Sunday, August 30, 2015

BIG Goal Update: Monday Tech Madness

Click here to view presentation

is Coming Together!

If you have been following my posts on here, you might have noticed that I have been able to keep up with my first goal so far! We are almost one month into the school year, and as promised, every MONDAY there has been a professional development offered related to TECHNOLOGY! Let the MADNESS continue! The schedule for all of September and October has been created and soon more professional development opportunities will be posted on our district's PD Place this week. A few up coming topics include an hour teaser on Code Studio by, creating videos with Shadow Puppet Edu, building your PLN with Twitter, Coding with Kodable and Using QR Codes in the classroom!

Today I spent a lot of time preparing my presentation for tomorrow's topic, one of my favorites, Google Classroom. I have an hour to introduce a room full of teachers to the fabulous world of Google's Classroom! Last Friday, I was talking to my boss about this upcoming session, and I loved her response... an hour is just enough time to give them a basic understanding, while at the same time enough to make them dangerous. Why do I like the sounds of that so much? Hmm... Maybe it's because I agree! Once teachers get their feet wet into the world of Google Classroom, there's no turning back. The power of digital communication, assignments, and grading forever transforms the classroom environment!

To be continued tomorrow... My computer time is up for today because dinner time is awaiting me!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thank You for Popping in!

Back to school time is often a very busy time for everyone! Teachers are preparing classrooms, planning, creating lessons, attending meetings and professional development trainings... While students and families are preparing for the new school year, shopping for new clothes and supplies, adjusting schedules and enforcing routines that may have been less structured during the summer. Usually within those first few weeks of school, teachers welcome families into their classrooms to learn about the upcoming year with a Back to School Night

This year, I had the opportunity to attend my first Back to School Night as a parent! After many years hosting a Back to School Night for my students' families, I had the chance to sit back and listen to my son's amazing teacher's presentation. From the moment we walked through her door, we felt welcomed. We were asked to sign in, provide our best contacts, picked up papers that included her welcome letter, Kindergarten standards in kid-friendly language, and a flyer about the importance of reading. All things that I normally included in my yearly presentations as well! 

During her presentation, her passion for teaching clearly shined through as she discussed routines, classroom schedules, expectations, curriculum, and how their school's No Excuses University philosophy will be incorporated into their Kindergarten classroom. All essential and typical pieces of information presented at Back to School.

However to my surprise, her presentation was concluded by passing around a gift for each family. She handed us all a bag of popcorn with a message saying welcome and thank you for "Popping in" to her classroom! A simple, but meaningful gesture to show her appreciation for coming! Such a sweet idea... Wish I would've thought of that!

It's amazing how simple acts of appreciation usually have the biggest impact on others! To express our gratitude back, the morning after Back to School Night, we woke up extra early and stopped at a local donut store on our way to school. I let my son pick out a donut for his teacher and her entire team. We rushed to school early to drop off their donuts before school started. While handing out their doughnuts, we expressed how we thought they might enjoy a treat to help them find more energy that morning. Since I knew the morning after Back to School Night was always a little more difficult to get up after a late night at school! In the midst of these conversations, I realized that we could've made cute little tags saying "Donut" you know that this will be a great year!" Hopefully next year, I'll be one step ahead and we'll deliver their donuts in cute little bags!  

It's only been a couple weeks into the year, but I can already tell this is going to be a great year... filled with new events and maybe even a couple of "bugs" that we'll have to debug!! I can't wait to see what this year has in store! Keep following me on here to find out! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Need Help Teaching Digital Citizenship?

Common Sense Media's Curriculum Scope & Sequence

Today's Monday Tech Madness was on our district's adopted Digital Citizenship Curriculum from Common Sense Media

All Classrooms Need Digital Citizenship

View Presentation

This piece of knowledge for students is essential for successful technology integration into the classroom and for all students to have a solid foundation to thrive in our digital, 21st Century world! A team of educators from our district worked together to create a pacing guide for all students to receive education on digital citizenship based on the scope and sequence provided by Common Sense Media. We are using the FREE lessons created by Common Sense Media to drive our instruction. Their lessons focus around an essential question, with solid learning objectives, Common Core alignment to standards, key vocabulary, teacher guide to lead conversations with materials and even family resources!

