Day 25: On Going Google…

In a previous post I shared how I’ve been on the “bleeding edge” with technology in my district this year and I shared some tips on how to manage some of the inevitable frustrations that come your way when implementing and/or using any type of new technology.  In this post I want to focus more specifically on Going Google as this is the path my school district is on.

 Timeline…

  • Gmail was introduced in our school as a pilot (I was one of the test accounts) *2 yrs ago-I think…
  • All employees are switched to Gmail after initial test phase

At this point I still didn’t really understand anything about Google other than it was a search engine and that our district had changed over to Gmail.  I didn’t know what a Doc was and I didn’t really care. I used Microsoft Word programs to develop and implement lessons, Power Point and Excel were my friends.  I had a Smart Board too. I was feeling pretty tech savvy!

  • Google Camp Rochester – Summer 2014

Because I am “That Teacher” I signed up to attend a Google Camp last summer.  It was in Rochester NY and hosted by NYSCATE.  I still had very little knowledge about Google’s products so thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more.  I was totally overwhelmed, but by the end of the day it had been decided that a Chromebook cart would be purchased for my classroom.  The idea being that I would pilot the use of Google Classroom and other technologies with my students. My counterpart on our sister campus, Dawn Ellis, was also provided this wonderful opportunity.

*For those of you wondering how this decision got made so quickly there’s an easy answer.  Also attending this conference were my principal, the head of technology for our school, and our assistant superintendent of instruction and school improvement.  Without going in to too many details, I asked – presented my case – and that was it.  (Yes-I know I am a very lucky teacher!)

  • Initial Implementation – Fall 2014

In a condensed summary let’s say that implementation has been rocky at best.  Fortunately I have an amazing bunch of students this year that can roll with just about anything. I have supportive administration and a technology department that is trying their best to smooth out the wrinkles.  But with that said there are some serious considerations that I would encourage you to consider before your school “Goes Google” or implements any other type of technology initiative.

Things to consider if you’re Going Google:

  • Provide professional development opportunities and training focused on Google
    • There will be naysayers in every group, you must SHOW them how this all works. Google is different from Microsoft products and even if it seems like an easy transition to you it will not feel that way for teachers who have been using Microsoft for years. Change can be scary – be kind to the newbies!
    • Start by training a few teachers first – let them work out the inevitable kinks before you unroll it to your larger staff.  Let them become the experts that other teachers can come to for help.  In our school I have found that teachers are more receptive to receiving technology help from other teachers than they are from the technology department itself. This is not a knock against our tech department-they are great, but the training they provide is more formal with a set day and time. This is a great start but teachers need daily support available to them in their buildings by people who are actively using technology in a classroom setting.
  • Don’t block Google products!  
    • One of the surest ways to turn your teachers off from implementing Google (or any type of technology for that matter) is to have your wireless locked down.  Google products are designed to work seamlessly with each other but this can not happen if half of what you are trying to access is blocked!
  • Use either your own filtering system or at least one that you have FULL control over
    •  In our district we use a regional filtering system that our technology department only has partial control over.  It is awful!  There are times my tech department knows what the problem is and how to fix it but they’re hands are tied. This is frustrating to both the tech department and the teachers.  Before you try to implement any technology initiatives in your school please make sure your tech department has full control over the filtering system you use!
  •  Make sure you have the appropriate infrastructure & enough bandwidth to support your technology
    • Most of our schools weren’t created to support the amount of internet activity that is now occurring in our schools.  Before implementing any technology initiatives please ensure that your system can handle what is going to be asked of it.  If it can’t either upgrade the system or hold off on implementation until such time that you can upgrade your system.
  • Make sure you have enough technology to go around
    • So lets say you’ve done all of the above and are ready to hit the ground running – STOP – please make sure you think about how many devices your school will need to support your desired level of technology integration.  Most districts have to slowly phase in technology purchases and that’s OK but realize that teachers and students will be more likely to struggle and get frustrated if one mobile cart is trying to be shared with 3-4 classrooms.   There is no way I could have integrated technology the way I have if I didn’t have a set of Chromebooks dedicated to my classroom.
  • And the list goes on…
    • Is there so much more I could say?  Yes! But I won’t continue on and on.  I am sure that you get my point by now.

