Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"An Update to the Schedule is Available" My #ISTE2014 Reflection

"An update to the schedule is available. Do you want to download it?

If you attended ISTE 2014, then you are very familiar with that wonderful notification. Now, it's over. Five days. My first ISTE. What a ride! My head hurts. My heart is happy and my mind is ready to download the update.

My journey in education started eleven years ago. Not having a clue as to what I was doing. However, each year I would strive to be a better teacher, a supportive colleague and an innovative thinker. Always trying to find the update and download it. The first few years were tough and I didn't know where to look. I guess because I really didn't know how easy it could be. 

In 2009 I started to connect and I started to grow exponentially! Now here I am in 2014 and I can't imagine what it would be like without my supportive network. Attending my first ISTE allowed me to have the personal conversations I've been wanting to have with long time connections. It allowed me to listen to inspiring people and make new connections. There were discussions that were lengthy and conversations that were brief. However, every "update" was unique, meaningful and noteworthy. Remember developers don't always wait to release the most robust update. They release what is needed and that is what I walked away with from ISTE. Each conversation was going to make me a better teacher, colleague and thinker.

As inconvenient as the app notification was it made me think about my own learning. I thought about where I am currently and where I want to be as educational leader. I shouldn't be annoyed by any update. I need to embrace them because after meeting all of these amazing people I've realized that I have a long way to go. So this reflection is more of a "thank you" to those who notified me (mostly without knowing it) that I needed to update my learning and "Download Now".

"Thank you" Robin Pence @rpencetech for taking time away from your Makerspace Playground experience and helping me brainstorm ways to bring a Maker Movement into my new high school space. 

"Thank you" Vinny Vrotny @vvrotny for speaking with me about your middle school Makerspace and the creative things that your students are doing with e-textiles. I'll be reaching out to you very soon! 

"Thank you" to my friends from Decatur; Jennifer Panganiban @jpanga10, Chrissie Edwards @techiechrissie, and Sara Kelly @Kellysara6Sara for showing me how colleagues can work and grow beautifully together. 

"Thank you" Kristen Ziemke @KristenZiemke for your wonderful presentation and thoughts on Student Learning Networks and showing us how your 1st graders connect. I loved your comment "Stop global competition. Start global collaboration." 

"Than you" Michael Matera @mrmatera for our discussion on our journey as educators and how we have grown over the years. I also enjoyed talking about the great cities of Milwaukee and St. Louis. 

"Thank you" Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy for taking a moment and chatting with me about Iowa, Texas and family. By the way I told my wife we need to start teaching our kids more Spanish. Because Jimmy said so. 

There are so many other individuals and teams that I would like to thank but I should probably keep this short. Just know that if I we met or if we reconnected, then you made me better. I can only hope that I did the same for you and we continue our conversations. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

KMOV News Highlights MOUSE Squad

Last month, the local news station KMOV stopped by Normandy Middle School to interview our students about the MOUSE Squad Program that we started this year. The kids were great! I thought I did a pretty good job as well considering how nervous I was to being on camera. I'm happy the cameras didn't pick up all the sweat that was pouring down my head. Click the link below to see read the story.

Normandy School District Looking to Make Tech Leaders


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Our 1st @MOUSESquad Meeting

Last week I held my first official MOUSE Squad meeting with my new squad. Eight excited 4th graders at Bel Nor Elementary in the Normandy School District. I had asked the administration and a the 4th grade teachers to identify eight students that they thought would be interested in being a part of the Bel Nor MOUSE Squad. They selected 4 boys and 4 girls. All these students knew was that they would get to work with computers and that excited them to no end.

Our meeting began with introductions. Who I was and who they were. Then I asked the question, "What do you think the MOUSE Squad is all about?"

"The mouse on this computer."
"Taking apart a computer."
"Blogging on a computer."
"Playing computer games."
"Fixing computers for our teachers."
"Using computers to do our homework."
"Fixing the Promethean Board."

Well, they were all right! We discussed how they will be part of a new training program that will help them to become the digital experts of their campus. We also talked about how their MOUSE Squad will support their campus and ensure that their technology is always working properly. Then I played the video below to show them some of the activities that they will be part of.

