Monday, February 29, 2016

Launching a SC Instructional Technology Network

Our team often remarks on how difficult it is to find and connect with other instructional technology coaches/facilitators. We try to connect with those that perform the same job at conferences, but we would like to connect more regularly. In an attempt to create a network of instructional technologists we arranged for a meeting last week and invited all of the instructional tech faculty from surrounding counties. Even finding names to invite was difficult. We pulled names from conferences, websites and Twitter to send invitations. We created a Google Form sign up sheet so we would know who to expect. Our first meeting brought seven other instructional tech professionals to our team of three.

These are the slides we used to keep us on track for the day.

We started with a "smashing" introduction. You can see our creations on this Padlet wall.
Then we visited a few classrooms, broke for lunch and returned to an afternoon Edcamp style discussion. You can see our topics in the Slides at the top. Throughout the day we asked our visitors to play a little scavenger hunt using different apps and tools. There were six clues that required the use of Shazam to identify songs, Sphere to find clues in pictures, Google Translate to translate words, Google Cardboard to determine a location and a hidden link on the school map. When the clues were all found and filled in on the back of their agenda card, the letters spelled LAUNCH. The first to tweet the word received their very own Google Cardboard.
We ended the day with plans for our next meeting. We hope to regularly meet and change the location so we can all learn from each other. We are investigating the possibility of visiting a nearby university. Overall it was a fun day and I look forward to getting together again soon. I hope this is just the beginning of a great collaboration with our neighboring districts.
I would love to hear how you connect with others in your same position and would appreciate any advice if you've started a group before.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

PD Projects for January and February

My last post ended with our Tech the Halls contest. We had a lot of fun visiting the schools, judging the bulletin boards and handing out prizes. We chose a winner for each school because they were so creative this year. Enjoy this Animoto video of the winning boards.
We went with a Star Wars theme for our prizes. The winners received lots of sweet treats and a Star Wars Google Cardboard to use with their students.

We had the opportunity to spend a day with the student teachers, setting up their iPads and showing them a few tech tricks. We split the group into elementary and middle/secondary. They attended two sessions: SAMR Model and Classroom Management with me and Kristen Hearne and Core Apps with Kristen Gunter and Jessica Preisig.

As you can see we went with the Star Wars theme again. We served popcorn in Star Wars cups and handed out Google Cardboard for prizes. It was great to see such enthusiastic student teachers as they begin their journey with our district.

For January we hosted a PD session called "Let's Collaborate". Each grade has a shared Google Slides presentation and we asked each teacher to contribute one lesson idea using technology. What began as a way to encourage sharing became a lesson in using Google Drive and Slides so overall it was very successful. Our teachers now have access to several ideas and we will be revisiting the presentation to add more ideas after each PD session for the rest of this year.
This is the video we used to kick start the lesson.

In February I shared virtual field trip apps and green screen projects with the elementary schools. 

This session was a lot of fun and so important for our low income students that do not get to travel much (I was one of those when I was little). You can see the lesson ideas and green screen images we made on this Padlet wall.

This month in the middle school and with my high school ELA department I led a PD session on teaching vocabulary with tech tools. I used ten pop culture slang words as their "vocabulary" and led them through a model lesson before showing them Marzano's six steps for vocabulary instruction. Charades Kids was a big hit.

 You can see their vocabulary creations using Big Huge Labs on this Padlet wall.

For my high school science teachers I set up three stations for them to experience using a picture from the conclusion of a lab/experiment. As an exit ticket they had to answer a few questions on Quizalize, a tool I think they will enjoy using in addition to Kahoot. Since this PD several teachers have used Thinglink with their students. Yay!

Coming up soon are PD sessions on Chrome extensions for teachers, a session for high school Social Studies on alternatives to note taking and blended learning tools for high school math. Our instructional technology team is also planning a networking, edcamp style day for all the other tech coaches/instructional coach/insert title here in neighboring counties. I'll share all of the information from that day soon.

If you would like more details about these sessions or copies of the materials, I'll be happy to share.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fall & Winter PD Projects

A lot of emphasis is placed on professional development before a big technology initiative. That time to prepare is so important for teachers to feel ready. However, we are facing a possibly larger task: keeping the teachers interested in technology PD.
This year is a particularly stressful year because of a change in teacher evaluations on the state level and a district accreditation review. I think in some minds that has allowed technology to take a back seat. Our instructional technology team is trying very heard to keep technology PD in the spotlight and push our teachers to go beyond the substitution level with tech use. Some of the PD I have offered recently include...

Simple K12

Our district purchased the Mobile Learning webinars for our teachers so we wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this amazing resource.


Now that we are set up for Youtube in Education our teachers can approve videos for our students to view. This also opens the doors to tools we have not previously had access to like Edpuzzle and Educannon.

