technology education

Student Voices on Social Media

Over the past few weeks, I have been working with a classroom at Fluvanna County High School to solve a problem that was proposed by Superintendent Keller: How do we get student voices involved and sharing positive stories of our school district?

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I’ve been updating every so often about how I’m working to get the district together and all schools working to share the positive stories that come from each school. Superintendent Keller loves the idea and wants to take it further. She suggested I work with the economics/marketing teacher and come up with a way to do this with his students. I had never worked with this teacher before, but as soon as we connected, we were both excited with the possibilities that this problem could bring.

In time, we developed a project with a basic plan:

  • Step 1: Research 3 marketing brands/companies and explore their use of social media
  • Step 2: Research 3 ways Fluvanna County School district uses social media (students would be provided with a list)
  • Step 3: Create a project to solve the problem presented by the superintendent.

We fleshed out the plan further, including discussion questions to lead in/exit, presentations before Superintendent Keller and some of the school board members, and the use of Google Classroom for the entire project. We left the final project very open-ended because we wanted to simulate solving a problem in the marketing world. We knew some students would balk at this, as they were used to being told exactly how to get an A. All we did was make sure they knew what parts needed to be answered as part of their proposal. How they created the final presentation, and how they solved the issue itself was entirely up to them.

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The only snag we ran into with getting started was students not being able to view any kind of social media on the student wi-fi network. They were unable to view Twitter or Facebook. This was a hurdle, as these students needed to be able to find examples and explain how each company/brand utilized social media. In the end we pooled the teacher devices that we had (2 laptops, a desktop, and a Chromebook) and allowed different groups to use them under supervision for their research, and then return at the end of class.

Currently, students are working on their final project presentations. They were allowed to use anything they wanted, but most used Slides or PowerPoint. Some are exploring Prezi or Powtoons as well. We are making sure that students have tips and tricks to utilize when creating their presentations that will help them create professional ones.

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Later, I’ll share some highlights from discussion questions and projects. For now, I’ll continue to update and share images of students hard at work, as well as images of the final presentations, which will be December 9th, 13th, and 16th.

#IMMOOC: Innovation and Professional Development

Thinking differently isn’t enough. We can think differently all we want, but that’s only a step in the right direction. It takes more than just a step to evoke change. We also can’t simply replace one thing with another, such as when teachers replace pencil and paper with computers and tablets. In many cases, all that has been done was replace the traditional with a far more expensive tool, unless educators decide to use the tool to make their lessons do something new or better.

As an instructional technology resource teacher trying to help teachers see how they can innovate with the technology they have in their classroom can be rather difficult. My district recently received a large load of Chromebooks. All levels received a cart of 30-40 Chromebooks to share between 2 or 3 teachers. At the high school level, all English teachers received their own Chromebook carts. This is great!… except it’s not. We’re almost 2 months into the school year and teachers are typically using the Chromebook for the following: MAP or IA testing, Mobymax/Study Island, or simply having them type up papers. This is one use for a Chromebook, but it’s nowhere near the best use. All that’s been done is replaced the typical pencil and paper tools. And while the data and computer adaptive nature of some of the above programs are amazing, that’s not all that the Chromebooks should be used for.

My fellow ITRTs and I are trying to counter this use of the tool, but it’s very difficult to accomplish. So far we’ve offered professional development that’s been lacking in attendance, usually a handful at most. When I came on board this year, I made the suggestion to move to doing Google Classroom self-guided professional development. Our teachers had 3 options to partake- in person, Google Classroom-based, or 1:1 with one of us instead. Our sessions that are being offered are based on the feedback given from staff so we go from offering Google-based sessions to others, such as Kahoot or Seesaw Portfolios.

Despite the feedback and new ways of attending sessions, we feel the reception to be lukewarm at best. This is a problem for us because in most cases professional development isn’t mandatory for teachers. They have to attend anything offered on a staff day, and they need 180 points for licensure renewal (VA requirement), but they don’t need to attend so many sessions a year. It was like this in my previous district. They had to get 18 hours of PD each year, but if they attended the Opening Day session and the next day, they easily had 12 hours completed.

Even if the trainers have the tools to help teachers begin to innovate their lessons or to help inspire them with something new, it does no good without teachers attending the sessions. This is my 3rd year in instructional technology, and still I don’t have the answer to this. I haven’t figured out a way to make professional development sessions new and better, at least in the sense of getting more people to attend them. I have moved away from the sit and get method, and the sessions I offer have teachers doing hands -on work. I know this still isn’t enough, and I’m working to improve in that regard.

