My First but Certainly Not My Last

The solution often turns out more beautiful than the puzzle.–Richard Dawkins


Periodically I go through phases in which I think I need a hobby. Towards the end of last year, I decided (again) that my hobby would be putting puzzles together. At another point in my life, I was all about putting puzzles together.  I like the challenge of trying to figure out where the pieces go. I like the time it allows me to think and focus on a specific task. I really like the sense of accomplishment I get when I finish the puzzle. Of course, I am always left wondering what do I do when I am done with the puzzle?  I’ve spent so much time putting it together and then what comes next? Taking it apart and starting another one? More times than not, that’s what happens. I admire the beauty of what I have done and then jump into the next challenge. My co-workers and I are doing puzzles at lunch. We eat our food and then sit around the table working together towards a common goal. Sometimes we talk and other times, we sit in a comfortable silence. Just like when I am finished, we sit back and admire our handy work and then move on to the next puzzle.

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the GAFE Southern Summit held at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayetteville, Georgia. GAFE Summits are put on by the EdTechTeam, and they work in partnership with a local school system or organization to host the event. In this case, they worked with my fantastic friend Kate Crawford who is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Fayette County School System.  Working together, the EdTechTeam and the Fayette County Instructional Technology Department put on one heck of a professional learning opportunity.  I remember speaking with Kate prior to the 2015 Summit, and she asked if I would be attending. I told her no because I felt it was too much money, and at the time, I did not see the value in it. After spending two days in Google heaven, I wish I could take those words back. I WAS WRONG.

From the moment I received my registration confirmation in the mail, I was excited about attending. Not sure why.  This wasn’t my first conference. I’ve been to ISTE and GaETC twice. I have also attended a couple of Edcamps, and we even hosted the first ever Edcamp Griffin this past fall. The GAFE Southern Summit just had a different feel to it even before I ever set foot on the Rising Starr Middle School campus. Saturday morning I was up and ready to go. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I got myself out the door, drove to my colleague Robin’s house to pick her up, and we were off. Disclaimer: Robin and I are not morning people. We rode in relative silence all the way to Fayetteville. Our respective quiet times are an everyday occurrence in our office. We have to have time to wake up and process the fact that we are no longer in the comfort of our warm and cozy beds. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the conference and walked up to a  gregarious group of Google people. They were laughing, talking, welcoming people, and for reasons known only to God and them, they were taking selfies. Who does that before noon? Not us. GAFE Southern Summit 2016_picmonkeyedActually, it quickly became us. Who could resist Dave Hotler? His smile and charm are contagious. I quickly forgot that I was out of bed, functioning, and began to absorb all that the GAFE Southern Summit had to offer. We checked in, decorated nametags, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast provided by Panera Bread.

Remember, Robin and I are not morning people. Rushton Hurley’s keynote was exactly what two non-morning people needed at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. “The only person to whom you ever need to compare yourself is the you who you were yesterday.” Rushton hit the nail on the head. I don’t want to suffer from CIS (Comparative Inadequacy Syndrome) because I already suffer from CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff). I want to be better, do better, live better!  I do not need to compare myself to anybody else. I am who I am!  What a way to start the conference!

From Rushton’s keynote to multiple interactive sessions, my brain was constantly spinning. How did I miss the usefulness of ClassFlow? I had heard of it, but I had not taken time to truly sit down and play with it. We will call that a loss for Leslie. However, that loss has turned into a win. I have another tool for my tech coach tool kit. More tools for my tool kit: BreakoutEDU. OMG! My group did not finish before time ran out, but I loved trying to figure out the clues. I can see so many uses for it in my professional learning sessions and in the classroom.  I’m planning on having one when school starts in the fall.  Cat Flippen shared SO much with Google Geo Tools, Google Hangouts, and Google Hangouts on Air. My mind is already thinking how I can use the video managing feature in YouTube to make my video for my next Google Innovator application. The first time I applied, I was not accepted. This time will be different. I have had a lot of time for self-reflection, and I have a new sense of determination. The ideas won’t stop coming!   Anyway, back to the Summit. The Demo Slam at the end of the day was phenomenal! I’ve seen them done at Edcamps before, but none of the ones I attended had such trash talk flowing freely. It was great to see the sense of competitiveness yet affection among the presenters. I like how they are passionate about their chosen apps, about winning, and about respecting the craft of their fellow educators.  It was pure, clean fun with a hint of a competitive edge to it. Donnie Piercey shared How Not to EdTech in the Sunday morning keynote. Loved it!  As an ed tech person, thinking about how to do it wrong is well, very thought provoking.  Speaking of thought provoking, Dave’s session on Capturing Creativity caused me to step back and think about whether or not I was encouraged to be creative as a child, a teen making the transition to adulthood, and even in my past and current jobs. Did I encourage my students?  Am I encouraging the teachers I work with?  I don’t have a definite answer. Yet.

