Ms. Fagin Went to Washington, Part II

Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible. –George Washington Carver

I was chosen. Yes. Me. I was chosen. I was chosen to join 36 other educators to go to the mountaintop.  That mountaintop was located on the 9th floor of a nondescript building at 25 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C.  I had already received an email message telling me that I would be part of the #WDC17 Google Innovator Cohort in June, but to be sitting in a room with the very same people who received the very same congratulatory email message was inspiring.  As a matter of fact, to hear, “We chose you.” from the people in charge of the program sent chills up my spine the very day they said it and still does today.

I am going to digress for a moment. I have mentioned before, I am a middle child. I don’t know how any other middle child feels, but this one feels like there is absolutely nothing special about being the middle child. I wasn’t the first, and I wasn’t the last. I don’t have children, and they each have a son and a daughter.  My grades were better than that of my brother and sister. I graduated from college before both of them and received my Master’s degree before they did, yet I have never felt special. I didn’t feel special the year I was selected Teacher of the Year in 2010 at the school I worked at which also happened to be my alma mater. I think it didn’t help that the principal said that from that point on, meaning after I was TOTY, it would mean something to be Teacher of the Year. It would no longer be a popularity contest, but a testament to the contributions the teacher made to the overall educational setting of the school. Wow? Really? However, for that moment in that room at the Washington, D.C. Google Office, I felt special. I was chosen out of the millions of people who applied (yes, slight exaggerations). Me. Leslie Renee Fagin was chosen to be part of a program that no doubt is going to stretch and push me more than any other thing in my professional career. That’s okay. I am up to the challenge. I hope. I do have some doubts from time to time about how I am going to turn a fully functioning school bus into a mobile STEM or STEAM lab, I am not quite sure, but I do know that I have a support group that stretches across the United States and Canada. For the three days that we were at Google, we talked, laughed, and grew together as a group. We shared our projects, our passions, our challenges, and offered solutions to one another. We shared resources and contacts and just the right amount of constructive criticism needed to keep us going in the right direction.  Now that we are back at home and knee-deep in another school year, we will work on our projects, our day jobs, our hobbies, and our families. We will send messages in our Google Hangout Chat,and we will follow each other via social media. We are a tribe. We are #WDC17. #WeAreInnovators.

File_000

This is one of the things I worked on while at the Google Innovator Academy. I laid out plans for what needed to be done, created a prototype, conducted research about my end-user, and received feedback from my fellow Innovators.

Now, back to the experience of being at Google DC. I don’t know if that’s the official name of it or not, but that’s what I am calling it. I used to be an English teacher, so I often take liberties with making up words and names. We had a tour of the Capitol prior to the first session at the Google office. It was my intention to participate, but after sitting on a plane for nearly two hours and trekking across the city to get lunch and then head to the Capitol,  my feet just didn’t cooperate. In 2008, I fell down the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy and tore my Achilles Tendon. It hasn’t been right since. My first day in DC was painful so I opted to skip the tour and have a fan girl moment with one of our coaches. When we were sent our initial congratulatory letter with Academy details, we were told who the coaches would be. I was impressed with all of them, but secretly I wanted Jennie Magiera to be my coach. I knew I would be good with any of the coaches, but I have been a HUGE fan of Jennie’s since ISTE 2014. As referenced in an earlier post, I was hired for my current position about two weeks before ISTE 2014. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited to see that Ashley Judd was going to be the opening keynote on Sunday night. She was good. Jennie Magiera was BETTER. Ashley was a celebrity who was talking to educators about relevant matters. Jennie was/is an educator talking to educators about the lives we lead and the lives we touch. Jennie is in the trenches every single day just like we are. She understands because our lives are similar.  I was so pumped by what she had to say. I knew that at some point in my life I had to meet her. I never imagined that I would be fortunate enough to meet her and have her be my coach during the Google Innovator Academy.  Jennie’s voice was the first I heard at my very first ISTE, and I have not forgotten what she said or how empowered I felt as a brand new instructional technology coach. After spending three days with her and having the opportunity to share my vision with her and get feedback, I remember why I felt so empowered. She is amazing. If by chance the other coaches are reading this, please don’t think that I think you aren’t amazing. You are. I have learned so much from all of you and am thankful for the time spent with each of you. But I think you get it. Jennie was my coach, and I spent most of my time learning from her. She was sympathetic and accommodating when I had issues arise with my foster son and a certain unnamed state child welfare agency, and she was gracious enough to take pictures with me so I could send them home to my foster son. I would like to believe that by placing us in groups with similar project themes, the Innovator program people in charge meant for the people in the groups to connect on a deeper level. The #RebelRousers did just that.  We are forever connected by the times we spent sitting at our table sharing our life experiences, our hopes, our fears, and our visions on how to change education and leave a lasting legacy.

