Friday, August 1, 2014

A SEE of Collaboration:A SMART Summit Reflection

SEE Summit Badge.pngThe SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) Summit 2014- what a whirlwind of awesome! 

The SEE Summit is one of the BEST professional development events I have ever had the privilege of being selected to participate in. You are surrounded by like-minded individuals who are passionate about teaching, technology, collaboration, and growing as professionals. 

It all started with the trip to the airport with the lovely Amanda Hensley. Amanda is a fellow teacher in my district. She has been at the forefront of SMART use and was an unbelievable candidate for the SEE Summit. Amanda's video application helped propel her to a week in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. WHOOO!

Luckily for Amanda and me, we got to travel together. From Sacramento, with a short layover in Seattle, we made it to Calgary about 630PM. Our first scheduled event was at 7PM. As we arrived in Calgary, we were greeted by some of my favorite SMARTees, Renee Fruge, Diane Reid, and Jennifer Uhl. The fun was about to begin! We talked non-stop to Hotel Alma, checked in, and headed to the welcome reception. 

My chatting with old & new friends was described like this!

The lovely Deena had already given her "welcome" speech, and fellow SEEs and SMARTians were getting dinner. It was like a reunion when I went into the main dinning hall. There were SO many friends from Summit's past and friends online I finally got to meet face-to-face. I had to go table to table to see everyone. The room was truly filled with love, excitement, and awe. Not to mention seventy-eight educators from seventeen countries! This vibe in the room truly set the tone for the week of learning and collaboration ahead. 

The week's worth of learning and collaboration theme was "It takes a teacher...." As noble as this theme is, I really think the true theme of the week was "Collaboration=Better". 

Monday: It takes a teacher to start an education revolution

Monday welcomed us with an introduction to the newest SMART software - SMART Amp, explore a fully digital “classroom of the future” that included several different models of SMART Boards and the SMART table, and we were given advanced training on SMART Notebook. Software developers (called SMARTians) met with us to discuss what we liked/didn’t like about their programs.  They were fully vested in hearing what we had to say and were so appreciative and grateful to us for our feedback!  It was refreshing and is a perfect example of why we love SMART so much - they truly care about educators and students. How many companies truly listen and take to heart the voices of those who use their products?

Tuesday: It takes a teacher to inspire amazing

Thirteen of the “SMARTees” met in small focus groups with one-on-one with SMART software developers to create new feature requests in SMART Notebook and SMART Amp. They are now forever known as "The Hackathon". The amazing thing is that the software developers listened and created within forty-eight hours! Together, they created over twenty different ideas that may come into fruition in the next software updates. Fingers crossed for my favorites!!

The rest of us participated in Amp Camp - in depth training and time to actually use amp to create projects that could be used in our classroom. Truth be told, I didn't apply to be in the Hackathon because I didn't like Amp as I had understood it's use in my own classroom. I don't like not liking a SMART product, so I definitely wanted to see and learn more. You can hear more of my thoughts here. Amanda and I were lucky enough to work with fellow English language arts teachers to create a full on collaborative lesson within SMART Amp to implement and try next year! Collaboration at its best as we are “Better together”.

Wednesday: It takes a teacher to grow global understanding

The entire SMART software development team met with all seventy-eight of us to ask AND answer questions - two way dialogue to help us ALL become better, together!
The changing world is moving toward global collaboration, and we as teachers have a responsibility to prepare our students for their place in it.  Several teachers shared how they collaborated with classrooms around the world last year and had their students use SMART software to communicate and collaborate in real time - sharing learning and experiences across the globe! We were all given the tools and encouraged to set up a plan with international teachers for global collaboration for the upcoming school year.  We are excited about our plan to partner with classes in Scotland, Texas, and Canada later this year.

Thursday: It takes a teacher to share wisdom

We met in small focus groups with various SMART product development teams to provide feedback on our experiences as teachers with their products.  Again, SMART truly listened to our feedback to truly influence what they do and the future of their work and products. Again, how many other companies do you know, actually take the time to do that?