If you are a teacher, it would really help me if you would give me some perspective, on why you choose not to attend professional development. What would make you want to attend a session, especially if all you have to go on is the description before signing up?

Spring TIS Regionals Overview

As I sit here and write this post, I can’t help but to feel a bit sad. This past week I attended my last TIS Regionals meeting, most likely for good. TIS Regionals are held twice a year in West Virginia, and each of the RESA regions hosts one. My district is part of RESA 8. I started attending TIS Regionals last spring after I found out about them. They aren’t only open to technology integration specialists (TISs), but to any educator who wants to attend and receive technology training and updates. Typically this is one of the first places new movements soon to occur in West Virginia related to technology are announced.

This spring, the meeting was held at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in the basement of Seaton Hall. I walked in to find we had a nice group assembled, and quite a few familiar faces. I settled myself in and set up my Surface Pro 3. While doing this, we were each given a packet of Legos. Ours must have been based on a Halloween theme, as each bag had witches hats and white cats.

To start the meeting off, we were instructed to use the Legos to build something that was a favorite of ours. It was up to us to figure out what we wanted to do. All we knew was that after everyone had finished their build, we would share our work. I ended up creating a exploration scene from Minecraft as best I could. As I worked, I talked to my neighbors. One came in late, and opted to merely observe everyone else building, but my other neighbor was finding a way to show the death to spiders that had come in the kit.

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My Minecraft exploration scene. It’s supposed to be a cave underground. I have found spiders… unfortunately my ax isn’t going to cut it!

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Robin’s (@themfoxes on Twitter) spiders roasting scene. She and a friend are eating ice cream in celebration.

I believe we spent about 20 minutes building, using part of the time to let stragglers settle in. Then we each went around and talked about what we had made. Some people made family oriented scenes. Others made hobby-based ones. Every single presenter talked for at least a minute about what they had created, and described extra little details. The goal was to show us that Legos make great story starter prompts, or ice breaker ideas. Instead of just having a student tell their favorite thing (often a one word answer), they build it with some Legos. Ideally they will delve into their design, providing details to their classmates that they would not have otherwise.

Once everyone had presented, we were relaxed and ready to tackle the session. Our first presenter was Margaret Miller from West Virginia Public Broadcasting. She wanted to share resources with us from WVPB. Her first goal was to showcase some of the upcoming events on the WV site. You can check it out:  http://wvpublic.org/education-community-events

Her main goal, however, was to demonstrate the educational value of PBSLearningMedia. Myself, I had never heard of the website, but I was surprised at how much could be found there. We took a look at the West Virginia-based site, but there are sites for different states. We were also told that if we wanted to also join another state’s site, then we would have to sign up with a different email address and the zip code of a school in that state.

Here’s the link to WV’s site

Pictured above are some news and content related items, some meant only for WV.

PBS Learning Media has some great resources for teachers. In addition to supplements that can be used for classroom lesson plans, there are also actual lesson plans to be found. Once an account has been created, users can search by subject and national standard, but NOT by WV standard. Still, much of the Common Core stuff aligns to what WV has done in the past, even though we are now moving on to a different set of standards.

We were cautioned when doing a search for any particular material: if you see something you like, favorite it so that it’s saved to your account, otherwise you may not see it again. This is because PBS does their search differently. Every time you search the same topic, STEM, for example, the results are returned in a mixed up order. This is so that a variety of sources are seen, and there aren’t any “favorites’ being shown first.

A sample image of what the screen looks like during a search. Note that you can filter results on the left side.

Teachers can easily take the items they have favorited and place them in folders later on. I sorted through most of what I favorited and created folders based on the topic. A lot of it I plan to go back through later on when I have more time to explore each resource.

