A Little Redecorating

talk tech with meAfter thinking for a long time and renewing my blogging vows, I have decided to combine my blog and website into one space.  I liked certain things about each platform I was using (wordpress.com and weebly) for each space and purpose. I still think they’re both fabulous resources, and I would highly recommend both of them. I just wanted to have a little more control over my blog, which is where I focus most of my energy, and it made sense to bring them both into one if I’m going to be upgrading and paying for another online space.

I don’t plan to take down my talktechwithme.wordpress.com blog because a lot of other blogs and sites have linked to my posts here. However, this will be the last post published on the “wordpress.com” site. I will continue to update my blog at talktechwithme.com (just remove the .wordpress), and all of my existing blog posts have already been transferred over.

If you landed on talktechwithme.wordpress.com, just click the “Talk Tech With Me Website” button above to be taken to talktechwithme.com.  If you’re on talktechwithme.com, you’re in the right spot; check out my new digs! It’s still a work in progress (I’ve got to transfer all my old website resources over to the new place still), but so far I’m happy with how the redecorating is going. If you come across any links that are broken, please let me know by commenting on that post or page.

To all my followers who follow the blog via email, you can sign up to receive the emails again in the sidebar on talktechwithme.com  (they should keep coming, but just in case).

I’m looking forward to this next step in my reflection and blogging journey!

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

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Renewing my Blogging Vows

It’s been two months since I’ve written my last post. How did this happen? I really enjoy reflecting, sharing and connecting with other educators through blogging, so I’m renewing my blogging vows! I’ve made getting back to blogging one of my New Year’s resolutions. GET_Badge

Since I’ve been gone from the blogging world, I’ve gotten some great news. I spent a week at SOITA in November for their Google Education Trainer Camp. It was a long week of learning, studying, practicing and test taking.  The application process was pretty long and had high expectations. I am SO excited that I was accepted as a Google Education Trainer!

iste2015badgeI also found out at the beginning of December that my poster presentation for the ISTE Conference this summer in Philadelphia was accepted! I have learned so much at ISTE the past two years in Atlanta and San Antonio, and I am honored to be a part of that sharing again.  Last year I spoke at the EdTech Coaches playground in Atlanta. I can’t wait to take on this next experience and everything else this conference has to offer- it is the ultimate reenergizing and inspirational PD for me!

It’s been a couple of crazy and exciting months.  I’ve been exhausted, and it’s that time of year where we all start feeling bogged down.  So it’s time to get back in the saddle, get some inspiration, hop in a Twitter chat (or ten!) and finish the year strong!

What do you plan to start doing, stop doing, or start doing again this year to help you in your profession?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

District-Wide 30 Day Twitter Challenge

In honor of Connected Educator Month, I will share what I have been meaning to write about for a month now… getting teachers connected on Twitter!

Twitter ChallengeIn August, I led a couple of optional, face-to-face trainings on Twitter for teachers and principals in my district. Most of the resources I used for the trainings can be found on my site. (Hint: TodaysMeet worked out great to have people paste their twitter handles and follow each other during the training!) I know Twitter can be confusing to people at first, so I tried to think of a way that would encourage teachers to further learn about and actually use the powerful networking tool once we left as a group.

I thought a 30 day Twitter challenge would be the perfect way to encourage the use of Twitter and make sure teachers continued to network with teachers in other buildings in the district and with educators outside of our district. I assumed I would be pleased with the results because after all, once you can convince an educator to open their mind to Twitter they’re pretty excited about the sharing going on. I never expected to be as impressed with the connections being made as I was.

To prepare, I did a quick search of the hashtag we used to make sure no one else was using it and compiled a list of challenges for each day in a Google Spreadsheet. Challenges consisted of things like following other educators who teach the same subject, sharing a favorite resource for the classroom, and other quick, easy tasks. At the end of each of the trainings I told the teachers and principals about the challenge and that it would be starting the following week. Once it had begun, I tweeted the challenges each morning and afternoon.

Actually, I have a confession to make. I scheduled all of my challenge tweets ahead of time in Tweetdeck! This helped me make sure I didn’t forget to send it one morning. It was that easy to get started, and it took on a life of its own.  As the challenge progressed, I noticed participants tapering off, which was expected. But as they stopped completing my daily “challenges,” I noticed they kept tweeting on their own and began using Twitter with their students, staff and for their own PLNs… EXACTLY what I hoped would happen! Many teachers joined in on the challenge after it started or created their own Twitter accounts because someone in the challenge encouraged them to participate, and they heard that others were having fun with it. I made a Storify to summarize the challenge and share with others.

To implement your own challenge, here are my suggestions:

  • Lead a face-to-face training first. People feel more brave and willing to step out of their comfort zone when they have a buddy (you!) by their side. This will show them the ropes and get them comfortable following people and sending tweets.
  • Create a list of tasks that are very simple, and will only take seconds to minutes to do. Our to-do lists are already out of control, so no one wants to sign up to do something that’s going to take a long time, every day, for an extended period of time.
  • Tasks should encourage participants to learn a new aspect of Twitter, make new connections or share new resources.
  • Include a task that encourages participants to get their “classroom neighbor” to join, so others who did not attend your initial training can start Tweeting.
  • Include a task that encourages participants to check out a Twitter chat, so they can see the real power in Twitter.
  • Create a list of the tasks each day, so teachers can see what’s coming, complete their task early if needed or go back to catch up. I created my list in a Google Spreadsheet that I shared out by creating a shortened URL with bit.ly (see my challenges here: bit.ly/middie30).
  • Offer prizes for participants and the winners! I also created a certificate of participation for every teacher who participated (even one day).
  • If I do this again, I would probably only do 15 days. I think cutting it in half would seem like less of a commitment, and potentially encourage more people to participate.

Overall, the feedback from teachers was great, and the Superintendent was very happy to hear more of our teachers were joining Twitter! In a training I led yesterday, one of the participants shared a resource she found, “on Twitter” with the rest of the teachers in her department.  I was thrilled to hear that teachers are still actively using Twitter as a part of their own PLN and as a result of this challenge!

How have you encouraged educators to become active on Twitter?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

5 Ways to Prepare for Connected Educators Month

In addition to Photographer Appreciation Month, National Roller Skating Month, National I Love Lucy Day and National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day (just to name a few), October also serves as Connected Educators Month!

connected educators month 2014According to the Connected Educators Month website, CEM is, “a celebration of community, with educators at all levels, from all disciplines, moving towards a fully connected and collaborative profession. Convened by the connected education community, with the full support of the U.S. Department of Education, building on the success of previous years with hundreds of new events and activities from dozens of organizations and communities. We’ll be working together, in October and beyond, with all stakeholders, leaving no device unturned, no country or learning environment unexplored.”

In short, it’s a great time to make connections with other educators around the world through formal and/or informal opportunities sponsored by CEM and the CEM partners. Last year, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even hosted a Twitter chat in honor of CEM!

So how can you get ready to join the conversations about education with people from all over the world, expand your PLN (personal learning network) and learn a thing or two in the process?

  1. Explore the Connected Educators Month website to become more familiar with the initiative.
  2. Look at the full calendar of events and add some of them to your own personal calendar. The CEM website even tells you how you can download your personal CEM calendar to your Google calendar or your iPhone/iPad (if you register for free).
  3. If you have a Twitter account, start searching and using the hashtag #CE14 to join the conversations on Twitter.  I would recommend using Tweetdeck or another similar service that will allow you to add a column to help you filter through all the Twitter chatter and keep the CEM conversations together. If you don’t have Twitter, check out my resources and create an account… yesterday!
  4. Sign up on edConnectr to get connected to other educators who share your interest.  You fill out a handful of questions when you sign up that ask you about your interests, your areas of expertise, areas you could use some help with, etc., and then the site suggests people to connect with who fall in those same categories as you.
  5. Bring up Connected Educators Month at lunch, in the faculty room, at your next meeting, to your teacher friend from another building.  Talk about it to anyone that will listen and anywhere that you can spread the word! After all, the power of CEM comes from millions of educators actually connecting with one another.

