During Connected Educator’s Month, many adults (and some students!) in our district used a daily prompt to share their reflections. It was a great way to build community, share, connect, and without intending it – encourage newbies to tweet. It was successful with a good-sized list of regular contributors.

Today I shared an adaptation of that to focus on giving thanks. Here’s the document we’re using for the next two weeks to share our gratitude. Feel free to adapt and use with your school!

Here’s my challenge for today’s prompt- why I’m thankful for our students. (made at canva.com)

I'm thankful

Structuring Growth

As is the case for many of us, having structure helps. By that I mean having clear, regular expectations for yourself, whether it’s self-imposed or provided by an outside source. I know that if I don’t have a regular routine or someone waiting for me, I don’t exercise as often. Yes, I just confessed that. I need structure and I know it. That may not be the case for all who have different drivers motivating them to do many things.

Last year I participated in the #reflectiveteacher (check out that hashtag!) 30-Day Blogging Challenge, sponsored by TeachThought. I blogged every day for a month! My goal was to set the ball in motion and then I’d easily blog on a regular basis after the challenge ended. As you can see by the dates on my posts, that fell to the wayside.

Its-possible-to-becomeA colleague from Vermont (@betavt) created a Twitter challenge to encourage people in his district to tweet and connect with one another at the beginning of this school year. I watched it from afar to see how it went. Then, with permission, I borrowed and adapted the idea. We are using it to tweet from our school, using the #wsdvt hashtag as a part of our work for Connected Educator’s month. There are a few educators in our schools who have joined in, but not as many as I would have predicted. I wonder why? There’s great structure!

Also as a part of Connected Educator’s month, Lani Ritter Hall (@lanihall) is posting a Daily Connect on the Connected Educator’s ning. It’s a quick activity which exposes us to a new tool, encourages us to try it out and share it, and then use it to connect with others. Today’s Daily Connect encouraged us to use AnswerGarden. I’m learning something new every day.

I’m responding well to the structure of these two activities and have tweeted each day as well as tried Lani’s Daily Challenge. I find that having structure helps direct my learning. Hmmm, it’s likely the same for many of our students as learners, as well as for our colleagues. I’m encouraged to suggest to teachers and students that they create challenges like these to engage and provide structure for learning, for others.

And look, without any structure, I’m blogging. Maybe I have grown!

image created with Quozio.com

It’s Just Common Sense

I have long been a fan of Common Sense Media‘s resources. I encourage parents to use the site. I encourage teachers to use the site. I have the opportunity to work with various groups of students in grades K-8 in my role as the Technology Integration Specialist for our district. My focus with many of those groups and classes is on Digital Citizenship. I strongly believe in the value of educating students about the many aspects of Digital Citizenship and I also believe that it is our responsibility, in schools, to do much of that work.

Common Sense Digital CitizenshipI have utilized many of the lessons Common Sense Media offers via their Scope and Sequence. I’m incorporating the NearPod form of the lessons into my work this year. I have also used the Digital Passport application and iPad app with students. This year, as we roll out more Chromebooks to students, our middle school students are using Digital Compass to begin the conversation about Digital Citizenship with one another and their teachers.

As a result of my enthusiasm about their products and offerings, I am a Digital Citizenship Certified Educator (one of two in Vermont- come on Vermont educators, join me!) and recently became an Ambassador as well. Our next step is to get our school recognized as a Digital Citizenship Certified School.

It does take a village to educate and care for our children. In today’s world, helping them become responsible digital citizens is is of critical importance.

I’m not here as a salesperson for Common Sense Media. To me, it just makes sense.

With and Without

This year we piloted our first ever 1:1 program with Chromebooks. We have two teams of four teachers who have enough Chromebooks for each student to use during the day, when needed. We are not using the term 1:1, as that often gets misconstrued. Our students do not take the Chromebooks home. When they move on to another team or class next year, they won’t take their Chromebook with them, but they will get one to use for that year in the new class.

learningWe have six more teams of teachers waiting in the wings for next year to see how this turns out. Having had great success on many levels, we are planning on moving forward and purchasing Chromebooks for 4 more teams for next year. Sadly, our budget doesn’t have room for all six of the remaining teams in this building. We are developing a whole new replacement cycle with these devices and the remaining two teams will use the existing laptops to serve the same purpose; they’ll have enough devices for each student to use, when needed. The plan is that they’ll get Chromebooks the following year. Hopefully.

