Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Twitter for PD

In this age of digital learning, I find my greatest ideas through the conversations and interactions with other educators across the globe. Today, students and teachers have the day off in our district for the UCI Road World Championships, an international bike race that is literally rolling down one of the main streets in our community. So exciting!

As my children enjoy their morning of sleeping in, I am connecting and learning in my own space, on my own time. Below are four things I discovered that inspire me to dig deeper and reach higher!

My #1 resource for finding inspiration is Twitter, without exception. Yes, I know, Pinterest is fun to pin ideas, but my Twitter PLN (Personal Learning Network) shows me how those ideas are put into practice, with reflections of success and failures. Two years ago, I had a Twitter account but couldn't remember my password. Today I can't imagine being a life-long learner without it.

Last year I connected with Margaret Sisler (@techy_margaret) when I saw her tweet out a photo of a Twitter bird cookie cutter her students made with a 3D printer in school. (I immediately made a monetary donation to the school so I could have one, too!) 

Since then I've followed her and others as they've contributed to #novaedchat and grown their passion for Twitter into a #TwitterPartyPD. Such fun! The ideas shared by Margaret and her teammates Sam Wightman (@thatswightman) and Kendra Murphy (@techinteaching) keep me motivated throughout the week. I love how educators are using Twitter to enhance their professional knowledge and expertise - it's inspiring to see teachers and district leaders connecting and sharing in real time. I would love to get a Twitter Party going in HCPS! Who's with me?

Looking for a fun way to bring global collaboration into the classroom? This engaging activity has one class a day, per grade, tweet out a math word problem while other classes around the world respond through tweets and pics to show how they solved the problem. It's a quick, fun way to practice math skills while also realizing how "big" this world can be, connecting students in a unique collaborative sharing experience!

Created by Beverly Ladd (@BevLadd) and Heidi Samuelson (@swampfrogkids), this project has potential to go viral! Who knew critical thinking could be so enjoyable for students? If you are interested in jumping in and not sure how to start, send me an email at and I'll help you get connected. If you don't have a Twitter account, no problem! We can get you up and running with your own account or you can post tweets through mine!

(As a side note, meeting Beverly at the ISTE Conference this summer was one of the highlights from my trip!)

This morning I saw a tweet posted by VSTE World Headquarters (@vste) referencing an Edutopia article about implementing innovation. As a tech integrator, my job is to constantly look for ways to bring the outside world into the classroom, to prepare students and teachers for the tasks and skills necessary to function in a changing digital world. This article was great because it addressed the challenges people face when change is imminent and how to ease the growing pains often associated with new ideas and concepts.

I often hear from teachers that districts keep "adding to the plate" without taking anything away. What if, however, the new initiatives being introduced actually made a teacher's job so efficient they wouldn't need to use the tools of decades past? In the art of empowering teachers to have choice, we often forget to remind them that choice includes letting go of whatever doesn't work or fails to meet the goals and purpose of a lesson or unit.

My hope as a tech integrator is to inspire teachers to try new things, to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn, and to take a tiny step in a positive direction to make teaching and learning more powerful, more relevant, and more engaging for students and teachers alike.

Looking for weekly inspiration? Check in to Twitter on Fridays with the hashtag #FlyHighFri to read about the positive moments in teachers' classrooms throughout the week. This global sharing opportunity was created by fellow educator and friend, Justin Birckbichler (@Mr_B_Teacher) who recognized the power of positivity for keeping the educational boat afloat through calm and tumultuous seas. (Yes, that was a bit of Dave Burgess' #tlap mindset slipping through with that last sentence, but it fits!)  I encourage you to post the highlights of your week with the hashtag #FlyHighFri or consider starting a FHF club at your own school to promote kindness and positive actions all year long.

We're all in this together! Connect with me through Twitter (@HCPSTinyTech) or email ( and let's get this party started with PD and new ideas for the classrom! 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Reflections

Ahhhhh - we made it to Friday! Hip, hip hooray! I had fun showing second graders the basics of using Pixie this week - they explored the different backgrounds and practiced adding/resizing/rotating images as well as experimenting with the paint tools. It seemed like our 40 minute lesson was over before it started; we were having such a great time learning!

I spent much of my week working on iPads for Title 1 teachers. We have 40 new iPads in our building and I'm responsible for the setup and cloning of each. This may not seem like a big deal (after all, when you purchase one for personal use you simply turn the device on and walk through the steps on the screen, right?) Unfortunately, setting up an iDevice for school use is a bit more cumbersome as you have to manually create Gmail accounts, iTunes accounts, as well as manually download/organize each app then adjust settings to match district specifications. We also have to sync the device with our online management system before we can back up and clone. Only then can we sync and continue the process again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Each step in this process takes TIME. Lots of time, actually. It's a methodical process that sometimes goes awry when little glitches happen here and there (i.e. iTunes needs to be updated, parental locks need to be unlocked, you get called out to assist a teacher then forget where you left off in the process, etc.) Then, when you finally find your groove, the inevitable happens...

Apple releases a new update.

While some of you may be cheering from the rooftops about this latest and greatest update, my task just became more cumbersome because it takes FOREVER to download updates on an iPad, especially over a wifi hotspot that may or may not have consistent cell coverage. 

It. Just. Takes. Time.

I describe these tasks not in a negative light, but rather a realistic view of my job requirements this time of year. I do my best to put teacher requests first, to meet the instructional needs of students, but it becomes a delicate balancing act sometimes when those instructional needs can't be met because the devices aren't ready for use.

