Saturday, July 21, 2018

Summit Summary - Colorado Springs 2018

Once again, I find myself sitting down to write a summary after a wonderful #EdTechTeam summit experience! Check out previous blog posts here:
Colorado 2016 | The first Ed Tech conference I ever attended!
Colorado 2017 | My first time presenting - thoughts from before, during, & after
Aspen 2018 | Continuing to learn and grow as a learner and a presenter

Each time I attend, I struggle to summarize my experience, so here are some big themes:

I love reflecting on my own growth as a presenter.

One of the best parts of this summit was presenting with my brother :-). I love that we are both in education, and it is so cool to be able to collaborate on things like this! His attendance at the 2015 Colorado Summit is what sparked my interest in attending & getting into ed tech in general, and look at where that's ended up! I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to share this experience with family and initiate my bro into the world of leading PD at the same time (and I have to say, he is awesome)!

Biggest personal win: I was much more confident and not as nervous as I have been in the past! That's not to say that there were no nerves, but I am growing more comfortable with it all. I even tried two new sessions this summit, and felt pretty good about them (which isn't always the case - I'm my own worst critic at times). I was able to enjoy myself not only during the presentations, but also before and after, because I wasn't worrying as much about everything.

I always learn new things.

No matter how many professional development events I go to, I always learn something new. I learn new ways to use tools, I learn hacks I hadn't known about previously, I learn about the new tools on the market, and I learn how to be a better presenter by watching those around me. And, as I overheard somebody say before we started the second morning, this is good professional development! It includes choice for the participants, isn't just "sit-n-get", and it is about relevant topics. As a person who leads a lot of PD, I appreciate the times when I am able to be a learner.

In the end, it always comes back to the people.

This is not a new revelation for me, but it comes back every time. I was excited to meet some PLN friends face-to-face for the first time, and make new friends F2F that are now a part of my PLN! You know when you find "your people", and it just clicks? I felt that way these past couple of days. I appreciate the positivity, the energy, and also the honesty of those who attended. We are not trying to brush over the hardships, but we are all there because we truly care, and we want to make education better for every single kid.

I also have to give special shoutouts to my old/new friend Lisa who took the time to chat with me and give me amazing advice during lunch one day, to Pam for initiating a Twitter DM conversation a few days before the event so it felt like we were old friends by the time we finally met, and to Jess for continually encouraging me and nudging me out of my comfort zone. That is not an exhaustive list, but it's these personal interactions that I remember the most, and they make the conference for me!

What's next?

Well, I'm not sure, but I'm excited to continue presenting, learning, and forming relationships wherever I go! And, of course, I can't let this opportunity go by without putting in a plug for the next #EdTechTeam Colorado Summit, coming in November! I hope to see many of you there!

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Changes are all around us.
Some are big, some are small.
Some are easy, some are hard.
Some, we have control over, others, we don't.
How do we respond?

What we model is what kids learn.
What do they see in me?

Am I sad? That's okay.
Some changes come with loss.

Am I excited? That is great!
The future looks so bright!

Am I scared? That's okay.
Being stretched brings growth.

Opportunities are all around us.
Some are big, some are small.
Some are easy, some are hard.
Some, we have control over, others, we don't.
How will we respond?

As I ponder the changes that come with this new school year, I am filled with so many thoughts and feelings. It has made me think...our students, too, are experiencing many changes as they head into a new year. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? How can we model looking for the opportunities that come with changes while still acknowledging the sadness/fear/[insert emotion here]?

As important as our content is, it can never overshadow the life lessons - explicit and implicit - that we teach our kids. What are your students learning from you?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Time + Freedom

Time. Freedom. Those two things seem almost like a dream in our world of education, don't they? But what are we missing out if we don't create space for those two things?

I was reminded of this recently in my work. After spending hours listening to stakeholders & working on a project, we were finally able to sit down and make some great progress! Why? Well, along with getting lots of input, we were able to get out of the office, be free from distractions, and take the time to really explore the "problem" and all of the people it affected. I felt like we were so productive, precisely because the pressure was off, and we were free to dream and explore.