The final section of the site we took a look at was the Tools section. There are a few options here- Lesson Builder, Quiz Maker, Storyboard, and Puzzle Maker. Since we only had so much time, we were walked through Storyboard, and then instructed to create one for any topic we might use in the classroom. I chose to focus on the engineering design process, and created a storyboard that used images and video footage from the site, as well as questions of my own design. Here’s an image of the storyboard I created:

We took a break for lunch at this point, and I went out with a few colleagues. Upon returning for the afternoon session, Jason Jackson took over to present on Common Sense Media. For anyone who doesn’t know, Common Sense Media is a website that can serve a great purpose inside the classroom or out. On the main website, parents can find ratings for movies, games, TV shows, and more. West Virginia uses the lessons on the education side to meet E-Rate compliance. Common Sense Media also has Graphite, a website for teachers to find reviews on websites and apps for the classroom. Everything is reviewed by teachers, which makes finding new resources a lot easier. Not only that, but teachers can also find lesson plans that incorporate a variety of tools and apps in one lesson. Again, these are created by teachers for teachers.

Jason Jackson presenting on Common Sense Media

Teachers can also become Graphite certified by completing a series of tasks. The best part is that once a teacher completes the initial task, they then get paid to complete more tasks. I am Graphite certified, and this year I am hoping to write up a series of lesson plans to get the most bang for my buck. I can earn up to $300 just by writing them… aka $50 a lesson plan. Not too shabby at all!

The very last task for the day was an update on the LMS that West Virginia is working to create. Valerie Wilson told us as much as she was allowed to. There are currently 4 vendors in the final bidding for the system. It is hoped to have the system in place for next year. One downfall is that each district will have to purchase the system for use. This is a drawback for the districts that are having issues currently with the budget. Hopefully more news and updates will be available at the technology conference this summer.

Valerie discussing the LMS

Before ending any TIS Regional session, there’s always the Smackdown during the last half hour. Attendees share any new resources via a Google spreadsheet, and then are able to discuss them with the group. If you’re curious about some of the resources that have been compiled, check out this link.

Overall, a very good session, and I was glad for the chance to be able to catch up with some colleagues. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to attend anymore, but if you are a West Virginia educator, please do consider attending future sessions! There’s one every Spring and Fall for each RESA. Any educator is invited to attend.

Storify Transcript: Spring TIS Regionals

Last week I attended Spring TIS Regionals for RESA 8 in West Virginia. Any time I attend professional development, I like to keep a running log of tweets during the event to share with my followers, and to have something to look back on at a later time.

The last time I posted a Storify transcript was during the Infusing Technology Spring Showcase. Once I post the transcript for TIS Regionals, I am going to write a longer post that reviews the concepts discussed throughout the day.

Spring TIS Regionals RESA 8 Transcript

Storify Transcript: Infusing Technology Spring Showcase

If you’ve ever seen me post Twitter chat transcripts for different edchats, then what I’ve done using Storify is very similar. The Infusing Technology event used #infusingtechwv as its main hashtag for the event. Storify allows me to search for all uses of that hashtag and gather them into one “story”. I can always add other hashtags or delete ones under this tag that aren’t within the date range I specify.

One of the great benefits of using Storify is that there is always an archived story kept, especially if it’s a common hashtag. I’ve used it for a few things before, such as when my dad ran his first marathon. I tweeted updates and tagged all of them. Then I created a Storify of the event and shared it with him so he could remember his special day.

Perhaps later on I’ll delve into the uses of Storify.

Infusing Technology Spring Showcase Transcript

Infusing Technology Spring Showcase Overview

Today’s showcase was fantastic and a huge thanks to the West Virginia Center for Professional Development (WVCPD) for putting on the Spring Showcase. The Spring Showcase is meant to be an extra day added to the Infusing Technology Academy given in the summer. Participants who attended the summer session can attend this session free of charge. I did not attend the Academy last summer, but I was able to attend this free of charge as well. The goal of the Spring Showcase is for participants to showcase what they’ve done with the technology that they learned about the previous summer. It’s not about learning how to use it in the classroom, although many participants did give an overview of that.

Originally I had planned to make one blog post that detailed the Showcase, but as I look over my notes from the different sessions, I have instead decided to highlight some of the sessions in their own blog posts, as the presenters gave me plenty of information to create some new Teacher Resource posts.

Our opening presentation was given by a fellow Twitter colleague of mine, Derek Oldfield. His session, entitled “Yes, West Virginia, We Do Have Pirates”, focused on the Teach Like a Pirate method created by Dave Burgess. This is a method I’m not unfamiliar with, as Derek often tweets about it. I also have the book on my kindle, but have never read it, even though I’ve had it a few years. If you’ve never heard of Teach Like a Pirate, you should look into it because it gives you a new way to engage your students with your lessons and material. The momentum can be hard to keep up, as even Derek admits, but the results are worth it.

