Friday, June 20, 2014

Tech prepared teachers!

What does a tech prepared teacher look like?   The DailyGenius has a popular visual that highlights some good ideas.
I believe there is a simpler answer for us to ponder.
A tech savvy or tech literate or tech competent teacher has a few obvious traits.

Sense of humor!
Using technology in a classroom environment is ALWAYS going to have bumps in the road.  I like to think back to teachers that had chalk all over them and didn't know it.  What about a step back further, lithograph ink on hands and the desk.  My point is this.  Learning is messy and we all know that.  Technology is no different, the hiccups are part of the fun and a tech savvy teacher can laugh about it and share that fun mentality with their class as well.

Are you inquisitive?
This is a key component for teachers that want to tech competent.  Its about seeing the world outside of schools and asking questions.  Everywhere we go there is technology being used to change the world.  Starting with restaurants, Wal Mart, our cars, the doctors office, and the list goes on and on.  The more aware we become of the world around us, the more questions we should be asking about why they do that and what is coming next.  The more teachers see how technology is being used in the world their students are heading into the relevant it becomes to incorporate it in the classroom.  The more we understand its real life applications the more opportunities we will find.

Dont mind letting someone else drive.
If control is a major characteristic of a classroom it will be hard to have authentic technology implementation.  The idea that the room is smarter than the individual but with technology it goes to another level.  The expert today (student or teacher) can and will be quickly humbled tomorrow.  The idea of catching a greased pig ( i had to work in a Wyoming analogy) is a great way to understand this.  I can catch that slippery pig by myself but it becomes much easier with a few quick footed team members.  The skills that some teacher will bring is being able to catch a glimpse of possibilities and than trusting students enough to show them new possibilities.

If tech isn't frustrating us than we most likely aren't moving forward.

What does a tech savvy teacher look like to you??

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#wyoedchat a year under its belt, and many stories to tell.

A year ago the #WYOEDCHAT discussion took off. And what a year it has been.
With a relatively small state there was no expectation as to how many of the approximately 7800 public school educators in Wyoming would participate.  What we learned was the similar mantra of edcamps, the ones who are there are the right ones. Tim Foley ( @Tim_Foley) and I took the plunge to see what could happen.

Finding a day to start on was the first obstacle, and Sunday it became.  So first thing that speaks volumes about the #wyoedchat participants is they are not just giving up time but they're giving up weekend time to talk education.

Next adventure was what grade level would find this the most beneficial.  All! We have elementary, we have middle school, high school, college, board members, administrators, students, journalist and department of education participants, that have all taken part in our weekly chats.

What would we talk about? In our first year we have tried to discuss lots of educational topics with our own special Wyoming flavor. We have tackled....Summer PD, collaboration, tech tools, TED videos, Games in schools, Digital Citizenship, Goals and planning, STEM,  Millennials,  Common Core, Risk Taking,  Tough questions, homework, activities, Parent engagement,  Gender challenges in school, Google, Media and schools, Lifelong learning, Community Resources, Nutrition, Dropouts...and some that I left out (  

In the last year we have seen the start of #mtedchat, #idedchat & #sdedchat.  All of these discussions continue to help educators build from within the expertise of our neighbors. Special shout out to @cristama, @triscicurious, @averyteach, @travislape, & @lenessakeehn for helping build and fan the regional edchat flames.  
A #wyoedchat book study was born through a partnership with WYTECC and @Wyotigger.  What better book to start with than Open by David Price.  

Our Wyoming Twitter list is pushing 200 so we have lots of contributors that can be brought into our discussion.  As our neighbor chats grow we look for more opportunities to share our discussions and make new friends.  And with education still finding headlines, we look to write our own story about just how great education can be. 
I look forward to another year of possibilities.
What has #wyoedchat (or our neighboring chats) meant to you? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Life as I know it...

After spending my entire career working with students and outside time helping educators, my roles will change.

The focus of my time will be helping teachers feel more comfortable with embedding technology in their classes.  This role has so many possibilities that it keeps me up at night with excitement.  No more wondering what if, its time to answer with how can we.

