Chromebooks are out!


WOW! I know that I said I’d be really great this year at keeping up with a blog and actually, I do have a reminder set for myself every week to do it. However, we were kind of swamped the past few weeks.

Let me just say first that I am beyond proud of the team I work with and everyone last year who was a part of the planning to roll out 2200 Chromebooks (CB) to all of our high school students. It’s been a LONG, uphill journey to get where we are.

So, our first week of school went off without a hitch. Why? We were just finishing up the final touches of the Chromebook rollout. We were organizing reams of papers to know if students had signed the Technology Agreement form or not. We were not concerned about if the fee was paid, but needed to have that agreement in place. We spent time organizing our LMC to be student traffic friendly. Our plan of calling down students each day by grade and then split by alphabet had been set before we left for the summer last year and we were happy with how it was set up. We were very scared though that we didn’t schedule enough time.

Then, Monday, September 10 came around. I spent my morning having a massive anxiety attack as I ran through all of the horrible things I was sure were going to wrong or that we forgot. Fast forward to 8:00 a.m. (yes, that’s fast forwarding since I wake up at 4:00 a.m.). Everyone was in position at our stations: registration table, Chromebook pick-up, Chromebook unboxing, Chromebook Log-In and check computer cords, etc., and then our final stop of checkout. We had about 10 people, give or take depending on the day and hour, to work the stations and make sure everything was in working order.

We called our first group down. Seniors with the last name starting with A-C. They lined up  outside of the LMC, had their IDs ready, cleaned up after themselves, were polite and excited. They were out in 21 minutes. 21 minutes! About 70 students. AMAZING. Not a single issue. We debated on keeping to our schedule (every 45 minutes a group would be called) or moving faster. We decided to press ahead. We finished the Senior Class around 1:00 p.m.! No issues with computers or students. Everything was wonderful and we were thrilled! The team discussed if we should quit for the day or move ahead with the Juniors. We decided that we might as well keep moving. The first day, we ended up getting through Junior, last names J-L with still no issues.

Day 2: We ended up finishing the Juniors and getting through R of the Sophomore class. We had a few small issues that were easily fixable and just a few that needed to go back to the manufacturer.

Day 3: Today was a big day for us. The media visited us and interviewed staff and students. Steven Butschi from Google was here to help us out as well. The kids found it pretty amazing that so much good press was happening because of the Chromebooks. They also think that Steven is like a rockstar god. We ended up getting through S of the Freshman class.

Day 4: We finished up the Freshman class and any stragglers as well as our alternative high school. All by noon! We ended up with under 50 computers that didn’t had some sort of manufacturer issue. We were very impressed by this.

Most students have had their Chromebooks for about a week now. We have a Help Desk area set up in our LMC for students to come with technical difficulties, password issues, etc. At this point, we have had 15 broken screens and a handful of students that have put themselves on the Dev Channel and thus turned off the Chromebook network we have set up. Not too shabby. We did not require our students to have cases and yes, they take them home at night. I’d say things are looking really good.

This week for the curriculum team has been a lot of troubleshooting and IT work that we aren’t really used to. As we’re already seeing the number of students needing help drop drastically, we are excited to be getting into classrooms to see how the students are utilizing the Chromebooks.

 

Inservice Week #1


Last week began our new school year. Inservices never seem to be what they should, but then again, what should they be? Should they be speeches from important personnel and then a guy who spoke of Sherpas and climbing Mount Everest? Which, by the way, I’m not entirely sure of what his point was. He lost me and all I could think about was I knew he had sponsors, but he spent an enormous sum of money to climb a mountain. Maybe I just don’t get it. I just thought about all the other things that money could be used for.

The next few days were staff meetings and department meetings. I was able to meet with all but one of my middle school departments in one afternoon. I’m excited to be working with all of them and even more excited that many said they’d love for me to be in their classrooms with them. I had great conversations with several departments at the high school.

For me, I didn’t really feel like I gained enough. Apparently, my departments felt similar. They just want time to work with their colleagues – from what everyone described, they want the “unconference” or “EdCamp” model. I wish I knew that this would fly with my district staff, but I’m afraid to bring it up and then have it be a failure.

What if staff didn’t show up to where they needed to be? What if what they were doing wasn’t for student learning? What if they didn’t hold themselves accountable?

Anyone else have this for their district inservices or teacher professional development? I’d love to know how to start something like this and have it be valuable for staff and students while still holding people accountable for their actions.

Aside from that, in one week we will be handing out our first Chromebooks to students. My fingers are crossed that we won’t have too many hiccups. Keep watching to find out how that week goes!

First PD Sessions of the Year


In the Spring, our entire Instructional Support Team sat down and discussed how to handle our Summer Professional Development Sessions – what to offer, who was going to teach them, and what to teach. We created our session topics and formats. We had online learning, in person trainings, and on your own or as a team trainings. We decided to try a new format to broadcast our PD sessions, so we created this Google site and used a Google form for sign-ups.

