Friday, April 25, 2014

Three Years of Tech Lead

Three years ago, I said good-bye to my previous school -- my place of employment for 15 years -- and went on a frantic nation-wide job search that landed me a mere 30 minutes from my house. Each year here at Miami Valley Christian Academy has been drastically different from the others, so I thought I'd take a moment and sum things up.

Year One (2011-2012)
I was initially hired to teach 5th and 6th grades (Bible, math, social studies, and language arts) and to help implement the  iPad rollout for in 5th-12th grades. The irony is that I had never touched an iPad till after I was hired, but my Master's thesis on technology integration and excitement for tech projects helped me win the job.

I was put on a tech committee and given a couple extra planning periods to do techie things. I spent a lot of time on Twitter and blogs, trying to find great apps and best practices, all while modeling teaching with tech in my regular classes. I was also inundated with new everything, teaching at a different school in a different state with different expectations and curriculum.

I blitzed our IT Department with new apps to load and constantly unleashed them on my students as well as trying them out myself. One of my favorite ways to do this was station day, which you can read about in this link.  I came to the conclusion that I wasn't a huge fan of content-specific apps. They were too narrowly focused (practicing only one skill) and were more geared toward consumption than creation.

Toward the end of that year, I was sent to a one-day Google conference and fell in love with Google Drive. We'll get to that later.

Year Two (2012-2013)
My second year brought a lot of change. We had a massive restructure of our administrative staff, and a teaching partner of mine became principal over the whole academy. She kept me in the 5th/6th grade role, but gave me a lot more time for research and implementation of ideas. I was also given the official role of Tech Lead (though I think Technology Integration Specialist would have sounded more prestigious).

That year was still marked with a lot of trial and error. My favorite was combining KidBlog and Educreations for students to demonstrate how to solve problems in math.

Speaking of Educreations, at some point I had to make a decision on some apps. There are a number of other apps that do similar things.  At some point, you have to decide you would rather use Educreations than ScreenChomp.  (I really don't know why I liked one more than the other, but this might have had something to do with it.) Choosing one means you leave the other in the dust. The other may have great features and do neat things, but you have to throw your efforts at the chosen one and not worry about what you lost.

I also launched our school's Facebook page in the fall of 2012, a role I brought upon myself and continue today. I'm known around here as The Facebook Guy. Yes, I'm the one who pesters people, "You went on a field trip. Where are the pictures?"

In the second semester, things changed dramatically. For a number of reasons I was taken out of the regular classroom and given a sweet gig! I taught computer/tech K-8 and had HOURS of time for research and planning.  It was in this role that I could really explore tools like Google Drive, Edmodo, Facebook, and others. I used my middle school course as a lab to try out new ideas on students.  We had App Test Drive Weeks and figured out how to use Google Apps to do group projects. We introduced our Innovation Projects, using one day a week for students to work on the projects of their choosing.  At the same time, I revamped our elementary curriculum bringing in digital citizenship discussions courtesy of Common Sense Media, started using iPad apps from kindergarten up, and learned math using Sumdog.

I continued researching using Twitter and blogs, even creating my own hashtag -- #edtechex -- to help spread specific examples of using technology in classrooms.

Sadly, at the end of the school year, our new IT guy made the decision to NOT go Google and to stick with Office products. After a year of pushing Google Drive, my plans were rebuffed.  (More on that later)

Year Three (2013-2014)
I retained my triplicate role of Computer Teacher/Tech Lead/Facebook Guy, but I also got the joy of teaching a semester of Freshman health and a semester of Freshman PE. (I won't mention them beyond this point, but it's fun to throw in there.)  However, the years of discovery and trial and error have come to a close.  It's time to get serious about implementing some things.

My principal and I started to dig in to find an online math option to supplement our book curriculum and help catch us up with Common Core math. What we discovered was Accelerated Math, which we started using from 2nd through 10th grades. As AM Administrator, I get to help teachers implement all things related to AM. That includes setting up students, teachers, and classes. That includes running teacher meetings to help teachers figure out the best way to implement it.  It also includes physically sitting in three different math classes keeping things humming along.

By choosing not to use Google Drive, I am now in the process of helping students and teachers understand all that OneDrive has to offer. I'm teaching upper elementary students how to email, how to create documents and presentations, and how to collaborate on documents and share them with me. I'm now working with a small group of colleagues to figure out how to use OneNote as a means to distribute, collect, and redistribute student work.  The goal is to start utilizing OneDrive more next year to decrease the need for learning management systems such as Edmodo or Moodle.


