Wednesday, June 27, 2012

May our students find their passions

ISTE 2012 will soon be a memory, and I am reminded of how emotional I felt as a child when  my various summer camps came to an end. It's hard to leave the venue of such passion behind. Those who came here to ISTE share a commitment to improving education for our students. In my opinion, the answer will not be found in curriculum or standards or specific technologies. The answer is in an educational system that values individuality, creativity, globalization, and collaboration. May we all focus on the things in our own lives that we feel passionate about and realize that the best way to motivate our students to learn is to help them find their passions and to give them the real world tools to fuel and accomplish their own learning. Wouldn't  it be great if our students felt as excited about school everyday as I felt about every minute of this conference? I don't think that goal is unrealistic if we work together.

I have so much to share with you, SLCSD!

Monday, June 25, 2012


I'm taking a little time from my day to post from sunny San Diego, CA, where I am attending the International Society for Technology in Education Conference.

What a wonderful place to rub elbows with teachers, administrators, EdTech professionals, vendors, and others who believe strongly in the value of technology for learning. The passion and urgency is palpable! From the pre-conference events where many of these people came together on their own to start collaborating and learning from one another before anything official began, to the opening ceremony for all of us newbies where the MCs dressed up like all sorts of famous duos (Batman and Robin, Capt. Kirk and Spock, Dorothy and the Scarecrow, etc.), to the panel discussion last night led by Sir Ken Robinson and including Marc Prensky, Peggy Johnson, and Mayim Bialik, the need for us to continuously discuss education and "think about where we are going, so we can determine how we are going to get there" is one thing we can all agree on.

Today I saw middle school students proudly share their projects. One group who live very close to the Mexican border chose to interview people and do research about how they or others came to the United States, legally or illegally. The students then synthesized into a podcast that information that would bring a tear to the eyes of many in our own Storm Lake community. I saw third grade students who created computer programming projects using Scratch and middle school students programming with Alice. I've seen groups of teachers from all over the country visiting together about how best to using blogging to increase student learning. The key, according to them is to open things up and allow comments from outside the classroom group. I've seen how schools are working very hard to create global connections in any way possible to make sure that students are accessing all the information, resources, and people available "out there" to increase their own learning. And I've seen the value of using Google Maps in the classroom.

I am struck over and over again at the importance of tying our use of technology in the classroom to the National Educational Technology Standards for students. It isn't enough to say we're going to learn how to use, for example, Symbaloo, a program we use at SLCSD. We must go further than that and determine what it is we really want the students to learn and then determine what EdTech strategies, such as Symbaloo, might increase that learning. Digital Citizenship is a hot topic. Twitter is still really big as a way to connect with others and share resources.

Here's a link to the conference newsletter for today:

It's just so great to have the opportunity to bring all these things back to you. I will be sharing more about the next few days, but for now, back to the conference!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Last Thoughts on TICL Conference

I wanted to post more pictures of our SLCSD staff members at TICL before I get going with what's going on with the ISTE Conference where I am now.



Which session do I attend next?

Expectantly waiting for the keynote

I think fun was had along with the learning!


Presenting about the global connections of our kindergarten classes:

End of conference SLCSD meeting to plan for EdTech for next year

Using Twitter to connect with others and share resources:

I just couldn't be happier with the large number of staff members who gave up three summer days to attend this annual local conference. We now have so many resources to share throughout the course of this summer and next school year. We have also acquired some new skills. I'm particularly happy about all the new tweeters who have joined me and other SLCSD users of Twitter, calling themselves the Freking Fun Club. Let's keep sharing our resources!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mr. Brent Croker

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, students, and co-workers of Mr. Brent Croker, our 8th grade Social Studies teacher, who died unexpectedly yesterday.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day One of the TICL EdTech Conference

Yesterday was day one of the TICL EdTech Conference held at Buena Vista University and sponsored by both Prairie Lakes AEA and Northwest AEA. It is such a treat to have such an excellent conference right in our own backyard. We have a total of 36 SLCSD staff members attending the three day conference, many of whom return year after year, because the information about integrating technology in the classroom is so useful. Here is the link to the conference program, so you can take a look yourself:

TICL 2012 Conference Program

Here are some of our staff members:

Some of the things I learned today:
  1. McRel's Classroom Strategies that Work have been updated in the second edition of the book, with the realization that none of the nine strategies are better than others, that the choice of strategy depends on what one is teaching. While we want to get to the higher order thinking skills in our classrooms, we can't do that without our students having a certain base of knowledge.
  2. The best way to learn is through play, and the best way to teach is by developing relationships with our students, according to the keynote speaker Zac Chase.
  3. If you want your teachers and students to use technology in the very best ways for learning, your administrators have to model the behavior by their use of technology.
  4. While I love the battery life of my iPad, it does not play well with Google Apps. It lends itself best to individual users with their own iTunes accounts but can't be deployed on a mass scale in a school that way. That iPads can do some really cool things if you have a Mac computer to use with them. That the first iPad, which is only 2 years old, is already outdated and can't run the current operating system, which means there are new apps it just can't run. And most are in agreement that an iPad is great for running apps, such as games for students, but that it isn't a replacement for a computer.
  5. That you can realistically create professional presentations of your announcements each day with nothing more than a laptop and Windows Movie Maker.
I love getting together with my peers, experts in the field of EdTech, teachers who are using technology effectively in the classroom, and my co-workers to work on improving education for our students. This group of 36 teachers from SLCSD doesn't get paid to do this. They do it, because they are great teachers who love their students!

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Off and running for summer EdTech work

I've been away from blogging the past month or so as school wound down, and we prepared for a busy summer of educational technology. We have 6 new mobile labs coming in as I write this that will be deployed to the elementary school, the middle school, and the high school. We have an updated version of our student information system that we will roll out on a new server. We are deploying brand new wireless at our middle school. We are updating sections of our network district-wide. We are working on quotes for a few new interactive whiteboards for the district. Add all of that to the updates, repairs, and plain upkeep of the technologies we have, and we have a busy summer ahead of us. In addition, we are attending two educational technology conferences: 36 staff members are attending the T.I.C.L. Conference held next week at Buena Vista University right here in Storm Lake, and I am attending the International Society for Technology in Education Conference in San Diego the following week.

We believe in the value of technology for learning here in the Storm Lake Community School District, and we work very hard every summer to make sure that the new school year tops the old one when it comes to technology equipment, infrastructure, and teacher training for better integration.

I'll keep you posted!