In addition to the 4 different breakout sessions scheduled throughout the day (each with a variety of options for presentations), there was a session scheduled after lunch called Digital Sandbox. Much like games that have the same designation, Digital Sandbox was a time for attendees to visit various tables and learn about some new technology tools that could be integrated into the classroom. With time being so short, there was little chance for the attendees to try the tools out themselves in most cases, but the presenters did a wonderful job giving an overview of the tool and how to acquire one. This session just made me add more tech tools and toys to my wishlist on Amazon. I did have some of the tools already, and I did love hearing how presenters would use them. More information on the Digital Sandbox and the tools presented will come later as well. 

If you’re a West Virginia educator and you’d like to get more involved with using technology in your classroom, then consider attending one of the Infusing Technology Summer Academies. For only $100, you get access to a 3 day session where you will learn how to use a variety of technology tools, plus be put on the list for the Spring Showcase the following year. This summer, there are two sessions. The first session will be June 20-22 in Charleston, WV, and the second session will be July 26-28 in Fairmont, WV. Your lodging is paid for if you live 80 miles or 90 minutes away from the session you are attending. Not too bad for 3 days of hands-on training! 

For more information on either event, check out the links below: 

Charleston, WV session
Fairmont, WV session

Myself, I’ll be heading to the Charleston session. If you end up going to that session, please let me know, as I’d love to meet up with any educators. I love making connections, and would love to connect with you.

Keep an eye out for my future posts on the Infusing Technology Spring Showcase!

Hearing & My Words

I’m behind, yet again. Not surprised. However, there is plenty to catch up on, which I will do over the next few updates.

As you know from a previous post, the representative from HR and the superintendent visited the schools sharing the RIFs and transfers that were proposed for the upcoming school year. As a TIS, my position was to be cut. I was to be transferred to an elementary classroom, but it was unknown at the time where I would be placed. It didn’t matter to me, as I had already decided at the time that should I be transferred, I would be leaving the district. I desired to continue working with teachers and students on technology and doing the job I so passionately loved. My only consolation to all of this was that the other traveling TIS in the district was transferred, as well as the TSS (technology systems specialist).

As part of being notified of RIFs and transfers, anyone placed on those lists are welcome to request a hearing before the board of education. In the past when I had been RIF’d, I had never requested one. I knew my RIF was simply due to me being low on the totem pole, and that the time would come when I wouldn’t be RIF’d. This time, however, I wanted to make the board aware of what they would be losing. I would go out with a bang, and on my own terms, so I filled out the hearing paperwork and waited.

I was given notification the next week that my hearing would be the evening of February 3 at 6:00 PM. I made sure to tell one of my colleagues, as she had promised to represent the teachers that I work with. In the meantime, I worked on putting together an idea of what I wanted to say to the board and made sure to write down all of the things that I wanted them to be aware of during my speech.

On the night of the hearing, the board was running behind. Instead of being able to speak at 6 PM as I had been told, I didn’t get to speak until 7:15 PM. I wasn’t nervous while I waited. I felt confident and positive about everything, which is exactly what I wanted to portray to the board members that night. As I waited my turn, I thought about all of the changes that would be occurring for me in the coming months. There would be a lot to do- licensure paperwork, job applications, looking for a place to live, etc. I knew it would be a hard road, but I was ready for that journey.

When my turn came to speak, I walked to the podium and pulled my paper out of my pocket. I unfolded it and began to speak before the board. I smiled and let them know all I had done in my time as a TIS, and all that I was proud of having done. At the very end, the board was receptive to my speech, and many mentioned the things they had seen me do in the schools when they had visited. I returned to my seat knowing I had done the right thing. I knew that my hearing would ultimately not matter too much in the end on whether I received my job back, but that was okay by me. I had made my peace.

For those who may be interested, I have copied my speech below. I’ve changed the school names to their initials, but other than that, no other editing was done. Well, except to take out the extra line of gibberish that my cat Kyoko added when she walked across the keyboard.

My name is Rachel Burkett, and I am the Technology Integration Specialist for CBMS and SES. This is my second year in the position. Prior to being a TIS, I taught 3 years at JJCES as a 4th grade
teacher, and 2 years at AES as a 5th grade teacher. I am here today before the Board not to ask that you reconsider hiring my position, but to state the loss that will occur to the students and teachers of the schools I service due to my position being terminated.