These are just a few of the ways to get ready to participate in Connected Educators Month.  How will you get ready to participate and connect?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Speaking at the EdTech Coaches Playground at ISTE 2014

Like I said in my last post, I’m a little behind on my blogging…

iste 2014 presentation iste 2014 presentationISTE 2014 in Atlanta was another whirlwind experience, and a month later I’m still processing everything. This year, I was lucky enough to present during the EdTech Coaches Network (formerly SIGETC) playground.  I talked about the Digital Citizenship Day I planned back in February. Talking with so many educators who come from different walks of life and have had similar ideas and experiences to those I was sharing was awesome! As much as I was sharing best practices with people, I was getting just as many ideas as others shared their experiences with me and asked provoking questions. I’m really grateful to the ETC network for selecting me as one of the presenters.

All the sites I referenced during my presentation at the playground are on my website here.

I just think we are so lucky to be educators right now.  Imagine teaching during a time when doors were closed, you had to perform all day for students (or bore them to tears), and you were pretty much in it alone and constantly recreating the wheel… picture just 10-15 years ago (if that).  So much has changed.  As exciting as it is for our students to learn in classrooms today, I think becoming a teacher or working in education have become extremely exciting careers to embark on and fields to work in! The number of people ISTE pulled together from all over the world is seriously impressive.  Although I didn’t even begin to meet a fraction of the people who attended, the coaches playground I spoke at, other sessions and just plain down time (wait, when was there down time at ISTE?) led me to making many new connections who I am able to reach out to in an instant over email or Twitter. I am not alone in this thing called education, and I am fortunate to be a part of it with so much technology and so many instant networking opportunities at my fingertips. Thank you ISTE and my PLN for making it another successful year and a very memorable first speaking opportunity at the conference.

Did you attend ISTE 2014?  What did you think?

Tech To You Later!
Katie

Big Changes

It’s been a while since I’ve written my last post, and I’m feeling a little out of practice.  I’ve had so much piling up I wanted to write about that I didn’t even really know where to start. So I’ll just jump back in and get back to it!

For starters, I left my position at McNick.  Without getting on my soap box, I left McNick as a result of disagreeing with the new Archdiocese teacher contracts.  In my opinion, this discriminatory contract is going in the opposite direction the way education, society, and humanity should be going (okay, I promised no soap box…). Words can’t express how much my colleagues at McNick mean to me, and how grateful I am to have known and worked with each of them.  They are very special, talented and dedicated educators; I hope the students and parents realize how lucky they are to be a part of that community.  I’m going to miss them terribly.

In a way, the contracts were a blessing in disguise because it led me to looking at a new opportunity.  I am thrilled about starting my new position at Middletown City School District working as an instructional/educational technology specialist and overseeing the district’s website.  I’m really looking forward to this next step in my career working with multiple schools and a lot more teachers!  To be honest, the new challenge is scary, but I’m ready to keep learning and growing from the talented tech staff at Middletown! When I first started my masters program, my goal was to ultimately be a district instructional technologist, and I am still shocked and humbled that my plan has fallen into place (knock on wood!).

My Research Presentation

My Research Presentation

This brings me to my next point.  Last Friday, I finished my Master’s in Education and Instructional Computer Technology- WOO HOO! I can’t explain the relief I feel to be finished.  For me, grad school was extremely rewarding and worthwhile.  I loved (almost) all of my classes, and I felt like I learned and grew so much in each one of them.  If you’re debating going back to school to start your next degree, I say go for it! There will never be a perfect time and you’ll never know until you try. My advice: don’t settle for a program and an area you don’t love.  I couldn’t imagine pouring all those man hours into classes and a topic I wasn’t passionate about.

I did my final research project on the Lunch & Learns I have blogged about over the past year.  If you’re interested, I’d be happy to discuss it more with you.

I’m glad to be back to the blogosphere and look forward to returning to my favorite Twitter chats!

What have you been up to this summer?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Tech Teacher of the Year Award

This year was the inaugural year for a Tech Teacher of the Year award at our school.  It was decided that the winner would receive new classroom furniture.  Luckily, our school PTSA was very generous and found this to be a good cause, so they offered to fund a second classroom with new furniture.  We were able to award two teachers this year.  Teachers were asked to nominate a colleague and students were asked to nominate a teacher if they qualified for one or more of the following criteria to be this year’s Tech Teacher of the Year!

  1. Creativity and innovation in the classroom through use of technology
  2. Shows growth in his or her teaching through use of technology
  3. Commitment to digital citizenship and information literacy
  4. Commitment to life-long learning
  5. Vision for the future of technology in his or her classroom

In a 1:1 environment, you have to think a lot more about the devices you get, the software you put on the devices and the training you provide.  There are countless infrastructure considerations that must be made as well.  While things like wifi/internet access must be made a top priority, classroom furniture is sometimes overlooked or deemed as a project to get to down the road because it can be put on the back burner.

old student deskWhy does classroom furniture matter?

Take an older style chair and desk combo for example (image to right).  These desks currently make up many of our classrooms.  Our students have tablet PCs that take up a large portion of the desk space.  There is little room to have anything else on the desk, not to mention they constantly fall off the desk if the desks are bumped or students walking up and down the isle are wearing a book bag and accidentally bump into another student’s tablet.  Obviously these desks are not conducive to a tablet environment, but they also don’t lend themselves to a collaborative, creative working space either (2 of the 4 Cs of a 21st century classroom).

As a technology department, we felt it was important to focus on revamping the current classroom setup for teachers and students to take full advantage of our tablet program.  The new desks will be longer and wider and will allow for group work to be done much easier.  Chairs will be separated from the desks.   We worked with School Outfitters to order the new furniture;  they’ve been really helpful, and I highly recommend them if your school is in the market for new furniture.

A BIG congratulations to John Norman and Michelle Semancik as this year’s TTOTY winners!

Norman has really pushed himself this year to try new things and enhance his teaching.  Norman has implemented many new technology tools into his teaching repertoire this year, including voice recordings in his PowerPoint presentations so students who were absent or on retreats could get caught up on his lectures from home, to completely transforming a long standing senior project to include a classroom wiki, Google forms, and different web tools of students’ choosing.  Norman was very dedicated to his own learning this year and attended almost every Lunch & Learn as well as had many one on one meetings with me to see how he could best implement technology into his teaching.  With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Norman is a great example of continuously striving to improve himself, his teaching and his students!

Semancik is constantly working to learn and grow, her own personal motto and resolution this year.  Semancik always actively attends and participates in technology professional development and it is clear that she takes what she learns and applies it to her classroom.  Sometimes skeptical at first, she closely evaluates and tests new technology before implementing it into her lessons.  She served as the social studies PLC leader this year, and worked with her department to figure out a way to include more educational games and simulations into their teaching, while also including meaningful assessment.  Semancik fully embraced Schoology this year, including many discussions boards and assignment submissions in all units.  She frequently uses Twitter to extend her classroom culture outside of the school day, find resources and connections for her own PLN and support the Academic Team. Through microfinance organization Kiva and the help of technology, Semancik has connected her students with people all over the world to help alleviate poverty through monetary lending, rather than direct donations.  These are only a few examples of the many ways Semancik utilizes technology and web tools in her teaching. It is exciting to watch Semancik constantly challenge herself, her teaching and her students through effectively implementing technology into her classroom!

