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!

swayarrow

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.

sway

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.

swayshare

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.

Who Showed Up?

So you want to start an edu-team?  Maybe you’ll form a PLC that’s really going to have an impact, make a difference, affect change. Maybe you’re looking to get the right people on board or choose a power group of like-minded educators.  Your ambition is noble, your mindset ideal – just make sure you take a close look around and choose that team wisely.

One of the best tools you have in your toolbox is a simple glance at the past year or so.

Who showed up?

Who was noticeably absent?


If I were a runner (which I totally am not!), I would want to train for a marathon with folks who share a similar ambition.  Who is really into it?  Who shows dedication, commitment, passion, drive?

Who showed up?

I’d be looking for people who came to the open track days or the local 5k runs that I invited them to, or the monthly runner meetups on the town bike path.

I’d look for people who didn’t make excuses.  I’d look for people that bring new ideas.  I’d look for people better than me who inspire me, or people who just love it as much as I do.

And I know that anyone who is a really a runner would never pick me for a teammate, because I’m noticeably absent from that whole scene!

The same is true for educators with a true growth mindset.  I’m not into running, but I am into Ed Tech!  I want to surround myself with the right people for me.  I want to find my Ed Tech tribe.  So, I look to the past year or so and I think about those who ‘showed up’.  In some ways I’m thinking figuratively, but it’s also a literal thing.  Who attended workshops, conferences, webinars?  Who explored, collaborated, and openly shared?  In the past year, who suggested a new idea or wanted to team up to create or innovate?  Who has a comparable growth mindset?

Everyone has different priorities, and there are different levels of enthusiasm about those priorities.  We all have our thing, and it’s all good.  There are lots of things that aren’t my thing, and that’s just fine.

I’m just suggesting that when it comes to aligning yourself with people who truly share your vision and your passion, look to the past and see who showed up.

PARCC Prep: Teaching Test Navigation Skills At The Elementary Level

In the past three years, my school district has participated in conducting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test with students in grades three through twelve. As a computer teacher at the elementary level, I have been a critical part of the testing team. I have seen the practice tests and even the actual PARCC test. In many ways, this test is radically different from anything our students have encountered before. Gone are the paper answer sheets with oval answers to be shaded in with number two pencils. Today’s students are tasked with not only demonstrating content knowledge in deeper, more complex ways, but also with navigating these new digital testing environments. For many students, particularly our elementary students, the sheer task of navigating the test itself is new and intimidating.

I chose third grade specifically as my research group because this was the first year that those students take the PARCC test. Not only are third graders our youngest PARCC participants, but they are also the most immature in regard to technology skills. Additionally, I identified this grade level as my focus group because the third grade teachers have expressed concerns that navigating the technology may impede their students’ ability to answer the content.

For this reason, I worked with and studied three third grade classes in my school, which was a total of sixty students.  I wanted to determine if preparing for the technology skills related to test navigation of the PARCC test is a necessary and relevant endeavor. These ideas led to my three research questions:

1) What are the prerequisite skills for students to successfully access and use this computer-based assessment known as the PARCC test?

2) Does the pre-teaching of specific test navigation skills benefit the students?

3) What effect does pre-teaching of these technology skills have on classroom teachers’ attitudes regarding their students’ experience with the PARCC test?

As students came to my computer class, I explained that I was purposely asking them to take PARCC practice tests (on the TestNav site) without any assistance from me. I explained that I was not interested in their actual knowledge or ability to answer the question correctly, but as their computer teacher I was curious about their comfort level with navigating the test itself. I did show the students the icon and how to access the test, but then I stood back and simply observed. Students were free to ask me any questions as they explored the tests, and I wrote each of these questions as a list in a notebook. I also occasionally pointed to buttons, icons, or items on a page and asked students to identify their purpose. Again, I listed everything that students said. I also took note of what students did seem to know. I had students practice typing open-ended response questions in text boxes and noted their ability and speed as well as their overall understanding of how much they thought would suffice as an answer. I occasionally asked students to use a tool that was not obvious on the screen, and listed those that students were able to use or not use when prompted.

After looking through all of this data, I found that all of those skills that were extrapolated from my research fell into four distinct categories.  I present this graphic and data as a template for teachers to use in the future as a checklist of PARCC-specific test-taking skills that should be taught specifically.

parccdata

If you have a chance to explore the practice tests with your own classes, I encourage you to conduct similar experiments to determine the specific skills that your students need.  If you come across any additional skills that aren’t listed here, I’d love to hear from you!

