Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 3 with the Gen 1 Project

Using skitch to annotate over images

Today was the third day working with a middle school science teacher at one of my buildings.
Quick background:  This teacher and I had been working and working on getting more technology to her building or classroom.  Our hard work paid off with a cart of 20 Gen. 1 iPads this year.  The plan is to integrate technology into the science curriculum via Google Drive, Edmodo, and a few Apps.  Day 1 we learned about Google Drive.  (Click here to learn more about what Google Drive is)  Day 2 we learned how to use iPads, and set up user names and passwords.
So back to day 3, it was awesome!  Every day that we work with the technology gets better and better.  Today we learned how to use Skitch which can be a finicky app.  The students really worked together, helped each other out and were able to get the job done.  I was super pleased with today.
Use Edmodo to share links and
assign tasks!
The teacher, although excited to be working with the technology, found it very stressful.  We talked about this.  Integrating tech is a HUGE job!  Many say they feel like a first year teacher all over again.  She and I spoke about how this is a huge change and change can mask itself as feeling out of control.  In her words, "the change is coming", it's scary, but we're in this together!  I'm so proud of where we are going, where we've come from, and where we are at!
Use Google Drive to create presentations
and store documents
Today we gave the students a google form to find out what they thought, and what they were thinking about this Gen 1 Project so far.  I'm excited to reflect on the feedback with the teacher and keep moving forward!

To learn more about the Gen 1 Project please follow the teacher's blog and follow her on Twitter!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Put your Summer Learning into Action!

Summer is coming to a close, it's hard to believe the school war is already upon us.   One of the focuses of my blog has been to share how to keep learning personal and continue it over the summer. Now that the summer is ending, it's time to make sense of it all and incorporate the things you have learned into your practice.  That can be overwhelming!
Select a focus and stick with it!  If you try to do it all at once your may get overwhelmed and give up.   Pick something to work on and stick with it!  This past week the coaches and coordinators in my district got together to prepare for the year.  Something that stuck with me is to prepare for the dips.  If  you try something and it doesn't go well, don't give up. Stick with it!   Ask for support, reach out to your PLN, and stay the course.   Anything worthwhile isn't easy but if you stick with it you will find success in the end.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A New Blogging Adventure!

Why do I blog?  I blog to reflect.  I blog to share things that have worked well for me.  I blog to connect with other educators.  This year I have been encouraging teachers, and staff in general that I work with to do the same.  I'm proud to say that I have been successful in getting people to hope on the blog bandwagon!  One of my principals, two teachers (here and here) and of course many of the coaches I have worked with have also been blogging.  (Here and here)
Today I completed the fun adventure of helping students in a fifth grade class to start blogging.  The teacher set up all of the accounts and the blogs and they are ready to start blogging and we created our first post today!  This teacher will be having students use the blogs to reflect on a project that they will be doing the entire year.  This class will research and learn about colleges and careers.  Every week they Skype with a person somewhere around the world.  Every week they will reflect on what they have learned in their blogs.  We did our first posts today and they were so proud.  Below you will find a link to each students' blog.  Please follow their adventure and comment on what they have learned!

Monday, August 19, 2013

BYOSS: Cool way to Facilitate PD

Not only do we get ideas, we get free snacks!
A few months ago I went to a conference in Chicago put on by SDE.  This conference's focus was differentiation.   There were a lot of cool things that I picked up on but one thing that i brought back was an idea for professional development from a session hosted by Rick Wormlei.  He spoke on an interesting way to lead professional development called BYOSS.
BYOSS stands for Bring Your Own Skill and Snack.  The goal of this professional development session is to have teachers bring ideas on how to use a tool, or implement a strategy, the skill.  And of course teachers love a yummy treat after school so that's why the snack.
If you are leading a BYOSS first you need to select a idea.  Its a good idea to think of something that people could share a variety of ways to use or implement this idea.   I chose to have my session on Promethean Responders as all K-8 classrooms in my district has a set.  Teachers that choose to attend are to bring a copy of a way they use the idea, responders, in their classroom for every attendee.  So 15 participants, 15 copies.  I chose to have teachers bring 10 copies as a standard.  Then of course, they must also bring a small snack to share.  Entry into the session is both the copies and the snack.
Once everyone is there, collect their 'skills' and everyone has there snack its time to get started!
Distribute the ideas to all of the participants.  I like to pass them out one at time so that the teachers can focus on them one at a time.  The teacher who brought the idea shares it with the group.  Then, as a group we brainstorm at least one way to modify or adapt the activity.  We do this for each idea.  The great thing about this session is 1.) you get to eat yummy snacks and 2.) you get to leave with a TON of ways to use an idea or incoporate a strategy.

