This month has been very busy for me on the technology end. I actually got invited to join a district group that is exploring different online conferencing tools. Being the only teacher is kind of making me nervous around the heads of testing, library services, and technology. They are great people, don't get me wrong, and I have known many of them before this but I want to show them my best. I used Google Docs to take notes which impressed the group and threw out some ideas that really started some good discussion on the potential of online meeting tools. The only bad part is that it has put my head in the clouds about future opportunities outside of the classroom. Since my district's budget is under severe strain, I going to re-focus my efforts on being a great teacher while still making the connections I need to for future opportunities.
Then I great early Christmas present, I won a MICCA grant! I get $600 for some pocket video cameras and memory cards. In return for the grant, I have to present in the poster sessions at the MICCA conference. Unlike other grants I got some extra bonuses, free MICCA membership and free registration to the MICCA conference. The MICCA membership is going to come in very handy when getting a room for NECC. Of course no one at school will care since I have gotten no response on winning the Turning Technologies Grant or on becoming a Google Certified Teacher, but I have gotten to the point that I don't really care. I have a freedom in my computer lab that most teachers have to fight for. I have decided in 2009 I am going to embrace being off the radar to expand the projects in my classes.
So what is next? Yesterday I spent some time on grantwrangler.com and found some good stuff. There are some great contests for my students to enter and I even set up a Google Calendar just to reflect all of the upcoming deadlines. As much as I enjoy the time in my PJs and the laptop, I am excited for school to start again.
So at this point you might be wondering why all the concert stuff? It relates to this concept Steve Dembo has repeated in different presentations. In simple terms, if you know your tech stuff, then you should be out presenting and sharing. While I know that I am not on the cutting edge, I do know that I am ahead of the mainstream. My thought was to start out small at a district conference just to see of I could actually present to a crowd other than the teachers in my building.
I finally understood what Dembo meant during my Google Apps presentation. The lab was full and people opted to stay by seating in chairs, on the floor, and by standing. I could feel the focus of the group and their excitement from learning something new. Of course my plans kind went out the window in the streams of questions. Lunch time came and pass in the discussions after the presentation. There was just enough time to grab a bottle of water and set up for the Web 2.0 presentation for a full crowd.
The rock star feeling hit me while I was driving home in the rain. It was this rush that I can't fully explain. I turned the radio up and sang my heart out. I want to use this post to remind me of that feeling if I get too afraid to send in a proposal or feel exhausted in the effort to prepare. For those who play Guitar Hero, I think I might be ready to try another venue or another set.
Now to get back to the thirty day challenge.
1. My former AP, S. Frye. Three years ago she was the only admin to attend a local technology conference (the same one I am presenting at this year). There she learned about the middle school technology course that I teach today. Not only did she fight for adding this course at our middle school, I was the only one she had in mind to teach it.
2. The DEN STARs, especially those at the summer National Institute. All of you inspired me to be a better teacher and hopefully a technology leader.
3. My PLN on Plurk. Beside the amazing resources, they are always so supportive through my good days and bad.
From the bottom of my heart, Thank-you!
While my new site meter may tell me more, I still enjoy my ClustrMap. I have enjoyed watching the dots grow across the map and some dots have actually grown larger. Even if the dot came by accident I was glad it was still there. It made me happy to think someone stopped by and may even be feeling the same challenges in their schools. My map encourged me to keep writing and I was glad I added it to my blog.
Only time will tell on how stats will help my blog. I hope it doesn't hurt my blogger self-esteem.
The first challenge was to recreate the About Me section of the blog. I almost wish that it would have been another challenge since I have been under an identity crisis lately. Don't worry, I won't use this blog as therapy sessions. The best part of the challenge was to remind myself why I started the blog in the first place. The idea of growing and reflecting sometimes gets lost in the day to day challenges.
While I am beginning the blogging challenge, I am also working on another challenge Dembo posted to the DEN. During the DEN Virtual Conference, Steve told us to be Rock Stars and share what we know. Since the opportunities at my school have dried up, I applied for a VERY local conference. I was happy to be accepted for two presentations: Google Apps and Web 2.0. I think this is a positive step in the right direction since there has been so much negative in my building.