My current status with Going Google

  • Next year I will again use Chromebooks, Google classroom and continue to integrate technology in to my classroom – we still have a long way to go but overall it’s been a worthwhile venture
  • Our school will be using Google Docs and Classroom as our teachers revise their curricula and scope & sequence. I will do my best to help my fellow teachers learn and transition to Google
  • I will keep my fingers crossed that we get rid of our current regional filtering system and move to a system controlled by our own technology department.  Who better knows what our school needs than our school itself?
  • I will keep my fingers crossed that our technology infrastructure gets updated. I fear if it does not we will have major problems next year as more and more teachers are having students use technology in their classrooms and are using it themselves as they transition to Google.
  • And above all I will try to stay positive!

 

In conclusion let me say this, schools have a responsibility to help students learn from and learn about technology.  Each and every one of us should be working to do the same. But before this can happen districts need to STOP and THINK:  Please, please, please do not promote technology to your teachers if you do not have the appropriate infrastructure to support it, training and support for the teachers as they are learning it and enough devices for students to actually use it. And once you’ve got that, remember that if teachers and students are blocked at every turn they will eventually give up.  

The Optimistic Educator…

 

 

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Day 12: Celebrating Spring in our Schools

Spring has finally found it’s way to my house & I couldn’t be happier!  As I walk around the yard I see signs of life everywhere.  That old saying ‘Spring is in the air’ resonates within me.  The peeper frogs are peeping each night, the crocus have bloomed and the worms are once again coming out after the rain.  It is truly a time of re-awakening and renewal.

 Spring – How it feels at home…

Spring is an exciting time of year.  Many of us spend all winter anxiously awaiting the arrival of sunshine and warmth.  And when that sunshine and warmth arrive we all seem to get supercharged with energy and motivation.  We jump into Spring cleaning, we pull out our lawnmowers, the deck furniture gets set up, the grills get pulled out of the garage, we get our bikes out, we weed our garden beds – life feels good!

Spring – How it feels at school…

Spring doesn’t always feel so good school.  Many teachers are feeling worn out.  Students have begun tuning out.  A warm sunny day at school can feel very different than a warm sunny day at home.  Students and teachers alike sit in classrooms preparing for tests.  They look longingly out the window counting the days ’til summer vacation begins.  For many schools Spring is a time of standardized tests and all the anxiety that that brings. Teachers are stressed, students are stressed, administration is stressed.  School life can feel pretty lousy in the Spring.  This is not a good way for teachers, students or anyone else in the school to feel.

What’s a teacher to do?

I find, as my dear friend Jen Williams says, Good Brings Good.  If each of us takes the time to dole out a little good it will come back to all of us tenfold. 

Here’s a list of ideas that you can use to help put the Spring back in someones step!  

  • Take your students outside for a walk – choose a topic to discuss then talk as you walk
  • Write a note on each student’s desk being sure to personalize it with their name (*I use dry erase markers but be sure to test before you write on all the desks!)
  • Bring in a snack for your students (My high school age students are super appreciative of this type of gesture!)
  • Bake cookies or brownies and leave them in the teacher’s room with a cheery note
  • Bring in flowers for your classroom.  Better yet bring in flowers for another teacher or administrator!
  • Leave a thank you note for the person who cleans your room
  • Call a parent to share with them something positive their child has been doing in school
  • Smile and say Hi to teachers and students as you walk down the hall
  • Remember to ask your students about their most recent ball game, concert, skate boarding adventure etc.
  • If you see something great going on in a classroom be sure to share it with your fellow teachers and administrators
  • Bring in some yummy coffee for the office coffee maker

This list could go on and on.  My main point here is that it is time for us to celebrate Spring in our schools.  Yes there are many stressful things happening this time of year, most out of our control, but each and every one of us has the ability to positively impact the culture of our schools.  Strike that.  We have the responsibility to positively impact the culture of our schools.  So with that said I challenge each of you to go forth and put the Spring back in someones step!

