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Monday, October 16, 2017

Educators as Empowered Leaders (Blog 3 of 8 in the series on unpacking the ISTE Standards for Educators)


Empowered Professional
2.  Leader-Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and    success and to improve teaching and learning. Educators:
  • Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.
  • Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
  • Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.  (ISTE Standards for Educators -2016)
I have learned over my lifetime that titles don't make leaders, leaders become leaders because they have attributes worthy of following. As we all know, just because you use technology in a classroom does not make you a leader. But this series of blog posts are about those educators among us that lead others to see the value of technology integration. I'll be honest I know I've been seen as both a leader and a troublemaker. I've been valued for my knowledge in instructional technology and I have been devalued because I was not seen as balanced. I will say that both views have turned me into the better educator that I am today. I know that my administrators sometimes get tired of my barrage of emails about latest research, tools, and tweets. What they don't know is how often I want to send things but don't! Yeah, if you are reading this...believe it or not I do try to be discerning with my shares! 

For me, I try to keep my focus on what I believe good technology integration can do for students.  My constant connection to education stakeholders in my district is to give them a glimpse of things out there. It's not an easy job to be the one pushing others towards visionary technology integration. In fact, sometimes it can feel professionally deflating. I am a passionate person and I believe in personalized learning. For most of my life, that wasn't practical in the educational arena because of the number of students a teacher has but with the advancements of technology, we now have the ability to work smarter in digitizing repetitive tasks and using technology to aid the learning. 

While I happen to work in a very tech rich school system, I still find myself lobbying for equitable use of technology because some teachers don't value and do not want to use technology in their classrooms. By creating some technology expectations for our students to have at graduation, it puts the onus on everyone to make sure our students are graduating with skills needed in this digital age. I know many teachers that would give their eye teeth to have access to technology for their students. If you are in this type of environment, you need to become a prophet to your district so that the digital divide doesn't impact your students.

Should every teacher be an empowered leader regarding technology? In theory, yes. If we were all sharing the tools and the pedagogy behind using the tools with each other then our students would benefit from the combined knowledge of us all. One of the ways I share about the value of tools to our teachers is by giving them hands-on opportunities to participate with them as a student. For instance, having them create a flipgrid video for a fellow coworker allowed them to see the benefits of using it in their classroom for video formative assessment. One of the hardest roles for me is sharing the pedagogical advantages to using technology. For many educators, it is hard to accept that technology has transformational value. To hear it from me, the technology coordinator, seems like the Great Oz is really the little man behind the current. Therefore, I work hand in hand with teachers that believe there has to be a better way and prove that there is. I now have a trust bond with these teachers and they are much more likely to listen to me when I share things now. Modeling, adopting, trying and failing, and listening are all keys to becoming an empowered educator leader. But the biggest thing, and the hardest, is not to become discouraged when you don't feel heard or valued in your knowledge. Keep going and fighting the good fight for the benefit of your students! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Educators as Empowered Learners


I guess I might as well start this series with my soapbox message- the importance that educators continue to be learners and what that looks like in the digital age. If anyone sees the importance of this as much as I do, we immediately become fast friends. Below is the excerpt from the ISTE Standards for Educators that describes this standard:

Empowered Professional

  1. Learner - Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators: 
    • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
    • Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.
    • Stay current with research that supports improved learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences. 
                                               (ISTE Standards for Educations- 2016)

There isn't a teacher worth a grain of salt that doesn't try to better their teaching yearly but these standards suggest looking at oneself through the lens of technology integration. If we believe that our students need technology skills then we as educators need to be plugged into ways of remaining current and relevant with technology opportunities.  For me, this looks like the following-

  • Professional Learning Goals: At the beginning of every new year (yes, January not the school year) I ask myself what goals do I have that will make me better at what I do. For instance, this year I have a goal to work on my Google Educator Certifications. As a technology coordinator, I believe this will give me a skill set that will aid me in supporting the teachers at my Google Suites adopted school. Has anyone asked me to do this? No. Part of being an empowered learner is that I look for ways to better myself. I don't wait to be told where I need to better myself. Although I am open to that as well!
  • Participating in Local and Global Learning Networks: I take this seriously. I am constantly connecting with others to better myself for my own knowledge but also for the knowledge of my school. if I am stuck in the silo of my school getting feedback from the same people over and over, I become stagnant. I participate in the following ways (please note that none of these options cost me a dime of money)-
    • Edcamp GigCity. This is my fifth year of participating in this edcamp unconference in Chattanooga, TN. This participant directed day allows me to grow contacts outside of my school and learn from others- and edcamps are free. While edcamps are not technology conferences, technology is often discussed in some of the sessions because of it's exponential reach and use in today's classrooms. 
    • #CHAedu #coffeeEDU. A couple of years ago I decided to start a local monthly 1 hour coffee meetup for any educators interested in discussing education issues/concerns/thoughts. This monthly meeting usually has anywhere from 4-12 educators from higher ed, lower ed, private, and public schools. Last week a Georgia high school math educator shared some really important information that would impact my school. Without me having that discussion with him, I would have been blindsided by it later. 
    • #TNEdChat. And other educationally based Twitter Chats. My good edu-buddy Greg Bagby and I serve as co-moderators for the weekly (Tuesdays at 8pm ET) #TNEdChat twitter chat. Educators from all over can join in various weekly discussion topics from anything educational related. Not sure how twitter chats work? Check this out. Wondering if there is a chat out there you might be interested in? Check this out but let me invite you to join us on Tuesdays at 8pm. It is a smaller chat group and might be less overwhelming for beginners. Twitter has grown my connections to other educators exponentially. It is the number one reason I feel I am seen as a change agent because I am always looking for ways to better the educational process and Twitter is my go to. The connections I have made have often turned to school visits and face to face encounters to learn more about what other districts are doing.
    • Digital Learning Day. I don't believe my role as an empowered learner should just be about taking. I see that I also need to be sharing myself to help others. Not that I have a lock down on how to do everything in tech integration well but I can perhaps share my fail forwards to prevent others from making the same mistakes. Last year our lower school had an open house for Digital Learning Day so we could show our technology integration in action for any educators wanting to visit and take part. 
  • Staying Current: In my role, either I am cutting edge in knowing what is out there or I am irrelevant. I have to be a visionary and forward thinking in order to best meet the needs of my school system. For me this means all the above things I am associated with but I also look for opportunities to attend local, state, and national educational technology conferences. This can be an expensive part of who I am but I look for ways to offset the cost when possible. For instance, at many conferences if you are chosen to be a speaker, you can attend for free or discounted. I take advantage of this when I can. I also try to balance myself by doing reading that contradicts my views on technology integration. Iron sharpens iron and by staying relevant on research I become a more rounded educator.
I believe educators often fear the imposing of technology in their classroom. This first ISTE standard for Educators sets a framework for teachers to become empowered and knowledgeable about educational technology. Dig deeper, become a learner about what's out there and what's coming. Have an open mindset about views you disagree with. Find a group that will grow you. Be a lifelong learner about the things you enjoy but also about technology integration. 