Transfer these concepts to the classroom...

Getting out of the office - Sometimes, all it takes to spark creativity is a change of scenery. How can you change the environment for your students? Could you go outside, move furniture around your classroom, or redecorate?

Be free from distractions - Distractions and interruptions are all around us. How can we teach our kids to focus in the midst of them? Additionally, are there distractions that we could remove? I am so guilty of giving my kids a block of time to work, then interrupting it with an announcement or question. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is let our kids get into their own "flow".

Take the time to explore - How often do we give students the time and freedom to think deeply? In my experience, not enough. I think this is why I love the idea of passion projects, genius hour, or 20time (whatever you want to call it). It gives kids the time & freedom to pursue their own ideas without a prescribed solution or "right" answer from teachers. Are our days filled to the brim with content, or are we giving students the time to think on their own?

Of course, we do have plenty of constraints in the classroom. But how can we keep students from feeling the pressure of those constraints? How can we build in the time to allow them to move, focus, learn, explore, innovate, and solve the problems they see in the world?

How can we afford not to?

How do you give students time & freedom in your class? Please leave a comment with your ideas!

Friday, June 29, 2018

#ISTE18: It's All About the Relationships!

This year, I was so excited to go to my first ISTE conference! After stalking the #notatISTE hashtag for a few years, it was amazing to finally be there!

I thought about writing a recap, but a picture tells a thousand words, so I'd rather just share my sketchnote of the conference. Each little sketch represents a memory of my time in Chicago! Looking back, I notice a lot of food on here...yep, food = good memories...maybe a little too much ;-).

As I look back, the thing that I will remember the most is all of the friendships & relationships. I loved sitting down next to new people (or, more accurately, standing in line) and being able to strike up a conversation, because we were all connected by our love of education! Even more meaningful were the people I got to have more in-depth conversations with, because this isn't the first time we've connected. From my amazing teammates to the Breakout EDU crew to #sunchatbloggers to other people I've connected with online, it filled my heart to spend time with so many amazing people!

My mind and heart are full. Thank you, #ISTE18!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Feeding Yourself - Musically

I've been thinking a lot recently about a topic I am terrible at - self-care. There are the typical things we talk about, like getting enough sleep, exercising, and being careful about how much work you bring home. I have recently been discovering another important element to add to my routine - a creative outlet through music!

Here's what it looks like:
1. Find a friend who plays an instrument.
2. Find some duet music. Old classics (Suzuki!),, any music you might have at school, etc - it doesn't have to be hard and it doesn't have to cost money.
3. Find a time and play! (Summer is a great time)

It's just that simple. And it is SO refreshing and energizing to play for fun. Why do we struggle to make time for it? I'm finding that I need this even more now that I am not teaching music in the schools anymore - I have to keep music in my life!

I'm grateful for my violin buddies - a friend from church and a fellow music teacher - who get together and play with me. We have dreams of adding a fourth person and using our music teacher skills to play viola & cello for a string quartet, which opens up the repertoire quite a bit. Video cred goes to my friend's roommate who makes us nervous by pulling out her phone when we are playing :-).

Yes, we are doubling parts on the Bach Double.
Playing for fun = no rules, just enjoying ourselves!

Find a musical friend & keep yourself inspired today!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Positive Digital Footprint (for Adults)

This past week, I had the privilege of attending InnEdCO, our state ed tech conference. I had a great time, and I have many takeaways and things that I learned that I hope to apply immediately!

One of the big things that stuck out to me, though, was not something a speaker shared or something that was found in a session resource. It simply has to do with having a digital footprint. We often talk about this with students in the context of digital citizenship - how you present yourself online matters! The thing I sometimes forget is that this is 100% true for adults, too.

I enjoy connecting with others online. I make an effort to be authentic and positive. I share, I respond, and I participate in many communities of educators. I am not always consciously thinking about the digital footprint I am building, but it's there.

