Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Personal Teaching Revolution

Guest Blogger Liam Arbuckle
BIS 6th Grade Teacher

It's hard to admit to yourself when you feel like what you believe in is very far away from what you are actually doing. Now I know that I am just at the beginning of my teacher journey but one of the vital things I learned about in the amazing year that was my Bachelor of Education was to reflect on my own teaching. I had this feeling of frustration gnawing at me for quite awhile. I was really enjoying my first few years of teaching but I felt that it was so much about my own survival rather than the amazing ideas I wanted to try out during my Education program.

The fall rolled around and I found the most curious piece of paper in my staff mailbox. It said that I had been registered for a Google Apps For Education conference put on by the EdTechTeam and  hosted at an international school in the heart of Seoul. I live just outside of Seoul. Myself and a fellow teacher, Joe Hart, had been selected to attend this conference. We were very excited as we both try to utilize technology in our classroom. I have always loved technology but I had been struggling to use it in an effective way in my classroom. Being a self described "Mac guy" my reflexive response was skeptical but I was still very interested. I like billions of others rely heavily on Google search. Little did I realize that this was an invitation to a fantastic party that I was woefully unaware of.

Joe and I planned what sessions we wanted to attend and tried to cover as much as we possibly could. We decorated our name tags with many things (yes including glitter) and off to the keynote we went. We shuffled off to an amazing keynote presented by 
Jim Sill. It was a great mix of humour and inspiration. Jim showed us some of the potential for youtube in the classroom. The next session I attended was presented by Michael Wacker and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation which really showed off the power of collaboration. I then went to an informative session led by the very talented Holly Clark. It was a session on iPads in the elementary school classroom. Holly had this indescribable energy about her and you could tell how passionate she was about her teaching. I regularly send teachers to her website or twitter account.

I was meeting people at a dizzying rate. I thought I was using tech in my classroom but compared to many of these teachers I might as well have been using an abacus. We ended the first day with what they called an Eduslam. This was a presentation under 5 minutes of something cool the presenters were doing in their classrooms. Again I felt like a total novice. The thing is I had never connected to so many teachers before. Especially, so many that shared my love of technology and the recognition that it could revolutionize education. The EdTechTeam really impressed me that day and helped me begin my personal teaching revolution.

Our second day was kicked off by a rather interesting taxi driver that was loving the fact he could test out his English. Joe, myself and the cabbie shared such a great laugh and it was a fitting and wonderful way to have our second day of the conference start off. Laughing can erase the tiredness and my goodness it makes you feel lighter in your shoes. The conference began with an absolutely fantastic keynote by 
Jenny Magiera. I could have listened to her speak for hours. I definitely became a big fan and often reference her best practices. After that we went to a session led by Jay Atwood who to this day is one of my favorite Google guru's. Even though I felt in over my head talking about Google scripts it led me down the road to a better classroom. Jay made it seem so easy when in fact what he was doing was pretty darn impressive.

Then I had a lunch that I don't think I'll ever forget. I have had a Twitter account for a few years but really didn't see the benefit of it. I used it to follow some sports writers and reporters that I enjoyed. Including some that write about my beloved but constantly frustrating Toronto Maple Leafs. During lunch on the second day I had my mind blown. I was having lunch with teachers that were really into using twitter as a means of connecting with other teachers. This lunch may have been one of those monumental crossroads of my life. I was eating lasagna if you were wondering. I realized that for all my love of tech I had done nothing to really connect myself or my students to the outside world. In one short lunch and thanks to the lovely Sonya from New Zealand and the positive ray of sunshine Amalia from the USA I had kicked my classroom walls down. 

There was an audible and distinct thud. It felt like freedom. It felt like the sun on your face after a very dark night. 

I will forever be thankful to my principal Larry Simpson for choosing me to go to this conference and to the EdTechTeam that put on the GAFE summit. Everything changed for me over those two days. I am sure that even my friends are tired of hearing about these two eventful days. I had found that I could now better bridge the gap of how I was teaching to the way I wanted to be teaching. I still have a long way to go.  I had learned how to connect and from there my teaching life would never be the same. I came back to my school a new teacher. I then proceeded to preach to my fellow teachers the need to connect; the need to kick those four walls down; the need to be where our students already live. I now feel like I can actually see other teachers. I have decided I like this no walls thing. 

