Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Teachers, Just Do It!

Whenever I go to these conferences, I contemplate my journey to being a District Technology Director. From a BS in Psychology and Communication; to a return to school later to finish the hours I needed to teach; to ten years in high school classrooms teaching English, speech, and computer classes; to enough frustration in my computer lab that I taught myself to fix computers and run a basic network.

With the exception of one week long workshop on Novell networking of all things and a few conferences with snippets of learning here and there, no one has offered me PD on how to be a computer teacher, to integrate technology, or to do the tasks of a Technology Director. Many years ago I saw a need in my students, in my classroom, and in my school; and I looked for the personal opportunities to learn what I needed to know.

My point is that I just don't understand teachers who use the excuse that they've never been given enough professional development to integrate technology effectively. Really? With social media and access to the Internet, there is just no excuse for not learning what you need to know to integrate technology. None!

I don't have a special EdTech gene that magically got me here. I'm just a teacher who saw the value of technology for learning and who saw the value of Twitter and other social media for networking with those who know way more than I do. Paraphrasing what Kevin Honeycutt said yesterday: I am smart, but all of you together are brilliant - One firefly is a speck of light, but a jar full of fireflies will light up the night.

I just don't buy the no PD argument. Nor do I buy the "I don't have time" argument. If you have the needs of your students at the forefront of your thinking, then you will learn this stuff and do it. The resources are at your fingertips.

Contemplate deep down what your expectations are for your students. Then contemplate your own learning journey - your own behavior. Are you taking responsibility for and modeling lifelong learning, or are you waiting for someone else to hold your hand and choose your direction for you?

You are the educational expert. Learn what you need to know. You can do it. I did. Get your students connecting globally, solving real world problems, creating, and publishing. Do it today!

And by the way, if you need my help, SLCSD teachers, all you need to do is ask.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hack Education Unconference

I had the most amazing educational experience all day yesterday at the annual Hack Education unconference. Those who attend come together and build a day of learning based on what they want to know. Then everyone splits off to the group discussions of choice. There are no presentations, just educators sharing and caring about the best way to educate our children.

Here's the agenda we built:


Please note that what you don't see are iPad Apps or Google Classroom or BYOD. What you see are urgent issues facing education, pedagogy questions, and deep reflective topics. I saw laughter and tears. I saw reminders that it was time to move on to the next session when participants were so wrapped up in the conversation that they found it hard to stop. And, I saw small groups of people branch off to talk about topics that had evolved from initial conversations.

This, my friends, is what curiosity, solving real work problems, collaboration, and dedication looks like.

My question is, "How do we bring this thirst to know to our students?"

What an amazing, caring, dedicated, group of educators. If we would put them in charge of educational decisions rather than law makers, our schools would truly be transformed.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ISTE Conference 2015

I am beside myself with excitement as I prepare to head to Philadelphia to the International Society for Technology in Education Conference and Expo. I missed last year due to still recovering from a broken leg, so I am more than ready to go soak up the learning and the networking with others to bring back ideas for our students and teachers.

ISTE, among many other things, is the organization that established the educational technology Standards for Students that are broadly accepted as what our students need to be doing with technology. The Iowa Core 21st Century Technology Standards are based on the ISTE standards. The exciting thing is that these ISTE standards for students are updated every few years, and this year is the beginning of the latest updating process.

I remember when the standards moved several years ago from a very specific technology skills based focus to a much more robust set of standards that take into account the capabilities of technology to learn and to work. Take a look at what the standards look like today:
  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Communication and collaboration
  3. Research and information fluency
  4. Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making
  5. Digital citizenship
  6. Technology operations and concepts

We all need these skills to function in our global society for both learning and working. No longer can we use checklists of technology skills like "insert a picture" or "cut and paste" or "create a graph from data" exclusively as our measure of a student's technology skills. Yes, those things are important, but in a global world:
  • where students can interact directly with authors or scientists or students from other countries,
  • where students can gather maps and original documents and historical photographs at the click of a few buttons,
  • where students can organize massive quantities of data into meaningful arguments,
  • where students can code their own video games or apps,
  • and where students can become published writers and artists and receive feedback on their work instantaneously,
we cannot return to the old school ways of educating where teachers and textbooks are the source of all knowledge, and students are treated like little sponges soaking up that limited knowledge.

I look forward to seeing where the ISTE Standards for Students will evolve, and I get goose bumps when I think about the educators who will have the input as to what those new standards should look like.

ISTE Conference, here I come. I can't wait to learn!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Congratulations, Cody Baker

A huge congratulations to Cody Baker for his first place finish with his Senior Individual Website at the National History Day competition.

And, a shout-out to our TAG teacher, Priscilla Robinson, who spends so much time with our students preparing for competition. These are the experiences our students will remember!

Cody's website is about Alan Turing. Take a look:

As always, proud to be a Tornado!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It takes all of us focused on students

I took my two district technology technicians to the TICL Conference at Buena Vista University the past three days. I do this, because I never want the nuts and bolts part of our jobs as tech people to overshadow why we are really working. We are here to help students learn, and every job we do in our schools, no matter how repetitive or mundane, must keep that goal in mind. Not only must we keep the goal in mind, but we must also take pride in the part we play in our students' learning journeys.

Ed Zimmerle from Prairie Lakes AEA took a fabulous picture of our two computer technicians flanking our Middle School technology teacher.

Here's to Justin Overmohle, Preston Meineke, and Josh Hayden. Our students are lucky to have you !

Monday, June 15, 2015

TICL EdTech Conference

I am attending the TICL EdTech Conference that is held at BVU each June. It is always great to learn what others are doing in their districts, to start planning for next year, and to spend time with colleagues who believe in the value of technology for learning.

Here is a link to the resources that go along with the sessions:


Take a look. Find something promising, and create a new experience for your students next year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

ESL Summer School Rocks

I want to make sure I publicize the work our teachers and students are doing in ESL Summer School. They are working hard, learning a lot, and having loads of fun in the process.

Here is the link to their website where they are posting pictures and student writing daily.


Take a look at their work. This is summer learning!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Moving On and Carrying On

It's always bittersweet to attend the annual breakfast where the retiring employees of the Storm Lake Community School District are honored, along with also sending our best wishes with employees who are moving on to different jobs.

As was stated by Supertintendent Carl Turner, the power of our school district is that the goal of all of us who work here is always apparent, and that is:

What's best for kids.

What I know is this: While most days are truly filled with collaboration and teamwork, there are some days when we have to fight to be heard. There are some days when we disagree with how to get where we're going. And, there are some days when we become temporarily disheartened. However, our power lies in that we, as the SLCSD family, are tenacious; and we get up every day with renewed vows to work even harder to fight the good fight for our students and their families. As one of the retirees, Janet Anderson, said:

We are all Tornadoes.

For that I am proud. Good luck to those who are leaving us. Thank you for your many years of service to the Storm Lake students and their families. And, to those who are sticking around:

Let's make next year even better.