The Newbie Spirit

I haven't been around here for a while. Not because a lack of topics, ideas are floating in my head all the time. I could blame a lack of time, from the last post I still have all of those duties in my school. Actually my balancing act has been fairly good this year, lots of new lessons learned so far. For some time I just dropped my digital life due to the seriousness of real life. My mother has stage four colon cancer, this is so hard to even type. This has been so difficult, leading a semi-regular life has not been easy. This was not added to gain any sympathy, I am not the one who deserves it, but to show how this lesson was powerful enough to lead me back to blogging.

At the beginning of Winter Break, I dipped my toes back into the Social Networking waters. Of course I got a warm welcome back from my PLN. In one day, I got lots of resources that I still saved to Delicious despite the latest news and a chance to join an iPad tweetup. Lately I feel a sense of guilt of going to any social event, but I also know that I need those moments. I absolutely LOVE my iPad and was excited to meetup with a group of digital divas to discuss apps. While this event was informative, fun, and geeky, I realized something...... I might be a little bit of a tech snob.

One of the reasons I wanted to be a part of this event in the first place was the quality of the company. Donna Anderson (@digilibrarian21), Joquetta Johnson (@accordin2jo), Renee Henderson (@msreneescience), and Gwyneth Jones (@gwyenthjones) are all the amazing "advanced users" in the digital world. I knew we wouldn't waste time with all of the basics! That wasn't true as Gwyneth and Kathy just got their iPads for Christmas. It wasn't annoying going over the basics like taking screenshots, making folders, or enlarging iPhone apps. Why? Because of the true Newbie Spirit.

Being a Newbie isn't a bad term if you have the Newbie Spirit which would include:

  • Not being afraid of new technology

  • Not being afraid to admit that you only know a little about the topic

  • Being truly excited to learn something new

  • That positive attitude that says "Anything is Possible!"

As a trainer I need to remember the Newbie and build that spirit even when there is none. In the newbie spirit I will be heading over to Gwyneth's blog to learn about QR codes, something I know little about.

Keep a look out for another post on the Apps shared at our meetup.


Trying to be Wonder Woman

Wow, it has been a while. Not because there was nothing to write about, but the craziness that is the beginning of the school year. While there is a to-do list waiting for me right now, I decided to take a reflection break here.

I loved watching Wonder Woman on TV growing up. It was so cool how she could save the day with her lasso and wrist bands. It didn't matter how big the problem was or the evil doer, she could take them on without breaking a sweat. Plus it was cool to see a strong female superhero.

I realized something last week, I am trying a little to hard to be like Wonder Woman.

If you have read this blog in the past, you know I have a hard time saying "No" if it is something good for the students. So far these are my responsiblities for this school year:

  1. Teach 6 sections of Technology Integration each quarter for 4 quarters. My primary job.

  2. Meet with 6 TAG groups twice every month for "enrichment" activities. (My idea, but didn't think I would be running it)

  3. Run the School Store with student helpers. (my morning duty).

  4. My afternoon duty which switches from bus duty and hall duty.

  5. Every Thursday I am running a Tech Club (actually excited about that one).

  6. Organizing a school-wide Tech Fair/Showcase and GeoBee.

  7. Leadership team and School Improvement Plan team

  8. Tech Liaison

This list is dangerous. It doesn't even include the piles of little requests that hit my email inbox each week. This means my mind is in contast distracted mode. There is a possiblilty for an emotional breakdown. As my friend Ken Shelton posted on Facebook, work addiction is going to happen.

I am not a superhero. I can't save my school alone. Me doing more is not going to cover those doing nothing. If I was Wonder Woman, I would use my wristbands to get everyone in my building to remember why we teach: the kids.


I Have Some Hope

Dear Ms. -----,
I have a confession to make before this letter begins. My plan this year was to take a big step back. You wouldn't see my face at school-based managements meetings or hear my voice at faculty meetings. Like many teachers at my school, the plan was to close my classroom door and only worry about my classes. This plan was going to be good for me because it would be less stress. It might have been better for my students. They would have have my full attention rather than my divided attention between teaching, testing, and many other technology tasks/projects around the building.

To be honest, I didn't think this decision would be a big deal to anyone, but me. For years I have tried to be a technology leader in the building with little progress. I partly blamed you, because I don't think you completely trust your teacher leaders. I blamed many of the teachers for being stuck in their ways and you letting them live in their rut. I definitely blamed myself for not getting others to see the bigger picture, that technology does make a difference for students.

So what changed?

I got a gleamer of hope last week at a BBQ with fellow teachers from our building. It turns out that some of discussions we had after school made a difference. They didn't have anything to do with technology, but you did more than listen. You heard me! You actually heard me!

You must have been really busy this summer to make all of the changes we talked about a reality. We both know that not everyone will like the changes and you did them anyways. I knew you always had the right vision, but the obstacles got in the way.

So what now?

If change is in the air, I will be your biggest supporter. My promise is to be at every meeting ready to work that change. Just like the image, I will strap on my helmet and firecracker to get out there. Most of all I won't give up on you when our school is in a crisis.

If the change is a mere illusion, my door will be closed. I will keep fighting for the students to have more opportunities, but I can't fight all the fights. The losing is too hard.


Your Dedicated Teacher


My Last ISTE '10 Post

I probably could go on and on about ISTE '10, but I decided to do one final post on the topic. Mainly just to reflect on the goals I set for myself before I boarded the plane for Denver. So here I go.....

1. Going Public: I still have a real picture of myself on Twitter and I am still okay with it. There was a great discussion during Edubloggercon about transitioning online identities, but I decided to keep The Tech Tiger around. I just need to make sure that I keep progressing, evolving.

2. Be Brave: For the most part I think that I accomplished this goal. I was even joking for awhile that I was a "Bad after-school special," because I would strike up conversations with strangers. There were a couple times where I was a little too quiet or I let people make me feel out of place. Which brings me to a piece of advice for newbies and especially veterans to the conference: Venture out of your comfort zone every now and again. I was a little surprised that some who strongly promote PLNs hung out with the same people all day, every day.

3. Experience as much as I can!: Mission accomplished!
Of course I missed a lot, but I sure had a lot of fun!
I loved having a chance to create at The Constructivist Celebration.

Probably one of the best evenings was the adventure to Casa Bonita. It was fun being a kid with really cool people. There were so many cool life stories that developed from me being open for new experiences.

4. Not to plan every second of the day: this worked out really well. I saw some awesome sessions even though I didn't always get my first pick. I loved my "firsts" including my time in the Google booth and the GCT Birds-of-a Feather session. Most of all I loved that after a school year that seemed a little chaotic, I was in control of my ISTE experience.

Since being home many have asked, "How was it?" In one word, "Amazing!"

Now this chapter is closed I can concentrate on my other summer adventures: Google Geo Teacher Institute, Being a freelance web designer, and some time to share some ideas for the classroom.


Take the Time to Take a Second Look

In the days and now weeks after ISTE '10, many seem to be looking for the lesson they learned from the conference. For me it seems to not rush into a new tool, but look at possibilities of tools that are already available. My two examples are Cooliris and Edmodo.

Cooliris has been buried in my bookmarks for a long time. I thought it was cool, but never found a purpose for me. Then I saw it again at the conference and how it could be used in presentations. That caught my interest so I went into investigation mode and found it to be a really awesome tool. It is great to view a large amount of images on Flickr or Facebook. The search tool is fantastic and the extension even works in Chrome. I wonder if this will be my new Prezi? More time and some more practice with the tool will answer that question.

I was so excited by Edmodo, a kind of closed social network for education, that I jumped to use it in my classes. It was a FAILED experiement for many different reasons, most of them pointing in my direction. Then I saw the representatives in a small booth in the back of the enormous exhibit hall. BTW, I was very proud of myself because I spent very little time with the vendors. I have to say I was impressed by the improvements since the last time I gave it a try. It inspired me to to reflect on why it failed before to make the second time a success.

While some may take the time to smell the roses, I want to take the time to really look at various tech tools. Old and new.


Have you tried eduTecher? You should!

Since this is my first day home from ISTE '10 and I am in some fog or info coma, I thought I would start my reflection with some cool sites, ideas, and programs. This conference was so big for me as an educator, this whole reflection might take awhile.

While at ISTE, I met Adam Bellow on an excursion to the Casa Bonita (post on this experience will come later). Not only is Adam a really cool guy and someone to follow on Twitter, but he has developed this really helpful web site called eduTecher. So today being the first day I have been on my laptop in awhile, I decided to check it out for the first time (I lived on my iPad for the entire conference which may have to be another post). I have to say I am impressed!

Like many other educators, I have spent a lot of time on Go2Web20 to find the latest but there are a number of issues with this site. One, it takes too many clicks to get to the actual page. If you go back, you often lose the last spot in your Web 2.0 search. Two, many of sites have no real educational purpose so have to explore many duds to find a gem.

eduTecher makes the search process much easier. The user can search for tools by subject matter, grade level. or through a simple A to Z listing. Each tool has a nice summary and it is easy to identify an online tool from a download. I know this is simple feature, but the fact the links cause the tool to open into another window makes it easy for exploring. My next step will be downloading the new app. Now it is your turn to explore this web site built for teachers by a teacher.


This time will be different....

The time until I am in Denver for my third NECC/ISTE conference is fleeting and on my many to-do lists was to get some thoughts down before the main event. Besides the big conference name change, I am determined that this conference is going to different for me. I have a few goals and was thinking that recording them down will make me stick to it.

