EdCamp Garland 2017
The first edcamp I attended was in the summer of 2015. It was held by my previous district, Plano ISD and their Instructional Technology Specialists, at the end of their Ed Tech Success Initiative (ETSI) week. The week was filled with edtech goodness; educators from around the district learning about technology integration frameworks, best practices, digital resources, and digital pedagogy. At the end of the week, we participated in an unconference event, an edcamp.
Edcamps are organic educator lead events. Participants decide what they want to learn and make suggestions for the day’s sessions. There are no presenters, keynotes, or vendors. Participants help facilitate the discussions during each session and share collaborative notes of their learning. Edcamps redefine professional development for educators by putting them in the driver seat for truly personalized learning. Another advent of edcamps is the “rule of two feet.” If a session isn’t meeting the needs of a participate, they should get up and go to a session that does.
I genuinely enjoyed the edcamp experience at ETSI and two years later I have attended over twenty unconference events! I enjoy connecting with educators, deciding what I want to learn, and sharing what I know with others. In traditional professional development, it’s often times sit and get with the presenter being the expert; with edcamps, the room is the expert. Educators are better together, and no one in the room is smarter than the room.
I wanted to bring the edcamp movement to my new district, Garland ISD, and to the educators in the Garland area, so I decided to lead the organization of the inaugural EdCamp Garland. To prepare to organize an unconference event, I started by attending an EdCamp Leadership Summit organized by The EdCamp Foundation. Because of the generous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the EdCamp Foundation is able to host these leadership summits for edcamp organizers around the country. I attended the summit in Colorado Springs, CO where I was able to gain valuable insights from experienced edcamp organizers, and of course, the summit was organized edcamp style.
Attending so many edcamps also taught me a lot about best practices for organizing an edcamp: how long sessions should be, how many sessions to offer, how long the event should last, etc. The most important things I had to put in place to organize a successful event were a strong team and securing a venue. My co-organizers consisted of the other six Ready 1:1 Instructional Coaches in my district, and I was able to secure my home campus (Naaman Forest High School) as the venue with the blessing of my principal who loved the concept of edcamps.
After securing a team and a venue, everything else fell into place pretty seamlessly. The EdCamp Foundation provides each edcamp organizer with an EdCamp-In-a-Box, containing the bare necessities to host an edcamp, including $200. And Flipgrid, a corporate sponsor, of the EdCamp Foundation provides edcamp organizers with $100. Texas happens to host more edcamps than any other state, so as I was looking for available dates, I cross-referenced edcamp.org to see when other edcamps were being held and decided on March 4, 2017.
In December, I had my team focus on logo designs that paid homage to the city of Garland, and we created a social media presence and website to begin promoting the event. Twitter and word of mouth were the best mediums to drive attendance to our event. It helps that edcamps are free to participants, but because of this the attrition rate for attendance compared to signup can sometimes be high. The district was a huge support system in promoting our event to district educators and provided critical technical support before and during the event. One of the biggest issues we had to tackle was the district’s filtered Wi-Fi for out of district educators. In the end, everything went off without a hitch. This was great because even though the organizers were district employees using district facilities, the event was open to all educators.
Although not necessary, door prizes are a nice addition to edcamps, after all, educators are sacrificing their Saturday for personal growth and development. To help procure door prizes, I spent almost every free moment contacting education companies to assist with sponsorships, giveaways, and door prizes, and overwhelmingly they were willing to offer free swag, subscriptions, and prizes to the EdCamp Garland attendees.
With the day of the event finally upon us, we had over 150 attendees and 50 sponsors for 5 hours or organic learning. When attendees arrived, they enjoyed breakfast, made session suggestions via a Google Form, and the session board was built right before their eyes. As the session board was being built, they were able to take pictures at a photo booth, learn at a makerspace, and play Twitter Bingo.
The day was full of lively discussion, collaborative learning, sharing on social media, and winning great prizes topped off the day. Feedback from EdCamp Garland attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and nothing feeds my spirit more than getting educators together to learn, grow, and connect with each other. I was pleased to bring the edcamp movement to Garland, and I can’t wait for next year.
Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA)
Conference & Expo 2017
If you know me, you know I love learning, growing, and connecting with other educators. And the TCEA Conference & Expo is a week long opportunity to do just that and so much more, and this year did not disappoint. Not only was I humbled by being allowed to present five times at TCEA, but I also got to connect with some of this nation’s prominent thought leaders in education technology.
As a former Apple employee and self-professed Apple fanboy, I was new to Google for Education. Everything I learned about G Suite for Education (formerly known as Google Apps for Education), I can credit to my Google Goddesses, Alice Keeler and Kasey Bell. I added these two ladies to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter very early on in my dive to using social media as professional development. Alice Keeler is an educator from California, and her two books about Google Classroom have become my bibles for improving teaching and learning using this cornerstone of the G Suite for Education. In addition, the tips and tricks she shares on Twitter (@AliceKeeler) and her blog (www.alicekeeler.com) keep me abreast of what’s new in Google Classroom and beyond. Not to mention when I meet Alice in June of 2016 during the ISTE Conference & Expo in Denver, Colorado at a CoffeeEDU meet up, it inspired me to start CoffeeEDU Dallas.
What’s so great about Kasey Bell is that she is a local girl; she is also here in north Texas, so I have gotten to see her present several times, and she is a wealth of Google knowledge. I’m pretty sure Google ooze drips from her ears when she lies down at night. Her bubbly personality, infectious grin, and down to earth persona make learning the ins-and-outs of Google a blast. Her blog (Shake Up Learning) and new podcast with Matt Miller (The Google Tribe Podcast) are filled to the brim with Google news, tips, insights, and advice. I always learn something new when Kasey Bell presents.
Amy Mayer, CEO of friEDTECHnology (because everything is better fried), is another amazing instructional technologist from Texas, whose sessions are a must attend. I could sit in on her reading the phone book and be entertained. Amy is a Google PD partner, and her knowledge has no limits. I especially love her YouTube videos where she shares her best tips and tricks on her channel.
I have had the luxury of hearing Google’s Global Education Evangelist (what a cool title!), Jaime Casap, speak several times, but he never disappoints. This year, he was the closing keynote speaker during the Google Academy at TCEA. His message about education’s ability to disrupt poverty definitely resonated with me because I am living proof of this. After growing up poor, in public housing, receiving welfare and food stamps, I am evidence that education does indeed disrupt poverty.
I had been connecting with Matt Miller, an educator from Indiana, and author of Ditch that Textbook, on Twitter for months by participating in #DitchBook Twitter chats. Matt is an innovator and education thought leader who believes that the future of education comes through technology integration and creativity with less reliance on textbooks. Hearing Matt share tips and resources on the exhibit floor at the ViewSonic booth was a treat and getting a signed copy of his book didn’t hurt either.
Of all the speakers and presenters, Todd Nesloney, author of Kids Deserve It!, was probably the most inspiring. Todd is another Texas educator, a principal, and his passion, drive, and leadership exuded from the stage. What he does for his staff and students is truly amazing. He is the school principal every school needs. I have corresponded with Todd through #KidsDeserveIt Twitter chats, but getting to hear his compassion and conviction in person was truly amazing.
What’s great about the TCEA Conference & Expo is that connecting with these educators doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of everything I learn at the conference. With over 900 sessions and workshops and 450 exhibitors, there was truly an overabundance of information to glean in just one week.
5 Reasons Why YOU should become an #AppleTeacher
1. You and your students use Apple products for teaching and learning.
Apple (appleteacher.apple.com) says it best, “Teach in ways you’ve always imagined. As a teacher, you inspire the next generation of leaders. You make complex ideas easy to understand. And you’re always looking for new ways to engage your students. So, we’ve gathered a series of tips, stories, and other helpful materials on this page to keep you inspired. And we’ve created the Apple Teacher program to help you get the most from our products, and celebrate the work you do every day.”
2. You want to learn how to transform teaching and learning through technology integration.
Currently, Apple allows educators to earn Badges for Swift Playgrounds, Badges for Mac, and Badges for iPad. To become an Apple Teacher, you have to review a series of topics and pass the corresponding quizzes associated with each topic. Some topics that stand out are Productivity with iPad, Creativity with iPad, Coding Concepts, and Coding in the Classroom. This can all be done at your on pace and anytime and anywhere.
