Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another set of conferences done and gone.

I've been in a whirlwind the past two weeks as I have traveled to the MOREnet conference in St. Louis for a few days and then back to my stomping grounds for ITEC in Des Moines.

I'm conferenced out...which means it's a great time for me to sit and reflect on what I walked away with.

Let's start with my St. Louis adventures:

What did I walk away with? Ummmm I met a lot of educators while at the conference, which is always fun. Yet, I walked away feeling a sense of "you have to be kidding me" after a few tough conversations. Conversations of 'we are prepping kids for college, we don't need games in the classroom' conversations. I strongly believe that there is a huge disconnect between k-12 education and post-secondary education. Which is interesting because I will argue that neither of them really prepare our students for the 'real world'. So maybe there isn't that much of a disconnect....

One of the conversations I participated in was with a 'tech coach' at a prep school that was very adamant that they would not go 1:1, nor use learning management systems because they were preparing students for college. I would be lying if I said the conversations wasn't very difficult to partake in but that it didn't scare the hell out of me. Don't get me wrong, I get it: it's not always about the technology to get a great education. Yet, I have a hard time agreeing that integrating technology into education does not provide epic opportunities for students, educators...and oh wait everyone involved! There are plenty of great educators out there that don't have iPads in their classroom or a set of Chromebooks..yes I know that. Maybe it was the way this 'model' was presented was what was so frustrating to me.

As for ITEC, I seriously LOVED both of the Keynotes. The biggest take away from these keynote presentations was that they opened the door to let other educators see their journey. Where they started, the ah-ha moments, and where they are at now. I have a real hard time understanding complacency in education for both students and educators (whether it's a principal or a teacher) Learning shouldn't be stagnant or complacent. Which leads to my frustration with participants at any conference...I don't like sit-n-git sessions. I don't like being spoken at...I want to be involved. There are some sessions that are meant to be informative, I know this..because I presented an informative session. Is it bad that I want to ask people to not get their computers out though? Like, hey..engage in this with me by not staring at your screen. That'd be great, thanks!

Or when you tell the audience "Hey, the purpose of this session is a conversation" and then they stare at you with disgust. I'm going to go with "Yes, I'm challenging them!" vs "They hate me."...and I suppose as long as I have one with a big take-away, then I have to think yay! But at the same time I don't understand why as educators we can't model what we preach we want for our students. Engage people! ENGAGE!




Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Finally, a moment to sit down

The past 10 days have been intense, so I came into work early this morning solely to blog. Yay Mande!

So let's back up a few days as I spent some time at Leyden High School which is just outside of Chicago for their 1:1 Summer Symposium. I was only there for a day - which was a day that I presented but walked away with so much. The opening keynote was given by Steve Dembo (tech42). I had never heard him speak and had not followed him on Twitter - don't worry..that has quickly changed...he was marvelous! I have been told that I am really energetic in my presentations and that energy is contagious...so I totally vibe with people who share a passion and expose it during their presentations. He just rocked it. I walked away with a few things that I have been sharing with people every day since.

I sat in on the Leyden Student Tech group session (also known as TSI). It's a solid program. I'm slightly obsessed with student lead tech groups and wish I had access to continue working with one. The middle school tech group I worked with in my previous district was really hard to walk away from. They were such a passionate, funny, and excited group of students that wanted to conquer the world. I learned a lot from my attempt to create a high school student tech group and it failed, miserably really, rather quickly. As I am typing this, I definitely want to get with the tech director at Leyden to see if I can get like a 'business' model of TSI to comb through. I have spent some time with the instructional tech coach at BHS - their model works if you have one teacher..but that takes away from the role of the instructional tech coach...so it's a solid combination of the two from BHS and Leyden.

My session followed the lunch. You know..it's always a toss up when you present at a place where no one knows you. I mean, yeah I'm on a Twitter...but I'm not Alice Keeler or Scott McCleod with thousands of followers. I'm just me. So I woke up really thinking, well...it'll be a good day if 5 people show up. We can just do mini break outs of the add-ons -- boom solid plan. Then 12:30 rolled around and the classroom I was in - CRAMMED WITH PEOPLE. Oh, yeah..crammed with Chromebooks. (And go figure, I didn't have my Chromebook charger..so lesson learned on that one) I didn't get through as much but I think that's awesome because we were able to take an in depth look at Doctopus and Goobric as an addition to Classroom. So many great questions of "why do you use this" and "what does this look like for.." THOSE, my dear readers, are the questions I love. The technical questions are a given - they will always be there...but when we start questioning what a tool looks like as a resource to better something...it's magic.

