2009 is my hope for 2010

Of course this time is a great time to be reflective and figure out if 2009 was a good year or the one that I will slip away quietly. There were many events that I found about 2009 to be personally rewarded.

Feeling closer to my network: This was the latest addition, but one I felt should top the list. I am truly blessed to have a wonderful network of people that I can learn from everyday.

Article about Grants: The unexpected surprise of someone outside of my school and PLN finding out about my plans to bring new technology to the school. The best part was that students were the focus of the reporter and photographer. They were the whole reason for all of that work.

Finishing Grad School: The other day I realized that I earned three degrees in one decade. I can't say that I found all of the answers in formal education, but it did give me a great foundation to be a reflective educator.

Becoming the Tech Liaison: This has been a great lesson in leadership and learning about the needs of my school.

ISTE 2010 Acceptance Email: This was an amazing surprise since I never expected to have my first proposal accepted. What was even better was that PLN bud Ken Shelton brought up the idea of working on a proposal during a rough tech moment at my school and helped me through the whole process. The icing on the cake is having an amazing panel to converse with during ISTE '10.

The Last NECC Conference: It was local this time which made it a different experience than San Antonio. I had the best of both worlds by spending more time with those I rarely get to see in my district and from across the country.

The Last MICCA Conference: At the time I didn't know this would be the last one due to the name change to MSET. It was a perfect ending because it was my best experience at MICCA. Of course it was the people that made it a cloud nine experience. I am so grateful to have a local sect of my PLN that give me the courage to push my own limits.

Powering Up with Technology: While I can't say this has been highlight in my presenting experience, there were some definite highlights! Spending a day with my favorite techies, supporting a new presenter, and seeing Aaron Smith, the Art Guy, win a netbook only to rid it of Windows XP was worth it.

DEN Leadership Council: This is still a work in progress, but a great lesson on being a member of a group.

The best part about all of these events is that they make me excited for 2010. I like the idea of a fresh start and new adventures. While I spent days trying to find an inspiring ending to this post and 2009, I think I will borrow the words from my High School/Facebook friend Scott:

My resolution for 2010 is to let no day this year go wasted. I hope all the people close to me find a little bit of happiness in every day of the year and on some days a lot.


Time for some Winter Activities

I figured that since I am trapped in about two feet of snow that it is time to share some winter activities I have used in my classroom. Enjoy!


Do you have a Tech Anthem?

The other day I decided to not use one of playlists and let the destiny of ipod's shuffle feature entertain me. My music tastes vary across different genres and different decades so you never know what could be next. I absolutely love music, maybe even more than technology, to lift my spirits or support a lousy mood. I love the power of feeling a connection to the beat and the lyrics. I came a across a song the other day that I thought could be my tech anthem.

It was Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked. If you have never heard before I included a beautiful version of it by Idina Menzel who played the Wicked Witch of the West.

So why have a Tech Anthem? It might help on those where you seem to be hitting every tech road block. Play your anthem to remind you that those blocks are temporary and it is worth it to keep trying. If this song doesn't connect with you, here are some other suggestions from my Twitter Pals.

@kjarrett My answer: Don't Stop Believing by Journey!
@jeffmason When You Wish Upon a Star. (Jiminy Cricket) or Everything is Broken (Bob Dylan) Depends on the day. : )
@tlboton Now Generation by Black Eyed Peas


Am I normal?

If last week was any indication, the answer is a resounding no! My favorite time this past school week was when I had an opportunity to meet with other district techies to discuss the possibilities of the Livescribe pen in schools. I love brainstorming and being around people that are thinking ahead rather than backwards or worse those that complain about the present. It refreshed my spirit to think that technology is still moving forward while I spend my days reviewing the functions of Study Island or resetting accounts.

Then the end of the week marked the Powering Up with Technology conference in my district. Another opportunity to be around people that "get it." Not just the experts, but even the newbies inspire me because they see the value of technology in education and they are willing to give up their time and money to pursue knowledge.

I gave up a night of potential fun Friday so I could be at my best for this conference. I don't expect the people that went out that night to "get it." One of them even was even rude about after the fact. That is okay because I had a great time Saturday and that is a hundred times better than a night that most of them are not going to remember in the morning.

So if you are normal too, embrace it! Normal is boring and won't change the current state of education. I will continue to enjoy my differences and try to surround myself with people that see the big picture whenever possible. MSET and ISTE are too far away! :-(


Yes I Make It Personal! Why don't you?

Well, it is only October and I took my first mental health day. Up until this week I was really enjoying the year. On second thought, I should clarify that statement by saying I have enjoyed being in my classroom and that hasn't changed. In fact I hated missing time with my students today, but I couldn't bear to walk into the building for another day. There needed to be time for me to get some space, perspective, and let my wounds heal.

