Tuesday, September 5, 2017

& We're Back, to School That Is




This vlog was a unique one in the sense I didn’t provide any additional voice overs for the Snaps. I felt a lot made sense on it’s own but I thought I’d still blog a bit about the content.


The all staff PD day (complete Snapchat Story) was quite an undertaking and so much of the planning and preparation you didn’t see because it was done behind the scenes and by a varied group of departments. With something this large, it was only natural to get other groups involved. Plus our department, while a provider of PD in our district, doesn’t hold a monopoly on PD. It was so great to be able to work with teachers that were interested in the SAMR model and help classified employees learn about how they can use Google in the classroom. My hope from the day is that staff I worked with now have another resource or two to help them in their position.


The snaps you see of staff using the HTC Vive were from an exploratory session to begin looking into how we can use the the virtual reality tool in the classroom. There are also some fun snaps from the office just showing some random happenings. One of the things I’m trying to do more this year is get away from my desk during lunch and whenever possible I bring others with me. I think it’s a great way to de-stress, disconnect from technology and get to know others in the department better. While we all work together, sometimes I feel like I barely know my coworkers and I like to change that. So for me, it starts with food but if you know me offline, that’s probably not a surprise to you.


The last major thing covered in the vlog was my short reflection from my first meeting with Renee Hill. While she worked in the district I always admired and looked up to her. In some ways, I was always a bit intimidated by her, but that was never something of her doing. She has command and presence, she’s the kind of person you pay attention to because you know she knows her stuff. There is no B.S.ing her, and that can be scary but a great challenge. When August began to wind down I knew Renee was who I wanted to call for help. I knew she would tell me like it is, and not sugar coat it. With something as important as an opening keynote, I didn’t want lip service, I wanted to know if the keynote sucked. Luckily she liked the first draft and provided great suggestions to help make it even better. I’m excited to keep working with her and I can’t wait to see what we create together.


Don’t forget you can still sign up for the Silver State Technology Conference and connect with CUE NV on Twitter.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pre-Back to School Happenings

We’re back for the next installment of the blog and I’m coming in under the Tuesday wire, but I’m glad I was able to get it done. Having the video and blog aspect together is a great way to keep me motivated and posting. Thanks for checking in here on the blog and don’t forget to watch the video.

The first set of Snaps comes from the C3TC 2017 Conference that I got to participate in thanks to EdTechTeam. As I said in the vlog, I started my journey with EdTechTeam and really the road to being the coach I am now, years ago as an attendee at a summit. I attended an event in Napa, California and came back inspired to continue learning and sharing with others. That process eventually gave me the confidence to become a local presenter and technology coach for my district. One day an EdTechTeam employee approached me about working for them at an event and since then, I’ve been presenting for them almost on a monthly basis. What I love about working with EdTechTeam is these events are the ultimate iron sharpens iron situation. I’m always surrounded by so many phenomenal people, that I can’t help but learn from them. Whether it’s their presentation delivery, content or innovative ideas. I always return home from working energized and bucket full, and this event was no different. I was so lucky to be able to learn a lot about working with iPads, Seesaw, and Flipgrid. What was also great about this event was just seeing the other presenters. These events are like a family reunion, and this was no different.

A lot of what’s been going on in the department lately has been preparing for teachers to come back to work and August PD day. What you saw in the vlog, though was a bit different. This preparation was specifically for our Elementary Grade Level Leads and Technology Mentors. This is the first time a training of this scale has been undertaken and for the unified purpose of empowering grade level leaders with the skills to enhance their PLC. It was great to see teachers from so many schools across the district get the same information about important subjects like the new California dyslexia guidelines (AB1369), technology integration and adult learning theory. I’m hoping we continue events like this and we get to continue to be involved. One counter point about this, however, is I only got to be involved with the elementary training. Due to miscommunications and schedule conflicts, I wasn’t able to be apart of the secondary event. The good news is the footage from the Elementary PD wrap up is from a self-created inter-department PLC for staff developers. I have hope that meetings in this PLC will help foster collaboration in our district and closed the gap between the multiple departments and staff that provide professional development for teachers.

I think some of the other fun gems from the footage are simple presenter tips that I can pass on to others.
  • Have teachers sit by grade level or content area, especially when sites are mixed. Help push people towards collaboration and give them the opportunity to work in groups so hopefully, this can continue beyond this specific training.
  • When you can, tag team a PD with another presenter you trust. Having a colleague from my department there to help share the load, saved my voice and provided additional perspectives to our learners.
  • If your learners need to respond in an app, have them read something useful, like the California ELA/ELD Framework, important article or useful in district document.
  • Specifically, with technology remind teachers it’s embedded in the standards or in other district initiatives.
  • When attendees are walking in, play music, but not just any music, play stuff people can sing along to. I’m enjoying the Songs to Raise Your Kids to playlist on Google Play right now.
  • If you’re filming sections of your PD and your participants don’t want to be on camera, film the slide they are responding to, that way you get their awesome comments but respect their privacy.

