WI STEM Summit Recap


This last week I was able to attend the WI STEM Summit in Wisconsin Dells for two days. I was a little unsure of what I would gain from going to a STEM conference at first, but then was reminded that between my knowledge in technology and project based learning, I’d be a good fit at a conference like this.

The first keynote speaker was Murray Banks. Murray spoke of Reenergizing and Refocusing. He discussed GG – also known as group griping. I realized that I do this and many staff do it. It made me realize that I need to remember to adopt a positive attitude all the time. I’m struggling with this this week, but I’m trying to remember the old phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.”

I enjoyed Murray’s speech and wanted to hear more about what he thought about Inspirational Leadership in his roundtable discussion during the first breakout session. I was with a small group and Murray reminded us that we are in tough positions. I didn’t take away anything amazing from the session. Great conversation, but nothing that was above and beyond what I thought/knew already. Except that I should apparently not wear high heels into the Tech Ed classrooms because you should dress closer to what the people you are talking to wear. I have to wear safety glasses, I am not ready to give up heels yet.

Fast forward to after lunch to a breakout session on the Next Generation Science Standards. I believe that I may have slept with my eyes open. You can always tell when presenters haven’t been in a classroom in a long time, or ever.

Third session of the first day was from Project Lead the Way. I knew a little about PLTW, but was hoping to get more in depth into what they actually do. Not so much. This felt more like a sales pitch than anything else. I did steal some great ideas from what they are doing though: Mom’s Night Out, lots of PR pieces, etc.

The second day of the conference yielded much better sessions for me (or maybe I just got better at picking them….depends on how you want to look at it). Our keynote speaker on day two was Marc Prensky. Marc was a great keynote speaker! His focus was on using technology for more than trivial things. He engaged us with active learning strategies throughout his entire presentation. C’mon….how many keynote speakers know the phrase and actively do it? This was pretty great. My take away from Marc was “If you did the same thing before computers and now it’s just on the computer, it’s trivial and not helping students.” So true.

After the keynote, I went to the first session given by Florentia Spires about STEM schools in an urban setting. If you have the chance to hear her speak, you had better take it. Wow! She was one of the best speakers I’ve been to in awhile. She was very articulate and intelligent in the topic. She used a group active learning strategy of actually engineering a tower during the allotted and how it tied in. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. She sparked many ideas for me.

The next session I attended was with Marc Prensky. A very small, think five people, roundtable discussion about the Yes, Buts… in education. Marc is very knowledgeable and personable. We discussed our 1:1 rollout with Chromebooks and different ideas that we could take back with us. I already have my students working on some of them now!

The last session I headed to was about turning your classroom into a total tech paradise in one year with Krista Moroder. I was very excited to attend this session as I’ve heard Krista speak at other conferences and EdCamps in the area. She started out really strong and I loved the first part of her presentation and then you could tell she got a bit rattled when people left the presentation and lost her oomph to present. When she started walking people through Google Apps and how to create documents, I left. Being a Google Certified Trainer myself, I didn’t feel like that was the best use of my time. Sorry Krista!

All in all, I’d say Day 2 was very intriguing for me and Day 1 was just there. I enjoyed learning about everything and had some wonderful take away ideas that maybe someday I’ll get to implement when I’m coaching staff. One can hope.

 

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.

 

Reflections of My Career Decisions


Yuangshuo Village & Li River. Yuangshuo Village & Li River
taoism.about.com – 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.