Sunday, February 25, 2018

Community Relations, Facebook and EdTech

I am enrolled in the James Madison Ed. Leadership program to obtain my administrative license and this semester I am taking the Community Relations class. I interviewed my administration to discuss a potential community relations projects. From that conversation, I volunteered to take on the school Facebook page to create a better social media presence. My principal liked the idea and believes that Facebook is heavily used as a source of news and information in the Staunton River zone of Bedford County.

I put into place three main ideas.

  1. I will post a Thought for the Day which will include famous inspirational quotes, thoughts on volunteering for the school, as well as local announcements. 
  2. I will use FlipGrid to record prompts from both teachers and students.
  3. I will infuse technology either by embedding it into the site or promoting all the wonderful technology infused/inspired lessons that are happening in classes. 

How is it so far?
I am about one month in and the FlipGrid has some growing pains. Teachers needed a nudge (free donuts) to start recording themselves. But, I have a few now and the list will grow (hopefully). See some fantastic FlipGrid answers here:

I was not a Facebook person, so I had to figure out how to schedule a post, promote a post (if needed), as well as keep the message positive and on point. It was also really interesting to see the backside of an organization's page. Click here and "like" our page. 

Lastly, I went around the school and took pictures of students doing fantastic work on personalized learning projects, working on BreakOutEdu boxes, 1:1 Chromebook usage, Flipgrid, and more. It was very exciting to get into teachers classrooms and see all the wonderful lessons they were doing.


Closing thoughts:

  • Its common sense, but I immediately obtained a complete school list of all students whose faces could and could not appear on social media. I also realized that even though a student has permission, to let the parent know with a quick phone call if you are in doubt.
  • I also tend to take pictures of students from the side or back to minimize face recognition. 
  • Also, if you have done this longer - I am OPEN to any and all suggestions on how to improve our social media presence. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

FlipD gives a 3rd option to the device debate: Ban or Not to Ban...

Image result for FlipD
The debate over how and when to use devices in the classroom has been long-standing. On the one hand, smartphones and devices promise to connect us to a wide variety of experiences and knowledge. On the other hand, they are also a distraction, scientifically designed by some of the world's top companies such as Apple and Facebook, to make us feel compelled to look when they ding or buzz. In a recent article written by Anya Kamenetz, she spoke with four professors, a high school teacher, a psychiatrist and a technologist to get a range of different views on how cell phones, electronic devices, and laptops should be limited in a classroom environment. The answers vary widely. But, one of the most interesting answers was to “fight technology with technology” using FlipD, a phone app that limits the use of your phone.

You can set a timer to lock yourself out of all functions except for basic texts and phone calls. Rather than instituting a ban, the company encourages professors to offer extra credit for installing the app and using it during class. Then, the teachers need to step up and create engaging lessons to complement the app.
- It helps students stay focused
- It measures student and classroom metrics
- It also rewards students for staying on task
My takeaway is that there are times and places for devices. I think good teachers tend to understand this. They use a variety of teaching methods. They get students to collaborate and debate in small groups, use technology when appropriate by giving students something productive to do with their devices, and institute a ban when needed.
Student distractions have been going on since school began (not necessarily when phones came out). I would really like to hear what the students have to say about distractability and device use as well. I think it comes down to teacher comfort level, engagement of students, and the subject matter. I think there are times and places for devices, but I can also see why some teachers want them banned.  I would check out FlipD and see if it helps give you a third option. I would love to hear how it goes.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Myths, Truths, and BoostEdu

Try BoostEdu to reflect on your teaching with technology.
Image result for boostedu

I recently read a great article by Matt Renwick called "Busting Myths, Telling Truths", where he states that we, as school leaders, need to reassess our need to include technology in our daily lessons and instruction. At the same time, I was introduced to a great resource site called BoostEDU. I believe that pairing this article and website will create reflective teachers who are looking for the best ways to use technology and integrate it properly into the classroom. 

BoostEdu is a program developed by +Meagan Kelly that supports teachers in transforming their traditional lessons into 21st-century lessons through an inquiry-based self-assessment and guided lesson design process. In simple terms, it is very important for teachers to reflect on their use of technology. Therefore, I highly suggest logging on the BoostEdu website and self-assess to see how you use technology on the SAMR scale. 

Technology has its place in learning, but not all learning needs technology. 

In some instances, technology actually may hamper learning.  We need to find a balance. We need to look at a product and see if it truly provides essential learning stretches that cannot be achieved without technology. This is where BoostEdu may be your best resource. 

