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I recently attended the ASCD Empower18 conference in Boston. It was an amazing conference on so many levels and I learned so much from so many people. If I had only been present for the 3 keynotes, that would have been worth the trip. Jill Biden, Manny Scott, and Colin Powell! Wow! They were all inspiring, motivating, and shared important and valuable messages for those present and connected from afar.

My Post (1)As educators, we all wear many hats, but I was focused on three of mine as a learner at ASCD. First, I am a Digital Learning Leader for 2 school buildings. I attended phenomenal sessions about leadership, coaching, and digital tools. I had the pleasure of learning from educators like Eric Sheninger, Tom Murray, Shira Liebowitz, Kathy Perret, and Jim Knight. One question that sticks with me is: Am I a leader by title on a business card (which I don’t really have) or a leader by action? I believe it’s the latter. 

The second hat I wore was as a board member of Vermont’s chapter of ASCD. We’re exploring micro-credentials and badging and our role in supporting Vermont’s educators as they develop professionally. I attended sessions on these topics at the conference as well. Brandi Miller is doing amazing things in her district. I hope her work is appreciated.

And finally, the third hat I wore was as an adjunct professor at the University of Vermont. I teach an online summer course in the EdTech sequence that focuses on the relationship between assessment and technology. I was honored to meet Starr Sackstein in person after having used her book, Hacking Asssessment, with this class for the past few summers. Her session about feedback was indicative of the work she’s done; she truly walks the talk.

I valued my time in Boston attending the Empower18 conference. I connected with other educators, grew my PLN, and as always, gained perspective about my schools and our district’s work. We’re doing truly great things in our schools and district. My learning will be shared with colleagues and will help shape my thinking and my work. Thank you ASCD for making this possible.

 

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Once again, I’ve slipped and have stopped blogging for a while. Fear not, there’s a lot spinning in my head for various reasons and I hope to blog more often to get it out of my head and perhaps get some input from my PLN.

Last year we did some great work at a Northwest regional meeting for Vita-Learn, our state’s ISTE affiliate. We focused on the WHY of EdTech and generated some great ideas to help guide our work. We used ideas from Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about starting with the WHY. I recently attended Vita-Learn’s fall conference, VermontFest and was again reminded of our WHY. Many presenters alluded to it during their sessions.

At the same time, we are making some changes in my school and our district. Our supervisory union became a consolidated district this summer and along with that comes a consolidated technology budget. That filters down to the school level as we try to get a better handle on many aspects, including purchases for online subscriptions.

In a document that will be shared with the School Board this week, I saw this quote about technology in our schools:

“Students create, share, connect and learn using digital tools, which provide opportunities that did not exist before, expanding the school beyond its physical walls.”

That matches my WHY; I believe that we have the technology in our schools to enhance and support learning by creating, collaborating, thinking critically and solving problems, and communicating, among many other things. My thinking aligns with the newly updated ISTE standards for Students and for Educators.

 

WHY-

But at the same time, I’m finding that we’re paying for more and more online subscriptions for services and sites that seem like online workbooks. I realize that some of our students need additional supports for their educational programs, and am pondering many questions:

  • How many of these tools do we need?
  • How many math and literacy drill & skill sites?
  • How many of them duplicate our efforts?
  • What’s the decision-making process look like? Who is making the decisions?
  • What systems are in place? How can we improve these systems?
  • How do we ensure that our decisions match our WHY?

I am in the process of inventorying our online subscriptions with this in mind, as well as other topics that came up at VermontFest, including student data privacy, adherence to COPPA, and cost. But the focus on the educational value and WHY comes first.

I welcome thoughts about how others are organizing their online subscriptions and keeping things focused on their WHY.

 

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If you’re a Twitter follower, you know doubt have noticed an increase in tweets from me in the last few days. I’m at ISTE17 in San Antonio and have been tweeting a lot more.

Here are 3 of the takeaways for me from sessions I’ve attended, keynotes, poster sessions, and interactions with my PLN. The topics below definitely overlap.

