Explosion & Eruption ūüí•


This school year has been extraordinary. Exceptional. Powerfully transformative. I was part of an explosion.  An eruption.  A disruption – and it’s been an absolute thrill to watch it happen!

This was the year technology integration happened in my district.  It REALLY happened!  It was like somebody finally lit a fuse and one thing led to another until we all realized that KABOOM!  Something extraordinary had happened.

First, the kudos for triggering this eruption really go to the administrators who embraced the belief that effective technology integration requires that teachers receive ongoing, sustained support.  The days of “training” are gone and hopefully extinct – replaced by more authentic, differentiated, and varied models of continuous education, coaching, guidance, and support.  This was the year that we let the old ways go dormant.  

Unstoppable Flow

New ground is being built up each day now, largely due to the fact that four Technology Integration Specialists have been hired to change the landscape of tech PD.  It’s my profound honor to be one of them – the privilege of being able to ignite this movement of change is my greatest joy and professional accomplishment!  If your district has not yet realized nor embraced the need for Technology Integration Specialists (aka Tech Coaches), please share this post with them.  Have them call me.  My primary goal in writing this blog post is to hail the impact of the addition of these positions and the intense change it has made in just one year!


Like a lava flow that can’t be stopped, this year has awakened a whole new path of methodologies for successful tech integration.  Teachers now have multiple options about how they can learn. Tons of online resources are being curated.  Digital badges have been created for personalized, anytime, independent learning.  Large group, small group, and individual face-to-face workshops happen continuously, now with subsequent follow-up and support for implementation.  Screencast tutorials, webinars, and video chats are offered as remote-support options.  Through our own modeling, we are teaching teachers and administrators how to easily facilitate flipped learning and blended learning models through the use of simple technology tools.  Teachers “book us” through online calendars – knowing that a highly personalized, individual level of support is only a click away!  Digital newsletters go out with consistency and contain content based on faculty requests and needs.  Push-in demo lessons are profoundly impactful, because while teaching the students, it’s really an authentic modeling lesson for the teacher. We actually had an Edcamp – the entire concept was honestly brand new to my district – but we assembled a team and hosted Edcamp Happy Camper in May…and it was extraordinary!  Teachers finally have CHOICE regarding their tech PD, and voice for sharing exactly what they need.

Molten Change In The Classroom 

We’ve seen seismic change in even the most timid teachers as they become brave and are trying new ways to infuse technology meaningfully.  We use a ‘gradual release of responsibility’ model of support to ease teachers into curricular integration.  Mini-workshops and before‚Äď and after‚Äďschool quick tech tip blasts allow teachers to leave with simple ideas that they can try immediately.  Hallway and faculty room conversations often center around clever & creative ways to adapt tech tools to best meet the needs of varying classes.  Teachers are sharing meaningful integration practices – in school and on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram!  

The best evidence of the magnitude of this activity is happening with our students, who are no longer just using tech for word processing, to play games, or to look up facts, but their teachers are now teaching them to create and collaborate and inspire each other!  This year, the radical change is pervasively visible: peeking in classroom windows in any school will show engaged students accessing and creating and playing and learning and exploring and connecting – all because of this eruption!

My Richter Scale to Gauge Success


I leave you with this – the greatest evidence of this powerful, transformative, epic change in our district’s technology integration.  My fellow Tech Integration Specialist and I just collaborated on this Padlet that showcases just SOME of the eruption with tech in the classrooms in JUST THIS ONE YEAR!  It is illuminating, heartwarming, and inspiring.  Enjoy! 

Innovate, Emulate, Duplicate…A Digital Citizenship Discussion


I’ve taught digital citizenship lessons to students for years. ¬†We talk about copyright, Creative Commons, citing the works of others, and giving credit where credit is due. ¬†I’m pretty confident that my former students are cognizant of these concepts as digital citizens.

