Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017

As I look back over my blog posts of 2017, I share with you my top ten read posts. I always find it interesting what topics are most intriguing to those that read my writing. I'll be honest, there seems to be a direct correlation between number of reads and when my friend Steven W. Anderson posts my blog links on Twitter. Thank you, Steven for your unintentional advertising for a friend! The list below is in proper reverse David Letterman form from least to greatest number of reads (but believe me, many are out there in the 2017 year wishing they had made this list!):

10.  My #ISTE17 Takeaways The International Society for Technology in Education is the largest   educational technology convention offered. I was fortunate for my school to fund the opportunity for me to attend this summer. I know there are tons of educators out there that would love the chance to attend but don't get to do so. It's no surprise that people wanted to read this post in order to live vicariously through an attendee.

 9.   Rocketbook Wave Reusable Notebooks: Educational Purposes? Analog collides with digital in this blog post. When I tell people about the Rocketbook Wave Notebook they don't believe me, it seems to magical. Check it out though- Rocketbook has come out with even more products since this post.

 8.  Creative Writing with Art Prompts in We love free things for education! I love opportunities for our students to have a wider audience! utilizes beautiful artwork to help students tap into their creative writing.

 7.  When a Technology Coordinator Unplugs Last Christmas vacation I spent time off technology...kinda. I think we all struggle with finding the balance between being a connected individual and someone living in the here and now. We worry even more about our children/students finding the importance of unplugging.

 6. Wonderful Ways to Make Educational Graphics Educators know visuals help in the learning process as well as create opportunities for fun engagement. This post gives some concrete ways that allow educators to find their inner artistic side with ease.

 5.  What is Technology Integration Success?   How much is enough? How much is too much? Starting with the WHY is important to figuring out the WHAT. As educators we all should be teaching digital citizenship skills/responsibilities to our students. Assuming digital natives know how to use technology wisely is not acceptable. We wouldn't throw the keys to drive a car to someone without training. We must train our students to use tech (access to the world) correctly as well.

 4.  The Writing Process that Utilizes Tech Integration Good writing skills are important in life. Utilizing technology to undergird those skills are a part of our future. This blog post was written while I was trying to discern for myself what good tech integrated writing should look like. Honestly, I might have grown through some of this since writing (and that is the beauty of blogging and why I believe all educators should blog).

 3. Educators as Empowered Learners The ISTE standards for educators start off by asking teachers to be empowered learners. This blog post kicked off an 8 part series that looked at what it means for educators to be held accountable to technology standards.

 2. Family STEAM Night Cardboard Challenge Last year our school had 2 different family STEAM nights and this blog post talked about the ease and creativity we saw during the "Cardboard Challenge" night. Our students and their parents/siblings tapped into their creative side after watching  this video about Caine's Arcade.

 1. Parenting in the Digital Age  To say this was my most read blog post would be an understatement. We are in a world of exponential growth when it comes to technology usage. Parents worry what is enough and what is too much. This blog post made some suggestions in helping your family find its balance.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

One Word: Perspective

Every year I try to start the new year with a word that would be helpful for me. Last year I read Start with Why by Simon Sinek and it has led me to this year's one word: Perspective.

As an educator, reading Mr. Sinek's book made me start looking at the "why's" regarding the things I do and the expectations we place at our school regarding educational technology. I am a big fan of backward planning- starting with the end goal in mind and then working out what it would take to get to the end result wanted. By asking myself "WHY" I am making sure my perspective is correct. My goal is to always ask myself "What's best for the students?" That leads me to my goal of focusing on my perspective this year. 

Sometimes I find myself in meetings and it is only natural that we start thinking about changes from our own perspective. How is this going to impact me or my classroom? It's very easy to start worrying about myself instead of keeping my perspective on the real goal: "Is this what is best for the students?" It's a slippery slope where we can find ourselves making decisions based on cost or ease of use when talking about educational technology. But the bottom line should always be "Is this what is best for our students?" 

Perspective is different based on our individual pasts and training but if I focus on a guiding question that is bigger than my own "camp" then I am both open to the perspectives of others and feel confident about what I believe due to the desire to keep my guiding questions focused on my students and not me. 

