Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

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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Ever since last summer at ISTE when I wasn’t able to get on the BreakOut Edu bus, I’ve wanted to share the idea and experience with others in our schools. Thanks to an amazingly supportive administrative team, we are now the proud owners of 5 BreakOut EDU kits. And on top of that, I was given the opportunity to play during a faculty meeting time, during which everyone was engaged in a game. (We used the Faculty Meeting game from the website.)

We had 5 teams of educators, who it turns out, got quite competitive. I’m not really surprised knowing some of my colleagues. It was fun, engaging, and energetic. They were all able to break out, with the final team coming in with 1 minute to spare! Afterward, many people thanked me for enabling us to experience those feelings with one another. We all need a chance to ‘break out’ of the routine, let go of the stresses, and just have some plain old fun together.

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I truly appreciate this graphic via @MariaGalanis and @sylviaduckworth that’s actually a part of one of the challenges in the Faculty Meeting game. It sums it up nicely.


In addition to introducing BreakOut Edu to our faculty, I also had the opportunity to use the kits with a few groups of students during our recent Theme Week. For those sessions, I used the Teamwork game and The BFG game, also from the website. They were very different activities and the students gave great feedback about which type of game they preferred. It was helpful for me to use these ready-made games that others have developed and shared on the website as a way into the experience. I’ve also become quite adept at changing lock combinations.

Our teachers are ready and eager to take the next step and design their own games and use the kits with students. If you haven’t tried this yet, take a look, explore, and play. I highly recommend it!

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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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I have to confess, writing this post is a method of procrastinating from what I really need to be doing. But I’m blocked on that task. You see, I don’t feel very creative and that’s what my other task requires. So, I thought I’d tell a related story…

Long, long ago I was in graduate school. During that time I had a year-long internship at an educational software company, Tom Snyder Productions. While there, which was amazing by the way, I had the pleasure of meeting and occasionally working with their in-house illustrator, Peter Reynolds. (@peterhreynolds) Of course, when I completed my studies I wanted to work there with Peter and the other fabulous people. But alas, they weren’t hiring.

So I found another position that was stimulating and challenging, though I won’t go into it here. A few years later, circumstances took me to Vermont where I happily re-entered the classroom again as a teacher. That was a wonderful move for me and I could apply so much of what I had learned in the preceding years.

Fast forward another 15 years. Time flies, eh? I attended an educational technology conference here in Vermont. I was especially excited because the keynote speaker was no other than Peter Reynolds. In the years since we had last seen one another, Peter became even more of an accomplished illustrator, had published children’s books of his own, and had started Fablevision with his twin brother Paul.

Before the keynote, I went up to re-introduce myself to Peter and before I could do so, he greet me by name. Wow- it had been many years. I was so impressed. I sat down in the audience to watch Peter in action. He was opening up and getting ready to share his book, The Dot. He called me by name in front of all of those people and asked me to come and assist him with some drawing. I froze. I totally froze. I didn’t know what was in store and I got scared about my artistic ability. I actually, in front of all of those people, declined. Yes, you heard me right, I declined due to my lack of confidence about my creative ability.

Well, for those who know  The Dot, (Is there anyone that doesn’t know the book? If you’re one of those, you are in the minority! ) the book is about exactly what was happening at that moment in my life. Poor Vashti doesn’t have confidence to create and a wonderful teacher tells her to ‘make her mark’. It opens up a whole new world for Vashti. Yet here I was, scared to make my mark.

Peter found someone else to make their mark that day. I have thought about that moment often with regret that I couldn’t get past my fear. One great thing that came out of Peter and I ‘reconnecting our dots’ that day was that he asked me to be one of Fablevision’s ambassadors. Through that community, I have connected with other ambassadors and expanded my personal learning network. Within weeks after I saw Peter, I had the opportunity to assume the role of technology integration specialist for our school district. I have been able to stay connected to Fablevision on a new level.

The lead ambassador for Fablevision, Terry Shay (@tjshay), is the perfect person for that role. He inspires, motivates, and shares uplifting positive ideas. That year, 2009, Terry came up with the idea to spread the word about The Dot and connect many teachers and students globally around a common theme by encouraging them celebrate International Dot Day. And so it was born.

dot day

I can’t share statistics here, though I’m sure Terry has them. But International Dot Day has grown each year by leaps and bounds. It is celebrated around September 15th-ish and there have been dots created and shared from every continent – even Antarctica!  This year, the goal is to get 1 million participants making dots. Are you one of them? Have you signed up yet?

So, back to my procrastination… I’m doing a day of training with some educators from my school tomorrow. I have to create a sample video to demonstrate an app. I’m stuck. I’m not feeling creative. Again. Many times over the last 4 years I’ve needed to take a deep breath, channel Vashti, and let those creative juices flow. And each time, it works out. I’m feeling confident that I’ll work through this one too – thanks to Vashti and The Dot, and thanks to Peter and Terry as well. For me and I’m sure for many others, every day is Dot Day.

For more information about International Dot Day – to sign up to participate, get inspired, or connect with others, visit http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/ .

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