IMG_5031

My people. My tribe. My #RebelRousers with our amazing coach Jennie!

Yes, I was chosen. Yes, although I still struggle with the thought, I am special. Regardless of what anyone else thinks or says about me, I am special. Not because I was chosen to go to the Google Innovator Academy. I am special because of who I am, what I have done,  and what I will do. What will my legacy be? At this point in time, I have no idea. I do know that I have worked with children all of my adult life. I probably reached some of them and made a difference in their lives. I am currently working with adults. I know that some appreciate the help I provide with their technology needs. That may be part of my legacy. I have loved my family and friends, and most of the time, they know that. The love and dedication I have for my family will be part of my legacy. My Google Innovator Academy #WDC17 project will most definitely be part of my legacy.

I am still contemplating a name for the project though I know my mother’s name will be tied in somehow. My mother was a para-professional in our district for 15 years before a terminal cancer diagnosis cut short her career. She loved the children she worked with and spent way more time than she got paid for creating opportunities for them – all of them. Especially the ones who needed just a little extra love and attention. When my STEM/STEAM bus is riding around town, I want her name to be visible as part of her legacy. This bus will be for the children in our community – all of them. All of our children have dreams, and we have an obligation to give them a forum to nurture those dreams as well as the opportunity to create, collaborate, critically think, and communicate. This bus will be for the teachers in our district. They crave more although sometimes they are too tired to do more.  Guess what? They do more anyway because that’s what teachers do. They want to give our students every opportunity for success, and they want to be prepared in every way to help them. The bus will also be used for professional development so that our teachers are equipped to help the students. The bus will be for my mother because this is just the kind of thing she would have wanted. She grew up extremely poor and never had anyone to encourage her to think about a better life. Thankfully she married my father, a career Army soldier, so she got a better life. She never forgot where she came from and spent her life-giving back. Lastly, this bus will be for me. I was chosen. I am special. I want to leave a lasting legacy for the children in my community. It’s my community because this is where we moved after my dad retired from the Army. It’s my community because I was educated for the last five years of my school career. It’s my community because this is where I live and work. It’s my community because this is where I choose to make a difference. Every time I go into a school and look at our students, I see so many possibilities. Every night when I put my foster son to bed and we have our nightly chats, I see so many possibilities.  Those possibilities will become a reality as I work through the process of re-purposing the bus and turn my dream into a reality. The work began before I got to the Innovator Academy. I dug a little deeper while in Washington, D. C. It’s time to get to work and get this bus in motion.

I was chosen. I am special. I am preparing my legacy.  That’s what happened when Ms. Fagin Went to Washington. She found herself.

20638008_10159044427370570_3602505006588546965_n

The possibilities are endless. I was chosen. I am special. I found myself.

Until next time…

autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

 

IMG_20170802_195640-01

#GoogleEI #WDC17 Some of the most amazing educators I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from.

 

,

Simple Tips on Keeping Your Educators Happy and Productive!

Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them.  If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.  –Lee Iacocca

It’s that time of year again – the beginning of another school year in districts around the country. Countless teachers are preparing classrooms, drafting unit plans, finishing summer reading lists, and spending lots and lots of money on supplies to make sure their students have all that they need to be successful.  It may be that school is starting in the next week or the next month, but regardless of the start date, there are teachers who anxiously await the beginning of the year.

We started New Teacher Orientation in my district today.  I did not have a part in today’s activities, but as I was working on getting teachers assigned to their classroom cameras, I wondered about the new people who would be joining our district.  Are they fresh out of college and eager to begin their careers as educators?  Are some coming from another district because their previous employer just didn’t measure up to their needs?  Are they moving to the area because of a job transfer for their spouse?  New teachers to my district are probably just like new teachers in the thousands of districts across the country. They want to make a difference, they want to be respected, and they want to be recognized for the hard work they do.  If you are reading this and you are not an educator, please believe me when I say, being a teacher is HARD work.  It is hard emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.  Teaching is not for the faint-hearted.  If you are an educator, you get what I am saying because you know you have felt the exact same way yet you continue to teach.