There have been plenty of events this year that should have drove me to this point. One is not having planning time for almost three weeks in an effort to introduce a new program to 1,100 students. Then air conditioning in the computer lab went out about three weeks ago without any relief in sight. For those who work in a lab, you understand the amount of heat can generate from 30+ computers running for 7 hours. Since I became the Tech Liaison for the building, there is not a time I leave the lab without at least three staff members asking for help. Then there are the little things like the district messing up on student accounts which made it where many students could not log into a computer for weeks. All of that was annoying, but no way drove me to this point.

It was my principal saying that I take things too personal. See the new program is online study program that I wasn't an advocate for, but have spent countless hours making the roll out as smooth as possible. As predicted, the teachers aren't using it with their students and administration isn't holding them accountable. Instead they have built excuses for teachers who do know how to teach and act like prima donnas. Of course I expressed my frustration and got accused of making it personal. To me it is not making it personal, it is having high expectations for my school and getting disappointed. This disappointment is a repeating pattern which is a shame on too many levels.

I can even live with "taking it too personal." What I am having a hard time understanding is how others in the field of education aren't taking it personally enough. We are dealing with young adults and when they fail, we should take responsibility. Instead of worrying about grading policies and figuring out ways to fail a student, worry about how to make that student succeed.


The Maryland Leadership Council is Official!

I am happy to announce that Maryland has a leadership council within the Discovery Educator Network! This is great news because now there will be local events for educators to connect and learn.

There is also a blog to keep you updated of all events and technology tips to help you along the way. Just log into discoveryeducation.com, go to the DEN, blogs is at the top, and Maryland is in the list. We have lots of great bloggers on the team including Aaron Smith aka The Art Guy. If you use Twitter, follow the MD_DEN and you will get blog updates.

While our big kick-off is not just yet, we our having our first event. Staples is having their Teacher Appreciation day in Maryland stores on Saturday, August 15th from 9 a.m.-noon. Staples is giving bags of goodies and discounts on products just for teachers. A few of members of the LC will be at stores greeting teachers, giving out freebies, and raffling off a prize. The Tech Tiger will be at the Bowie Staples and would love to see members of my PLN in person. Here is more information on the event.


A List to Keep My Sanity

Since the end of July I have gotten excited for the new school and put in the hours to make sure my students have a new experience when they come to the computer lab. In the past week or so that excitement has faded and I quickly realized why: I was dealing with the adults of the school building. In an effort to not have this drag me down I decided that I needed create a list to remind me of all the traps that can drag the energy out of an educator.

1. AVOID THE DRAMA! If it has no effect on myself or my students the information can go in one ear and out the other. If this requires me to spend more time in my classroom, I don't mind.

2. CONTROL VOLUNTEERING! I have a really bad habit of raising my hand to quickly, especially when no one else is raising theirs. I am not going to avoid all activities that could benefit the school, but it is okay to let others pick up the slack.

3. JUST SAY NO! This goes along well with number two. I actually practiced this one today and it wasn't so bad. The world didn't fall apart and I wasn't filled guilt. It is one of those sayings that I always say that I am going to do, but never do. I think this is the year.

4. FOCUS MY ENERGY ON WORTHWHILE CAUSES! You can only bang your head against the same wall before you realize that wall is not going anywhere. There are some projects I am really interested that I can make work and that is where my energy is going to. Those that really want help with technology know where they can find me.

5. SEE THE BIG PICTURE! It is so easy for me to dwell on little moments of the day and not appreciate the whole view.

6. CONTINUE TO GROW! At this point I am not sure if I can find opportunities at the school that will help me grow as an educator (sad, but true). I need to continue to find opportunities at conferences and within my PLN to make this goal possible.

7. FIND BALANCE! Just like so many talented and dedicated educators I will admit I work too many hours. I had be bugging teachers that went to school early to set-up their classroom, but I bet spent more time on my laptop organizing activities, searching for grants, and reading articles. I will work on finding activities that have nothing to do with teaching and force myself to close the laptop more often.

I would love to hear your tips on how to maintain sanity during the school year.


Facebook: A New Adventure!

While I enjoy the social aspect of Web 2.0, there was a long period where I avoided the popular Facebook. Besides my desire to disconnect every once in a while, I really didn't see the value of it. As most Facebook stories go, an old and true friend encouraged me to join so we could stay connected. Over the past months I have reconnected with old school friends, added members of my PLN, got updates from relatives I never see,and have expanded to work colleagues that I actually like. Then it happened...a few students made friend requests. I had no idea what to do so I let them stay in the request list while I turned to my PLN for their opinions.