According to Matt Renwick, there are myths and truths about technology use in school systems. As leaders, we need to be aware of these myths to better prepare our staff and students for technology-enhanced learning. 

Myth: Technology is easy to learn and use. 
Truth: Teachers need a reason, time, and support to successfully integrate technology.

Myth: Technology should be in the hands of every student. 
Truth: Sometimes less technology can lead to greater student achievement.

Myth: Technology improves student learning. 
Truth: Without an expert teacher, technology’s impact on learning is minimal.

Myth: Technology is a distraction. 
Truth: Technology is a thing. People are distractible.

I don't believe this is new information, but I think its something to keep in mind when creating technology-infused lessons. Work smarter with your technology lessons. Get on BoostEdu and see how you can teach more effectively with technology. Let me know how it goes. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What happens to an exam when you change the premise of who takes it? A Growth Mindset Approach

As many of you know, I attended my first Google Summit in Charlottesville, VA in the spring of 2015 and I was hooked. That spring I also learned of the Google Level 1 exam and prestige that went with the badge. I wanted it. No one told me I had to do it. I was motivated by the excitement and learning Google had to offer and soon after I passed both the Level 1 & 2 exams. Three years later I still love EdtechTeam Google Summits and I am Google Certified Trainer. But, things have changed a bit.

Across the United States, schools have started to adopt the policy that every teacher become Google Level 1 certified. In several areas, leadership has also decided to attach the level 1 exam to teacher re-certification. Therefore, this policy has effectively taken away the joy and intrinsic motivation for which I saw the test represent.

It is November and the first nine weeks has come to a close. For the most part, the training we offer to help with Google Level 1 has gone well. Recently, I met my first group of sincerely uninspired Google Level 1 exam teachers and they made it clear they do not want to take the exam. They do not see a purpose in how the exam will improve their teaching or ability to influence students. They are the uninspired for a variety of reasons. Some are valid, some are not.


This is where leadership and a growth mindset comes into play.

I have difficulty with the premise that the test is built for self-motivated learners and someone decides to change it to a benchmark. But, I have grown because of the GSuite for Education platform and I believe these teachers can as well. I believe that learning stretches are mandatory for teachers to help them understand how students feel when tackling a subject they may not be interested in.

So, my job as a leader is to make it relevant and practical. My leadership style is based on how I react to the uninspired. I need to put on the coaching hat and become the instructional leader they need to pass the exam. My opinions on the philosophy behind the exam have to stay reserved. My ability to focus on the task at hand will not only send a consistent message, but it will allow me to work on my past inability to maneuver the minefield of political, parental, and community agendas in the future.

I'll let you know the results in May when everyone is certified or certifiable.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Leadership 101: Learn About Yourself

#HowWillYouLead Series
I haven't blogged in awhile because I have been focusing on a new job: graduate school (Oh, yes...again). I recently became a student at James Madison University to pursue my Masters of School Administration licensure. One of the assignments was to learn about leadership and discover my leadership style. As a Google trainer and technology resource for my school, I have grown to where I believe I am ready for another opportunity: To lead.

How I view my leadership style:
Build trust
Build relationships
Listen more, talk less.
Challenge my own assumptions

Because of my past experiences with leadership teams, such as School Improvement Teams, Positive Behavior Intervention teams, and instructional technology collaborative teams, I see myself as a “big picture” person or a “Systems Thinking” leader. I believe I have a collaborative style of leadership and I strive to get people to work together because I see collaboration as a great tool for solving a variety of issues. However, I believe my strong team-first orientation may have prevented me from developing my own identity as a leader until recently.
What I learned from my first few weeks of reflection is that nurturing relationships is tantamount for a successful leader. Therefore, my leadership also has its base in the belief that relationships are the key to a successful school and community. I believe that in order to build relationships, one must build trust, show quality instructional understanding, and create a team approach to a culture of success.

I have become more aware that I can be impatient and impulsive when dealing with the non-education centered community. I have yet to complete a personal vision of my learning and I tend to react to what I see, then plan accordingly. I need to challenge my own assumptions and look at the world through other people’s viewpoints. I also have difficulty waiting for “buy-in” from the community and all the stakeholders. I still see myself as an expert of curriculum and have difficulty bringing in all viewpoints to effectively create a shared vision. Maybe next time, you will see I've improved. Fingers crossed. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


This past weekend, I traveled to the NCCAT conference center in Cullowhee, North Carolina to experience my first EdCamp (#EdCampWNC). Edcamp is a form of "unconference" designed specifically for teachers and their needs. Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp has an agenda that's created by the participants at the start of the event. The dual purpose of my visit was to experience an EdCamp and to see if I could organize an EdCamp in Central Virginia. 

This is what I learned...

As a participant: 

1. Have a mindset of being a part of a discussion rather than the center. I can be an impatient person. I also want my views heard. So, learning to listen - truly listen - is a skill I really worked and focused on. My experience was much better for it. 
2. Tweet, Tweet, and Retweet!! I LOVED the opportunities to connect with other educators that came from Tweeting this past Saturday. Celebrate the discussion. Quote people. Take pictures. Enjoy the time. 
3. Grow your PLN. I truly enjoyed meeting people who will help me grow. I can be introverted (especially before coffee kicks in) and I had to make an effort to introduce myself so I could start a conversation. 
4. Be prepared to move without judgment. I've been known to sit through a few conference sessions even though they were not the best fit for me. DO NOT do that here. Move if the session is not what you want or the direction you are interested in. 

As a potential organizer of an EdCamp:

1. Organization - SO much of the EdCamp's success occurred before the EdCamp. Big shout out to Darcy Grimes and Jayme Linton. I am taking full advantage of the network of fantastic people available to me. Thanks again for all the people taking time to answer my most mundane questions. 
@iluvlearning jamming to GoNoodle
2. Sponsorship - Flipgrid, Symbaloo, Nearpod, EdPuzzle, Piktochart, Simplek12, and more. The more the better. Door prizes, bottles. shirts, gift cards, and subscriptions are needed to show teachers that they are important. Also, don't forget FOOD donations! As an organizer, this is our way of saying thank you for attending. 
3. Teamwork - I believe it's important to have a mix of tech savvy teammates and veteran EdCamp participants scattered around to help start discussions, motivate, cover tech issues, and help hand out materials/door prizes. 
4.  Enthusiasm - Two words: Go Noodle! Whatever your enthusiasm is, it has to be genuine. Make it fun. 

Hopefully, you will join us in Central VA for a (possible) Spring EdCamp. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

First Google Level 1 Boot camp as an instructor

This summer, my school district is moving toward 1:1 Chromebook classrooms. Therefore, it is asking teachers to get Google Level 1 certified within the next school year. To kickoff the summer, +Kathy Brisentine, +Lisa T Elliott, Kerrie Sarvey, and I held two 1-day Google Level 1 certification boot camps for "go-getters" who wanted help. Both days were very productive and intense. All people learned a lot! 

We created a brisk pace and rotated through leading different parts of the session. We split the session into:
  1. Gmail & Groups
  2. Drive/Docs/Slides
  3. Calendar/Tasks
  4. Forms/ Sheets
  5. Classroom
  6. Sites
  7. Hangouts
  8. Youtube
  9. Digital literacy overview 
  10. Q & A
I just want to acknowledge the great trainers including: Donna Teuber, Simone Gessler, Eric Curts, Anna Baldwin, Stewart Lee, Nancy Minicozzi, Misty Wilson, Kelly Fitzgerald, Jeffrey Welch, Kasey Bell, and Katie Christie. I collected and used (borrowed/stole) most of my materials from them. Thank you!

My Takeaways:
  1. I believe precise scheduling helped us cover everything we believed was important to pass the exam. Therefore, have a clear schedule, disseminate that info, and stick as close to that schedule as possible in order to cover the material (Exception --> see #2 & #6). 
  2. Remember to schedule (buffer) time for Q & A during each mini-session. This helped! 
  3. Less sit-and-get Slideshows and more "task oriented" activities that simulate the exam. 
  4. Have a volunteer or someone on-site that has taken the test recently to interject and help. (The test changes - such as New Sites, Google Keep, etc). 
  5. Make it clear that you highly recommend completing the Google Unit tutorials before taking the test - even though they attended the boot camp. 
  6. Have time at the end of the day for individual tutoring or Q & A - we included this time as an actual mini-session at the end of the day to allow for personalization and the people who were more comfortable could leave. 
  7.  We also tried Padlet as a backchannel. I have mixed feelings about using that. I would recommend it ONLY if your group is pretty computer competent/savvy. We had a wide variety of levels and it didn't really add to the session. 
  8. Give your "students" confidence. I find that many teachers understood the concepts, but have not used them in real-time situations. We are coaches. We are there to encourage. 
Always looking to improve my craft. Any feedback, comments, or questions always welcome! Have a great day.