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!


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!

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!

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!

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!

3 Videos to Rejuvenate You!

After having two weeks off followed by two snow days (thanks to the Polar Vortex), I found myself feeling pretty sluggish and having next to no motivation to leave my dogs and go back to work.  I returned to a couple of my favorite videos that I watch when I need some encouragement, and even found a new favorite.  After watching them and having a great first day back, I’m feeling ready to go!  I wanted to share these videos with those of you who may have a case of the mid-winter blues too.  Enjoy!

1. Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students:

This is a great, short, video to get you feeling pretty awesome! Kid President always has a great message.

2. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on Creativity:

This is my go to video when I start wondering why am I doing this? and is it worth the effort? Sir Ken Robinson helps me remember how much “power” educators have.  How we can inspire someone to be great, or how we can hold them back from their greatness. It’s a little longer, but worth every second of the 20 minutes.

3. Edutopia’s Introduction to Technology Integration

Now that you’re feeling creative, see how you can get creative, and even better, encourage your students to get creative! I actually wrote about this video last January, so I must really like it. I think it’s a great inspirational video no matter what stage of technology integration you’re at.

Now that you’re ready to be awesome, get creative, and encourage your students to create with technology, checkout my backwards edtech chart to help you implement web tools into your classroom.

How do you get motivated for the second half of the year?

Tech To You Later!

Celebrate Your Colleagues

Educators are all in this field because we like to help and support others, right?  However, due to the traditionally isolated nature of our profession, we can often feel disconnected from one another.  A teacher on one side of the building may have no idea what is going on in another teacher’s world.  We rarely get a chance to shoot the breeze with one another while running around to get 30,000 things done in one day.  We spend a lot of our time building relationships with our students (as we should!). But unless you’ve got a well-oiled PLC culture, we don’t always get a chance to build strong, positive support systems with our coworkers. 

December brings a lot of stress to get every last bit of content in before the new year, the pressure of exams, and excitement for that mid-year break that we all desperately need.  It’s cold out, it gets dark early, and it’s easy to fall in a slump this time of year.

Instead of trying to stay positive on your own, I’d like to encourage you to take some time out of your crazy day to offer some encouraging words to another teacher (even better if it’s someone you don’t normally get a chance to talk to).  Acknowledge their hard work.  None of us are in this line of work for the recognition (if you are, get out now because it’s a thankless profession more often than not), but think of how good you feel when someone does compliment your hard work.  I promise you’ll feel even better when you know YOU are the one who gave someone else that glowing-feel-good feeling.

So before you shut down that computer (or iPad, or tablet, or ChromeBook), and say “see you next year!” to everyone on the last day of school in 2013, celebrate your colleagues!

bestedtech awardsI’d like to take this chance to celebrate two of my colleagues now for their efforts to incorporate technology in the classroom.

Our CPII Freshmen English teacher, Ashley Markesbery, used Twitter and Storify to help students write a collaborative paper and interview people for the first time. Students had to interview other students and faculty members around the building by asking them a series of questions and then Tweeting the answers using a class #hashtag. In groups, students chose the best tweets and pictures after looking through all students’ tweets via the #hashtag. Each group used Storify to aggregate their favorite tweets. From their group’s Storify story, each student wrote their own individual paper. Ashley has been nominated for Ohio’s first ever #BestEdTech Awards in the Best Use of Social Media in the Classroom Category.  Very cool use of Twitter and Storify, Ashley!

Art teacher, Mel Gaskins, has turned her classroom into a thriving educational technology hub-spot for students. She has architechture students using Houzz and Pinterest for idea boards as opposed to cutting out fabric swatches and pictures from magazines.  Students from her independent art studio, ceramics, and architecture classes use Rhino, Illustrator, Photoshop, Auto Cad, and different iPad Apps to create their projects in her class. Mel also initiated an in-house quad-blogging project with two other teachers in the building (English and Religion) where Mel’s students blogged about Art reflections, and students in the other classes commented/blogged from their respective subject area views. Mel is currently seeking out a way to bring a 3-D printer to the building for her sculpture and architecture students. Lastly, she is working on setting up a department blog to give all our fine arts teachers and students the chance to collaborate in one spot.  She is constantly brainstorming ways to reinvent her class and use educational technology to ensure her students continue being accepted into very competitive art and architecture programs around the country. Mel, very deservingly, has been nominated for Ohio’s first ever #BestEdTech Awards in the Teacher Innovator Category!

Help me vote for Ashley and Mel until January 10th by clicking here.

I’d like to leave you with a quote and a question.  How will you celebrate your colleagues this year?

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”                         -Maya Angelou


Tech To You Later!

Lessons in Education from Steve Jobs

In one of my graduate courses, I had to pick a leader and read a biography about them. Since the name of my game is technology in education, I decided to go with someone in the technology field. I thought Steve Jobs was a good choice, and I’m glad I went with him.

Aside from knowing he was a creative genius, I really knew nothing about him.  Walter Isaacson could not have painted a clearer picture in his biography Steve Jobs.  Whether you’re an Apple or PC fan, I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in technology.  Not only does the book cover Jobs’ life, but it’s almost like a history of technology too (in part because Jobs had such a big hand in many groundbreaking developments).

Cover of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Cover of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Aside from being an interesting account of the development of computers, other technology and Jobs’ life, there are also many lessons educators can take away from Jobs’ examples (Avoiding his narcissistic and mercurial outbursts, of course!).  I’ll leave you with two of my favorite takeaways from the book.

Adam Bellow suggests in his ISTE 2013 Keynote that schools should be more like start up companies.   Jobs is the perfect example of a risk taker through his start up efforts.  Not everything he tried worked out, but he learned from his (and companies’ ) mistakes.  He wasn’t afraid to take risks, and teachers and students shouldn’t be afraid to take risks either.  When students are afraid to take risks, they become too afraid of getting the wrong answer.  When teachers are afraid to take risks, they become too afraid to try new things in their classroom with students.

Jobs often said that he did not conduct consumer research because consumers did not know what they wanted until Apple showed them what they needed.  As educators, we must find a way to constantly stay ahead of the curve by anticipating what our students will need; they’re relying on us to prepare them for their future. We must give them the skills they will need to change the world.  We must teach them to Think Different.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.  -Apple’s Think Different advertising campaign

What did you take away from Isasscon’s Steve Jobs?

Tech To You Later!

Help Students Build Confidence as a Presenter Through Screencasts

The other day I met with a teacher to go over some things about our LMS.  When I arrived to her classroom she had a student who had to give her a presentation before we started, so I decided to stick around and wait for him to finish.  The student did a great job and really knew a lot about the topic. He was very mature and even shook the teacher’s hand and thanked her when the presentation was over. I assumed he had been absent on his presentation day.

I was wrong.

This student had asked the teacher if he could give his first class presentation of the year to just her because he was afraid he may be sick if he had to do it in front of the whole class.  He wanted a chance to work his way up to giving a presentation in front of the whole class.  I’m sure there are many other students in the building who have this same debilitating fear of public speaking.

So I got to thinking this weekend, how can teachers help students build their confidence to present in front of the entire class?

screencasts for student presentationsThen I remembered one of the screen capture tools I included in my 5 in 5 screencast from October 2013.  I thought students could use Jing (or any screencast tool) to take a screencast of their presentation, including their voice to talk through the presentation just as they would in front of the class.  Then students could upload their presentations to screencast.com and share the link with the class via a discussion board, class blog, class wiki, etc. Each student would be required to watch all the other students’ screencasts and comment on the presentation.

Sharing screencasts may be an alternative to first time, in-person class presentations, especially if you have a lot of shy students. How do you help students build their confidence to present in front of a large group?

Tech To You Later!

A Conversation with the US Secretary of Education


Arne Duncan’s Picture on Twitter

I wanted to tell each of you about a wonderful, unique experience I had the other week.  For about an hour, I was privileged to have a conversation with  the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and over 1,900 educators from all 50 states.  We talked about Connected Educators Month, the importance of connecting, how educators are connecting, and the government’s plan to connect 99% of students to broadband within five years.

This conversation was on Twitter via the weekly #edtechchat. I encourage you not to forget the power of Twitter when trying to get or bounce ideas from educators all over the country and world. To view the archive of the chat, click here.  To get acquainted with Twitter, you can check out the resources on my website.  For a comprehensive list of Twitter chats, click here.

Tech To You Later (and Tweet on)!