Also, just like the in the vlog, I’m curious what’s your favorite back to school thing to do? Leave your thoughts in the comments and I’ll see you in two weeks for the next installment.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hello World aka the First Vlog


Welcome! As you can see blogging hasn't been my strong suit. So to build in the more reflective piece of the Vlog and going to come here and do a write up of each episode.


One important thing I reveal in the first episode is my struggle with my personal feelings about my job last year. I'm happy to report that I feel cautiously optimistic about this school year but I'll get more into that when we get to the section of the Vlog with the staff meeting pictures. If you're interested in learning more about last year, click here.


First up in the Snap footage was a short bit from Raspberry Picademy.   This was an amazing two-day learning experience hosted by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Part of the academy was an emphasis on physical computing and not just exposing students to computer based coding. It's really about digital making and getting students hands on components to create with hardware and code. I'm currently working on creating a digital ink name tag with a Pi that I’m hoping to debut at the Silver State Technology Conference in September. As a former high school English teacher the one thing I struggle with when in comes to Pis is how to successfully integrate them into the curriculum in a way that is authentic and not just an extra. I can see these work great in science, makerspaces and of course computer science, but I still struggling with the humanities connection. It’s something I hope to continue to explore as I continue to meet and collaborate with other Pi users both in and outside of education. If you’re using Raspberry Pis, I’d love to know what you’re doing with your students.


Another cool professional development I attended this summer was the California Google Geo Teachers Institute. It was such a fun time to be able to attend the Institute because Google Earth for the web had just launched along with the new Google Earth Education website. It was great to get to dive deep into the suite of Geo Tools because it wasn’t something I had ever really looked at before. I had dabbled with My Maps but it was great to get to explore tour builder and some of the geeky sides of mapping with KML files and ODKs. I’m excited to work with the History staff developer in my district to see where we can integrate these tools into our district curriculum to share the stories of place and time. Hopefully, I’ll have more to report on that late. Oh and this event finally gave me the push to purchase a Theta 360s. I can’t wait for it to come in so I can start sharing pictures of my world.


Although it was a half day event the California Teachers Summit was a great event. I really liked that the structure of the event was the same regardless of the satellite location. It was so nice to connect with teachers from the region and chat about topics that are important to us. One of the things I realized while at the conference was the importance of not just connecting and working with other teachers, but letting out local and state government know what we need to be supported. I encourage you to check out 5 Calls to see who your representatives are and let them know that protecting public school funding is important to you.


The LEAPS event was a week long conference for students in public service or law enforcement career pathways to come together to learn more about professions in the field and to practice 21st-century skills. I was only part of it for a day, but I helped students learn basic web design principals and create a web page with Google Sites. They were using them to promote a Shark Tank style presentation. It was a quick 3-hour experience, but it it was fun to interact with students. I’d like to take the content from this presentation and adapt it into something I can do again with more students or adults at conferences.


I spent some time prepping things for Breakout Edu this year. We’re going to continue with our district lending library but we had to replace some locks that died during the year. Normal wear and tear, but hopefully this year our lock graveyard won’t be as full. One thing I’ve learned is it’s important to change the locks as few times as possible to avoid accidentally messing it up. This is especially true for the speed lock. For the upcoming year, there will be either a card or the printed directions with the lock codes inside each box. The other thing we are going to do is not let people take locks out of other kits. We’ll have extra locks on hand if a game requires extra, but the locks in box A will only ever be with A from now on. I think when people went into other boxes to borrow locks when they put them back, they forgot to say what the code was so it was easy to get things confused.


Last but not least there were some Snaps from an all day department meeting. In the meeting, we went over our department vision and goals for the year along with our assigned projects. It was nice to have a clear mission from our department leadership. I’m one of those people that needs to have a clear purpose for what I do to see it as valuable. So this was a welcome meeting. When we got to the sticky notes part, I got a bit worried, there are 7 sticky notes that belong just to me, one of which actually has five sub stickies. Then there are 7 sticky notes that are shared between myself and another technology coach. It’s a bit daunting. I’m excited in many ways because many of these things put me in direct contact with teachers, but I just want to do it well. I don’t like to not put forth my best effort so time management will be big this year.


