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Saturday, January 21, 2017

What is Technology Integration Success?

Technology Integration Success. What does it look like? For me? For the programs I'm a part of? For my students? For the teachers I support? Success is a big word full of many nuances. Often times I will leave school finding myself reflecting on what feels like a successful day... perhaps it's seeing a teacher tackle a tech project, feeling that a teacher is seeing the WHY regarding tech integration, watching a student get excited about their learning, seeing growth and understanding with technology as a support to learning. It could be many things that make me feel like a day is successful. 

I think one of the things that many schools haven't done well in technology integration is defining what successes look like. I think technology hit the market for education so quickly and dramatically that many schools got the cart before the horse. 

Instead of deciding WHY technology should be a part, it just was and the groundwork for expectations and philosophy of use is begging to be written. But it's not our kids that are asking what are the expectations? why are we using technology? it's our teachers. Our students accept that technology is a part of their world and they see the value of it as part of their education. I also believe they are the first line of attack/understanding when a bad technology decision is made and should be heard during technology adoption processes. Students know when something is quirky, slow, or not helpful immediately. The difference is that we as teachers often keep trying to make the system work while the student looks for other solutions. I've seen it first hand over and over. Teachers will be asking students to create something using technology and inevitably someone says "is it ok if I use this app/website instead? I find it easier/faster/cheaper/better."

Students are adaptive. They adapt to different adult personalities all day long and they adapt to different expectations all day long. They, sadly, are used to not getting their WHY questions answered. But that's not fair. As educators we have to show them that technology comes with rights and responsibilities. In order to best do that Schools need framework to show how technology can possibly enhance education but in that we must also prepare students for a future of constant access to a powerful resource that magnifies heart issues.

Call it digital citizenship or digital stewardship but the bottom line is there has to be an understanding of these rights and responsibilities in regards to this world of constant connectivity. Creating a constitution of connectivity that can be referenced, respected, and acknowledged as a common ground regarding the WHY,  the HOW, the WHO, the WHEN, and the WHERE gives teachers both the freedom to explore and develop their curriculum with technology in a supported environment. A framework also gives the hesitant teacher the push to make sure all students are equally being taught valuable technology skills for their future. 

So the WHY is the philosophy of technology integration. The WHO is integration expectations. The WHEN and WHERE are the adoption of standards to meet the HOW and WHY. Easy, right? 😉

Friday, January 13, 2017

Educators Need Safety to Share Their Story


Teachers need to feel safe in sharing their story. Teachers are doing amazing things in their classrooms. I don't know who first said "if you don't tell your story someone else will" and I even looked it up to give credit where credit is due but what I found as it's been said many, many times. Which means there are many, many people that have experienced what this means.  

I remember the first time it happened to me in an educational setting. I was sitting in a room at the beginning of the school year with all the K-12 teachers in our school system and it was rhetorically asked by the speaker "why do we teach computers to elementary students in a standalone setting? Why doesn't it support what is happening in the classroom?

I wanted to stand up and scream "that's not true! It does! I'm doing my best to make it   with the classroom learning!" but it wasn't one of those situations where I felt could do that and as I felt tears stinging my eyes, my friend and co-teacher sitting right next to me patted me on the knee and said "it's OK, we know how you actually teach." 

This was before the age of social media. It was basically in a setting of silo'd teachers doing their best day after day with very little adult contact. That was the culture of the day.

But that's not today's culture. Sometimes when I walk into a classroom students don't even look up because they are so used to other adults coming in and out supporting, aiding, watching what's going on that it's the norm.

I think maybe because of my past I have wholeheartedly chosen to share the amazing things going on in education with the world whenever I can. I believe 100% that someone's telling your story and it might as well be you so it will be correct. Sharing your story via blogs and/or using social media, or face to face with other educators helps create a system of transparency that parents and students seem to appreciate.

But very often other educators look at me and say "wow you really do a lot of sharing of the things that you guys have going on in the elementary school but I'm scared to do it. It's risky, what if I say something that is taken the wrong way? or that someone doesn't like?"

