Thursday, June 26, 2014

A First Timer's Guide to ISTE

Molly, Chrissie, and Libby at
ISTE 2013 in San Antonio
Summer is here and you know what that means, ISTE!   For those who do not know ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education.   It's definitely the mecca for all things educational Molly Miller, and Libby Kirkland.  It was our first time attending and boy was it overwhelming!  As the date approaches for us to board a plane and head to ISTE 14 I find myself reflecting on last year's conference and thinking of how I will do things differently.  So in this blog post Molly, Libby and I will share are must do's to get the most out of ISTE 14!
technology.  Last year's conference had over 18,000 attendees, 3 of those attendees were myself,

Chrissie Edwards
Chrissie's Advice:  Schedule in time for breaks
There is so much to do and see at ISTE, in order to not get overwhelmed be sure not to load your schedule with sessions.  Last year I worked on earning some credit for my +32 so I had to go to a certain amount of sessions, poster sessions, and booths.  I found myself exhausted and overwhelmed by the end of the 5 days.   This year I elected not to earn credit, but to go and learn at a pace that I saw fit for me.  I'm definitely going to schedule time to sit and reflect, or meet up at the more informal collaboration/conservation areas.  So be sure to attend some sessions, but also be sure to take time for yourself to decompress and reflect!

Molly Miller
Molly's Advice:  Plan ahead, find sessions that fit your learning needs and use the app. Don't try to wing it
When looking at the program booklet there is so much to see and do!  Last year we spent the first evening plotting our moves for the next few days.   There are literally HUNDREDS of learning opportunities through the conference and when you find something that interests you, you want to be sure to attend.  We also coordinated with our group.  Some we all wanted to attend, but sometimes there was more than one session we wanted to attend so we divided and conquered.  Planning out your time also helps you to plan your time and you can figure out when you want your breaks to occur, when are good conversation times and collaboration times.  Definitely plan your time!

Libby Kirkland
Libby Kirkland:  If you go to a session you don't like leave and find another
As Molly and Chrissie have reminded us, there are SO many sessions to choose from.  Sometimes, you attend a session and it isn't what you thought it would be!  Last year Molly and I attended a session we thought was on teaching ESL classes, when actually it was about finding resources for classrooms that were spanish speaking and we were the only 2 who didn't speak spanish!!  Molly and I sat trying to be polite, but looking back it would have been much better to leave and choose another session.  This is your learning so if a session doesn't fit you go find another!

Hopefully you find our words of wisdom helpful.  As you go on to ISTE don't forget to stop by our booth on Sunday from 11-1 on Instructional Technology Coaching.   See you there!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Light vs. Heavy Coaching

What makes someone better at something?   Is it staying complacent, comfortable and repeating the same things over and over?    No.   When you question what you do, reflect, and feel uncomfortable you will move forward.   I was reading a blog about moving forward every day, (see that blog here) and it made me reflect on my coaching practice.
Our district is very lucky to have the support of coaches from the Learning Forward group.   This group creates the standards for coaching and reflective practices.   One thing that we learn about is heavy vs. light coaching.
There are many roles that you can have as a coach.   Everything from finding new tools, to providing reflective feedback with teachers.   You can watch a video on the hats that I wear as a coach in Decatur Public Schools.  If you are a light coach, you will do tasks like looking for resources, and modeling lessons.  These things can help to support teachers but there is typically not a lot of deep conversation and reflection.   If you are coaching heavy you are more likely to be co-teaching and observing lessons, followed by some deeper questions.   This type of coaching really pushes teachers to reflect on their practice and make some deep changes that can really change the way a classroom looks.
Heavy coaching can be hard but rewarding.
As I sit and reflect on MY coaching practice, I want to move toward being more of a heavy coach.   When I look at myself I know that I typically shy away from conflict and really do want to make the people around me happy.   This is something I am working on both personally and professionally.   In my professional life, this trait pushes me more toward light coaching.  That is not going to help my schools reflect and move forward.   It makes me uncomfortable to make this push and this change, but I know that being uncomfortable is the first step in making change.   As a change agent, this is my responsibility.
So I ask you, do you coach heavy or light?   if you are a teacher do you reflect on your practice?  If you are an administrator are you happy with the status quo or do you push for excellence?  Join me in my push for change, and excellence!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hang onto your conference Buzz

