professional development

My First Google Summit

It’s been awhile since I’ve written an actual post, but I have to make an update about my first Google Summit! I attended one in Staunton, VA over the week and I must say, I am hooked. I would love to go to another in the future. Heck, I’d love to be a part of EdTechTeam for that matter! I had a fabulous time getting to know the team sent for this Summit, and I enjoyed presenting 2 different sessions. I even got asked to quickly demo a tool during lunch the second day.

The two topics I was able to present on were Ramping Up 1:1 PD with Google Forms and Calendar, as well as Google Calendar Tools for the Busy Professional. My PD one was a teaser of what I plan to do at VSTE on it. The biggest difference was that this time it focused on the tools, and at VSTE it will focus on the history and planning. Google Calendar is a favorite of mine, but it’s an often underutilized tool in my experience. I was able to show ways to make it work better for the user, including color coding, organization, and settings. Both of my sessions were pretty well attended for such a small summit. I had around 30 in my calendar session, and about 15 in my PD one. Overall, my feedback was 4.8 in both, which I think is great for a first Summit!

I found the atmosphere of the Summit to be very energetic. I was the only one from my district to attend, so I felt like I had a lot that I needed to take in and absorb. I was watching the presenters from EdTechTeam themselves, and noting the passion that they infused their presentations with. I feel like it will help me become a better presenter, and (hopefully!) Google Trainer in the future.

The sessions I attended on the second day were full of information, and I was on overload trying to absorb it all. I definitely took some good notes, and have already sent things to my staff. I tried not to send too many things, but just enough to whet their palette. I’m sure quite a few will save it for later to read, which is what they do with a lot of my emails. I just love being helpful. If you want a copy of the emailed resources, grab it here.

Since returning to school today (We had Monday off for Columbus Day), I have been working on organizing everything and planning my next steps in terms of what I do with my staff. After all, attending is one thing. Now it’s time to share my newfound knowledge with the rest of my staff. I have new ideas to add to my Fluco Toolbox posts, new ideas for PD for my staff, and new resources to send them periodically.

Thanks for helping me feel rejuvenated, EdTechTeam!

Tech Bytes: How to Offer Successful 1:1 PD for Your Staff in 4 Steps!

Last year I implemented a new program with my staff called Tech Bytes. This program featured 1:1 professional development for staff that met their schedule needs and did not occur after school at all. Each session ran for 30 minutes, and though staff may have taken sessions on the same topic, I tailored the way I taught it to the technology needs of each staff member. At the end of the year, I found that I had a decently sized group of teachers that repeatedly scheduled these sessions with me.

Reasons why my staff love Tech Bytes:
– 30 minutes of their planning period
– Based on their schedule, not mine
– Not after school
– Variety of sessions each month, with follow-ups as needed
– 1:1 mostly, small groups as requested

I’ve brought Tech Bytes back for year 2. I am in charge of both secondary schools in my district this year, and spend 2 days each week at each school, and rotate my Fridays. I’ve already set up my Tech Bytes for August and September, and as of this writing, have scheduled 24 sessions with teachers. The average teacher has scheduled 2-3 sessions from the 5 available for this timeframe. To compare, last year I only had 13 sessions scheduled for all of August/September. This year the form has only been out for 4 days and already I’ve just about doubled my sign-ups.

Want to offer Tech Bytes to your staff? Here’s how you can do it!

Step 1: Decide on 5-6 PD sessions to feature every 1-2 months
Before doing anything, you should have an idea of the sessions that will be offered to teachers. This year I am trying to make sure I offer both Google and Edtech options to my staff. I offer 5-6, but you can start with less in the beginning. Last year I tried to offer at least 3, and have stepped up my game.

Step 2: Create a Google Form for staff to select sessions that interest them
Google Forms is a great way to get staff to sign up as interested in sessions! If you are in charge of PD for multiple schools, you’ll want to create one form that leads to multiple sections based on the answer to where each staff member is located. Each PD question should name the session, provide a description of what is included in each session, and a yes/no multiple choice answer option. At the end of the form, use the checkbox grid question type to create a list of the weeks and the days available each week.


Step 3: Email staff, and include the link to the Google form
Once a form is ready, I create an email to send to staff to make them aware of the sessions for the month. This email lists each session with a description and includes a link to the form to sign up. I send the emails every Monday for every Tech Bytes monthly series. I use RightInbox to send scheduled emails, but please keep in mind I use the paid subscription because I send many different scheduled emails each month.