It’s important to have these conversations (I won’t call them lessons) with educators, too. ¬†Teachers need to model these concepts within their own lessons and their practices. ¬†It’s a common pitfall in the busy lives of educators to quickly grab an image, borrow a quote, or even use an idea without stopping to name the source. ¬†I think it’s a discussion we should just be having more often.

Let’s think about those three words in the title. ¬†Innovate. Emulate. Replicate. As educators, there are times that we use all three, but two of these require some sort of attribution.

I’m using myself as an example. ¬†When I’m innovative, the idea is my own creation. ¬†I don’t need to cite or credit anyone of course, because the innovation was unique. ¬†However, and those of you who truly innovate will understand, we expect others to be good digital citizens when they use, share, emulate, or duplicate our work.

I feel like emulation is the grayest area for many, and it’s important to recognize and discuss. ¬†Two good rules to remember here are:

1) ¬†If you learned something new from someone and then you use it or present it, give ’em credit!

2) If you create something unique that was based on the work or idea of another (you tweaked it), give ’em credit!

There are lots of folks that I emulate. ¬†I created a Digital Badge system for professional development in my district. ¬†I’m proud of it, but the idea was tweaked from lessons I learned from the amazing Laura Fleming (@LFlemingEDU). When I travel and do presentations about my digital badging system, I ALWAYS mention that I got the original idea from Laura. ¬†Every. Single. Time. ¬†Anyone who has ever been to my sessions can attest to it. ¬† She’s not literally cited on my website, but if I present or share and people like my system, it’s so important that I let them know that it was based on the innovative work of Laura.

Similarly, I created a really cool, unique Makerspace in my school.  I EMULATED the ideas of a genius friend of mine named Meredith Martin (@geekyteach).  My model looks very much different than hers now, but I LEARNED the ideas from her that got me started, so her name is a regular part of my Makerspace presentation.  Two years later.  Every. Single. Time.

Last week I gave a presentation in my graduate class. I used Google’s new very cool Q&A tool, which I had just learned about from a tweet by my pal Cathy Chao-Isaacs (@iwearthecrowns). ¬†She didn’t help me create my actual slides, but since I learned that tool from her, I gave her a shoutout when I presented with it. ¬†I will every time I use Q&A. ¬†Cathy gets credit because I’m grateful to her and a better presenter because of that tweet! (It’s nice to tweet out thanks & credit to people, too!)

Let’s talk about duplication. ¬†We all do that, too, from time to time. We use an exact copy, a replica, a duplicate of someone else’s work. ¬†There’s nothing wrong with it. As a matter of fact, it’s often a great time saver & gives us access to unique new tools, sites, activities, and ideas. ¬†Over the past several weeks, I’ve received numerous messages from excellent digital citizens who were asking permission from me. ¬†They wanted to use an infographic that I had created called, “What is A Technology Integration Specialist?” ¬†Although my work isn’t copyrighted, those asking permission did the right thing. ¬†They wanted to use my exact presentation to present to their own districts. ¬†Duplication is cool, but asking first is the rule.

My hope in writing this post was to bring more awareness to the issue for educators. ¬†I’m hoping that if you mention this post to some colleagues, share it at a faculty meeting, or print it out & leave it in the teacher lunchroom, that it will be a great reminder of our obligation to be role models for our students when it comes to citation and attribution.

Oh, and next time your students are doing some presentations for class, spend some time reminding them, too.  We all could benefit from having a reminder from time to time.

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Create Make Learn…”Level Up” Awakening

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      This post is a reflection on my third of five days at #cml16, or Create Make Learn Summer Institute in Burlington, Vermont.  I am extremely proud, blessed and honored to have been an invited by my brilliant friend Lucie DeLaBrueure (@techsavvygirl) to be a participant of this extraordinary learning community.

       It would honor me tremendously if you took the time to read this short post.