You can find all my resources here

The final part of the day I did not plan on staying for as I had to drive back to Milwaukee (but wait, you live in Johnston...yeah, well that's another story) but I am SO glad I did. Leyden had a student panel and they were brutally honest - and the teachers were so receptive. This is something that doesn't happen often. If you know me, then you know my passion for student voice. It was probably one of the best things I have ever participated in.

Overall, Leyden just has it going on. The teachers there were ready to learn and willing to learn. I wish I had spent more time there but there is always next year!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The ball is in your court Google..

So I submitted my application to become a Google Certified Trainer today. This is a big deal to me. The last five years I have devoted to learning the ins-and-outs of GAFE as I really wanted to be the best tech coach in whatever district I was in or at whatever event I was at...the more time has gone on I've changed that "wanted to be the best tech coach" to just being someone that can see power in the tools.

So...why is this such a big deal?

Well I finally feel like I have enough experience to really put that title next to my name. Anyone can take the tests, pass, and say "I'm a certified educator"..or whatever...but the process Google puts out there to become certified teachers and trainers is intense (in my opinion). Maybe I'm just a bit over critical to these things but I want to represent myself the best way possible...and you only get 3 minutes to do so.

Plus: I'm a really young educator.

So there is kind of a stigma with that...I"m young, I screw up..but oh wait - I'm really passionate about what I do. I'm also very knowledgeable about integrating technology into your workflow, classroom, whatever.

So now I get to sit.

and wait.
....until September 9th.


Oh jeesh.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I miss the classroom

As a technology trainer, there are times that I really miss having my own classroom. I miss having my own classroom all the time but I really love what I do....and then there was yesterday. I have spent the past two days chatting with my younger sister, a second year teacher, about setting up a Google Site for her classroom. In a proud big sister moment, she convinced her principal to get her 5th grade team enough chromebooks to be 1:1 - high five! However, I want to make sure she knows what she is in for because getting something like that (and being the only class in the district with the tools) is a big deal, so she needs to come out guns ablazin'!

We started chatting about how students can reflect on their work (she primarily focuses on Math as a content teacher)...

Math, you tricky content you....

It's the one content area that I feel like I have to get super creative to find real use of non traditional technology to get buy in from teachers...in every scenario of "what about this"I hear any of the following:

1. I just don't see why I would have them work a problem, take a picture of it, and submit it.
2. I need them to complete the worksheets...it's good practice.
3. ....but I already have the worksheets printed.

and really my list goes on for a while. So it's refreshing to have someone listen to me and say, "that really makes sense to use a,b and c"

Integrating technology into the classroom isn't really about just the technology, promise. If that's what you think it is about - please close the laptop and put it away. Integrating technology into the classroom supports two huge things: lower level thinking to higher level thinking (goodbye worksheets and hello creation, collaboration, and reflection!) and a shift of classroom agency. That means we no longer have this teacher centered classroom and a student driven learning environment. As a teacher, I really shouldn't be saying "but I taught them that". I should hear the students tell me about what they are learning. Those two statements are very different. I can tell you that a sixth grader read Too Kill a Mockingbird - but reading and comprehending are two different things. Memorizing vocabulary words for a quiz is different then creating an environment where the verbiage is used and fostered.

I'm really passionate about this and when I present tools - this is the drive behind it. So if you see me in the next few months (because I'm on the move, watch out Chicago and St. Louis), just know this is what to expect from a session with me. I can show you as many tools as you want - but I REALLY want to talk about WHY I use Google Apps in the way I do...and it's two sided - it will make your life a bit easier but if done right it will change the way your classroom works.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Scheduling an email to send later in Gmail

How to schedule messages to send at a later time:

I had a colleague ask me about scheduling emails to send at a later time in Gmail. In Outlook, got it...but in Gmail I had no idea. So I did some Googling and found a few scripts. Some were really simple, but they were not consistent. Then I found this gem Gmail Scheduler. It’s a script but it uses a Google Sheet to organize and function.

Let’s take a look

Create an email in your gmail account. When you have the email complete don’t send it, just save it to your drafts.