Thank you to all of our teachers for continuously working to learn new systems and tools to use in your teaching! A special thank you to all of our 19 nominees, John and Michelle for doing something extra (or many extra things) to be noticed as taking full advantage of our tablet program.  And of course, a special thanks to PTSA for funding a second classroom with new furniture.

How do you think classroom furniture and setups contribute to a 1:1 or BYO environment? How do you recognize teachers in your building for their effective use of technology in the classroom?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Campus Meets Community

schooloutfittersToday, I had the honor of speaking to employees from School Outfitters as a part of their Listen, Learn and Lead series.  As a testament to their motto, furnishing great places to learn,” they wanted to get a better understanding for the clients in which they serve- schools- and how they could better meet their needs. They asked me to participate in one of the “listen” sessions, so their employees could gain a better understanding about educational technology needs in schools today.

I really enjoyed talking with the company today, and not just because they were offering free pizza!  People in many different departments (from IT, to human resources, to marketing, to the President) attended the session and seemed genuinely interested to learn about what our environments are like in a school setting. They were very engaging and asked a lot of great questions-an educators dream!

I commend School Outfitters’ efforts to learn more about their customers! Now I realize a large part of their client base is the education industry, but I think businesses should reach out to schools in this way to see how they can better serve our campuses.  After all, we are always trying to figure out how our students and our schools can help serve our communities.

It’s easy to feel like the education world is the last to get on board with something that the rest of the world has caught on to for quite some time.  It was nice to finally feel like we (education) could be leading the way, or at the very least providing the insight and feedback to others to help lead the way!

So if you haven’t already (I know many companies do a tremendous amount for and to get involved with local schools-thank you!), now is your chance to get your company community involved with a local school’s campus. Could you help fund something or offer sponsorship for the school? Could you create an internship or work study opportunity?  Could you team up with a teacher/discipline to create a PBL opportunity for students?  There are so many ways to get involved with local schools; when you do, everyone benefits!

So thank you again, School Outfitters, for inviting me into your home today!

Schools, how do you get involved with your community?  Community leaders, how do you get involved with your local campuses?

Tech To You Later!
Katie

Facilitating PD in my PJs: Moderating my First Twitter Chat

Tonight I had the pleasure of moderating my first Twitter chat: #1to1techat (1:1 teacher chat).  This has been my favorite Twitter chat, professional development, and weekly motivation for a long time now.  I was flattered when Shaelynn Farnsworth asked me if I wanted to moderate this week.

You can check out the archive of #1to1techat on 2/19 by clicking here.

Before I answered her, I got very nervous. What if I didn’t have a good answer to someone’s question? It only took me a few minutes to calm down and realize, she wasn’t asking me to be an expert at anything.  The beauty of a Twitter chat is that it is a bunch of educators and practitioners coming together to exchange their expertise, brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another. I’m sure someone learned a thing or two from me, but I bet I learned the most from everyone else!

If you’ve participated in a Twitter chat before, you get the benefits.  If not, don’t worry-they happen every week day, so you have time to see it for yourself.

#1to1techatA Twitter chat is the easiest, most affordable (free!) and convenient way to connect with other educators across your state, the country, and even the world.  You use a program like TweetDeck, or even the Twitter search feature, and follow the chat by setting up a column (or searching) the designated hashtag (in this case, it was #1to1techat) at a specific time.  They usually last an hour.  A moderator poses questions to facilitate the conversation, and you- as a participant- include the designated hashtag in all tweets to keep it in the stream for others to see and respond to.  Twitter chats are like the best faculty room/hallway conversations and brain storm session you’ve ever had… on steroids!