The chance to help bring parents into the tech literate fold is equally challenging endeavor as well.  The opportunity to work closely with parents in a non-threatening way will be an awesome challenge.

Helping students run with their skills and potentially lead us on this journey will be the frosting on this new job.  Finding avenues to empower, learn and guide across grade levels and building will be an awesome challenge.

The comment that has been made, "we are glad to have teacher as the Technology Director" has been made multiple times in my first few days and with that comes big expectations.   Without a great PLN  and all the great people I will get to work with there is no way it will all be accomplished.

I am lucky to have great people who have mentored me as well as all of those around now to help.

My question to all of you is this, What are the big three things I should focus on in the first three months as the Director of Instructional Technology?  (thanks for any ideas before we start)

Monday, June 16, 2014

ISTE Secrets

As I prepare for the next chapter of ISTE I can't help but think about the big three things I wish I would have known the first time I attended.

Number 1:  Everyone should have their twitter handle on their clothing.  It makes it easier to connect.  There are so many good conversations that you stumble upon or over hear and the ability to add those people to your network is the main reason for attending.  Options.  Sharpie on your name badge!  Hat with your handle on the back.  Or my Favorite...get your own twitter shirt made.

Number 2:  Talk to every person you sit next to.  From the flight to Atlanta, to sessions, to waiting to get a seat at restaurant, to the group getting ready to sing at the Edtech Karoke party...dont be bashful.  Find there story and share yours.  Than refer back to number one.

Number 3: Bring a two power strips.  One for the hotel room because they will not have enough outlets for all the devices.  Second one is all about making connections.  The person with power strips makes lots of friends.  This will again open more chances to connect with your fellow educators.  Its also a huge benefit to be able to keep your devices powered without worrying about not plugging in quick enough.

Simple advice to help us prepare for an awesome conference in Atlanta.  Hope to see lots of twitter handles and power strips everywhere.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lessons from my Dad

My dad has been gone for just over a year and on this Fathers day I hope to put into words what some of the lessons I think my dad taught me to help make me be a better person today.

My dad was a mechanic and the first thing he wanted me to know, was knowing what jobs you didn't enjoy would help you find a path down a good road quicker.   I learned quick that there were countless task, in any job, and where you focus your time and energy will impact how good of job you do.

My dad was all about humility.  Being good at something was easy but being the best was just out of reach.  Now to a teenager, this was tough because there were lots of time I thought I was the best and my dad was quick to point out a flaw in a shot or away someone else was ranked higher, but as an adult this is invaluable.  My dad wasn't trying to be a downer, he was helping me understand that being great at anything was a never ending process.  Be humble because there is always more work to do and more people to work with.

Blow of steam!  I remember countless times where the fish were not biting.  I distinctively remember arranging river rocks on the bank of the Yellowstone river to make a comfortable place to take a nap because i was soooo bored fishing with my dad.  Boy what I would give for one of those days back.  As time has gone on and my passion for fishing has developed...I get it!  This was and is a healthy way to get away and forget about the world for awhile.  Its not about the number of fish you catch, its more often about the people you are with and the world and scenery you see (that sometimes we forget to enjoy).

My dad, like all of us dads and teachers, learned along the way.  We must take the good lessons we have learned from our past and try to find a way to pass them on.  I am no expert but I am a better person, dad and teacher because of the time my dad shared with me.

Happy Fathers Day!

Thanks Dad!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gripcase Ipad case

A year ago, at ISTE13 in San Antonio, Gripcase handed me a case and said tell us what you think. Here is the story of the Gripcase.

With an original "old" ipad it became the one my wife and I decided would be a good test subject. We easily installed the case, definite plus for us,and handed it to our four children and said what do you think. Immediate reaction was, "it felt cool" and "I like the handle".

In the 12 months since what has happened? The gripcased ipad made a successfull camping trip up the Oregon coast, made it through camping in Yellowstone three times, made countless road trips around the region, ate breakfast, lunch and dinner(not all the time) with our gang, fell out of the bed too many times to count, off the bed as well and once off the bunk bed, and it still functions perfectly. 