I started the day in a circuitous way (Yeah… that pun was intended!) The #CML16 challenge of having every member at every table learning how to solder left me revealed. I was the only one with no soldering experience. My table 8 team rallied to support me, and the most adorable, sweet, tolerant, forgiving, and definitely PATIENT Sue took me on that tumultuous journey. It was not a short journey. It was a journey filled with molten solder, beads of silver, beads of sweat, unpredictable profanity, and a ceremonious a glorious melding that led to a brilliant green LED light shining as a beacon of success!

The latter part of my morning was¬†also¬†extraordinary. ¬† I attended a session by Kevin Jarrett, who I’m blessed enough to know and learn from on a regular basis. He was so phenomenal, and everyone in the group of learners will attest to that. ¬†Guided by his friendly and welcoming¬†tutelage, those¬†who didn’t even KNOW what Tinkercad WAS¬†were able to create mind-blowing designs within hours!

I’ve gotta be honest – I know how to use Tinkercad.¬†¬†I’ve played with it. ¬†I’ve taught it to kids. ¬†I’m sorta okay with it. ¬†That is how I am about a lot of things. ¬†I get the gist and I’m ready to roll…but not really…but sorta. ¬† My top secret secret is that I really want to learn more, to be better, to be able to teach others….to LEVEL UP!

Although I know Kevin, we are friends, and I live close to him, this kind of opportunity to just plain LEARN from him doesn’t creep up a lot. Sometimes, you just want to sit in a room and ask your friends questions, watch what they can do, and see tips from someone who is just more thorough. Today was that day for me. ¬†It was a gift, so I purposely didn’t sit in as a participant who would have my OWN questions, but I sat ‘on the fringe’ on a stool in the back so that I could wander and listen and learn from Kevin’s answers to EVERYONE ELSE’s questions. This was EPIC. This was a huge personal learning discovery for me. ¬†This gave me such a learning advantage – I felt like an intern. I hope Kevin reads this. I hope anyone who is a beyond-beginner-as-a-learner gets something from my experience. This was a big A-HA thing for me today!

I have been using Tinkercad for about a year with my students, but I was hoping Kevin could take me to a new level. ¬† He didn’t disappoint. ¬†This was THE most relevant, applicable, and helpful session to me so far. I got so much out of his simple tips & tricks — things like the font tool, grouping, cleaving, proportionally resizing, duplicating, and even renaming a project. These were all “level up” things for me. I walked away from that session SO much more comfortable with using it, but more importantly with teaching it. For my life – for my “next step”, teaching 3d printing is really going to be a big deal. Kevin just gave me some extraordinary tips to make me a better teacher, better maker, and better presenter!

In the afternoon, I went to the session that was supposed to be for elementary-level creation of underwater ROVs. ¬† Holy schmamoleee…what an intense project! ¬†I almost bailed a couple of times when I saw what was involved. There were things SOOOO over my experience level that I literally walked away more than once, but I came back because there were relevant things to learn. ¬†…..Fast forward to the end of the session – I stuck with it and it was HUGE for me! ¬†I learned how to use and cut PVC pipe. Like, ¬†hacksaw cut! ¬†I know what a hacksaw is and how to use a vise to secure it to cut it. ¬†I learned what the heck a hose clamp is (our team had trouble clamping one, and I was the one who figured it out!), I not only learned how to solder today, but I learned an actual APPLICATION for it with this ROV project. II learned about things called Gorilla Tape and bilge pumps and neutral buoyancy, and ¬†– I learned how to strip a wire! Seriously. SERIOUSLY. Seriously.

I was a part f a team of 6 women educators who built an actual underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). On Friday, we will test its buoyancy and effectiveness at ECHO in Burlington, VT, but for now I can pretty much report that the effectiveness of the whole experience was 100% rewarding! BOOM!