Last spring as the school year was wrapping up, I saw many articles on social media about teachers who were good at teaching yet they are leaving the profession in large numbers.  I would read the articles, agree with some points, and wonder why can’t the powers that be understand what we (educators) need?  Yes, we are grown ups with grown up jobs.  We are also just like the students we teach.  Our students need acceptance, recognition, affirmation, encouragement, and perhaps the thing they need the most is to know that somebody is on their side.  When they don’t get those things from us, we lose them, and it’s pretty hard to get them back.  Has anyone ever thought that the same can be said of the teachers who are leaving or have already left?

As the name of this blog implies, I am an instructional technology coach. Before that, I was a classroom teacher.  I also have the credentials to be an administrator although I have not served in that capacity.  If I were an administrator, these are the things I would do for the educators on my campus:

  1. Acknowledge that they are professionals. They may be new to the world of education, but they are indeed professionals. Treat them as such.  If they have an opinion, listen.  Let them try something new.  This world is where it is because someone (okay, a lot of someones) went out on a limb and tried something new.  I am willing to bet that the first day of Ron Clark’s teaching career, he probably did not know that his teaching style would be emulated around the world. Somebody he worked for trusted his professional judgement and look at him now.
  2. Accept them for who they are.  You hired them for a reason.  Let them do their job.  It may not be the way you would do it, but maybe your way isn’t the best way. If their way doesn’t work, talk about it with them and move on.  Isn’t that what we do with our students?  We do not grow without failing from time to time.  Think about it this way.  If they do something their way, and they are successful, both of you look good.  If they fail and learn from their failure because of your help, you will still look good because you were a good enough leader to help them through the experience.  That brings us to the next point…
  3.  Recognize them for a job well done.  Believe you me, I know that schools do not have an endless supply of money to buy gift cards or whatever, but how about standing up in a faculty meeting and giving a few teachers a 100,000 Grand candy bar? A bag doesn’t cost a lot, and the teacher gets recognition in front of their peers. When teachers don’t get recognized for their hard work by the people in charge, they question their worth.  I will be the first to tell you. We don’t get immediate feedback from our students.  They usually have to grow up before they realize all that teachers have done for them.  If you have a staff newsletter, recognize teachers in the newsletter.  Show up in their classroom and do a quick thank you via YouTube Live.  The point is…Do Something! If you don’t do something long enough, you will be hiring more teachers at the end of the school year.
  4. Be on their side.  No, I do not mean that you are supposed to support your teachers when they are obviously violating the law or the Teacher Code of Ethics, but be on their side when they are coming to work to make a difference for the students and teachers on your campus.  When your teachers need you, be there for them.  It’s like being a parent. When your children need you, you are there for them regardless. Do the same for your teachers. You want them to be there for the students.  Give the professionals in your building the same courtesy.  Be there for them. All day.  Every day.

Tomorrow afternoon when I see the many faces of our new teachers in my training sessions, I will hope that they have a great year although it may be filled with a few moments of uncertainty.  Hopefully, they will know that they are appreciated, wanted, respected, and most importantly, part of our family.  I hope the same is true for teachers around the country.  We need good teachers and cannot afford for our good ones to keep leaving to do other jobs.  Our kids deserve the best.  Since our kids deserve the best, why not treat our educators like they are the best?

Until next time…

autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

Ms. Fagin Goes to Washington, Part I

The innovation point is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams. — W. Arthur Porter

The first time I applied for the Google Innovator Academy, I really thought that I had a good project idea. However, because of medical issues, I could not fully commit to putting together a top-notch application and video.  The day applications were due was the day I created my video. I had just been at home on medical leave for 4 weeks and not feeling my best. Needless to say, I was rejected. I was disappointed but not much.  I knew what I submitted was not my best work, so I couldn’t really be upset when I received the following email from the Innovator Program Team:

Rejection 1

The second time I applied, I loved my idea. I put together a great video and application. I eagerly awaited hearing back from the Innovator Program Team.  It wasn’t to be. Again. This time I was more than disappointed. I couldn’t figure out why I was not accepted to be part of the Boulder 16 cohort.  I remember watching the Twitter hashtag for the academy, and I was quite jealous. I felt like my time had passed, and I would never be a Google Innovator. I saved the second rejection email. I am not sure why, but I did.

Rejection 2

When I was rejected after the second application, I decided that I would take a break from applying.  I fundamentally believed that there was something wrong with how I was approaching the entire process, and I needed time to regroup. I also thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with me since I could not put together an application packet that was worthy of being accepted.  I would watch the #GoogleEI Twitter feed each time a new cohort was announced.  Each time I would see the congratulatory emails from those accepted, I was reminded of my failure.  I pretty much decided that I would not apply again.  I felt like I could make a difference without the Google Innovator label. Plus, I was tired of getting the email that said, “Sorry, we don’t want you but keep doing what you are doing.” Okay, that’s not what the email said, but that’s how I interpreted the message.