Come hang out with Liam and other awesome educators at the 2nd Annual South Korea Summit on Sep. 27th and 28th at Seoul Foreign School!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Absolute Best Time of Year to be in Education

Guest Blogger Michael Wacker
Director of Professional Development, EdTechTeam

Though recently my direct role within schools and districts has changed, one thing remains the same: I am UNBELIEVABLY excited at this time of year. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE working and strategizing with teachers, coaches, admin, and leadership. This drives so much of my work, my passions for learning, and my support and belief in children and teachers. 

Photo by Ken Shelton

My excitement and inquiry of why I felt so excited this month came down to a simple question with a follow up:

"Why is New Year’s Day a Holiday and What if New School’s Year was also a Holiday?"

What makes the New Year so beautiful can be summed up by folks way smarter than, me.

“This unique tick of the clock has always prompted us both to celebrate, and to step outside the day-to-day living we're always so busy with, and reflect; to look back, take stock, to assess how we did, and resolve to do better going forward.”

So, I immediately thought to myself, YES! My friends, this is the time to slow down and absorb the awesomeness that is back to school week! The energy is truly palpable in our social echo chambers but also our externally internal community, which is to say, everyone is affected and influenced by “back to school.” You can feel it in your child’s school. You can feel it in your social media spaces. For me, I sense it in my bones and I feel the energy and excitement from mamawack (a former AP with a different set of experiences and of course the littlies!

Photo by Ken Shelton

 It’s important to note that I understand completely that my excitement does “look and feel” different than it did when I was teaching in a classroom. It is true, I don’t get the direct enjoyment of my favorite back to school teacher roles of: prepping my classroom, working with my team, hanging out at the “meet and greet” ice cream social meeting parents and siblings, building community connections (I miss that the most.)

 But today, while my peers and amazing educators prepare and brainstorm next iterations of lessons, objectives, and assessments, I find myself super excited about the new year! I'm fresh off a micro math session with my kiddos and about to head to Redondo Beach Unified in California to help kick off their new teacher induction and development. Redondo has done amazing work the past year preparing their schools, children, and teachers for the next iteration of teaching and learning; or as we on the team like to think of it as, being “future ready." 

Jennie Magiera shows off Future Ready Schools support. 
Photo by Ken Shelton.

 We have spent time working with and cultivating “Courageous Leadership” from central office to the classroom, focusing on change. The work we’ve done with principals and leadership has been huge in gaining support. Primary to all of the professional learning has been about making sure we are “Empowering Teachers” cultivating and supporting (for far too many the first time) professional development and learning opportunities for the “rock stars” the teachers evangelizing and inspiring their peers through their innovation and passions.

 There has been a focus on “Student Agency” by having professional development and learning opportunities for the children. Walking through the nouns of devices and platforms was a start, but beginning to brainstorm the possible was an awesome experience, especially asking children out loud, “What are you going to ask with access to all of the information ever?” It was a fun couple of days and I believe this type of student agency and support even external of the school is a must for every systemic change in education spaces, no matter the size. One key for the community and teachers, particularly here, was the timeline and ability to do a slow, transparent, and well-designed rollout.

We also have spent time allowing and building the growth mindset spaces for the early adoption by teachers and leadership. This inspired and created incubators of sorts for innovation in the district micro-pockets of teachers and schools excited about what was possible, next.

 They have built the bandwidth to support three devices per child. What is really exciting for me is the next iteration or 2.0 focus on their “new” teachers in a newly designed platform. Induction is rarely differentiated. Inspired through the spaces and learning opportunities and who knows, maybe we have even more pockets of excellence to learn and share from. And this gets to the heart of change. How do you support and sustain an iteration of an age-old model? In working with their leadership team the past year, one thing is certain, they value their teachers' input a lot.

To create this change systemically: we must inspire, ignite, and bring folks on board with us. This looks different in varying locations, schools, and districts, but empowering your new teachers is a great place to start. And for what it’s worth a great place to stop as well. So, As I prepare to plan and design a fun day with my future friends in Redondo, I find myself authentically excited and pumped up about the upcoming school year.

 I am excited! I am so lucky to work in education and be able to feed off of the energy and excitement from the teacher leaders in Redondo and everything they have been working towards, become energized by the buzz of walking the halls of my kids’ school at back to school night this week, and of course have a bunch of fun exploring and discovering some ways to empower and inspire the children of Redondo with the “new” teachers of Redondo tomorrow, Eileen Czesk, Stu Woodward, Shawn Lemmer, Amanda Steinacher-- and the vision from Annette Alpern and Derek Kinsey.