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Interpreting the "ISTE Standards for Educators" (Series 1 of 8)


As a member of ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education), I appreciate the vetting process that the student, educator, and administrator standards go through to support best practice digital age educational environments. These standards focus on learning and not the tools to learn. While the standards have concrete ways to address technology integration, all of these standards are goals educators should and do have for themselves in general.

This is part one of an 8 part series that gives my views and suggestions on how educators can use these standards as a catalyst for becoming significant adopters of the digital landscape in regards to educational technology. Each of the 7 areas designated give educators agency in creating meaningful opportunities in their classroom that encourages digital skills for our students. I have quoted and requoted this statement: "65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report." With that we need to prepare students with skill sets that will transfer to any job that they might have. The ISTE Standards for Students  create a framework to make that happen but in order for that to come to fruition, there has to be an understanding of the role of the educator in this digital age. 

The following outline explains the goals of the ISTE Standards for Educators (the dates by each section is when I will be blogging about that particular standard):
  • Empowered Professional
    • Learner (week of 10/9/17)
    • Leader (week of 10/16/17)
    • Citizen (week of 10/23/17)
  • Learning Catalyst
    • Collaborator (week of 10/30/17)
    • Designer (week of 11/6/17)
    • Facilitator (week of 11/13/17)
    • Analyst (week of 11/20/17)
Often when people feel they are being held to a standard they immediately hesitate or push back. It feels like another box to check, lesson to learn or reason to feel challenged. As with any standard we are striving for competency in, excellence is not immediately expected but forward motion is the key. Unlike other standards, I feel these standards empower educators in the classroom to be recognized for their stepping out of the traditional framework of teaching and walking the plank of change but instead of an awaiting group of hungry crocodiles, freedom to work with students that desire to be self-motivated learners can await. To adopt the ISTE Standards for Educators means a willingness to see cultural changes from what has been the norm in education. I can tell you from firsthand knowledge, it won't come easy. Students aren't use to having agency in their learning in the way their ISTE student standards provide. Teachers aren't use to the lack of "control" that their ISTE educator standards suggest.

I do believe these standards will be accepted and widespread in 5-10 years as the norm. If you look at the "life expectancy" and re-writes of all the ISTE standards, they change based on the norm catching up with them...and like any good goal, the finish line moves again. Right now I look at some of the above subsections and think "we just aren't there yet" or "wow, is that who we want our teachers to be?" but I believe the gauntlet is there for competency to be had. I believe the empowerment teachers would feel if they were in this type of educational culture would make them feel both needed and successful.

Often teachers worry that they will be replaced by technology but the goals of the ISTE Standards for Educators is to create opportunities for teachers to truly touch every life in a personal way by leveraging the use of technology to give more time to the teacher's and student's day. These standards encourage teachers to model what lifelong learning looks like as they learn their students and lead them. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

An LMS for Everyone?


Recently our school has been in the process of not only trying to decide if an LMS (learning management system) is important to implement school wide but also what LMS meets the needs of the community as a whole. Through this process over the last 5 years we have implemented in both large and small ways 4 different LMS solutions- Moodle, Edify, Google Classroom, and Canvas.

As a technology coordinator there are some moving parts that I think about that don't really impact the individual teachers:

  1. Cost. Is it cost effective for us to choose certain LMS options. Is it going to cost additional funding to be able to integrate our SIS (student information system) into it for ease of use. 
  2. Longevity. Edtech options are exponentially growing. Are we choosing an option that is forward thinking and that has potential to grow into the platform we will need for the future?
  3. User friendly interface for teachers and students. Is the LMS set up in a way that it feels intuitive to the user with a bit of use? Is support good? Are answers to questions quick? Is there a community of users I can tap into to ask specific questions and learn from their usage as well? Are there resources available for teachers to access and pull into their curriculum?
  4. Cross-curricular usefulness. Truthfully, it's fairly easy for a teacher that wants to do true/false and multiple choice questions to feel confident with almost any LMS but does the LMS lend itself to grading papers, short/long answer questions, graphs, math equations, scientific notation? It's imperative to choose a LMS that best meets a wide average of users or else there is a biased expectation of usage that just won't happen because it just isn't deemed useful.
  5. Data accessibility. As research is showing, the data that quick formative assessments via technology is bringing to today's classroom can be a game changer for the teacher willing to utilize this mode of instructional practice. To be able to both quickly give and receive data from a formative assessment helps teachers plan forward and even personalize for differentiation. The easier it is to create assessments and the more people that can access that data, the better. 
  6. Multiple Platform Interfaces for single sign-on access. Apps and software that interface with the LMS seamlessly create an easier classroom for the teacher and makes me feel better about student privacy with single sign-on options. 
While all these things play heavily on my mind I do strongly believe that the future of education will be LMS driven. Data will play a big role in helping educators meet the needs of individual students as education moves toward competency based assessment linked to essential questions or standards. An LMS will bring that all together for curriculum leaders and educators. 

There are many districts that already require their teachers, every year, to pull 3 years of summative assessment data and create plans to meet the needs for each student in their classroom. As we all know summative assessments are a blip in a student's year...many things can impact how a student does on those tests- sickness, cold air, warm air, attitude, nerves, distractions, etc. By also adding the value of summative assessments into the mix we get a better representation of who these students are. When all those on the educational staff that work with our students have access to this information we can all better meet the needs of our students. 

The future is changing, it will look differently for different subject areas but some things will be consistent- the need to leverage the tools for best practice to meet student needs. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Five Educator Groups for Technology Integration


Recently I've been thinking about technology integration and I read this article https://ondigitalmarketing.com/learn/odm/foundations/5-customer-segments-technology-adoption/. While this article is not talking about eduction, the labels of the 5 segments of technology adopters resonated with me as I daily work with teachers helping them integrate technology into the classroom.