Our district has invested in the idea of the Gallup Strengths and we talked quite a bit about that at our department meeting too. I’m hoping that will help me with the workload for the year. My top five strengths are relator, command, significance, activator and deliberative. We spent time learning about our strengths and the strengths of other on the team. It seems like this won’t be a one and done type thing so I’m excited to how this progresses and I’m personally excited to use this as an opportunity to grow. The strength I’m going to focus on first is deliberative because one of the qualities of a deliberative person I don’t have it thinking more before I speak


Overall I think all of this is a great start to the year and I’m excited to get going. Fingers crossed I can keep up the vlogging and reflecting to see how all of this turns out. If you go back on the blog I’m sure you’ll see many failed attempts to keep this updated, but I’m hoping I don’t fall into bad habits.


If you have ideas for future vlogs or have feedback feel free to let me know and don’t forget to get connected!


Monday, January 9, 2017

Now What? Thoughts on 2016 & beyond.

I was very fortunate in 2016. Personally, my husband and I moved into a new, larger apartment; we adopted an amazing cat named Shep, and I was able to attend more conferences and help more teachers learn about educational technology. The year was not without its first world problems, but overall I can look back on 2016 and smile.

There is one thing however that makes me uncomfortable. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a long-term goal. In education, you can be hired for positions based in part on credentials. I currently have a single subject credential in addition to a Masters in Educational Technology, but as a Staff Development Specialist in my district, I’ve tapped out positions.

If I wanted to aspire to do more within education, I’d need to earn an administrative credential. This credential is a strange idea to me. I am happiest when I’m working with teachers and helping them think about technology in regards to their classroom content, context, and pedagogy. As someone based out of a district office, it’s already difficult at times to work with teachers because, as anyone in education knows, there are any number of directions teachers are being pulled in on any given day. Moving into an administrative position makes me worry I’ll be doing more management of tasks and pulled even further away from helping teachers. There are amazing administrators that are inspiring to teachers, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure this is the path I’d like to take.

I’ve also thought about going back to school for an educational technology doctorate, but when I think of the cost-benefit analysis for the time and expense of the degree, I don’t see this being valuable to my family. I’ve even toyed with the idea of studying computer science because I’ve always found this an interesting subject, but the time that goes into another degree is time away from family.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m using my family as an excuse to stall the advancement of my career. As a wife, my family is a big part of my litmus test for any decision I make. I know my husband is supportive and would believe in any career decision I would make, but thus far, I haven’t found something that gets me so excited that the costs are worth it.

I’ve always had a plan. I was a teacher and I earned my masters in educational technology because it helped me advance my practice, moved me up the pay scale, and opened the door for my current position. As of right now, I have nothing I’m actively working towards. This is unknown territory to me. In some ways, this unknown is good because I’m getting to understand a different side of myself.

However, I’m also a bit worried because, on a day to day basis, I’m not happy with my day job. I’d be more comfortable with my lack of long-term goal if I felt more connected to my job. There are many happy times, and no one has outright made me feel like my position is at risk, but lately I’ve been feeling uninspired and disconnected from the classroom and teachers. A side effect of working in a consortium leading district is I have learned a lot about event planning and marketing. These are useful skills that I know I can use in the future, but every time I work on an event I always wonder what I could be doing to help teachers directly instead. If the choice is working with teachers or checking in dignitaries at an event, I’d rather be with teachers, but in practice that isn’t always what happens. My happiest moments this year have been conversations with teachers brainstorming and implementing ideas for technology in the classroom. Helping teachers get started or go deeper is where I feel the heart of my position should be, and it’s where I feel I can put my best foot forward.

When I get to work with teachers or collaborate with other Staff Developers I’m thrilled, but I don’t get to do that as often as I’d like. I feel part event planner and part useless. I don’t like the event planning because the most time consuming of events are usually are for administrators and TOSAs outside the district, not our teachers. I will put everything into planning a teacher event and have in the past, but sometimes I find it hard to think of spotlighting the district rather than providing for our own. There are other days where I feel like I don’t know why I go to work. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I just feel useless. There are things I’m working on, such as adapting curriculum or organizing future professional development, but they always seem to be happening in the future. Day to day, I’m at the district office more than I am on-site with teachers.

I hate this imbalance. This imbalance is the root of my so much of my unease. I don’t feel like I am able to do my best work for my job, and I don’t have a plan to change my situation to find a place where I feel like I can do my best and continue to grow. I’m hoping next semester the imbalance will change as I lead six of our school sites in bringing Girls Who Code to our district. I also don’t want it to seem like I sit at my desk at the district office and wait for opportunities to come to me. We’ve revamped our department website, posted our after school PD calendar for the entire year in August, created a professional development menu for our principals and department chairs as a reference for PD options, co-presented with content areas staff developers, presented at content area staff developer PD, and provided paid PD opportunities after school and on weekends.

