Saturday, September 22, 2018

#GoogleEI #DEN18 Application

Here we go again...

Earlier this year, I shared about taking a risk by applying to the Google for Education Certified Innovator program, and my reflections when I was not accepted. At that point, I said that I was pretty sure I would be applying again in the future...and here I am, doing just that!



Stepping Back

Before reapplying, I really needed to take a step back and just take time away from my application. I spent so much time on it at first, and was so invested, it was hard to think about what I needed to do differently. Giving myself some space helped me think through some fresh ideas without being boxed into what I had already done.




Talking it out!

If you know me IRL, you will know that I am an external processor. I learn the most when I can talk through ideas and bounce them off of others. This summer, I started chatting with friends about a new idea for my #GoogleEI project. I received a lot of great feedback, insight, and advice which helped me reignite and refine my ideas. If you are thinking about applying...this is something I would highly recommend! Talk about your idea with friends, both near and far, and really listen to their reactions & feedback. We are #bettertogether!



Completing the Application

In some ways, this was the hardest step. I made a new video, but I struggled with the short answer questions - should I keep what I had written last time, or completely change it up? It felt almost lazy to reuse answers, but if I really liked them, should I change just for the sake of it? In the end, I ended up writing new answers for several. I then asked a few trusted friends to look at both answers & help me choose which one was stronger. In every instance, they preferred my original answers, so I went with those (slightly tweaked). I did feel good, though, about exploring other options and not just copy/pasting what I had before!



Friends & Editors

As I mentioned above, I had an amazing group of friends who looked through my application and gave me feedback every step of the way. Some of these friends I know pretty well, but others are those who I met at a conference & wanted to reach out to. This is another thing I would highly recommend - sometimes, when you are so engrossed in a project, it is hard to take a step back and look at it from an outsider's point of view! They helped me see what I was communicating unintentionally and where some gaps where in my application. Be bold with asking for help!



#JustPushSubmit

And then...the moment of truth. Time to press submit. It can be terrifying, but the worst that can happen is that you don't get accepted...and, I can attest from my previous experience, life goes on ;-)! Truly, what have you got to lose?




The Waiting Game

Here I am again - back in this waiting period. I'm actually less nervous than last time - I really, REALLY am hoping to get accepted, but if I don't, I know I'll be okay. I have lots of friends applying in this round, too, and I hope for the best for all of us! Waiting isn't always fun, but I am sitting here with a sense of accomplishment for not only completing the application, but having the courage to not make it in and try again - #failingforward. What's next? Well, hopefully we'll know in early October!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

#EdCampLongmont Bites

What a great day at #EdCampLongmont! As with any conference (or unconference), there are so many takeaways, so I'm just including little bits here:
  • It takes a lot to put an event like this together. I showed up at 6:45am to help set up, and there were several others already there! That is impressive for a Saturday morning!
  • BreakoutEDU continues to be fun, and the conversation is shifting more to how we can use it as a creation tool for students!


  • I love helping people figure out how to use Twitter professionally - it's made such a difference in my life, I'm happy to pay it forward! I also loved some of the PD Bingo going on in #svvsd, and want to steal this idea in my own district!



  • I completed my first demo slam, and it wasn't quite as scary as I thought!



  • Connecting with friends can be just as valuable as attending a session. I felt so encouraged by some of the one-on-one conversations which helped me gain a deeper understanding of how different districts work!


  • My day ended with some awesome art teachers who were willing to share their wisdom with me! It struck me how important it is to just listen. Our teachers are amazing, and experts in their areas! We can learn so much from just listening to them. I'm so grateful for the expertise & ideas from my new friends!
  • Oh yeah...I also won a Google Home. Can't go wrong with free swag! Thank you to everyone who donated!
And there you go...another great #EdCampLongmont! I have to say, providing breakfast & lunch & FREE childcare is amazing - makes it so much easier for teachers to attend. I am walking away feeling energized & excited about the great work we all do in education - what better compliment is there than that?