Learning together can continue
beyond the conference!
I am starting to wrap up my last session at EdCamp Saint Louis.   If you haven't been to an EdCamp before I would highly recommend it!   This conference is free for educators and highly interactive.   Sessions are decided upon that day, and they are more about the conversation than the presenting giving information.   Because of that, the best part of this type of conference is the connection that you can make with other like minded teachers!
With this conference, as many others, it is easy to go to a conference get excited and then completely leave everything behind.   To make conferences worthwhile it is important that you can hang onto that 'conference buzz'  Here are some ideas on how to hang onto that.

Connect with others on twitter and check in.
There are so many amazing people to meet and chat with.   Keep the conversation going!   Twitter is awesome for keeping connections with others going.   Be sure not to just take their twitter handle, but also make the commitment to going BACK onto twitter and read, share and comment!

Choose one thing to try/continue to learn about
There is a lot to learn and a lot of new ideas.   Don't get overwhelmed!! Choose one thing to commit to and try out, research more, commit to using.  Don't try to do it all, you will get overwhelmed.   Dig deep on one thing well!!

Thanks for tuning in and keep learning!!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hidden Key To Successful 1:1

Our Brand New Eisenhower High School

The past month and a half I have been working on getting started on my new position in my school district.   One of our high schools, Eisenhower High School, has just opened a brand new building as of January 22.    The students are excited, the staff is rejuvenated, and the entire community is excited.   If that isn't enough, we are also going 1:1 with MacBook Airs this coming August.   Because of all of these changes the district decided that they needed an Instructional Technology Coach full time at this new high school.   How could I not apply for this position??  New beautiful building, a secondary environment, AND 1:1 with Airs!  The past year, however, the amazing team of Instructional Technology Coaches (see their blogs here here and here)  (see their Twitter accounts here here here here here here , District Leaders, and the IT department have been working together to figure how to roll this 1:1 out the best we can.  I have been reflecting a lot these past few weeks on what makes a 1:1 program successful.   I have blogged a lot about professional development, and the role of leadership.   This week I have been thinking and seeing how important the IT department is in this roll out.   Without IT support and the appropriate infrastructure 1:1 will not work.
Students working in Google Drive in a Classroom
We are INCREDIBLY luck in Decatur Public Schools.   Our IT department is on board with the 1:1 vision and works ridiculously hard to support the instruction.   The journey to where we are right now has been long.   To get here we have researched, visited district where 1:1 is working, and had many meetings to discuss what we have learned and see.   The IT department has participated in every moment.   From Visiting Minnetonka in Minnesota, to South Berwyn just outside of Chicago, the IT department has seen why 1:1 is important for instruction, and what the districts need to support this instruction.  When we meet to talk about how we will roll out IT understand what good instruction should look like and they work really hard to make the technology allow what we need.  We purchased more bandwidth, installed more routers, and changed the way our wireless filter works so that students as staff are both safe and can access the tools we need.   They are amazing!
If your district is looking to go 1:1 be sure you both have at IT department to support the amount of devices, and include them in every step along the way.   Imagine buying 500 ipads, but none can connect to wifi.   Or you have enough wifi, but your filter will not allow YouTube, and websites students need for research.  Or worse yet, a filter that will allow students to go anywhere, even sites that are not safe or in line with CIPA.
So to sum up, there is a lot to think of before going 1:1.  All stakeholders need to be involved in the decision from Teachers, Leaders, Professional Development, and IT.   If your district is considering this, be sure to speak to your IT department and make them a priority moving forward.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I Love Feedly