The article suggests "not everyone will adopt a disruptive idea despite obvious benefits." The article then quotes the research of Rogers to place adopters of technology in the following segments (my thoughts follow each label as it relates to what I see in education:

  • Innovators - These are the people that actually thrive in change and long to be change-agents because they are not convinced the status quo is what is right, or best, or easiest, or (fill in the blank). Innovators are often alone in their convictions and because educational systems change very slowly, they are often very frustrated with the day to day of educating. My definition of innovation has always been "the point where need intersects with passion under an umbrella of creativity." Innovators don't always use technology to get a job done but those that do are often seen as risk takers or rebels. For some administrators this is seen as a good thing and for others it is terrifying. The innovative educator is willing to fail, they have an open mindset, and sometimes have to be corralled back into the fold for the good of the whole but innovators need opportunities to try things. As a rule, there are very few innovators in a school building. In fact, I bet the 2.5% mentioned in the article is just about right for educators that are innovators in a school system. 
  • Early Adopters - These are the ones that are willing to take a risk and even feel comfortable with learning things on their own to understand things better but they aren't necessarily the ones out their looking for the cutting edge thing to change their classroom. They are the ones that once they hear about it they think "YES! That's what I need." Early adopters have a strong influence on the other educators in their building. Because they are often seen as individuals that understand technology easily, others are watching to see how they react to new technologies. Early adopters tend to look at technology as a way to teach differently instead of trying to fit a technology into the way they already teach. 
  • Early Majority - These are the educators that are obviously a bit slower in adopting the idea of change in the classroom but being followers, they look to the success the innovators and early adopters have had and decide to join the party. The early majority often feel they are not equipped to use technology but rarely take the initiative to learn more on their own without clearly laid out resources at hand. The early majority's success or failure with new technology is often in direct correlation to how well they feel that technology fits how they teach and how often they are willing to try to use it. The early majority often feel they need hand holding and support but tend to thrive once they truly understand the capabilities of the technology.
  • Late Majority - These educators are the ones that do not really want to change but feel they must either because they are being told they have to or because they realize their lack of change is making things harder for themselves. These are the skeptics among us. The ones that fear that "next year there will be something else you will want us to do instead." These are the ones that may not truly believe that technology integration is what is best for the students so unless they are "forced" they do not adopt or adapt. These educators often don't feel equipped to "take on" technology but they don't take advantage of growing themselves in that area either. These are the ones that panic when something doesn't go right and truly appreciate and expect great support. The innovators, early adopters, and early majority really have little impact on the thinking of the late majority adopters but the late majority adopters often give a balance to the early majority and innovators in discussions. When I "win over" a late adopter it is like Christmas morning for me. These are the educators that sharpen me to know my stuff and be able to justify my reasoning for tools. 
  • Laggards - These educators are the ones that either vehemently oppose all things technology or strongly believe (and maybe rightly so) that they can teach their classroom just as well without the use of technology. The laggards are the ones that will refuse to follow set norms in a school about technology usage in either an intentional and/or unintentional way. There is often something in their life that makes them fear the technology. These educators often do not have much influence upwards due to being viewed as closed-minded. 
Obviously each segment of technology adopters bring value to the conversation of what is best in the educational setting. Each group presents a balance to the others that often leads to a more acceptable medium adoption rate of mass technology rollouts at schools. I believe schools need representatives of all segments to best meet the needs and have a pulse on the community the school serves. 

I often find it interesting how educators can move from one segment to another based on the technology being rolled out, the grade level of their students, and the subject matter curriculum they are teaching. Unlike the article, I have found that age doesn't necessarily place a teacher in certain segments. Some of the most amazing technology integrators I have seen have been over the age of 55. I do think the receptiveness to change is the biggest indicator. And the truth is, as a rule, education systems do not change quickly. You could walk into almost any school in the U.S. today and see rows and columns of desks with a teacher in the front just like you did in the 1800's. Education is built on tradition. Educators are often the type of people that thrive in routine. It's the nature of their world. 

I believe education as a whole has changed more since 2010 and the advent of the mobile device than in any decade in my lifetime and dare I say in my father's lifetime as well. I also believe with the constant growth of educational technology towards smart software, quick assimilation of data, streamlining of basic tasks, and the ability to personalize learning more easily we will see the average classroom continue to wrestle with the exponential change opportunities out there. I truly wonder what the education system will look like for my grandchildren one day. Will it be better or worse? More sterile? More active? Less relational or more relational? Will certain schools stand firm in the idea of traditionalism and what will that look like for those students? 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Parenting in the Digital Age



As a parent and educator, I know that parenting in an ever connected world can be a constant battle with our children.  As an educator I speak on finding balance and I teach digital citizenship skills on a regular basis, starting as young as kindergarten. Honestly I start most lessons with elementary students this way: "Do you ever try to talk to your parent and they don't listen because they are busy doing something on their phone?" 94% will shake their head yes with about 89% adamantly wanting to add their two cents. Learning how to balance plugged and unplugged time is a beast, even for adults. As an educator, I read 3 books every year to kindergarten and first graders. These books are When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins and Mike Lester, Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino and Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd. I think it's important to start talking to students about the why of unplugging from technology at a young age when they still think adults know some things!

For my older elementary students I actually have them participate in a little multitasking lesson that can be found here:


But the truth of the matter is, it's usually families that feel the brunt of too much technology usage because home time is less structured than school time and children want to use their free time to connect with friends on social media, play online games, or just mindlessly surf, shop, and chase rabbits for hours on end with their technology. So the question is "how do parents create boundaries at home for their children?" The first time I was asked about this as an educator I was a little shocked. It felt like someone was asking me how to parent their child. I see technology as just one of the things in life that I have had to place boundaries for my two girls. I also can tell you that no two children are the same, different genders often need to be monitored differently in families, and that the choices I make regarding technology in my family may not be what works best for your family. 

That all being said, I do believe there are options available to families to make the process a bit easier. Here is my list of things I share with parents as they try to navigate what is best for their own families:
  • www.commonsensemedia.org  While this has great resources for students and teachers, it also gives some morally sound help to parents in regards to movies, apps, websites, etc. 
  • www.meetcircle.com  "Manage all of your home’s connected devices. With Circle, parents can filter content, limit screen time and set a bedtime for every device in the home." (https://meetcircle.com/circle/).  While I haven't used Circle myself, I know families that have and the less confrontations about technology they are having makes them sing the praises of this device. While it only controls devices while on your wifi network, at a price tag of $99 it appears to be a family game changer for some people.
  • Parental controls on devices or Google accounts. Whether it be a Chromebook or an iPad there are parental controls on the device that can be found in settings to tighten up your child's access to things you deem inappropriate. Google your device and parental controls and learn more about how to create a safer browsing experience for your children.
  • The Tech Wise Family  by Andy Crouch. Every family is different but Andy Crouch shares the goals his family set for technology usage. While I read part of the book and thought some things wouldn't work for my own family, this book can be used as a catalyst to start discussions regarding your own family's philosophy on technology usage.
  • Shared account information or following your child on social media. First, create a culture of following set rules regarding social media usage. Almost all social media platforms require the person signing up to verify that they are at least 13 years of age. There is a reason for this...maturity levels. If you have allowed your child to have social media accounts, ask yourself about their maturity level- 13 isn't always a magic number. If your child is begging but you have reservations, create an account with them that you have access to as well. At my house, the rule was that I knew what social media platforms my children were using. I would friend them or follow them for accountability. But my favorite accountability moment ever was when my then 16 year old daughter walked in the room and said, "you know what will make you use Instagram correctly? When your grandmother starts following you!" Go Mom! I hear many parents say they don't want to have social media accounts, my guess is you also don't want to drop your child off at 8 a.m. sports practices on Saturdays but it's part of parenting. Let them know you are parenting them in all aspects of their life.
  • Check with your phone provider to see if there are parental controls. Because phones use cellular networking, all the wifi filtering in the world will not block things for your child. I know Verizon has these options for families. 
  • Last but surely not least, create a culture of using technology in open areas of your home and put technology to bed at night. Most issues of inappropriate usage whether it be bullying, pornography, or just sleep deprivation happens often because children have their devices in their rooms at night where there is no accountability. Invest in an old fashion alarm clock for your children (because this will be their excuse why they should keep the device in their room) and plug in devices in a family area at night. If children start this at a young age, it will just be the expectation forward. It's harder to manage as children get older.
The bottom line is each family is different and each user of technology bring different views and struggles into the mix. What might be a addiction to one person will have no real pull to others. What might seem like a glorious "rule" and a no-brainer for you might change as situations change. For instance, at age 11 my youngest child was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, from that point on her phone (which she didn't have before the diagnosis) stayed in her room at night in case of a medical emergency. As we all know, parenting is messy as it is, add technology to the mix and it might feel like a losing battle much of the time. Hear me say that I see a whole lot of good usage of technology by students daily. I see our digital citizens making wise choices and reaching the world in positive ways through the use of technology. 