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Stepping Up: Moderating #HackLearning!



Last weekend, I had the pleasure of moderating my very first Twitter chat! I have enjoyed Sunday morning #hacklearning chats for quite awhile, so it was a great place to jump into my first experience leading one.


Here's the thing: I love engaging with people online, but I am not usually very quick at coming up with my responses. I like to think through things, and I was just hoping that I could keep up through these 30 minutes! Pro tip: Scheduling the questions & my answers with TweetDeck was a lifesaver!

I was inspired to chat about this topic after reflecting on several years of experience working with families of ELL students in my own community. When I work with them, I am not a teacher - I come to the schools as a friend of the family, and more in a "parent" position. This has given me so much insight into the assumptions that are often made and how we can break down barriers for better communication.

So how did it go? It was a blast! Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order...

  • Wow, everything goes fast. I used two columns on TweetDeck to keep up - one with all of the new stuff and one that was as much as I had gotten through.
  • I know that it can be tempting to like everybody's answers, but my goal is always to dig a little deeper - asking questions to push the conversation further. It takes more time, but results in better learning (in my opinion)! I did a mix of both during the chat.
  • It's amazing how many good thoughts people have - this is not a new realization, but it's awesome to be connected to a #PLN to constantly help you grow & refine your ideas!
If you get the chance to moderate a chat, I highly recommend it! It really helped me dive deeper on this topic & hear a variety of perspectives. At the same time, it helped me grow in confidence as I continue to share on social media. Thanks, @hackmylearning and the whole crew for the opportunity!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Something I have been thinking about lately, and trying to improve in, is telling our story. Many people have ideas about what school is like these days - some accurate, some not so much. Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words...here are a few recent ones that help tell our story!






What story are you telling?



Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ed Tech Specialists in Schools

Several weeks ago, I shared a Google Form that I had made to gain insight on what teachers needed/wanted in ed tech specialist support at their schools. I received 15 responses (I was hoping for more, but I am incredibly grateful to the 15 of you). Here are some of the common themes...

What teachers are hoping for...

  • Co-planning & co-teaching
    This allows teachers to step out and do something a little more risky, knowing that someone will be there to help them!
  • Observation/feedback/coaching
    I love that people are willing to grow! An important distinction is that this is non-evaluative feedback.
  • Help in keeping up with tech trends, tools, & ideas; deciding what to purchase/implement
    With so much out there, it is hard for teachers to keep track of it all, but they are interested in recommendations & ideas about what will give the most "bang for their buck"!
  • Sample resources
  • Leading or co-leading PD in the building


What teachers do NOT want...

  • To be told what to do
    They know their curriculum, content, teaching style, & students best. Honor that!
  • To be taught about tech tools with no thought given to classroom integration
    Context is everything - it might be a cool tool, but how does it apply in my classroom?
  • To feel judged
    Not everybody is tech-savvy - and people need to know that it's okay!
  • Lack of communication or availability
  • Doing it for them, rather than teaching them something new


Timing/Scheduling

Forms response chart. Question title: When are you most likely to want to collaborate with an ed tech specialist?. Number of responses: 14 responses.
Not surprisingly, teachers want to collaborate during time already built into their day. We may feel like 1:1 help is not as efficient, but it may be the best way to really meet a teacher's needs and create bigger ripples of change!

Final Thoughts

If nothing else came through clearly, this did...RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS! Building positive relationships is a crucial foundation to any other work being done. But that shouldn't be a surprise, right? It's the same with students.

Thank you so much for your feedback - I am carrying these ideas & perspectives with me as I head into my year. Hopefully they can help other tech coaches out there, too - feel free to share!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Hamster Wheel

To be perfectly honest, I'm sitting down this morning to blog, feeling like this:


So much to do.
Always going.
Never stopping.
No end in sight.


Welcome to the beginning of the school year! I thought it would get easier if I wasn't a teacher. Somehow, it still seems just as crazy. It's draining! And exhausting!