The definite advantage has been the handles and the ability to actually touch the screen. My children have tested this product in a very sincere and user-able way and it has passed with flying colors. (lots to choose from in that aspect as well)

Thank you @gripcase for building a solid & simple product.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Coaching sports and schools


Schools are all about kids or at least we say we are.  Coaches bring the best out of their players.  My question is do we do both jobs with the same strategies and passion?

Coaches know their players.  They know their strengths, their weaknesses, their likes, dislikes, home life... they know what makes them tick.  They watch countless hours of film to help the player become better as well as to help the team.  They work very hard in "extras" to help them become better...weight room, camps open gyms, the list is endless.

Do teachers devote that same amount of time to creating better students?  Lets address some of the immediate arguments to consider:
 1. Teachers have way more students per day than coaches do.
 2. The district puts lots of demands on my time and I cant make more hours in a day.
 3. They have more coaches than just me.

So lets ponder the answers to these points.  First it is safe to say that most middle school and high school teachers do have substantially more students than the typical team,   Teachers are sometimes isolated to a certain age group, juniors or 7th grade as example.  Coaches usually have four plus years to have kids in a program.  The question now becomes how do we address them.  This might be a difficult discussion because it challenges some of the restrictions schools want to place on teachers.  Social media can help teachers connect and get better information to help build these relationships.  As I talked about earlier, amazon knows us better than most teachers even try to know students.  Students share who they are but are we willing to look.  A better question is, if we don't look, is it a sign of us not caring?

Lets discuss the issue of time.  There are only 24 hours in a day and we can't change that, fact stated.  Teachers college preparation does not involve a big component of time management skills.   This must change.  Teachers and schools need to look to maximize time we have together.  This line of thought could follow a silicon valley mentality.  Lunches, be creative and plan this time to be time that is productive learning time.  Thinking of walking lunches for kids and teachers...very good multi-tasking and non formal time.  This is an example of how education continues to look at the old problem with old glasses about what has been done.  If time is needed how can we get it?  There are solutions being used by districts but the best options we may not have even been contemplated yet.  Be brave, take a chance

Lets address the ratio of players to coaches.  Most teams are in the 10 to 1 ratio and most classes are 10 up to 30  to 1 so yes the numbers are greater.  What is perfect class size?   This question can elicit lots of different opinions.  Lets make an assumption that 20 is the golden number.  So 20 to 1 is larger than the basketball team, if we take into account all the coaches.  If we apply a coaching model suddenly the head coach has a large number to account for.  The assistant coaches are the experts in the specific area the team and coach needs.  Who is accountable?  The head coach.  In a classroom, how can the head teacher create awesome assistants?  This is where education can  re-invent itself.  Let's start with non teacher in-school resources.  Janitors, secretaries, cook staff, aids and administrators are all possible assistant coaches, but we have to look at this differently than we have. Let's take this and step back into coaching.  When I coached basketball I had an ex collegiate player come in and work with my post players.  We discussed what I needed our post to be able to do and he expressed what he was going to work with them on.  After week one I signed him up to come in twice a week all season.  As a teacher we need to look out for and find the many experts that can add to our coaching staff.  We have retired professionals to college students to stay at home parents.  These assistant experts can be in the classroom as well as virtually through one of the many connecting technology tools we have available.  Teachers need to create their staff and develop their team.