I think the main thing I would leave you with is this...most of the time the technology in the hands of our children belong to the parents. Remember that. Oftentimes because students are the sole user of a device they get the "this is mine and you can't touch it" mentality. While technology is the main way students communicate with each other informally, you have the ability to adjust that usage as their parents. I believe in restorative practice. There is nothing wrong with forcing your child on a technology fasting for a while. It might lead them to better balance later. Just leave the communication lines open so they know what your concerns are and why. While schools are teaching digital citizenship and about digital footprints, parents have the bigger impact and ability to speak into non-educational use of technology. Don't let that opportunity slip by. 


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Connected Adults and Children - Can there be too much monitoring using technology?



Back when I was a kid (oh my word, did I just say that?) the rule was to come back home when the street lights came on. I played in my neighborhood with friends some days with my parents never laying eyes on me but at lunch and supper and then at bedtime. I learned curse words from the neighborhood kids, I learned about sexual things on the bus from neighborhood kids, and I also learned we all were raised with different values...many of neighborhood friends were raised with more freedom than I had- I mean they could even watch HBO!

When I started driving and dating the rule was to always have a quarter on me in case I needed to call home. There were no cell phones. I left for school at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes went straight to work after school and didn't get home until 10:00 pm some nights. And my parents never really knew if I was where I was suppose to be or if I made it to my next destination. There was a level of responsibility and trust placed on children by being unconnected from today's technology. 

My parents knew my grades when progress reports went out and then again when we got our report cards. They never knew the day to day "missing grade," "bad test score," or "current average in class." My grades and my work were my responsibility.

Stick with me here. I'm not saying that parenting was better, I'm just saying it was different and generation after generation have made it through life without being tethered to their children.

So why am I going on about this? As a technology coordinator in an elementary school I am a season in my educational career where technology is integrated into the classroom on a regular basis. The progression being that for the first 9 years at the school I am at I was an out of classroom elementary  computer teacher. Over those 9 years I taught every student in grades 1-5 anywhere from 30-45 minutes a week. In that time frame our families were just excited that technology was a weekly part of their children's curriculum and out of the 1000+ students I taught for all those years I might have been questioned by families about my curriculum 12 times in nine years...and by question I mean "what do they do in here?" This role began for me in 2005ish. I had 25 Microsoft desktops in a lab. To say filtering has gotten progressively better since those first few years of popups and spam would be the biggest understatement of this blog post. I was a vigilant ninja monitoring and creating meaningful opportunities for our students using the best technology that was available to me at the time.

Fast forward to this school year...This year we rolled out touchscreen Chromebooks to our fifth graders. These chromebooks are being monitored by Go Guardian software. Every time a student looks up something deemed inappropriate or an innocent search leads to something inappropriate, I get an email. Right then. This software works 24 hours a day no matter where the student is located at the time. I get an email. I have the ability to look at history at any point.

We also have a SIS (student information system) that allows parental access to the real time grade book of our students. Parents can see what grade a child has made on a test, they can receive an email if there is a zero for a grade, they can contact a teacher if a grade hasn't appeared in the amount of time the school has deemed appropriate for grading.

Our students have the ability to collaborate with teachers and/or students through the Google Suite for Education in real time. They can study together via video conferencing, they can collaborate synchronously on a document or slideshow using Google Docs and Slides. They can use their email to contact their teachers at any time, day or not, with questions.

The overwhelming majority of our students have cell phones in our upper school (and some even have them in the elementary school). This allows our students to not only be connected to each other but to their parents and the outside world at all times.

Not only can parents monitor their children's whereabouts through the GPS tracking device on their phones but I can search for a device on campus that might not be where it should be as well.

Today's children live in a society of instant connectivity that has created a world of "immediate expectations." This has probably helped some students not to stumble as deep or dark as they might have otherwise in life. As a parent of a type 1 diabetic, I have the ability to know my child's blood sugar at any time during the day. That's reassuring. But I find myself asking these questions and I would love some response and thought on it:

  • Does constant connectivity give parents a false sense of security?
  • Does constant connectivity create a larger generation of people that are use to having someone bail them out when times get tough?
  • Does constant connectivity create unrealistic expectations on educators in terms of replying to emails and monitoring student behavior on devices?
  • Does constant connectivity create more pluses in life than minuses?
  • Does constant connectivity make students behave better in terms of school and parent expectations?
  • Should parents be monitoring the constant whereabouts of their children?
  • Does constant connectivity take away the ability for students to learn from mistakes and fail forward in becoming a better person?
  • What is too much? What is too little? What is a no-brainer? What crosses the line of controlling?
  • Are school systems creating expectations that change parenting styles of tech diligent families due to students being required to have technology?
  • How do families best find the balance for their children and should expectations be different for every child?
  • How do technology departments make sure they are using technology intentionally at schools?
  • How do technology leaders like myself communicate and help parents that feel like they are being forced into something they don't want for their children?
  • How do we prepare children, parents, and teachers for the road ahead that will include more wearable and integrated technology such as virtual reality?
  • Who is making sure that the future of edtech is morally sound?
These questions may open a can of worms but they are constantly on my mind. The truth is technology is not going away and it will be an important part of the lives of our current and future students. Creating a give and take culture to navigate forward with all the key players is imperative in any school system to understand all sides and place value on all views. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Annotating on a Chromebook? Check out what I've found!



As our fifth grade has moved away from iPads to the Acer R11 Chromebook as our device of choice this school year I have been searching for and researching annotation options as we move forward. The chromebooks we have chosen are touchscreen and android app ready. We are using Google Classroom with these fifth graders and within the Google Classroom App, students have the ability to annotate with the "pencil" option at the top of an open file.