On the Twitter end it was a 50/50 split. There were strong advocates against the idea and some that were brave enough to admit that they had student FB friends. On the Plurk side there were many more who were FB friends with students, but with conditions. Many would only become friends with former students and only if they had graduated from high school. So even though the majority did not seem to be in favor of friending high school students, I decided to take the risk and try it out. It helped to know I could put all the students in a list and limit what they see. Not that I was too worried about me since I try to be careful about what I post, but I did not want them to have access to my friends and what they decide to post.

Now for the bigger risk: I have decided to see if Facebook can be a valuable extension of the classroom. One of my dreams is to have students continue to share their creations after the quarter class is over. So I set up a private FB group for students to discuss and share. This is just a part of a plan to make my class more connected with a new Twitter account and Google Voice Number.

There are a lot of precautions to take, but I think this has great potential. It is the risk taking that makes a new school year exciting. Whether it becomes a success or a failure, the results will be right here.


Time for Something New

I decided that since I am past the one year mark with my blog that I should mix it up a bit by sharing resources. I have been working on Luau 2.0 which was the purpose of the WAT grant I won at the beginning of summer. Here are a couple of Web 2.0 guides I created to use at that event. Copy, edit, and most of all SHARE!


A Letter to my Administrator

Dear ______,

I hope your summer is going well and that you had some down time to refresh for the upcoming school year. As you plan for the year I want you to consider more changes than new room assignments or a new schedule. I was reading this blog post and it inspired me to write this letter to you. For years I have approached your office with various ideas on how to infuse technology into the school. While you have been receptive, you have not been supportive. It doesn't matter if you have tech-savvy people that are willing to help in professionaldevelopment if you don't make technology a priority in the building. Let's make this year different and start off with some achievable technology goals for the year:

1. Let's Utilize Google Apps! We are lucky that the district chose Google Apps because there are all of these great tools under one account. We can start small with just everyone depending on Gmail to get all school information and help teachers to use the features of Gmail. You will have to take a stand and not put paper copies in the boxes of those that don't check their email. By the end of the year it would be great to be using Google Docs for lesson plans and Google Calendar for all school events. For this progression to take place by the staff, behavior will need to be modeled by the administration.

2. Everyone needs to be held accountable when it comes to accurate attendance and grades. I understand that last year was confusing with a new SIS system, but the learning period is over. There needs to be consequences for teachers not keeping accurate records.

3. Students need access! I have to admit teachers are better at using technology than they were four years ago, but student access is a problem. Most classroom desktops are not used except as a reward or babysitter for students who finish their work early. Let's work together to empower teachers with ways they can utilize those computers with their students to enhance the lesson.

4. Why not utilize the students' electronics to our advantage? You would have to agree that trying to keep the ipods, cell phones, and game systems out of school is a losing battle. So many of these "toys" can be turned into learning tools. Podcasts can work on any mp3 player and we should be recommending apps for all of the students with the ipod Touch. Cell phones could be used to text answers in class and we could be sending out information in the same manner. Talk with Ms. _____ and Ms. ______on what happened when they used Nintendo DS in the co-taught Math class. When students are engaged amazing things can happen!

Change cannot happen without you! I have learned this lesson too many times over the past few years. Teachers need to know that technology is no longer an option.

Thank-you for all that you do and for being brave enough to move forward. I look forward to working with you on this new effort.


Ms. Ward
aka The Tech Tiger


NECC Final Thoughts

I know this is a little late, but there are some reasons behind it. One, I needed time to clear my head after NECC. It was such a whirlwind that I felt like I had a NECC hangover where I knew I had a great time though the details were a little fuzzy. Two, I didn't feel like I had anything to say that wasn't already said better by other bloggers. Over the past days I have read some amazing reflections on the power of a PLN to experiences in the exhibit hall. Third, I couldn't quite put my finger on that one culminating idea that I took away from the conference. Then in the middle of a crowded Panera planning a technology PD day it hit me. NECC 2009 for me was all about the teacher.

NECC 2008 was my first time at the big show and everything I was exposed to was the possibilities of what students could do with access and the right tool. That conference along with the DEN National Institute was my driving force for the entire school year. I was absolutely amazed at the power of Web 2.o and how it gave my students a voice that most of us don't see in textbook assignments, homework, and tests. There was a new excitement in the computer lab and students wanted to produce the best work possible. For me it was a lot of work to keep up with them and to provide the tools they needed to fulfill their visions. It was a rough, but satisfying year as a teacher.