As I told my fellow #makers, even if I never again in my life build an actual submersible, competition-worthy submersible ROV, I have learned so many, so very many sub-skills that will lead me and enable me on diverse maker journeys in the new year…..and beyond! For me, this is a week to keep leveling up. After today, I figured that out. “Build New” is absolutely a craving of mine, but “Level Up” is where I’m achieving the most success. I think I’ll continue down that road.

I Love Lovers of Learning

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Ask me a question about how to do something to do with Ed Tech or education in general.  I admittedly may or may not know the answer, but you just made an impression on me.  A great one.  If I see or hear you ask one of those types of questions of ANYONE, I pretty much ((heart)) you.

I admire curious people. ¬†I love lovers of learning. ¬†I think very highly of people who ask questions. ¬†I’m particularly impressed with people who are ‘in the biz’ aren’t afraid to admit when they don’t know something, or seek out the expertise of those around them. ¬†I’m enamored with the wonderers and the seekers of new knowledge. ¬†I put¬†people with a true growth mindset¬†on a pedestal. ¬†You ask questions with the goal of self-improvement? ¬†You, my friend, are a humble and ambitious edu-hero!

Why? ¬†I myself crave learning. ¬†I admit when I don’t know something, and I’m comfortable saying that there’s a whole stinkin’ lot I don’t know! ¬†I turn to colleagues and coworkers and members of my PLC and PLN when I don’t understand something. ¬†I go to workshops and conferences and seminars and webinars and edcamps and meetups and Google Hangouts and social media…to network and connect and learn new things and to ASK QUESTIONS!

Conversely, I have little understanding of¬†people – particularly in education – who go out of their way to exude overconfidence in only ever providing answers. ¬†If you’re not asking questions, education is not the business for you. ¬†¬†If you’re not seeking to grow and learn, not following educators with skill sets bigger than yours, I just can’t understand how you got into this field. ¬†If you always make sure that you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find a new room.

I was on Twitter this morning. ¬†I came across someone who is absolutely famous in the world of education…someone who has well over 100,000 followers, but follows less than 800 people. ¬†I unfollowed him. ¬†Then I came across someone who has over 65,000 followers, but follows less than 200. ¬†I unfollowed him, too.

I follow and participate in Twitter chats all the time. They’re amazing. ¬†I learn a lot and enjoy getting tips¬†and sharing ideas with¬†friends and educators from all over the globe. Chat members share advice and lean on each other for resources and support. ¬†But occasionally…..occasionally…..people join¬†who only ever spew knowledge but never put a question mark at the end of a tweet. ¬† For shame, for shame. ¬†What’s even sadder is that¬†there are educators in all of our districts who are like that, too….overconfident (but insecure) and definitely lacking humility.

C’mon –¬†be a question marker! ¬†Be an asker! ¬†Follow lots of smart people. ¬†Be a help seeker and a self-improver. Be humble and confident enough to put yourself out there and ask for others to share what they know. ¬† Be brave enough to wonder¬†and not pretend that you know the answers all the time. ¬†It’ll make you a better person and a better educator.

Most of all, I truly believe that it will make you a better role model for the students that we hope will have that same brave and humble curiosity to love and pursue learning.

 

Technology Integration Specialist: Revelations About My Vocation

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I had a unique and unexpected learning experience yesterday.  I attended Edcamp Exit 8a, the first edcamp ever hosted by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA).  It was their first edcamp, and it also happened to be the first NJPSA event that I had ever attended.  As an aspiring administrator, I had just joined the organization and literally received my welcome letter the day before this edcamp.

So there I was, in a room that was predominantly occupied by all kinds of administrators, from supervisors to principals to district-level admins.  There was also a smattering of technology experts, coaches, and teachers with various experience.  As a new member, I was ready to learn from all of these people.

