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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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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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Many readers may be familiar with the Humans of New York, a series that shares interviews with people in New York City. It’s a great way to tell the story of that city from many different points of view.

Here in Vermont, there’s a Twitter handle called @ThisIsVT, where each week, a different Vermont resident shares their story, their view of Vermont, and offers different perspectives of this great state via tweets. The bio for the account changes each week to reflect who is doing the tweeting.

We have a fairly active Twitter hashtag for education and educators in Vermont, #VTed. It’s used for all things education, including tweets from those at meetings and conferences, school or district shares, and as a vehicle for educators to connect and build their PLN. There’s a chat every other Thursday evening at 8 pm EST. We hope educators know that all are welcome, even if you don’t live in Vermont.

ardl1s_0_400x400A new Twitter account, @ThisIsVTEd was born in September, building upon the @ThisIsVT idea and expanding it to education. It was an organic evolution among the facilitators & participants in a #VTed chat last year. Each week, a different school or school district takes the helm and tweets out their story, their happenings, and their point of view of education in Vermont. Thanks to Ned Kirsch (@betavt), Jason Finley (@finleyjd), and The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education (@innovativeEd) for getting the ball rolling with this great idea!

Last week it was our turn in the Williston, VT schools. While we didn’t capture every element of what happens in our schools or even each teaching team, it provides a nice window into what makes our schools special. Here’s a Storify I put together to showcase last week’s tweets from @ThisIsVTEd, as well as tweets and Instagram shares with our schools’ hashtag #wsdvt.wsd-logo

@ThisIsVTEd has rotated to a new ‘tweeter’ this week. Be sure to check out the bio on Twitter to see who is tweeting! Regardless, it’s a fabulous way to see what’s happening in Vermont Education. We’re back to tweeting from our usual account, @wsdvt.

 

Window photo: Creative Commons/Flickr via James Lee https://flic.kr/p/8mN4qm

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Over the past two weeks, I’ve been asked to work with teachers and students to help introduce Google My Maps. Now that it’s found in My Drive, it’s getting used more often. I’ve always been a fan of maps in general, and we’re starting to see more and more applications for using My Maps.

One teacher is using My Maps to help students see the historical timeline and locations of flight. Students are creating layers for different famous aviators, including the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindbergh. They’re dropping pins at various locations depicting where events happened in the history of flight for each aviator. then they add extra information in the placemark from text describing the event, to photos and videos.

Another teacher asked me to support students who were excited about their personal travels over the summer. The students had photos from their trip in Drive, so they were able to map out their trip. I’ve never seen fourth grade students so motivated and invested. I have a feeling that they’ll become experts and teach others.

This past week, I had the opportunity to work with faculty from another school for an in-service day. One activity we did revolved around integrating a variety of Google tools. Teachers responded to this form, then saw the data represented in a sheet.

We then imported the sheet into Google My Maps to see our data in a different, visual representation. Here’s the result.

This activity sparked enthusiasm around all of these tools.

Here’s a quick screencast to show how to import data from a sheet into My Maps.

I’m excited to continue using Google My Maps with a variety of students and teachers.

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Blogs I Follow

This week’s #ETCoaches blog challenge: How do the reading of blogs influence you as an educator? Which blogs do you follow/love? Do you use a RSS reader?”

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I receive most of the resources and blogs that have an influence on me via Twitter and the Google+ Communities of which I’m a member. It’s my PLN to the rescue, once again. I used to use an RSS feed, back when Google Reader was an option. Then I realized that most of the blogs/people I follow share via Twitter. It felt redundant to have an RSS feed and Twitter, so I cut out the RSS.

Some of the blogs are thought-provoking, some share resources, and others share ideas about pedagogy. They all benefit me in different ways.

Here are some of the blogs/people I follow.

Thanks for reading; I always appreciate feedback.

 

 

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Here’s this week task for the #ETCoaches Blog Challenge:

“What are your strengths, areas for improvement, challenges, successes in your current role?” screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-4-26-05-pm

I’ll break down the individual areas with some thoughts below.

Strengths: I’m a good communicator. I respond quickly to inquiries or requests. I share new tools, ideas, and resources via a Tech News often, but not too often. As a former classroom teacher, I know how much teachers are juggling and adding another email isn’t helpful every week, so I spread them out. I stay positive and try to remain neutral.

Areas for Improvement: I know that I need to continue to build relationships, even though I’ve worked in these schools for 22 years! I’d like to work more closely with our special educators and increase my awareness of their needs in their work with students. After research and a long approval process, we’ve just purchased Read & Write for Google for all of our district’s students, grades 3-12. I’m very excited to share and support folks with this incredible resource with all of our faculty and staff.

Challenges: Like many, I’d say that time is always a factor. Determining how I best budget my time and prioritize is always a challenge. I hope to model best practices and demonstrate that student needs drive our work. We’ve embarked on some new things this year that require shifts for all of us.(We’re dropping traditional grades and gradebooks, moving to standards-based learning and reporting; middle school students now all have ePortfolios that also function as a personal learning plan, to name a few!) My challenge is to provide the support and encouragement necessary to help make this a smooth process.

Successes: I’m extremely fortunate to have opportunities to offer professional development to our faculty and supporting staff members as well. I feel that those are well-planned and facilitated, offering support, encouragement, and ideas that can be implemented right away. It is not my intention to share cool techie tools. I hope that I communicate that curriculum and pedagogy come first, followed by a discussion of how digital tools might best support the learning.

Those are initial thoughts. I’m noticing how often I used the word ‘support’. I guess that’s a big factor of who I am and what I do. As always, I welcome feedback!

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Our use of green screen technology with video is expanding every day. We currently have a green screen set up (screen and lighting) in each of our two buildings, with more on the way. Teachers are excited to incorporate this into their programs to enhance and support learning.

Last fall, 8 educators from our schools gave up their own time to attend a green screen workshop offered one evening by RETN. (Regional Educational Television Network). The amazing facilitators,  Doug Dunbebin and Jill Dawson (@Switchback42), made a lasting impression on our teachers and from them to our students.

New videos featuring green screen technology have been created as a direct result of this workshop. The videos range from sharing about a field trip at the first/second grade level, to creating PSAs about Child Labor at the middle school level. There are more projects in the works as well and other teachers are joining in.

Thank you to RETN and Jill. Doug’s legacy lives on.

 

 

 

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