Summer ‘Break’ is Over

August 1 has always signaled the end of summer for me as a teacher. It’s when I really started putting in a lot of hours in my classroom, creating new lessons, etc. Basically, putting together all the cool things that I’d learned about over the summer while I was ‘on break.’ 

This summer was much different. I found a good balance between work and play time with my boys. June, my team of tech coaches and I ran a Technology Coach Seminar course for any interested high school students. It was a blended course and they could attend help sessions if they needed them or they could choose to work at home. The students were required to become proficient users of Google Apps products, create and use tools such as social bookmarking, advanced searching, discussion boards, wikis, blogs, screencast software, and other web tools that they might have chosen. Students had to create a tutorial in whatever fashion they wanted that would walk a person (like grandma) through setting up a social bookmarking account and why you would use it or a wiki, etc. Each project they completed needed a tutorial to go with it. Students also built e-portfolios and reflected on their work.

The objective of this course was to create high school Help Desk trainers for our high school. We knew we needed more than the four Tech Coaches and the four IT guys to keep the district running and make sure that 2400 Chromebooks were functional and being utilized. Some of our students really excelled with the online learning and some found it wasn’t for them yet. Our Help Desk students are now ‘certified’ by us to train other students, go into classrooms and help the teachers with the technology, and do some of the basic troubleshooting or maintenance on the Chromebooks. We have two retired teachers who will supervise the Help Desk, while the Tech Coaches are out and about. I’m pretty excited to see these students flourish and continue to add to their portfolios. 

The summer also saw me spending an abundance of time working with the Common Core math curriculum. The math scores in our district need a boost and the staff were asking for new strategies and resources. I took a lot of time and built a website for the staff with lesson plans, resources, interactive games & manipulations that are all tied to each individual common core standard for K-8. I wasn’t what you would call a “math” person before doing all of this work, but I fell in love with the CC math curriculum and the resources I was finding. I haven’t released it to the district yet, mainly because I’m nervous about what people are going to think. Lame. Yes, I know. The few staff members that I have shared it with are loving it and have told me that I need to sell it. Anyone know how I can do this? 🙂 

August 1 this year found me at EdCamp Oshkosh. #Oshedcamp. Thanks to the Oshkosh staff members Lexi Ballweg (@lexiballweg), Kristi Levy (@KristiLevy), Jeff See (@JeffreyASee), and Nicholas Levy for making that such a great experience for me! It was my first EdCamp and I was happy to be having wonderful conversation with people who really wanted to be there and who wanted to drive their own learning and professional development. If you have a chance, don’t just go to an EdCamp, RUN there. 

This next month will see a lot of changes in my department. We’re in the midst of re-structuring or re-organizing our ISC (instructional support center), our director of curriculum will change due to a retirement (We’ll miss you John! and Welcome Danica!), and we have 2400 Chromebooks being distributed in the next month. Over the next few weeks, my team will be working with administrators by themselves to help them learn more technology; we’ll be holding technology PD sessions on Google Apps, Flipping the Classroom, SMARTboards, Haiku training, and even a Tech Unconference. We’re finalizing our registration day plans for the high school as well as our Chromebook roll-out in September. 

My goal and I’m posting it publicly is to blog twice a week. After being at EdCamp Oshkosh, I know that I have a lot to say and I know a lot more than I thought I did. So keep watching for new posts!

On a personal note, I will also be blogging about my personal life. Why? Because I want to keep a record of my boys. They are four and two and crazy. I never knew the things that would come out of my mouth as the mother of two boys. I will also be blogging about freezer meals (I’m a once a month cook), whole foods cooking, and gardening. 


Why We Data Dig

Data has always fascinated me. The telling facts of what is being done well or really wrong. That the data can be misconstrued to tell a whole different story depending on how you look at it. The way my teaching has evolved because of the data.

I started collecting my own personal data with my students when I started teaching keyboarding. I kept track of their words per minute weekly, their average, growth, and tied it to their technique as well. Over the years, as I became more comfortable analyzing my data and seeing where students were lacking, I understood where I needed to adjust my teaching strategies. I started really focusing on where each individual student was and what I needed to do to get them to the next level and see their growth. My differentiation techniques expanded. I became less afraid to try new things. Why? The new things I was trying with students helped students to grow exponetially, and the climate in my room was that of the students really taking ownership of their learning. They were happy; they were having dialogue about what they were doing differently; they said thank you!

When I started the job as a Technology Coach, I was afraid that I would lose being able to have that data to work with and to improve myself. However, our Instructional Support Center staff has included me in many of our data digs. I have been digging deeply into our WKCE scores, MAP data at the middle schools and the Plan/Explore data at the high school over the past few months.

