Posts Tagged ‘Vermont’


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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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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This year’s effort in our two schools for the Hour of Code surpassed last year’s. Thanks to the support and energy of a number of adults in our buildings, more of our students were exposed to plugged and unplugged activities!








In the Allen Brook library, Denise set up a grid and engaged students in a physical coding activity.

robot turtlesWith our enrichment STEAM teacher, Julie, students programmed BeeBots and also played Robot Turtles, a fabulous board game to build coding skills.


Special thanks to Linda for supporting the effort both in the computer lab with the Minecraft code.org activity and in kindergarten classrooms with Daisy the Dinosaur on the iPads.








One of our kindergarten teachers, Sharon, invited parents to come in after the students had already been introduced to coding. They kept it going throughout the rest of the week and plan to continue those efforts. Here’s her blog post about the week.






Over at Williston Central School, many of our third/fourth grade students had support from Colin, an 8th grader. Our school requires that all 8th graders complete an 8th Grade Challenge, a capstone project. Colin’s focus was on Hour of Code and helping younger students get on board. Both he and Sagui worked with most of the 3rd/4th grade classes.


Colin K Helps Out - Dec 2015

Colin K Helps Out – Dec 2015









In the WCS library, Ellen set up Drop In and Code times, along with coaches to support fellow students.


Many of our middle school teams incorporated the Hour of Code last week and others continue this week. Thanks to Sterling, Swift, and Full House for getting on board!

IMG_2327       sterling1

Leah, our Design/Tech educator hosted an arcade at the end of the week for other adults and classrooms to visit. Throughout the trimester, students were coding using Scratch to create games. Then they used any materials (and they were varied!) to create controllers for the games, and finally they utilized Makey-Makeys to connect the two.


In addition, 10 of our middle school girls were treated to a Hangout with Marguerite Dibble, founder of Game Theory, a Vermont company. They asked questions, learned about her path, and got a glimpse of real life. Here’s a link to the recording of the Hangout. A special thanks to Lucie deLaBruere for her help in making this happen.


Of course, the work and fun continues Beyond the Code. Students and teachers are inspired and motivated. We’re hearing that it’s extending at home too! Thank you to everyone that made this possible.

I’ve put these photos, along with many more, together in a short video to showcase some of the highlights from last week. I know it doesn’t capture everything and everyone, but it’s a glimpse into the wonderful events that transpired.




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Already this summer, I’ve had many opportunities to learn. I should have been blogging about all of these things, but that didn’t happen.

I was fortunate to attend ISTE in San Antonio. It was wonderful to connect with members of my PLN, get inspired, and learn from others. That learning will always continue through those connections and Twitter.

Recently I taught, with an amazing group, a course for educators about Google tools. I learned while working with all of them- the other facilitators and the participants.

One special highlight took place last week. My friend Lucie deLaBruere (@techsavvygirl) put together a course called Making Mobile Media Camp for Educators. One of the best things about it was that it was an opportunity for technology integrators, library-media specialists, teachers, and others to get hands-on learning time. Lucie brought others in from near and far to help lead various sessions. We were creators, not consumers.

I had the pleasure of working with Jessica Pack (@packwoman208) for most of the week. Here are some of the things I explored:

  • Creating an iTunesU course
  • Creating a Powtoon as one component of my course. (a new tool for me!)
  • Learning about iBooks Author and starting the creation of a book.

The topic I chose for all components of my work was Digital Citizenship. My hope/dream is to complete the book and the course (ha!) in time for a day-long iPad training being held in our school in a few weeks. Ideally, teachers would explore the course, including the book, to get familiar with topics under the umbrella of digital citizenship. Then they’d use the same materials with their students as part of an introduction to iPads. Time is a huge factor – is it realistic for me to assume I can get this done and still enjoy my summer ‘time off’!?

In the process of doing all of these things, I learned so much about working with digital photos, editing video, structuring time, teaching, and much more.

We worked hard and learned a lot Monday through Thursday. My head is still spinning from the ideas, the tools, the techniques, and examples shared by Jessica. Friday was a bonus day during which we had a digital film challenge. Jessica led the way again, demonstrating how such challenges align with the Common Core and how much students learn from creating videos. We worked in small groups to simulate the film challenge in an abbreviated amount of time. For the challenge, each group had to make a film (using only iPads) that was suspenseful, including a fictitious name and the line “call me maybe”. It was a blast and there were many laughs while putting together our movie.

The week was perfect. I loved being a learner in that setting. I loved gathering ideas for how I might work with teachers and with students in an engaging, motivating manner. Thank you Lucie, and thank you Jessica for your patience, your resources, and so much more. I can’t wait to continue my learning!

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What’s Not to Like?

It’s been a very interesting few weeks. In an effort to educate and inform the community in which I work, we offered a many question/answer sessions and presentations about our proposed 1:1 initiative for iPads for our 5th/6th graders. We didn’t have a huge turnout, but there were great conversations. We also added a new section to the district’s website with information about everything related to the proposal, including a frequently asked questions page and a form to submit more questions.