The Optimistic Educator…

 

Day 11: What do you #Read4Fun and Why?

Today’s April Blog a Day prompt asks What are you reading personally or professionally & why? I interpret this question as What do I #Read4Fun & why? 

What do I #Read4Fun professionally?

Why?

  • I prefer reading edu books that are user friendly as opposed to academically rigid
  • If it’s found on my principal (@kjsan28) or assistant principal’s (@grindstonegirl) bookshelf then I am bound to like it as our educational philosophies and visions are very similar

What do I #Read4Fun personally?

  • YA books
  • historical fiction
  • anything Amish
  • anything by Janet Evanovich
  • too many others to list or remember!

Why?

  • I like the easy readability of YA books – I don’t have to invest a lot of energy when consuming them
  • I find historical fiction fascinating
  • I love the simple one with nature philosophy of the Amish
  • I enjoy Janet Evanovich‘s writing style
  • I often don’t remember book titles or authors but I always remember how books make me feel

This was just a quick snapshot of what I enjoy reading.  Over the last few months I have re-discovered my passion for reading so much so that I co-founded a twitter chat that’s all about reading.  (You can learn more about it in my previous post #Read4Fun Comes to Life! The Birth of a Twitter Chat)  Both professional and personal reading are an integral part of my daily life and I hope that you too can find the time to #Read4Fun each day! 

The Optimistic Educator…

Day 9: Being Human – I didn’t blog yesterday…

Does taking the April Blog A Day challenge mean you have to blog every day?  If you answered YES – then I have failed, if you answered NO, like I have chosen to do, then you are human.

Starting Strong

I started the April Blog A Day challenge when I was on Spring Break.  I was having a stay-cation and my blog writing had stalled so this challenge seemed like the perfect thing to get me going again.  I eagerly dove into my writing. Some days I used the prompts, others I went free style. I was feeling good!

Spring Break comes to an end

And then Spring Break ended. I got a post out the first day, Day 7, but I must confess that I had written it the night before. Then came yesterday, my second day back from break. I didn’t blog. I really and truly had a great excuse, I had to attend an annual meeting and subsequent dinner for the regional board of education that I serve on.  I’m a board member and I am up for re-election. I had to go!  BUT, as I have been heard to say, if you really want to do something you will find a way.

So did I let myself down?

I struggled with this thought of letting myself down all day and night yesterday.  I am one of those people who can get a little obsessive when choosing to take on a challenge, project or goal.  I frequently expect much more from myself than I expect from others.  I need to stop doing this.  I need to stop being so hard on myself.  It was bothering me so much that I Voxed about it to my #Read4Fun teammates multiple times throughout the day and evening.  (I Vox when I drive and I was in the car a lot yesterday!) Rationally I knew that I did not let myself down but it helped immensely to have trusted friends affirm this for me.

What does this mean for the rest of the month?

I’m not sure how the April Blog A Day challenge will play our for me during the rest of the month. I still will try my best to blog every day but I’ve vowed not to beat myself up if I miss a day here and there.  I’m already a little nervous as to how it’s going to go next week as I am out after school every day except Tuesday and the only day I’ll be home between school and my evening activity is Friday.  That may not bode to well for my blogging but I’m ok with that.  I will blog as often as I can and I will make a conscious effort to continue my reflective practices each and every day, even if my thoughts never get written down.

I feel grateful to have stumbled upon the April Blog A Day challenge.  It has reminded me of the importance of being a reflective educator. I will continue to try to blog every day and I encourage you to as well.  But if you, like me, find that you can’t keep up, be kind to yourself and remember – we are only human!