In my data digging, I found that we have some areas to work on. But, who doesn’t? That’s why we collect data and analyze it. So we can improve. By digging into the data, I’ve become astounded at just how different our students are from each other. And that staff don’t always see that if a student isn’t doing his/her work that the student still might know the material really well.

At our district Data Festival this past week, I watched my colleagues take in the data we had and that we’d been looking at for months. I watched their shocked faces when they realized what the students will need to score proficient on our upcoming state tests. I listened to their amazing conversations about what they can do differently next year with moving to block scheduling and having an I/E block built into their schedules. I helped staff find and manipulate the data to meet students where they are and brainstormed ways to help them grow. I witnessed the complete and total caring for each and every student in our district.

So my task for myself this summer is to continue to analyze the data I have and look at ways to support the staff and students with technology. I’m working on creating a site for the common core math standards and types of lessons, games, tutorials, etc. can be used in across the grade levels. I’m finding more ways to use technology for formative assessments and provide students a larger variety of formative assessments. I’m finding resources that can be used for I/E blocks.

I know that with the wonderful, caring staff that we have and the best resources possible (plus that 86 minute class and I/E blocks!), we will see tremendous growth in our students.



Reflections of My Career Decisions

Yuangshuo Village & Li River. Yuangshuo Village & Li River – Flickr Creative Commons

The past few weeks have been a daily struggle for me as I look at my career choices and where I want to go with my career and how I need to proceed to get there. My need for change is evident. Change in what sense, is a whole different issue. I’m not entirely positive exactly what I’m looking for.

Two years ago, I knew that being a Business/Marketing Ed teacher, my position would possibly be on the chopping block one day. I was tired of never knowing if I’d get cut, or be forced to travel again. I was the only one in my department in my building. One is a lonely number when you are trying to collaborate. And let’s face it, sixth grade keyboarding after six years tends to not be very interesting any longer. Because I was losing my interest in my content quickly,  I knew this was my catalyst for the change I needed to make. As I watched my colleagues teaching the core content areas, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I enrolled at the University of Oshkosh through their Excel Program and in one year earned my General Education license (777 license) for grades 1-8.

I started contemplating what I wanted to do with this new licensure. Stay teaching keyboarding for a few more years until some positions opened up in my building or other buildings or make a move to a new school, grade level, or even a new district. After much discussion with my husband, we felt that one more year where I was, mainly to see what would happen with the politics in the state, was my best option. And then my world was turned upside down!  My district decided to change a few of the Library Media Specialist positions into four Instructional Technology Integration Specialists. Hello dream job! After more discussions in our household and much uncertainty for the future, I applied and was accepted to be a member of my now wonderful ‘Tech Team.’

The past nine months have been a whirlwind of change, growing, and reflecting for me. The district tasked us with getting a 1:1 program up and running, and coaching our staff in how to integrate technology into their classrooms. Two huge feats that we’ve managed to concur this year. Next year, we will be running the largest Chromebook 1:1 program in Wisconsin, with roughly 2200 devices in our high school. We’ve created an amazing amount of professional development for our staff and have remained focused on the tasks we have been given.

My job has continued to be my dream job. I am still able to be in the classroom (although I hope more of this happens next year), I get to train teachers which, it turns out, I love, and I get to play with cool technology all day. However, something just isn’t right. What do I need to change?

The past six weeks has had me trying to really figure this out. Our middle schools will be on a block schedule next year – 86 minutes to a class period and there are English positions open. I’ve thought about going back to the classroom. I can’t lie about that. This sounds like an amazing thing, made more amazing with the fact that I’d be teaming with some of my favorite people in the world. After serious consideration, I thought I had made my decision. I was going back to the classroom. I had everything in place and ready to go, except for the conversation I was dreading….the one with my boss. The conversation went  well and he made me realize that I was running away from my dream job simply because I was scared of the future. My thoughts started to turn back to staying where I was. I mean, could I really leave without getting to fully see what our high school would look like as a 1:1 environment?

Then, I received a colleague’s Techie Bucket List for next year and I was reminded of why I love my job. She wants to blog with her students, use Twitter, flip her classroom for at least a unit, create a personal blog, and work more with digital stories. Yep, she is pretty incredible. I know that she is beyond capable of doing these all on her own, but the fact that she wants my input means a ton. My job allows me to fully support her in whatever she needs to meet her tech goals. My job is flexible enough that I am able to actually team teach with her if she wants me to. If I were teaming with her at the middle school, I wouldn’t have this flexibility and I’d be bogged down with the daily stresses of teaching my own classroom and wouldn’t be able to support her goals. Here, I get to make sure that I making her life and the lives of my colleagues easier as they increase their technology integration in their classrooms.