I honestly sat there complexed. What would you be saying people might take the wrong way? And then I realized I've had those moments-moments where I needed to explain a little bit about what was going on to help people understand better what our goals and standards were. But I never feel like I've had my hand slapped for something I've shared. I have been questioned but I don't have a problem with that. And as an innovator, I should be questioned. No educator should have free reign. There should be some boundaries. I'll be honest I think my sharing has brought me more positive results as an educator than negative. I love telling our story at our school because I love our school. If I post something that someone doesn't agree with (which has happened), or that is misinterpreted (which definitely has happened), they have to know my heart. I am an educator who passionately believes in her students and the faculty at my school. Our story is a great one and I'm proud to show it. 

It makes me sad to hear about other educators not feeling safe to share their stories. How I long for everyone to have the freedom and feel a school culture that gives them the safety to share, to not be criticized for thinking or feeling differently on a subject. I think as long as we don't bash other's thoughts and we share kindly and in a way that does not harm our school's reputation then administrators should welcome educators that have good things to share and are willing to share.

 Over the past year I've really tried to strive to share the positives as I'm walking down hallways, as I'm looking in classrooms, as I'm seeing people interact, as I'm teaching, as I'm watching students learn and watching children play. Educators and schools get bad wraps every single day. It's time to create a culture where teachers feel safe to share the good things going on. Let's do it! Grab a hashtag for your school and GO! I've adopted #ccslearns and invite other CCS teachers to get on this hashtag's share train!  What's yours?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Easy Annotating with iOS

Often, as educators, we wish we could quickly label things for students in a photo very quickly to share details or we want our students to label things for us...parts of a flower, parts of speech, circling right angles, etc. With the latest iOS update those of us that have iPads or iPhones in the classroom now have that ability. The above video is a HOW TO of works...happy annotating!

Friday, January 6, 2017

When A Technology Coordinator "Unplugs"


Cue the cold sweats, nervous tics, and wringing of hands...or not. Over Christmas break I decided to do a little self-evaluation of my technology usage. Below is the daily recap actually originally hand written.

December 17, 2016 9:30am
When  a techie unplugs:
I've been awake for approximately one hour and I have checked my emails, returned correspondence and left my phone on my bed stand. As I started to plan my day, I missed my phone immediately. What's the weather today? What time is the church musical tonight? I need recipes for cookies. 

I went upstairs to walk on the treadmill. As I walked I started reflecting on the decision to unplug for some amount of time- probably the whole break? (checking emails 3 times a day for correspondence and zero social media)- I decided I should start journaling the process. Where's my phone? Dang it! Normally I would just speak into it for these type of notes until I could blog. As I am exercising I feel overheated so I reach to touch the hand grips on my treadmill and it tells me my pulse. Dang it! Did I just cheat already? Now I'm in this internal struggle trying to decide what tech am I giving up and what tech am I not? I mean this was my idea (am I already lessening my goals?)! Meh.

I'm currently sitting down eating breakfast I nuked in the microwave (I've decided this is ok) and I am  WRITING in cursive in this journal that was given to me last year. My handwriting is atrocious and I can't spell atrocious! (I miss spell check). I don't remember the last time I wrote more than 3-4 sentences. My hand already hurts as I have filled two pages of lined notebook paper with this post.

Next up...I've been reading a book on my paperwhite Kindle. I would love to finish it. I'm trying to decide since it was already in process, is this ok with me? I think it's going to be a long day of adjusting. I've got a large TO DO LIST today, we shall see what actually gets done.

December 17, 2016 4:20pm
Cleaned out my closet better than I have in my life. Checked emails once since this morning- no social media but I did realize I am still getting notifications. Since the phone isn't on me, I haven't been tempted to open apps. I have glanced at the notifications when I checked emails. As long as I'm busy I don't even think about the internet. I did put a watch on because I realized I use my phone constantly to check the time. 

My youngest daughter face-timed me earlier and I answered.
That's her preferred way to communicate when not home. I haven't told anyone at the house what my unplugged goals are. Not sure if that's fear of being judged if I don't follow thru or not wanting to discuss it. I finished the book Technology vs Humanity. It leaves me thinking deeply about the what's next of tech and education. I believe the changes will ramp up quickly- faster than ever. As a school we don't necessarily do proactive well- that scares me. How do we prep teachers and students for AI (artificial intelligence), V/R (virtual reality), A/R (augmented reality), or brain interfaces? Will I even be able to unplug 10 years from now and be relevant? It scares me more than it excites me.