Want to learn more but don't have time to hunt?   Find a great blog but lost the site?   Well then my friends, Feedly is for you!
At this year's IETC conference I spent some time in a session all about RSS feeds.   RSS feeds make your life easier.   What they do is keep a website link the RSS feed constantly updates and bring you the newest articles or blogs at that site kind of like a newspaper.   There are many RSS Feed Sites, but I love Feedly.   Feedly links with your Google account which is great.   One less username and password for you to remember.   My Feedly is organized also by categories.   Makes it easier for me to find my Techie blogs, recipes, and everything inbetween.
If you would like to learn more about how to use Feedly read my blog HERE and HERE .
Go out there, set up a feedly and start reading!

Friday, November 15, 2013

My first time Presenting at IETC

Yesterday I had my first experience presenting at a conference.  The past three days have been the Illinois Educational Technology Conference, IETC 13. I have presented at district wide conferences but this was my first session where I was not familiar with my audience.  It was a. Fantastic experience!
I, along with a teacher from a school that I work at presented on using Twitter in the classroom.  Basically a says to harness Twitter and inspire your students.   You can find the presentation here
As I reflect on my session, I feel as thought he experience was equally beneficial to those that attended and for me!   I stretched myself a little that day.  Of course it was great to collaborate with a fellow educator to create the session, butt he end of our session was an opportunity to share ways that the participants thought they could apply Twitter in their rooms.   We also created a google form to gather everyone's contact info so we could stay continued beyond the conference and hopefully follow each others' classes on Twitter.  
So my challenge to all you readers.  Especially the teachers out there.  Figure out what you are passionate about and find a conference to present at!   Many of you have something worth sharing so do it!  I guarantee you will find it rewarding!

**shameless plug you can find me at ICE 2014 METC 2014 and cross your fingers for ISTE 2014

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Technology, Level the Playing Field

This blog post has been sitting in my list of things that I wanted to blog about for a while now.  Technology in schools:  why it is so important to make technology accessible to ALL students, not just those who some may think 'deserve it.'  I spent a lot of time this week training teachers for a 1:1 initiative coming to our high school so this has been on my mind.
Decatur Public Schools is going 1:1 in their two high schools with MacBook Airs.  Teachers are getting advance practice and training starting now, and students will receive their devices when they move into their new state of the art high schools.  Our school district is in an urban environment with a high free and reduced lunch percentage.  Reality is for many of our students they do not have the money to afford wifi, computers or smart phones. For many students the only technology that they may come into contact with is at school.  For some, this 1:1 program could be a game changer.  I think that's very exciting!
If you ask me, school is suppose to be a place where it doesn't matter what you have at home, you should be able to succeed as much as the next student.  This isn't necessarily the case.  School districts sometimes are not equal.  If you are lucky and born into a family with money you are afforded many experiences outside of school that others who are not as lucky do not get.  When your school is able to provide opportunities to all, no matter your background, this is when the playing field could possibly be leveled.  Because of this, it is not just a nice thing to be able to do for our students, but something that is imperative for our students to be successful.  The future is changing.  We are looking toward preparing our students for college and careers.  Businesses say they are looking for students coming out of high school with a different set of skills than what we have prepared them with in the past.  Problem solvers, ability to collaborate, these are just a few of the skills that going 1:1 can help to support and develop.
In addition to all of the skills that computers can help to unlock and develop there is something else deeper here that going 1:1 can do for any student.  Our district is saying "yes you are worth it and you deserve it."  Our students deserve the best that we can provide for them.  We know that they deserve what others deserve as well, regardless of socioeconomic class.  I believe that this program has the potential to change the way that students view themselves and even inspire some to see new potential in themselves and what they can do with their future.  If their district, school, and teachers believe they are worth this investment, then maybe they will believe it as well.
I will get off of my soap box for now, but there it is.  ALL students are worthy of using technology and ALL students deserve the opportunity.