After we watched the video and discussed the hands-on projects that we would work on as a team we got out the markers and paper and everyone created a poster that answered the question, "What does it mean to be on a team?" I'd say the first meeting was a success! We even have a website -

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bringing the @MOUSESquad to the Normandy School District

One of the big projects that I am working on this year is to begin implementing the's youth leadership program, the MOUSESquad, into our school district. I am working on making this happen across five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. 

One of my responsibilities is to help identify at least one teacher on each campus as a MOUSE Squad facilitator and then support them as they implement the program on their campus. This can be during class, lunch, after school or whenever. Well, this was too good for me to pass up. So I decided to make myself one of the elementary MOUSE Squad facilitators!      

First, a little info about

"MOUSE empowers underserved youth to learn, lead and create with technology, preparing them with skills essential for their academic and career success."

Better yet. Just watch the video!

Pretty awesome huh? MOUSE helps us to empower our students by providing curriculum and activities, aligned with national standards, that are hands-on and centered around current and future technology careers. Student learn new skills by getting their hands dirty and diving in head first into exciting projects and opportunities.

I'm very excited to get started. Check back soon to see how we are doing!

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Morning in the Hero Hut Kitchen

This year my goal is to get into the classrooms at least 3 times a week and work with our students in some capacity. It's been 4 years since I've been a classroom teacher and I tend to forget what the classroom setting can be like on a day to day basis. How can I support educators if I don't know what is going on in the classroom. I have to be a realist and not just pretend that educators have all the time in the world to implement a new idea or strategy that I might suggest.

I have three big projects this year. Begin the roll out of over 3,000 devices (iPads and Laptops) to teachers and students, getting our MOUSE Squad program up and running in our district (more on that in another post) and supporting our high school Culinary Arts Chef with technology in and out of the kitchen. Chef O'Bannon has quite a bit of technology "toys" that we are excited to use. SMARTBoards, document cameras, digital camera, video editing software and laptops.

I finally had a chance to come down to the "Hero Hut" kitchen to see what her students are doing. WOW! This is what you call hands on. The students were everywhere! I seemed to be in the way most of the time but I was able to capture some of the great work that was going on.

These aspiring chefs were measuring vanilla, mixing ingredients, sifting flour, reading recipes, giving each other tasks to complete. I was AMAZED! Chef O'Bannon simply facilitated. Students were asking each other questions and problem solving their way through their project on their own. I want to make every classroom like this one!

And by the way, they were making "Wacky Cake". A non-dairy cake recipe. There's a story behind the non-dairy recipe. Maybe our kids could write a blog post or comment below to give us a little background!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Creating Professional Edu-Lurkers - Using Twitter Search to Introduce Twitter

Over the past two weeks I've been a part of several conversations with educators about using social media to expand learning networks. These were wonderful conversations that all lead to helping one another learn more about inspiring students. Sure enough nearly each of those conversations lead to the following question, "Why aren't more teachers using Twitter?" It was usually solicited with a look of bewilderment. As if everyone in the world was Tweeting and these "nonTweeters" were some type of unlearned individuals. "We tweet. Therefore, we are."
In my experience with introducing Twitter to the "nonTweeters" is that it can be a very scary place. What with all those @ symbols and funny looking links. And oh don't forget those number signs. Those hashags! What are they? What do they mean! There's just so many of them. #confused So, trying to convince an apprehensive "nonTweeter" to just create a Twitter account was wrong on my part. Then someone showed me Twitter Search
Oh Twitter Search, you magical thing! The best way to describe Twitter Search is to say, it's like a Google Search for Twitter. Go ahead. Try it. Search for some edu-wondernous like "digital citizenship" or "common  core".  I'll continue after the break. Click the image to get started. 

Pretty awesome isn't it. This is NOW how I introduce Twitter to the "nonTweeters". Sorry, I mean fellow educators. No account necessary. No registration. No username. No password. No commitment. Yet! Remember, baby steps. I pretty much encourage #lurking. But for an educational good cause.