NECC 2009 seemed to be built on this idea that teachers need to take steps to reform, refine, and renew. Starting off with Gladwell's keynote address centered around Fleetwood Mac taking 16 albums to develop a sound and a band that was a success. The debate ending in the idea that students need a place to come together to learn, but that the current brick & mortar schools are going to have to change to meet students' needs. This push for teachers to develop a PLN to really learn from others and stretch their own possibilities. While Web 2.0 was still a big topic, the focus shifted to what types of materials could teachers create with the same tools. Other sessions showed the need to develop projects that were more challenging and that could be on a larger scale through collaboration with other classrooms, schools, or countries. Those teachers that couldn't find what they needed in the sessions took the time to find others to discuss their dilemmas and build solutions.

As I sat in that Panera cafe with my colleague planning out the day's activities, I realized how much NECC 2009 had an influence on me. Instead of jamming in as many tools as possible, the focus is about teachers having the time to play and build. I was able to step away from my methods of learning and really reflect on what my building needs to grow. My hope is that this PD opportunity will be a day that will lead teachers on a path to want to learn more. I am already at work to build a support system to where the teachers will not fill overwhelmed and give up. With any luck, this will bring about as much change to the teachers in this coming year as it did for students last year. Of course you will know the results right here.

Lastly, I wanted to say THANKS to those that made my NECC experience worthwhile. To my growing PLN, thanks for all of the ideas and getting me through the school year where sometimes it seems lonely when there is no one to collaborate with on technology use in the classroom. Thanks to Bernie Dodge for developing the place puzzle concept, my AHA moment of the conference. I will definitely be working on building one soon! Thanks to my district, there are some great people working behind the scenes that provide the access and freedom needed for teachers to grow. Thanks to those who developed Tweetdeck, because it allowed me to get a bigger view of the entire conference no matter where I was located. Final thanks goes to Twitter for not crashing like it did during NECC '08.


NECC Surprises

Well I have been so busy contributing to a district blog about my NECC experience that I have neglected my own blog. While I started the whole conference kind of sluggish, now I am in full speed mode. If I had to summarize my first full day in one word it would be: surprises. There were so many small events yesterday that surprised me that I felt that should be the post topic.

One of the biggest surprises of the day was the concepts, terms, and sites that no one had heard of before. Here are some of them:


I was personally surprised that there were no WOW moments for me in yesterday's sessions. So of course I went into reflection mode. It couldn't possibly be because I am so advanced that there is nothing more to learn. Maybe I was in a fog when working on my planner or didn't see the potential of some session (the library 2.0 smackdown was one of them). What I should have realized earlier in the day was learning doesn't just take place in the sessions.

Probably the biggest surprise of all were the people at the conference. I had the best time having discussions with those I had know and those that I had never met. It was a little disappointing that some of those close to me seemed so distant, but that was quickly overshadowed at the Tweet-Up, brief stay at the MICCA party, and a late dinner with those that were willing to adopt me into their group.

I have a feeling that there will be more surprises as the convention continues. There is some surprise that I was brave enough to plant myself in the Blogger's Cafe for the second keynote.

If you are looking for links, I decided to be organized (another surpise) and tag all of my links in Delicious with necc2009.


Go Ahead, Toot your own Horn!

It is kinda of weird, the more I achieve the less I like to talk about it. When I started teaching and my class did well on a quiz I would shout it from the rooftops, now I rarely share anything in real life. Maybe that is me being a little more mature, or me being a product of my environment. At my school the idea is that if no one gets credit then no one feels left out. Well that is how I see it, but my administration puts it in a way that sounds better. So when I got a phone call from a local newspaper wanting to interview me about getting technology grants for my classroom and the school I was less than thrilled.

The whole process was pure agony. From scheduling the actual interview to my district wanting to censor what I say to the reporter interviewing my eighth grade students. My stomach was in knots for days and was relieved beyond words when it was over.

Then the article came out. It wasn't bad. It was kinda of nice to see my class in the paper since most don't even know what happens in the computer lab. Then I realize that as teachers we should toot our own horn more often.

Even now many are glad to give up a part of their summer break to learn at NECC. We are willing to give up more time to anyone who shows an interest in technology. We are giving up own person time to write grants, set up a wiki, or research resources for others. We are reaching out to our social networks and our PLN because no one in our building "get it."

So take a minute and reflect on the all of the wonderful things you did this past school year. How many students and educators did you help? What were the best projects of the year? Now figure out a way to toot your own horn. Reward yourself with a new gadget, flowers, or even a wonderful ice cream sundae. You deserve it!


I <3 Grants!

