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.