In the afternoon, the entire staff of SMART surprised us with a reception to thank and honor us for being there and working with their company. We were surrounded by “SMARTians” giving a standing ovation to us, the educators.  It was incredibly overwhelming and honoring to be appreciated like that.  I cried like I baby. I truly couldn't believe that this company, then the entirety of SMART Technologies came out to give us teachers a standing ovation. We were given gifts from SMART as well as the  traditional white cowboy hat, making us “Honorary Calgarians” and a year’s trial of SMART Amp. A truly humbling and unforgettable experience.

What better way to celebrate?! A Thursday night SEE Appreciation Dinner - an 80’s themed murder-mystery dinner held at the historic Fort Calgary.  It was a fun time to relax and enjoy our new friendships, and run around historic Fort Calgary.....all decked out in our best 80’s garb, of course!

Friday: It takes a teacher to move mountains for students

As a final hurrah, we spent the day sight-seeing  as a group in the beautiful mountains outside of Calgary!  First, we went to the gorgeous glacier-fed Lake Louise, had lunch at the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, then wrapped up the day sightseeing and shopping in the quaint mountain town of Banff. It was a perfect and  beautiful end to the week - friendships were cemented and lifelong- memories were made.

My Final Take aways:

The joy of a conference is not simply the material learned, it is the connections made. Connections with other like minded and passionate educators who challenge themselves, continue learning and growing, and doing all they can to improve their teaching to inspire a classroom of eager students within their four walls or globally.

SEE Sumiit 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Excitement for SMART Summit Mounts

I am proud to be a SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE or SMARTee). Proud of our educational community. Proud of the work we do, and thrilled at how we support one another. 

I have been a SEE since 2008. After I discovered the awesome that is SMARTboards and SMART Notebook, I dived in to learn all I could about being an engaging educator. I took online webinars with SMARTians (employees of SMART Tech), looked at other lessons teachers and SMARTians had created, and attempted to begin creating my own. As I got better, I read about the SMART Exemplary Educator program and applied. A strange thing happened. I got in! 

This is where Deena Zenyk steps in. I began asking LOTS of questions, how could I be involved, now that I was a SEE what could I do?! 

Deena, as many of you know, is the link between SEEs and SMART Technologies. She always answers my emails, questions, calms fears, tackles the world. Wonderfully kind. And since that first email, has become a wonderful lifelong friend.

Since becoming a SEE, I have been fortunate to have had the most amazing experiences. I got to be a part of the ASCD Conference and work along with SMART Technologies personal when it was in San Francisco, write for EdCompass Blog and Magazine, be a part of software trials and webinars, went to launch events, and interact with the most amazing people who share the same passion for education and technology that I do.

2011 SEE Mentors
One HUGE Perk? The SMARTEE Summit.

Yes! The SEE SUMMIT! This is the epitome of all things SMART educators! It is a week long professional development sprinkled with fun and experiences that last forever. 

Being a SEE doesn't simply get you to the SEE Summit. You do have to apply. This year marks the fifth year of the SEE Summit and I still can't believe I get to go again.

I am one of those oddities, along with Renee Fruge, have attended four summits, including this year, and once as a SEE Mentor. Each time I have been amazed that I was even chosen, thrilled to be going, and blessed to meet so many wonderful, passionate, people that become lifelong friends. Not to mention TONS to bring back and apply in my classroom.
As you can imagine....I am getting really excited. Excited for the learning that will take place, the friendships that will be made, the EPIC reunions that are about to happen, and of course, to continue to grow as an educator. 

Oh.....and for dueling pianos, and Lake Louise, Banff, whooooo girls, white hats, and Broken Toys. 

2010 SEE Summit 

2011 SEE Summit
2012 SEE Summit
Yes, that is my teddy bear, Honey NizzleFitz

Saturday, July 12, 2014

EdCampHOME 3.0-A Reflection

Thank you EdCampHOME mods for letting borrow your logo!
As many of you know, Edcamps are EPIC. AMAZING. AWE-INSPIRING. And simply #EduAWSOME! 

Like many others, I was excited for EdCampHOME 3.0. I loved that it was an event in the evening, and that I was tapped to help. I had attended the first EdCampHOME as a watcher, 2.0 as a participant, so needless to say I was thrilled to help and be an "initiator". 