3. You want to be one of the first to know about Apple news and resources for educators.
Apple Teachers get access to the Apple Teacher Learning Center which is full of tips, tricks, and resources to help educators improve their practice. In addition, Apple provides access to special stories from other Apple Teachers and Apple Distinguished Educators on how they are transforming teaching and learning using Apple hardware and software.
4. You want to be a part of a community of educators dedicated to student improvement.
When you become an Apple Teacher, you become a part of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) of educators dedicated to improving student performance through technology integration with Apple products. Connect with other Apple Teachers on social media using the hashtag #AppleTeacher and follow Apple Education on Twitter at @AppleEDU.
5. You want to become an Apple Distinguished Educator.
If you want to become an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), the world’s most innovative educators using Apple products to improve teaching and learning, you must now become an Apple Teacher first. ADEs are leaders, innovators, and evangelist in education technology. They help educators rethink what can be accomplished using Apple products in education. There are currently just over 2,000 of these passionate global ambassadors worldwide, so becoming an ADE is definitely an elite club.
Nearpod PioNear Summit 2017
I discovered Nearpod (www.nearpod.com) almost two years ago and immediately I was impressed with the application. As an English teacher, it not only allowed me to engage my students with interactive lessons, but it inspired my students to want to participate in their learning. As I began presenting sessions at conferences, facilitating sessions at edcamps, and leading sessions for professional development, I continued sharing the wonders a Nearpod with other educators. Because I was always sharing the wonders of Nearpod, I decided to apply to become a Nearpod PioNear, a community of educators passionate about improving teaching and learning through technology integration.
As a Nearpod PioNear, I was invited to the 2017 Nearpod PioNear Summit this past weekend (January 13-15, 2017) in Austin, TX. What I realize after attending this summit is like Simon Sinek says, “Start with the why.” Nearpod knows its “why”. Nearpod brought educators together from all over the world to learn, grow, and connect with each other. It knows that educators are at the heart of shifting the education paradigm and its product can help make that shift happen.
What stood out to me at the summit were some of the new features Nearpod is rolling out to improve their application. These features are tackling some of the education system’s biggest obstacles including Nearpod for ELL, Nearpod for Subs, and Nearpod for PD.
Nearpod for ELL will focus on lessons geared toward English Language Learners. Nearpod has created over 500 ELL lessons that use ELL strategies for teaching and learning.
Nearpod for Subs will allow teachers to share their Nearpod lessons with a substitute teacher helping keep students accountable for their learning even when the teacher is out.
And Nearpod for PD partners expert educators and instructional designers with Nearpod to create ready-to-use PD schools can use for their professional development needs.
In addition to the new offerings from Nearpod, what the summit really accomplished was the strengthening of a community of educators who work all over the world to improve digital pedagogy for student improvement. Socialization activities, unconference (edcamp style) sessions, and “Spark” sessions throughout the weekend allowed educators to connect through authentic discourse and share ideas and best practices.
If there is one thing I love, it’s bringing educators together to learn from each other, and the Nearpod PioNear Summit accomplished this and so much more. If every education technology company takes Nearpod’s approach, the education system will be better off for it. Educators are better together but don’t always have the means to make life-changing connections in face-to-face meetups. If you are not familiar with Nearpod, the device-agnostic application, I encourage you to check it out.
As 2016 comes to a close, I want to reflect on the year, my growth, development, and accomplishments. It has been one of the most fast-paced years of my life with a tsunami of opportunities, changes, and connections flooding my life. More than anything else, I love to learn, grow, and connect to better myself and those around me, and 2016 did not disappoint.
By far, my biggest accomplishment in 2016 was completing graduate school. I took me several years to decide which path I wanted to take in my career, and which school would help me accomplish those next steps. Southern Methodist University’s Accelerated School Leadership Program turned out to be exactly what I needed. As I studied Educational Leadership and attained Texas Principal Certification in this cohort style program, I learned more in these 14 months than any other collective period of time in my life.
SMU’s Master of Education program not only prepared me with the real world skills needed to be a change agent in K-12 education, but it also provided me with the many soft skills necessary to help grow teachers as leaders, create positive school culture and climate, and help provide equitable access to education for all students. As I continue to learn and grow as an educator, the foundation I received here will serve as a strong unwavering support for all of my future endeavors.