Last Tuesday was Town Meeting Day in Vermont. The residents of the towns vote on town budgets as well as school budgets. Our school budget, like most in Vermont, was going up. The majority of the increase is due to things for which there is little control like salaries, health benefits, and costs to operate our school buildings. In the whole budget, the cost for the 1:1 was about half of a percent.

For some reason, the idea of providing an iPad for each 5th and 6th grader didn’t sit well in this town. The whole budget got voted down, by 27 votes. When exploring things further, we saw that only 15% of registered voters turned out that day.

Image originally from Creative Commons/flickr by Sean MacEntee http://flic.kr/p/9EhzwC


We don’t know the next steps yet. The School Board and administration are faced with that task. The budget will likely be adjusted to better suit the voters. Will the iPad initiative be gone entirely? We don’t know yet.

One community member was heard to say, “Our town is not ready for this.” Why not this town, when others are fully in support? What are people frightened of? Loss of control of the digital culture in their homes? Fear that their children will know more than them? Obviously there’s not a clear understanding of how this tool can support, enhance, and transform learning for the better. How do we better educate and inform the adults in our greater community?

I’m still pondering the next steps and reeling with surprise from the tone of the vote. Do you have suggestions?



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Accepting Others

Today we had the first of two consecutive in-service days devoted to work on the Common Core. The morning, however, turned out better than I anticipated.

We saw a documentary titled, “Wretches and Jabberers“. It was one of the most powerful films I’ve seen in a while. It focused on Larry and Tracy, two men with autism, both from Vermont coincidentally. They are advocates for global education about autism. These men lived a challenging life until technology that allowed them to get heard and express themselves was introduced to them. They use various devices to ‘type’, which for them means ‘talk’. And boy do they talk! They are so articulate, have an amazing perspective, and a poetic use of vocabulary. One takeaway was that we can’t judge intelligence from the outside and that we should be more accepting and give everyone a chance.

In the film, Larry and Tracy had traveled the world connecting with other people with autism and without, presenting at conferences, and finding their purpose. They proved how important it is to be open to those with differences.

When it ended and we all sat down from our standing ovation, we were treated to a question/answer session with the stars of the movie. Larry and Tracy were there in person using iPads to “type” and “talk”. I was struck by their perseverance, their knowledge and use of language, and their amazing senses of humor. When asked a question from someone in the audience, they began to compose their response. They typed it out, taking as much time as they needed to articulate and communicate clearly and effectively.

Here are a few quotes:
“Unless people look for intelligence, it is not seen.”
“Autism is not an illness but a different way of being.”
“Learning about me is seeing through my autistic behaviors and steering my attention towards higher level activity.”
“I am a person with autism second and an artist most of all.”

In the afternoon, we reflected on the morning’s presentation. We thought about how it challenged our thinking around assumptions we make about children. One thing that came to mind for me was the power of connecting. Larry and Tracy were helping others with autism get connected and not feel alone. The power of being connected, and giving each of them an audience for their thoughts, art, words, and intelligence was life-changing for many. Isn’t that true of children in our schools? I also reflected on how important it is for children to express themselves in a variety of ways, given the right tools, support, and confidence. That’s where schools and families play such an important role.

Let’s all work together to support ALL children, hear their voices, and be more accepting.
Photo credit: Nancy Colbourn

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The Dynamic Landscapes Conference took place last week in Vermont. This is a conference co-sponsored by Vita-Learn and the Vermont School Libraries Association (VSLA). It was at full capacity and filled with teachers, librarians, media-specialists, tech integrators, and many others who fulfill other roles and responsibilities in our schools.

The conference covers two days, with different keynote speakers and end-note speakers each day. This year, all of them were superb! Chris O’Neal (@onealchris) and Jennifer LaGarde (@jenniferlagarde) keynoted. They were both engaging and extremely talented presenters with important messages to share. Two teachers from our schools in Williston presented workshops. Sharon Davison (@kkidsinvt) spoke about iPads in Kindergarten. She brought 5 students to help share the apps they’ve been using. It turns out they needed to do some tech problem-solving on the spot and demonstrated their confidence as critical thinkers. They stole the show, well much of it. In addition, Colleen O’Brien shared how she used Kidblog with middle school math students to share photographs and talk about how they captured math in nature.

I presented a few sessions myself, one on The Many Faces of Social Networking and another as a co-presenter about Google Apps for Beginners. I realized that I get so caught up in the day-to-day use of Google apps that it’s helpful to get the perspective that there are still quite a few beginners out there. Some school districts in Vermont are just adopting Google Apps for Education domains and there’s a some learning ahead for those educators. Hopefully we got them started.

My session about Social Networking was well-attended. My PLN made me proud when I did a shout-out on Twitter. I got responses saying hello from all over the globe. It is always powerful to show the quick response and wide reach of Twitter to newcomers. Hopefully there are a few more educators ready to dive in and build their PLNs.

Conferences are always a great place to connect face-to-face with my PLN. I love that ah-ha when you greet or are greeted by someone you feel you know, but have never met in person. Overall, the conference was uplifting, rewarding, informative, and educational for me. I wish I could have attended

more sessions. I connected, learned, collaborated, and consumed. Kind of what I do every day with my PLN!

quote from Jennifer LaGarde

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