I was reminded of this over the week as I met many people who I have only seen online in the past. Some people specifically mentioned that recognized me from my Twitter activity, and commented on how they appreciate what I share there. I still find it a bit weird that others know who I am through Twitter, even if we have never chatted or had a back-and-forth conversation. I know I put myself out there, I just forget that others are watching and listening.

This week was affirming in realizing that I do have a digital footprint, and that it really is positive. I hope that it portrays me as I really am, too! I appreciated the reminder that when I share, I am sharing with real people, because sometimes it is easy to type to a computer screen and forget about the rest.

You, too, have a digital footprint. What is it like? In a world full of technology, let's not forget that we can leverage that tech for many things, but most importantly, to build relationships and connections.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Passing the Torch

It's been a year since I taught orchestra in schools as my full-time job. While I am happy to be where I'm at, I've also struggled with missing being in the classroom. One of the coolest things, though, has been watching a friend really pick up the torch of mashing music + technology together. It is a joy to watch!

Robots + Composition

A few weeks ago, I received this text:
"I assume you've played with the Edison robots? I think it would be really neat to do a composition project with them where the objects/surfaces around it trigger the different notes/phrases...I programmed mine to play the next phrase of Twinkle when it changed to a different surface when driving."

Prior to this, I hadn't heard about these particular robots, but wow, mind blown! I think that coding any robot to respond to outside stimuli differently is an authentic way to mix composition & computer science in a music class. This would make a great #HourofCode project someday!

Video Perspective

A few summers ago, I recorded lots, and I mean LOTS of instructional videos to help my 5th & 6th graders learn their songs. I found that it had several benefits - it helped my students learn their music, but also how to practice, because I talked them through the tricky spots in the video. It also really gave them a multi-sensory way to learn, by listening, looking at my fingers in the video, and looking at their music. Finally, it was a great way for parents to know what their kids were learning and how to help them or for kids to catch up after being absent. It is so common to get an email that says, "I don't know how to help my kid in music," and this game me a great resource to point them to! I even sent them occupational therapist at my school, who was working with one of my students, and she came back knowing how to hold the cello & play our first few songs, making it much easier for her to help this student!

Disclaimer: I totally stole copied this idea from another orchestra teacher in the district...good ideas just get passed around!

My friend shared that she wanted to make her own set of videos this summer, but instead of setting up the camera in front of her, she was going to take it from a forehead mount, showing the exact perspective of the students. This way, they don't have to see what it looks like from the outside and try to make their fingers match that from their angle. How come I never thought of that?!? It shows such a great focus on thinking about the user first, and what their needs are.  I was blown away!

Individualized, Self-Paced Learning

Orchestra Karate has been around for awhile, and is actually something the two of us implemented when we team-taught together. Once again, my friend is finding ways to expand ideas to make them even better! She shared that instead of just doing our "regular" songs for Orchestra Karate, she had made two extra packets - a holiday packet & a challenge packet - that students could work on & earn belts for. This is such a great way to combat the fact that the beginning class has students moving at a variety of paces, and allows all students to be challenged at their own level!


Okay, this last one is just because I'm a nerd and I love organizing my life with spreadsheets. I love finding others who do the same! She was telling me how she had one spreadsheet per school, but IMPORTRANGEd them all into one master spreadsheet, had different tabs to sort by different reasons (like who had district instruments, etc), and used conditional formatting to mark who had turned paperwork in. She also talked about using autoCrat to create nametags (to hang on stands) from these spreadsheets, rather than our usual practice of having students write their own nametags, which often results in small, light handwriting that is impossible to read from the podium :-). These little hacks make life so much easier, and I love seeing others use them in a way that works for them!

Passing the Torch

When I decided to move into this district position, one of the hard things was feeling like I was just scratching the surface of what could be done in a music classroom, and I didn't have time to explore everything I wanted to! These interactions with my friend have been incredibly encouraging in remembering that I am not the only one who is exploring. As obvious (and self-centered) as that sounds, it has been so cool to see her not only embrace new ideas, but take them even further to create the best educational environment for kids!

My recommendation? Find "your people" and keep building on each others' ideas. Continue to push further and deeper. Collaborate & share. Together, we can create amazing educational environments for students!