After enough time had passed, and I found other reasons to be proud of my work (I co-authored #Edumatch 16: Snapshot in Education and signed a contract with my publisher to write my next book due next year), I decided that I could try one more time. I am not a quitter, and I could not let myself not try again.  This time I didn’t spend hours trying to find a project. I let my project find me. One evening I was online and saw a bus that had been repurposed into a mobile learning center. At that moment, I knew what I had to do for my next Google Innovator application project.  I am not the instructional technology coach assigned to the elementary schools in my district, but I do visit them from time to time. I also have an eight year old foster son living with me. He loves to tinker with stuff. There are many days that he will go in his room and make things. He then will ask me to come in and play whatever game he has made up.  His games usually involve throwing things and counting things.  When my idea hit me, I knew that we needed a mobile STEM lab in our district.  Our kids need places they can tinker, create, collaborate, critically think, and communicate with one another.  Just like districts around the country, money is an issue.  We cannot put STEM labs in every school, but we can have a bus that travels around the district and expose our students to as many opportunities as possible.

From the moment I had the idea to make a mobile STEM lab, I knew that would be the project that I would do regardless of my status as an Innovator.  I want it for my foster son and the children in our district.  I now know that in my two previous attempts, I was not passionate. I cared, but those projects did not keep me up at night.  This project does. This is the project that I want to complete and share with others around the world.  This project I want to use to train teachers in using STEM in the classroom.  This project will allow me to go from school to school in my district and possibly neighboring districts and watch students be amazed as they create and communicate with students in their classrooms and around the globe.  Yes, they will be able to do Google Hangouts while in the bus.

When putting my project application together, I had to do a slide deck explaining the problem, and how I hoped to solve it.  To complement the slide deck, I had to create a video and upload it to YouTube. I spent a lot of time on both because I wanted my passion to shine so that those judging the applications could see how important this project is to me.  I even went so far as to record my video on a school bus.  I felt that atmosphere would add just the right touch.  As I completed the various parts of the application, I had trusted friends look over it and give me suggestions.  I wanted to make sure that I was not overlooking anything.  The most consistent feedback that I got was to make sure that my project was scalable meaning I needed to make sure that the mobile STEM lab idea is something that can be replicated by others.  Sounds easy enough. Right? I tweaked the application and submitted it.  I will go ahead and tell you that I am not a patient person.  Initially applicants were told that acceptance letters would be sent out on June 4, 2017.  Somewhere along the way, the date got changed to June 6th.  I was tortured every moment of every day as I waited to see if I had finally been accepted to be a Google Innovator.

I began checking my email at 12:01 AM on June 6th.  I checked, rechecked, and checked again. All day long. I watched the Twitter feed. I checked my SPAM folder. I had two training sessions on Google Classroom.  My mind was half on the  training and half on my email.  Still no answer by the end of the work day. My church had Vacation Bible School that week, and I had registered my foster son and my nephew.  Let me apologize to God for what I am about to say.  I have no idea what transpired that evening during VBS.  I was checking email.  At exactly 8:00 PM, my pastor was praying.  I did not have my eyes closed nor was I paying him any attention.  I was scanning my email and saw one from The Google for Education Innovator Program.  Before I clicked on the message, I saw, “Congratulations from the Google for Education Innovator Program Team.”  Although my pastor was praying, my church is not one that is okay with folks screaming out during the prayers.  I had to refrain.  I opened the email and saw what I had been wanting to see for so long:

Innovator Acceptance

I made it!  Finally. I was going to be an Innovator.  I, Leslie R. Fagin, was going to Washington, DC, with 36 other phenomenal educators.  The #WDC17 cohort would be tasked with something similar to our predecessors – be different, be creative, be innovative, be the driving force behind change in our educational system and our communities and our world.

Of course, being selected to attend the Innovator Academy is not the end of my journey.  It’s just the beginning.  Since my intention is to share the process with others so they can replicate it in their districts, I will blog on this site and add videos on my YouTube Channel.  Not long after our acceptance letters were sent out, we received a ton of information about what to expect as well as things that we needed to do prior to our arrival in DC.  I will continue to share my experience as I travel the road to becoming a Google Innovator.  I can’t wait until I get to the Google Office in DC, nor can I wait to see the bus in motion sometime in 2018.  I already have a name for it, and I can’t wait to unveil it at the press conference.  Yes, there will be a press conference.