Along with finishing an M.Ed. program, I also changed roles, schools, and districts. Undoubtedly, change is hard, scary, and intimidating; nevertheless, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to help teachers and students in a new way. I had spent my entire (8 years) career in education as an ELAR teacher, so moving into the role of instruction coach would definitely bring new opportunities for growth and development. Leaving the classroom is never easy for a teacher, but having the chance to positively affect so many stakeholders at a school is immensely rewarding.
Being a part of a school and district that went one-to-one with iPads married two of my all time passions: technology and education. I spent 4 years as a Specialist working for Apple Retail, and I know the power, opportunities, and potential iPads bring to education. I remember back in 2010 getting the first iPad on release day and hooking it up to my projector in the classroom the very next day. In my mind, I immediately thought of the classroom applications for this new technology. Now I get to help other educators unlock the potential of technology in the classroom to improve teaching and learning.
In 2016, I was always looking for ways to further my knowledge base, connect with like-minded educators, and improve my practice. A lot of this came through the form of conferences and edcamps. Two of the biggest conferences I attended where the TCEA Conference & Expo and the ISTE Conference & Expo. Talk about information overload (in the best way possible) and connection central; these two edtech based conferences helped transform my pedagogy, ideology, and leadership. I now have the pleasure of facilitating sessions at both conferences in 2017 to help others learn and grow and improve their schools and districts.
I don’t even know where to begin with edcamps and the unconference movement, but I have absolutely fallen in love with these nontraditional educator meet ups as the best way to connect, learn, and grow with other educators. So much so, that in 2017 I will be organizing my first edcamp to bring the movement to my school and district. Recognizing that all educators have insight that they can bring to the table is the most powerful weapon we can use to leverage innovation in instruction to make learning for students meaningful, authentic, and fun.
I’m excited about what 2017 has to offer, as I resolve to continue making education better for students and teachers through technology integration, to never stop learning with plans to apply for a doctoral program and to continue sharing what I learn with others because I know we are better together.
Aldine, Texas is a town just north of Houston with a population of approximately 16,000 people; however, to be such a small town (relatively speaking), they sure put on a big conference. This past weekend (October 22, 2016), I had the opportunity to attend TCCA (the Technology and Curriculum Conference of Aldine) 2016. This annual education technology conference is free not only to the educators of the Aldine Independent School District but educators from all over.
The reason I love Twitter is because of the connections I make with other educators. One of my followers posted a tweet using the TCCA conference hashtag (#TCCA16), and that’s how I discovered the TCCA EdChat (#TCCAchat). After I participated in this Twitter chat, I decided I would register and make the four hour drive from Dallas.
Who knew such a small town could put on such a big conference? I’ve had the privilege of attending the largest education technology conference in Texas (TCEA) and one of the largest education technology conferences in the world (ISTE) and can attest to the amazing job Aldine did.
The first hook that really caught my attention was this year’s keynote speaker, Angela Maiers (http://www.angelamaiers.com). I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her speak several times, so I knew attendees would be in for a treat. Angela’s aura and inspiring words never fail to uplift a crowd. Her You Matter Movement (www.choose2matter.org) puts the spotlight back on the human connection and the importance of self-worth and value. Needless to say, she did not disappoint, as an educational leader, she reminded me that it’s not technology that changes the world, but PEOPLE (EDUCATORS) and they do it by realizing that they matter and that those around them matter too.
Of course, TCCA 2016 was held in the Aldine Independent School District hosted by the beautiful Benjamin O. Davis High School, a 9-12 campus established in 2012, but with over 3,000 attendees it was a bit much for their parking lots to handle. In anticipation, they had plenty of helpers (and local law enforcement) directing traffic and managing the influx of cars. Once inside Davis High, it mirrored many of the larger conferences I’ve attended: A check-in area for signing in, plenty of signage decked out with pictures of legos paying homage to this year’s theme (Building the Tech Future), and a small exposition hall set up with vendors.