Idea Board

Image thanks to Ken Shelton from the Storytelling, Creativity, and Design – Effective Presentation Design session. 

Connect

One thing I love about ISTE is the ease with which I can re-connect the dots with members of my PLN and expand my PLN to include new connections. I got to see my pal Kay (@KayBisaillon) in person. We only see one another at this conference, but we’re connected to one another all other days of the year via Twitter. I re-connected with the amazing folks at CommonSense. I checked in with my ISTE PLNs, including the Digital Citizenship PLN and the EdTech Coaches PLN. I missed seeing friends from Fablevision this year, namely Terry Shay, and Peter and Paul Reynolds.

Last night I pushed myself out of my comfort zone (I am more introverted than most people would think) and attended a vendor social event on my own. I randomly sat down at a table with other educators and ended up having dinner with them. So now I have added @EduTechSmith and @cindybrock to my PLN. Thanks for including me!

My PLN continues to grow and the benefits for me as a learner and a leader are numerous. I’m so thankful that I have so many people and places to turn to to share and get ideas and support. I hope I return the favor in kind.

Share

I attended the Global Education Day session before the conference started on Sunday. That gave me the opportunity to connect with the folks at Participate. I’ve used Participate to gather and curate resources. It’s one of the only tools I’ve found where you can do that collaboratively. But during this session and beyond in other conversations (thanks Brad!), I also learned about the many other features Participate offers, like courses, badges, and chats. I’ll be pursuing more with my district and others back in Vermont.

I have created a Participate collection with many of the resources I’ve gathered while here at ISTE17. It’s not complete as there are more resources in my Drive, on my phone, and I’ll need some time to go through and organize things. But it’s a start.

We all have to share, whether it’s resources, ideas, or our stories. It’s the world we live in today and we need to embrace that.

Tell Your Story

Thanks to the work that Michael Berry (@MichaelBerryEDU) is doing in Vermont, there are many schools and districts effectively telling their stories. One of the administrators with whom I work, Greg Marino (@VTPrincipal) and I have read The Power of Branding and The Innovator’s Mindset, in the past year, both of which I highly recommend. We’ve worked hard to tell our school’s story to all aspects of our community. More educators in our schools tweeted their portion of our story using our hashtag #wsdvt. At the end of each week, we shared a Storify with that week’s social media shares. We got very positive feedback. People liked knowing what was happening in our own schools; we have a lot to celebrate.

Yesterday’s keynote, Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera) was inspiring on another level. Not only did she encourage us to tell our stories, but she also wants us to share the ‘untold stories’. It important to share the journey, not just the glossy end-product. Share the messy stuff, the challenges, and the process.

engagement

I just attended a session with Steve Anderson (@web20classroom) and Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth) and have shared their presentation in my Participate collection. They solidified the value and importance of telling our stories and encourage us to use the social media tools that parents, students, and community members are using most – for now, Instagram, Snapchat, and livestreaming with Periscope or Facebook Live. Whatever the tool, there’s so much to be gained by engaging with others.

Those threads, sharing, connecting, and telling our story helped weave the story of ISTE together for me this year. What’s your #ISTEStory?

 

 

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Last week I attended the Dynamic Landscapes conference here in Vermont. While there, I noticed that many of the offerings I was interested in related to three big themes, Personalized Learning, Proficiency-Based Learning, and Makerspaces. It was intriguing to see how different presenters were approaching each of these topics in their own way and I’m thankful that they were sharing with a wider audience.

One presentation I attended referred to 3 pillars of personalized learning. That stuck with me and I’ve been grappling with this 3 pillars idea ever since. In this post, I’ll share some of the ideas spinning around in my head around reporting, management, and personalized learning. For now, those are MY three pillars. My thoughts are predominantly focused on the digital tools for each pillar, not as much the philosophy or ideals behind each of them.