Now, being that I am a tech geek and have this ridiculously over the top love of workshops and trainings, I would have signed up for everything. However, our staff apparently does not feel the same way. I’ve spent the summer wondering why. Here is the only reason I could come up with:

  • Everyone is burnt out.

Being in Wisconsin, education in and of itself is a bit shaky right now. We, as staff, use every bit of energy to focus ourselves and make sure that we are still doing everything in our power to make our students successful and to keep up with the new policies and decisions at the state and district level. Thus, we are burnt out.

I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish we would have seen more, way more, staff at our inservice sessions. Inservices they get paid to attend. Obviously, we didn’t market well and need to do a way better job next year. That and let’s be honest, this week, the weather has been gorgeous and it’s one of the last weeks before we have to report back.

However, we still did have a decent turn out of staff. Staff that made me smile and laugh for two days straight at their sheer excitement of learning new things and constant ‘aha’ moments. You all made me remember that this is EXACTLY why I took this job.

We have held sessions on Google Mail/Calendar, Google Docs/Presentations, Google Forms/Spreadsheets, Flipping the Classroom, Presentation Software, and Chrome Browser/Chromebooks. We have sessions running yet this week and next week on Advanced Haiku usage, Basic and Advanced SMART board training and iPad Basics and iPads in the Classroom.

The things staff thought were cool and that made me smile:

  • Creating a hyperlink to a set of text or an image instead of the huge long URL.
  • That Google Docs save automatically.
  • Being able to edit a Google Doc with someone else at the exact same time in two different locations.
  • Using a Google Form to collect student responses on an assessment
  • Staff who are tech bashful creating a Haiku class site, uploading and adding information, inserting a Google Form formative assessment and starting to use screencasting software with the hopes of flipping their classroom by the end of this school year.
  • Embedding Google Forms and other Web Tools into the LiveBinders set up for a class.
  • Staff creating screencasts to explain their programs or to start to flip their classrooms.
  • How to edit tables and make them pretty (adding background colors and being able to change the alignments) in a Google Doc
  • That there is way more to life than Powerpoint!

Spending time training the staff that wanted to be there and who seemed to learn so much (I have to send out the exit form yet, but will report the results) was rejuvenating. Knowing that these teachers spent hours thinking of new and creative ways to use technology in their classrooms and to save themselves time was extremely rewarding.

So far: PD = Success!

My Pinterest Obsession and the Classroom


I am in desperate need of an intervention. An intervention for my Pinterest addiction. It’s gotten to be beyond ridiculous. I am 100%. totally in love with this website for my personal life. I am constantly looking and pinning new pictures. My husband is ready to leave me due to all of the random crafty things I am now making him help me with. Mind you, I am not a crafty person. I despise doing arts and crafts, even with my toddlers. However, Pinterest has sparked this insane motivation in me and now all I want to do is quit my job and cook and do arts and crafts all day.

Exactly what is Pinterest? Pinterest is an online bulletin board. You can create as many bulletin boards as you like and then you share images, videos, etc. on the bulletin boards. There is an awesome PinIt button that you can add to your bookmarks bar and when you find something online that you love, you can pin away. You can also upload files to your bulletin boards. The coolest part is being able to have this amazing visual space that you can share with the world about your likes. Like I said earlier, it’s really sparked this new motivation in me to go to thrift stores and redo random junk into cool things. I’m going to call it my attempt at being green.

Every time I go to Pinterest, which seems to be more frequently every day, I think instantly of how educators could be using this website in their classrooms and with their colleagues. What a great way to get to actually know your colleagues or your students as the people they are if you just connect with them on Pinterest.

What can I do with my students/colleagues?

  • Connect with them and see what kind of bulletin boards and pins they have posted. Get to really know them and their interests. This makes teaching and heading to work way more fun.
  • Create a bulletin board of pins for a unit or a lesson and have students view the images/videos as an anticipatory set. From there, students could: create their own boards, groups boards, a class board with images they feel represent the unit.
  • Have students create their own board for the content class and post images and videos throughout the year that they find relevant to the units and topics covered…or  maybe things they’d like to explore more!
  • Students/Teachers in a Family and Consumer Ed course, could create their own cookbooks with all the recipes they find.
  • A Tech Ed course could create bulletin boards of architecture or cool things they can make in class.
  • An Art class could create bulletin boards of artwork they find or ideas they have.
  • Teachers can use Pinterest to find amazing things posted by other educators….I’m finding a ton of stuff for elementary, but many cool classroom setups that can be used in a secondary classroom too.

These are just a few of the ideas that I’ve had as I’ve been playing around with the site. I cannot wait to continue to learn more about Pinterest and find more ways to engage this awesome site into the classrooms. Feel free to leave your ideas as well!

Currently, Pinterest is an invite only site. The invites do not take long to get your official stamp of approval. Once you are approved though, welcome to your new addiction!