An Adaptive Tech PD “Miracle”

It warms my heart and brings me joy to see that glowing joy on a Special Education teachers’ face exclaiming, “We can DO that?”, “I didn’t know that was even A THING”,  “I never even THOUGHT of it”, “NO WAY!!!”… and the unforgettable, “This is like a miracle!”

This new phenomena is spurred by some mandatory PD that all of our teachers in grades 3-5 needed to attend this month.  I was teaching them the wonders of Microsoft’s OneNote Class Notebook.  That in itself was an extraordinary mind-blowing tool for teachers who JUST entered the world of teaching in a 1:1 environment.  For now, I’m thrilled to report on an unexpected byproduct of those PD sessions.

The Special Education teachers (and many Basic Skills and even general education teachers) were blown away by the Learning Tools that are embedded in Microsoft’s OneNote and Class Notebook.  In the Learning Tools, there is a remarkable ribbon tool called “Immersive Reader”.  I am both a former Special Ed teacher and a crazy-avid EdTech junkie, so I thought it was maybe just me who was awestruck by the way these tools make text accessible to all students.  The text-to-speech alone can bring tears to my eyes when I see it being used independently by a struggling reader.  The other options – font size, spacing, and color readability options can also be set by the learner to meet his/her own learning needs.  I ADORE that students may choose to speed up the reading voice or slow it down if processing is difficult!  I marvel when a student who has difficulty decoding can turn on the syllabication option and just read syllable-by-syllable.  Most of all – and I exclaim this with joyous fervor in my PD sessions – this is not something that a teacher has to “push out” to students or that draws any attention to that student!  The students who need it can just “turn it on” themselves – determining for themselves when they need those accommodations – and they don’t look any different than anyone else in the class!  Students can go to the same OneNote page as everyone else, and then discreetly slip in a pair of earbuds, click on the Learning Tools tab, and make the learning accessible without ever leaving the page (or the group, or the classroom!)

I also showed our teachers that their students will also soon have the Dictation feature available (speech to text) as soon as our district upgrades us to Windows 10.  I think a few of the teachers may or may not have fallen out of their chairs.  I know that I heard audible gasps.  One teacher threw her hand over her mouth and mumbled, “Oh, all those years we wasted money and time on that OTHER speech to text program, and now all of our kids will have it RIGHT HERE, RIGHT in their own OneNote notebooks and not having to go out to another program.”  Another teacher exclaimed, “This is like a miracle!”  I LOVE that these teachers get as emotional about this as I do.  That’s exactly how I feel!

Speaking of miracle, this is where something pretty magical began to happen!  Special Ed teachers – and some other speciality teachers, and Child Study Team members – started asking for more sessions just for them that dealt specifically with Adaptive Technology!   They wanted more time with the Learning Tools and to explore samples and brainstorm ways that these could be used.  Nothing – NOTHING – warms the cockles of my heart like teachers who are craving personalized PD that will help them help their students…so I created this to start:

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This graphic was made with Buncee – which is an AWESOME presentation site/app that also has many features that are exceptional for exceptional learners!  

These teachers are especially fascinated with Microsoft’s Audio Recorder, which is a standard part of ALL OneNote notebooks and Class Notebooks…sitting right there in the middle of the Insert Ribbon!  I showed them about 10 ways just that one little microphone tool could be used by both teachers AND students to make learning accessible, productive, and fun!  They played and came up with much better ideas than I had.  We researched and Googled and Pinterest-ed even more practical ideas…and the time flew!

We started with 1/2 day PD, and I’m thrilled to say that it wasn’t enough.  I never even got to demo all the the items on my very short list above – and I had about a dozen others on backup reserve in case we had more time!  As the teachers learned and shared and brainstormed, it gave ME even more ideas about things I want to show them…to teach them…to learn with them!   Going forward, those teachers have inspired a much longer list – I’ve begun compiling a list of apps, websites (like Buncee…see photo caption above), and simple general computer user features that I’ll be offering and sharing at all my schools…and beyond.  I have a bunch of creative “PD Delivery Options” – newsletters, online resources, screencasts, virtual meetings with screensharing, Tech Playdates, Morning Munchies & Lunch Bunch mini-sessions, etc. – so that all of my in-district teachers have diverse options for accessibility, too!

We are all SO very lucky to be at such a great and powerful time in regard to educational technology.  Technology isn’t an answer or a cure-all, and it needs to be planned well and done right, but OH, the possibilities!  Our teachers are lucky – there is so much that is FREE to us these days, and there are so many helpful tools embedded right in the sites and apps we use every day.  Our students are lucky – to be learning how to learn with technology that assists them when they need it.  As for me, I’m quite sure that I am the luckiest of all – to have Special Education teachers with real heart and sincere ambition, who crave and ask for professional development for adaptive technologies to make life the best it can be for their exceptional learners!


As always, I really love to hear your thoughts.  I need YOUR help to grow my list with great ideas to share with teachers!  What simple adaptive technology tools to you use and love?  What are some of your favorite general computer use tricks (my teachers even loved just learning to zoom in on the screen and how to increase/decrease brightness…those little things matter)?  What do you wish you knew about Adaptive Technology?  How do you get/find PD that works for you?  And my favorite question of all is…what’s your coolest AT tip or trick?

Reach out to me at @kerszi on Twitter, drop a note right here in my blog comments, or follow my Facebook page “Integration Innovation” and share your thoughts & ideas there!  I’m also kerszi on Voxer if you’d rather strike up a more private or conversational chat.  Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

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Minah Minah… #EdLeadership Lessons from a Muppet

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Someone shared this video with me this morning, and I haven’t been able to get the song out of my head ever since.  I’m pretty sure I just did the same thing to you – sorry!  It’s such a catchy little tune and it’s been around since I was a little kid, which means it’s been around for a long, LONG time.  It’s old school Sesame Street, it’s the Muppets…it’s Minah Minah.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that this is the PERFECT metaphor for how I approach educational leadership.  Minah Minah……..

See those two fuzzy pink critters?  They do a great job.  They work in harmony.  They have found a schnazzy little number that really just works for them.  People like it. It has caught on.  It makes others feel perky and peppy and good.  BUT – it’s so repetitive.  It is so monotonous.  It’s goes on and on and on…it’s the same old song.

See the shaggy orange-haired rogue rebel?  He’s part of the trio.  He has a voice, and he’s expected to come in and do his scripted part at just the right moments. He goes along with the plan and sings their tune, too…at first.  After a few rounds of the same old chorus, he decides to put his own spin on things.  They stop and look at him funny, so he goes back to doing what is expected and just sings the same old song with them again.

until he just can’t contain himself and the very NEED to be creative and try something new just explodes out of him!  It’s who he is.  It’s in his nature to take risks, to add a little unexpected magic to the music.

He doesn’t abandon their song altogether, he tries to enhance it.  He just wants to be allowed to get a little creative and perhaps make that same old song a little newer and a  little better.  After getting funny looks (are those reprimands?) several times, we see him walk off into the distance – seemingly giving up.  I think we would all understand if he left to go find a new group because staying would mean continually fighting that resistance to change.

But our shaggy, orange-haired friend comes back!  He has grit, and he’s not afraid to use it!  He’ll keep plugging away to have his inspired, wacky, off-the-cuff little vision be a part of that song.  Yup, that’s grit – and steadfast belief in a vision to make things better.  Not only does he keep plugging away at that monotonous pink duet, but then he goes out and spreads his song!  Okay, it’s just to Kermit in this video, but let’s face it – Kermit knows all the right people.  If he can get Kermit to make a few phone calls in support, pretty soon there will be a whole SNAGGLE of Muppets jamming to a new beat.

If you watch to see what happened at the very, VERY end of the video, you’ll see that even the staunchest, most set-in-their-ways spectators are interested and suddenly asking the question, “What’s a Minah Minah?’

whats a minah minah

This is the work of transformative and visionary leaders in education.  Be shaggy.

 

 

Bring on the Bitmoji!

Even if you haven’t started using them, I know you’ve seen them.  And if you HAVE started using them, you’re a little addicted, right?  Or is it just me?

Bitmojis are taking over the world…or at least it seems that way…and I’m glad because they make me really happy!  So what’s a Bitmoji?  It’s an avatar you design to (sort of) look like you.  And then you use it.  For everything!

I got started with Bitmoji on my iPhone, so I’ll start you the same way, although you can absolutely create and use Bitmoji from your computer in the Chrome browser.  There’s an extension for that, of course!   (I have it, I use it, and I totally recommend it!)

On your phone, just get the free Bitmoji app and sign up with an email. The prompts will walk you through how to create your Bitmoji, but it starts like this:


It’s personal preference, but I really like the Bitstrips style.  The next several prompts will take you through designing the physical appearance of your avatar.  It will ask you to choose your hair style, color, face shape, eyebrow style, eyebrow color, eyes, eyelashes, pupils, nose, mouth, cheeks, facial lines (yes, sadly yes), makeup, glasses, headwear, and finally body shape (mine is uhhh…slimmed down).  Ladies, it’s even going to let you choose your chest size!img_6103.png

Then, it’s fun fashion time!  Dress up your mini-you!


You get to dress up your avatar, but there are tons and tons of choices, and just know that you can change your avatar’s outfit as often as you’d like.

Hit the ✅ to finalize things, and you’re ready to use your Bitmoji and fun and creative ways!

I use mine all the time when texting my husband and son.  It’s become a bit of a fun game for us – we try to have entire conversations back-and-forth using only Bitmoji!

Wanna try?  OK, it might be a little hard to find your Bitmoji the first time you’re trying to text one, so let me show you how to access them.  First, click on the little globe icon at the lower left of your texting keyboard:


On the next screen, click on the little ABC icon at the lower left of your texting keyboard:

That brings up your “Search Bitmoji” screen, where you can type in keywords to look for the perfect action, expression, or emotion!img_6104.png

Posting your fun & crazy avatars works exactly the same way on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Notice my avatar has that same pink top on in most of the choices.  It will stay that way until I change her outfit!

Many educators are now using these in Booksnaps (click on the word for more info), an awesome idea created by Tara Martin for using Bitmoji in purposeful educational ways!

One last word of caution for elementary educators…there are a few Bitmoji that are not quite appropriate.  There aren’t many, but you know your kiddies will find them!

Since you stayed with me, learning and reading all the way until the end, I’ll leave you with this one very sincere final Bitmoji:

 

 

Please share your thoughts, feedback and ideas with me here at my Integration Innovation blog, on Twitter @kerszi, or on my Facebook page called Integration Innovation.  

Schedule Meetings with Consideration for your Team…with Doodle!

There’s a really cool, simple, and free little web tool called Doodle that you’re just going to love.  It’s like a scheduling agent – but it’s a very thoughtful one!  Doodle lets you poll the people you want to meet with and gives them the gift of choosing the dates & times that work best for them.  I have used this so many times with my various teams, committees, and staff – and I know that they appreciate having a voice in when a meet-up will occur.  I’ve noticed some administrators have begun to try Doodle, too, and I applaud that effort, because educators (and other administrators) REALLY love it when they feel that their time is respected.

It couldn’t be simpler.  You, as the organizer, just list all the potential days and times that you’re willing to meet.  Doodle puts them on a grid and gives you a link that you send to anyone you’d like to invite.   People respond by entering their own names and putting checkmarks next to all of the times that they are available.  You’ll get an email each time someone responds, so you’ll know when all the ‘votes are in’….and boom – majority wins!

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Doodle even lets you integrate your calendar, so the final meeting date is inserted for you.  I told you it was easy!

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Just for fun, I created a quick little video tutorial (less than 6 minutes is always my rule for ALL tutorials)…Click HERE to see it!  Doodle away, my friends!

 

Do you have feedback or ideas?  Please share with me here in the comments section of my blog, on Twitter at @kerszi, or I have a Facebook page called Integration Innovation, and I welcome your thoughts there, too!  Thanks for reading!

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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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 – had craved – was 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!