Stay tuned…

autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

WDC17 Logo BIG

What to Expect When You’re Attending…ISTE 2017

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. –Alexander Graham Bell

The highlight of my year begins in about 3 weeks. I passed being excited a long time ago. I was excited last October when I purchased my airline ticket. It became real when I got the hotel reservation confirmation. When I first heard about ISTE, I knew it was a place I had to be. I had no idea how I was going to get there; I just knew I had to be there. My first ISTE was in Atlanta in 2014. I was unprepared. I had just been hired as an instructional technology coach, and I had no idea what to expect. I was a little better in Philadelphia for ISTE 2015. ISTE 2016 in Denver was much better. I plan to totally rock ISTE 2017 in San Antonio!

Make A Plan

Here’s how my colleague Robin Harris and I navigate ISTE. Without a plan, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and miss out on events and opportunities. Since it is such a huge financial investment, having a roadmap helps. We used Google Sheets to create

ISTE 2017 Schedule

My ISTE 2017 Schedule

schedules for ourselves and then we shared with each other. We listed everything we had to do (our presentations, volunteer obligations, and BYOD sessions) and filled in what we wanted to do (sessions, meetups, and exhibit hall time).  We also decide ahead of time what our focus will be for the conference. I am trying to learn more about STEM, and Robin is adding to her blended learning knowledge base. Once we identified our focus, it made it easier to build our conference schedules. Of course, we may change some things once we get to San Antonio, but it sure does take away a lot of anxiety knowing that for the most part, we have planned what we will do.

Limit Your Gadgets

I know. Die hard tech people love their gadgets and travel with as many as possible just in case. Who knows what you will need, and who wants to be unprepared? I have been guilty of taking too much to previous conferences. Every time I do, I regret it. Extra technology means extra scrutiny going through airport security. I understand the need for airport security, but I hate having to pull all of my devices out of my bag. In the past, I have carried a laptop, iPad, a Chromebook, and two cell phones. I used all of the devices but could have made do without some. The last day of the conference when I had to store my luggage, I did not feel comfortable leaving my devices unattended, so I carried everything in my backpack. My back was so not appreciative. I was not appreciative when I was pulled aside for extra screening on the return flight home. I even had to go to a separate area to retrieve my laptop. It’s not worth the hassle. This year I will have the cell phone, the iPad, and the Chromebook. That’s it. I don’t need more.

Protect Your Wallet

Hi, my name is Leslie, and I purchase too many t-shirts. It never fails. I say I won’t, but I do. I buy one or two conference shirts, shirts from the city, and at least one sweatshirt. I also purchase other souvenirs. Why is that bad? Well, for one thing I never have enough room in my suitcase and I also don’t need most of what I buy. I have way more t-shirts than can be worn in my lifetime. Really. Just ask Robin. Save yourself some money. If you want a shirt, go to the exhibit hall and ask. A lot of the vendors have shirts to give away. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Also, you can get a free conference one if you volunteer to help out. I am a Conference Volunteer and will get a cool shirt to add to my collection. Plus I get to talk to other attendees. That’s a win-win for me.

Might I also mention food. ISTE is a conference held at a convention center. Eating at such may require a second mortgage on your home. Seriously, plan ahead so that you don’t spend a lot of money eating at the conference. There will be a free continental breakfast in Exhibit Hall 2-4 on Monday and Tuesday. It’s usually pastries and coffee. Vendors will also have events in which they provide hors d’oeuvres. Find one or two and go. You will no doubt have to listen to a sales pitch, but free food can be worth it.

Being Mobile

The conference itself is huge. You will do a lot of walking in the convention center and outside of the convention center. To help combat foot issues, please wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated. There will be water stations located throughout the convention center, so you can fill up your water bottle. There will also be a lot of places where you can sit and rest your feet for a bit and talk to other conference attendees. Don’t pass up the opportunity to meet new friends.

How to get around San Antonio? In the last couple of years, I have tried a couple of different options. The first year in Atlanta, I drove my car and parked it at the hotel. My hotel was not on the bus route so I had to take a cab every day. I was concerned about my safety, but my concerns were unfounded. There were other conference attendees staying at my hotel, so I was able to share a cab with someone every day. If you are staying at a hotel not on the bus route, ask around (Twitter, Voxer, ISTE 2017 Network). Somebody else is looking just like you are.

As far as getting to and from the airport, we have done it both ways. In Philadelphia, we took public transportation. It was cheap and gave us a chance to see the city while riding the train to the hotel. In Denver, we split the cost of a cab since there were five of us. It was pretty easy to grab one at the airport on the way into the city, and we had the hotel secure one for us the day we departed. We had a little extra time in Denver that Wednesday after ISTE ended, so we chipped in and rented a car. Robin, Will (our network administrator), and I wanted to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. We only spent about $25.00 each and had time to get out and explore. Make sure to leave some time to see something. I am not sure when I will be back in San Antonio, so I am taking full advantage of the time I have during ISTE.