This frustration leads to times of unhappiness and, unfortunately, in some ways has bled into other areas of my life. I haven’t had the energy to participate in Twitter chats like I used to or be a contributor to my favorite Voxer groups. I honestly haven’t felt like I had anything of value to say since I wasn't accomplishing much in my district. I find myself working hours that I don't feel are helpful to classroom teachers and it makes me wonder if my personal philosophy about coaching in educational technology is a good fit with where I currently am. Even some of my closest friends have asked if I was ok because my facial expressions showed more than I thought about my state of mind.

I don’t regret taking this job. I work with some wonderful people and I’ve been exposed to great ideas and concepts. I came into this position wanting to learn more about how to be a coach and about departments in educational technology, and I feel I am achieving that purpose. Every day I spend in this job I feel like I’m being exposed more ideas and concepts to continue to learn about, both in my position and on my own.

As far as staff development goes, when I read feedback from the professional development I facilitate, the hard work I put in shows. However, I’m used to having a next step, a plan I’m working on for the future. When I was in a fixed mindset English department for example, I began putting together my application packet to transfer to another school. I consider my plans an open door to opportunity that in the event I need a change or want a change I have it ready to act on or at least to look forward to, but right now I don’t. The unease of not having a plan for future education or career past the master's degree and becoming a staff developer has been brewing in the back of my mind since I finished my master’s in 2014. Now unfortunately, those feelings of unease are compounded by my unhappiness in my job.

It’s not much of a conclusion for a blog, but hopefully the following will do considering so much is still unknown and I’m still processing idea and options. I know as long as I continue to question my status quo and think about this, I’ll make positive progress. In the interim however, I’ll learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. In addition, I need to remember to not be complacent and let things that bother me continue to be distanced from things I enjoy. I can’t let the burnout from work I dislike keep me from things and people that help me grow. Instead, I need to turn to those outlets more now than ever to help remind me that even if I’m unhappy at work, I still am helpful to those in my district and my PLC.

So as far as 2017 goes, there are things I’m passionate about and some career goals I’d like to achieve such as keynoting a tech event and presenting internationally (once I get my passport in order, of course). In regards to a far reaching career or education goal, I’m not sure I’ll have one this calendar year, but that remains to be seen. In the short term however, I’m going to focus on what I know and love, helping teachers. I hope by doing this work I will continue to connect with others that share my passion and who can help me grow individually and as a contributor to the educational technology community.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lovers, Haters, and I Don't Care(ers)

Yesterday educational technology communities on the internet exploded with mixed emotions as Google for Education announced a plethora of new features for educators just in time, or a week late depending on your district, for back to school.

When I read the blog post in the office I literally did a happy dance and ran into my coworkers’ office to share my excitement. Then, I rushed to social media to share with others and see what the buzz was from my PLN. Many shared my excitement, the lovers, and many were unaware or unimpressed since they aren’t GAFE users, the I don’t care(ers). Then, of course, there were the haters, in this case, a vocal group of opponents against one specific new addition to Google Classroom.

Classroom now has an annotation feature that makes it easier for students and teachers to interact with files (Google, Microsoft, images, and pdfs) when using the Classroom mobile app. I’ll be honest with you, when I first heard about this feature, I wasn’t happy. We’ve done so much to move people away from worksheets and towards creativity, this seemed like a step backward. This seemed like we were giving teachers a tool that enabled bad habits. Then the more I thought about it, I realized my personal feelings about this aren’t relevant to a classroom teacher. This feature, whether I like it or not, is here, so as a technology coach, what am I going to do when my teachers ask about it?

At first, I thought about discouraging use of annotations but then I thought about the teachers I work with. As hard as we’ve tried my coworkers and I have yet to find a simple equation editor that’s as fast and convenient as paper and pencil. So maybe this is the answer to that problem. Who know’s what this tool will become, because I doubt Google knew about HyperDoc or Choose Your Own Adventure Forms when they created those tools. Plus, how often does any edtech tool do something we all cringe about and then months later it becomes something amazing. I guess pdfs, just make us quick to judge.

So as we go back to school I feel it’s important for anyone with a stake in this community to remember the following things:

  1. It’s not about the tool, it’s about what we do with it.
  2. What may be a substitution to us, may be someone’s gateway into educational technology.
  3. Every decision we make in our classrooms is dependent on pedagogy, content, and context, things that vary for every teacher so who are we judge individual decisions?

So what will I say when a teacher asks me about annotations via the Classroom mobile app? The same thing I always say when a teacher asks me about a tech tool. “What’s your instructional objective?” Tools aren’t objectives, but if Classroom annotations supports their objective then who am I to say no to the use of an appropriate tool? It’s our job as power users to help teachers embrace new ideas or tools and ultimately push them outside of their comfort zone and towards innovate in their classrooms.