There were many more sessions at the Summit.  There were probably over 300 educators in attendance. So much knowledge in one place. So much learning, sharing, and exploring. Once I got home Sunday evening, I tried to figure out how I was going to put all this knowledge into use. How could I share it with the teachers in my district who in turn will share it with the students?  I realized, as tired as I was, that going to the GAFE Southern Summit was a lot like putting together a puzzle.  Saturday morning I had all these pieces and no idea how they fit together. Saturday evening I had the outside frame together. By Sunday evening, most of the inside was done.  In order for me to finish the puzzle, I have to get a plan for disseminating all the Google goodness I learned about during the weekend. Once I start sharing and the teachers start doing and the students are creating, collaborating, and communicating, then the beauty of the completed puzzle will be done.  I can step back, admire my handiwork, and find another puzzle to put together.



I’ve Arrived. Almost.

I’ve learned in my life that it’s important to be able to step outside my comfort zone and be challenged with something you’re not familiar or accustomed to. That challenge will allow you to see what you can do.  –J.R. Martinez

The year I turned 30, I decided I would go on a trip every single month for the year.  It did not have to be a huge trip, but I had to get out and see stuff. I felt like 30 was a big deal, so I needed to do it big. In retrospect, I had gotten complacent with what I was doing, and I wanted more. Wanting more seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Almost 17 years later, I still want more. My plans to go somewhere every month took off. I went to North Carolina to ski and hike with friends, Gatlinburg for a singles conference, Mobile for a work conference, Alabama for a singles conference (yes, I am still single even though I spent a lot of time at singles conferences), Ohio for my grandfather’s funeral (not really a vacation, but I counted it anyway),  and the Grand Canyon which included stops in Washington, DC, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Not long after I returned from the Grand Canyon, I started to pursue employment opportunities that would take me away from my home in Griffin, GA. I interviewed for a job in Lake Jackson, Texas and decided that was not the place for me.  I next applied for a job in San Jose, California.  Every since I was a little girl, I wanted to live in California. I remember watching the shows from the ’70’s, CHIPS and Charlie’s Angels especially, and I imagined myself living, working, and playing near the beach. Moving 3,000 miles across the country based on childhood dreams seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do.  I applied for the job, had a phone interview, and was invited to meet with the executives while in Kansas City, Missouri while at the National Girl Scout Council meeting. Based on the interview, I was convinced I would not be offered a job. I was wrong. At the end of October, I received a phone call asking me to come work for the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County Council. I accepted the job and began the process of leaving one job, my family, and my whole life to start anew in California. I did not know anybody. I did not have a place to live. I had not even seen my office.  Other than what I saw on the internet, I had no idea what I was getting into by moving to San Jose. However, I stepped out on faith.  On Saturday, November 27, 1999, I put my little red Hyundai Accent in reverse, backed out of my parents driveway, and headed out west towards new dreams, opportunities, and challenges.

Going to California was the best and worst thing I could have done for myself. I ended up only staying in California for 7 months. The week after I left, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. A month later, we found out it was terminal. I came home because I wanted to be with my mother as she lived the last days of her life. Although I wanted to come home immediately, my parents convinced me to stay until July. I did, and I am glad I followed their advice. I needed to leave home. I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I needed to know that I could do what others said I couldn’t.  Moving to California would mean that I had finally arrived, albeit a few years late, to adulthood.

I feel the same way now. I have been an instructional technology coach for nearly two years. I have done a lot of training sessions with teachers, presented at numerous local, state, and international conferences, and maintained somewhat of an online presence, yet I am finally at the point where I feel like I am actually coaching.  I can’t put a word to what I would call what I have been doing, but now I am coaching. I am helping a school as they pilot a 1:1 Chromebook rollout. My job entails working with two teachers as they transition to a more deliberate and focused use of technology on a daily basis. This feels more like coaching than what I have been doing for the past two years. In my coaching sessions, I am sharing with them what and how to implement SAMR. We will examine data, create rigorous lesson plans, engage (hopefully) the students, and see positive academic growth. I will model lessons for the teachers. I am excited about the direction in which my coaching is heading. I guess I can say that I have almost arrived at being a real live instructional technology coach. Finally.

