Sunday, July 9, 2017

Moving Forward

I was shopping at the local outlet malls yesterday with my husband.  Oddly enough, I was sitting on a bench waiting on HIM!  I saw a cute, chubby-legged toddler wobbling by with her daddy close behind.  I  heard him say, "Daddy's got you.  You need to hold my hand to be safe."  You could see the excitement on her sweet face and in the sound of her giggles.  I could compare this scene to our Father in Heaven who is always willing to hold my hand to keep me safe if I am willing to slow down and let Him.  That does ring true for me, but I want to compare this scene to moving forward with technology.

I'm a technology coach in a school with around 60 teachers and almost 900 students.  Part of my job is to provide professional development to our staff and also to help teachers integrate technology into their classrooms.  I have educators that are like that fearless toddler that are running ahead and doing great things in their classrooms.  They are excited and smiling as they share their ideas and successes with the students and technology.  But, I also have educators that move a little slower and a little less confident.   I need to slow down and offer them a hand to hold onto.  I am a high energy educator and move around my building quite quickly, so slowing down physically/mentally/emotionally has to be intentional for me. I'm taking part in a book study on The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros.  It is really making me reflect on my profession and in education in general.  I love that he quotes Steven R. Covey, "You manage things, but you lead people.  That is how we will empower them."  I do want to empower my teachers and students and I know I can accomplish that when I slow down and meet them where they are at.

That chubby little toddler and daddy also had a backup plan...mommy was not far behind with the stroller when baby girl and her daddy got tired.  I'd like to think my back up plan will include my PLN:  connections on Twitter, Facebook, Discovery Education Network, fellow ITSs and teachers in my district, and others.

I encourage you to be fearless at times with integrating technology, but also lean on that PLN when you grow weary or troubled.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Growing Your PLN with Twitter

So, I took a leap yesterday.  

I joined Twitter in 2011 and have posted around 4,600 tweets.  I started out "lurking" in Twitter chats, not really adding anything, but watching and learning.  One of the most influential Twitter chats I have been part of is #edtechchat.  It takes place on Monday nights at 8:00pm EST and Susan Bearden (@HTEATech) always does a great job with topics and moderators.  Susan Bearden also created a mobile app "TweechMe" that teaches educators about Twitter.  Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1) curates great Twitter resources for all different areas in education.

Some of the chats I try to stay active with are #EdTechChat, #DENchat, and #BookCreator, I also try and stay active when I am at technology conferences or events at my school and follow the hashtags of those events.  

I heard George Couros (@gcouros) speak at South Carolina Richland 2's Midland Summit in June 2015. He was an awesome keynote speaker and has written The Innovator's Mindset.  I bought the book, but then got busy with school and life.  I recently pulled the book back out and began reading it.  It is a great book and really makes you think about how and what you teach.  I highly recommend you getting a copy! 

I thought a book study on The Innovator's Mindset would be a great way to connect with other educators. I put it on Twitter and a lot of educators were interested in taking part.  Another educator suggested using #BookSnaps to document our learning.  Guess what?  I had no idea what #BookSnaps were and had to Google it.  I found resources created by Tara Martin (@TaraMartinEDU) and learned something new that night.   I had never moderated a Twitter chat before and the timing of going to #ISTE17 couldn't have been better.  I met Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) at #CoffeeEDU and she found out that she has created several Twitter participant & moderator templates.  I was able to download the template and get my chat questions all set up. I also got to meet @TaraMartinEDU and thank her in person for her help with #BookSnaps

On Sunday, July 2nd, I held my first Twitter chat.  There weren't a ton of educators taking part, but we had a great discussion on chapters 1-3 on The Innovator's Mindset.  People shared some great ideas on being innovative in the classroom.  I'm not going to lie...I was a little nervous, but it was SO MUCH FUN!  I can't wait until next week when we move to chapters 4-6.  Join me!

I share all of this because taking part in Twitter chats has been a game changer for me.  I've learned a ton that has helped me in my job as a technology coach and I've connected with some fabulous educators.

Get started today...

Looking for a Twitter chat to take part in or just do some lurking? 

Friday, June 30, 2017

ISTE: My Story

This was my second year attending ISTE so I knew what to expect:  overwhelming crowds, amazing sessions, great connections, and fun socialization.  However, this was my first year presenting "Tips and Tricks for Implementing Learning Stations" with Wanda Hanley (@twhanley) and Becky Goddard (@beckyg314).  I had a great time sharing ideas about learning stations with these two amazing educators.  I have to brag on the Discovery Education Network because it is what brought the three of us together.  We all met through DENSI and Days of Discovery.  I have grown as a technology coach and educator so much in my five years due to this amazing PLN.

Here are some of my takeaways from #ISTE17 #ISTE2017:

  1. Put yourself out there. I did a poster session at ISTE!  Still can't believe it.  I created a Make-A-Movie movie and submitted to @BrainPOP for a chance to walk the 'Golden Carpet'.  I knew they would be playing my video and I knew my content was heavy (did #CharlestonStrong - based on the Charleston AME shootings on June 15, 2015).  Well, lo and behold, I won a Golden Moby!  Don't let fear hold you back.
  2. Take the time to connect. It is easy to overbook yourself and spend a majority of your time getting to as many sessions as possible.  I love learning new technology tips, but I LOVE meeting with passionate educators who are willing to share and collaborate with me MORE.  I met new friends and connected with old ones.  I was shamelessly 'fangirling' on @taramartinedu and was so excited to meet the creator of #booksnaps in person.  Jenny Magiera said it best, "Technology should enhance our connection to each other."  Take the time to build your PLN, you won't regret it.
  3. Make the most of your time.  I am of the theory that I can sleep when I am dead.  I didn't go to bed early and I really didn't sleep in at #ISTE17 #ISTE2017.  I got up at 5:00 to meet @alicekeelerorg and other educators at #CoffeeEDU.  I went on a riverboat cruise, did Karoake, and went to Whataburger at midnight, met @taralson,  and got a quick PD on #flipgrid.  I also got to hear a great serenade from @claudiozavaljr and @dene_gainey.  Life if short, have fun!

4. Be the student. I took part in the 80s #BreakoutEDU with @scout7 and @adambellow and #EscapeTheBus with @ischooltravis.  It is great to experience learning like we expect our students to learn.  Working with strangers can be tough, but what a great way to learn to empathize with our students.  I love that as teachers we really have to be life-long learners.
5. Share your story.  Jenny's keynote was powerful.  She encouraged us to share our story and to truly let it be ours.  Teachers are the worst about comparing ourselves to other teachers and feeling like we come up short.  Jenny's 4th grade teacher told her to not try to be like her, but to be herself.  I love that we are all unique and bring something different to the table.  Don't keep all your amazing gifts to yourself...share your story #ISTEStory

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Preventing MY Summer Slide with #SCGoogleFest

As an Instructional Technology Specialist, I do try to take advantage of summer vaca and take part in some professional development.  We are supposed to be life-long learners, right?  I took part in #SCGoogleFest today and was pleasantly surprised.  I have a forbidden love affair with Google.  I love Google, but feel like I'm totally cheating on Microsoft Office.  Just when I started to fall in love with Google, thanks @lisamarieknoche , I found out that our district was moving over to Microsoft.  Now, I am not throwing any shade on Microsoft.  I like it and see it's purpose in the classroom.  I really like Classroom Notebook and Sway and can't wait to use them this coming school year.

I  learned from @maryelenderwest that I could have my cake and eat it too!  She is a Google Certified Educator and Innovator from Georgia.  She teaches in a district that does not use GAFE either.  I love walking out of a session knowing I will be putting the learning into action immediately.  Mary Ellen was a great presenter and gave us time to tinker as she taught us new skills.  She shared some great tips for using Google Slides and offering students choice.

I also attended a GREAT MakerSpace session hosted by two educators from Phillip Simons Elementary in Berkeley County.  @MsRosieLMC & @psesteamcoach  shared some great examples of #Makerspace #GeniusHour projects completed at their school this year.  They had a lego sorter, furry friends, Scratch tutorial, and more projects that were totally kid-created and full of promise.  

Love learning great new ideas to put into place at my school that will benefit my students and teachers.  Thanks #SCGoogleFest

"Once you stop learning, you start dying." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Getting AND Staying Connected

Five short years ago I was a struggling Instructional Technology Specialist trying to find my identity with my new job.  In January of 2013, Shayla Rexrode presented Discovery Education resources at a district ITS meeting and I was hooked. I became a Discovery Education Network Star and found my identity very quickly.  I began attending Discovery Education Network Summer Institutes, Days of Discovery, and conferences around my area (Richland Two's South Carolina Midland Summit and North Carolina's NCTIES).

I wish I could help other educators truly understand the importance of being part of a professional learning network outside of their school buildings.  Being part of a network outside of your home environment stretches you, helps you see things in a different light, connects you to great resources (other educators), and really can cause you to get a terrible virus....the travel bug!