The Optimistic Educator…

 

Day 7: Learning to Accept Help: ‘The Rock’

Strength – that I have. Maybe not physical strength but mental strength for sure. Resiliency – I know how to bounce back when I hit the pavement.  Broad Shoulders – I gladly bare the loads of the overburdened.  Stability – I may sway in the wind but my roots hold firm. They call me ‘The Rock’

All sounds great doesn’t it?  I tend to have that ‘can do’ attitude. I’m not afraid of a challenge. I’m frequently the one volunteering to try new things, be the guinea pig of sorts.  I’m the one in the background making sure things get taken care of, cleaned up, put away – whatever is needed. I rarely complain, I usually have a smile on my face and I love making people feel good about themselves. I’m there when my teachers are down and need someone to help pick them back up. I’ve helped hold our school together when it’s been crumbling down around us. I truly am ‘The Rock’ and I’m proud of it.

Sounds like I’m full of myself doesn’t it?

Five years ago I may have agreed with you. Now I just quietly own it. My awesome AP, @grindstonegirl,  has helped me come to understand that being ‘The Rock’ and doing the things I do is just part of who I am, part of what makes me feel fulfilled.  But if I’m ‘The Rock’ then why am I writing a post about learning to accept help?  Well, I learned something valuable this year and it came from the most unexpected of places.  I have a dear teacher friend who is awesome at what he does. He builds meaningful relationships with his students and holds them to the highest standards.  He works hard and is passionate about his teaching.  But, he is not one that I ever would have said is supportive or compassionate with his fellow teachers.  He gets easily frustrated, or dare I say disgusted, when teachers fail to meet his standards or do what he thinks is right.  If you didn’t know him well you might call him arrogant. But I digress…

Over the course of this past year I did a lot of back channeling, communicating with, helping and supporting teachers after school, usually during the evening or on the weekends.  We didn’t physically connect as we all live quite a distance apart but there were many phone calls, text messages and e-mails shared.  Now I’m not talking the new teachers that I mentor I’m talking some well established teachers that I call friends.  I had a few teacher friends that were struggling for various reasons, some school struggles, some personal, some a combination of both. Some of the things that were going on had a personal impact on me as well. There was so much emotional baggage being thrown around during this time but, as I said earlier, I have broad shoulders and I gladly bare the burden of others.

The lesson I learned

During one of these after hours phone conversations with my teacher friend that I mentioned earlier he stopped and thanked me for listening and for always being there for him. Then he said something that stuck with me, it actually brought tears to my eyes. He told me that I didn’t always have to be ‘The Rock’  He then proceeded to say some other very wise things.  It sounds so simple but it had a profound impact on me.  I realized then and there that I didn’t have to do it all. I didn’t always have to have the answers.  I didn’t always have to be at the top of my game. (Although only those closest to me ever have a clue when I’m struggling with something.) I didn’t always have to be ‘TheRock’ I could count on and accept help from those friends at school who are near and dear to me. Kind of a revelation for me!

Will I continue to act as and be viewed as ‘The Rock’? Probably. Will I let my guard down ever? Only to those closest to me. Have I learned that accepting help is OK? Yes. I have also learned that ‘The Rock’ becomes even stronger with a little help from her friends!

So to those of you who have Rock-like personalities (you know who you are)  be sure to let your closest mates in because, as I’ve found, they can prove to be a source of strength that will provide you the energy needed to continue your Rock-like endeavors!

The Optimistic Educator…

Day 6: A ‘Fred’ Moment: #PTPedu comes to life!