Something unexpected happened. ¬†The edcamp session board, which is always populated on the spot by volunteers from the audience, just wasn’t filling up. ¬†As the minutes ticked on and I saw so many vacancies on the grid, I decided to put myself out there and volunteer to present. ¬†As even more time passed and the need remained evident, I signed up for two more session presentations (there were only 3 sessions that day) and hoped for the best. ¬†I’ve been to well over a dozen edcamps and figured I could facilitate a discussion – or three. ¬†To be honest, at that point, I was a little disappointed because my goal had been to come as a learner and to tap into the experience and expertise of others.

It’s my first session that had enough of an impact on me to have me thinking and blogging about it today. ¬†My session was titled, “What Is A Technology Integration Specialist?” ¬†I am brand new to this role (officially), and I shared that with the group right off the bat. ¬†I used an infographic that I had recently created as the basis for the session. ¬†(Click HERE for the full infographic, but here’s a small snapshot:

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As you can see, the focus was on what tech integration specialists can DO.  I explained to the session participants that this was a newly-created position, and that my goal was to present this infographic to the staff members I would be serving in order to show all the ways I can provide services.  The response to the ideas was very much favorable, which was validating, to say the least.  I was honored that administrators found my delivery models and strategies worthy of replication in their own districts.

The best part came next, though.  They started to give me advice.  In true edcamp style, the session became a discussion, and the experts in the room began sharing experiences from their own districts.  They wanted to help me avoid pitfalls and be successful in my new vocation.  The learning I had come for Рhad craved Рwas happening as a result of my topic and the collegiality of educational professionals who care!

Here are a few of the extremely valuable revelations they shared:

  • Have critical discussions with different administrators first. ¬†Often a tech integration specialist works under several different principals and supervisors. ¬†My friend Rich Czyz (@RACzyz), a NJ principal and former instructional coach, said that it’s really important to see what each building leader expects and to get a feel for the culture of each school. ¬†It’s also important to work with the principal/supervisor¬†to establish how things will be presented to staff, what expectations will be for all involved, and how we can support each other to improve technology integration in the school.
    • One great example involves how to approach teachers who are reluctant to welcome any ‘coach’ into their room…will the principal have that discussion with those teachers and pave the way? ¬†Does the supervisor prefer that no “push-in” coaching is done without an invitation by the teacher?
  • Be clear with staff about what Technology Integration Specialists DON’T do, too. ¬†I loved this advice because I hadn’t considered it – and it’s important. ¬†One supervisor in the room said that teachers in his school had taken advantage of the fact that another adult¬†was entering the room. ¬†Some teachers sat at their desks to grade papers; others actually left the room! ¬†In his district, the administrators intervened and explained to the staff that when any ‘coach’ enters the room, it is to help that teacher via new learning, practice, or support. ¬†He explained that it is critical to establish this expectation (with administrative support) to every teacher. ¬†He also advised¬†that I stay firm if/when teachers may try to take advantage, and to not make exceptions. ¬†“Be rigidly consistent” was the exact advice.
  • Let teachers know that a Tech Integration Specialist is NOT any type of administrator. ¬†This was great advice, too! ¬†Many teachers get nervous or even resentful¬†another adult coming into their classrooms. ¬†One principal told me that it’s really important to get the word out from the get-go that I will¬†never conduct an observation or be judgmental in any way. ¬†Classroom teachers and tech integration specialists are compatible (lateral) positions. ¬†She advised that I¬†repeat that fact¬†early and often.

As you can see, I left with new insights, new knowledge, and new ideas. ¬†Perhaps I started as a presenter, but I finished as a learner. ¬† I also ended up with some new contacts and remarkable connections. ¬†I’d say that’s growth, and I know that’s exactly the kind of gift that edcamps make possible.

 

If you have any other advice for me – ¬†or thoughts, comments, or opinions, I hope you’ll take the time to comment. ¬†You can reach me here at my blog (kerszi.wordpress.com), on Twitter at @kerszi, or follow my Facebook page, which is called Integration Innovation.

 

A Technology Infuser

I came across this picture on Pinterest the other day, and it swirled around in my mind for a bit until now.


