The #nisdPalooza anticipation builds…

TechnoPalooza

This Wednesday, July 30th and Thursday, July 31st my district is hosting “TechnoPalooza.”  Three years ago it was a in-district choice menu Professional Development focused on Educational Technology Integration. Last year it grew within the district in popularity and was open for other districts to attend as well.

This year the planners led by Karla Burkholder (@techiequeen), NISD Director of Instructional Technnology (which includes the NISD Instructional Technology Team I am a part) decided to go BIG or go home.  We opened up for presenters beyond the keynote from all over, invited attendees from all over, and brought in vendors.  On top of that, there is a staggered schedule of presentations, choose your own session menu (via app designed by our very own Rory Peacock, Northwest ISD Coordinator for Instructional Technology) and choose your own lunch hour and lunch via Fort Worth Food Trucks.

I am not just a participant this year.  I have been given the privilege of presenting 5 different sessions.  How does one go from not being a session presenter to 5, you ask?  Well, that is for another time and another post… but briefly it has to do with Twitter, my PLN, my mentors and “What’s Obvious to You…” video by Derek Sivers.

Aside from that and being amazed at the offerings for learning, there are a few things I am even more excited about.  The amazing presentations coming from my team and the campuses I support.  From my team consisting of Charles Cooper (@Thrasymachus), Cara Carter (@caracarter1), Brittany Horn (@Brit_Horn), Ashley Chapman (@AshChapman3), Rene Egle (@ReneEgle) and previously mentioned, Rory Peacock (@rorypeacock) there are over 10 presentations just from our team.

In addition to our Instructional Technology Team are the Northwest ISD teacher leaders that are presenting.  Many of these teachers I have worked with over the past year or learned about their innovative approaches through our district Tuesday night chat #nisdNOV8.  Their commitment to great instruction, student learning and technology integration make them the perfect presenters for an event like TechnoPalooza.  A special HT (Hat Tip) goes out to Nicole Wallis, Kristin Dougherty, Christie Crocker, GailAnne Smith, Penny Rosen,  Sara Thomasson, Christa Pospisil (Popsicle :-)), Melissa Griffith, Rebecca Redman, Donna Thompson, Sue Fitzgerald, Hayley Sample, Nicole Covarelli, and Shelly Stringer for their risk taking in the classroom, transparency, collaborative spirit and enthusiastic willingness to present. I am beyond excited so many are presenting at TechnoPalooza.  So sad that I cannot be at each and every one of their presentations to cheer for them and learn from them.  The choice offered from this group is staggeringly amazing. Sessions vary from using Technology and Trash to Create Musical Instruments and Music to using several technology tools to create a platform via the BookCreator App to publish student written  stories (see recent blog post from our IT team’s “Making IT Click” showcase).

In addition to all this, there is an even more personally exciting aspect to TechnoPalooza.  Through the power of Twitter I have met some amazing people along the way.  The only shortcoming to Twitter is that the people I meet globally, I don’t know how I can possibly meet them all face to face.  So when I do, I am like a 6 year old on Christmas morning.  At TechnoPalooza I will have the great privilege of meeting co-cooridinator/moderator of #MTedchat Crista Anderson (@cristama) and Revdel representative, Jason Rincker (@JD_Rincker) which I now, because of our connections via Twitter consider as friends.  She will be presenting on Wednesday about harnessing the power of Twitter for connecting and learning. With Jason’s assistance, she will also present on Thursday about ways to utilize and target school communication as effectively as possible.

If you didn’t register for TechnoPalooza this year, follow the #nisdPalooza Tweets.  Next year don’t miss it.  I have insider information that the Keynote for 2015 will be amazing!

When we “Be Brave”…

ferroni quote with canvaWe all have celebrated the moments when we inspire our students.  In those same moments we have become inspired as well.  Often the inspiration takes us on a journey through the reflective epiphany of a fear to take a risk with something or a realization that we have purposefully avoided a challenge.  However, in the face of this inspiration, we know we must seize the moment, push forward and “Be Brave.”

As an instructional technology specialist I am constantly looking for this dynamic between student and teacher inspiration that leads to risk taking and being brave.  After seeing this in many of the teachers and students I work with, I chose to capture through video some of the benefits of heeding the “inspiration boomerang” in hope that more “inspired bravery” would occur.  This video is just a small picture of the teachers and students in my district that daily inspire one another.