I became a Discovery Education Network Star in 2013 and have traveled to Burlington, Vermont; Nashville, Tennessee; Knoxville, Tennessee; Washington, DC; Chicago, Illinois; Nova Scotia, Canada; Raleigh, North Carolina, and several places closer to home.  I never would have traveled and learned if I hadn't joined the Discovery Education Network.  My PLN now stretches beyond the Discovery Education Network, but I still rely heavily on this great group of educators.  I try to stay active on Twitter (my favorite way to build my PLN).

I have just returned from Richland Two's South Carolina Midland Summit #r2scms17 in Columbia SC.  I was able connect with my PLN of 'old' friends and make new ones that will help me hone my craft.  I do believe in the saying 'iron sharpens iron' and know that every time I attend a conference it is sharpened!  I learn new technology that will benefit the students and educators in my building.  I meet new friends and network with old friends.

Why do educators travel, attend conferences, build a PLN, and become life-long learners?  We do it for the students in our buildings.  One of the speakers from #r2scms17 asked us "How are the children?" and our expected response was "All the children are well."  It is a traditional African greeting and emphasizes the high value placed on children.  We DO do it for the children.  If you aren't doing it for the children, you probably should find another profession.

Thanks for two great days Richland Two.  Already looking forward to next year.

Check out the great resources from #R2SCMS17



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tech Teams in an Elementary School

I’m in my fifth year as an Instructional Technology Specialist and I’ve learned a lot in these five years.  One of the best decisions I’ve made (I’m sure I learned about it from a Twitter chat…just can’t remember which one) was to create a student tech team at my school.  You might ask exactly how can an elementary student help with technology.  My amazing principal, Camilla Groome (@cdgroome) has a saying, “if a student can do it, then they should.”  So, if there is any type of tasks that my tech team can do, I let them.  

My teams have evolved over my five years.  I have interested students fill out an application every nine weeks to be on the tech team. I keep my team limited to 15 to 18 students, which I find to be manageable.  My tech team, The Technovators, open our school’s seven computer labs daily.  They help with work orders for issues in the labs.  They create commercials for events in our school and have presented and shared at technology nights. They have even helped with professional development with teachers and have presented at faculty meetings.

We meet one day a week after school (which I know is a drawback for students who struggle with transportation, and that is something I continue to struggle with).  The first project I usually have them create is a Board Builder on Discovery Education.  We do some coding with Google CS or  I teach them about green screening, stop motion, and video apps like Chatterpix, Tellagami, and Shadow Puppet.  I finish the nine weeks with a student showcase which parents are invited to attend.  The students have a show-and-tell and share what they have learned.

I love this technology job of mine, but certainly don’t think I have it all together.  But I am kind of proud of this one thing I have done to create leaders of technology in my building.  I’ve seen shy, rare to speak students step out of their comfort zones and shine like the leaders they are meant to be. 

I’ll continue to tweak and change the setup of The Technovators, but I’m pretty proud of my students and the things they are accomplishing.

Two technovators sharing during a faculty meeting about building KamiGami Robots

Technovator sharing the use of trebuchets at Learning Luau (technology night)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Igniting My Passion for Teaching

Discovery Education Network has begun a new way to connect and engage educators within the DE Community.  They have started hosting IGNITE presentations.  I was able to speak at the #DEIgnite in Beaufort, SC and attend the #DEIgnite in Columbia, SC.  When I got the email asking if I would like to present, I was so worried about feeling foolish and thinking I didn't have much to offer a group of amazing educators.  But with a little encouragement from Kelly Hines and Discovery Education, I took a leap and agreed to speak.  
The platform of an Ignite presentation is the speaker presents 20 slides with a timer of 15 seconds on each slide.  We were asked to speak about something we are passionate about.  I am passionate about a lot of things; my family, my faith, my friends, reading, exercising, and more.  One thing that kept coming to mind is how much I have changed in the last four years as an Instructional Technology Specialist.  I shared my technology journey (starting with my electric typewriter in high school) and how much it has changed in education.  

One of the best changes in technology for me was getting involved with the Discovery Education Network in January 2013.  I took part in DENSI (Discovery Education Network Summer Institute) that summer and connected with an amazing PLN.  When I connect with fellow DEN Stars (through conferences, Twitter, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype sessions, and MORE), I am able to affect change in my building.  My teachers become more confident with integrating technology in their classrooms.  The students in my building have more enjoyable and meaningful learning experiences.
The application process for DENSI (Discovery Education Network Summer Institute) is upon us and I almost hate to promote it in my school, my district, online, or anywhere!  I don't want YOU to take my spot, but I truly can't say that.  If the DEN can do for you what it has done for me, then I encourage you to apply to the best professional development you will ever take part in.

Thanks Discovery Education for helping me become a better Instructional Technology Specialist, leader, teacher, learner, friend, and person.  I appreciate all that you do to connect teachers across the world.