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, was a tech free day for me (see my Day 5 Post). When I awoke this morning I felt the overwhelming urge to catch up on all things twitter. I had slept in later than normal so missed my usual #BFC530 EST chat but was able to catch the #BFC530 MST chat.  And that’s where it started…

The question for this morning’s chat was “I wonder…..” What edu topics cause you to wonder and ponder? I easily and quickly shot off a few “I wonder” sentences to add to the conversation. Well one thing led to another and a conversation started about principals tweeting out pictures of the positive things happening  in their schools. I mentioned that my principal does this and that I also do this.  I find joy and satisfaction in showcasing  the incredible things that my fellow teachers and their students are doing. I like to think of myself as a Fred (If you’ve never read The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn I highly recommend it. It’s a short easy read that reminds us all of the importance of helping and uplifting others) so the idea of highlighting the good others do comes naturally to me.  And then the idea hit…

#PTPedu (Post The Positive edu) 

A small group of us had stayed chatting long after #BFC530 was over.  We were discussing how easy it would be for any of us to snap and post photos of the postives happening in and around our schools.  Too often all that is heard in schools these days are negatives. Too many tests, substandard pay, no parental support, not enough technology  blah, blah blah. We wanted no part of  that. That’s when our idea hatched – we would come up with a hashtag to highlight the good in our schools. Each time we saw something positive, and were able, we would snap and post a picture of it. It didn’t have to be limited to classrooms. It could be in the halls, lunchroom, office, playground etc.  Then the idea came to us that it would be neat to add a hashtag to the pictures so we could all share in the positives.  It took a bit to find a hashtag that wasn’t already widely used. At first we were thinking something with twitter in the title but didn’t want to limit the spreading of positivity to only one social media platform.  Then we tried #PTP but that was already widely used, finally we settled on #PTPedu – Post the Positive edu.

And there you have it!

#PTPedu now has it’s own dedicated column in my Tweet Deck. Today is my last day of Spring Break and when I return to school tomorrow I will be making more of an effort to document the positive happenings that are occurring daily in my school.  I will make a concerted effort to, when possible, snap and post pictures using not only my schools twitter handle but the #PTPedu hashtag as well. I encourage all of you to join the #PTPedu movement. Snap the picture/name the positive/tag it/then post it to your favorite social media platform(s).

Together we can show the world that great teaching and great schools are alive and well!

The Optimistic Educator…

Special thanks go out to @Toadmummy,  @scjmcd,  @MsCrawford101  and @TeachDB17 for helping bring this movement to life!

 

Day 5: Unplugging for Easter

Day 5 of the April Blog A Day challenge falls on Easter Sunday.  Since Easter is all about new beginnings I decided that I would launch a new beginning of my own.   Beginning today I am committing to unplugging from technology for 1 day a month.

Doesn’t sound like much does it?

At first I thought I’d commit to unplugging 1x/week. Wouldn’t it be nice to not be tethered to your phone/tablet/computer for a full 24 hours every week? Sounds glorious! But is it realistic?  For me, probably not. But I really think I could do it once a month.  I’m hoping it will prove to be a liberating, cathartic type experience.

Why bother?

The idea for this personal challenge stemmed from a conversation I had with my husband. We were talking about the new iWatch and discussing how it might actually prove to free us from some of our obsessive phone checking habits. (Topic for another post!) We also were recalling how our 22 year old son, when without his phone for 3 weeks, said that after adjusting to the initial shock of being without it he actually became more relaxed.  It got me thinking about my own personal addiction to technology. I get on my computer first thing in the morning to participate in a twitter chat, I use my ipad to check weather and news, keep track of e-mails, and play games, I read on my Kindle, I blog on my computer and on and on. Where does it stop?

Taking a Break

So I’ve decided to try uplugging myself. I’m not sure what I’m trying to accomplish – maybe it’s just a challenge to rise to – maybe it’s me trying to get back to simpler times  -I’m not really sure.  But the one thing I do know is that tomorrow I will not be texting, playing games or blogging. Instead I will be spending some old fashioned one on one time with my family. And I will not stop there, every month from here on after I will unplug myself for at least 24 hours.

So being true to my word I am disconnecting from technology tomorrow, Easter Sunday. As this post is for Day 5  (even though I’m writing it on day 4) I will use Tweet Deck to schedule it’s publishing. I wish you all a Happy Easter and hope that you too may find some time in your month to unplug!

The Optimistic Educator…