Now we are going to set up the Gmail Scheduler:

  1. First you will need to make a copy of the Google Sheet (click here)
  2. When you open the sheet you will need to adjust your timezone. To do this go to File > Spreadsheet settings and select your timezone from the dropdown. This is important so that emails will be scheduled for your timezone.
  3. At the top of the Sheet, click on Gmail Scheduler. The first thing you must do is authorize the script to run. This means you are giving permission for the tool to pull emails into the sheet to schedule.
What does this look like? A pop-up window will appear, scroll down and click the  blue button.
  1. Now, choose Fetch Messages from the Gmail Scheduler option. This will import all draft messages from your Gmail account into the Google Sheet. If you have drafts in your gmail account that you don’t need sent out, you can delete them from the Sheet.
Warning:  DO NOT edit emails that are in your draft after you schedule them. It  will not deliver them and take them out of the ‘queue’. If you need to edit a draft, you will need to go through this process again to reschedule your scheduled message.
  1. Now you can set the date and time you would like the message to be sent. In column D on the Google Sheet, you will be able to double-click on the cell to use the date picker and manually enter the time you want the email sent. The time works in a 24 hour format. Make sure that your date and time meet the criteria for formatting.
  2. Finally, go back to the Gmail Scheduler and click Schedule Messages. The app will run and you will see “scheduled ….” in column E on the sheet.

The great thing about this is you can create recurring emails to be sent out easily with this in one swift move.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Fresh Start...

Not exactly how I wanted to start a new blog but my previous account was deleted...soooo here I am, blog #573920. It's cool.

This past year has been quite the learning experience working again as a K-12 instructional tech coach in a different district in central(ish) Iowa. I learned a lot about what I don't like about education. I think a lot of people are having these revelations this year...so here is my top 5:

5. There is a huge break down in administration, communication, and vision in a lot of school districts.

I think we all know that there are phases in education and we go from one thing to another. It's one big stupid bandwagon. However, the vision a superintendent has seems to be really different than a tech director, building admin, and teachers....don't forget the most important people: the students! What does it take to get on the same page and stay there?

4. Technology and I have a love/hate relationship in the classroom.
I just saw at ISTE 'advertisement' for "How the Apple Watch can change your classroom"...Awesome. Well we can hardly afford the devices we have so YES ISTE please tell me that we need to purchase a class set of touch screen watches and I will see my students engaged and academically successful magically. Oh puulleeaasseeee. As an instructional technologist, I feel like this propaganda and silliness makes my job so much more difficult. Teachers get so overwhelmed by technology. Technology shouldn't be a bandwagon tool in the classroom. EVER.

3. Grades are dumb.

I had a situation this school year where two students were banned from using any technology at school per parent request. They were both in a 1:1 environment where teachers were relying on Google Classroom and GAFE, not to mention a 21st century skills class that involved learning javascript. We can accommodate in most situations to meet those needs but what about in a world that technology isn't really an option? So for the 21st century skills class I asked the teacher what he was doing as these two students couldn't participate and complete the assignments - he was giving them zeros. He didn't know what else to do....so I spoke with the admin and it was the toughest conversation I have had in my career because we were suppose to let these kids fail because their parents sucked. Are you KIDDING me? What about the student that found the Khan Academy answers on Google while his neighbor actually watched the video and worked through the activity? They both get A's? What does an A even mean? I mean REALLY?! What's the difference between a 89% and a 90%? Stress, that's the difference. Ugh I just don't get them...PLUS the grades don't even matter until high school, kids pass regardless. So that's a good infrastructure for students: don't do your grades - you pass to the next grade level; do the work - you pass to the next grade level. AWESOME.

2. Staff should have each other's backs.

Gossip and negativity are something that run deep in some schools. We've all had bad days, we've all gotten really frustrated at a situation, don't crucify each other though. Empathize. What can we do to help each other? How can we support each and every teacher, student, classroom, para, etc etc. I've seen more deception in the past year then I EVER want to see again - it's a scary place to be...and to think, that's a place we want our kids to come and feel safe, alive, and loved.

Yeah, okay.

1. There are too many books on Google Apps out there and I don't like them.
I try to keep a pretty small library of literature pertaining to apps - whether it's Google, Apple, Microsoft, whatever. It's pointless. By the time I get through one book it's "50 things you can do in the Google Classroom 4.0", screw that. That's someones living, I get that and I'm glad you are successful in spamming my Twitter feed with out of date tutorials for this-that-or the other in whatever tool...but I don't care what your trick is, I want to know how it supports student learning or simplifies the teacher workflow. That's what I care about...so just take that book...and...

have a great day.