Some of the best solutions for educational issues might be taken right from the field or arena.  My bigger concern is are we brave and bold enough to try them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fly fishing

Being a fly fisherman, lots of people have asked if I ever wanted to be a guide.
 I don't think I would ever want to be a guide but I do see lots of similarities between a guide and a great classroom teacher. Guides only get paid if their customers catch fish. Think about that, there's a lot of demands on a guide. Some of the people that come to fish might be a first timer, some people might have fished thousands of times and don't take criticism or advice very well.   Sometimes the fish are not biting and lead you to enjoying  the day for what else you can learn from it . There are so many variables on a fishing trip; flies, adjusting the leader, and more bugs hiding under rocks and this is all part of the allure of fly fishing.
So a guide compared to a teacher is really not that much of a stretch. Think about all the great teachers you have seen. Did they like preparing, did they get excited preparing that great lesson?  I bet they did! Does every great teacher prepare for dealing with the student that comes in with limited or no background knowledge as well as a student who knows everything and must be challenged to push them forward, I think they do. And a great teachers is always looking under the rocks trying to find new ways to catch fish to get a students on board.
But the difference between a teacher and a guide to me is simple,  guides only keep their job if they produce.  The really good guides make their money getting everyone to catch fish no matter what the weather conditions are, no matter what the customers background knowledge is.  Can you imagine a guide saying,  "its your families fault you're not catching fish."  But oftentimes teachers let themselves get caught in the game of saying well they come from this type of home or the teacher before didn't do their job or blah blah blah blah so maybe teachers wouldn't make the greatest guides but I think the best teachers could be great guides.

Friday, May 9, 2014

What we can learn from Movie previews as we get close to the end of another school year.

I recently went to a  movie with my kids and they spent time exploring the preview posters while we waited.  Than before the movie started we watched the upcoming previews on the screen.  My children kept telling me, "that looks good" and "we have to see that one".

So as I ponder what we do in class and know we often spend time teaching bell to bell, I am asking would we be better off spending more quality time building anticipation for tomorrow's lesson,  like movie previews?  Tomorrows ideas can take on a flipped classrooms personality but not necessarily meaning just watching videos previews of tomorrow's lesson.
The power of text messaging,  Facebook post, Twitter messages or Snap chat messages can be enough to entice and get students and parents excited about what's coming. is another great tool that makes this possible for the preview mentality.  

One of the better examples I have of using was sending out directions a half hour before class started just to get kids to start thinking and searching the internet to research before class began.
The idea of previewing is it about giving them homework to take some time outside of school and making a more efficient use of the time during the day and getting super excited about what's coming the preview stage allows us to call upon all of their anchor points that we are trying to build up.

 New movies are often months from being released and yet we get excited and get ready for it.  As summer approaches we have a great opportunity to build a preview for our students and parents.  Using time in the last few weeks to get students and families connected and anticipating next year is a great way to end on a positive and slow or stop the summer brain drain.

How?  Class Facebook pages for next years class is a simple and easy option.  With parents and students(if they are over 13)  connected to your promotion page you can run wild.  Post instagram/posters of events coming the first months of the year.  Videos or samples of great activities past students have done.  The promotion page will allow us to open communication and prepare them for the next great educational experience.

When you go to the next movie ask yourself if your students are as excited for your class as they are for the next __________ movie?  If not, Why?  

Any great examples of teachers using this model please share!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Educations love affair with consuming technology.

Take a minute to look at the technology in your school.  How much of the technology you see is used for helping students foster 21st Century skills? Creativity and Innovation? Critical thinking & Problem solving? Communication and Collaboration?  What did you see?

A recent article from the Post and Courier from Charleston County highlights this educational mindset.  "I don't see a downside to iPads," said Travis Benintendo, principal of Haut Gap Middle, where every student has an iPad. "It's just another tool to deliver the curriculum. We want kids to be engaged, and iPads allow us to do that."  Delivering the curriculum is dangerously close to eliminating what teachers are needed for.

As education continues to add technology it becomes more apparent that we use more tools that allow consumption.  The classroom is changing, the bells and whistles are evolving but is a chalk board  that different from a smart board?  Is watching films from the spools that different from YouTube?  Of course we miss the clicking of the spools.  Is submitting a worksheet that much different from emailing it or submitting it in a dropbox?  Think of all the ways students use technology to consume education?

Most educators will agree that the more we apply what we learn the better our understanding becomes.  If technology can make all these 21st Century  skills  easier for students, than why are most ed tech companies selling consumption tools?  This is the question that continues to befuddle.  Teachers and administrators must demand more.