Being a TIS puts me in a unique position to get a lot done, especially in the time periods before and after school. Most people don’t realize what a TIS truly does, or how much they can become involved in the day to day lives of the schools they work at. Being a TIS is a job I give myself wholeheartedly to. It is a passion for me, and the work I have accomplished in less than two years at my schools shows this. A TIS isn’t just someone who fixes computers and other issues. No, not at all. If anyone were to believe that was all my job entailed, then I pity them.

In the beginning, I spent more time in my office daily at both schools than I was comfortable with. I was mostly called out to just fix small issues here and there. I hated it. This was not what I signed up for at all. I set about changing what my job was about, and what the teachers should expected of me. I wanted them to forget whatever notion of TIS they’d had in the past. It was time for me to show what a TIS truly was.

At CBMS, I began working with teachers on using new technology within their lessons. Not all were receptive to it, and some still go their own way. That’s okay because I have slowly increased
options for other teachers. I will sit and work with a teacher who only has a basic idea for a lesson plan, and together, we’ll turn it into a full-scale lesson plan. Not only that, but I’ll often help co-teach with them throughout the lesson to provide the support they need. If they’re uncomfortable being on their own and teaching the technology, no problem. I’m there for them. Teachers
feel more comfortable trying to integrate technology because they know they have my support with them all the way.

CBMS is soon to have 1:1 devices in the 6th grade. This is an amazing concept, and one that I would love to see pan out. I was put in charge of developing the implementation plan, and my technology team from the school helped me work out any snags and provided their own suggestions and feedback. Not only did I create the plan, but I developed a handbook for both teachers and students. Between my team and I, we are ready to go. However, the worry for next year is that there won’t be someone to manage the day to day business with the laptops. There won’t be someone to provide the support the new teachers will need, and the refreshers the old teachers will want. That’s
extra staff development sessions. Sure, you can easily ask the technology team to do it. However, they’re classroom teachers first and foremost, and that’s asking them to take time from an already busy schedule.

At SES, I have volunteered to help teachers in a different way. As a team, we have discussed the needs for students, and the lack of computer knowledge. To help fill this gap, I volunteered to teach classes that integrated computer skills with other real world concepts. It’s definitely not required of me, but something I wanted to do for the students. I see every classroom once a week, and even visit the preschool classroom when I can. On top of this, I still provide the daily fixes in the background, and manage the key card entry system for the cafeteria doors.

Earlier I mentioned being able to get more done in the periods before and after school. As a TIS, I don’t have the usual morning and afternoon prep that a classroom teacher would have. Instead, I chose to provide students with opportunities they’d not had before. I started a variety of clubs- SES Coder Kids, Bobcat Coders, and even a Jr. FIRST Lego League team. I wanted to bring computer science into the schools with the first two clubs because it is a huge career field and one that provides many skill sets for students, even those who never pursue it as a career. Students learn to problem solve and think critically, and they learn failure is okay. SES Coder Kids has just over 100 members in K-5 now at Slanesville, or nearly half of the school. Bobcat Coders has about 25 students. Next year, both of these clubs will be disbanded. If I accepted my transfer to the classroom, I wouldn’t have the time anymore to run them. My time would be spent on other things required of me. It’s certainly a shame, but it cannot be helped.

My after school time wasn’t just used with students though. No, it was also used to the benefit of teachers. I was able to offer a variety of staff development sessions in areas of technology. Last year I offered 5 different staff development sessions. This year I have offered 1, with 3 more on deck this month and next. Even though I never had very large attendance, I wanted to make sure that there were technology options available for staff during the school year in the district.

I am proud of what I have accomplished as a technology integration specialist, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the teachers and students I have worked with in the short time I have been given. My letter of transfer states that my TIS position
is to be cut, and I am to be placed into an elementary classroom next year instead. It saddens me to see that, but I do understand the budget cuts and issues the county is having. With that said, I hope the county will understand when I say the classroom is not the place I yearn to be. I am very passionate about technology and the job I love so much. It is the field where I belong, the place where I can make an impact on so many others, both teachers and students. It therefore makes perfect sense to me to seek the job I love elsewhere, and thus, I will be leaving the district at the end of the school year. I want to do what I love best, and I won’t settle for something less. Thank you.