How I Teach Edu-Lurking 101
Step 1
I ask them to search for edu topics using Twitter Search. Type it in the search box and hit enter! Don't let them get too broad in their search though. If I know what content area my participants teach, I will try to prepare a list of some topics to search for ahead of time. You will always have that one math teacher who searches, "5th grade adding improper fractions with and without common denominators games based on common core standards". This is usually where the 140 character limit conversation comes in.
Step 2
I tell them to find a tweet with a #, an @ and a link because we're going to "unpack" the tweet. Get it! "unpack" the tweet. Ha! That's a joke for all my "unpacking the standards" folks. Uh-hem. Ok. Moving on. 
Next, I ask them, "What do you want to know about your chosen tweet?" Common questions:
  • Does this person know I'm looking at their tweet?
  • Why are the messages so short?
  • What's the "#" symbol?
  • Can I click the "#" symbol?
  • Why is there an "@" symbol?
  • Why are there three "@" symbols?
  • What's an RT?
  • Why are there so many pictures of eggs as profile pictures?
  • Can there be public and private conversations?
I like to let them explore. They are more likely to click links and hashtags if they know they don't have an account linked. This is where "ah-ha" moments happen. Participants begin to find resources and ideas that they can use in their classroom immediately! 
Step 3
I tell them to search for people and organizations. This is the perfect opportunity to have discussion on digital citizenship and professionalism and what it can mean to have a Twitter account. We talk about the positives and the challenges of having an account. Again, I try to give them a list of edu-Tweeters and organizations to search for. 
Step 4 
I was able to meet @cybraryman this
year at METC13. 
Usually, there are one or two that are excited and are ready to set up accounts immediately. They want to know who else they should follow and how can they find more people. So for those that are ready, I provide them the Twitter Holy Grail. Jerry Blumengarten's (@cybraryman) Twitter pages.

Educational Twitter Hashtags - by Jerry Blumengarten
Educational Twitter Chats - by Jerry Blumengarten 

If you're having some of the same conversations that I had about introducing educators to Twitter, I highly recommend starting them with Twitter Search.  It's easy. It only takes 3 seconds to get them looking at Twitter, finding useful tweets and you're not forcing them to remember another username and password that they may never use. Good luck!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

See What I See

A reflective post? This never happens. 

I just wrapped up a 30 minute presentation on an upcoming Bond Measure that the community will be voting for on April 2. The purpose of my presentation was to give principals information on how we plan to use the potential funds to enhance technology in our district. 
My takeaway was at the beginning. Before my "official" presentation even started.
Prior the presentation I played the video below. 
We've all seen it. It's a great video. Inspirational. Motivational. Funny. Cute. But as I watched it, I looked at it in a new way (It wasn't an epiphany or anything, just a cool thought). My thought was, I want our students to create something inspirational like this. I want our students to express themselves with media. I'm sure many of you had the same thought. Or not. You've done enough student videos to make your head spin. My head isn't even turning. 
So after the video, I made a couple of enthusiastic comments.
"How awesome would it be if our students made a similar video!" 
"Don't you think our students would love to have their voice heard?"
"This guy must be so proud to see his work shine!" 
Blank stares. My enthusiasm was met with blank stares. Ok, maybe one or two nods of agreement. Those were by the principals who love when I come to help their teachers. And I am very appreciative of this. But I wanted new leaders to share my excitement. 
Student videos. I know this is not a new idea. But I do know that this is something that we do not do in our district. 
Why do school leaders not see what I see? Maybe it was too early in the morning. Maybe the coffee was bad. Maybe it's February and the pressure of state testing is on. Maybe I'm not selling my ideas the right way. Maybe I'm not selling my ideas the right way. Maybe I need to work on my salesmanship. 

To be continued...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Feedly - It's like Flipboard for your desktop. Sort of.