“…until you look at Twitter, you won’t realize the sheer volume of conversations that are happening without you… It was kind of scary and awe-inspiring at the same time: the education world had been going on without us, and it was going really fast.”
Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters

Some Tips for Moderators and Things I Learned Along the Way:

  • I invited some individuals, (Twitter) lists of people, and  other common hashtags/chats to join us. The more people that are involved-the more fulfilling the conversations!
  • I had my questions pre-typed and double checked for the 140 character limit. This made it a lot easier to copy & paste the questions from a Google Doc (which I was also able to easily share with Shaelynn for feedback prior to the chat).
  • I used TweetDeck on my Mac to keep track of everything going on during this fast paced chat. I had multiple columns dedicated to the chat based on replays, RTs, favorites, etc.
  • I kept a notepad and pen near by to jot down any new tools, sites and go-to gurus that I want to investigate after the chat. HAH! I did not write one thing down because I didn’t have time. I’ll have to go back through and re-read the tweets and check out the archive.
  • Chats go fast and it’s easy to lose track of which question you’re on or what the question is.  After participating in #NTchat (new teacher chat-another inspiring chat) a couple of times, I borrowed Lisa Dabbs idea of pointing out the question as the moderator like so,
    —>Q1: question here. #hashtag.”
  • As hard as it will be, pay attention to time. I got caught up in conversations and didn’t leave as much time for some questions as I’d have liked.

Overall, I’d say it went pretty well. Well after the hour was up, people hung around to keep talking and sharing ideas (no thanks to me, but rather the people who participated and shared their experiences and ideas). When is the last time you were a part of “sit & get” PD where teachers weren’t looking at the clocks and ready to race out the second it was over? When was the last time people were actually bummed PD was over already?!  All of these people will continue to check out the ideas and tools shared on Twitter and implement them into their own classrooms to improve their instruction/facilitation.

This is the power of twitter chats, my friends!

Have you participated in a Twitter chat before? What did you think? What tips do you have for moderators?  What are some of your favorite Twitter chats?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

Cory Remsburg: Putting Life in Perspective

From the moment the cameras panned to the nation’s First Lady Michelle Obama as the President commended her efforts on childhood obesity during tonight’s State of the Union, my eyes welled with tears as I saw a member of the US military in his dress blues applauding with one arm. Immediately I knew something horrible must have happened to him in battle, and his arm was either wounded or gone.

This image is from a Business Insider article about Remsburg's SOTU recognition.  Click the image to read the article.

This image is from a Business Insider article about Remsburg’s SOTU recognition. Click the image to read the article.

The tears returned each time he was in the line of the camera, his injuries becoming more apparent.  President Obama acknowledged him as Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger injured on his 10th deployment, at the end of the SOTU.  I felt sorrow for him, his friends and family, and an overwhelming sense of guilt that I was able to sit in the comfort of my own home, healthy and safe, while he had clearly made a sacrifice for me and my country.  It felt personal.

And it should feel personal!

Not that I’ve never thought about it before, but Cory and his sacrifice reminded me of how fortunate we are to live in this country, how grateful we should be to those who serve and protect this country alongside Cory, and how we’ve got to stop making such a big deal over the things that just don’t matter.

Thank you to every US soldier-past, present and future.  You each deserve a standing ovation like Cory received in front of our nation tonight.

So what does this have to do with educational technology? Well, really… nothing. It was just something I felt extremely passionate about and wanted to get out.  I do however think this is a great reminder for myself and others for two reasons.

  1. Thank the people that deserved to be thanked. Show gratitude and appreciation. Be genuinely thankful for what you have.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff! If your internet page won’t load, your computer runs out of battery, or the YouTube video won’t play… big deal! Life will go on and you’ll still be here.  Not everyone can say this about their job.  Just ask Cory.

I hope you’ll take this opportunity to thank a soldier, whether you know them or not, for making a sacrifice those of us have not made cannot even begin to comprehend.

I’ll close by expressing my sincere appreciation to current members and veterans of the US Armed Forces that I know personally. Thank you, Grandpa.  Thank you, Aunt Julie.  Thank you, Uncle Tom.  Thank you, Larry.  Thank you, Cari.  And last but not least, thank you to my cousin Matthew, who left for Marines basic training this past Monday.

Tech To You Later!
Katie