I'll be honest. I somewhat miss the crazy cycle of read about it, try it out, use it in class, and determine if we want to keep it. I seriously doubt that I'm done adding apps and programs to our arsenal, but I'm not actively looking for them any more either. If I happen to stumble upon one I like, I'll happily unleash it upon my students and hope it sticks.

However, I much prefer to settle into some big projects and help teachers figure them out.  I literally have my dream job, and it's great to see technology take a ubiquitous seat in our classrooms.  As we become more comfortable with these big things, I will continue to push the deeper reaches of SAMR with my colleagues.

It's been an interesting three years of technology integration, and I'm looking forward to what Year Four will bring.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Innovation Project Articles

The other day, my principal dropped this article about 20% time projects in my mailbox. The school mentioned is a mere half hour from where I sit right now, so it was interesting to hear about some "local talent" doing great things.

Then, something akin to jealousy crept into my spirit. "That could have been my class highlighted like that."  Yes, I'm ashamed that I wanted a corner of the spotlight, but I guess that's my human nature waltzing around inside.

So, since a newspaper didn't come to write an article about us, I thought I'd have us write the article.  If you are interested, you can see the instructions here.  However, the real joy is reading some of the actual articles linked below.

What would your students say about your Genius Hour projects? 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guest Speaker: Jessica Ross

As a middle school technology teacher, I'm starting to see that my students need to see how technology will drive their career choices. Certainly, not every student I have will be an engineer for Google, but a fair amount of them will use technological devices every day for the rest of their lives. I want them to realize that using technology is more than playing games or doing homework. The real awesomeness of tech use is being the person who creates things.

So, I invited Jessica Ross to talk to my students about video production.  As you probably know from Jessica's 20 Year Profile, she is the head of media at Kona Ice, working to create all their videos.

Jessica did a great job connecting to my class of 10 boys and 1 girl while showing them the progression of her video production. One of her main points is that technology is always changing. She demonstrated that by showing how her videos have improved over the years because of the cameras and other tools she has at her disposal.  In only six years after graduating from college, she has upgraded cameras three times to keep up with the changing technology.

I found it interesting that Jessica started video production while in high school.  She had tons of practice in her field before she ever went to learn it at college.  This continues as a resounding theme of people in the world of technology. They didn't wait to learn it in college or on the job. The seed was planted years earlier.

Jessica pointed out to the students they have a leg up on the world of technology because they have grown up with it. Since they live in a world inundated with technology, they are able to do so much.  The key is to leverage that power to become an awesome creator, not consumer, of technology.

Here is my Twitter blow up of the presentation.
  1.  Retweeted by 
    I had an absolute blast talking to 's technology class today about my job and why technology is important. Hooray technology!
  2. How do we market to millennials? No commercials. 90% of time online is thru app not web browser.
  3. You have a leg up because you are growing up with technology.
  4. Now @janedeckersmith is showing on our big screen in class. is bringing them all to the room.
  5. "You guys have some really fast internet here."
  6. has given back over $13 million to communities.
  7. "I started creating dumb little videos while in high school."
  8. "I realized that people create TV shows for a living and get paid for it. I wanted to do that too."
  9. Showing off her videos to show progression of her cameras and software. Great stuff!
  10. "One constant in technology is that it is always changing."
  11. Guest speaker in T4T today:

My students wrote up a summary of the presentation, and I thought I would quote some of my favorite lines. 
  • She started editing in high school. She edited small random videos at first but she started liking it. 
  • She also makes (or at least made) storyboards and scripts. 
  • I cannot say I have had Kona Ice but I am definitely looking forward to. They raised 13 million dollars and then gave them away to people in need. 
  • She first started just making fun videos and started getting better tech and made even better videos so she started to work at Kona Ice and worked on the videos and video editing.
  • What surprised me is that she didn’t start filming and editing sooner than high school.
  • One thing that surprised me was how good cameras are today.
  • I was surprised that she could make a job by creating videos of her friends and could get paid for doing it.  
  • I learned that it is very fun to have a videoing job. You can make a lot of different videos with the job she has. If I were to be offered the job she has… I would definitely take it.
I truly am enjoying this guest speaker series and hope to add one more to the roster before the end of the school year.