Teachers loved learning about this tool because it strips the ads off of Youtube so they can safely share the video to the class without worrying about an underwear ad popping up.


Our high school students needed practice using graphs and data so I shared resources like Daily Infographic, Human Face of Data app and infographic creation tools like Canva, Piktochart,, and Google Slides.

Creation App Practice

Our teachers are always looking for more choices for projects so I shared this session with my middle and elementary teachers. Thanks Kristen Gunter for sharing.

A few apps I've shared recently that were well received:
Schoolkit Math
Learning Tools
Flashcards NKO: our middle and high school love this app purchased by the district

I've also had sessions on Seesaw and Showbie for those that are still not using one or both of these tools. They are very popular district wide.

Last month our district hosted the Digital Innovation Institute. We invited administrators and teachers in to visit classrooms, hear about our technology journey, share our professional development and give teachers ideas for their classrooms. We had a good turn out and enjoyed sharing and learning with districts from all over the state.

Our second annual Tech the Halls bulletin board contest will be judged in the next few days and we'll deliver prizes this Friday. This was a lot of fun last year and I look forward to seeing the displays this year.

On a personal note, I've finished my first semester of classes for my Doctorate in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with the University of South Carolina. This is a three year plus dissertation program so I'll have lots of time ahead where I'll be juggling work, school and family. The struggle is real! :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Google 911 and Tech Tricks and Treats

Now that the school year has settled in and our technical problems are at a minimum I'm able to focus more on professional development, my favorite!

For September I visited each of my four schools and offered a day of Google questions and answers called Google 911. Most of the questions I've had from teachers are about the subtleties of Google Drive, such as share settings. The teachers were very appreciative and happy to have their questions answered. They loved the little shortcuts and tricks I was able to share to make their daily tasks a little easier. Sometimes these informal sessions are the most helpful to the teachers.

For October I'm offering a session called Tech Tricks and Treats. I started a Google Slides presentation and shared a few tricks that I think they'll enjoy. I'm encouraging each of them to add a slide and share a trick of their own. I'm bringing hot chocolate and a few prizes as I travel around to each school. This should be a low stress PD option for our weary teachers. We have a new evaluation system this year and extensive required reading training in the elementary schools, making the enthusiasm for scheduled PD wane.

The iTeachers have been offering bimonthly PD sessions. While attendance has been small, the feedback from these sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. They've shared presentations on Book Creator, Google Forms, Art Apps and more. I'm especially excited about November's session on "Becoming a Digital Pirate" from one of our amazing teachers, Hope Meares.

I found out that my Donor's Choose project, "I Can Show You the (Virtual) World" was funded. Yay! Now I'll have several Google Cardboard glasses to use with my students. I can't wait to try them out as soon as they arrive. Thank you, College Football Playoffs Extra Yard for Teachers program!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Becoming a Lifelong Reader

If you haven't read Jennifer LaGarde's post, Learning to Read Alone is Not Enough. Your Students Need a Reading Champion, and Gwyneth Jones' response, Reading: A Passionate Love Affair, go immediately and read them.
Gwyneth challenges her readers to write their own reading story, highlighting those teachers that influenced us, and those moments and book titles that touched us. Here is my story.

I can not remember a time when I wasn't around books and reading. My mother reads all the time and she took us to the public library regularly. I used to love participating in the summer reading programs and browsing through the shelves. The smell of that building brings those feelings rushing back even now.
I don't remember reading instruction strategies, but I distinctly remember my first grade teacher, Fran Mauney. I still see her a few times a year at conferences and we exchange big hugs. I credit her with teaching me to read although she claims I already knew how. I was placed into an advanced reading group with two other girls in my class. I felt so special every time we were pulled out to read something different in the hallway. One of those two girls became a math professor at a university nearby and the other is a guidance counselor in one of the schools I serve. I don't remember a specific book title as my favorite. I read anything I could get my hands on.

Throughout elementary school I read everything by Judy Blume and Betsy Byars, all the Ramona books, and all the Babysitting Club books. I remember rummaging through the stacks at a local flea market hoping I would find a title that I had not already read.

In middle school I had another amazing reading teacher,Vicky Galloway.We read Across Five Aprils which peaked my interest into all things Civil War. I devoured every novel set in that time period. I read Gone With the Wind in three days and read lots of adult historical fiction that school boards would probably not approve of for an 8th grade girl.
I hit a dry spell in high school when I did not enjoy any of the assigned novels. I hate you Silas Marner! I continued to read, but friends definitely took a higher priority. I came back to reading more in college. After finishing my assigned work I would read for fun: titles I felt I should have read in high school but didn't, philosophical novels my "intellectual" friends recommended, and mysteries loaned to me by my favorite college professor, Meredith Uttley.