Like most educators during this part of year there is a combination of the desire for the year to come to an end and reflection. This year I had to add an element to my end-of-the-year routine and that was finishing grant requirements. Even this post is me avoiding the four more lessons that I have to finish for my grant that got me a set of clickers. I was proud that I sent in my invoices and wrote my article for my MICCA grant that funded video cameras for my 8th graders to tryout the AFI curriculum. I am extremely grateful that the Best Buy grant has no additional required elements. 

While I realize that grants are a lot of work, I also realized that I love grants! Of course free money is a plus when a new era of spending freezes and budget cuts, but that is not the main reason why I love grants so much. Everytime I applied for a  new grant this year it caused to me evaluate the needs of my classroom and the school. The grant writing process forced me to develop innovative projects that would stand out in piles of other application. Most of all winning the grant has forced me to work on the project. I'll admit that I am one of those that come up with a million ideas, but only really work on a few. I learned so much by having to do my ideas and to make them work.

Well I couldn't stop with the end of the school year. Right now I am waiting out the last two days of voting on the We Are Teachers Summer Learning Microgrant. This has been a totally different experience because I had to enlist help from my PLN, students, colleagues, and anyone I could think of to get enough votes to stay in the top 10. The compeitive side of me wants to win just because, but more importantly I look forward to doing this project. I still have hope for my staff entering the 21st century and I keeping trying new things to bring them on board. If you get a chance check out the site please do so. Even if you vote for another project, you are supporting a great idea by a lot of great teachers.


My Blogiversary!

I figured this was an event worth celebrating. One main reason is that I stuck to blogging for an entire year even though some busy months had one entry. So much has happened technology-wise to me in the past year that I can't hardly believe. I thought I would run through the highlights:

1. I went from not knowing what Web 2.0 was to giving presentations on it.
2. I became a presenter: scary and amazing at the same time.
3. I became social with Twitter, Plurk, Ning, and Facebook. Great for me, but not so good for my schedule. I really don't know where I would be without my PLN!
4. I became a Google Certified Teacher. The title is great, but I love the connections to great educators and I learn to love Google tools.
5. I became a  grant winner times three: Turning Technologies, MICCA, and Best Buy. It can be a lot of work, but the payoff is so worth it.

There are some exciting things on the horizon, along with new challenges. I look forward to it all and another year of blogging. Lastly, thanks goes out to anyone who has read or added comments to my blog. 


Why do I put myself through this?

This is the question that I have been asking myself for the past few weeks. I gave up part of my Spring Break for this. Many hours of sleep were lost over this, as well as, personal leave days. It would have been easy to skip it, but I would have never gotten the answer to my question. I would have missed more than just an answer, I would have missed a valuable experience. The "this" is the 2009 MICCA conference in Baltimore.

The experience started too early in the morning and I was a nervous wreck. I was grateful to meet up with The Art Guy (Aaron Smith) to calm my nerves until my Google presentation started. Just a simple conversation allowed me focus and let go of some of my nerves.

Shocked is not a strong enough word to express how I felt when my Google presentation didn't have a empty seat. Some were willing to seat on the floor, stand in the back, and some even stood in the hallway. It was odd to be the expert of the moment, to have a silent room, and applause at the end. The weirdest of it all is to have people surround me with questions and comments after the session which for person that has been an conference attendee for many years the final sign that is was a successful session. The cherry on top was being offered a paid presentation opportunity. More details on that when it happens.

The rest of the conference went well, including my Web 2.0 presentation. It was great to catch up with so many that I haven't seen in awhile and to make new connections. When I wasn't presenting I got to see some great presentations and have conversations on how my district should be moving forward in technology.

I actually started this post during MICCA which is now weeks ago, so you might be wondering why it took so long to go live. The reason is that I wanted to detail the after effect. 

I went directly back to school the day after the conference and it was a disaster. State online Science testing had begun so I had to build a make-shift computer lab in a small portion of the media center. Instead of conservations about moving forward, I had to hear conservations that have been replayed for the past four years. It was depressing to say the least and now my title question was applied to my everyday profession: Why do I put myself through this?

After getting over the shock I realized the answer was simple: Change. I know that I can't expect things to move forward if I am not willing to help. And so I will keep challenging myself and giving myself more work than required in the hope for change in schools. Kudos to all of those fighting the same fight and I hope to see you at at the next conference or tech event. You are my inspiration.


When one Yes isn't enough

It worked! It worked quickly! It really put me in a state of shock. So what is the "it"? A couple of posts back I mentioned this session by Jason Levy that I saw on Ustream about how to change the Principal's "no" to a "yes" when it comes to technology and I finally put his ideas to the test. My thought was to start with a small idea just to see if it would work. The idea was to create a Twitter account for the school so administration could push out alerts, links, info, etc. My old strategy would have been to pop in my Principal's office (she has a great open door policy) and spout out my idea in a couple of minutes. In retrospect, this was a stupid strategy for a number of reasons and was the main reasons why so many ideas died. This time I would bite my impulsive tongue and develop a plan to get the "Yes" I was looking for.