There were also plenty of sessions to choose from with a wide range of focuses from hardware to software, technology to curriculum, and everything in between. Furthermore, offering snacks, a free lunch, and $15,000 in door prizes didn’t hurt either. I attended sessions about “Liberating Genius,” engaging students, instructional coaching through differentiation, organizing Google Drive, and a mini-unconference session called an “unsession.”
The reasons I love conferences are the abilities to learn, grow, and connect with other educators and TCCA did not disappoint. I learned so much in one day on a Saturday (and for free), and I can take my new knowledge back to my campus and district. I had an opportunity to grow through discussions, hands-on learning, and inspirational presentations. And best of all I was able to connect with old friends, make new friends, and connect with friends face-to-face who I only knew through the digital realm.
AVID, ISTE, & the iPad
Ever since entering the education arena, I have been in awe of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID). This college and career preparatory program has been helping level the playing field for underprivileged and underrepresented students for more than 35 years. One of the ways AVID helps close the achievement and opportunity gaps for students is through its curated WICOR strategies based on evidence-based best practices.
AVID’s WICOR learning structure incorporates teaching and learning methodologies for Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading to Learn. AVID has been proven to change the trajectory of millions of students lives, and now that I am in an AVID school district that has deployed iPads 1:1 for every high school student, I want to help students and teachers enhance the strategies they are using from AVID with 21st-century digital skills.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is an organization whose technology standards for students, teachers, and administrators has become ubiquitous internationally for schools and districts seeking to transform teaching and learning through technology integration. The ISTE Standards for Students were updated in 2016 emphasizing student engagement and connectedness in a digital world.
Combined, AVID’s WICOR strategies and ISTE’s Standards for Students can marry with Apple’s iPad to truly revolutionize how teachers teach and how students learn. Here are just 10 apps students and teachers can use on the iPad to make learning rigorous, relevant, and fun.
Students cannot learn music without instruments, they cannot learn sports without equipment, and they cannot learn to drive without a car. The same is true of learning 21st-century skills without technology. This has driven the need for techquity (a confluence of the terms technology and equity) in education, a term used to describe the educational process of leveling the playing field for all students by making technology available to transform teaching and learning.
Techquity is especially necessary in urban and rural schools, and for minorities, such as girls, African-Americans, Latinos, and/or students of low-socioeconomic status. In recent years, tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have been making a concerted effort to attract minorities through diversity initiatives to improve their recruitment and hiring practices; however, they need a talented pool of qualified applicants to fill those positions. Jobs like computer software engineers, cloud architects, computer system analysts, data scientists, and web developers will have more positions available in the future than qualified applicants to fill them.
School districts like the Garland Independent School District (GISD) in Garland, Texas, are recognizing the need to close the opportunity gaps of its students through techquity. This school year, GISD is going 1:1 by rolling out iPads to every teacher and high school student (with intermediate and elementary schools following suit in subsequent years), recognizing how equal access to technology in and out of the classroom opens opportunities for learning, growth, and development vital to thriving in our technology driven world.
In 2014, GISD created a strategic plan as part of their bond that included their Ready 1:1 Initiative. The bond passed and provided over $25 million for technology integration. The community realized the importance of providing technology for its students. Input was gathered from all of GISD’s relevant stakeholders and they decided which device would best meet the needs of students, integrate with existing district systems, and help students personalize their education experience.
GISD recognizes that poverty, race, and/or gender should not be hurdles its student must overcome in order to be competitive in college or advanced careers. Their techquity initiative makes their students attractive candidates for premier schools and companies and prepares the students of today for tomorrow's technology-driven world. Not having access to technology should not be a barrier minorities face to attempting to obtain future success.
To further help students with access, GISD partnered with over 100 community partners to allow their students to have access to wi-fi after school and on weekends even if they do not have internet access at home. By paying attention to these details, they try to leave no techquity stone unturned.
In addition, the district has partnered with numerous education companies to help students, parents, and teachers learn more about using the district's new hardware and software for teaching and learning. Teacher quality and technology instruction are not forgotten when implementing this new techquity initiative. Pedagogy comes first, each of GISD’s high schools received instructional coaches who specialize in helping teachers enhance teaching and learning with technology using models like SAMR and TPACK and embedding the ISTE Standards.