Get Connected

Even if you are going by yourself, you are not by yourself. I am saying this as a shy person. Talk to someone. Talk to someone else. Keep talking to a new person every single day. Share whaIMG_5410t you do at your job. Ask them what they do. I know it’s hard, but it will be so worth it. I promise you will be glad you did. People talk about the power of the PLN. It’s real. It’s as real as you and me. My go to PLNs are #Edumatch and #ETCoaches. My involvement with Edumatch resulted in my becoming a published author. I did not know any of my fellow authors before I got connected with Edumatch. Now I have a global group of friends that I can go to with any question and get an immediate answer. Working with the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches has given me a group of fellow coaches who constantly push me to do better and be better. We all need someone in our corner who will help bring out the best in us. Having a PLN will help you be better at whatever you are doing. I promise.

I do not profess to be an ISTE expert. I am just someone who has been a few times and wants others to have a good experience. By no means is this list all-inclusive of what you should and should not do while at ISTE. It’s a starting point. If you have questions about anything else, please reach out. I can be found on Twitter, Voxer, or good old-fashioned email leslie.fagin@gscs.org. If you are wandering around the convention center and want to talk to someone, send me a message on Twitter. I would be glad to meet up with you and chat.

One last tip: Have fun!

autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

GSCS Prize Patrol

17854919_1314958711874420_5046925592392150463_o (1)

Mrs. Amy Brown, staff members from the GSCS Instructional Technology Department,  and her 3rd grade students the day of our announcement!

As a child I dreamed of the day when Ed McMahon would knock on my door with a giant  check from the Publisher’s Clearing House. Once I got a job, I even bought magazines thinking that would increase my chance of winning. I know. I wasted my money on something that was never going to happen for me. All that happened was that I spent money on magazines that I am sure I never read.

I never got a visit from the Prize Patrol, but I recently had the chance to bring joy to someone’s day. At the beginning of the school year, our Instructional Technology Department decided that we wanted to give a teacher in our district the opportunity to attend the ISTE Conference. Going to ISTE is a wonderful opportunity, but the cost of registration, housing, and travel is prohibitive to many teachers.  We knew that by giving one of our teachers the chance to interact with other educational technology enthusiasts that our students would be the real winners. My colleagues, Lonny Harper and Robin Harris, and I sat down and discussed how we wanted to give away a trip to ISTE. We did not want to just give someone a free trip nor did we want to put names in a hat and do a drawing. We strongly felt that if we were going to invest nearly $3,000, we wanted to do it right.  After much discussion, we came up with a plan. We would have a competition, and the winner would be the recipient of the trip to ISTE.

Win a trip to ISTE Application top

In order to maximize our return on investment, we came up with some requirements for the scholarship recipient. Since ISTE is all about effective technology integration, we wanted to make sure that whomever won the contest already had a strong history of effectively using technology in class. We drafted a list of instructional practices that we thought should take place in class and came up with a Google Form for the applicants to fill out. We advertised the contest in our weekly Tuesday Tech Tips newsletter and made announcements during our professional learning training sessions. It was officially announced in October.

Win a trip to ISTE questions 1-3

Win a trip to ISTE questions 4-7

Win a trip to ISTE questions 8-11

Win a trip to ISTE questions 12-13

Not long after we announced the contest, we began to get a lot of interest from our teachers.  They had questions and wanted to schedule time with Robin or me so that they could knock out that requirement.  Having the teachers get excited about the contest was refreshing for both of us. We both know the power of ISTE, but our teachers do not. Knowing that one of our teachers would be at ISTE AND able to mingle with other ed tech enthusiasts AND see student presenters AND explore in some or all of the many playgrounds available at the conference gave us reason to encourage as many teachers as possible to apply. I will admit that I was a little jealous because I remember wanting to attend ISTE when I was a classroom teacher. I knew I could not afford it even when it came to Atlanta in 2014.  Looking back, I suppose I won the jackpot when I got this job because I ended up at ISTE 2014 as a brand new instructional technology coach. Going to and fully taking advantage of opportunities at ISTE can be life-changing for the attendee and the recipients of the shared knowledge.