To get the right answer, I had to make sure of a couple of things:
  1. I had to make sure my Principal understood the concept of Twitter. 
  2. I had to make sure she understood the educational value of Twitter. While I have been on it for awhile and understand this concept, this step was harder than I thought. Especially when you are battling the media and how they are portraying Twitter as a tool to say what is going in your personal like to a bunch of nobodies.
  3. I needed to make this process as easy as possible on administration. That meant researching possible account names, how would they have access, and how all parents would have access to the information even if they aren't on Twitter.
  4. All of this information needed to be in a format that was easy to follow.
Google Docs and the Common Craft Video series helped me a lot in this project! Even after I was done with the presentation, I resisted sending it off to administration and sent it to a tech-savvy colleague for feedback. This is a big step for me, but I as I have gotten older I understand the importance of peer editing/revision.  Not much to change, which was good but I still didn't share it with the administration. 

Why you ask? I wanted to wait until a Sunday to send. I know that on Sunday my Principal is less stressed, but is still connected to her email account. So I sent it and figured I might not hear back for a couple of days. I got an answer back in MINUTES! She was excited! She took the idea further by asking if this tool could be used with the staff.  It was amazing like a magic trick! 

I can't wait to use this method again! It is a method that really allows me to lead from below when it comes to technology. The whole experience made me appreciate what administrators deal with on a regular basis and the million decisions they have to make every school year.

Is there a downside? Unfortunately yes. When my prinicpal said yes, she also asked it was approved by the district. Twitter is not blocked, so I didn't think it would be an issue. I figured I would use my tech connections to get a quick okay, but it would not be quick. Turns out we are the first school in the district to make the request and that is a problem. A month later it is making it up the ladder to the superintendent for approval. No wonder schools are decades behind. I guess we all have to break down the barriers one "yes" at a time.


Becoming a 7th grader again

In my school, I teach technology integration to 6th,7th, and 8th graders. I lovingly call my seventh graders, "the pod students." See in sixth grade the kids are sweet, eager to learn, and down right scared about the middle school experience. Eighth graders are more mellow, some taller than me, and are looked up to as the cool kids of the building. Then there are the seventh graders with their constant mood swings, their intellect, and their stupidity. Follow one and you may see laughing, crying, fighting, and laughing again within an hour. Most of the time they don't know why they make the decisions they do and they lack long-term focus. Of course this is my own observations and has little to do with solid research.

So, you may wonder what is the point of all of this?

I feel like I am leading the life of a seventh grader these day when it comes to my career. There are these incredible lows where nothing seems to be going right and then the incredible highs where everything seems to be falling into place. The highs of last week were great with winning the Best Buy grant and getting all of my proposals accepted for the MICCA conference. I wasn't as happy as I thought I would be when my principal gave me kudos about the grant at the faculty meeting. At one point I was looking onward to another job, but am the happiest when I am teaching in my room. For awhile I decided not to push technology anymore in my school and now I am working on two projects. It seems like utter chaos right now which probably means I am growing up a little bit.

I don't know where this is headed, but my hope is that I will morph into a cool tech leader.


When One Quarter isn't Enough

As the computer teacher in my school I am part of the Creative Arts team. It is a great group of talented teachers who put up with not getting the same respect as the academic teams (I know this to be true since I was once on the other side). Some of my team gets to see their students all year long like Band or Chorus, but I am part of "the rotation." Every quarter I get a new set of students which is great and terrible all at the same time. Lately it has been more terrible than great...

1. There is not enough time! Since my team is on an A day/B day schedule, I only see each class 20 times. For those in the Web 2.0 universe, you understand my dilemma in deciding what projects to do in that short of time.

2. I never know what the students can do. I know students are capable of anything, but what the students come to me is extremely important for me to plan. I realized this last week when I had planned a project for the sixth grade and many had breakdowns. This actually required me to stop the lesson mid-class and move to another activity this group could handle.

3. Think about the beginning of the school year... What do you have to do to prepare students for learning in your classroom? Now take that experience and multiply it by four. As much as I try to streamline this new period every quarter I still have to take time to get the students on the right track. Just as I get them really ready to create...POOF!... they are on to Art class.

So now that I complained, what is the solution? If I plea for semester classes or even an elective full year course, less students will be able to take my class. I see less than 50% percent of the school now and that makes me sad because students get so little access to technology in other classes. I can't really look to the other instructors who teach this course because they follow the curriculum and don't have this same problem. Maybe the solution is simple, maybe I need to realize that can't do it all in 20 days. Maybe I don't need to think smaller, but bigger!