There are lots of ways to close the opportunity gap for minorities, and techquity is a good case for our 21st-century learners. If more school districts take a proactive role in providing equity through technology integration with 1:1 access, our education system can disrupt inequity for our neediest students.
If you talk to any parent, teacher, or principal, there is nothing more important than the safety and security of our students at home and at school. It’s their number one concern to protect our youth from the injustices of this world; however, as we continue to protect students from the analog world, we often times forget to adequately protect them from the complex ever-changing digital world.
Being responsible citizens in the analog world is embedded in the everyday conversations, lessons, and interactions between students, parents, and teachers, and those embedded discussions need to exist in order to encourage good digital citizenship as well.
As we teach digital citizenship, we must encourage the appropriate use of technology, including the physical devices and the digital world they connect students to. A good framework for students, parents, and teachers to follow are the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.
Here are 5 practical ways to embed good digital citizenship habits into students everyday lives.
1. Set restrictions on where and when technology can and should be used. Don’t allow devices to be used at the dinner table. Don’t allow devices to be used 2-3 hours before bedtime. And limit the number of hours devices can be used at home during leisure time.
2. Talk to your children at home daily about how they are using devices, and whenever possible have them use devices in a communal place with appropriate supervision.
3. “Never talk to strangers,” is one of the most common ways parents and teachers teach students to protect themselves. This same sentiment applies online. Protect students privacy and keep them safe and secure by encouraging them to not share personally identifiable information of any kind online. That includes location information (including photos that attach metadata), full name, and visiting and using only approved websites and applications.
4. Be a positive example and role model for students to emulate. Students will model what they see their parents and teachers doing with technology. Students will not do what you say, they will do what you do. Never EVER drive distracted. Model appropriate use of technology in the home, classroom, and other public settings. Adults should have good digital citizenship too.
5. Always remind students to T.H.I.N.K. before they post any text, videos, and/or photographs online. Their digital footprint is traceable and unerasable. In recent years, students have lost jobs, scholarships, and been kicked out of school because of negative posting online and bad digital footprints. Students want to know that the digital footprint that they leave behind is worth following.
This is not an exhaustive list, visit www.digitalcitizenship.net and www.commonsensemedia.org for more information on keeping our children safe and secure in a digital world and to learn more about digital citizenship. As education technology integration continues to grow and expand, parents and teachers can help students navigate the murky waters of the digital oasis with ease.
Technology Integration Tips
As teachers are gearing up for another amazing school year, it’s time to start thinking about how they can continue transforming teaching and learning through technology integration. It doesn’t matter if they are one-to-one, BYOD, one-to-few, or just one device for an entire class, there are multiple ways educators can start the year with technology integration in mind.
1. Start with the why. Then how. Then what. Why are you teaching a particular lesson or unit? How will you accomplish your learner outcomes? And what activities, resources, and tech tools will you use to reach your goals?
2. Start with the end in mind and work backward. The Understanding by Design (UbD) framework is an excellent tool to consider when developing your learning plan, evidence of learning, and desired results. In addition to your content standards, don’t forget to incorporate the technology standards for students.
3. It is important for school districts, campuses, and teams to develop consistent and common language that is vertically and horizontally aligned, and that aligns with the vision and mission of the school/district. Teachers and students appreciate consistency, clarity, and common communication throughout the learning community. For example, one a 1:1 campus with iPads, teachers may say, “Apples up,” to signal to students to place their devices face down (and Apple logo up) to get their undivided attention.
4. One of the most important (and often forgotten) pieces of the technology integration puzzle is support. How will teachers get technical support when the technology malfunctions (and it will malfunction)? When and how will teachers get instructional support, professional development, and ongoing training to help them increase their digital literacy as technology evolves and as pedagogical practices change how they teach with technology?
5. Teachers should always have a plan (and a backup plan) when it comes to technology integration. Just like with your traditional lessons, if you fail to plan, then plan to fail. It is hard to use new tech tools on the fly, you must plan and practice (and practice again). The work you put in up front pays off ten fold in the long run. Technology often has the added benefit of improving teaching, learning, engagement, and assessment. The thing to remember is that technology integration is not one more thing, it should be embedded seamlessly into instruction just like the everything else. We can’t teach students for our past, we must teach students for their future.