One of the teachers, Mr. Suhr, was recently featured on our district Instructional Technology blog, “Making IT Click.”

As Teacher Appreciation Week ends and we begin to bring our instructional year to a close, I hope 2013-14 provided many moments inspired bravery.  As we reflect, think forward, and set goals for 2014-15, how do you plan to continue to “Be Brave?”

#EdCampNOV8

Click on the #edcampNOV8 Thinglink (at date of post Thinglink cannot be embedded in a WordPress blog)
The Northwest ISD IT team, that I am a part of, hosted our first #EdCamp.  It was an exhilarating experience and I was amazed at all the new #EdCampers that attended.  I created the Thinglink above as a celebration, curation and brief reflection of the event.  Additionally, I have a fun 20 second video that I took capturing our autonomous learning #EdCampers moving to GoNoodle a free dance/exercise based online program for situations like indoor recess or incentive built physical education activities.

Genius Hour- from another perspective

I just recently was published in TechEdge Magazine through TCEA on the topic of Genius Hour. It was a huge honor and happened all because of connections both professionally through the TCEA network and through my wonderful #geniushour PLN.
The biggest factor in Genius Hour being a success was transparency, collaboration and continually keeping it student focused. Initially when the article went “live” a week and a half ago I was embarrassed by my colleagues congratulations. This whole journey and my passion to share has been driven by the lights that were brightened in my student’s eyes when they discovered learning from the most meaningful place… their passions. This wasn’t about my success or my teaching, this was about them. So it feels wrong to know that I published this article on the experience of their re-awakening to learning.
My solace is in knowing that the message cannot stop with me and knowing that in my new role as an Instructional Facilitator I can be an ambassador and guide for those teachers wanting to launch their own Genius Hour.
I have benefited from those that have gone before me because of their transparency, encouragement and humility. In the Genius Hour inner circle it isn’t about accolades or selfish gain. They all see the greater purpose… students being truly passionate learners and active positive contributors to their world.
So I share the link to my article, not for bragging rights but to provide yet another layer in the message of the calling to bring passionate learning opportunities to all classrooms and beyond.

Image of Tech Edge Article

Genius Hour, TechEdge Magazine, TCEA, February 2014, by Kirsten Wilson

I hope you enjoy it and it encourages you in your own journey or inspires you to take this journey of passionate learning called Genius Hour with your students. If Genius Hour goes viral the world will never be the same!

How to Eat an Elephant…

As we begin fresh with a new year, I know many of us have recharged, reflected and refocused.  We have personal and professional goals we have set for ourselves to better ourselves, better our world and better relationships.

When my students are faced with a new and sometimes daunting task I always refer to the riddle: “How do you eat an elephant?” they always smile (some giggle) and reply, “One bite at a time.”

Before we go head long into this year fire in our belly to achieve it all, a few words of encouragement and advice that may help you take that elephant and make it bite sized.

First, if you have set a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) or goals… good for you!  However, with big goals there can be a lot of small accomplishments along the way.  Be sure to break it down into smaller goals and celebrate achieving those goals in between.

Second, as a connected educator I have sometimes become overwhelmed with the amount of things to learn.  Instead of trying to “swallow the elephant whole” pick one thing at a time; “eat the elephant one bite at a time.”  Challenge yourself to learn at least one new thing or take one new action with instruction per social media chat, training or PLC meeting. When teachers attend my trainings I encourage them to take one thing from my professional development courses and use it immediately; then come back and revisit the other actions, resources and tools once they are ready. I have made it a practice after participating in a Twitter PLN chat, attended a training or collaborated during a PLC to jot a quick goal statement… i.e. “I will use One Note as a way to organize information and documents in regard to how I document/track the IT support I provide to my campuses beginning 2014.”

Third, reflect on your progress, challenges and new learning that has occurred in this journey of bettering yourself and the world.  It is in this reflection period that some of the greatest learning occurs for myself and my students.  This step sometimes creates more profound learning than the learning that led up to the reflection.

Finally, share with others both your goals and the results of your journey to achieve these goals.  Everyone needs accountability and encouragement.  Additionally, your insight, learning and knowledge is as unique and valued as you are.  You matter and the message your journey toward your goals provides you matter too.