1. Going Public: The Tech Tiger was a title that made it safe to enter the unknown of social networking. For a long time it was a second, secret identity, but I am realizing how the two worlds are becoming one identity. Today marks the first time I have put a real pic of myself on Twitter and it felt good.

2. Be Brave: This goal branches in so many directions. I am going to miss a great DEN event to attend Edubloggercon. There will be courage when it comes to presenting at this level. I am DETERMINED not to be the "fly on the wall."

3. Experience as much as I can!: As I stated earlier on Twitter, this conference is becoming like a trip to Disneyland. While everything is excited, there is no way to experience it all. Just like my eight-year-old self with personalized Mickey ears strapped on my head, I going to try anyways.

4. To not plan every second of the day: While I do have some events on my Google Calendar, there are open pockets. In fact I have made a point to NOT mull over the online conference planner and not sign up for a lot of ticketed events. That way I feel free to take session suggestions and spend some time in the Blogger's Cafe and playgrounds.

Well that is about it, time will tell if I stick to my goals. If you read this and are heading Denver, I would love to meet you F2F. I will be presenting Monday at 12:30 p.m. with an amazing group of educators. Stop by the Google Booth Tuesday between 1-3 p.m. and say hi, (I'll try to hook you up). If not, be sure to catch me at the one of the social gatherings. May ISTE '10 be an amazing experience for all of us.


One girl's story

There is a seventh grade girl in my class. If you came by to visit, she probably wouldn't stand out. The moment she sits down, it is all about the work. From keyboarding to keeping her podcasting group focused, she is all business. She doesn't want to just complete the challenge, she wants to excel in it. Sounds like a dream student, doesn't it? This girl has a problem though.... she is about to fail the seventh grade.

When I first heard about this problem, I was in shock! How could this focused girl be so different in other classes? I had to know what was going on so I went to a direct source for information, the girl's mother. It turns out this girl has ADHD, but when she is interested in the topic she can have ultra-focus. The mother says she LOVES technology, which causes her to focus. It explains why when I call her name, she never hears me. That also explains why when she is forced to unplug, she loses that focus.

Why do I bring up this girl in a blog post about continuing funding for EETT, Enhancing Education Through Technology? EETT funded the computer lab that this girl thrives in every time. Additional EETT funds would provide the hardware necessary for this girl and the other 1,199 students to learn in a way that comes naturally to them. EETT funds professional development for teachers to address the needs of digital natives. How can we "Race to the Top" if we go backwards in technology?


My Conference Evolution

My first major conference experience occurred five years ago when my school had a grant that afforded me the opportunity to attend the NMSA ( National Middle School Association) conference in Philly. It was a jaw- dropping event for me as a new middle school educator and I wanted to make the most of it by attending all ten sessions. The vice principal that come along with us at the time made a comment at the time that I really didn't understand until this weekend. While I don't remember the exact phrasing, she said that I was "missing out" because I was attending so many sessions. All I thought was I was missing was the information from the other sessions and that our VP might be wasting school funds, but after attending the MSET (Maryland Society for Education Technology) conference these past two days I realized I was wrong.

In two days time, I presented in three sessions, was backup in one session, and attended one and I couldn't be happier. I could have dedicated myself to attend all sessions and be quiet while searching for new bits of information, but I think I wouldn't enjoyed myself as much. It was better to catch up with those I never get to see and engage in great conversations with complete strangers.

Normally I end a convention day heading home or a hotel room, but not this time. After a quick turn around there was the MSET tweetup and a night in the inner harbor. It was a great night filled with laughter and friends.

Saturday was a little unusual since this was the first time MSET/MICCA was on a Saturday. Attendance was low, but it made sessions more personal and attendees felt comfortable speaking up in sessions. That was probably the most relaxed I have ever been in a presentation, but I still gave my attendees my best. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for others that presented at the end of the day. This was another lesson I learned for the day: Always respect your audience whether there is two or a hundred. Don't just muddle through out of obligation. I know a little off topic, but had to be said.

So what is my advice about conferences?

It is all about balance.

Of course you should attend to learn and grow as an educator. The day I feel like I don't need to learn is not only the day I quit going to conferences, but I quit the profession. Please take time to be social.
  • Talk to a stranger
  • Add to your PLN
  • If there is an after hours meet-up, get your second wind and join in
  • Make your Professional Learning Network more Personal


The Power of Mentoring

As state testing comes to an end for now and Spring Break begins, it feels good to get back to my blog. Of course I have a ton of thoughts about state testing, but my ideas are shared by many other teachers so I will spare any readers from a soapbox post. The end of April marks the MSET conference which has highlighted a theme for me this year: there a great power in mentoring.