If I'm not in the middle of a book I feel like something is missing. Sometimes life catches up with me and I don't have a lot of time to read, but it is a huge part of my life and always will be. None of my love for reading came from the traditional reading instruction strategies. My love for reading came from teachers and titles that reached my heart.

Teachers, please keep this in mind as you prepare for another year with your students. Read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, and dare to change your classroom in order to reach out to your students.

Friday, August 7, 2015

First Day of School Signs

I'm sure you've seen the First Day of School signs on Pinterest and Facebook. A neighboring district created custom signs for parents to print and use. We loved this idea and made some for our parents as well.
I used my son as our model to advertise the signs.
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You can see the signs here. We're hoping our parents will share their pictures using the hashtag #a1firstday and we can repost on our district Facebook page and website.

Does your district make signs to share with their parents?

iTeacher and Induction Training 2015

This summer we had a fun time planning two special professional development days: iTeacher and Induction Teacher/New-to-District Tech Day.

For our iTeachers we started the day painting wooden apple signs for their doors. Thanks to Burlap and Ribbons for coming in for this activity. Teachers were so excited and the apples turned out adorable!

We also had Kristen Hearne's husband come in and take head shots for everyone. The goal was to have a nice picture to use for social media sites and our Google domain.

After checking out all the adorable apples we moved to the library and started discussion about model classrooms.

Our goal is for our iTeachers to be considered model classrooms. We used Answer Garden to brainstorm what a model classroom looks like. Then we used a model classroom rubric shared by Mooresville Schools. The rubric uses the 5 ISTE Standards. Our iTeachers were divided into groups and tasked with narrowing the evaluation statements down to 10 for each standard. This is the final product. Our iTeachers made a copy of the rubric, used it for self assessment then broke into grade levels groups to discuss weaknesses and share ideas for addressing the weaknesses.
We plan to use this rubric with teachers that we are working with to create technology goals for the year.

After a lunch break we discussed building a Twitter culture. I used ideas from Gwyneth  Jones' Tweet Like a Ninja presentation and this Edutopia article to help our iTeachers create or update their accounts. We were also inspired by Alice Keeler's Twittervention. We made our own Remind group for our teachers to receive Twitter tips and tricks throughout the year and another group for Google tips.

For the final hours we divided into two groups: Social Media/Bloggers and Professional Development. Our iTeachers completed a survey before attending telling us their preference and then we made sure each school had at least one iTeacher in each of the two groups.
Kristen Hearne took the blogger group and helped them log into our iTeacher blog and write their first post. Kristen Gunter, Jessica Preisig and I worked with the PD group brainstorming ideas for this school year. We introduced our new PD series called "Lead and Learn Tech". These sessions are bimonthly, optional sessions after school led by our iTeachers. We decided to do this after our iTeachers expressed interest in being more involved in presenting PD.

We got a great head start on the year and had a really fun time with our iTeachers.

Our next special day was working with our induction and new-to-district teachers. Each of us read Teach Like a Pirate this summer and our plans were influenced and inspired by the ideas in this book. If you haven't read it, go buy it now!

We created custom nametags with the agenda, hashtag, QR code to surveys and app icons for the apps they need for the day. We color coded the nametags by level.

In the pirate spirit, we put out tiny containers of Play Doh and asked each teacher to create something that illustrated where they were on the technology spectrum then share a picture of their sculpture on Padlet. You can see their creations here. I was impressed with their creativity: buckets, smiley faces and flowers. We took this activity even further to teach a few tech tools and the SAMR model.
Posting to Padlet was a Substitution level activity. Then they were asked to use Pic Collage to add to their sculpture picture; explanation of their Play Doh, name, school, etc. This is an example of Augmentation. For Modification, the Pic Collage was put into Thinglink so a link to a school website and Twitter account could be added. Finally for Redefinition we asked them to tweet out their Thinglink using our district hashtag. You can see a few examples by searching #a1digitalinnovation.

We had 5 breakout sessions planned for the day.
1. First Day of School with Kristen Gunter
2. Classroom Management with Jessica Preisig
3. Core Apps with Kristen Hearne
4. Google with me
5. App Gallery with some of our iTeachers

In First Day of School, Kristen shared a Google Slides template that could be used to make a door sign including picture, name, and QR code links to important websites. She also shared a few apps.
Jessica shared a few tips for managing a 1:1 classroom. In Core Apps, Kristen shared tips for using purchased apps like Notability, Showbie and Book Creator. I shared Google mail and calendar basics, then used a shared Google doc to talk about share settings and Drive features. We also took a little brain break using Go Noodle and I shared information about Seesaw to the K-2 and 3-5 groups.
In the App Gallery our iTeachers helped teachers explore displays about lots of different apps.

Just for fun we shared this video from Veronica Pooh Nash and we gave out our new iPad badge sheet and a badge for attending.

We enjoyed getting to meet our new teachers and letting some of their enthusiasm rub off on us.