In the midst of updating iPads, I continue to collaborate in classroom lessons, attend grade level meetings, and provide professional development as requested. This afternoon the elementary ITRTs gathered to learn more about Blogger, Google's blogging platform. As many of you know, our previous blogging platform of choice, Kidblog, is now a paid-for-use site, so we've been discussing various options for teachers and students so that they can both continue digital writing in and out of the classroom. 

All in all, it was a great week, celebrated with my favorite Starbucks drink - a Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks. Ahhhhhh... so nice!

I'm looking forward to new adventures next week and maybe, just maybe, the iOS updates will move a wee bit faster so we can get these devices into student hands soon. Until then, I'll keep plugging away (pun intended!) and hope for the best!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

International Dot Day

Today I visited with two teachers celebrating International Dot Day, based on the children's book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

This story tells the tale of a student who was frustrated by her lack of drawing skills. When her teacher frames the paper containing her single dot, she suddenly has a new appreciation for the boundless limits of her creativity. What a delightful and inspiring message to share with students! 

Mrs. Brown's second grade class listened to the story, then created their individual dots to form a paper class quilt:

(If you'd like to hear the story and see the individual dots created, click here.)

As a culminating activity, Mrs. Brown's class used Skype to connect with Ms. Grimes' class in Asheville, NC to share their dots with each other:

This was the first time Mrs. Brown's class used Skype; it made for an exciting morning indeed! Mrs. Brown and I made sure to wear our "dots" as well:

In Art class, Ms. Candler read The Dot to students then provided watercolors, crayons, markers, and more for students to explore their dot creativity: 

It was such a joy to see all the smiling faces of children enjoying their artwork! A special thanks to author Peter H. Reynolds for sharing his story with the world and inspiring students to shine with their own self-confidence!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

ITRT Website

One of the initiatives our ITRT Team has this year is to create a stronger digital presence that would also provide easy access to links and materials to support our mission of technology integration. Today I created a website using Google Sites and shared it with my team so we could collaborate and expand the site as a valuable resource for those we serve.

I have to say, being a neophyte to Google Sites, there is a bit of a learning curve when creating a website from scratch. There are SO many options to choose from and I spent much of my time clicking the wrong entry points, but I eventually made my way through. I'm excited about this new venture, to see how it will grow as the year advances!

If you'd like to take a peek, click here! We have many more things to add, so check back often!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

BYOD for Family Life

Today's BYOD training session with our four Family Life teachers was such fun! We began our learning with an overview of digital citizenship expectations and how to explain them to students of various ages. I used the image above from the Elk Grove Unified School District blog page to simplify the conversation into four categories: Cyberbullying, Digital Footprint, Protecting Privacy and Intellectual Property. This led to a sidebar conversation of how to use the advanced search features of Google to locate images that are free to use or modify (Intellectual Property). There were several "ah-ha!" moments before we even began our platform training!

The training theme was BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and my focus as a trainer was to provide resources that traveling teachers could use in any classroom, with any students, on any device. So many times I find teachers equating "BYOD" with iPad apps, but most students are bringing their cell phones to school, not iPads! I find it challenging sometimes to find an app that is "device agnostic" (thanks, Heather, for the catch-phrase!). With that in mind, I focused the training on web-based applications that could be engaging, yet relative to the content being taught.

Our first tool was Kahoot, which we explored as students and teachers. If you haven't explored this tool, it's a "must-have" for student engagement, allowing the class to individually respond to questions in a timed, game-based format. All the Family Life teachers created their own Kahoots and learned how to share with one another - it was exciting to see how many Kahoots were publicly available (we pushed it over to 3000.2K in our training today!)

Our next tool was Answer Garden, a quick and easy way for students to respond to a teacher-generated question with all the answers creating a word cloud. We brainstormed some common first week of school questions like "What worries you most about middle school?" and "If you were being bullied, who would you tell?" We also talked about how to use the url shortener Bitly to create a concise URL for students to type into their phone's web browser.

We finished our session by exploring Padlet where the teachers shared their thoughts about today's training.

It was a very productive morning of training! As follow-up with the Family Life teachers, we are offering an afternoon of independent exploration (with me as facilitator and coach, if needed) as well as training in Google Forms and Google Calendar since this is our first year as a GAFE district. These trainings will be spread throughout the year to give the Family Life teachers opportunity to try out the tools and find the best fit for their curricular needs.

If you would like resources from this training, please click here to access my presentation. Feel free to RT this blog post to your other teacher friends, too - we can learn and grow together!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

PD for a Purpose

Last week our teachers returned to work with two full days of professional development. As an ITRT, this is one of our busiest times of the year as professional development is the foundation of our mission statement:

I was delighted to assist Jamie Mullenaux in her Google Classroom sessions on Thursday as we showed teachers how easy it is to use Google products for class communication and collaboration. As an Edmodo Ambassador, I'm interested in comparing the two platforms to guide teachers in their decision-making as to which tool is a best fit for their needs.

Friday was a fun day for me as I began by sharing a session on blogging - my passion! Sadly, Kidblog is no longer a free platform this school year so my training had to shift focus a bit, spending more time exploring a multitude of platforms, emphasizing Kidblog and Blogger. (I'm still trying to figure out how to make Blogger work for students since they can't receive the gmail notification to be added as an author to a teacher blog.)

The afternoon continued the fun as a new group arrived to learn how social media can be used in a positive way to enhance professional development. We explored various platforms, including my favorite - Twitter, and soaked up more learning than our brains could contain thanks to the collaborative efforts of my own virtual PLN who generously shared their resources! We even tweeted out a selfie to capture our joy of learning!

To round out a fabulous day of learning and sharing, I finally got to eat a Carytown Cupcake I had been saving all week, purchased by my favorite teenager who knows my weakness for anything chocolate mint! What a wonderful way to start off a new school year!