While it's fairly easy for a student to annotate on a PDF file in Google Classroom, it's a bit more cumbersome for a teacher to annotate and share back to students. A copy has to be made of the document and reshared in order for students to see the teacher's remarks through digital inking. Google is remarkable in how quickly it updates Google Suites for Education to best meet teacher's needs. I don't think it will be long before they will have a process within Google Classroom that makes this easier for the teacher.

As we are looking at ways to annotate, we have found 2 options that I really like. The following are choices we can use at our school for annotating (digital inking) and how to get them:


  • Kami https://www.kamihq.com - we are using the free version of Kami and it integrates with Google Drive to allow students or teachers to save their annotations directly to their drive account. The downside to the free version of Kami is that it does not integrate with Google Classroom. I'm currently looking into whether this is a worthwhile investment or not by asking for a quote for a school usage license. Their teacher license covers 1 teacher and 30 students for $99/year. I can see where having this license would streamline the grading process for teachers but really wouldn't change much for the students.


  • XODO https://www.xodo.com/ is also a PDF reader and annotator and would work on any laptop that uses Chrome and can be accessed straight from a browser or if the Chromebook is app ready, there is also an app option for this. XODO allows students to backup their annotations straight to their Google drive (just like Kami) but I am not a big fan of the way you erase annotations on their product. You have to draw a square and delete it, as opposed to using an eraser (something that seems more natural for students).
As I look at digital inking and the way we are using it at our school, I find myself still seeing the ease of printing off things and having students do fill in the blank being easier for some teachers than all these extra steps. The bottom line is what is most important to the teacher...
          The ability to streamlining and not having paper to wag back and forth to school to grade?
          Saving trees?
          Saving time by being able to just quickly get grading done on paper?
          The ability to have a digital record of all work?
          Could it just as easily be done through Google docs and have students type their answer?

As we have moved to chromebooks I appreciate the hearts of my fifth grade teachers that are willing to try and experiment with different approaches at the things they have done. As I introduced them to Google Classroom they wanted to have a place where we can do so much in one location. In the past, we have used the Seesaw Learning Journal app and notability for annotation using iPads and we knew both very well. The Seesaw app has already been downloaded on the students chromebooks and may be the best way forward until Google Classroom makes the teacher side of grading annotations a bit less cumbersome. 

I end this by saying that I am thankful for teachers with innovative hearts that don't balk at the roll of being "trailblazers" at our school.  These teachers create a culture of acceptance for the early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards that follow in tech integration (blog post of these levels coming soon.)


Friday, August 18, 2017

Total Eclipse...A Lasting Memory


For the past 2 weeks I have had Bonnie Tyler's song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" running through my head. If you are too young to know the song, that's a shame. But the reason is clear to me why it's become an ear worm...a total eclipse of the sun will happen Monday within 20 miles of my home. A total solar eclipse is a really big deal and every single day I get another email about it from fellow educators. It's exciting times for the area I live in.

Many schools are out that day and our school has an early dismissal. Thousands of people are suppose to come to the total eclipse path. News agencies have actually suggested that people gas up for that because of potential traffic. At our school, it will only be the third day of school for students but we have already started teaching about it. One of our amazing lower school science teachers created a wonderful display explaining it from a Christian worldview for our students to see and she also created a video to go along with it. Alice Sikkema's passion for science is evident and her desire for students to understand this phenomenon is contagious.

As I reflect and look forward to being able to experience this solar eclipse I am reminded of another time in my life. 1979. I was standing in the hallway by a window in Crestmont Elementary School in Northport, Alabama looking down at a piece of paper and watching the shadows of the eclipse through a pinhole on a piece of card stock. This was way before the days of Amazon Prime, NASA approved glasses, and the internet. I remember being told very strongly "DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN, YOU CAN GO BLIND" but I looked. It was too mysterious not to try to catch a brief peek and honestly, the paper version of it was bizarre for my elementary mind to wrap around.

Just like now, I remember it being a really big deal to my teachers. I remember being told "this doesn't happen very often." Quite honestly I feel like I'm having a Mark Twain moment in my life, He had Halley's comet I've been around long enough and in the right place often enough to witness 2 total solar eclipses.

I'm writing this post to just affirm in you that I still have very vivid memories of this taking place in my life as an elementary student some 38 years ago. I remember discussions in the hallway with fellow students, I remember the disruption of the ordinary this moment brought to our school, I remember the intrigue of taking a risk and glancing up wondering if I truly was going to go blind from it. I remember not believing that was true. I remember wanting to know more about that and how long do you have to look before it does something to these cones and rods I supposedly had in my eyes that I have never heard of. It sparked wonder and a desire to learn more in me. I share this with you to say If you are an educator or parent, don't let this opportunity for learning slip away. If it sparks questions, let your students dig deeper. Sometimes the best teachable moments aren't in the lesson plan for your grade level. Sometimes the pacing guide needs to be put aside. This phenomenon is a great way to open conversations about being a global student as well. For many of us school is just getting started, we are setting expectations but it's ok to deviate. From one little girl from Northport, Alabama that decided a solar eclipse just made her want to learn more... I give you permission to teach the current moment. ;)

Friday, August 4, 2017

On Task Device Usage

A few years back I "did the edtech circuit" talking about best practice of classroom management of devices. Our school had chosen not to buy additional software options for monitoring, etc so we created a system of expectations for our students that was the same from class to class. At that point iPads were the only device being used in our elementary school. This blog post is a repeat for iPad users but I'm now adding ideas for chromebooks because we are doing a 1:1 chromebook rollout for them this year. There is much overlap in best practice to keep students on task, good classroom management is fairly device agnostic. What I will say is that if a teacher struggled with classroom management before devices were available then the appearance of devices can actually magnify this issue. If you are a teacher that feels classroom management is hard for you being diligent in consistent expectations regarding technology is imperative.

1. Seating arrangement. I blogged on the subject of seating arrangements with practical desk set up ideas in May of 2013. I still believe wholeheartedly in the importance of creating a culture where a teacher is not stuck at the front of a room when devices are being used. The best way to insure on task behavior is engagement of the lesson and movement of the instructor. I've seen teachers own this. Spending a little time explaining expectations of movement into different seating arrangements can allow you to transition between whole group, small group, and debate all in a 45 minute class seating with very little interruption. Creating settings where you can see the screens while students work is a very easy way to create accountability of on task behavior as well. For one teacher in my elementary school this is as easy as teaching one group of students at the front of the class while the second group works on their computers with their backs to her so she can see over their shoulders while she teachers. She simply asks them to sit on the opposite side of their desks.

Not all schools have flexible seating and I believe there is great value in it but remember that the comfiness and sometimes secludedness of flexible seating isn't always a good combination for a student that is tempted by off-task behavior. Remember to work the classroom often if your students are secluded while engaged with technology.