The ethics of technology and the future can't be ignored. Lines in the sand need to be drawn, But not today...today I unplug, watch Friends, and write in a journal.

December 18, 2016
It's mid afternoon. Yesterday I broke my plan. I was getting ready to study my Sunday school lesson to teach to 4th graders and realized I didn't have the right book. So, I got online and looked up both lesson ideas and Pinterest nativity crafts to do. It made me try to think back to my past before Pinterest. Was I more or less creative back then? I'm not sure.

Also, at bedtime I checked my email and I immediately clicked on Facebook. I immediately swiped it closed before it even opened. It made me realize how much social media is just a habit for me.

This morning I taught Sunday School and went to the service. I sat in the balcony. I got the cutest photo op of the children down front as the pastor told them his story just for them. It's the first time I really wanted to post something on social media but it's just DAY 2. RIGHT?!

The really interesting thing about this day is that it wasn't util after lunch that I realized I used my phone to ready my bible all morning long. I mean, I've been using my phone as my bible for years now on Sunday morning...it didn't even cross my mind to take a REAL BIBLE this morning. Nor did I even hesitate to open my Bible Gateway app. Have I conditioned myself to seeing the app as the bible and always available to me that it never even crossed my mind as going against my goals? Is this how tech becomes who we are when we don't even realize we are using it?

I plan to turn my notifications off on my social media and email because when I am bored, I want to check them. I think that may be something I carry forward after these 2 weeks- no social media notifications.

December 20, 2016
Yesterday I cleaned out a cabinet that should have been cleaned out a billion times over the years. I also went out to do some Christmas shopping. This is where I enjoy tech the most. Almost all my Christmas shopping was done online. I hate crowds at Christmas so once I got home I hot out my computer and ordered my groceries from Walmart. I'll use their pick up service today around 10am. I love this service since I hate grocery shopping.

So have I failed? No. I'm still mindful of my tech usage. I haven't posted or scrolled social media. I'm not checking my phone often. I think I'm creating new habits and lining what makes sense and what doesn't. I've cleaned, done a lot of reading, went to sleep earlier, planned life goals each day better and completed the goals as well. Today is a new day. I plan to bake Christmas sweets and clean out refrigerators.

December 23, 2016
I fudged. I ordered groceries online so I could just go pick them up and I looked for recipes. As I internally tried to decide "is this ok?" I feel it was an absurdity not to use tech to make my life more efficient.

For the first time ever for Christmas I spend the day baking goodies. I then spent time delivering them. It did my heart good. I feel good about myself. It wasn't a wasted morning. Yesterday I allowed myself to check emails and answer more regularly. Life felt more fragmented. Today I'm cutting back again.

I did write a blog post today. This time has given me more time to think my own thoughts- so to speak. To examine who I am and who I want to be. This is a natural thing for me to do as the year comes to a close. I posted the blog post to Twitter and found myself wondering why I felt that was necessary. 

Interestingly, I realized I realized I needed to code my purchasing card for work before Christmas day. That means computer work sometime today- while on my break. Not blaming but the nature of my job once again beckons me to technology usage. I'll do that soon.

Laundry is caught up, I've spent time with my girls in conversations, I've read, exercised and baked. Is this because of internally releasing myself form the bind of constantly checking my phone out of boredom?

My handwriting has gotten no better. These posts seem fragmented as I can't add/take away from paragraphs. Hand writing posts is much more linear than blogging. I'm not a fan.

I also deposited a check using my banking app today. Again, efficiencies make sense to me and I value that more than following a strict THOUGH SHALT NOT TECH philosophy. What I am coming to realize (or reminded of) is the value of presence- truly being in the here and now of a moment. I'll be honest, I'm a day dreamer by nature- staying connected to the real world is a conscious effort for me but how nice to focus on valuing the present. Not PRESENTS under the tree but awareness- people, places, moments that will never happen exactly the same ever again.

I am a sentimental fool as my baby graduated from high school this year and I'm dealing with more "last times." Maybe that's why the value of presence seems so noticeable? I think I am finding a better balance as well as learning some things are priorities to me. It feels good and inefficient at the same time!

December 27, 2016
I posted photos on Facebook and Instagram regarding Christmas and since then I've done some posting. I still haven't spent much time on social media. I did decide to delete the apps (social media) off my phone to see how that affects me. I'm reading more and watched a few movies. I think I've been more intentional with my time...maybe.

I have an idea for a book to write in my head but I think I'm afraid to actually sit down and plan it because I know it will "call me" to be done. We shall see.

This break has been refreshing and yet a little disconcerting. I know that my use of Twitter is only as good as what I put into it. I don't want to go backwards or lose my momentum for learning.

January 6, 2017
Yesterday afternoon and this morning I have worked from home. Stomach bugs hit my diabetic child and that's a scary thing. Everyone in our household has had it but me but today I feel queasy. School is dismissing at noon today for potential snow threat. I just got the text. I'm thankful for a job where I can occasionally work from home and be productive still.

I ended my fasting from social media on New Years Eve. I posted, saw the Christmas posts from family and friends, occasionally commented and enjoyed it. It was nice to see.

As I look today at where I am technology wise and I reflect on my "unpluggness" some might say BUT YOU DIDN'T UNPLUG! And they would be right. I'm not really sure what my goals were in the beginning except for an awareness of who I am in regards to technology. I am certain that the efficiencies that technology affords me seems worth it to me. I am certain that the intentionalness of using Twitter and other social media to connect with educators is worth it to me. I am certain there are times in my life technology gets in the way of presence.

Do I have areas that I should be aware of and work on balancing better? Most definitely. And that was the purpose of this self awareness test. Finding my balance. Do I think I will do this again? Yes I do. Fasting is a good thing. Abstinence from things we enjoy teaches discipline. I can always use more discipline in my life. Are you up for trying my challenge? I do believe if nothing else it will cause you to really start wanting to look deeper in how we are to lead the next generation in modeling and thinking ethically about the future of technology. That's a win.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

What kind of educator am I?



Kindergarten: Aunt Olga and Miss Addie Bell
1st grade: Mrs Kidd
2nd grade: Mrs Gwin
3rd grade: Mrs Rollins 
4th grade: Mrs Farley 
5th grade: Mrs Wallace and a move to another state with changing classes with Mrs Craig, Mrs Bobo and Mrs Seymour
6th grade: Mrs I O'Neil, Mrs M O'Neal, Ms Anderson
7th grade: Mr Thompson, Ms bowman, Mrs Popp, Mr Jackson, Ms Davis and I had at least four more teachers I can't remember their names
8th grade: I literally can't remember a single teacher's name or at least can't define which Year they taught me in middle school except for Mrs Benefield 
9th grade: Ms Jackson, Mrs Kissinger, Ms Windham, and several others I can't remember their names 
10th grade: Mr Copeland, Señor Rosa, Mr Faulk, Ms Knipp, Mrs Pendergrass, Ms Dedmon, and more I can't remember 
11th grade: Coach Napolitano,  Coach Tate and I can't remember any others
12th grade: Coach Underwood, Mrs Pendergrass, and I can see faces but no names are coming to me. 

Granted it's been 30 years since I graduated from high school and for many years I can name every single teacher and what they taught me. But I can't now. Can you? Better yet can you figure out why the ones you can remember stand out to you? Why do you remember their names? For me, it's either because: 
A. they were very good teachers
B. they were very bad teachers
C. had some other connection with them 
D. I had them as a teacher more than once or I spent more time in their classroom for some reason

I think about myself, being an educator now for 14 years and I wonder how many of the students that I have remembered me, and why would they remember me? And better yet are they good memories? Did I make learning enjoyable for them? Did I push them to be better? smarter? more driven? Did I show kindness? Did I say something funny that just stuck? 

As I look forward while thinking backwards and living in the present (yeah wrap your head around that) I want to be a teacher, a leader, a resource that makes a positive impact on others and leaves a legacy of lifelong learning desires in the hearts I teach. I hope I am remembered as a passionate educator.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Need for FEISTY


New years always lead to reflection of previous years for me. As I look at myself, I realize in 2017 I will have been graduated from high school for 30 years...30 years?! It made me really think back to who I was in high school compared to who I am now.

