovative and bold enough to take risks for the greater goals; in this case, to help students in Kenya’s rural schools.

I was moved and changed this past summer while immersed within the beauty of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. The community there revolves around the school which was built with funds raised by Village Impact. The W2G program is the epitome of the #ChangeMaker Mentality, creating newfound hope for the eager learners who benefit from it.

Click here for free STEM resources