I suppose that just like the day I left home and headed to California not knowing what I was getting into, I have no idea how this will turn out. That’s not even really an issue at this point because I have to prove to myself that I am capable of being not just an instructional technology coach, but a darn good one. I am all about challenges and accomplishing goals. I think that all of the jobs I’ve had prepared me for this moment in my career. It’s time for me to take what I have learned and what I have done and do more. Doing more will challenge me and show me what I am made of. I am long past the year I turned 30, but I still need to step out of my comfort zone and have some excitement, incredible learning experiences, and a reason to keep striving for the next set of goals.25184_10150177512170570_2019967_n


What I See Today and What Will Be Tomorrow!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

 –Marianne Williamson


In the short time I have been an instructional technology coach, I have come across teachers who say that technology isn’t for them.  They say they don’t get it, and they don’t think they ever will.  I heard that a lot when I was a classroom teacher, and I said it a lot in every single math, science, and physical education class I ever took.  Well, except for the Basic Camp Management class I took in college.  I excelled in that class.  I learned so much that quarter in college, and I have used every bit of that knowledge in every job since then.  I understand that some people are intimidated by technology.  I am lucky because I have always been fascinated by computers, gadgets, and the Internet.  Even though I understand that some people don’t want to use technology, I feel that if I show them just a little, they will become sort of intrigued and want more.  That’s my hope at least. I’m going to try my best to make sure that happens.

photo 1I am supposed to go into the schools to deliver training.  The topics range from Google Apps to Mimio to Digital Citizenship.  I would like to offer advanced sessions for those who want more than what I can do during their planning period.  I would like to get a group together and teach them about digital storytelling and student blogging.  In my mind, I think that teachers would be willing to do some after school training sessions here at our office.  We have a lab, and I like to think of the lab as my classroom.  I picture teachers working together for a common goal.  I picture myself as the facilitator – providing the place and basic instruction – and they run with it.  I could also do other training sessions as well.  I just want the teachers to feel comfortable with technology and not feel that they can’t use it and use it well.  I don’t want them to feel so intimidated that they never use it.  If that happens, they lose and their students lose.  

 In this now empty lab, I see so many possibilities. I see teachers from this district working as a group.  In time, they will reach out to teachers across the country and globe.  They will bring that knowledge into their classrooms and create a powerful learning environment for their students.  Imagine that – global learning experiences right here in Griffin, Georgia.  That’s what I see when I see the empty lab.  I see the world.

It’s Almost a Habit

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist’.” –Maria Montessori

No teacher likes to hear the word evaluation.  I think that it evokes the same feeling of dread our students get when we start talking about the state mandated tests.  They don’t like the tests; we don’t like being evaluated.  I’m no different. I’m not teaching anymore, but I still have to be evaluated.  Otherwise, how would my district know if I am doing my job or not?  For today’s part of my blog challenge, I am supposed to write about one area of my teacher evaluation in which I would like to improve.  Well, I am new to this instructional technology coaching thing, and I am not really sure on what I will be evaluated.  I guess it’s like being a teacher, and I am evaluated on my performance.  Performance as an instructional tech coach is different, I suppose.  I don’t do lesson plans although I do have to work with my colleague who handles the elementary schools in our district to devise a training plan for the schools.  I don’t have an assigned duty – thank goodness.  I don’t have to worry about a rigorous or academically challenging learning environment, so what do I have to focus on for self- improvement or even professional improvement for that matter?  It all comes down to how well I convey the information so that the teachers can expose their students to that whole big world out there.  It’s possible through the wonders of the Internet and technology.  Lest I jinx myself and work myself out of a job, I dare say I want them to be able to work without me. However, that’s kind of what teachers do.  We teach our kids so that they can do for themselves without us.  We are preparing them for the world beyond the classroom.  

Since I am starting from scratch, so to speak, I think I should focus on how many presentations I do that are not tied to training teachers in the school setting.  The bulk of my job is to go into the schools and train teachers.  I can do that.  What I would like to do more of is outside of the school professional development.  I would like to present at conferences and do online collaborations and training sessions.  I also think there is opportunity to do some digital citizenship training sessions for parents.  Some of them have absolutely no idea what their children are doing while online.  They need to know.  Seriously.  

I guess I should make a plan.  In the next couple of weeks, I will be presenting at a local technology drive in conference.  I have also applied to present at the Georgia Educational Technology Conference; hopefully, my co-worker and I will be selected.  In my mind, I can see myself presenting at ISTE  in Philadelphia next year.  On what, I have no idea.  I just want to do it.  I also want to run up the steps that Rocky Balboa ran up in all of the Rocky movies.  Perhaps I will get lucky and in shape and do both.

Until tomorrow.  This is impressive.  I have written for three days.  I think I can do this twenty-seven more times.