As I was writing this post, I saw my Plurk tab at the top of the screen. For many of us it has been a way to keep the learning going after f2f meetings, conferences, institutes, etc. I tried Edmodo.com with students last quarter, but it didn't catch on. I wonder if there is a way for me to build an online community for students to keep trying new technology even when the quarter ends? Could Ning be my solution? What do you think? What are you doing at your school to encourage the use of technology? I am making a plea to Eduverse for help so I can start building a solution. I can't think of a better group to ask.


Time to take some blame and FOCUS!

Besides spending the weekend on the laptop to Plurk and complete some work, I took advantage of EduCon2.1 streaming their sessions. Being able to see a part of so many sessions reminded of the advances of technology and the hard work of some (Chris Lehmann) to share the knowledge. As with any conference, I head into reflection on my own practices. This is what I have come up with so far:

1. I haven't been the technology advocate in my school that I once was. I know the reasons behind this, but they are just excuses. My first step in the right direction is to attend the school improvement team meetings again.

2. Maybe it is my fault that my principal is not as supportive as I would like. Jason Levy had a great session on the various reasons principals say "no" and what teachers can do to eliminate those reasons. What I realize based what I know about my principal, I shouldn't go share a new idea or project without a well developed plan.

3. Professional development! I am not a bad trainer, but all of my efforts to provide PD at my school this year has not went so well. The staff just isn't interested for a wide variety of reasons that are typical in a public school. I put the blame on administration for not supporting a tech movement in the school, but maybe I haven't been creative enough in my approach. Plans have already begun for PD site where teachers could learn in their own time, but this site gives me a new outlook on the project. David Bill not only has a great PD plan, but a realistic view on teachers adapting technology.

I think that the best part of this conference gave me the chance to focus on the ideas since I was viewing by myself and not part of the crowds. I am looking forward to my new personal, focused movement. 

On a separate step in my tech journey, I got an email from the district's technology training team asking if I would conduct an intro to DE Streaming. I am excited about the opportunity and I am going to focus on a stellar workshop rather than wondering about a future career move.


What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

I love Shakespeare because his writing has stood the test of time and there is always a quote that can relate to your life right at this moment. This particular quote has been roaming around my head since Friday since I had a sit down discussion with my principal. I guess I better start from the beginning.

This year our district started a new student system that integrated attendance, student information, and teacher grade books. It has been an interesting process in getting all of the teachers to use it correctly and on a regular basis. After the monthly Principal's meeting, there was a new report with a list of teachers that didn't use weighted averages in their grade book. My principal wanted this corrected right away so she put the IT guy and myself on the job. Of course it was handled in a couple hours, but it brought up the same raw feelings I have had for two years. While I handle a lot of tech issues and conduct in-service trainings, I am not the Tech Liaison for the building. The person that is essentially does nothing, but has the title and extra pay. So after the mini emergency was under control, I decided to finally ask, "Why not me?"

My principal was very gracious by admitting that she did depend on me more, but did give the position to another person. She said it was unfair and promised to correct the situation in the next school year. It made me feel better at the moment, because I had this resentment built up for so long. Now I just feel embarassed.

I got too wrapped up in having the stupid title. In every way that it matters I am the technology leader in the school. There are always email or phone requests and teachers will always stop me in the hallways for tech advise. All of the administrators depend on me to help them with their tech issues. I run the school's website and am the one to coordinate new technology initiatives. Why was this name so important? As many of us witness a title does not make a leader. I think that while I have evolved as a teacher, this moment was a step backwards.


7 things about Me

Ever since Winter Break there has been an adult game of Tag happening in my PLN. In this game if you were tagged by another blogger than you had to create a post describing seven things your PLN didn't know about you. This has become a big game and there is even a wiki so everyone can read each other's posts. So now it is my turn thanks to Valaina Maher aka "butrflygirl" on Plurk. I hope mine isn't boring compared to all of the interesting posts so far. So without further a due *drum roll* my Seven things:

  1. A bomb exploded right outside my window when I was a kid. I was living in Frankfurt, Germany in the early 80s (army brat) and there was a certain sect of the population that didn't like military bases in their country. One radical planted a bomb under a car in front of the building I was living in and it went off in the middle of the night. I remember the glass everywhere, the chill of the night as my family evacuated, and my dad having camera fright when we were interviewed by CNN.
  2. I didn't "really" use computers until I was in college. Of course of all of my schools had computers when I was growing up, but it was always used to play games like Math Blaster and Carmen Sandiego. I got interested in using the Internet and WWW from a guy talking about it in English 101. I went to the library to practice on the computers there and I have been hooked ever since.
  3. My teaching path has been a weird one. I graduated from college with a teaching certificate in secondary Social Studies, but my first job was teaching a self-contained fifth grade class. Then it was on to third grade, fifth grade in another school, 6th grade Language Arts, 7th grade Social Studies, and finally Technology Integration. Who knows what the next stone in the path will be?
  4. I am the left-handed child of two right-handed parents. This made learning the basics like tying my shoe and learning to write really difficult.
  5. I collect shot glasses even though I don't drink. I started buying them on various trips because I liked that they were small, inexpensive, and there was always a wide variety of designs.
  6. I think I am addicted to being a student. I always liked learning which probably one of the reasons why I became a teacher. In May I will be finished with my second Master's degree and even though I said I am going to take a break you never know if I will be enrolled in something by the fall semester.
  7. I don't like hot drinks. Can you tell I am running out of things to tell? I love the smell of coffee and tea, but don't like the taste. I can sometimes handle cider or cocoa if it has cooled down quite a bit. I always wondered why this is the case and have on occasion tried hot beverages to see if I was ready to change my mind. Hasn't happened yet.
Well that is it! Here are those I am tagging:


Birds of a Feather...

There is nothing like being in a group of tech-savvy educators. The excitement of sharing ideas and working through challenges is better high than any drug (not that I have experience in that area). I have had the honor of meeting so many innovative educators through the Discovery Network, Google Certified Educators Group, and Plurk and have learned so much in such a short period of time. Today was an opportunity to work with the top dogs in my district and I am still on a positive high.

It was a half day meeting, but I chose not to go my school for the other half. I didn't want to ruin my meeting experience with any nonsense from my school. I got there early to set up and chat with those I rarely get to see. My course supervisor took the time to make sure I was going to submit a proposal to the MICCA conference. She proceeded to say that she thought I was a good presenter and that I should be getting my name out there. I was like a kid with an A+ paper. I suppose everyone needs a good ego boost once in a while.

As a group we proceeded to continue to evaluate online conferencing tools and products the district already owns. Twiddla which is a great, free tool allows collaborative use of an online whiteboard, demonstration of any web page, and the sharing of documents. There were a couple of hiccups like this site allows access to filtered sites and everyone collaborating at one time is a big mess. Despite any flaws, I think this could be a great tool in the classroom. I will be trying it out to review the features of Animoto.

Then we went exploring the tool that district already owns. The district spent $250,000 on the Polycom system which utilizes the phone, Window NetMeeting, Mac Xmeeting, and actually Polycom equipment. It has hardly been used and they still don't know how to use completely. I even had to share a laptop because it doesn't work with Vista. Which make me wonder if this system is worth the effort because when it will be obsolete? Is it obsolete already?

It was a great experience and I look forward to the February meeting where we develop a district plan for online conferencing. In the meantime I work on change in my classroom, this blog, and my new photo blog 52 Chances. Oh and I almost forgot, those MICCA proposals I promised my supervisor.


No Resolutions, Only Goals

Ever since I was a kid I loved New Year's Eve, because I enjoyed looking back and the excitement of the future. The new year was a new adventure, a blank slate, and the unknown. What I never liked was resolutions, because it seemed like this stupid tradition where adults would make promises they never had any intention of keeping. When I would get back to school and my teacher had the resolutions assignment I would answer the same way: I will try to be a better person. That way it was something I could stick to.

Then there was a Plurk discussion whether it was better to have resolutions or goals. I like the idea of goals much better because they can be adjusted, the time frame varies depending on the goal, and more goals can be added as the year progresses. As I began to build new goals and continue some goals from the past I came across another great Plurk where the author shared the website Five Big Questions. It is a great video and a great starting point for goal building.

So here are my 2009 goals even though some are long term goals and goals that I will have for years to come:
  1. To keeping myself to be a better educator. I want to keep creating new projects and learning new tools to push the limits of my students. I never want to be bored or "comfortable" because then the students don't get my best.

  2. To build my PLN and be an active member. My PLN has given me so much that I want to give back more in the new year and keeping connecting with the most innovative educators in the country.

  3. A little less conversation, a little more action. It is easy to get wrapped up in the school's complaining group and I admit that I didn't fight the good fight as much this school year. I need to be that voice for technology integration throughout the school.

  4. As I enter my last semester of grad school and have to complete a capstone project, I want to build something that can be useful for my school.

  5. Find some balance. I have been dedicating myself to school, grad school, and family obligation. I hope to build in my time for fun and living life.

I better stop there or I might be overwhelmed! Here is to a great new year where anything is possible.