In the past few years I have lucky enough to have a great mentor and friend in my course supervisor, Barbara L. When we first met she immediately calmed me down as I was so nervous to start a new technology course. Over the years she has been my biggest cheerleader and has given me opportunities to add input on technology issues at the district level. From her I have learned numerous leadership lessons and she is there for me at all sorts of strange hours. Probably some of the most important lessons have been to take risks and "sin boldly."

What I just realized the other day is that now I have become a technology mentor for a couple teachers at my school. Of course for years I have been sharing links and lesson ideas, but this is something more. A colleague and I graduated with the same technology integration degree, but now I am supporting her as she is starting to present at conferences. I am so impressed with her as she has prepared for her first MSET presentation. Just like Barbara did for me, I am there for constant feedback and support. Another teacher who wanted to join the school's technology team just to learn more comes to me to help with developing projects that integrate technology and he is even giving Twitter a chance.

So here is my point. If you don't have a mentor, find one. That person can help you reach the next level.

If you can, be a mentor. It is a great feeling and you are helping create change.


Make Time to Play!

There is not one educator that is "really good at tech stuff" that doesn't have multiple jobs and titles in their school. If you are shaking your head right now then you know that these extra duties can really wear you down at times. I will admit that sometimes they are so overwhelming that it distracts me from the part of my job that I love the most: creating with students.

Yesterday I got a rare opportunity: time to play. I was at a workshop with The Art/Tech Guy and other techies during a school day learning a new piece of software for our labs, Frames 4. I got a chance to work with clay and it brought back great memories of Play-doh. I did love those little, yellow tubs and the smell when you took off the lids.

There was laughter, creativity, and learning: who could ask for more? So if you haven't had to play in awhile, I highly recommend it! It was life reminding why I LOVE my job!

In case you were wondering, here was my finished product. There is a million mistakes and for one of the few times in my life, I don't care!


How I want to be remembered...

There are a number of events lately that put me in a reflective mood. Of course no school due to thirty inches of snow with an additional ten more inches on top of that. On February 1st I found out that I was named my district's Outstanding Educator using Technology for 2010. Finally a message from a former student saying "You haven't been forgotten." It made me think, "How do I want to be remembered?"

How I don't want to be remembered:
1. By awards or grants that I won. While they are great, they are just quick snapshots in an entire career.
2. By what I call My Professional Learning Moments. Mistakes, I have made more than a few, on the journey to become a better teacher. I really hope those moments don't overshadow the good ones.
3. As that teacher that has used the same lessons for the past 5 or 10 years. While I don't think this one is ever going to happen, I never want to get too comfortable with my curriculum.

How I want to be remembered:
1. As a teacher that always put the students first. I know that this is my district's motto, but I am not sure how many educators take that motto to heart. I try never to voice an opinion or take an action without thinking about the impact on students.
2. As the different teacher. The teacher that didn't believe in useless homework, in the current grading system, or test prep.
3. As the professional that made technology just a little easier for other educators.


Be a Change Agent!

EduCon took place this weekend in Philly. While I didn't catch as much as last year, I have been impressed with the Tweets. I have been wanting to attend this event, because it is more than the tools. It is about the big ideas that will move schools into the 21st century.

I consider myself a change agent, but am unsure how much change I create some days. Anybody in the same position knows it is an uphill battle and a little inspiration is always useful. That is why I had to stop my Sunday's to-do list to share this. A big thanks goes to Ben Hazzard and all of the participants in this session.


Capturing 2010

If you hang around Twitter, Plurk, or Facebook there seems to be a bigger resolution than shedding holiday pounds and that is to capture 2010 in 365 photos. Many have set up blogs to upload pictures and add commentary. There are many tweets that share daily pics and even more about that worry about being behind on their daily goal. Like many others I avoided making this a resolution for a variety of reasons with the main reason being is that I tried it last year and found it to be annoying. The whole process lost it's "fun factor" with the time pressure to find the perfect or even interesting shot and the uploading process. I will admit I gave up my photo blog early on in 2009.

Then some technology came along that brought the fun back.

Shuttercal.com is a simple web site that lets you upload your daily photos into a calendar and add some short comments. As you can see there are widgets available so you can add your calendar to your blog or website. Do I upload everyday? Nope, and that is okay, because I have kept taking daily pics throughout the week to upload on the weekend. There is even an option where you can have the company print your photo calendar with comment.

Dailyshoot.com is a simple site that gives you a daily photography challenge. You can also get the challenge on Twitter by following @dailyshoot. What I like about this site is that it relieves photographers' block.

Of course my new camera is also driving back to my love of photography.

Whether or not you choose to join a 365 challenge (it is never too late), there are a few tips to keep in mind.....

1. It not a competition, so every photo doesn't have to be perfect.
2. It is not the end of the world if you miss a day.
3. Find a method of posting that is easy on you.
4. Don't worry about what camera you have. I have seen some amazing shots from a camera phone and a disposable camera.
5. Most of all,keep it fun!