Thursday came along....along with a dentist appointment! It was scheduled at 3PM, so if I got in and out I would make it on time. But, alas, I got in late and out about 4:05PM. Thank goodness for smart phones! I got to join the party via my phone till I made it home, just in time for the initiator Google Hangout (GHO). So while I listened, I prepared my workspace. 

What I didn't realize is that my headphone/microphone wasn't completely charged, nor did I realize that I needed to fix the settings in my GHO AND my Mac! As a result, the first session I moderated, Makerspace on a Shoestring Budget, I sounded like a robot. Thank goodness those in the session started while I fixed my "voice". 

The discussion that ensued was priceless. I have been reading Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager. Needless to say, I was very excited to hear what others have done in their classrooms. I was joined by Anne Jenks, Jamison Luke, Marcie Herbert, Tamra Dollar, Leslye Thiery, Liza Browne, and others that were watching. As the conversation went on (and I finally didn't sound like a robot), we discovered that all of us were in the process of creating a makerspace. We want our students to be creative, to try and fail, and try and succeed. Plus, we all wanted to "hangout" again to see where everyone is in their makerspace classroom. 

We talked about 3D printers (here is one that was suggested), coding, and traditional materials for our makerspaces. One resource shared was CtiyXProject X. They " introduces key 21st century skills, including emotional literacy, empathy, design thinking, creative problem solving, and social literacy using hands-on engagement with 3D printing and modeling technologies"(IDEAco2014). Best part? They have a workshop that is FREE and a toolkit that is FREE! Something to test out this year. 

My second session was 1:1 Classroom for Newbies. I have to admit, this one was my session suggestion and a selfish one at that! I am piloting 1:1 with Chromebooks next year and wanted to "steal" as many ideas as I could! I have been trying to prepare, creating lessons and such, but is anyone truly prepared to go 1:1?! I guess I'll find out!

Session two ran much more smoothly than the first (whew!) and I was joined by a small, but insightful group including: Tina Nording, Natalie McKalip, Kathy Nichols, and Travis Phelps. We introduced our selves and discovered that many of us are just beginning the journey. So we shared different resources that would help ease the 1:1 journey. I mentioned Zaption and EDpuzzle. Both are similar in that you have your students interact with the video they are watching. I like it as you get to check in with your students as they work. Plus, students get to work at their own pace. I created a lesson on each site for digital citizenship that I am pretty excited about it. 

Other resources shared was Hemingway. Hemingway is a great app/web based tool in that as students write helps them write more precise and clear. The site gives students' suggestions in color to help improve their writing. Another similar web based tool is No Red Ink, made by teachers for teachers. It offers high interest material, authentic assessments, blended learning, unlimited practice, and adaptive technology. Best part, FREE!

So much learning and sharing! We are certainly better together and EdCampHOME proves that. No matter how little we know, or even how much, participating in an event like EdCampHOME inspires everyone. We push each other to be better, to grow, to share, to make our "closed classroom" a more open and even global classroom. And better yet....we can participate in EdCampHOME in our pajamas!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hosting EdCamp TLC: A True Labor of Love

Wow! The time has come for Karen's and my culminating activity for CTA's Teacher Leadership Cohort project. We had been spending almost a year building professional development in our districts. We had been focusing on the needs of our teachers and educators to create, lead, connect, and build their confidence in their teaching methods. We had been given (and continue to be given) countless opportunities to share with not only educators in our districts, but to educators across the state. We have truly been blessed to share, learn, and connect our knowledge with others.

So, after months of preparations and road blocks, EdCamp TLC finally arrived. 

I have been to several EdCamps before, and I hoped that EdCamp TLC would meet the expectations I had in my own mind: that educators will come together to share, collaborate, learn, and connect. 

Thanks to all of our sponsors!
I got up incredibly early and arrived at Teacher's College of San Joaquin to begin set up. Karen and I had all the essentials, coffee and breakfast items, as well as the "swag bags" and giveaways ready. 

