Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why I Love My Job, Part II

Dear Teachers,

I just had three of the best days of my professional life! Here's a little recap of our first-ever ETSI.

We started on Monday morning asking you about what you were hoping to get out of ETSI, using an Answer Garden, and then we asked you to talk to someone at your table about what "technology integration" does and doesn't mean. Your first task was to examine one of four different models of technology integration, and then contribute information about your model to a Google presentation. I was expecting that you would take our plain, boring template and add a few bullet points in plain, boring text. What was I thinking? You far surpassed anything I could have come up with and blew that presentation out of the water! Although we had feared you might be a little disappointed to start with the theory instead of something a bit more "fun," you were great sports, and many of you said it really validated things you had already been thinking; we could tell that you were making some great connections. You really got into that Kahoot game, and we learned that teachers can be a competitive bunch!

After lunch on Monday, we heard from some of our wonderful principals about their vision for technology usage and educational technology leadership on their campuses. Matt Arend, Stacy Kimbriel, Sonja Pegram, and Bill McLaughlin had some great thoughts about where our district needs to be heading. We also got to hear from Matt Gomez, a consummate ed tech leader who I'm proud to call a colleague.

We gave you a little time to preview some of the 100+ apps & websites we suggested on our website because we knew it would be more than a little overwhelming to just toss you into that sea of tools on Tuesday. You needed a little time to digest what was there. After a quick wrap-up and an exit ticket activity, we sent you on your way.

Tuesday was a completely different type of day. You started the day choosing from a menu of nine classes, from Google Drive and Twitter to Flipping Your Classroom and Augmented Reality. I loved the classes that I got to teach, and I know that my co-workers felt the same way about theirs. After lunch, you dived right in to our Taste of Technology with the goal of creating something to enhance a lesson in your curriculum. We tried to keep the focus on the LEARNING and not on any one tech tool. You guys came up with some wonderful products!

Just when we thought you couldn't get any better, you BLEW US AWAY in our mini EdCamp this morning! You took over and facilitated the learning for your peers, and you made it look so easy. Sessions on Instagram, QR codes, Nearpod, and more seemed like they had taken hours to prepare even though we knew you were presenting mostly on the fly. AND we had EdCamp cake!

Throughout the three days, we watched as you developed new friendships and met new collaborators for your PLNs. Many of you were figuring out Twitter for the first time (and we are so proud of you for those first tweets!) There were times when you were thinking about something and we could practically see that light bulb come on - a home run moment in the life of any teacher.

Conservatively half of  you came in this morning saying, "I couldn't sleep last night because I was so excited about what we're doing!" or "I kept having more ideas for how I could use these tools" or "How am I going to get my principal's buy-in on this great idea I want to try?" One of you brought us flowers. FLOWERS! And another of you said as you were leaving today, "I've never been to a Professional Development session before where people CRY when it's over!" But some people (including us) did! And many, many more of you said all manner of kind things about ETSI.

This event brought together so many elements that contribute to our job satisfaction. We loved picking out all the tools, deciding the best flow for the event, using as many different delivery methods as we could come up with, and applying principles of adult learning as we put everything together. The fact that everything worked so well, and that everyone seemed to like it so much, was extremely gratifying, I loved so MANY things about my job this week.

But when I think about what makes me love my job the MOST, it's not teaching the classes or designing the website or editing the brochures or coming up with a great schedule or helping people embrace Twitter. What makes me love my job the most is YOU, dear teachers. It's you. Of course it's you.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I Love My Job, Part I

Dear Teachers,
We are 2/3 of the way through our first-ever ETSI (Ed Tech Summer Institute), and I have to say, it's gone even better than I had hoped! Today was one of the best days I've had in my job; there are many reasons, but I'm just going to focus on a couple in this post.

I taught three classes this morning, each of them something I was very interested in teaching, and the participants were able to select the classes that were of interest to them. The first class was about Virtual Field Trips and MysterySkype, and I have to say it was AWESOME (and I don't use that word lightly).

Twitter is amazing, guys. A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted this:

I was hoping to find a lone teacher in a room somewhere. A teacher I've never met, Cheryl McCrorey (@mcrorey_2nd), tweeted me and said she'd love to Skype with us. And it just so happened that she was teaching a class of teachers at exactly the same time I had MY class of teachers (seriously, what are the odds of that?!) A veteran MysterySkyper, Cheryl talked me through the whole process ahead of time and gave me some great pointers. So today I was able to connect teachers in my classroom in Texas  with teachers in HER classroom in North Carolina. I don't care who you are, that's cool. Not to mention an incredible anecdote for those teachers who are still wary of Twitter or wonder what it has to offer an educator. To say that the teachers on my end were excited about it is, IMHO, a gross understatement. It was so much fun!

I also taught a class on Augmented Reality (IMPOSSIBLE not to be amazed by this technology!) and one on Makerspaces, complete with a cardboard challenge: 

All of these classes today were a BLAST to facilitate. I was interested in the subject matter, and all of the attendees were dream students because they were interested in the subjects, too! 