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @kerszi, on my Facebook page called Integration Innovation, or here on the blog!

No Phone, No Tablet, No Problem – Scan QR Codes With Your Computer

This is a ridiculously simple blog post, but one that might really come in handy for those of you who still don’t have a lot of handheld or mobile computing devices like smartphones or iPads.  You can scan QR codes using a webcam on a regular computer!

The site is called Web QR and the URL is just as simple:  https://webqr.com/

There’s really no explanation needed.  This is what the site looks like:

web qr

That’s it.  Hold your QR code up to your webcam. It will appear in that gray box and automatically scan….which will take you to your desired site on the web!

One other nice feature about this site is that it also allows you to create a QR code.  Just click on the word Create at the top and then enter a web address (URL).

Happy scanning!

 

Forego the Fizzle


It happens all too often.  Someone has a great idea.  It gains momentum, picks up speed, maybe even gathers new participants.  Heck, sometimes a committee is born.  Now it’s an all-out awesome idea!  A movement – a movement with a vision and a purpose and objectives.  The anticipation and optimism are palpable.  The hypothetical ball gets rolling.  Great things are starting to happen, and it’s only going to get better!

And then it happens.  There’s a shift, a turn, an unanticipated plot twist.  Suddenly the vision starts to feel “fake” and stakeholder buy-in starts to wane.  It’s such a let-down from the rah-rah high of just a few days/weeks/months ago.  I know. I’ve been there. 

How can you stop this from happening? How can you prevent your vision/ mission/ dream project from going from forward thinking – to fake – to fizzle?

Here are six ideas that might just be worth a shot:

1) Upcycle Your Team: Even if there are only two or three of you, switch roles from time to time. Let everyone feel valued. Is there a hierarchy or is it a group of equal partners?  Be open about these roles & responsibilities.  If you’re going for equality among all, there should be no secrets or sidebars.

2) Crowdsource The Agenda: If you have meetings (real or virtual), allow the players to set the agenda. Add your own topics, too. Each contributor should write the expected amount of time next to his topic so that an overall timeline for the session can be determined.  Again, this comes down to valuing all the stakeholders.  When members feel like they’re wasting their time and nothing they say matters, they start to feel like it’s all fake.  Remember, everyone’s contributions are welcomed, valued, and given due diligence. (That doesn’t mean they’ll all come to fruition.)

3) Tantalizing Teasers: Always leave a little something fun on the horizon “to be discussed next time”. Ask the team to think about a topic until then, or gather resources, or bring examples & artifacts to share at the next meeting.  This gives everyone not only a feeling of importance, but continues to drive that sense of anticipation and looking forward to what’s coming next.  This is your greatest chance to block the fizzle.

4) Advertise:  I know it seems obvious, but sometimes folks just need a well-crafted reminder at just the right time. Give enough notice but not too much.  Make your invitation/announcement bold, colorful, creative, interesting!  Without a doubt, use all kinds of social media and multimedia to draw ’em back in. The effort you put into ‘advertising’ shows that you’re still 100% all-in, and that goes a long way with stakeholders. (Be extra careful not to forget anybody – that could go a long way, too – in the wrong way!)

5) Outsource: Sometimes, you’ve got to think outside the box, and to do that, you need to GO outside your box.  Go on a site visit to see how someone else does something. Skype or do a Google Hangout with a guru of some sort. Bring in a guest speaker for a fresh new voice.  Maybe a little exposure to a new perspective will be just the impetus needed to but the fire back into your project.

6) Shine a Light On The Elephant in The Room: Don’t hide what’s wrong. Be open about what’s not going well.  Let the other guy (or team, or committee) express what THEY think isn’t working.  It’s okay. Invite suggestions, and live like you have a perpetual fliud action plan!

Bonus: One more idea.  Want to know how they’re all really feeling about your big project, idea, or committee?  Take an anonymous poll. Put it online; nobody ever really felt anonymous on paper.  It’s pretty hard to create a poll or survey that’s unbiased, but that’s what you’ll need to do to get the real truth.  And the truth?  Well, the truth shall set you free to make informed improvements and get your vision back on track. 

              Don’t fizzle.  Sizzle!