I expressed my frustration at the lack of organization and the need for a real technology plan for the building. I can't proudly say that much was accomplished. There is now a major reward for the teachers to participate in this monthly skill program. The principal expressed her desire to have more computers in the media center, which probably can't be done. For the tech liaison who does NOTHING his only question was: Who is the leader of the technology committee?
One thing I learned from my teacher leadership degree is that you are not a leader by name alone!
I am not sure of my next step. What am I working so hard for? Maybe I should just concentrate on my classes and not doing a lot of extra work for other people? I just don't know if the fight can be won. Saga to be continued.....
- David Jakes: This is my first opportunity to hear him speak in person. It was so inspiring to hear about the leaders, rebels, and troublemakers. This commercial from Apple really made you reflect about what it means to think differently.
- Steve Dembo: His energy is contagious! He asked the crowd to raise their hand if they felt behind after the first rotation of learning Google tools. Most raised their hand and he made a good point. We felt behind, but we are miles ahead of our colleagues. Those colleagues that want to learn PowerPoint and won't check their email.
- Google Tool Presenters: An amazing group that worked hard to create a quality presentation even though the time to present was too short.
- Those that work at the Google Offices in Chicago: they were so cool about being on display in front of a group of teachers in awe of their environment.
- GTA cohort: this was an amazing group of teachers that are true innovators. I wonder what is would be like to work in building with educators like Carol Broos, Scott Meech, and Cindy Lane? I would have nothing to complain about again.
- Too short! I would have loved to have the time that I did at the DEN National Institute to explore and create with these amazing teachers.
- That I had to come home!
I think I am starting to feel a little queasy from all of the highs and lows of the technology rollercoaster in my school. The school year started out on a high with the support from the administration on the push for technology and the promise of the school's first technology day. Before planning could even start, the world dropped out from under me.
Still waiting to come out of the dark tunnel of the new Student Information System. There is not a day goes by that I am not dealing with a SIS question. I began my first Tech Tuesday where I open the lab after school to help staff members. While I was glad some came, all of the issues were with adding assignments and grades in the new system. I want to help with lesson plans, teach how to use the mobile lab, develop a student project, or a playground to try out new websites.
In July, I had a talk with my principal while at the DEN National Institute about making the first professional development of the school year a technology day. That was gone within weeks without the principal even talking to me. Of course I charge ahead looking for another opportunity and got one in a Google session for next Friday, just a couple of days after the Google Teacher's Academy in Chicago. At least for now that is the plan.
Then there is the new state technology test for all seventh graders. A test I know little or nothing about. A test that I dread because I might lose the freedom I currently have in my classroom after years of teaching in areas that are tested. Online testing in this area and others is going to push me out of my own lab and the administration seems not to care.
The uncertainty of this ride is bringing on a certain amount of anxiety. I think for now I am going to close my eyes and raise my hands in the air, so I can enjoy the high of the Google Teachers Academy.
I think this Summer games were amazing! I probably watched more than ever any others and the experienced was heightened by plurking through the major events. It was sad to not have it every evening, but as the school year began I realized that there was a major lesson to learn from the Olympics. Of course trying your best are good sportsmanship important, but I think the one that I should try to keep in mind is PACE YOURSELF!
Changing the attitude in my building about technology is going to be a marathon, but I went in treating it like a sprint. During teacher week, I had a few successful moments, but I felt burned out already. Since I offered help to anyone, I spent all of my time doing just that. In the end, I stayed late everyday set to get my computer lab ready for the first day of students.
Our new student information system was also more than I trained for. I get emails, phones, and drop-ins all times of day and now nights. It is dragging down my finishing time and my goal to integrate technology in all subjects. Right now I feel like I am not even going to finish the race.
It is hard to pace myself, because it is hard to tell someone no if they want help with technology. I feel like if I say no then that is another excuse not to get started. I also know I can't keep up at this pace with out a cramp. So my thought that instead of sprint or a marathon they race I should be running is the relay.
So I went to my principal about setting up a technology committe and she was very receptive. Now I am trying to recruit strong members that I feel that I can pass the baton to when I can't go any further. I also need to set the goals and vision for the group. I hope together we can go for the gold, but I would be happy with the bronze. Maybe we should just concentrate on keeping the technology torch lit.
I have gotten little done since I sent an invite to my principal to the ning I set up for my school. To defend my principal, she has always been supportive when it comes to listening to my 101 ways we can improve our school. It is a good school where learning takes places and we always make AYP (I know, I know that is not the only form of measuring school success), but I think we can be a great school. We are not the risk-takers (even though hiring me was probably a risk, one to think about) and it is a shame since we have the luxury of worrying less about testing than other schools in the region. While some of my ideas have been successful, the technology ones are the ones shot down. It is frustrating to say the least, but I have not given up yet.
In my exploration into Web 2.0, I have been in awe of all of the sources in cyberspace that could help our students construct learning. By participating in nings I witnessed open discussions that almost never happen in the usual cloud of complaining or with those staring at their watches, waiting for that last minute of the school day. I think that lack of open discussion and true collaboration maybe the reason we are not achieving greatness. That and all of those closed doors in a very large middle school. Even if the principal likes the idea, another hurdle is the staff. They never used other tools that were available to them so what will make them change?
While I want to be one of the warriors that change the current view of the classroom, I sometimes grow impatient. I am tired of holding my breath and crossing my fingers hoping that those around me buy my pitch on why this is important, necessary, or just something worth taking a risk on.
The people- I give credit to Texas teachers because they are probably the friendliest, but there have been many good impromptu discussions and some great additions to Twitter account.
The sessions-Not that every one was golden, I have learned something from each one. Of course, planning ahead of time didn't do a bit of good since I spent each evening in the hotel re-editing my choices. A particular highlight was Lucy Gray and Vicki Davis in a panel discussion! It was interesting to hear them and see their comments in chatzy.
The free stuff- No matter how much I deny it, I love getting all of the vendor free stuff. I think it is the challenge of it all since most of it I give back to teachers in school workshops.
The re-connections- I had the opportunity to really connect with some people in my district that I only had the brief opportunities to talk with before. These connections definitely have future potential.
BYOL sessions- While I would have liked to see more of these sessions, it wasn't the tragedy that many made it seem. Really any session became a BYOL session for me as I was quickly saving sites that were mentioned in discussion. When I did make it into a laptop session, I didn't enjoy as much as I thought. The pace was a little too slow for me, but was necessary to make sure everyone was one the same pace.
Lack of connection- Even though this was one of the three keywords of the convention, I don't think it took place enough. I would have liked more opportunities to share ideas with others. This feeling might only reside with me since I went to the conference alone. It seemed that most hung around those who they traveled with or those they have known before the conference. I didn't see a lot of new connections being made which is unfortunate.
Overall, I did enjoy my first NECC and hope that I can attend many more. There will be more posts on the conference, it was just to much to include in one post.
The "Wisdom of Crowds" was the main topic of the keynote address. Instead of putting me to sleep, it actually woke me up after a tedious day of traveling. It was so relevant to my school, I felt like running down to the ISTE bookstore and the UPS center to send a copy of this book to my principal. My school is stuck in a deep, deep not rut, but trench. The trench even has a title, " The Tasker Way." This trench was created by years of the same teachers offering the same opinions to the point administration listens and then makes any decision they want. It is frustrating and I usually blamed the principal, but really the system is broken. We have diversity, but all voices are not heard. I don't think that there is independent thought because some voices are louder, but not better. When I think back to the few meetings we had last year, I can't think of one time where the faculty came up with a group decision which forces administration to make the decision for us.
Maybe, I shouldn't send a copy to the principle, but to the entire staff. I wish I had that kind of money!
Steve Dembo has an interesting blog that I try to keep up with, but there was a recent entry about the pathway to becoming an expert that stuck with me. I have always struggled with this term and think that it is too loosely used (that might be the overly critical side of me). In the masses of NECC I will be labeled a newbie, maybe intermediate user. (BTW, don't you hate those technology user surveys you get at your school? On those I have to pick expert level based on the questions, which makes me feel bad like I am bragging. ) At my school, I am almost past expert and onto guru status. I am the one who is in charge of the school's website, newspaper, anything that needs to look nice to go out to parents, and emergency tech support. Of course I have to go to all technology trainings, not because I need them, but to train the staff in a user-friendly way. While most would probably feel proud of this level, it makes me sad for a couple of reasons. One reason is that I am the best in technology the school's got, that is a shame since I am no where near a expert. The second reason is that nobody else steps up, there are a few others that understand technology, but don't help others. Probably the worst part, which is selfish, is that don't have the collaborative environment that will help me grow. I guess that is why so many have turned to cyberspace for their personal learning environments.