In this professional development session, we shared our district's pacing guide, reviewed and discussed the importance of including digital citizenship curriculum into every classroom and viewed the structure of the lesson plans on Common Sense Media. This is the presentation used during our session titled Monday Tech Madness: Digital Citizenship

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Letter Hunt with QR Codes

Looking for a fun way to introduce letters and iPads to your Kindergarten students? Check out this great FREE activity from Emily Haskell on Teachers Pay Teachers, Uppercase Letter QR Codes!

On the fifth day of school, I had the opportunity to team teach a lesson to introduce students to their iPads. We started off by talking up how special their class is to have iPads for each student. We talked about about how expensive iPads cost and the importance of being safe, responsible and respectful while using our devices.

I prepared a simple display of pictures to show students our activity using Notability. (Click here to view) We played up the treasure hunt for letters to get the students really excited for their task. Then we modeled, modeled and modeled our expectations. Students were then dismissed to their table seats. Students woke their iPads up, searched for our QR Code App and opened it. We used QR Code Reader by Scan because it is free and doesn't have pop up ads like other QR Apps!

Before we dismissed table groups to hurt for letters around the room, we modeled again our expectations, including a few none examples to make sure they would remember our expectations. It went something like this:
  • Stand up, push in your chair, and then pick up your iPad with both hands
  • Next walk around the room, watching out for our friends, remembering to always hold our iPad with two hands
  • Once you find a QR Code, you must aline the QR Code to the square on your screen
  • After it scans, it will reveal your letter, and you walk back to your seat to sit down
  • Our iPads are placed on top of our name tags, then we use our highlighters to trace the letter
  • Once you're done, we tap the X to close the letter and repeat the above steps

Monday, August 17, 2015

First Monday Tech Madness

Today is not only the first Monday of the school year with students in our district, but it is also the first session of Monday Tech Madness! 

Monday Tech Madness is a concept I envisioned towards the end of last year. After many conversations with my supporting teachers, teammates and friends, the concept become a planned goal for this year. Every Monday, there will be an hour long professional development opportunity for teachers centered around technology. Since these sessions are only an hour, each topic will be carefully selected, with the goal teachers will become knowledge and gain confidence to use the skills and tools discussed each week immediately in their classrooms. They will also have the opportunity to work closely with their Ed Tech team and reach out for additional support within their classrooms after each session.

With more teachers having greater access to technology, I felt it was essential to address key components of a successful technology integration classroom during our first few sessions. Our first session will introduce one digital workflow management system that allows students and teachers to create and share digital work. Today's solution is Seesaw, a digital learning journal, that can be used to help teachers manage digital work with students as young as five! 

Here's a link to the slides for today's professional development! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

O-FISH-ALLY a Kindergartener!

Found on Teachers Pay Teachers
The first day of Kindergarten is always filled with mixed emotions! This day is unique from other first days of school. For some it is their FIRST first day of school. For others, it is the FIRST first day at a new, bigger school than their preschool. The air is filled with excitement, joy, nervousness, and possibly a mix of anxiety by all (teachers, students and families). There will be smiles, tears of sadness and excitement expressed by both parents and students, which by the end of the day are hopefully all smiles of joy. The first day of Kindergarten marks an important milestone in the lives of our children and families.

At one of my school sites, the teachers celebrated this important first day with a small snack bag for each student with a special message, "You are o-FISH-ally a Kindergartener!" This simple gesture brought huge smiles to each students face. What a cute idea, that I had to share here!

Get this FREE template on Teachers Pay Teachers by Brooke Bleasdale to use with your class! 

What's Your Weekly Schedule?

As a classroom teacher, your schedule is usually created for you with maybe a little flexibility, but not much. Things such as students arrival, subjects taught, recess, electives and computer lab (if lucky enough to have them as a prep time), lunch and dismal are all predetermined. I was used to that structure. I knew what to expect each day and I could create my lesson plans accordingly. I need that structure in my life, without it, I feel lost, disorganized and without a purpose. To me, life without structure is like a leaf in the wind.

Life as an Ed Tech

Life as an Ed Tech in our district does not inherit the detailed, schedule structure of the classroom teacher. We are handed guidelines to our schedule, which entailed our assigned school sites, our contracted work hours with a thirty-minute lunch break. Now to a classroom teacher, I already can hear people cheering and screaming the word, "FREEDOM!!!!" Yes, we have the freedom to create our own schedules. I'm sure many people would love this flexibility and freedom, but personally it gives me anxiety!

For the past seven years, I've lived in a world where I was able to plan, even backwards plan, my entire school year. I had pacing guides to help guide my instruction, and a daily schedule that provided the structure for the content of my day. Now, I found myself staring at my blank lesson plan book without a clue where to begin. And yes, even as an Ed Tech who truly utilizes Google calendar, I couldn't resist the free lesson plan book from Lakeshore. I am planning to use both this year, but my lesson plan book will become more of my life planner to include work and home events.

My Solution 

As the new school year was approaching, my anxiety about my daily schedule grew. I needed to create my own structure within my guidelines to calm my fears. Since I have seven schools, I couldn't easily give each site the same time each week. I thought about rotating the days of the week I visited each site, however that was quickly ruled out. If my daily schedule changed every week, would I be able to quickly communicate my schedule or would my sites and teachers remember when I was available for support? No, that would've been too confusing. After brainstorming, I finally stumbled upon a solution that I'm very happy to try out this year!

This Schedule is Golden

With this schedule, it gives me a sense of direction. Every Monday, I'll start my day at the same school. This site is one of my schools that has already implemented 1:1 iPads in TK and Kinder. Every classroom follows the same early half day schedule, where students are dismissed at 11:50. I can meet with teachers in the afternoon, or plan and develop future Professional Development trainings. I have set a personal goal to offer district wide professional development every Monday afternoon. With this schedule on Mondays, it provides me the opportunity to have built in time to prepare. For Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays each week, I will alternate every other week which schools I will be visiting. This schedule creates a predictable pattern for myself, and my teachers that can easily be remember. Also, when deciding which schools were assigned on Wednesdays, I selected two of my schools that have early release on Wednesday for collaboration and planning. I intentionally selected schools with this planning time in the afternoon, so I will hopefully have more available to help in planning and collaboration with these teams. Lastly, I left Friday unassigned for two big reasons. First, our team meetings are held on the first and third Friday's of the month. Second, this gives me time to follow up with teachers that I might have needed more time with during the week. This day allows me to have flexibility to meet the needs of my teachers without missing appointments due to team meetings. This schedule has provided me with the structure I needed to feel ready to provide support to my teachers. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Back to School with Tech

As the last school year came to an end, our Ed Tech Team joined together to offer back to school professional development trainings for teachers in August. We created a vision of a mini-tech conference held within our district for teachers. We wanted to provide a variety of options for teachers to select sessions across two days. We wanted teachers to have flexibility to select topics and times that worked for their schedule. Each day was broken into 3 session and each block had at least 3 options to pick from, for a total of 18 professional development trainings related to technology, in addition to curriculum trainings offered during the same days. This allowed teachers to come for one training (2-2.5 hours) or select multiple sessions to get a full day of training. Our team created a plan and worked hard to make this vision come true!

Our Planning Session (May 2015)

A group of us met together to brainstorm important topics that would be most beneficial to cover. We each started with a stack of sticky notes to write out ideas. We used our office doors to post our sticky notes. Next we read through all the ideas and organized the sticky notes into categories and groups, by similarity and complexity of the topics. We used a Google Doc to record this structure. Once shared with the group, each team member selected topics they would create the content for our presentation. Again, we shared and collaborated on our presentation with Google Slides. A few weeks later, we met again to discuss the progress and planned out a schedule for August.

The BIG Day 

During the first day, August 4th, I was given the opportunity to present three different sessions, for a grand total of 6.5 hours! (Now you don't know this yet, because I haven't been blogging about my life yet, but that was over 3 times the amount of back to back professional development training I've ever presented before!) So this was a BIG DEAL to me. I felt it was a do or die experience, either I could manage training adults for a full day or I was going to have to reevaluate EVERYTHING and jump back into the classroom where I knew I was comfortable and successful with students. Thankfully, I didn't die and I am still here to write about this experience! And actually... Overall, looking back on that day, I am feeling very proud. 

Here are links to view all the presentations from my sessions with descriptions of each: 

  • Session 1: iTeach. iCan. iPad 101  Would you like to get going with your iPad this year? Come find out how to use your iPad in the classroom to help you teach. This session will be designed for the iPad beginner. You will learn general functions and troubleshooting tricks. You will learn multiple ways to utilize the camera, wallpaper, folders and gestures for teaching. You will learn the basics between AirDrop, AirPlay, and Apple TVs in the classroom.You will discover ways to maximize the settings on the device to personalize it and how to keep it up to date.
  • Session 2: iCreate. iSmash. iPad 202 Are you looking for new ways to use your iPad in the classroom? If so, please come to find out ways to get geeky with your device. This session will be designed for the intermediate to advance iPad user. We will begin with an overview of technology integration models to provide common language to discuss lesson design. You will learn multiple ways to create engaging lessons through App Smashing. You will have the chance to explore Notability, Keynote, Popplet, Thinglink, ChatterPix, Shadow Puppet Edu and Seesaw. We will review general troubleshooting tricks and management ideas of your Apps. Teachers will also learn the benefits to using iCloud with their work iPad.   
  • Session 3: Capture Student Learning with Shadow Puppet Edu and Seesaw  Do your students still write on paper? Do your students read books? Do you have iPads? If so, then this might be the right session for you! In this session, we will explore how to create simple digital portfolios and movies with the help of Seesaw and Shadow Puppet Edu. These are both FREE Apps on the iPad and Seesaw is now available for ChromeBooks. We will explore the ways students can capture and share their learning through pictures, drawings, text and videos. This session will cover ideas and lessons for students of ALL ages, even as young as 5! Join us to learn how these Apps could change the way your students publish and share their learning!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

BIG Year! BIG Goals! BIG Announcement!

This year, I turned 30! The months leading up to the BIG 3-0 were filled with deep reflections on my life, analyzing my past and looking towards the future. I have decided that my 30th year is going to be the year that I look back on when I'm 70, saying I made things happen that year. 

So here it is, as I am looking forward to this new school year, I am committing myself to many new personal and professional goals. I hope by declaring my top three goals here, it will help hold myself more accountable to reaching them! 

  • First BIG Goal: I am going to develop, offer and present weekly, hour long, technology based, professional development opportunities to any educator in my district. 

This idea was developed last year, after talking to many teachers about what they want and need from professional development. Most of our professional development opportunities occur after school from 4-6 PM. After teaching all day, staying at work until 6PM can seem daunting, especially for teachers with loved ones waiting for them at home. I am hoping by cutting the time commitment down to an hour, teachers will be able to attend easier. With only an hour to deliver content, the focus of each PD will have to be carefully selected to truly build expertise in one tool, idea or concept at a time. During each session, I hope to provide teachers with information that can be applied immediately into their classrooms. 

  • Second BIG Goal: I am going to promote and model the sharing of ideas and resources to foster collaboration between educators.          