As word got out about the contest, there were building level administrators who wanted to know if they were eligible. Although we feel that having administrators onboard with technology integration is vital to a successful endeavor, having teachers exposed to the all the educational technology offerings is a better investment for us in the long run. Teachers are the ones who are in the classroom day after day working with our students. They are the ones who need to know what is out there and how best to maximize opportunities for our students. Teachers have the biggest impact on student achievement. Sending a teacher to ISTE is part of our effort to get our teachers exposed and involved with effective technology integration which in turn will enable our students to be global learners with unlimited potential.

The contest ended and our judges had a very hard decision to make. Robin and I did not want to be the ones to make the decision because we are too close to the teachers. We were able to secure outside judges who admitted that it was a close competition, but ultimately they selected Amy Brown the winner of the Win a Trip to ISTE 2017 Competition.  On April 11, 2017, Lonny, Robin, and I paid a visit to Jackson Road Elementary School where Amy is employed as a third grade teacher. In front of her students, co-workers, and administrators, Amy was announced as the winner of the scholarship.  She was quite thrilled to find out that she would be attending the largest educational technology conference in the world.

Not long after the announcement was made, Robin and I sat down with Amy so that we could familiarize her with some tips and tricks to make her first trip to ISTE successful. Robin and I create our own schedule for the conference so that we can fit in as much as possible yet not be overwhelmed. We always share our schedule with the other. We have done that for this year and shared our schedules with Amy. Once school is out, and she has time to breathe, she will make her own and share with us. We also decided to have a shared Google folder to put documents in that will link resources from the conference. Part of winning the trip means that Amy will have to re-deliver to our teachers next school year. Having everything in once place and having a plan means that we won’t waste time replicating what someone else has done. We each have a focus for the conference. Robin is looking at blended learning, I am looking at STEM, and we aren’t yet sure of what Amy is looking at. She’s kind of busy with the end of the school year. Did I mention that she is our current district Teacher of the Year?  She is a phenomenal teacher who engages her students each and every day, so we are quite pleased and anxious to see what she will do with her new-found ISTE knowledge next school year. During ISTE, we will periodically met and share what we’ve learned.  We are also planning to take Amy to the #Edumatch Meet-up  on Sunday so that she can get involved with that awesome group of globally connected educators. Monday’s plan includes the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Meet-up. Amy has indicated that she would like to join our ranks down the road, so we want her to make connections with others in our #edtechvillage.

I hope that we are able to offer this opportunity again. I would also like to see some of our building administrators budget money for one teacher (or more!) to attend ISTE or even the Georgia Educational Technology Conference in November. Our teachers crave professional learning opportunities, so why don’t we give it to them. Stay tuned for more updates once we get Amy to San Antonio!

Until then…

autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Expeditions

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. –Saint Augustine

My motto is, “Have suitcase, will travel.” If I could spend the rest of my days traveling, I would. However, I do not have access to unlimited funds, so I work. I work as an educator and encourage all of my former students to see as much of the world as they possibly can. I travel bitmojiknow that not all students are able to explore our country or the world right now, so to me, being able to use Google Expeditions is a way to expose them to as many experiences as possible so that maybe, just maybe a spark will be lit and later in life they will take off on grand adventures and do great things.

When Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions hit the scene, I desperately wanted to get my hands on a headset. When I had the opportunity at ISTE, I was absolutely amazed and felt like our students would be just as awestruck as I was. I begged my boss, but because of budget limitations, it was not possible at the time. Finally, right before Christmas this year (great gift, I know), we found a way to build our own kits that would be put in the hands of our teachers. This is how we were able to expose our students to the world beyond their classrooms and our city.

Our Process – Phase 1

We initially purchased 15 Kxox V2s from Knox Labs. Instead of purchasing the Google Cardboards from Google (strictly a financial decision), we went to a different retailer. This is a pilot project and we want to make sure that it is feasible to move forward before we make a huge financial investment. Making a decision on what kind of device to use for the kit was a harder decision. After doing some research and not getting a conclusive Google Expeditions kit Contentsanswer as to the suitability of an iPod Touch, we made the decision to utilize iPhones. In our district, all building administrators and central office administrators are issued iPhones. Some were eligible for an upgrade, so we upgraded them and retrieved their old phones. Once the phones were reset to factory condition, my colleague Robin Harris and I set up the phones with the appropriate apps. We also disabled the features that would allow the students to add or delete apps.  The only apps that are on the phones are the ones for virtual reality. Everything else is hidden, and all of the apps are in the same location on each phone.   We also put a pass code on the phones.

We purchased boxes from Office Max. In each box, we put 15 cardboardGoogle Expeditions Checkout Form headsets – they are numbered, two power strips, and charging cables. There is also a checklist in the box indicating the contents of each box.  Robin created a Google Form that we use to keep up with the location of the boxes. Once the boxes were finished, they were ready to be put in use.