What I love about my iPad is that I can pick it up, open my Flipboard app and begin reading from all of the news websites (uh, hum my social media outlets) and ed tech blogs that I have hand picked. The best part is that these websites are arranged as if they were in a magazine or newspaper. Complete with a headlines and images. So, it makes choosing the articles to read a little easier. I'm a visual guy.
I love Flipboard for my iPad. However, I spend 85% of my day behind my desktop and there isn't a desktop version for Flipboard. So I went searching for my own and found FeedlyFeedly works very similar to the way Flipboard does. Once you sync your Google account Feedly takes your existing Google Reader feed and displays it on your desktop in a magazine or newspaper type layout for easy navigation. I use my Google Reader quite a bit, but I'm lazy and I don't like scrolling through an entire post to get to the next article. And just displaying the title isn't good for me. Remember, visual guy here.
Feedly has several options for you to choose how your content is displayed. You can display your content in a magazine style, with titles only, as a mosaic of images, as cards or as the entire article. Your content will be pulled straight from your Google Reader feed so you don't have to start manually migrating all of your websites to Feedly. Don't worry if you don't have a Google Reader feed.  You can start building content directly within Feedly. One downside, is that Feedly doesn't display your social media streams (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) within the layout you choose. It creates a separate sidebar that displays your social media stream. Similar to a widget in your blog. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oh Social Media, How I Have Tamed You. For Now.

What I love about social media is that it can provide you several avenues of communication and collaboration in the professional world. If, you choose to use them. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Blogger, LinkedIn, etc. There seems to be infinite ways to "stay in the loop" or contribute to "the loop". However, it's those same infinite ways that can be a nightmare!

I'm sure many of you with multiple social media accounts have gone through one the following scenarios. You send out a tweet, with a great resource or idea, to your followers. However, you feel like those who have "liked" your Facebook Page would love to hear about this idea as well. And don't forget about you LinkedIn connections. So you find yourself...

A. Copying and pasting the various links to the resources into your many social media accounts and then making all the necessary edits.
B. Growing tired of maintaining all your accounts so you really only keep one account up to date.

I find myself doing the latter.

Then I found or If This Then That. It allows you to distribute content from one social media account (ifttt calls them channels) to others. No more copying and pasting from your Blogger to your FB Page, Twitter, Posterous, Tumblr, ect. It shows up on both! And it's so simple.
Here's the way the website works. You create these "If this... then that...." statements (ifttt calls them tasks) using your social media accounts. By creating content on one account you trigger the other account to post the same content. Take a look at a task I'm using below. If I create a post on my Blogger, then it creates a tweet on my Twitter feed with the post title and a link back to my to blog!

Sure, you can go on your Blogger, Wordpress or Facebook and hit "share" and send it out via Twitter, but eliminates that extra step. How about setting up a task like this...
So from now on all the Instagram photos you take, go straight to your Dropbox. 

I suggest you give this service a try and see if it works for you. Unfortunately, you can't create an If this... then that... statement that takes care of all of your social media needs. You'll need to create tasks that only includes two channels. For example, I can't say, If I post to Twitter, then post to my Tumblr, Blogger, FB page, LinkedIn, and Evernote. Which is a good thing. Because each service is a little different and requires a little tweaking in the way it's content is distributed. You can't post a 300 character status update from FB to your Twitter. So you'll find what work for you.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snapguide - Create Step By Step "How To" Guides

Would you like to quickly show the world how to prepare gazpacho that would make Samuel L. Jackson proud? Or demonstrate how to change out the wiper blades on your HondaSnapguide is the way to go.

While searching for free iPad apps for an upcoming presentation, I came across this wonderful little gem. It's called SnapguideSnapguide is a free iPhone app that allows you to create a step by step "How To" guide about anything right from your iDevice! Your guide can then be published to the web and viewed on many web enabled devices!

Here's how it works. 
1. With your iDevice, take a few photos or capture some video that demonstrates each step in your "how to guide"
2. Add text and/or audio to your steps to provide more detail.
3. Publish to the web. 
4. Share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

It's that simple. I made one in about 20 minutes. Take a look!

How can students, teachers and even tech support use this little gem in the classroom?
1. Students create their own visual tutorials about a particular concept or idea
2. Students submit a guide demonstrating the mastery of a skill
3. Students create a visual guide on the steps taken in the scientific process
4 . Student publish interactive digital stories
5. Teachers post homework guides on their websites or blogs demonstrating how to solve step by step sample problems
6. Teachers develop an interactive scavenger hunt by posting visual clues with directions on how to accomplish a task
7. Tech support posts guides for teachers explaining how to troubleshoot or perform a task