As I work towards reminding myself of the needed perspective this year, I hope my focus on others will allow me to see big pictures better. I tend to be someone that gets excited about the potential of educational technology for our students. In my past it would be fair to judge me and say that I tried to lead with technology instead of student needs. I am not that person any longer. I am quite certain that through much reading, research and soul searching I am a better instructional technologist than I have been- I have grown. It is my desire to continue on this path. So my one word for 2018 is Perspective. May I ever be mindful of not allowing the technology to displace the pedagogy nor the pedagogy to displace the person. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jesus was an Innovator.

INNOVATION: The place where NEED and PASSION intersect under an umbrella of CREATIVITY

It is my opinion that Jesus was the ultimate innovator. Out of wine at a wedding? No problem, let me turn some water into wine for this shindig. Too many people to feed? No problem, give me a few loaves and fishes and I'll feed this crowd. The masses won't listen to me? Oh well, I'll go hang out with the people that aren't accepted and love and accept them. Need to spread the word? I'll gather together a random group of men to share the good news. Speaking of good news, they aren't really listening to the message, I know...I'll speak in parables so that my message will be relevant forever. Jesus looked for ways to be innovative to best meet the needs of people. As a christian, spending time looking at how Jesus taught others is part of my life. As an educator, I can't help but see that his teaching would be considered entertaining, as well as cutting edge in many ways. His tactics were questioned by the traditional masses. His scope and sequence, curriculum mapping and goals seemed gasp worthy at times. 

When Jesus prayed for his disciples he said in John 17:14 "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." It is commonly heard in Christian circles that we are to be in this world but not of it. Is this not the place that innovation begins? Are we not then called to be innovators? Did Jesus not model reaching every person with his message- not just the Jewish people but the Gentiles as well? Not just those that appeared morally upright but the tax collectors and prostitutes?

Forgive the analogy but does that not also mean that I have a responsibility to teach not only the easy student but the hard student as well? Could that possibly mean looking for ways to innovatively personalize the educational process for each student? Dare I say tapping into the use of technology that allows for this type of thing to not only be possible but to be a positive impact on education for students that often don't see education in a positive light? 

If I am to be seen as different in this world is it to utilize my innovative "bent" for a greater good? Is that truly even different in today's world? If I am to be different in this world, does that mean speaking into things like artificial intelligence, algorithms and iOT devices from a biblical perspective?

If I am to be different in this world, am I to teach others as individuals and not as a collective whole? Am I to do away with the concept of average? Am I to be seen as a rebel or a revolutionary in the educational arena? This is all about me but what about other educators? What should education look like in the future? Contemporary or classical? I think we would all agree not antiquated. Is there a right or a wrong perspective? Can the varying perspectives live harmoniously together? If I expect to reach the individual student should I not also have respect for the individual teacher?  How much innovation is enough? Too much? How do we measure it's effectiveness? Should that be a goal? 

I do believe Jesus was an innovator. I wrestle with what a modern day Jesus would look like- what modes of communication would he tap into? How would he teach the masses? I do believe Jesus was an innovator. In a world that weekly creates efficiencies to both learn the user and streamline the learning process through technology advancements, I believe I am called to be an innovator as well...for the masses. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Connecting School Learning with Local Businesses...even for elementary students.

I'm thankful for Chattanooga and how it supports education in the Tennessee Valley. I'm thankful for local businesses that support the learning happening at Chattanooga Christian School. Recently we have been blessed by support from Bridge Innovate to allow our students to participate in a design thinking challenge. This is the second year that we have had a team to participate in this wonderful opportunity. This year the theme is "Transportation of the Future."

We have 6 fifth grade students that are participating in the challenge. These 6 students are using the design thinking process to dream about the future of transportation in the Chattanooga area. They have brainstormed and were broken up in groups to look at rural, urban, and waterway transportation. They have looked at feasibility at what seems like outlandish transportation of the future. They have thought about transportation from the viewpoint of the users.

