Workflow is not native for Digital Natives

November 9th marks my district's Powering Up with Technology Conference and yet again I will be presenting. This conference has a special place in heart because it was the first event where I saw the potential of technology in the classroom and it was the first event that I was brave enough to be a presenter. Now there are a couple of new firsts: being a co-presenter and blogging about an upcoming presentation.

Workflow became a discussion between David Neagley, my colleague and co-presenter, and I early on. As we were selecting tools that made our workflow more efficient, David was using many of these tools with his students in his AP Biology class. I had utilized some of these tools during my years as a technology integration teachers. In building a collection of tools that are essential to student workflow, I realized how the generation that lives with technology in their hands still need opportunities to learn how they can be productive with multi-platform tools.

While more tools will be covered in the session, I thought I would focus on the tools I will be covering in the session.

1. Edmodo: My account was opened early in the history of Edmodo, but I tried to use it as more of a social media tool which was an error. When it was used a way for the classroom to become paperless, that is when I met success. Student workflow improved because they could easily track their project assignments with the grade book. No longer did they have to rely on storage through the computer or flash drive. The backpack feature became their portfolio option.

2. Evernote: Many know my certain love of Evernote. Unlike Edmodo, students have more control to build their workflow as they build notebooks and capture their learning. One of the struggles with all students is research and this process can be easier with a Chrome Extension like Evernote Webclipper or Clearly.

3, Wunderlist: A tool that again I signed up for, but couldn't find a purpose to use until I started working on projects with David. Sharing project lists allowed us to avoid duplicating work and see instant progress of our lists. This helps students keep track of their own assignments and progress.

Here is a sneak peak of all the tools that will be covered:


Just Do You

Original Title: Put Your Big Girl Panties On

Being an innovative educator led me to this new position and this week I learned the importance of staying true to myself. Those that know me would have probably not recognized me these past couple of weeks. Safety was the game as I was way too quiet and not voicing my opinions. That quickly spiraled into me playing the victim, blaming others for things not going my way. It took some pain to come back even stronger so if you are going through the growing pains of a new position or direction as an educator, here are some words of advice.

  1. Just Do You! This stems from a wonderful song from India Arie that has become my mantra lately. It requires you to trust yourself that you are there for a reason.
  2. Set Your Boundaries. If you don't let others know your limits, others will test the waters.
  3. Don't be Afraid to be Honest. It is brave to have courageous conversations and trust your colleagues to be open to dialogue.
  4. Things are not going to go smoothly! How you handle the problems will define you. 
  5. Stay Focused! This is probably the hardest one to do when day-to-day drama needs your attention. Remembering your focus prevents you from becoming a victim of circumstance.


The Optical Illusion of Leadership

There are so many articles, blog posts, books, videos, and tweets about what makes a school "good." Right now I am reading a book about deliberate leadership choices being the catalyst for change, which was picked by leadership in my new school. While it is an interesting read, I believe in my core that an environment where educators are given the freedom and trust to be leaders is where true change happens.

One of the reasons for the big move this summer was the chance of being a leader. Some already labeled me a leader and others showed their confidence in me when I was voted in as MSET's next president (for which I am still grateful and humble). It was a problem when those opportunities don't happen in my day job. I knew I was not alone when I expressed my frustration when administration ignored my ability and willingness to help.

It has already been stated on this blog, a title does not make a leader. So while I am technically an Instructional Lead Teacher, it has been hard work to make the title a reality. It started with jumping into the school's current plans and volunteering help when possible. As I felt more comfortable, the next step was to express my viewpoint in hopes of change for the better. Still in progress is gaining teachers' trust, because without that I won't be able to support them. As usual I am too impatient and want to be further ahead, but feel like time spent on a solid foundation will pay off in the long term.

What I have to be careful about is not to fall for the optical illusion of leadership. My definition of this term is when teachers are trusted with "special tasks" set by the administration. It is a form of power in the school environment, it can feel great to be needed in that way, but it is not leadership. All of decisions still lie with admin and it can even cause conflict with the staff. It forces the teacher to play by the rules to maintain this status, rather than having the ability to change the game.

I am eager to working towards real leadership without using my admin certification to become an assistant principal or principal.


