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!

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.