Another Box – Phase 2

After we had some success with the first set of boxes, we decided it was time to do another set. We purchased 15 more Google Cardboard headsets and upgraded the phones for the maintenance department. We again reset the phones and added the apps. Now we have 30 headsets and devices that can be checked out by our teachers. This time we added a release form that must be signed when the boxes are checked out and in. Teachers will be held responsible if something happens to any of the devices or accessories. Upon completion of the lessons, Google Expeditions Teacher Agreementteachers are asked to complete a short Google Form to reflect on the experience and also to give us feedback or suggestions. We are also working on creating a list of available expeditions for the teachers to use. As we make plans for next school year, we will offer additional trainings for the teachers. We want to make sure that they know how to successfully lead an expedition and seeing it from the student’s perspective will help tremendously.

Future Considerations

Going forward with this project will mean making some changes. For instance, we purchased the cardboard headsets. They will not withstand the wear and tear inflicted by constant student use. In the near future, we will have to purchase sturdier headsets. I would like to encourage more schools to purchase some and have us provide training and curricular support. If more schools purchase kits, then more students will have access. I am hoping that at some point, Google will enable features that allow teachers or students to create their own expeditions. Talk about 21st Century Skills! I am looking forward to having them ready for the next school year. Having two kits in use will give us good data to analyze. Also, I am eager to get my hands on an iPod Touch to see if they work or not. If they do, I think that we may be able to get more kits because we won’t have to worry about having cell phones. We can purchase iPods for much less money.

Until Next Time,autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

Connections and Reflections

Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we are not alone in this world. –Jonah Berger

Blogging Buddies ImageThere are times that I think that I am stuck in a time warp. Although I find myself thinking about what the future holds, I spend a lot of time thinking about what has happened in the past. I guess one could say that I like to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. I suppose that’s true. As we wrap up another school year and my third year as an instructional technology coach, I have a lot to reflect upon.

I started this job with a few instructions on things that would need to happen in our district, but I did not have any idea of where to go to get answers. Lucky for me, there were two of us hired to serve as instructional technology coaches in the district. My colleague and now friend, Robin Harris, felt the same way I did. We were just a little lost that first year. However, things changed for us. Two weeks after I  got hired, I was in Atlanta at  the ISTE Conference (International Society for Technology in Education). Talk about brain overload! That fall, we went to GaETC and presented. I think that’s where the shift started. Our session was entitled, “From Tin Cans to Twitter: Maximizing Your Personal Learning Network”. We talked about Twitter, Voxer, and Google+. People listened, and we started making connections with people across the state and region. As my circle grew, so did my level of knowledge. I began reaching out to others to get and share information.  I took advantage of my ISTE membership and joined the online communities, started lurking in Twitter chats, and stumbled upon #Edumatch. Realizing the power of being a connected educator, I attended a few edcamps and actually contributed to some Twitter chats. Oh my goodness! Who ever knew that there was so much useful knowledge out there on social media?

Fast forward to May 2017… I was recently named the ISTE EdTech Coaches PLN Award Winner for 2017. I co-authored #EduMatch: Snapshot in Education 2016 with 19 other phenomenal educators from around the globe. I have presented at ISTE 15, ISTE 16, GAFE California Summit, GaETC 2014, GaETC 2015, GaETC 2016, G Suite for Education Southern Summit, and was selected to attend the Google Geo Teachers Institute in 2016. Oftentimes I am participating in #Edumatch Tweet and Talks discussing important topics in education and moderating Twitter chats book studies, and I am currently in the process of writing my own book which will be released in 2018. All this is possible because of the connections I made via social media.

I would love to see more educators connect via social media. Amazing things can happen. My part in making connections will continue to happen as I move forward into the fourth year of my job as an instructional technology coach. I am excited to participate in the ISTE #ETCoaches Blogging Buddies project. I am part of a group of educators who have committed to blogging at least once a month and commenting on the blogs of the people in my group. My group consists of Katie Siemer, Tara Helkowski, Rahila Mukaddam, and Knikole Taylor. I am looking forward to this blogging journey with these ladies. So many good things have already happened as a result of my connections on social media. I cannot even begin to imagine what will happen once we get going. Having a group of people to help hold me accountable will no doubt help me improve my craft. It will be nice to be a cheerleader for them and for them to cheer me on. We all need people in our corner to be there for us. I see these ladies being part of my #edtechvillage. Let the journey begin!

autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)