# of teachers x 2 = tons of great ideas! 

When I tried this out at my schools is was super successful.  In addition to getting a lot of ideas, it allows teachers to reach out to each other and find experts in their own building.   Its definitely a style of professional development that I plan to try again.  I challenge you to try this at your school.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Keys to Successful Technology Leadership

Happy Leadership Day!  We all know how important leadership is to a school.  A strong leader, who cultivates positive culture and acts as an instructional leader will find themselves at a school who will have a lot of success.  What separates a strong leader in the area of technology from a weak leader in the area of technology?  Why do some leaders struggle with technology while other seem so successful? I believe there are a few things that administrators and school leaders can do to develop themselves as a leader in their building in the area of technology.  

Develop Your PLN
We all know the power of a Professional Learning Network.  Teachers are encouraged to work together in their PLN to become reflective teachers and create a shared vision with regards to teaching and instruction.  The same should be true for administrators!  A PLN can help to find new resources, develop yourself professionally, and expose yourself to new ideas.  Try to find a school to connect with are share ideas, successes, and opportunities to grow from.  If you grow your PLN, you grow yourself!  

Make Professional Development a Priority
One of the commonalities of technology programs that fail is a lack of support for teachers.  Professional Development is the key to success with technology in the classroom.   It is super easy to invest in the flashy new tech and forget to save money for the support!  Integrating technology in the classroom can be a huge task for any teacher.  I have heard an 8th year teacher say that it felt like they were a first year teacher all over again.  A way to support those teachers is with coaches and professional development.  If we leave this key piece out it is incredibly difficult for teachers to experience success with their technology integration.  

Find Your Expectations and Stick With Them
Many teachers are looking for clarity on what they should be doing with technology in the classroom.  There is a limitless world of options in the world of technology.  It can be overwhelming to decide where to go, what to use, and how often to use it.   Clarity of expectations for technology use can help teachers to find a starting place.  In addition to setting a bar, these expectations can also be good for teachers who are ready to rise above and find their way to being an exceptional teacher.  Once you have created these expectations but sure to stick with them and back them up.  

I challenge you school leaders out there to try to do these three things.  If you are already doing these items, kudos and keep going!  To read a blog by an awesome leader click here!


Professional Development is key to technology integration

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why QR Codes?

Scan this QR Code using an app like
This summer I have spent a lot of time participating in, planning, and delivering professional development.  Throughout the course of the summer I have received a lot of feedback from teachers and found out more of what they want to learn.  One of those things that teachers wanted to learn more about was QR Codes.
QR Codes, in my opinion are pretty awesome.  You can find them everywhere from magazines, nutritional labels, and packaging.  In the classroom they can be very useful. QR Codes can link a user to a variety of resources.  You can link to anything with a web link.  I have seen teachers use QR Codes for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
Create wearable QR  Codes!

  • link students digital work in the hallway, like a digital bulletin board
  • direct students to morning work
  • share 'I'm finished with my work now what" extension activities
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Links to parent resources outside the classroom
  • Links to the school or teacher's website
The next question I get after what can I do with them is how do I make them?  They are surprisingly simple to create!  There are a variety of free websites that will generate them for you.  Simply google 'Create a QR Code Free' and many options will be found.  I like to use Kaywa.  You have to create a username and password, but then it saves QR Codes that you have created.  Copy the link of whatever you would like to create a QR Code for, and paste it in the field that asks for the URL.  On Kaywa you will need to be sure to switch the slider to static, this site allows static codes for free**, and click generate.  Your QR Code will be displayed.  You have a variety of options as to how you can download the code which is also nice.  You now have you QR Code to display!
If you are looking for an app to use to scan QR Codes, I recommend QRafter.  It is free and works with apple products.  Happy scanning!

**Stay tuned for a blog post on the difference between dynamic and static QR Codes

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Fun Way to Reflect!

A letter to yourself to inspire and reflect!
It's summer and there are two days left until I head back to work.  I'm trying to take care of the things that once the whirlwind of the school year begins I'll forget about, like cleaning the kitchen cabinets, I know super awesome, when my husband came home with the mail.  There it is, staring at me from the top of the pile, the letter I wrote to myself back in January!
This past January my district asked to attend a conference in Chicago put on by SDE.   Of course, it was awesome!  The closing keynote was lead by Rick Wormlei.  He chose to use this time not speak to us, but provide us with time to reflect on what we had learned.  He gave each of us paper and an envelope.  The challenge was to write a letter to ourselves that we would receive in the summer, remind ourselves of all that we had learned in the past 3 days and keep ourselves accountable.  I LOVED this idea.  I ended up writing 3 pages.  Through the rest of the school year it did help to remind me to do things that I wanted to do.  I wanted to blog, kept my promise, and start ups a BYOSS session, which I did and will blog about later.  The letter reminded me to go back and look at my notes on rigor and relevance, making differentiation happen, and PBL.  The letter said to either look through them right now, or set an alarm for later in the week, I chose the later.   It also said to blog about this letter right now so I am!
I would definitely recommend us all to write a letter to our future selves that we should open when we're tired or at the end of the year.  Make goals, keep yourself accountable, but provide support in case your forget or leave things behind. I think I will try to include this in my first training sessions this Monday. If Rick should happen to read this post, THANK YOU!  You made my day, reminded me to think back, and got me excited for the beginning of the year.