As part of the design thinking process it is always good to get feedback on your idea. That's where our partnership with Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) came into play. CCS dad, Brent Matthews, is the Director of Parking and Security for CARTA. He graciously volunteered to speak with our students and answer some questions they had about transportation in Chattanooga. After a bit of planning, Brent and I soon realized that taking a field trip to the CARTA Shuttle Park South location would be very beneficial for our students. Cue last Friday! We loaded up on a CCS bus and we went to visit not just Mr. Matthews but also CARTA Executive Director, Lisa Maragnano. The students were wowed by the board room, the huge Chattanooga image on the wall, and the swag that Mr. Matthews shared with them. 
Our students had created questions in a Google Doc and this had been shared with Mr. Matthews and Mrs. Maragnano before our visit. Mr. Matthews immediately called the meeting to order and answered the questions on the document for the students. He then gave the students time to ask more questions and share their concept ideas. They were using their brand new mini notebooks given to them by Mr. Matthews to take notes during the meeting. We ended with a brief trip upstairs in the parking garage to see one of the 20 electric cars that Chattanooga has available as part of the Green Commuter Car Sharing program.

I won't share the secrets and plans for moving forward but I am thankful for CARTA and their willingness to invest in the lower school students at Chattanooga Christian School. Team work makes the dream work. The open attitude of area businesses coming alongside our students to give them opportunities to see real world STEAM jobs is a huge positive investment in the future. Anyone that knows me knows that I am passionate about our students having STEAM opportunities in an authentic setting. Chattanooga's innovative community makes it easy for educators to tap into ways for this to happen. 

If you look at the ISTE Standards for Students or the Essential Points of the Tennessee STEM Designated School program you will see that this type of opportunity isn't just seen as a perk but as essential to next generation education. With the connectedness of today's world, it's easier than ever before to get students figuratively and literally outside of their school box. Looking for opportunities to make that happen becomes the job of the educator. Becoming a well connected educator opens the door for you to be proactive in this. 

I will leave you with this, these 6 students spent approximately 45 minutes off campus in a boardroom asking questions, there was nothing magical about this trip but the sense of excitement on the way over and the sense of accomplishment on the way back was amazing. I will continue to look for more ways to give my students more amazing. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How Will Net Neutrality Impact Gig City Students?

I don't begin to understand all the political aspects of the repealing of net neutrality but I am concerned about how it will impact my students.  I'll be honest, students in Chattanooga are blessed to live in GIG CITY. Our high speed internet access makes me become a snob when I visit other cities! We have it going on when it comes to speed, and I have a need...a need for SPEED! But this isn't about me, it's about the students in the Chattanooga area. I'm here to discuss my concerns about the potential impact of repealing net neutrality and how it will impact education.

I work in a technology blessed school. We have rolling carts of iPads, Chromebooks and robots throughout our lower school and grades 5-12 are now in a 1:1 environment. Our school sees the benefit of both equipping students with digital skills and integrating technology for aspects of the next generation of education: personalization, participation, programmable, and predictive.

Here is what I have learned over the last 2 years, budgeting for educational technology isn't easy. Every year software is developed that creates an "aha" moment of "YES, this is what we need to support or learning initiatives!" Every year new devices with more bells, whistles, and capabilities hit the market. So we budget, rebudget, guess and reguess how to plan for the next year...but there is one thing we haven't had to budget on...

The cost of good streaming from individual websites. Is this going to cause a case of the haves and have nots? Will my choice to use free websites become less of an option because they cannot pay the regulators the funds needed for good streaming? OR perhaps I cannot pay for good streaming because of now needing to prioritize what we truly need access to versus what is just a want?  How will this impact my students? How will this impact the bottom line of our school's budget (which directly impacts my students)? How will this impact things student do at home? Will we have to change our expectations regarding homework?

As I said before, I do not begin to understand the pros and cons on each side of this discussion but as an education I worry about how the repeal will impact the use of technology in education. What are you thoughts on this?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Do You See What I See?

"Said the night wind to the little lamb

Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite" 
- The Little Drummer Boy 

Perspective. Your reality is your perception of the truth. Interestingly, the same eye witness to an event, conversation, or day can have totally different perceptions of how things went down. Sometimes the most magnificent moments are totally missed because our mindsets are skewed. As we finish up a semester of education at our school I ask, do you see what I see? If you walk down the hallways of my school would you see:

Innovation. Educators looking for opportunities to broaden the audience of their students learning. Would you notice the QR Codes on the first grade hallways that link to videos our first graders have created in Seesaw to share their learning? 

Care. Would you notice not only a teacher stooping down to tie the shoe of a student that doesn't know how but also see a fellow student helping their friend that often needs a little extra help in the classroom and throughout her day? 

Collaboration. Would you notice the value we place on teaching our students collaboration skills for their future? Would you see students working together to solve problems and learning how to work with the personalities of others as they do so? 

Hard Work. Would you witness the beauty of seeing success? Would you see the smile on a spelling bee winner's face? A student that carries a dictionary around on a regular basis to learn how to spell new words. Would you see the first student that met a technology geography challenge start helping the rest of his class find the area on a Google map? Would you notice the pride that comes with academic success? 

 Engagement. Would you notice the teacher that works hard to engage his students in hands-on learning activities? Would you see students utilizing classroom tools to aid in the learning process? How would you interpret what you see? Would you see it the way I see it or would you be wary? How does your past and your view of the present intersect in your interpretation of the truth? How does mine impact me?

Risk Taking. Do you see the student that is allowed to tinker with no grade attached and how that causes a willingness to try? Do you see the value of unstructured learning opportunities that sparks the passion of the learner? Would you see, like I do, a culture that eradicates the fear of failure because it is creating a sense of failing forward? What about educators that are willing to take risks to try to better meet the needs of each student and create a culture of learning ownership? Would you see this as a good thing or a scary thing? What would it take for you to see it as a good thing? Can you agree that risk taking is something we should not only be modeling for our students but that we should be teaching as well? 
 Love. Do you see what I see everyday? A group of educators that are relational with our students? That teach our students what it means to love others and to share Christ's love? From the simple act of giving students opportunities to be campus caretakers, to creating Christmas trees to be delivered to the local children's hospital during the holidays, or by valuing family by having such events as Grandparent's Day, do you see how we focus on love at our school? Do you see how we are a school that is a place for students to grow as Lovers of God who seek Truth, serve others, and steward creation and culture.  

 Perspective. May I ever be mindful that my perspective isn't necessarily always the "right" one but also that it's important that I share my perspective with others as a way to encourage and share the good things happening in education day in and day out. #CCSlearns

Monday, December 4, 2017

Chrome Extensions For the Win!

Chrome extensions work only in Chrome and will not work on the Chrome app on an iPad or iPhone
  • F1000 Annotator - Great way to have a place to save useful information and annotate for the future
  • Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder - Create screenshots and screen recordings to create how-to's
  • Google Drive - Quick access to your Google Drive from your Chrome Browser
  • Crafty Text - Create easy to read text to share when displaying your screen in a meeting/class time
  • Equatio - Math equation generator
  • Black Menu for Google - Easy access to the Google Apps 
  • InsertLearning - Allows you to create an interactive lessons from any website 
  • Boomerang - Not the repeating video thing on Instagram...Boomerang gives you the ability to post and send things (emails, social media, etc) at a later date and even receive analytics on what you have sent.
  • Google Keep - Part of the Google Suites Apps. Google Keep gives you a way to take notes and you can access it across your devices easily for reference
See the video below to watch me go through each extension and learn more:

To add extensions to your Chrome Toolbar:
  1. Open Chrome
  2. Click the 3 vertical dots in the right hand top corner of your page
  3. Click on "More Tools"
  4. Click on "Extensions" 
  5. Then click on "Get More Extensions" (at the bottom of the page if you have already downloaded any extensions)
After creating the video above I was asked by a teacher how to create voice comments in Google docs. Here is my video on how to use the Chrome Extension "Read & Write for Google Chrome" for inputting voice comments into a Google Doc: