So, what have you been up to?

March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

I have neglected this space for over a year now. I have neglected a lot of my social media for the past year. The only excuse that I have is that I turned inward. I became too focused on what was going on with my job, in my district, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I have definitely felt as though I’ve become stagnant in my delivery of new ideas into the district. My district hired a new Superintendent about a year ago, so much of what I’ve been doing is trying to feel out where he is on things and where I fit in. This past year, I became focused on the direction we were going to head in my district, and trying to figure out how to get all of our administrators on the same page, going in the same direction as far as technology goes. I’ve also become more focused on the business, hardware, and financial side of things, and much less involved in the direct instruction of students.

I’ll be honest. Writing that last sentence makes me sad. One of the reasons I got into education in the first place was because I enjoyed teaching. Moving into an instructional technology role, I was still able to teach, and impact instruction in the classroom by teaching teachers. I’ve always felt that I still had my foot in the door of the classroom until this past year. I just couldn’t continue to cull ideas about classroom instruction while also getting proposals ready, managing a department, making purchasing decisions, and trying to come up with a vision for technology use.

I am still participating in discussions about technology use, just at a much higher level. I suppose that you could say I’ve achieved my goal of being able to make decisions about what direction technology will head in my district without having to cut through red tape and get approval from people above me, but I feel like I don’t have my thumb on what’s actually happening in the classroom, nor do I feel as though I have as much of a say in how that technology gets used in the classroom, although I am trying to change that.

Here’s where I’m trying to make the biggest degree of difference at the moment. Sitting around a conference table at an admin meeting, trying to get the administrators in our district to think in technological terms first. We are taking baby steps. I have managed to get our Superintendent to move to electronic agendas and documents for meetings, rather than printing, copying, and handing out packets of paper to everyone. To me, that is a victory and a step in the right direction. Now, at our admin meetings, everyone has a laptop or iPad open. Some of our folks still take their notes on a notepad, but there are some of us who prefer to make notations on the electronic documents that are shared with us. It isn’t explicitly stated that that is an expectation, but I think the more we show our administrators what they can do with technology, the more inclined they will be to try it themselves.

My goal is, by the end of the year, to get our admins to stop turning to Microsoft Office first and instead choose to create documents in Google Docs. I hope to show them the power of not having to worry about which device their document is on because it will be on every device. This will also allow for greater flexibility when it comes to sharing things via google docs.

At the end of this summer, we will have a three-day technology integration workshop. I have asked, and will continue to ask, all of our admin team to be there on the final day to help teachers plan lessons using the tools they learned about during the previous two days. I want there to be accountability for what they are learning. I want there to be a plan for integration, and I want the teachers to see that they have support and an expectation of use from all of the administrators in our district.

I actually feel like part of the job is being done for me already. We are currently reading the book “Instructional Rounds in Education” and much of what is talked about is exactly what we have been talking about in Educational Technology for the past 20 years. Taking risks. Changing instructional practices. Changing expectations. Having accountability. I find myself sitting in meetings where we’re discussing that book smiling to myself because it all sounds so familiar.

I’m encouraged by the change in culture I’m beginning to see here. I’m also encouraged that I’m being asked to help people push their boundaries. Exciting things are happening around here. We are making some big changes this summer, which I know will help impact instruction.

More to come soon. I promise, it won’t be another year before I blog again.

Animoto vs. Google Auto-Awesome #edtech

February 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve been playing with video tools after our trip to the rodeo this weekend.

Remember when creating a video was a long, arduous process of getting the video from the camera onto your computer, then putting together your clips just so, editing them down, then choosing music, transitions, titles, and the like?

Well, no more! Animoto has been, for several years, the king of quick online video. It started off with just photos, but has progressed over the years and now offers the ability to include video clips and text in your video. Animoto is pretty intuitive to use, and can be done both online and via an app on Android or iOS (so big win for being completely device agnostic). The biggest drawback to Animoto is that free videos are limited to 30 seconds and at 360p resolution. You can upgrade your account and get full length videos and full HD resolution for $5/month or $30/year.

To create your video, you choose the photos and videos you want to put in it. In the free version, you’re limited to 12 items.

Here’s the free Animoto video I created of our day at the rodeo.

Google Auto-Awesome videos are the relative newcomer to the online video space. The feature is meant to be just like auto-awesome photos, where it takes a series of photos and videos you took around the same time and stitches them together automatically to create a video. It is supposed to work with both Android and iOS devices (I don’t have auto-backup turned on, nor do I ever shoot video with my iPad, so I can’t claim for sure that it works on iOS as it does on Android), but I haven’t found a way to put together a video on Google+ yet using these features. When my Android phone creates and auto-awesome video, a notification shows up on my phone, and I can go in to view the video and choose to edit it, save it, or delete it.

Here’s the auto-awesome video Google created of our day at the rodeo:

You can also create your own video using photos and video clips that you choose, just like Animoto. You also have your choice of music, you can edit the clips down, split them into scenes, and choose a theme to use with your video. Again, I only have experience with this on Android, not iOS, and cannot find a way to do it online. The biggest advantage here is that you are not limited on length or time of video, and you can export every video you create with at full HD at no cost.

Here’s the video I created earlier on my own, before Google auto-awesomed a video for me.

I think for students, at the moment, Animoto gets the win just because of the diversity of platforms you can create on. If/when Google allows video creation online using the auto-awesome features, it will be the king. Of course, you do have to have a Google+ account to create these videos, so if your school does not open Google+ for students, that could still be a major drawback.

For me, for personal use, I really like the power and simplicity of Google’s tools. I just wish there was an easy way to edit online, instead of having to do it on my phone.

#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Districtwide Implementation for GAFE, @kernkelley

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

 This wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, but Kern still had some great information about going Google within his district. The state of Maine has had a 1:1 program for middle school students for the past 10 years. I would love to be in a state like that because giving every student a device really levels the playing field and removes a lot of the obstacles and excuses for not using technology. My notes from the session are below.

#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Google Apps Scripts, Wesley Chun (@wescpy)

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

I really enjoyed this session and can see the benefit for students learning how to code with Google Apps Scrips if their school is already GAFE. It ties in really nicely to the apps infrastructure Google has put in place and can really be a powerful addition to GApps. My notes from the session are below.

#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Google Glass – Leslie Fisher

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

This was a great session because Leslie was very honest about what Glass is really good at and what it still needs a lot of work on. I think it will be as transformative of a device as the iPod was. I think Glass, and it’s imitators, will forever change the way in which we interact with our devices and our world. My notes from the session are below.

#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Going Google with Richardson ISD

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Their presentation is here:

My notes from the session

Survival Tips for Technologists – @egmathews @mradkins @slaleman #tcea14

February 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

We streamed our Q & A session as a Hangout on Air.