I can't speak for everyone, but for me? Today I loved my job! More about that in the next blog post.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Crunch Time

Dear Teachers,

My colleagues and I have been super busy the last several weeks planning what we hope will be some excellent PD days. We are calling it ETSI - Ed Tech Summer Institute - and since it starts on Monday, we are in Freak Out Mode right now. Especially since tomorrow we will be out of the office for the second day this week attending some PD of our own. Thanks to one coworker in particular, we just might pull this off. For a number of reasons, we haven't been able to host an event like this previously, so of course we are all a bit nervous about how things will go.

ETSI is an institute for teachers who are on the tech-savvy side, have been recommended by their principals, and who completed an online application to attend. During the three days, participants will explore models of technology integration, attend classes addressing various trends in ed tech, reflect on principals' visions for tech integration, and participate in a mini EdCamp. There will be lots and lots and LOTS of collaborative activities and use of tech tools. The tools themselves won't be the focus, though; the learning is what we'll be emphasizing. Hmmm... kind of like what we hope these teachers will do back at their schools!

Our purpose in hosting ETSI is to build educational technology leadership capacity at every campus. One of the sessions I went to today at the North Texas Visioning Consortium's conference was titled "Building Capacity through a Different Kind of Coach," and I got some ideas for how we can follow up with our ETSI participants over the course of the next year. One could say that my attendance at that session today contributed to building my own capacity as a district leader.

So, our ETSI website is done, the posters are printed, the brochures just need one final proofreading before we print them on Thursday, and the QR code confetti is ready to be sprinkled. Time is marching inexorably on toward Monday, when we will open the doors to our attendees. I'm hoping that in a little over a week, I will be able to report that a good time was had by all. More importantly, I hope we'll all be able to say that 90 teachers left at the end of the three days armed with new teaching techniques and many of the skills necessary to become even more effective tech leaders on their campuses.

Gotta go. I just remembered one more thing I need to do before Monday...


Sunday, July 20, 2014

To Blog or Not to Blog - is that the right question?

Dear Teachers,
I had started a blog a little over a year ago and wrote a few posts, but I never really got it off the ground; I just couldn't seem to find a consistent theme. I've been wanting to get back to it for months, but I've been all hung up on two things. First, a name. What should I call my blog? What eye-catching and/or memorable name could I come up with that would make readers say, "Hey, that’s catchy. I sure want to read that one. Bookmarking it right now!" More importantly, what’s my angle? What topics do I want to cover? What should my focus be? So I just kept sitting on it, knowing that I wanted to write SOMETHING, but letting procrastination win out. I tapped my toe. Thought about it some more. Whistled a happy tune. Didn't want to go rushing into an idea for a blog when I knew I had serious Blog Commitment Issues. But here's the deal. I've been asked to do a back-to-school professional learning session for teachers on blogging, and it seemed like I'd certainly be one big fat hypocrite if I didn't have something of my own making to show as an example;  I imagined the conversation going something like this:
Me: Blogging is easy and fun! 
Teachers: Do you blog? 
Me: Ummm... [crickets]
If I was too phobic and procrastinating and excuse-generating myself to actually do it, how was I supposed to convince others of its value? And what do I really believe about the value of blogging anyway? Certainly there are enough egoists and egotists in the world to go around ten times over; who really cares that much about someone else's opinion anyway?

It was when I finally sat down to write - a huge step from just thinking about sitting down to write - that I was reminded of what I have learned many times before. It is in the simple act of writing that we come to know what we really think about something. We revise and edit and stumble and type the wrong thing and backspace and cut/paste until we find our truth. I didn't know what I was going to write when I first sat down to give this blog thing another try, but it was in the act of writing itself that I came to the idea of blogging as though I was writing letters to friends.

Writing a blog is a lot like “dear diary," or writing letters, and I've gotten a kick out of letter-writing for as long as I can remember. It started way back in the early 70's when I was passing notes back and forth in junior high. I often wrote several letters a day when I was in college to my dear friend Charles, when long-distance was an issue and staying in touch with people via paper mail was a big thing. I enjoyed jotting letters to my kids when they were at camp. And most recently, I am absolutely loving being pen pals with my wonderful (and nearly perfect - but that's another blog post) 8 year old granddaughter. My letters have always been conversational, folksy, and (I like to think, anyway) fun to read. They’re the kind of letters I would like to receive.

So I took Nike's advice and just did it; I decided to stop waiting for the perfect blog title or inspired topic or whatever other elusive thing I think I need to get started. That’s what I’ll be encouraging teachers to do next month. Because I know that once I get past the initial roadblocks that I’ve set up in my own mind and just get down to writing, I’ll enjoy it. Because in a way, I've always done it.
When I actually started to write something a little while ago, it just came to me. I found my truth: I enjoy writing letters to people I like. So here's my first post on the new blog, just a letter to friends, some of whom might be teachers, some of whom just indulge me and read just because they're kind friends. I don't think blogging has to be earth-shattering or life-changing and it certainly doesn't have to be perfect. So jump in, start writing, and find the kind of voice that makes sense for you. My style on this go-round looks like it's going to be letter-writing. Having a wonderful time; wish you were here.