The Honeymoon is Over

Two full weeks of school are completed, along with weeks of getting established in my office since being hired on July 19th. There have been many early mornings and late nights, but I still had a constant smile on my face and probably annoyed my friends with the all of the job bliss comments. Now that I have settled in, even became the mayor on Foursquare, there have been a few things that have messed with the bliss:
  • During my first administrative meeting I was addressed by my first name. This never happened in my career before and it was actually a little disturbing. The event almost became it's own blog post until I realized using first names is part of the school culture. Not sure I am still happy with that in a meeting setting, yet it is something I can get adjusted to.
  • Time is an issue, specially colleagues not keeping up with scheduled meetings. A huge issue for me, because I believe that keeping appointments and being on time is important. Trying to be a little more forgiving on this issue, but I did express my annoyance. I think that expressing my feelings about this is important to maximize my time in the new position.
  • There are communication troubles and it is resulting in work needing to be re-done. Not really sure how to handle this yet, but there has to be a solution to avoid frustration by multiple parties. 
  • Then the little things: some people avoiding their duty, the drama of working with artistic people, and the random "emergencies."
Despite the annoyances, I wake up happy during the week knowing that I am going to my new school. In a any new relationship, there has to be an adjustment period. I am determined to not be too judgement to enjoy the great parts of the culture: smiles in the morning, hugs (though I am not a "huggy" person), compliments, and being a part of projects that support students & teachers. Honeymoons are dreamy and enjoyable, but the day-to-day realities make the journey worthwhile. 


Some things change....

Well I am back, but things aren't the same. In July, I received  a great offer to take on a new position in the district. It required me to leave the classroom and my comfort zone as the Tech Tiger. Leaving comfort has been exciting and scary at the same time. So far no regrets, though I do miss teaching and from what I have heard my students are missing me for now.

What seems to surprise most is that my new position is not a tech position. I am the Instructional Lead Teacher in Arts Integration for the Jim Henson Academy of Visual & Performing Arts at Northwestern High School. Why? My love for tech wasn't based in the tools, but what students could do with these tools. I saw technology as a door for students to open up their creativity. The technology is not going away, but will be one avenue I will share with the teachers as we work to incorporate the Arts into all content areas.

While I am now at a school that is the home of the wildcats, I am keeping my name. It reflects me and five years of growth as an educator, plus I can't bear to part with it. My posts will probably change as I navigate this new world of professional development, PLCs, Arts Integration, but the tech in the Tech Tiger won't die.


Lessons from a Concert

Lately I have really enjoyed reading Tim Childers' blog because he has a talent for learning from everyday happenings. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it! So here is my attempt from trying to view my Spring Break in a different way.

Wednesday marked my trip into D.C. for the Maroon Five concert. It was an amazing concert despite the fact I was in the nosebleed section and at a height that made me slightly nervous. In trying to take it all in and doing more than just enjoying the music, this is what I learned:

  • In the line to get water there was a mother and her son. He was already in his tour t-shirt and super excited because it was his first concert. I still remember the excitement of my first concert and it brought a smile on my face to hear the kid talk. Firsts are a great thing and we should try new things no matter what age we are now.
  • This has been my third concert since December and I have enjoyed the opening act(s) at every event. There are so many that come in just in time for the main act. By doing so they missed out on some musical surprises. How many moments do we skip because we don't believe there is anything to gain?
  • On the opposite end, people left before encore was finished. Yeah, they made have made it out of the parking garage a little faster or didn't have to battle the same Metro crowd that I did, but was is worth it? What are you saving the extra time for? Some things are worth seeing it through to the end, to enjoy it without the worry of a small delay.
  • Live in the moment! There was a teenager in front of me that was one of the few in the section that stood through the concert. She danced, sang, and acted out the emotion of each song. I admired her passion and the ability to live completely in the moment. Imagine if her and her teachers had that same passion in school.


At a Crossroads

Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE my job! Especially with the changes I made to my course this year, creativity is at an all-time high with my students. It also helped that I put my super-hero complex in check where I volunteered for everything to help out the school. Yet, it is a point in my career where the question comes up: What is next?

Since I missed out on a job opportunity in Mobile Learning last year because I didn't have an administration certificate, I am taking care of that now. Right it has become the excuse to delay figuring out the next step. If the delay continues, I am afraid of staying in one place because that is safe.

What do I want? An opportunity to work with students without grading and the day-to-day "stuff." A chance to help teachers with training that is meaningful. Most of all I want a voice and the chance to make real change in education. Unfortunately teachers only have the power for change the classroom, but I am ready to fight the bigger fight and don't mind getting a couple of bruises.

So current possible moves:

Assistant Principal- HECK NO! I admire what they do, but it is not for me. Even with the possibility of becoming a Principal.

Technology Trainer- While I think I could like this job, I can't see it working out for me in my current school system. I am not the kind of presenter that follows prescribed training modules.

Curriculum & Instruction- A true possibility. The decisions made here have the biggest impact on students and this is where the good fights are currently taking place.

??????- I feel like there is something I am not thinking about. Is there some amazing opportunity I am missing because I am missing something in the picture?

Sorry another all-about-me post, but that has been the focus of this blog. If you haven't had this conversation with yourself in a while, why not?