3 pillars (1)

Reporting on Proficiencies

We’ve begun the shift toward proficiency-based learning and reporting as a result of Act 77 in Vermont and our own desire to make that shift. Here in our district, we have adopted JumpRope as our proficiency-based reporting system. We’re finishing our first year utilizing JumpRope in my school and there have been some growing pains, but we’re making progress and adjustments. Some teachers have shifted pedagogy to incorporate learning targets, providing students with multiple opportunities to meet the learning targets, and how best and when to report out on formative and summative assessments. What some of our teachers are still struggling with is work completion and student accountability. That’s not the purpose of JumpRope. Questions I have for them include: How many parents or students need this information? Is there another way to share this information with those that need it most? How else can we help our middle school students build their independent work habits?

Learning Management Systems

I work in one of the few districts in our area that don’t utilize a full-blown learning management system (LMS). The high school my school feeds into uses Moodle, but as a district, we’re on the hunt for an LMS that will best meet our needs. The primary issue we face so far, is that many LMSs have a gradebook at the center and many of those gradebooks are not proficiency-based. We don’t want to go backward and are strongly committed to proficiency-based learning and reporting. The few examples we’ve seen thus far provide many other features we’re looking for, but the gradebook gets in the way. An LMS might be the solution to where teachers can communicate about work completion to students and parents, share course materials and resources, and more, but how do we ensure that it’s not all tied into the gradebook? We do have many teachers using Google Classroom, but that’s not a ‘full-blown’ LMS. Suggestions?

Personalized Learning

In Vermont, Act 77 has changed the landscape of education by requiring that we incorporate Personalized Learning into our systems. Along with that, students in grades 7-12 (and some below that) have their own Personalized Learning Plan. We’re finishing our second full year of implementation and are on our second digital tool to document that process. This year, most of our middle school students have a Google site to house their goals, reflections, and artifacts that demonstrate how they’re working toward their goals. The conundrum we face now is the shift from the old Google Sites to the new Google Sites. When the old Sites “depreciate“, will we truly be able to transition existing sites to the new version? There are other options for PLPs available to us. LiFT and Protean (still in beta, but due to be released soon), are both appealing, but do we want to shift in September, to a third tool in three years? But won’t we have to do that anyway given that the old Sites will retire and we may need to move everything to the new Sites? Thoughts?

My focus, as stated above, is on the right digital tool for the job. At this point, we’re committed to JumpRope, but are still exploring what’s best for the other columns. It doesn’t appear that there’s one tool to meet all of our needs, but do we need three?

I truly welcome input and suggestions. 

 

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I know that the title of my blog is Reflections on Ed Tech, but today I’m taking a moment to reflect as an educator. Renovations to one of our schools begins this summer and it’s the building in which I have an office. This is the end of my 8th year in the role of Technology Integration Specialist, but I also taught first and second grade in this district for 15 years before that.

I’m cleaning and going through things in drawers, bookshelves, and in file cabinets and it’s a wonderful walk down memory lane. I’m viewing the timeline of my life as an educator.

FullSizeRenderI’ve come across an election unit I created while student teaching. I won’t reveal who was running for president that year, but let’s just say there are mimeographed papers in the folder. Notice the issues under discussion; not much has changed.

After that, I taught in Boston at a very special school. Those memories are kept alive through the friendships that remain strong and a well-connected community.

While in graduate school for my Ed.M., I did an internship at Tom Snyder Productions. IMG_3931That’s where I met Peter Reynolds and others with whom I’m still connected. My name is
on one of the teacher’s guides to a product developed there, (proud moment), and I also have other products from TSP that I used while in the classroom. Those are strong and positive memories!

Most of what I’m finding are materials from my teaching days here in Vermont. I have file cabinets full of my resources that I think I’ll be recycling today. It’s a bit emotional, but if I ever needed materials like that, I’d likely use a different path. (OER) So many of these materials are things I created and that are only in hard-copy. Sharing resources with one another has always been important, especially in our digital world.