Most people don't believe this but I was a quiet, under the radar student who just couldn't wait to finish high school. Nothing about high school was really fun to me. It was just something I did. When I see people now that knew me then they are amazed at my personality change over the years. I was 5'11' and 120 pounds with the nickname "Stringbean" given to me. I was tall and skinny and when they wind blew, I went with it....and so did my sense of self-esteem-it was definitely lacking. I wasn't much better in college but I did begin to feel more confident in my own skin.

Today, I see myself as feist·y
ˈfīstē/
adjective
informal
  1. (of a person, typically one who is relatively small or weak) lively, determined, and courageous.
    "a feisty heroine who's more than a pretty face"
    synonyms:spiritedspunkypluckygutsyguttyballsy
    "the part of Annie called for a just-so balance of adorable and feisty"
  2. touchy and aggressive.
    "he got a bit feisty and tried to hit me"

    I wonder how I got here. How did I go from wallflower to feisty and when did it happen? And am I glad it happened? I think edtech did it to me to some extent, at least it pushed me greatly beyond where I was. Being an instructional technologist has caused me to need to stand up for technology integration in ways I never saw coming. I'll be honest, it's sometimes hard for me to separate myself from what I do, therefore I often take it personal when others say negative things about the technology integration I am a part of. I try daily to find the balance I need to prevent this but it is definitely an ongoing struggle for me. Thus...feisty Julie appears.

    I tend to be passionate about the things I believe in and am a part of. As an accountant many years ago, I had my own clients at age 21 because I was good at what I did. As a creative arts director at my church for years I pushed our team to be really remarkable in their performances. As a related arts computer teacher, I strived to integrate technology with classroom subjects before that was cool. I also taught keyboarding differently than anyone I know. I raced the kids (literally running laps around the classroom) to get them to increase their speed in typing. But none of those things made me feisty.

    Feisty came in the last 4 years as I have pushed, led, and sang the praises of the beauty of technology integration done well. Opposition is there. Having a vision to prepare our students for jobs that might not even exist today pushes me to see technology more integrated in our curriculum. Feisty comes when trying to be heard. Feisty comes when I want to show others the efficiencies and benefits of technology in education. Feisty comes when I get push back. 

    As I look at who I have been I must say that the old Julie was easier. Doing my thing, staying low, and making a difference in a classroom...but Feisty Julie is needed (balanced with some of the traits from high school Julie). As I look forward I hope to find my balance, be supportive of my school's culture, and be a difference maker in challenging others to think in different ways while not becoming hardened, hurt, or ambivalent in the process. How will I do that? Keep my eye on the prize...and in this case I believe the "prize" is graduating students equipped to make a difference by teaching them under the umbrella of the following philosophy:

    With the advancement of technology in the world we live in, CCS sees both the need and responsibility to equip our students with skills that will prepare them to critically think about the virtues and pitfalls of this medium. It is our desire to lay the foundation for appropriate usage to mold our students into digital citizens with a biblical worldview. Due to our accessibility to technology it is to be used to enhance education, expand education outside the walls and timeframe of the classroom, and empower students with skills to enhance lifelong learners.

    Technology is rightly used in education inasmuch as it helps improve human flourishing, student learning, teacher effectiveness, and institutional coherence and communication. As educators, we must model and instruct wise and discerning use of technology.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

One Word 2017: BRAVE


2017 One word: BRAVE

As I think of everything I know that this next year will bring I feel apprehension first. My baby graduates and is planning to go off to college. We will be empty nesters. Dynamics will change. And that's just the known changes at this point. There are always unknowns that both excite and shake us each year. New ideas adopted, new people met, new challenges, new promises, new days are sure to come. 

As I think about this next year I wonder what life will bring for me professionally, personally, and spiritually. My prayer is that God will give me the discernment to know what is best in this next year and make me BRAVE enough to do so. 

My favorite verses in the Bible "came to me" in one of the darkest times of my life. Lamentations 3:21-23 says "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." 

I am thankful for New Years, new beginnings, new opportunities, new thought patterns, and the new mercies I experience every day of my life! I want to be a woman brave enough to face this year eyes wide open, with a risk taking mindset, and discerning heart yet BRAVELY moving forward in who I am to be.