I also realized after reading her bucket list, that I knew what else was missing. This is the first year I have not taken at least one class since my start of kindergarten in 1986. I know that I am – yes, that corny life long learner phrase – and need to have that stimulation. My colleague and I have taken several classes together over the years to keep current on technology integration and she was my reminder that this was the first year we didn’t have class together. Recently, I have started thinking about a possible second Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I’m fascinated with curriculum, instruction and assessment and love to coach others in creating new instructional methods and utilizing what they are doing and cultivating those into best practices. This second Masters degree is on hold unfortunately until political pieces change or my children are out of daycare. Unless I can find a grant to go back to school again.

My need for change is not a physical need. It’s a mental one. My job has been consumed by setting the particulars of a huge 1:1 rollout and working with staff that are resistant at times about changing their methods, only because they haven’t taught in an environment where students all have access to a device at all times.  Next year, I believe my job will have a new ‘feel’ to it. We are seeing more staff begging for the technology now and wanting to use it and are asking for help and taking advantage of professional development opportunities. My job will focus on my talents and strengths next year and therefore, I’m hoping, provide that mental change I am craving.

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!

Jigsaws and Technology

Freaking out over how to use technology effectively in a 1-1 initiative? Feeling scared that you don’t know the technology well enough to teach it to the students? Have no fear….a simple solution is here! And, it supports the 4 C’s: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Communication.

Jigsaws are a fantastic differentiation strategy for any classroom, not just a 1-1 classroom. Jigsaws keep students engaged by having students become the experts. How? Split your class into several groups (3-6 students per group). From there, assign each student a certain topic to become an expert in. This student meets with students from the other groups that were assigned the same topic to form an expert group. The expert groups learn everything they can about their topics together. After being a part of the expert group, students go back to their original groups and teach the other group members everything they learned.

Courtesy of: 2differentiate

Courtesy of: 2differentiate

Amazing? Yep. Super easy, super fun and challenges the students. Students want to showcase their knowledge to other students. They want to collaborate and learn from each other. We, as educators, are no longer the keepers of knowledge. We are mentors and advisors. It’s okay to step back and let your students take complete ownership over their learning.

Now, how does this technique fit with technology and your apprehension with having to know all of this technology? Here’s the catch… don’t have to know everything about technology; you don’t even have to know a lot! Why? The students are already experts and if they aren’t, they catch on extremely quickly by playing on their own and are always beyond excited to reverse roles with you and be your teacher and have you as their student.

An example of this: you know you want your students to present the research they have just done. PowerPoint is what you immediately think of. However, PowerPoint will probably be the death of society. Be creative. Let the students decide which software, website, etc. to use to present. You could offer up suggestions on ones you’ve heard about: PhotoPeach, SlideRocket, Animoto, VoiceThread, Glogster, and Prezi. You can learn ONE. Tell your students that you are an expert in Prezi, but know these other tools are pretty awesome and that you would love for them to teach the class and yourself how to use them. Watch the hands fly up and volunteer to think outside of the box, learn on their own and then the excitement they get from teaching you and their classmates. You could easily group them with this as well. You five can use PhotoPeach; you five can learn Animoto.

As you go into a technology project, remind students that you are not the expert in all of these sites/programs, etc. They will still respect you and love you even more for your honesty and showing that you are still a learner.

Good luck and have fun! Watch the enthusiasm from your students!

Hello world!

Google +, Twitter, Facebook, Storify, Glogster, Spresent, ScreenToaster, Jing, Ning.

Web 2.0 tools have clouded my brain. I guess this should be expected since I am one of the new Instructional Technology Integration Specialists. So many cool things that I’m struggling to wrap my brain around where to start. The ideas that I’m finding to integrate into our secondary classrooms are phenomenal. I want to just dive right in and start working with teachers and students, but know that my team and I need to start getting the ground work laid if we want to be successful.

I feel like one of the most important steps for me is to utilize every piece (okay, so a lot of pieces because I still need a semi-normal life) of Web 2.0 technology that I can so I am able to demonstrate to staff, students and the community why technology integration is so important to enhance a student learning.

My goals for this first year:

1. Become a Google Certified Teacher

2. Create a professional learning community with professionals around the world

3. Actually get to know some of the real people involved in that professional learning community

4. Run a book study or online Web 2.0 professional development course for our district

5. To attend as many tech conferences as my district will allow

6. To obtain any training that my district is going to send me to/provide for me

7. To help make the push for 1-1 computing in our district and get it up and running