Interestingly, at last week’s School Board meeting, when the Board heard about with our hopes and dreams for next year, they balked. Were they worried about budgets overall? We’re not asking for additional funding and intend to work within our budget. They want to know how having more access and more devices transforms teaching and learning. They think we’re doing great things with our current set-up. We are. Thanks to amazing teachers who are flexible and patient.

contractorsThere comes a time when our old structure, having a shared cart of 24 laptops for each team of 80-100 students sufficed. That’s no longer the case. School needs to mirror the real world. Would you ask an employee in a place of business to do their work, but they only have access to a computer for an hour a day? The cost of Chromebooks allows us to move forward in providing more access to learning and the world to our students. We’ve seen the change in students having access to devices when they needed them on these two initial teams. Students are so much more comfortable, fluent, and confident. The device fades into the background as they focus on ways to demonstrate their learning, participate in class, reflect, and grow.

The bottom line is this: it still all comes down to good teachers and great teaching. Teachers are the ones who create the experiences and the culture for success.

We are preparing an updated report for the School Board and for parents, with clear examples of the difference for those in our building with ample devices and without. I’ll share that soon, but would appreciate your thoughts. What can you and your students do if you have ample devices that you can’t do otherwise or if you have to share devices with a number of other classes? This is about the learning, but having the access is a part of it.

Feedback and insight are always welcome!

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I have always wanted to use this blog for reflection and celebration. A good deal of my work in recent months has been focused on details for the SBAC assessment. I’ve been given the job of coordinating the entire effort- creating materials, gathering and curating resources, training teachers, determining logistics, being on call for any issues, and more. The tests are underway (finally) and all is going smoothly. It has been a struggle for me because I’ve been pulled away from the work I’m most passionate about – my role as a technology integration specialist. I felt that I didn’t have much to offer for this blog that would be positive.

But that changed in the last few weeks. I had the opportunity two weeks in a row to facilitate the faculty meetings in each of our buildings. We start each meeting with a time for people to share. It’s great for us to hear about things happening in our own building! That’s what turned my outlook around.

Here’s a sampling of what people shared (with examples where possible):

  • A kindergarten class using Skype in the Classroom to find an expert on animals in the forest. They Skyped with a forest ranger from Yellowstone.
  • A kindergarten class creating “How To” books using BookCreator on the iPad
  • A first/second grade class creating their own version of “All About the Books
  • Third/fourth grade classrooms collaborating using Twitter to share their thoughts on Red Clover books. They even pulled the authors of many books into the discussions. Check out Ms. Ward’s class and Mr. Willis’s class on Twitter.
  • Third grade classrooms used Google Slides to share and present about Passion Projects
  • Third/fourth grade students creating videos featuring reasons not to drink or smoke for Health classes.
  • Middle school students use their own blogs as a tool to reflect upon a long-term project and keep themselves organized.
  • Middle school students using LucidPress (via GAFE accounts) to create literary magazines.

And finally, here’s an additional snapshot of what’s happened recently in our schools. Teachers contributed to this Thinglink on or around Digital Learning Day and shared happenings with digital tools.

So, even though I’ve been pulled in a different direction, our wonderful and amazing faculty continue to move forward in innovative ways.

We are making plans for our annual Theme Week which takes place the third week of February. I’ve written about Theme Week in the past here.

theme weekThis year’s theme is Connected Cultures Through Wellness. That seems to encompass many ideas, almost too many! In the workshop that the tech integration team offers, we like to offer something inspiring, fun, and that hopefully will filter back into the classrooms and influence teachers and students to try new things that enhance learning.

Last year we did that with the Aurasma app and augmented reality. The year before that, iPads were fairly new in our school and we offered a workshop around digital photography using various apps. Both were successful in getting students excited and they transferred that excitement back to their classrooms.

So, this year’s brainstorm is now upon us. We will have 4 groups a day for 4 days. Students in each group will come to work with us twice. One group comes at the same time on Monday and Tuesday, and then another group on Wednesday and Thursday. That’s a total of about 2.5 hours to get something accomplished. By the end of the week, we’ll have worked with about 200 students.

Please help us- we’d like to use the power of our networks to get ideas. What ‘new-ish’ technology tools can we use to address the theme, while having it not feel like traditional school work? Students love Theme Week because it’s a break from the normal routine; the workshops provide opportunity to do something fun and different.

Feel free to help us with the brainstorm in the comments below or on this Padlet. Your input is greatly appreciated!

I recently had a conversation with our District Leader (the administrator with whom I work) about why we use technology in schools. We realized that it is important to have those reasons at the tip of our tongues, especially during budget season in our town. Rather than the two of us developing the list, we asked faculty and staff for their input. We got great responses! We looked through them for common themes and narrowed it down to 7 big ideas.

I’m sharing our list here – hoping for feedback on the wording (For example, is ‘digital tools’ the best term?) and the content. Do you have suggestions or thoughts on what else might be added to this list? We wanted to keep it short and sweet and as jargon-free as possible so that any member of our town or community would understand them. Do you think we’ve accomplished that?

reasons for tech


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