 1. "Why We Celebrate New Year's Day: Survival | Psychology ..." 2013. 18 Aug. 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to School with iPads

Guest Blogger:  Ben Friesen
Director of iOS Professional Development | EdTechTeam

The EdTechTeam is excited to be launching new PD opportunities for iPad teachers with the same high-energy, fast-paced, and fun style of other EdTechTeam events. You can check out more of the information at and see the growing list of iOS events.  We have events set in Texas, Minnesota and New Zealand but will be adding more soon.  

As you go back to your iPad classrooms there are some important things to consider when working in a digital environment.  It is important to establish routines, especially with how to turn in digital assignments.  Check out this handy workflow guide that was created in the Hopkins Public Schools to support the 1:1 iPad initiative.  Students don't do well with long sets of wordy instructions and teachers are sometime overwhelmed with all the options. Establishing standard workflows and posting them in classrooms can help the teachers focus on the content and require the students to take ownership of the process.  

Giving choice with how a student demonstrates their understanding is important and this guide will provide choice while scaffolding the experience and ensuring the teacher gets the assignments. Your examples, apps and workflows might look different based on your system but they will go a long way to support teachers and students working in digital classrooms. 

This is a simple Google Presentation linking out to other presentations.  The links are published and they can be updated behind the scenes as the app interfaces change.  These living workflow guides change as apps are updates, processes are revised or better systems are found.  

6 Ready-to-Go Ideas for Using Google Apps Back to School this Fall

Guest Blogger Rolland Chidiac

With a new school year about to start I am filled with excitement about what is to come. As my students and I embarked on blending our learning and using Google Apps for Education to create content and collaborate, we discovered new and exciting ways to meet our learning goals and have fun at the same time.

My students were introduced to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) late in 2013 but that didn't stop them from learning the tools and using them innovatively.

They used Google Docs to write friendly letters (mostly to Santa). I was able to provide them with "real time" feedback and we were able to share their work with their parents instantly. It was a great way to get our feet wet with GAFE while working on components of the writing curriculum. 

They used Google Presentations to show their learning in Social Studies - each student got their own slide to invent their own holiday. Then we put the work into a single presentation and shared it with other students and teachers. You can see the entire presentation by clicking on the picture below.

We used Google Docs to work together on challenges in real time. We were able to collaborate and learn from each other by working in the same document to create 3D Geometry riddles. It allowed the opportunity to provide feedback to the students by leaving comments in the Doc that would assist them and that they could refer to at their leisure.

In Mathematics they created surveys and bar graphs as they applied what they were learning around Data Management. It was a great way for them to start learning how to use Forms and Spreadsheets to show their learning.

At the start of of exploration we were learning how to use the tools to benefit our learning in a linear fashion. After we had time and experience with a variety of apps we started to become more dynamic in our use of the technology. I blogged about this and called it Blended Learning via GAFE 2.0. We used our LMS site to incorporate a YouTube video, Google Form, and a link to a shared Google Doc where students would share their work so that their classmates could see what they were doing and provide them with helpful feedback. When I think back to that time I am pleased with how far my students and I had come - a nice indication of our advancement with respect to Blended Learning, the use of GAFE, and the use of our Chromebooks.

Aside from the great learning that was happening in the classroom, many of the students were supplementing their learning on their time at home. My students were so interested that they had empowered themselves to use GAFE at home because of its creative and collaborative nature. They would share their work with me and sometimes ask for feedback.

There are many more examples of the positive change that GAFE and blended learning has contributed to over the last school year. I have blogged about many of our experiences so please feel free to check the site out and let me know what you think.

The sky is the limit when students have tools to help them become more creative and innovative and I look forward to being part of the new learning journey my students and I will be on with the start of the new school year.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

OC GAFE Summit: One Teacher's First Blog

Guest Blogger Ashley Fulmer
Attendee of EdTechTeam Orange County Summit ft. Google for Education
Cross-Posted from: Mrs. Fulmer's Science Blog

This weekend, I attended the EdTechTeam GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit in Orange County.  I just had my 2nd baby, Nolan, and have been out since May 12th.  I have not been officially working for almost 3 full months.  Yes, I have been on Twitter, I read a book about PBL, and did a small amount of planning, but nothing like I have done the past couple of summers.  This summit was two days of intense training and amazing keynotes.  Talk about getting back into the game!  In my last session, the presenter stated that she believed every teacher should blog and she challenged us to start blogging.  Challenge accepted!