It’s a tea infuser.  You put whatever blend of tea leaves you enjoy in that infuser, and lower it into the hot water until your tea reaches the desired strength.

This is very much my philosophy as someone who helps teachers with technology.  The privilege is called by different names – a tech coach, tech trainer, tech integrationist, or.. I propose… a tech infuser.

First, tech infusers need to realize that for many reasons, they may be approaching hot water.  Teachers are sometimes reluctant to try new things, have a general insecurity about technology, or be uncomfortable having someone come into their rooms to offer help.  

The water itself also symbolizes ‘normal’ classroom instruction.  Guess what…sometimes water is exactly the ‘taste’ that’s needed in a classroom.  Sometimes it works just fine.  Sometimes, plain old water is really the perfect thing.  But not always.  Not for today’s learners.

Sometimes, a little more flavor is needed.  Sometimes, a lot more flavor is needed.  That’s where a tech infuser can do the most magic.  He or she can bring so many varieties of tea to show a teacher!  She can give tastings in the form of demo lessons.  He can observe a lesson, get a flavor for what’s going on, suggest a few ideas and – let them steep.  She can brainstorm with the teacher and prepare special blends – for any occasion!  

Here are five things that really great tech infusers do beautifully:

1) Really know their tea!  Know lots of teas, stay current on the latest teas & be creative with cool new ways to blend them.  

2) Go in gently.  Sometimes a subtle dip is just the right way to get those who’ve never drank the tea accustomed to the taste.  

3) Know balance.  Know when plain water will do the trick, when a gentle infusion is called for, and when a mighty strong infusion might just be a complete zinger!

4) Let things steep. Sometimes it takes awhile for a taste or a flavor to really develop.  Let it steep, but come back to check every once in awhile until it appears ready.


5) Have tea parties!  Let all of those who have developed a taste for infusion come together & celebrate!  Be sure to invite those reluctant ones to the party, too, to hear how delicious it can be to infuse a little variety into their TEA-ching!

Play with Sway!

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So… Microsoft has this cool presentation tool called Sway. ¬†Have you seen it? ¬†It’s different than ¬†PowerPoint in the way it’s constructed, the interface, and the very way it moves. ¬†It’s another way to get your message out there and another option to offer your students when it comes to presentation time.

I recently got certified as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Training Provider, and now I’m excited to share about the things that I’m excited about…and I’m excited about Sway.

Sway is a free site/app that allows users to create interactive stories, reports, and presentations. ¬†As a technology¬†teacher, I’m particularly excited about the ease of use. ¬†I have no qualms at all about introducing this to even my youngest elementary students, and I know that they’ll find and discover even more cool things about Sway than I already have. It has many built-in formatting options from which it’s easy to select, drag, and populate the items you want to use. ¬†My three pervasive¬†thoughts about Sway are:

  1. Students will love having another option to make and share really beautiful presentations.
  2. I appreciate all the ways content can be added!  Check out the screenshot at the below.  The students will love having all those choices!
  3. Sway felt like “PowerPoint Goes To The Theme Park”. ¬†It’s just fun to create graphically dynamic presentations.

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If you did need a little help or really wanted to dig into some training¬†about all of the features, c’mon – this is Microsoft…they’re great with tutorials! ¬†Here’s a place to get started: What Is Sway & 10 Great Tutorials. ¬†As part of my certification, I did watch most of the tutorial videos, and they really did help¬†me make the most of Sway.

Once you create a Sway, there are lots of great ways for you or your students to share it, too!   They can just leave it in their Office 365 account, or they can email, post to social media, share to Yammer, or even upload it to a docs.com account.

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I’m still learning and exploring (do we ever stop?)…and having tons of fun with it! ¬†I hope you play with Sway, and get your students to, also! ¬†I’d love to see your creations if you’re willing to share. ¬†You can post in the comments on this blog, find me on Twitter @kerszi, or go to my Facebook page called Integration Innovation.