As 8:30AM rolled around, attendees began showing. We checked them in, added them to Class Dojo for our giveaways. Excitement was building! But would it be the EdCamp, Karen and I envisioned?

As attendees checked in, grabbed breakfast, we encouraged them to add ideas to the session board. Anything that they were interested in, curious about, wanted to share, etc. As many had never experienced an EdCamp before (just one!), Karen and I did add to the session board to jump start the process. Before long, attendees were chatting, connecting, and adding their thoughts and interests to the session board.

Session board

Things were falling together!

Session building had begun! I love the organic process of EdCamps. Participants are truly in charge of their professional growth and the sessions created did reflect that. We had topics ranging from Smart Tech, Social Media and PD, webpage design, Genius Hour, Math Web Tools, Web 2.0, Remind101, Flipped Class, Edmodo, iPad Apps (Doceri, Educreations, etc.), GAFE Certification, and Blogging/Writing Technologies. It was truly exciting to see such a list created by teachers and for teachers! What a day of learning we had ahead of us!

Rooms began to buzz once sessions began. Although many were brand new to the EdCamp experience, all were excited to learn. Discussions began to flow, the sharing of knowledge grew, and excitement continued to build. We may have been a small group, but we were mighty and eager!

As the day drew to a close, we had one more activity to connect all participants: the one, the only "Things that SUCK"! I love "Things that SUCK"! I was first introduced to this concept at my very first EdCamp SV North. "Things that SUCK" is simply, it is a discussion, a debate, and/or a conversation on topics that affect those in the room. This activity can be done for staff meetings, education, non-education (I am getting my husband to do this in his business office!), even with your students! It is a powerful way to see just how others think and share their points of view in a wonderful and fun way. Bill Selak shares more on recreating this activity here.

Many of our participants agreed on quite a bit of topics, however, the most "controversial" was on "cute classrooms"! Who knew! Thanks to David Theriault for that topic! But, as always, it was fun, fair, and another way to share and connect with passionate educators.

The overall goal was to connect and inspire. I met a great bunch of educators that continually want to learn and grow in their profession. Educators who are willing to move out of their comfort zone to gain new heights.

I think Karen and I did just that. As we later learned that Michael Saunders blogged his about his experience at EdCamp TLC. What did he discover? 

 And now, Michael wants to create an EdCamp in his area (I am so THERE!). 

Did we accomplish our goal? I think so. Just like we need to encourage and model collaboration with our students, Sir Ken Robinson reminds us what education and learning is all about. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A needed TLC: A journey towards a second calling

The journey of teaching this 2013-2014 year has been quite unexpected. I have had experiences that I never thought I would reach. Connected with the most inspirational educators across the country. And perhaps found an additional calling within the teaching realm. All of this was made a reality through the CTA Teacher Leadership Cohort CTA (TLC).

Through CTA's TLC, I have been given the platform to expand on other passions, inspiring teachers to embrace technology. It has been a whirlwind of #EduAwesome! I have met so many people, learned so much from the participants and Karen (my techie soul mate), and continue learning more about myself as a learner and educator. I suppose all I needed was a little "TLC".

I have always loved sharing knowledge. Whether it was discussing novels with my seventh graders, using manipulatives with kindergartners for adding and subtracting, or showing students how to use technology as more than simply gaming and social media. Even on my site, I have always been talking with colleagues about technology in the classroom or techniques I use to reach my students. I had no idea that I could take that even further.

I have blogged before about the joys of inspiring teachers. It first started with the creation of the Tech Think Tank with the infallible Karen Taylor; then blossomed into creating workshops on the integration of technology, Common Core, hosting a Twitter chat, and so much more that lately I have been teaching teachers my second calling?

I know, teaching is teaching, right? Well, it hasn't always felt that way to me. Believe it or not, I have always been extremely timid about sharing with anything with colleagues. The first presentation I had ever given to teachers was completely nerve wracking. Sure, once I started and my passion came through to my participants and eased my fear, but that fear was (and still is in many ways) still there. I know what does work in my classroom, but will others see the value in what I am sharing?