As educators, we are always willing to share our knowledge with our students. We use every tip, trick and gimmick in the book to engage our students, develop their skills and foster their knowledge. However, all too often I see educators keep this knowledge they share so openly with their students hidden from other educators. Collaboration among teammates, grade levels, schools within and outside districts and the world are not always pure. Even within my own team, I've noticed behavior that hinders collaboration, communication, and open sharing of knowledge and resources. Why is this? Now I am not out to answer or solve this question, but I'm committed to promoting and sharing my knowledge with others. I want to build collaboration within my district through sharing knowledge and resources to all educators. 

  • Third BIG Goal : I am going to blog about my progress and adventures each week! 

This blog will be about my journey as an education technology specialist that specializes in Kinder Code. That's right... Our district rocks! We have set a goal to introduce every TK (Transitional Kinder) and Kindergarten student at our seven Title 1 schools to coding!!! My job is to help support these teachers and students reach this goal, while using technology integration to promote student learning. Hence the name of my blog: Coding my way through K! 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Who am I?

In some capacities, this should have been my very first post. However, if you know me well you would know there's a running joke with my family and friends that I like to do things backwards, I over-plan, overthink every detail, and take organization to the next level. Therefore this blogging idea to the whole world is quite scary to me. Becoming an educational blogger has been a long time goal of mine, but I've never known where to start. I've written a couple posts at the beginning of the year, but struggled to grasp onto how what I had to say would be important to others. 

Now looking back on my adventures since January, I wish I would have captured and documented my discoveries and challenges along the way here. Before venturing into the world of Ed Tech, I had a variety of experiences that lead me to my position today. I began my career as a 5th grade teacher in August 2008 in Fairfield, CA. 

Due to crazy budget cuts, I was pinked slipped in Spring of 2009. Placed on a list... It took until February of 2011 to be offered a temporary Kindergarten position! Of course I accepted, and finished the school year teaching Kindergarten. Since it was a temporary position, I was placed back on the list hoping for full-time position for the Fall.

Early that next August I was offered a preschool position. I was eager to get back into the classroom, even if it was only a part time position. After a few weeks, I had established routines and procedures, started building relationships and loved my students... Then I was offered another position, full-time teaching a fourth-fifth grade combination class. Afraid to pass up a full-time position, I jumped into a new classroom that September. 

Looking back, that was one of my favorite years teaching. I grew so much as an educator and found confidence in my teaching. However, due to declining enrollment, I was displaced at the end of the year. With many other teachers, I was summoned to a middle school to pick positions from a list of open vacancies based on seniority. What an experience... One I hope to never repeat. It kinda felt like I was at a live auction, but instead of items or cars, we were selecting career choices. Luckily, while waiting for my turn I met the new principal of my old school, which helped to solidify my choice. I decided to teach 3rd grade my very first school. 

Again, looking back it was another great choice. After my first year back, I was given the opportunity to jump up to fifth grade and pilot 1:1 iPads in my classroom! My fifth grade class ended up a four/five combination class, but that didn't matter. Teaching was forever changed after that year! I LOVE teaching with technology, and cannot imagine ever going back to teaching without it! Now of course, we stumbled, struggled and learned so much that first year but I will always remember that year and my students! Too bad I didn't know what a blog was then... I would've had many great stories to have shared! 

That summer, July of 2014, I was selected to teach coding using Kodable to students enrolled in our district's Kinder Ready program. This is when I discovered our district's goal of implementing a new program to teach coding to all our Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten students in our seven title 1 schools. The summer program was extended into the school year and became apart of our district's Ed Tech Specialist team to implement and support. I knew from that moment this was something I wanted to be apart of and immediately applied for the position once it became available. I accepted the position the week of Labor Day, but it took until Christmas to find a teacher qualified and willing to take on a fifth grade, 1:1 device iPad classroom! Fast-ward from end of December to now, August 2015... I am about to begin my first full year as an Education Technology Specialist for Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District.