2. Key words.  In 2013 when my school became a more tech-rich school, I wanted to set expectations for student usage that didn't slow me down in the midst of a lesson. I also wanted to see these expectations used throughout our school for consistency in what our students could expect as well. I created the following graphics to hang in classrooms as a reminder to our teachers and students:
The Chromebook visual represents 3 ideas-

  • Traffic light. As students walk in or transition to a different part of the lesson, the teacher can say today red (no tech needed), yellow (we will use tech but wait on instructions), green (get going with your tech)
  • 45. This is asking students to close their device at a 45 degree angle to observe something else happening in the room. This prevents the need to sign on again but gives you their attention.
  • 1,2,3...all eyes on me. This is a great way to interrupt for more information/instruction but also insure students are listening. You might need to adjust the saying for older students. 

The iPad visual represents 3 ideas as well-
  • Flip. Devices are to be flipped over so the screen can't be seen. I start every class with a flipped expectation unless otherwise noted. This also is a great way to interrupt device usage for more information/instruction. 
  • Flat. This is an expectation that all devices are to remain flat on the desk until told otherwise. This is a great choice when you are in the front of the room for something because it allows you to continue to see the device screens to make sure students are on task when you don't have the ability to move around the room because of the lesson. 
  • Close. I like to start lessons asking students to close all open apps on their devices with a double click of the home button and swiping the apps closed. That way I know the only apps that should be open on their devices are the ones I've asked them to open as the lesson has progressed. If I sense off-task behavior I can easily walk by a student, double tap the home button and see if there is anything open that shouldn't be. I can also tell you that students are really good at opening and swiping apps to close them fast in order to check things. They learn this trick quickly. 
3. Accountability. Some districts have chosen ways to both monitor and control student access beyond filtering. For us, we have not done this for our iPads but we will be doing it for our Chromebook rollout with the addition of Go Guardian . I do believe there are other ways to help insure on task behavior as well. Using Nearpod to "create, engage, and assess" gives educators more control in the classroom and even the free version is of value. Recently I read of a school district that has their students create a PDF of their browsing history at the end of the day and email it to their teachers and/or guardians with a sentence or two about "what they learned today." While your email inbox might get full really fast, what a great way to create a quick formative assessment option and spot check for on task behavior! 

As I said before, the best way to insure on task behavior is to have an engaging lesson and to work the classroom as an educator. When I experience off task behavior during my lessons it causes me to take a hard look at the way I teach and what I am teaching. The days of 45 minutes of lecture from the front of the class are over if your students have devices (and really those days should be over regardless). If you are fortunate enough to have access to technology then use it to transform your classroom. Be firm with your expectations and your key word usage. Spend some time at the beginning of the year practicing desk movement, and key word responses. Creating a culture of expectation of change creates a culture of engagement. Put color coded washi tape on your floor and label it with a desk number to help students quickly adjust to your request to move to "debate, traditional, small group, etc" mode. Have contests between your classes by timing them to see how quickly period one transitions versus period 7. Don't get stuck in "devices are just a distraction" land. Create an environment that builds on their benefits! And lastly, don't be afraid to set a classroom acceptable use policy that clearly states the expectations and the consequences if things don't go as planned. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Living a "PLAN B" Life with a "PLAN A" Heart


It seems we all have a Plan A that we expect from life, expectations that we really want to happen and that we really want to achieve, but sometimes life has other plans and all of a sudden we are living Plan B.

Sometimes Plan B looks similar to Plan A and we adjust readily. Sometimes Plan B feels as meaningful and wanted as Plan Z. Life throws these crazy curve balls at us that we didn't see coming and all of a sudden we feel all we are doing is dodging bad pitches and wildly swinging back in hopes of contacting something that looks like normality.

As I sit here today my heart is heavy for several people in my life dealing with the ugliness of cancer or potential cancer. My heart feels burdened for the families that are living out Plan B that looks a lot like Plan Z...a plan they never would have chosen. It really puts things in perspective a bit for myself.

As I think about the next few weeks and school starting back and the things that are weighing heavily on me I realize how much of life feels like Plan A most of the time if I will just focus on the good and reflect on the positives.

As educators we often find ourselves throwing our hands in the air (mentally) and thinking "Well that didn't work!" or "Will they ever understand that!" or heaven forbid that fleeting thought of "I don't think that student can do this." We find ourselves living in Plan B because just like a reflection of the world we live in, our classroom is messy- its dynamics, its students, its teacher, and the families that are represented all live in an imperfect world. Let's face it, life is messy.

As we start this school year with goals we want to accomplish and new ideas that have been made priorities for us, let us be gracious to remember we are all living in a Plan B world. We all have burdens and barriers that make learning hard and teaching hard. We all work with people who have expectations that impact us as well...chances are their expectations have become Plan B as well, in order to create an environment that works with everyone else's needs.

Life is not perfect but it can be perfectly ok when we allow ourselves to accept Plan B and make the most of it. It means to keep plodding along. It means to remember that co-worker or student you are working with day in and day out that just rubs you the wrong way may actually be living out a Plan Z life right now, be patient and forgiving. It may mean a lesson plan bombs because you just don't feel equipped to do what is being asked of you but you have the ability to fail forward. Learn from the moment and turn that bad situation into something that causes you to grow into a better you. You may have seen your class roster and are already thinking "Oh no, this is going to be a hard group of kids" but rise to the challenge of a Plan B year and prepare yourself to do your best.

My youngest daughter and I went to her college orientation last week and on the way up there Kendall said, "Mom, I'm going to thrive in college." Yes, her word...thrive. I said, "That's good to know!" I love that she is a Plan A kind of thinker. I also know she knows what it's life to feel like life seems unfair because at age 11 she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes...believe me, that August day 7 years ago was a Plan Z feeling day. But she's pushed back, she's living the life she wants to live and she isn't giving in to the alternative plans that were pushed on her.

My challenge to myself and to the other educators out their today is to keep your Plan B days in perspective. This might not be the path you thought you would be going on but it doesn't have to be a bad path, just choose to keep moving forward. We rarely grow when we are comfortable. Be willing to accept, adapt, adopt when need be. We live in a fallen world and we are all impacted by that.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

3 Ways Tech Can Negatively Impact Classroom Learning


As an instructional technologist, I am always looking for tools to aid in the learning process. I believe wholeheartedly that when integrated well technology adds engagement, opportunities for advanced/deeper learning, and possibilities for teachers to be more relational. That being said, I also believe that technology can become a babysitter and the idea of putting access to the world in the hands of students as a babysitter is a little unnerving to me.