I have a few Twitter PLNs that are helping me with a few of my goals. One is #blogamonth to keep me on track to share with others my learning along the way.  The second is #500in2014 which has helped me to keep running… this year running at least 500 miles.  Setting goals is admirable, sharing with others is both heroic and a bit daunting, but knowing you have the support of a virtual or face to face community is priceless.

What are your goals for 2014? It’s not about eating and elephant whole, but one bite at a time.  Feel free to share your goals or comment.

It’s Not Just an “Hour of Code”

by Sue Fitzgerald, Library/Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach

The “Hour of Code” has proven to be a very exciting adventure for students that has just begun. The development and launch of this event was driven by students’ passion for coding and educators’ efforts to provide the opportunity. It was collaboration in its purest form for everyone involved.

How it Happened

There were several factors that came into play that brought this event to fruition. Here are some of the major factors that made “Hour of Code” a reality:

  1. Our district began an initiative to host student ePortfolios on Google sites.

  2. Two forward-thinking future-minded student library aides took the leadership role in hosting “Technology Club” during 7th and 8th grades lunches to help answer questions on the ePortfolios.

  3. A group of coders took full advantage of attending the “Technology Club”.

  4. The student aides and the librarian quickly realized the “Technology Club” was about to advance into the world of coding.

  5. The librarian informed the Instructional Technology (IT) Coach and principal of the enthusiasm of these students who wanted to code.

  6. The IT Coach found the opportunity for our students to participate in the “Hour of Code.” Not only did our IT Coach offer this opportunity to our school but spread the word through Twitter PLNs and our district to have many other schools join the campaign.

  7. Students eagerly came by the library to sign up for the event after the news spread via our coders.

  8. During our “Hour of Code” event our IT Coach  collaborated with another IT coach in the district to Skype with a sister Middle School campus also participating during the “Hour of Code” and share as we worked through Java coding tutorial offered through code.org.

Reflection

As the adults in this process, we knew very little about coding . We did recognize the  amazing opportunity this would be for our students by choosing to take on this challenge.  We also saw how important it is for educators to take risks when facilitating students’ pursuit of their passions and facilitate the process for student-led passion-based learning.

At the conclusion of “Hour of Code”our students reflected with enthusiasm and determination that this must continue.  The Technology Club decided they wanted to continue to meet at lunch at least once per week with hopes to meet twice when possible.  They also decided they wanted to try and collaborate on a group project that could be presented during our district TechnoExpo event.  Additionally, they reflected upon the JavaScript coding done during “Hour of Code” compared to students previous coding experience.  They preferred another coding format referred to  by the group as “Batch.”  Students left the “Hour of Code” with plans to take initiative to collaborate and together create some type of product.  As facilitators we hope to encourage these students to take on leadership roles in teaching others in our school to code.

Comments we have received –

L.A. Teacher – “I am so excited my student is involved with this group.  For the first time during DEAR he had a book out and was reading.  It was a book on coding!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “This gave me such a sense of accomplishment!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “I have already talked to my teacher and plan to work ahead in his class so I can come for both lunch sessions as we continue to meet.”

Instructional Technology Assistant Director- “By providing ‘The Hour of Code’ you have just provided a social platform for these students that gives them a place to not only pursue their passion but a place for those that are like-minded to meet.  Their lives will be forever changed.”

Librarian – “I just wanted to thank you for sending this out!! I’ve got 73 kids signed up!”

Thinking about what it means to be future-ready…

Thinking about what it means to be future-ready...

Recently I was asked to answer questions for a colleague regarding technology and curriculum. At the same time I was participating in a chat where a participant Tweeted, “I don’t know what the future is so I only prepare my students for today.”
While I know it is true that we cannot know the future, that comment troubled me. We cannot predict the future, but we must plan for it. We plan our finances for a rainy day. We organize our lives to complete tasks, prepare for future events, even plan for dinner guests with the future in mind.

We do face in the moment and deal with today, but we are constantly cognizant of the future. As educators, parents and individual learners we know that the knowledge and experiences we gain today provide the building blocks for tomorrow. We once learned how to program our phones for speed dial which the basics of that helped us to now know how to add contacts in our smart phones. If we don’t offer experiences with technology today we are keeping the experiences from students that will provide the foundation for the technology of the future.