Now onto the NECC controversy......
If you don't already know (which I can't imagine if have used the Internet in the past 5 days) NECC posted a set of regulations that required anybody recording sessions to get permission from the presenter and ISTE. Blogs, twits, and the NECC Ning set afire with postings about how unfair this policy was considering ISTE is suppose to encourage global collaboration. It was amazing to see the power of this community. Through a vigorous campaign, ISTE actually changed this policy to only require the permission of the presenter to record.
If anyone reads this, please don't hate me for what I am about to blog.... While I agree that ISTE was wrong for changing the rules at this late date, I kind of understand their position. To me it was brought forward when plans were underway to ustream as many sessions as possible and that is already on top of numerous podcasts. I think the organization was afraid of all of the endless possibilities, which is a topic we are struggling with as the ways to communicate expands. Many excused them of worrying about the profits, but on my hopeful side I think that they were worried about their presenters. These people work hard to prepare and maybe ISTE was worried that hard work would end up on YouTube or re-created for a local presentation. Even though I don't mind the conference being open, I imagine some do considering the costs of attending. Plus, ISTE deserves some credit for being as open as they are with posting all resources from sessions, supporting the lounges, the ning, and even the unplugged conference. I have never seen that at any other conference I have attended.
Lastly, my progress into 2.0---
I have been trying to reply more in Twitter. Not that I am sure if anyone cares about my 1 cents worth. I really enjoy the NECC ning because I get great advice and all of the interesting discussions. I think that I want to join more nings because of the format and collaboration.
So excited!!!!! NECC is almost here!!!!!
This article is interesting because I think it would be a good way to handle technology professional development at my school. The series made me start brainstorming different opportunities for different levels of expertise:
- Demonstration and practice with the beginners
- One-on-one sessions with all levels
- A blog or wiki to share ideas, frustations, and successes
- Tech help when using the mobile labs
- Tech planning days
Then there was one section that described the type of learners as a new technology is introduced in the school environment. I immediately labeled myself an innovator not because I consider myself a technology genius, but I love trying stuff out in the classroom. Overtime I have gotten use to the failures so it doesn't scare me to try again.
I kept reading until I got to the part where they label the innovators as loners. It's true! I wish there was someone in my building that would help me grow as a professional, but there isn't. If I admit something doesn't work for me, others take it as a sign that it won't work for them. I feel bad when I don't have an immediate answer to others' tech issues because I am afraid they will give up. Maybe there are innovators in the building, they just are not easy to see?
Before I took the technology position, I was a Reading/Language Arts teacher. Back then I was important in the building. My opinion mattered when it came to instruction and data. When my students made strides people cared and wanted to know what I did to try to replicate it. I was on many committees and in the thick of it, but all of that disappeared. I don't understand why?
Technology is the present and the future. I keep waiting to see my students apply their skills in other classes, but there are no opportunities for them.
I want to scream from the stage in the cafeteria: It matters! My class matters! Look what these kids are capable of! Even the ones you throw out of class because they won't work! All of this matters!
In the past three years I have been attending the National Middle School Association conference and found lots of information. I declared I wasn't attending this year because the issues in middle school haven't changed and last year there were so few sessions about technology. Plus when I got back to my school, there were so few opportunities to share what I had learn. This year I wanted to attend a conference where I could share in learning with educators like myself. While my school colleagues are keeping track of the countdown until the end of the school year, I follow my NECC countdown on my 2008 DEN calendar.
Then the second amazing event, I was invited to the DEN National Institute. I applied last year and was completely bummed when I wasn't accepted. This year I applied day one, but was determined not to get my hopes up. On April 18th, I received the email that I was accepted and have been on cloud nine ever since. By the way, if you haven't become a Star educator yet, what are you waiting for?
It was incredible that I would have two amazing summer experiences, but was I ready. I felt like a kid again with the birthday party invitation and not knowing what to where or what to bring. So I set out on a mission, I was coming to both parties prepared.
- I set up a gmail account for all tech stuff (my personal and school accounts are already bogged down)
- I would join Twitter (had been meaning to try it out anyways)
- I would develop my personal blog to track my progress and allow myself to reflect on my learning.