Step 4: Review the collected Forms data in Google Sheets & contact staff
I set up my Google Forms to email me when a response has been submitted about Tech Bytes. I then review the data in Google Sheets, noting what the staff member has expressed interest in and the dates they are available. I email each member, asking them to confirm dates and to select a 30-minute slot during their planning for PD. Once we work out the date and time, I create Google calendar invites for each session and send those out.

That’s all there is to it! I repeat the process every month until the end of the year. I usually feature sessions based on staff/adminstration request, new items from the Fluco Toolbox posts I write, or updates to other tools. Offering professional development as Tech Bytes has truly made all the difference for myself and my staff!

Recap/Thoughts: Google Certified Trainer Bootcamp

Thursday and Friday of last week I headed to Orange, VA for Google Trainer Bootcamp. I was excited and eager to learn and to see how much I could prepare myself for the path of Google Trainer. Our Trainer was Sean Williams (@seani), and I found myself learning quite a bit!

My biggest takeaway from the bootcamp was how prepared I actually was for Google Trainer. Originally, I did not plan to apply for Trainer until May 2019 because I did not feel that I had enough material ready, nor did I feel very confident. By the end of the bootcamp, I had moved my application date from May 2019 to December 2018. I should be ready before that, but that’s the absolute latest I’m giving myself to turn in an application.

Prior to bootcamp, I had taken Kasey Bell’s (@shakeuplearning) VIP Google Trainer course. Even if you don’t take the VIP version, you’ll find yourself swimming in knowledge. Kasey provides a lot of information on teaching adults and becoming a Trainer in general. If you’re looking to become a Google Trainer, I highly recommend her course, especially if you are unable to attend a Trainer bootcamp in your area. She provides a lot of extra resources as well.

I have completed a good chunk of my Google Trainer application. I still need to create a video to submit, and of course, I need to take care of offering some more Google-based PD sessions. I offer PD all year long, but it’s not always related to Google, nor do I have the required materials/resources to accompany what I do offer, as most of it tends to be 1:1. I’m not sure what I want to showcase yet with my video. I’m going to peruse YouTube to see what others have done in their videos and hopefully, that will spark some ideas or at least give me a plan of action to follow.

The application did get me thinking about my goals for next year, and I have since been able to not only design my Google goals, but also my other goals for my role as an ITRT in my district. Here are the Google-based goals I have concocted so far:

  • Offer 2-3 session options a month (18-27 total) to staff in a 1:1 Tech Bytes format.
  • Offer 1 after school session per month to all district staff (9 total)
  • Offer 2 monthly scheduled sessions during the school day to staff at FCHS/FMS (18 in all)
  • Present at 1 conference on a Google topic
  • Add at least 1 Google tool/tip to the Fluco Toolbox resources section of my site per month (12 total)
  • Work with a small cohort of teachers in my district to train/prepare them to take the Google Certified Educator Level 1 exam in June 2019 (at least 6)

In addition to my goals being ready, I have already begun designing professional development sessions in a new format. I have developed a list of requirements that every PD session will have. I am requiring myself to have a Slide deck and an agenda with resources ready for every session. I created a master Slide deck to work from, as well as a master agenda template. Prior to every session, attendees will receive the agenda in a PDF and have access to the topics in advance. They can also check out the shared resources. This lets them think of potential questions to ask in advance.

So far, I’ve been able to develop 3 professional development sessions for next year. These are all on more advanced features of Google, and I’m planning to stay away from developing beginner sessions until I have flushed out a nice variety of advanced sessions. These sessions are designed so that I can use them as professional development or submit as part of a proposal to present at a conference. So far I have the following:

  • 6 Advanced Tips and Tricks for Google Forms
  • Google Calendar for the Busy Professional
  • Upping Your Google Forms Quiz Game

I’m also in the process of putting together sessions for Google Calendar on the Go! and Analyzing Google Forms data. I’ve got the list of key points to cover. I just need to complete some more research and put together the materials and images. It is definitely a lot easier to plan professional development with master templates and requirements for sessions!

Google Trainer Bootcamp is definitely worth it, so if you have the opportunity to attend one, I highly recommend doing so. It will definitely help you to prepare for the trainer application, and it also pays for your Trainer Skills Assessment exam.


Presenting Professional Development: Know Your Audience

One thing I have learned over the years about presenting professional development to school staff is that it works so much better if you know your audience. Just like with a classroom, staff members are not one size fits all, and what works for one school or district won’t necessarily work for another.

When I first began working in instructional technology as a technology integration specialist in West Virginia, I did what any newbie does – offered all professional development training after school. I was a bit restricted in this fashion, as any PD given in the district had to be approved by someone at central office first. It was a hindrance, and I actually ended up offering less professional development because of it. The approval process made it seem as though we could not be trusted to design training for staff that would be beneficial without this approval.

All of the sessions I offered were after school. I usually picked a general topic, and created something we could all do, whether it worked best for everyone or not. Rookie mistake. Professional development in the district was not as successful as it could be. Session attendance was low, and with the schools in the county so spread out, it was hard to have a location where people could easily attend. I chalk it all up as a learning process.

When I moved to Virginia, I became an instructional technology resource teacher, or ITRT. I was assigned to work in both a middle school and high school, so my time was split. I continued my rookie mistake in my first year. Nobody’s perfect, right? It was during this time that I began researching more into professional development and how to make it work best for my staff.

Most of my research led me to developing potential ideas and programs. I decided that I would not offered after school professional development unless absolutely necessary. It was not successful, and since it was the end of the day, most folks were brain exhausted. I also had those who had other after school obligations, so they were never able to attend, even if they wanted to do so.

This year I have focused mostly on 1:1 professional development, and letting staff know what’s out there. If I need to offer professional development to groups of staff, I will do rolling sessions during the day so that staff can attend when it works for them on their schedule. I have found that I can be much more personalized, and I also know my staff better.

When offering 1:1 professional development, called Tech Bytes, I usually select 3-4 options for the month. Staff are aware that they are not limited to these options, but these are the featured ones. These featured options usually come from my Fluco Toolbox posts on this site, as a result of staff saying they don’t always know what’s out there. Staff sign up to attend during their planning periods, and we work out a time that’s best for them. I usually have some idea of their technology abilities, so I can already begin tailoring how to pace my lesson for them.

When it comes to group sessions, these can be trickier. I usually block off the entire day to focus on these, and do rolling sessions for staff so that they can attend when it’s convenient to them. I have gotten remarks from some (not the staff I teach) that it’s a bit inconvenient to do in terms of spending a whole day for just a small group. I don’t feel that it’s inconvenient to me, as I just set up camp in the room I’m using and work on my other stuff in between. Sure, I repeat my presentation multiple times, but my goal is to be flexible for my staff so that they want to attend. It is not about my discomfort, or how it might inconvenience me. It’s about making it work for my audience.

I know my high school audience. These staff members already work from 8 until 4 PM each day. Even though it’s the same as any other school day, doing something after school lets out just seems like too much. As a whole, my staff won’t attend these sessions. They’ve already had a full day of kids, and anything more is a bit too much to handle, mentally. They like the freedom to schedule when they like, and with just me if they prefer.

I actually really love the 1:1 trainings because I get to really focus on the staff member and their needs. It allows me to build a better relationship with them as well. This in turn makes them more open to the group sessions because they already know what to expect of me and my teaching. I’ve gotten to work with a wider variety of staff because of this, and I plan to continue this next year.

No matter what district or school you are in, learn your audience. Learn about their needs and their wants. This may take some time, and some mistakes to get it right. If you have a gut feeling about something that will work best for your staff, then give it a try. Don’t let someone deter you from that. If something doesn’t work, head back to the drawing board, and try again. It’s okay to fail, but it’s not okay to stop giving professional development.

Reflections on VSTE 2017

Another VSTE has come and gone, and it was fantastic! This was my 2nd year attending, and it was even better than last year because I had some wonderful connections and people to meet up with. Big shoutout goes to my tech buddy Heidi Trude (@htrude07). She and I love tech conferences, meeting speakers, and bouncing new ideas.

I arrived bright and early on Sunday morning and got checked in. My big task for the day was my Minecraft presentation. I was scheduled to go right at the start, which was fine by me. I was able to get it over with and then focus on other things with the conference.

I had a full room of 30, and I set up my session to play some Minecraft themed music from my YouTube playlist. I also dressed up in my Steve outfit, which many people got a kick out of. My topic was on empowering students through architecture and design. I focused on how this topic empowers first, and then dove into each of my workshops- middle school, rising 1st/2nd grade, and my Cityscapers club. From there I also talked about empowering preschool kids, using my buddy Reed as an example. I got a lot of good questions, and shared all of my workshop resources with folks, which they really appreciated.

The rest of the conference was a whirlwind of fun and learning. Here are some of my favorite key takeaways:

  • Virtual courses and professional development: I listened to a presentation from a district on how they were offering virtual courses for professional development. This allowed them to be flexible for their teachers, and to offer many chances for teachers to find ways to use the tools in the classroom. I want to design a course for next year, and I’m thinking it may be on Google for beginning teachers or something like that. I just need to research and toy with my idea more.
  • Minecraft for Teachers: Minecraft is a game meant to toss the player into it with very little instruction or guidance. While there are teachers who will also embrace this tactic and learn to play the game this way, there are others who are too hesitant and uncertain. I am thinking of potential developing a play and learn series geared specifically to them.
  • Minecraft Challenges: I had forgotten that even though I no longer have access to the old MinecraftEDU, I can still get access to the lessons and world files for the program. I would like to import some of the worlds into Minecraft and redesign them to work for students. This is something that could take awhile, so for now I’ve downloaded a latitude and longitude scavenger hunt world to tinker with.
  • Google Forms and Data Validation: I loved this session because it gave me new ideas for my teachers on how to use forms to get certain answers or to set up puzzles and passcodes for access. For example, a teacher can use data validation to get students to enter a secret code to then be taken to the quiz part of a form.
  • School branding: I loved both the keynote speech and the session done by Eric Sheninger. His work affirms that I’m on the right path with branding, especially with our schools. I took away some new ideas for branding, and have since met with one of the middle school administrators to see how we could do better. We actually have a plan in place, and it will allow us to get more stories and pictures from classrooms without teachers having to do much extra.
  • Photojournaling– I went to this session to learn about the impact photojournaling can have on students, and how it promotes collaboration. The presenter had us do some of the activities in the lesson plan itself, and of course received the lesson and all necessary resources. The best part is that the lesson is written in such as way that it can be applied across disciplines, so teachers can modify as needed.

After all those sessions, I was on information overload, and still am. I am slowly working through bits of it as I complete my daily work. I feel that I can be a better teacher and ITRT once I’ve started applying more of what I’ve learned.

I also made new connections and reconnected with folks from last year. It was good to see so many familiar faces. I tweeted up a storm, which should be no surprise if you know me well. I can go back later to check out those tweets and discover new ideas.

VSTE definitely helped me recharge my batteries. I felt on top of the world as I left Roanoke on Tuesday afternoon. I am ready to work on making more changes to my work, and improving myself.

This will be my last VSTE for awhile. I am going to skip next year (unless my district decides to send us) because I want to save up for ISTE 2019. It’s going to be in Philadelphia, and very doable in my case. I just need to make sure I have the money ready to roll. I know my district won’t be able to fund something so pricey, but I am very determined to experience this amazing conference at least once in my career!

PD and a BRVGS Student Update

I have continued to work with Emily, my BRVGS student. We have continued to work on developing professional development lessons for teachers, and this will be our busiest month in terms of teaching other teachers.

Emily has continued to develop two more lessons to add to her original Passwords lesson. She’s developed one on scams and phishing, and another on creating a positive digital footprint. We have decided that three is a great number of lessons, and we’ll make sure that her teaching is done by the end of the first semester so that she can work on her portfolio and other final pieces for her senior project.

It has certainly been a pleasure to work with Emily for this project, and I’m really glad that I took her on as a student. She has had some really good ideas, and has worked hard to research and implement them. She’s gotten pretty good at considering her audience and how much she can cover within a 30 minute time period. She has learned to think about how the information is presented, and what her audience will need for takeaways. She’s also learned to modify and redesign her lessons for different age groups. She will be teaching her lesson on passwords to a couple of high school classes, and she has had to consider what to do for students versus what needs included for adults.

Emily has presented a few different sessions at this point, and she still finds herself being very nervous during these sessions. She wants to work on being more confident, but this takes a bit of time, and it can be really hard. It’s even harder when you’re teaching your teachers, and she’s doing a pretty good job at trying to overcome this. I’m not sure I could have done much better myself in high school if I were in her shoes. I was always the shy kid, and didn’t really become confident speaking in front of groups until my college communications course. It is something that takes time.

She has asked if I will share her lessons online like I have with the Passwords lesson, and I do plan to do so once we’ve had a chance to present and make any tweaks necessary. I’m also planning to add her lessons to my professional development repertoire and offer them to staff. One of her goals for her community service was to continue to spread the information after she has finished with her project. I am happy to continue her work.

Overall, so far this project has been very beneficial to us both, and I’m glad to help out. I will certainly miss working with her once the semester ends!

PD Resource: Passwords 101 Lesson

I have been overseeing one of our governor’s school students as part of her community service. Emily seeks to work in cyber security in the future, and part of her project involves community service. We teamed up so that she could teach other teachers about the basics involved with cyber security through 30 minute professional development sessions. Her first lesson is on passwords.

Name: Passwords 101
Creator: This lesson was designed by BRVGS student Emily. I oversaw her work and creation, but the ideas inside are entirely hers.
Description: This lesson shows the audience how to create a secure password using a simple algorithm. Learners will be able to strength test their old passwords, determine the characteristics of good/bad passwords, and create their own sample password based on the presented algorithm

Passwords 101 Lesson

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