This blog post is to help teachers think critically about the way they integrate technology. The following are 3 ways that technology can negatively impact classroom learning:


  1. Not choosing the right resource for the job. Think of all the decision making going into choosing a textbook. If you are using technology as part of instruction, the same level of digging deeper to see if it is a quality app or website needs to be done. Common Sense Media does a great job in helping you decide if an app or website is a good choice through their review portion of their website https://www.commonsense.org/education/reviews/all . There are also probably people on your campus or in your school district that can give you some suggestions on good edtech choices...do you have a tech coach? math coach? literacy coach? curriculum coordinator? Ask them what they would suggest for your task at hand.
  2. Not using educational technology intentionally. There is a big push, and rightly so, towards station rotation blended learning. Walk into a classroom that has access to technology and you will often see subjects being taught in small groups with at least one being a tech-based option. This is a great way for teachers to work with smaller groups or individuals in order to help students fill gaps or personalize their learning. Be careful of the culture of this type of classroom though. Set the classroom up so you can make sure the students using technology are on task the whole time they are in the technology-driven rotation. If not, you have just decreased their math learning time by whatever time they have spent in that particular rotation. If you are not being intentional and checking to see if they are truly on task each day, you are undermining yourself. This might mean starting the year with a volunteer working the room while you teach your small groups. It definitely will mean explaining to your students that every rotation is as important as the other. Which leads me to my third point...
  3. Not looking at data. Orange may be the new black but Data is the new teacher homework. We aren't use to looking at data daily but whatever amount of time you used to spend grading papers every night, now use it to look at your student's daily data. This data allows you to see the gaps and reassess to best meet needs THE FOLLOWING DAY. With the advent of intuitive assessments that adjust to students knowledge, we can meet the students where they are but this is only good if it is being monitored and used. 
There are many teachers not using technology as a true teaching tool in the classroom and more for creation and curation but if you are tapping into this gift of technology by using the tools that support your classroom teaching, make sure you are not lazy with the way your are utilizing it. It's easy to look around the room and think, "they must be making progress, everyone is on task" but you have immediate feedback in the form of formative assessments using technology...utilize it to feel confident you are meeting needs as best you can.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

QR Codes for Class Night Sign Ups?



One of the things I'm quickly learning as an instructional technologist is that teaching parents how to use technology you are using in the classroom eases their mind a bit and gives them a sense of understanding. In our elementary school we use QR codes quite a bit to help students easily access information, websites, and videos as part of their learning and sharing.

As I started thinking on this, I decided why not introduce parents to QR codes on the first day of school? Our teachers have sign up sheets outside their doors each year for our PTO to access for volunteers as well as the teachers themselves. What if instead of a pencil hanging there, there were QR codes that linked to a sign up on Sign Up Genius? I use the free version of Sign Up Genius and I love it because it is real time for whoever has the sign in credentials, it has pre-made templates to help in whatever type of sign up you are trying to do!  Here is a how-to video on creating QR codes for yourself:

So here are a few things I think would be neat to use QR codes for school:
  • Teacher introductions. Create a quick video of yourself with fun facts about you and post it outside your classroom door. 
  • Instructions. Busy teaching a small group in a rotation? Create a QR code for the other groups so the students can hear you giving them instructions for each rotation when they get there.
  • Weekly updates. Create QR codes that are dynamic (can change to a new place) and do your weekly reminders and updates.
  • Student sharing. Have students create QR codes to link to something they have created regarding their learning and post them outside in your hallway as a gallery of learning.
  • At the front door. Create a QR code that tells visitors where they are and what the process is for entering and visiting at the school.
  • At various places on campus. New cool building or football stadium? Create a QR code for telling others about the pride you have in these things and how it will be used for the betterment of your students. Both home team and visitors will be able to learn more about your school. 
  • Sports teams. Put a dynamic QR code on your school t-shirts that links to your roster and season stats. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wonderful Ways to Make Educational Graphics

Created with Canva

Canva - I love Canva so much that one day I tweeted about it and a stranger said, "Wow, are you getting paid by Canva? If not you should be!" Canva allows me to quickly make graphics for the top of handouts, for blog posts, for Twitter posts, for creating business cards, etc and I don't have to be a great graphic artist to do it because of all the templates. I have always used the free version of Canva, although I will say that is getting harder to do as it seems harder to find free graphic options on their platform but I do it! Create your free account today and give the things you create a more polished, professional look. The graphic above was created with Canva.

Typorama - Do you often take photos using your iPhone or iPad and want to turn them into a graphic? I do. I could always upload them to Canva but Typorama has become my recent "go to" when creating graphics from photos on my phone. They also have an endless free supply of stock photos that are easy to search by keyword that allows me to make inspirational graphics for my instagram edu account https://www.instagram.com/juliedavisedu/

Google Draw - Looking for a way to create diagrams and charts? Google draw is the bomb diggity! With a grid on your blank canvas and the ability to constantly save and backup to your Google Suites accounts, Google Draw is a natural for creating things like school maps, seating charts, scientific method steps, etc.

Red Stamp -
Made with Red Stamp
I will be honest, I didn't even know there was a website for Red Stamp until I started this blog post. I've always used the iOs app to create my personalized cards. Red Stamp is a great way to send a thank you note digitally to students and families, create party invitations, encourage someone, etc. Are you in a 1:1 environment? Imagine yourself daily affirming a student through a personalized Red Stamp card. Everyone loves "mail"!

Created with CariCartoon
CariCartoon - Most of the things I use are free but I just couldn't resist this iOs app for $1.99. You upload or take a photo of your face and it turns it into a cartoon. I've used it to create buzz for speaking events and as a way to create safe versions of students on the web that protects them.

Sticky AI - I haven't used this iOS app yet except to play with it but I see if becoming part of my graphic arsenal. Tony Vincent (learninghand.com) recently shared about it on Instagram. It allows you to turn selfies into stickers that you can upload to messaging platforms or save them and use them anywhere. what I like is the fact that the app automatically detects the background of the photo and cuts it away...something that takes forever to do in the past.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tech Connecting With Next Year's Students



As a student, I remember getting letters in the mail in the summer from my next grade level teacher. I remember thinking "No, not yet!" but I also remember liking the fact that he or she reached out to me. With the advent of technology, it's even easier to reach out to your future students. Here are three ways to start working on your classroom culture, learn about your students, and introduce your students (and maybe even yourself) to some classroom edtech tools that you will be implementing in the school year.


  • SeeSaw is a great student driven digital platform that allows students to upload content to share with you, their class, and even their families. Create a free account, share the class codes with the families, set the settings where you have to ok anything before it's posted and have the students do things like:
    • Tell you how to pronounce their first and last name via a handwritten drawing of their name with voice over
    • Tell you something fun they have done this summer via a photo upload
    • Tell you one thing they want you to know about them via video
  • Flipgrid is another way to have students use video to share something with you, think of it like the Brady Bunch opening. Check out this flipgrid I made to introduce the tool to some of my teachers this past school year https://flipgrid.com/1448e8  Perhaps you could use flipgrid this summer to:
    • Introduce one of your first units and ask students to share one thing they already know about the theme (pre-test)
    • Get with your grade level teachers or out of classroom teachers and introduce yourselves this way to the entire grade level
    • Ask students to dress as a character of a book they have read this summer and do a quick book talk.
  • Google Classroom Are you a Google Suites school? What a great way to create an "assignment" in Google Classroom and have students learn the basics of class communication and organization that is associated with all things googly!
While each of these things reach out to your future students, it also quite possibly reaches out to their parents as well. Introducing these tools to both students and parents at the same time creates an opportunity for parents to learn about the tools right off the bat! Don't require your students to participate...but if they want to, keep it up and start your relational learning of the students and families you are going to have the pleasure of working with ASAP. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My #ISTE17 Takeaways



Rachelle and myself
Traveling alone to ISTE this year gave me lots of time alone with my thoughts and my learning. Meeting up with my friend Rachelle Poth on the last day led to one of my greatest moments of reflection. When we talked about the things we had done during the week it was very different from each other. Rachelle presented multiple times (and I must say she's amazing at sharing her classroom stories) and I was there as an attendee only.
For me, that moment was a realization that ISTE meets needs in many different ways for many different personality types. It's easy to get lost in the crowd if that is what you want or to be in the middle of everything learning AND social. I was "all in" for learning this week and here are my takeaways to learning more about:


  • Google Applied Digital Skills- Yes, I did stand in a 30 minute line for a 30 minute session to learn more about Google's new Applied Digital Skills curriculum.
     A free, stand alone curriculum that can be found at https://www.cs-first.com/en/apps. Our school recently started looking at the scope and sequence of digital skills we want our students to have by the time they graduate from our school. What I love about this curriculum is that many of these skills could be mastered with these very relevant curriculum ideas that 13+ year old students would both enjoy doing and benefit from. 
  • Snapping, Gramming, and Scoping Your Way to Engagement-  
    Shaelynn, Steven, and myself
                              
      Educators Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) and Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth) created an interactive learning opportunity that challenged me in how to reach students, teachers, families, and constituencies with the use of social media. I've often used social media to share the story of our school using the hashtag #ccslearns but I'll be honest, I think my assumed audience was almost always my professional learning network. I am currently reflecting on how I can use it more to reach broader in my own school community. Steven's sharing of data shows a window of opportunity to reach our families and share our stories in a platform that will be looked at. As most schools can attest, the percentage of emails sent and read by families is small. Why not meet them where they already are looking? And as I've heard often but don't know who said it, "someone is going to tell your story, shouldn't it be you?" 
  • Big news from Wonder Workshop: Challenge Cards- Dash and Dot are some of our favorite  robots to introduce robotics to preschool and elementary students. What a great opportunity to meet Charlotte this week- she's the creator of the new "Challenge Cards: K-5 Learn to Code Starter Pack" that hit the market in September. I had a little look at the cards and can't wait to add them to our curriculum. These cards "meet both CSTA and ISTE standards are aligned with Code.org's Computer Science Fundamentals series." (store.makewonder.com)
    Charlotte of Wonder Workshop 
  • Creating Interactive Professional Development Opportunities- This idea has been growing in my head since Edcamp Gigcity but attending a session by Michele Eaton solidified in my head how I want to do this. I plan to introduce one tool every 2 months to our teachers (I'm working on curating those tools now) via an interactive introduction that they can access at any time. My hope is that in the two months the teachers will try the tool in their own classrooms.
Obviously there were tons of learning moments at ISTE for me both in and out of the conference center, it's like learning from a firehose, but these are the top things I am excited about!





Thursday, June 1, 2017

Digital Tools to Mobilize a Community to a Goal




Today, as I was looking over the scope and sequence that ISTE has put out as plausible technology integration standards to support the ISTE student standards I found myself stuck on one standard and feeling the weight of the pros and cons stacking up equally on both sides of my brain as I wrestled with this idea: "Use digital tools such as blogs, websites and social media to crowdsource, crowdfund and mobilize a community toward a goal."

On one side I immediately swiped it under the doormat when the words "crowdsource" and "crowdfund" appeared. Why is this a skill that a graduate of our school must need to know? When I see those words I think of begging to support a cause for funds. And then the rumination began. I asked myself these questions:

  • Why is the standard there?
  • If we don't do it are we creating a disadvantage to our students?
  • Is this about exposure? integration? or even more...stewardship?
  • Are we just called to teach students how to navigate the internet or are we called to teach them how to add value to it as well?
  • As I forward think, is the internet always about taking or are we to give as well? Every click we make is monitored by an algorithm that learns us. How can I use that for good?
These questions led me to think about my own life. Do I crowdsource? Have I ever sought to crowdfund for a greater goal? YES on both accounts. I use social media to share the things I've learned via blogs to help others, I've asked people to join me at educational events like Edcamp Gig City and CoffeeEDU, I've asked people to support me in my JDRF walks to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and more recently I've reached out to an entire city to help me find my lost dog. I've done this using social media, blogging, and various websites. 

I realized I am the epitome of this statement but the question that continues to ruminate in my head...should it be a REQUIRED skill? I don't like the terms "crowdsource" or "crowdfund" but I think there is value in the meaning of the statement. As I look at my job as an instructional technologist I see this as a way to use technology for a greater good. It definitely doesn't have to be to the extent I utilize it but if at my christian school it is a goal to graduate stewards of this world then technology and the internet can't just be seen as something to consume but also something to make better through our usage. The words "value added" come to mind. According to the dictionary value added means:

noun
ECONOMICS
  1. 1.
    the amount by which the value of an article is increased at each stage of its production, exclusive of initial costs.
adjective
  1. 1.
    (of goods) having features added to a basic line or model for which the buyer is prepared to pay extra.

Are we as educators truly teaching our students to add value to the digital world if we don't embrace mediums to do this? Even more, in a christian school setting aren't we called to it? Maybe I'm digging too deep and creating comparisons that only work in my head. But if all we do is take, learn, discern, and lurk are we becoming true stewards? As a steward we are responsible "for taking care of something, to arrange and keep in order in a way that glorifies God." Does this just mean personal intake? In our world that values collaboration and growing together I believe it means not just becoming fat babies off all the information on the internet but also exercising our right and responsibility to add to that environment as well.

I do struggle with the wording of the statement because I don't think crowdfunding is a particular skill that every student needs to know but I look at two instances in my life where crowdsourcing made a huge difference to me.

  • In 2010 after a very hurtful attack through the use of social media on myself and my donut business, a friend and educator, Jennifer Rimback, created a community support page for me on Facebook that helped me through a terrible week in my life due to poor digital citizenship skills of the masses in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
  • Just this year after losing my dog for a week, she was returned back to us due to a bombarding of social media and websites being shared over 500 times by people I did and didn't know. 

These were life changers. Is this a skill that should be taught is the question that keeps running in my mind?  Is this just something people should do if they want to but not be expected? I'll be honest, until today I thought so but as I have thought and rethought on this today and reflected on how much negativity we see on the internet, my mind has changed. Perhaps it is time to model appropriate and value-added internet opportunities to bring it to the forefront in today's world. Should it be crowdsourced? I don't know...but I do believe the power of the internet can be seen better through this choice. To experience the positive benefits of crowdsourcing exposure is a beautiful thing, take it from someone that has also received the opposite because of a donut named "Obama."