This morning's keynote speaker, Jennifer Magiera, shared her story and the way she's been so innovative in her classroom, which was truly inspiring.  She had her students creating videos, screencasts, music videos, interacting in Google hangouts, writing grants, and so much more.  Talk about authentic engagement and active learning!  At one point, she talked about how excited she was about technology and she would want to share both her enthusiasm and the new technology, but some teachers would literally run away.  I think  that I am a lot like her in this aspect.  I get so excited about technology, but I have to remember that not everyone is as excited as I am.  
For example, when I flipped my classroom, I read about an entire high school that flipped and saw some major changes in the percentage of students passing classes. I was sold and suggested we flip our entire middle school.  If a high school in Detroit, MI could do it, why couldn't a middle school in Riverside, CA?

My very wise administrators said no and told me to take baby steps.  Start with one colleague, then go from there.  I am realizing that teaching your colleagues is no different than teaching your class.  The keynote shared this as well.  I really want my colleagues to embrace technology like I have, but I have to remember that they are individuals and need to be invested in order to fully embrace and learn, just like our students!

 She ended the presentation by stating that these innovations did not just magically happen over night.  They took time and there were lots of failures.  She also stated that we should get out there and present.  So, as I drove the Ortega Highway home, I made a goal for myself to present at a conference within a year.  I don't know what I will present or how, which makes me nervous and anxious, but that's my goal.  Hopefully, my name will be in the program of ISTE or CUE or some other conference and I, Ashley Fulmer, will be a presenter!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back to School with Chromebooks

Guest Blogger Molly Schroeder, 
Director of Professional Development and Summit Program Chair, EdTechTeam

Many of you are heading back to school this year with more devices in the classroom that you’ve ever had access to!  Chromebooks have spread like wildfire into schools all over the world and now students have the world’s information at their fingertips!  Let’s make sure that we use those devices for engaging, real world learning in the digital age.

Here are a few things to think about as you head back to your Chromebook Classroom.

1.  Make sure to review Chromebook vocabulary together in the first week so that you are all on the same page when you talk about the OmniBox, Tabs and Extensions.  

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 8.04.18 PM.png

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We’ve even had fun calling the navigation array - the Waffle and the Chrome menu bar the three hotdogs.  
Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 7.47.47 PM.png
Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 7.47.39 PM.png

The refresh button above the number 4 key on your Chromebook - we call it the Google Magic Button - because REFRESH usually solves most of our Google hiccups.  

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 7.51.54 PM.png

Create a common language of vocabulary with your students and establish those terms early.

2. Customize your Chrome Browser with these extensions and teach the students how to use them.  It’s probably a good idea to also have a conversation with your students about when it is appropriate for them to download something from the Chrome Web Store.  We like to create some rules about searching and downloading extensions.  Have a conversation and set expectations clearly.

  • Read & Write for Google - Accessibility extension for emerging or struggling readers and writers.
  • Google Dictionary - View definitions and hear pronunciations easily as you browse the web.
  • Awesome Screenshot - Capture a web page or any portion, annotate the image and save to drive.
  • Clearly - Clearly makes blog posts, articles and webpages clean and easy to read.
  • Shorten Me - Instantly shorten links with, copy them to your clipboard and generate a QR code.
  • SpeakIt - Tired of reading? Select text you want to read and listen to it. SpeakIt converts text into speech so you no longer need to read.
  • TechSmith SnagIt - Take a screenshot, screen capture, or screen video recording. Collaborate and show what you know.

3.  Make sure to talk about Chromebook Care the first time you take the Chromebooks out of the cart.  James Sanders created this fun Chromebook Care video that you can share with your students to encourage proper care of your precious devices.


4. Be proactive with talking about Digital Citizenship!  We don’t expect our students to go throughout the year with out issues out on the playground or at recess so we can’t expect that students are going to get through the year without a “digital citizenship” situation.  Start the year by enrolling the students in Common Sense Media’s Digital Passport (good for grades 3-5) or by committing to teaching the Interactive Scope and Sequence with your students.  Each unit has student assessments built in as well so you can make sure the students understand what they are learning.

5.  Digital Age Learning is using devices to ACCESS CONTENT, COLLABORATE and CREATE.
Here are a few great websites and tools for Digital Age Learning in these specific areas..


6. Finally, remember that we are all LIVING IN BETA.  Launch things early in your classroom and work with the students to make them better.  Have a bias towards action with Digital Learning in your classroom and use all of the hiccups, mistakes, and failures as a way to create a community of problem solves in your classroom.  The world’s information is at the fingertips of your students - make sure that we are asking questions that the students don’t just have to Google to find an answer to!  Ask questions where the kids are CREATING the answer!

Have a GREAT start to the school year!  More Chromebook info coming soon!

-Catch Molly's "Living in Beta" Keynote at an EdTechTeam Summit near you this fall,!