As the pace quickens, my chances for reflection dwindle. I find myself struggling to keep up with it all, let alone take a minute to step back and think about if this is the best way to be tackling my work. Go. Go. Go. The beat drums ever on.

Unfortunately, I feel that exhaustion creeping up at me in all areas of life. I have been making more mistakes than usual at work. I come home with no energy to do even the simplest things, so housework is piling up. I'm mentally exhausted, and anything that requires thought feels like a big task (even when it isn't really).

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, especially at this time of year! So what can be done? I'm sharing these things not because I am great at them, but as a challenge/reminder to myself.
  • Sleep makes a huge difference. When I want to stay up to get things done, I have to remember that I am so much more efficient in the morning after getting some rest - it's worth it!
  • Eating well is important too. It's easy to turn to junk food (don't ask how many pieces of chocolate I've had this week!), but it doesn't fuel you to be your best.
  • Exercise, for me, is a great chance to push my body while letting my mind wander. I don't typically listen to anything when I swim or run, I just let my thoughts run wild. I end up doing a lot of mental processing during these times, which allows me to "file" thoughts and organize my day better.
  • Mindless activities are okay at times. I generally don't like watching a lot of TV, but when I come home and can't bring myself to do anything, sometimes zoning out and watching a show for awhile gives me the chance to recover and regroup so I can do what needs to be done for the rest of the night.
  • Take a break! [Insert Hamilton music here] Do something just for the fun of it. That's all. We aren't made to work, sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat, repeat. It's okay to disconnect for awhile!
  • Remember the bigger picture. Something at work/school can feel huge to me, but there are really much more important things in life. Remembering that helps put things in perspective.


What do you do to keep your sanity during stressful times? Any/all advice is appreciated!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Am I Welcome?

It's back-to-school time for many of us! In my district, students will start on Wednesday. As students, families, and even teachers come into the building after the summer break, there is a question that many are subconsciously asking.

Am I welcome here?


Can I be myself here? Will I be accepted, with all of my strengths, weaknesses, and quirks? Will people care about me? Will I make friends? Will I be left out? Is this a safe place for me?

Am I welcome here?


As I walk into a school, what cues do I use to help me answer that question?
  • What does the space physically look like? Does it look kid-friendly? Are there lots of signs, rules, & regulations?
  • How am I greeted? Am I even greeted? Is it with a smile? Do I feel like a guest, or like somebody who is interrupting others just to ask how to sign in?
  • Do I know where to go? Are there signs? Does anyone offer to help me find my way?
  • As I observe others in the building, are they happy to be there, or does it look like a struggle? Are there procedures in place? Do kids know the expectations of different areas?
  • What is on the walls of the hallway? Are they boring and institutional, or are they used to display and foster learning?
  • Does this place have its own culture, history, and identity? Is it a generic "school", or do they have pride in who they are?


Am I welcome here?


As a traveling ed tech specialist, I get to go to many buildings. They all have a different feel - part of the fun is seeing how each building has its unique identity! Some schools are older, some are newer, some are more strict, and some are more flexible. All of these are okay! And every school, no matter where they fall on those spectrums, can be welcoming. But the flip-side is also true - and I have seen both.

I had the privilege of visiting a school for the first time since I subbed there (once!) about eight years ago, and it immediately struck me as such a welcoming space. Even though students aren't there yet and most teachers were in training, I came in and was greeted by the office staff. I was a little early for my meeting, and I was welcome to sit down and wait (and get some work done!) in any of several places. I ran into a teacher, who gave me a tour of the building, told me about some of the work they are doing, and introduced me to other staff members. I saw smiles and waves, and was able to talk to several people around the building. I did not feel like an intruder - I felt like an outsider who was being welcomed in. And it felt good!

I know life can get busy. Spaces get neglected, we get absorbed in our work, and we don't always have time to give a tour. But education is a people business, and people are the most important thing. Even in the midst of a crazy day, we can always smile & greet people warmly, and let them know that,

"Yes, you are welcome here."