IFullSizeRender (1)‘ve found scrapbooks given to me by students or whole classes along with many photos. Those students are in college now. In my mind, they remain in first/second grade. There are tidbits of my life scattered around this small space, that give me pause and generate smiles.
Through it all, I’m also thinking of colleagues who are among my closest friends. That’s what happens when you work together over time, building trust, sharing memories, and depending on one another.

This reflection is generating some thoughts about education. Some things never change.

  • It’s still and always should be, about the kids. They come first.
  • Positive relationships with students create community and foster success.
  • The connections we make with colleagues matter, for us and for our students.
  • “Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.” ~ anonymous quote, but a good one. We need to share what we create, share via blogs, and share our reflections.

I’m learning a lot by spending some time looking through my own things. Give it a try.

 

 

 

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Our district changed our professional development/faculty meeting model this year. We’ve always set aside an hour on Tuesday afternoons for faculty meetings. But this year, our students are released an hour earlier every Tuesday than on all other days, allowing for a 2-hour block of professional development time. We no longer have a smattering of in-service days throughout the year as a result.

Last week, I was scheduled to facilitate one hour and our math coordinator, Caitlin Bianchi (@CaitlinBianchi), was scheduled to facilitate the other hour with our third and fourth grade teachers. We decided to join forces and model integration ourselves.

The overall goal was to re-introduce some digital tools that students can use to tell math stories or explain their math thinking. I say re-introduce because it’s one of my goals, as seen in this post, to use what we have, better. The first digital tool we used was GoogleCast so that we could project from a Chromebook rather than the desktop connected to the projector. This was a great way for teachers to see the ease of this process and get ideas for how and why students might share their work.

We revisited Voicethread (we have a school subscription), Screencastify (all students have the lite version as an extension), and Explain Everything (on iPads) as tools that might be used to tell math stories or demonstrate learning. We had examples of student work and examples of each tool being used in this manner. Teachers that have used these tools were asked to share examples as well.

screenshot-2017-01-27-at-2-32-48-pmTeachers were given a large amount of time to delve into one of these tools and try it out themselves. Near the end of the meeting, they were asked to share their thoughts and reflect using Recap. We shared the finished Recap with the whole group so that teachers could see the summary of videos they created.

There was a lot of math talk during this meeting. Teachers were engaged for the whole two hours, had hands-on time, reflection time, and time for collaboration. I’ve had a number of people share what they’ve done in their classes as a result of this time. There was positive feedback at the end about the meeting, excitement about integrating these tools, and enthusiastic response about the productive use of time. All in all, technology and math integrated well and was modeled for and with teachers.

 

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As we start the beginning of a new year, I’m often struck by the posts I come across on Twitter. In December, we see the “Best of” lists – best apps of 2016, best posts of 2016, and so  on. Then as we shift to January, we see the “Trends” lists which includes things like “Trends in Education for the New Year” or “Predictions for 2017”.

As an educator, we always know that new things come our way. New initiatives, new ideas, new resources. And we struggle with how to fit it all in. We ponder how we’ll add something new and then consider what we can take off our very full plates.

out-old-in-newAs a Technology Integration Specialist, I come across these posts and wonder. Do we add more apps to the collection on our iPads? If so, do we let go of one or two to make room? When I see lists of the “top Chrome extensions”, do we add more? Do we take away from what we’re using to replace it with something new? How do we know that the new one is better?

I find that I have more questions than answers. I hesitate to add more to our teachers’ plates. I read about new sites, tools, extensions, gadgets, and instead of jumping to incorporate them or pass them along to our teachers, I’ve decided to focus my energy on using what we have, better.

We are fortunate to have access to devices such as iPads and Chromebooks. Along with those comes access to powerful tools that we’re not using to the fullest extent. We can do better with what we have. (That’s not to say we’re doing poorly!) I will still check out what’s new and current, because I have a great PLN and I love to learn, but there’s plenty of room to grow with what we already have. Consider this a resolution. I’m sticking with the ‘old’ while considering the ‘new’.

Want to join me?

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