If schools want to use technology to create and innovate than teachers need to see it in the real world.  Local experts can help teachers see how different tools are being used professionally.  Most professionals use email without thinking.  This is not a tech skill to measure schools by.  Take your teacher to work days could be a powerful bridge for schools.  Real life situations allow steachers and students to ask the magical question, why is it done that way?  Why not try this? Could it work.  This is where the technology can become a tool that allows us to research and test new ideas.  Skype, Hangouts & Facetime make it incredibly easy to change the classroom to a place where collaborating with experts become nothing more than a phone call.  The more times we ask why the more we can help students find ways to overcome.

The time factor is key to everything we do in schools and administrators must keep this in mind.  Learning technology beyond consumption takes time.  Working across classrooms takes time?  Collaborating with professionals takes time.  Make it happen!  Make that time available, find the money for training more so than just the technology.  Create the environment where teachers cant wait for the next learning day.  Compared with the dread of a fair amount of PD days across this country.  Re-imagine some of the professional development we place teachers in and build bridges for schools to better reflect community needs. As highlighted in this Edutopia article, 5 Tips to help teachers who struggle with technology, time and encouragement are very important but the biggest key missing is community and real world skills that teachers can be immersed in.  Test out the "take a teacher to work day" and share your results,  they  might truly amaze you.

If school is to become more than a technology consumption selling zone, educators must demand the time to make it happen.  If educators wont change they wont have to, technology will and can replace the all consuming classrooms.  Be what a computer cant!

The spring season brings orders for the next year.  Ask yourself before you purchase technology for your school: What can my students create with this?  What 21st Century skill will this help them develop?  How much time will this tool be used for consumption?  If you buy it for consumption please consider how much time our students spend OUTSIDE of school consuming through technology.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Millennials and Education

What's education worth?

As schools continue to address reform concerns it is amazing to wonder when or if education will evolve. American education needs a PR blitz or potentially a reality TV show that helps the public VALUE what possibilities education can provide.

A recent heated discussion has taken place about if high school students should have the opportunity to have open campus.   Students who have met their graduation requirements can opt to have open campus, which means they can go home or go to work or play music on a corner.  The requirement is simple, parents must sign off on for permission, they must complete four classes in the semester and they must be on track to graduate with the needed classes. Very simple concept but it highlights lots of issues that  are facing education.

The classes that are needed for graduation, the cores, have a distinct advantage in enrollment for most high school teachers.  The question than turns to if there are great electives, will students choose to be in those instead of escaping the school.  This creates an environment where teachers must look at their classes and ask the question, "are they valuable to students?"  Is it that simple?  Is there possibility to really improve classes by giving freedom to not attend?
Class size and value is debated in schools everywhere.  If a few students sign up for a class than does that mean it shouldn't be offered?  In my opinion, this is where schools have a chance to truly evolve.  Instead of only having the few classes that are offered under the  guidance of each teacher, schools could instead open up the playbook, so to speak.  This is where online/blended/face-to-face can run and meet the needs of students.  This wide open class catalog could have teachers guiding one, two, three, four or more classes during any given slot in the day.  Learning could be very individualized to students needs.  This fits nicely as a transition  between module based programs and traditional school schedules.

This debate brings up what I feel is a more compelling issue across this country, do we actually value education?  Parents have expressed that their students have earned the chance to do something else.  Really! What else is more important than education?  The world has changed and that is evident, learning is just fingertips away and schools are slow to catch up with the speed the world has changed.  With that said, parents, students and the general public have lost the value of exploring.  There is no other time in a students life when they truly have the freedom to try and explore lots of different educational classes.  This is the chance for schools and parents to help students learn all sorts of possible stuff, FOR FREE!

The question swings back to the schools and teachers, is what we offer students no longer useful to them?  School must address this issue.  This is a PR disaster that everyone in education  must take note of.  If we lose students to getting a nap and that is accepted, than schools will continue to be less and less valued.