I think through TLC, being a SMART Exemplary Educator, Google Certified Teacher, and the power of Twitter has built my confidence. Through conversations (or chats) others have sought me out, connected with me, collaborated, shared, motivated, and inspired me. It has given me the confidence to continue to share with other educators, to share my knowledge, my successes and failures and to be available to any educator that has ever connected with me. 

The joyous part of all of my journey....other educators have connected with me and my ideas! I have received emails and tweets of thanks, of inspiration, of additional ideas, of collaborations, that motivate me and keep me going! 

I am simply excited to where this new found journey and passion for inspiring educators can go! It has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Possibilities inside and outside of the classroom. The outside is where I never dreamed I could venture.... alas, that is where my road is taking me. My horizons are broader and I get to reach more students and educators alike. All I had to do was follow my passion. 

Your passion cannot be wrong. Your passion will lead you to unexpected, but grand roads! Your passions will open your eyes, fulfill your heart, and bring true happiness to you. It can't be work if it is your passion, right? It's like when I go to school (see what I did there?). I NEVER say I am going to work. Not once since I have been a teacher. Even a substitute for that matter! I have always said that I am going to school. Work implies pain, stress, and things I don't want to do. School is fun for me, not work. My passion has led me here.

It can for you too!

A special thank you to Rafranz Davis, Karen Taylor, and Robert Petitto for your support, belief, and laughs! You each have helped me realize so much about myself, my future, and my passions! Adore each of you!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Fruits of Labor and Professional Development

Region Six's annual ETC Conference at Gregori High School was in full swing Saturday, February 22! ETC had over 800 (yes, you read that right) educators gather to learn more about technology, its use, and integration into classrooms.

The energy was palpable as more and more teachers entered the gym. The excitement of learning new tech was everywhere. Venders were showing products, breakfast was served, and  Luke Hubbard  was handing out laptop bags and making sure presenters and attendees were all set. It was the beginnings of a great day of learning!

I began the day with the amazing Andrew Schwab on how to Google more efficiently. It was great! From Google Scholar to searching a file type. You and your students can even better learn Google Search through courses online. Andrew rocked the room! AND the best part, he shared all his resources! Yes!

Then Karen Taylor and I were up. Web Tools and Apps for the Common Core. We had a packed room of teachers ready to learn. 

We polled the room to see what kind of technology users we had (very high users this session!) and then were off!
Me getting my share on!

We walk attendees through web tools and apps that fit the Blooms's New Taxonomy and the Common Core. Because this was the first hour presentation Karen and I have done (we typically do an hour and a half minimum or up to three hours) we glossed the lower levels because we teachers, we want to see our students reaching the higher levels! Not that the lower levels aren't important. They are! They are essential to get our students achieving at the higher one and all are incorporated in the higher levels as well. 

With Bloom's in mind, we discussed, demonstrated and gave classroom use/examples of PadletPopplet, Today's Meet, Vod and Podcasting, blogging, Comic Life, movie posters through Big Labs, Vokis, raps, Fakebook, Animoto, Aurasma, Educreations, Genius Hour, and so much more! It was incredible! All our resources, including our presentation can be located here.

The best part of it all is the sharing and connecting with educators. Not only did I have the support of the staff I work with (shout out to Lori, Amanda, Fergi, and Anne!), but I got to meet some Twitter heroes face to face as well as new teachers who became inspired by what they saw and heard. I was Tweeted and talked to after the entire conference saying that our session was worth the entire day! I was even stopped by a brand new teacher at Starbucks about our "inspiring class" and how she went directly to her classroom to set up for the week with her "new technology tools"! #EduWIN!
My new moto.

Through all the professional development I have been a part of has taught and reinforced to me that sharing and connecting goes a LONG way. We as educators need to open our doors and rooms, our ideas, thoughts, and questions to other educators. The only way to get better is to work together! Even the smallest idea can turn to be HUGE for someone else! Long gone are the days of "on my own island" teaching. We must empower, inspire, and help each other! Connect with at personal learning community or network. Go big or go home!

Educators are not teachers because it's a job....we are educators because it is our PASSION! 

So get passionate and be a lifelong learner and a sharer!