The following questions and answers are a more in-depth answer to the importance, role and vision for why we, as educators, parents and learners, must prepare our students to be future-ready.

What is the school vision for technology?

The vision for technology is embedded in our districts vision statement.
Our vision statement says: To be the the best and most sought after school-district where every student is future ready:
-Ready for college.
-Ready for the global work place.
-Ready for personal success.

While it is not directly stated concerning technology the initiatives including our superintendent’s 1 of only four initiatives for every student to have and continuously build a digital portfolio of exemplary work and the school board’s decision to use a large amount of funds to purchase devices for a 1:1 ration in secondary as well as laptops, tablets/iPads in every teacher’s possession to ensure integrated instruction of content and technology supports that our overall vision is deeply rooted in technology.

If technology were removed, what learning would be impossible/impaired?

Technology is deeply rooted in everything in the classroom. From teacher documentation, strategic planning and parent communication to creating engaging lessons that reach all learners. Technology is in everyone’s lives. Students need to use it as it presently exists as it provides the building blocks for the technology that has yet to be invented. Technology also allows for differentiation for each learner in the classroom in a way traditional methods, without the assistance of technology, would be virtually impossible. The diverse needs of learners these days along with the amount of content and expectation for teachers to uniquely meet each student’s needs in personal and definable ways would not be possible without the assistance of technology. Furthermore students are able to use several levels of blooms when they create with technology as they not only have to evaluate the best method to deliver the evidence of their understanding, but they have to evaluate the audience it is being delivered to, as well as, create an original product that a paper/pencil activity sheet does not provide the structure for this deeper level of design. Lack of technology would stunt the ability to adequately prepare students to be future-ready as well as impair them as problem-solvers and creative designers as traditional methods are more limiting compared to the possibilities offered with technology.

How do you support professional development?

Professional development from my perspective is self-directed with the development of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), MOOCs and online courses. The Instructional Technology department within our district is moving to Professional Development courses that are accessible from our Moodle structured online course framework called Netschool. Many of our face to face courses are built in Netschool so that teachers can continually refer back to the content. Additionally, we are utilizing the online courses to create “cohort” like courses where it is moderated by facilitators, requires quality product submissions applicable to classroom needs/instructional design and fosters collaboration through forums. Furthermore, our district provides two district led chats. One is led by mid-administration for current discussions regarding community, curriculum and initiatives that move us closer to the goals within our district vision. The other chat is promoted and facilitated by our Instructional Technology department but is led each week by guest moderators that are most often teachers. The discussions in this chat revolve around instruction and how technology is or can be integrated. Discussions range from student blogging to parent communication.

What is the best “advice” you would give for moving technology/learning forward in a way that will make more impact for all students?

The best advice is to commit to doing one thing at a time every few weeks and learn to implement it with purpose. Be sure that your use of technology or the product students are creating is with purpose and meaningful to the content. It shouldn’t be a “bells and whistles” piece but a seamless part of the entire process of learning.

The other piece of advice is be willing to “fail” or struggle with your students when it comes to using technology. Allow them to see you problem solve challenges and involve them in the process of finding solutions when, at first the technology does not work as intended. We as instructional engineers design learning with the intent that there is no bumps in the road, but the beauty of bumps in the road is that they are seeing “real world” happen before them. If we are going to push our kids to be problem solvers and find solutions to everyday challenges we must be willing to be transparent and show our “struggle” to solve everyday challenges with technology. It is one of the most authentic lessons you can provide a child. It teaches the lessons of grit and perseverance that lessons without the opportunity to create with technology do not provide.

In the book “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzer it talks about decision making with today’s generation. While it was talking about a move to action with decision making it did say,”Today’s generation of employees (and children, for that matter) expects to be involved in more decisions than their grandparents ever faced. That’s where the empowerment movement came from. Younger people don’t see themselves as a pair of hands seeking direction. They want to think. They want to decide. They’re willing to take on more responsibility.” That reminded me of how critical it is that we have devices in our students’ hands allowing them to think, decide, create and take on more responsibility. When we neglect to do that we neglect to speak to their inner driving force… we remove the ability to allow them to be empowered.

Kirsten Wilson, MEd
Instructional Technology Specialist
Follow me on Twitter @teachkiwi

“To love a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce