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.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Speed Dating with Google

I have to start by saying that +Kathy Brisentine is the mastermind behind this activity - so I just needed a SHOUT OUT! With that said, I learned a lot and had a blast being part of the first ever Jefferson Forest High School Speed Dating with Google professional development last week.

As a part of introducing a 1:1 Chromebook program, Kathy decided to have a "get-to-know-your-app" session. The speed dating was inside a larger half day session mixed with the SAMR model, 1:1 rollout of Chromebooks, and Google Certified Educator Level 1 requirements. So, there was a lot to soak up.

With the help of other instructional technology specialists, such as myself, she divided up the participants into four groups, based on the amount of tech help we had, and established stations with "G Suite dates." Each station focused on one item or set of items:

  • Slides/Docs/Sheets
  • Calendar
  • Groups/Gmail
  • Classroom
  • Forms
  • Extensions/Apps.  

Very Important Tip:
  • Be very clear to the teachers: This is not a training session. No one expects the teacher to understand and use the product upon leaving the "date". (This may help lower some stress levels of novice Google users/teachers.) 

Contestant #1...

  • The teachers were told their first "date" table and had 10 minutes to introduce themselves while the technology specialist provided some cool tips on how to use the G Suite product in the classroom. After 10 minutes they rotated clockwise until all G Suite products were introduced. 

Docs, Sheets, slides, Etc.
Google Forms
Extensions and Apps

Modify as needed!

  • Mix and match to fit your teacher needs or modify depending on how many technology specialists you have. We had 4 - so we had 4 stations. Either way, it creates ideas mixed with curiosity. If done right (which I think we did), the teachers have a few take-aways and ideas.

Where to go after Speed Dating?

  • I think most importantly, we listen to teacher needs. After the session, Kathy sent out a survey to see how it went and thoughts on interest level on the G Suite products we introduced. This feedback will be used to assess ourselves and plan more personalized pd for Jefferson Forest staff in the future. Don't forget to reflect!

I can't wait to do it again!!

Thanks again, @Kbristeach!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What if you had classes where no one gave a sheet?

What if you had classes where no one gave a sheet? A challenge to my readership: 

Going paperless is great if there is a reason behind it. Substituting paper for a computer is just the start. It saves on paper, but does it improve learning? 

Next year, my school district will roll out the SAMR model concurrently, while rolling out a 1:1 Chromebook program in several schools. 

What is SAMR and how does learning this help with the Chromebook program?

According to Kathy Schrock, "SAMR is a model designed to help educators infuse technology into teaching and learning. Popularized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the model supports and enables teachers to design, develop, and infuse digital learning experiences that utilize technology." 

My biggest challenge is two-fold and this is where I need your help! 

  1. How do I get teachers to become confident enough to stretch their learning; to feel comfortable to move across the SAMR model beyond substitution?
  2. How do I teach teachers to troubleshoot when things don't go as planned?
I have found that those are the two biggest hurdles to enriching a learning environment when introducing devices to the classroom. Any and all advice is welcome. Please comment on this page or use this link to complete the form. Have a great day. Looking forward to hearing your advice, web links, and thanks again for being my PLN. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A thank you letter to my #PLN on Twitter.

Dear @Twitter #PLN:

I just want to say thanks to a great start to 2017.

My account just hit 1000 followers this weekend. I follow about the same amount and I am humbled that somebody would follow me back. In reality, it's an arbitrary number that doesn't mean much, but it gets me thinking about why I joined Twitter.

When I started in late January 2017, I never thought Twitter would be my go-to for learning or have such an effect on my view of education. I created a Twitter account as a way to grow my personal learning network (#PLN) and to learn from those already established on Twitter (See blog). I have to say, I learned a lot from you (my Twitter family). George Couros, Alice Keeler, Eric Curts, Casey Bell, all need to be thanked by name because I basically re-tweet everything they do.

After I became a Google trainer, I joined Twitter but didn't really become fascinated with it as a learning tool until I went to the #MACPL17 conference in Baltimore and met George Couros. I'm a Google guy and my PLN was primarily with Google+ and my district. So, I followed people from Google+. Fortunately, my world has become a bit bigger with Twitter.

In the four months I've been on Twitter, I have learned about tools that I may have missed otherwise: Jennifer Lagarde introduced me to Flipgrid, Google slides stop motion by Eric Curts, AnyoneCanView extension by Alice Keeler, Autocrat from Jenny Conrad, are just a few. The list is quite extensive. Also, a big thanks to Jeffrey Heil, Molly Bennett, Tracy Purdy, and the whole EdTech team for the support they gave when I first presented and live-tweeted at a Google summit.

Here's my novice advice for enjoying your time on Twitter:

1. Join a live chat. thought-provoking, lots of learning & networking! EdChat calendar
2. retweet, retweet, retweet.
3. Ask questions.
4. Enjoy the connections.

My views on following on Twitter:
1. I tend to follow people, not things or companies. Exception (@Buncee & @Flipgrid)
4. I also tend to follow people who tell me a little bit more about themselves in their profile. I like to see who I'm learning from.
5. I also tend to follow tweets that have pictures. I love infographics. And cheesy as it is, I love quotes that are in Canva style picture format.
6. I like to follow hashtags that help my job as a tech educator. #edtech #personalizedPD #gafesummit
7. Weirdly enough, I don't follow @Twitter...maybe I should.

Power is gained by sharing knowledge. See you on Twitter @TechFrye.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stop Motion Animation w Google Slides

This past week I was tasked with coming up with a way for students to create a short 30-second video project for reviewing some math concepts for end-of-year testing. We previously completed projects using Flipgrid, ReCap, Screencastify and Google Slide in a traditional presentation mode. I decided that stop-motion may be a fun alternative presentation project. I played around a bit with a stop-motion animation app on the Chromebook and then remembered +Eric Curts presentation about Google Slides being used as Stop-Motion.

I made a tutorial for the students by focusing on basic transportation, thinking the movement of transportation would be good to show the students. I started with a storyboard concept and duplicated the background in all the slides 30 times first. I picked thirty slides knowing that my default will be one second per slide when I publish.
UPDATE: May 22, 2017 - After speaking with several colleagues, I have been told that copying one slide at a time (instead of my 30 on the video) is much better. So, try it!

It's always good to pick pictures or clip art that has the universal transparency checker board (searching filename: png helps) as the background so it doesn't show up in the slideshow. I picked two planes that had somewhat side views and found a Remax balloon as well as a boat to complete my tutorial.

After I completed inserting the pictures, I copied and pasted them to new slides with a bit of movement or advancement in each slide.

Once I was happy with the movement, I published the slides to show the stop motion movement. When publishing, make sure to check one second as your default. If you would like it faster, find the 1000 mark on your address bar and reduce it. 1000 = 1 second. So, 500 will equal 1/2 second. 100 = 1/10th of a second. By playing around with the settings, you'll get the hang of timing pretty quickly.

I hope you find the attached YouTube tutorial helpful. In general, I think it went well. Hopefully, I will become more proficient at this and confident enough to produce more creative outlets like this.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why I need to Reinvent the Wheel.

Every time I've thought about improving my craft as an educator, learner, and leader, I find myself worrying that I am "reinventing the wheel". Why do we say "reinvent the wheel"? According to dictionary.com, it's defined as slang 

  • "To go laboriously and unnecessarily through elementary stages in some process or enterprise; waste time on tediously obvious fundamentals" 

The inspiration for this metaphor lies in the fact that the wheel must be the archetype of human ingenuity which allows it to underlie much if not all of modern technology. As I delve further into this saying, I have found that it's good to "reinvent the wheel" depending on the reasoning, purpose, and mindset of the learner. 

Maybe we should first consider the learning mindset. When it comes to learning, by re-inventing, we learn how solutions map to problems (backward design, backward mapping) and get a deeper understanding of how those solutions work (See Coding Article). Both are encouraged when learning, regardless of where the learning is done. This is good for teachers who need guidance on how to write a lesson plan or develop a curriculum that will be used multiple times (with time for insight and reflection on how it went). 

For someone like me, it's time to learn similar or redundant programs or apps thoroughly to be able to critique the programs and teach them to my staff even though there may be other similar alternatives already available. (i.e. Formative assessment apps such as Kahoot, Peardeck, Quizzizz, Plickers, Spiral.ac, Google Forms, and GoFormative to name just a few). 

The case where re-invention is discouraged is the pragmatic mindset, one where you want to make new, more exciting, rounder, wheels. In this case, you have a problem, and you want to solve it with minimal time/effort. Pragmatic solutions will always be a composition of re-use and invention, and the preference is certainly re-using. I see this in my work when I continually go back to the basics to find more interesting and engaging activities for students to explore content in more critical, problem-solving and growth-mindset ways. I do this by going back to Google Apps and re-working how to use Slides, Drawing, Docs, and Sheets. 

Engineers are continually improving wheels, but they are also innovators who generate new types of wheels. New engineers continually are taught the basics as a foundation for the jump to eventual pragmatism. I think "reinventing the wheel" is a positive and I look at it as more of a spectrum of learners mindset to pragmatists mindset. 

By the way, we are still re-inventing the wheel. This is the Omni-directional wheel patented to improve forklifts

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Everything I learned, I learned with Kindergarten...

This week is Spring Break for my school system. Before my thoughts get too far away from school and toward a honey-do list and fishing, I shall discuss my first true teaching experience with Kindergartners.  

As a former high school teacher for 16 years, I have no preparation for Kindergarten. But, as an instructional technology resource teacher, I am assigned several different schools including Moneta Elementary in Moneta VA about once a week, every week. And, I have to be honest, I could've avoided Kindergarten if I wanted to. Fortunately for me, I met Mrs. Haywood early in the year and we hit it off. 

Due to the willingness to have me in her classroom, Mrs. Terri Haywood and I have formed a wonderful team the one day per week I get to interact with her students. Due to her openness, I have had the pleasure of getting to know her class of Kindergartners this year like I have no other. We have created "This week with Mrs. Haywood" weekly videos of the students modeling the latest curriculum, She posts them on Facebook and the parental feedback has been phenomenal. 

During stations, we have introduced mini BreakouEdu lessons, QR codes that lead to activities, Nearpod and Quizlet. 

Our latest endeavor included making Flipgrid videos of Word families. Each student created a grid of one word family. We then played the list of 20+ videos during snack time. The children responded to each others Flipgrid with applause. I have never experienced anything quite like it. I'm not saying I'm going out to get my elementary certification - Are you crazy?! But, I am feeling pretty proud. It confirms that I am in the right field and that children - no matter what age - are the reason I'm still in it. Thanks, Mrs. Haywood and all kindergarten teachers out there willing to infuse & introduce technology to our future!