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.

 

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.

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.

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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!

New Name, Same Stuff!

Hi old friends!  It was time for a change.   My Primary Techspiration has evolved and earned a new name – Integration Innovation.

Integration Innovation

There are two main reasons for this name change.  First, I’m kind of branding myself.  As I’ve learned and grown and started branching out, I’ve zeroed in on a couple of areas on which to specialize.  My number one – technology integration – is definitely my biggest focus, love, passion, and specialty…and so I needed to readjust this blog title to reflect that expertise.

The second reason I’ve changed the name is due to feedback from many of you.  Over the years, I’ve been contacted by so many people who have asked about the “primary” part of “My Primary Techspiration”.  As an elementary person, I had initially tried to focus on tech things that catered to the needs of primary school teachers.  But, as so many of you pointed out, I was missing an audience and an opportunity, because most of the things I post about are great for every level and every age.  (Yes, I heard you high school teachers who told me that your kids love GoNoodle, too!)  So the type of content and the theme of this blog isn’t changing one bit.  You can still find all of your favorite “tips, tools, and tidbits” here at Integration Innovation!

And so thanks to my own need to specialize and to brand myself, plus your feedback about ‘casting a wider net’ to appeal to educators at all levels, I hereby rename this blog: Integration Innovation.  And I hereby present my cool logo:

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(By the way, my Facebook page name has also become Integration Innovation…how’s that for branding?!?!)  All of my posts from this site are automatically posted to that Facebook page and to my own Twitter page – @kerszi    I hope you’ll follow along!

Voice Typing with Speechnotes

There are many voice-to-text sites that are now available to us, but one of the nicest and easiest I have found to use is Speechnotes.  This blog post will be simple and quick, like the site, because it’s honestly just an intuitive piece of technology.  What a wonderful and simple tool this is!

speechnotes logo

Speechnotes is free.  You don’t need an account or a login.  You don’t need to set up student accounts.  You don’t need to download or install anything.  You simply open your Chrome browser, click on the microphone icon, (you may need to “allow access” to microphone if you get a pop-up) and start talking.  Your words appear on the screen in an easy-to-read, distraction-free font.

Along the left side of the screen are a variety of small icons that allow users to do a myriad of things with what they’ve just dictated.  Options include naming, saving, filing, emailing, uploading to Google Drive, or just saving as a .docx file.

On the right side of the screen are simple directions for inserting punctuation.  At the end of a sentence, for example, if you say the word “period”, the program inserts a period.

speechnotes

Just for fun, I switched the language to Puerto Rican Spanish and tried saying some simple sentences in my best Spanish accent.  Aye caramba…this site even puts in the accent marks and tildes where they’re supposed to be!  This makes it equally wonderfully for your ESL students.  The site supports a pretty amazing variety of different languages.

Speechnotes would be great for young students who have not yet learned to type, students who have difficulty with typing, spelling, or writing, students with motor difficulties, ESL students, and a whole bunch of adults who just love the simplicity and shortcuts that voice typing allows…like me!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Will you use Speechnotes?  How?  You can share here at kerszi.wordpress.com or find me on Twitter @kerszi.  I also have a Facebook page called My Primary Techspiration where you’ll find this and lots of other great tech tips, tools, & tidbits!  

 

This May Be One Of The Greatest Websites Of All Time!!!

This may be one of the greatest websites of all time.  I’m very serious.

If you have kids, you are going to love this site. If your kids ever said “I’m bored” this summer, you are REALLY going to love this site.  If you have a creative side at all, you are going to love this site because it’s not just for kids.  If you’re into that whole ‘maker’ thing, oh dear – you’re going to need to sit down before you read this post.  If you’re a teacher, well….take a deep breath, dive in, and just KNOW that you’re going to introduce this to your students during the first week of school and parents will hug your face on back to school night!  If you are an over-the-top adventurous, innovative, awesomesauce teacher, you’ll have a class account set up before school even starts!

((((((( drum roll  ))))))

The site is called diy.org.  Yup, it’s that simple.  That unpretentious.  How did I not know about this before?

diylogo

Here’s the gist of the site:

1) You look up stuff to do.

2) You do the stuff.

3) You post something about the stuff you did.

4) You earn a patch.

I have just completely oversimplified this amazing site, but I wanted you to feel like this is easy, and fun, and something you can start doing right now!  I know you’re itching to get started, but please, please bear with me as I explain DIY.org in a little more detail.

1) You look up stuff to do:  From hundreds and hundreds of ALL KINDS of activities.  I’m not kidding when I say there is something for everyone here.  Screenshot time – just look at the patches you can earn:

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diypatches5diypatches6diypatches7diypatches8

diypatches9diypatches10diypatches13diypatches12

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***I had absolutely NO intention of posting pix of EVERY single patch, but I couldn’t stop myself!  I told you this site has something for everyone!  (And they keep adding…these people at DIY.org are incredible!)

2)  You do the stuff:  Pick a patch that interests you and go for it!  I like to bake, so I went for the baker patch. You’ll see in the photo below that the patch is in the 3rd spot.  I need to do 3 challenges in this category to earn the DIY.org patch.  But if you look a little lower in the photo, you’ll see that there are FIFTEEN options for challenges, and they really range in difficulty!  Even better, for each option there are little videos submitted by other DIYers to instruct or motivate you!

diybakerpatch

3.  You post something about the stuff you did:  Many sites call this ‘submitting evidence’.  When you’re done baking your bread, making a duct-tape wallet, starting a rock collection, scrapbooking, producing a radio interview, or hiking – just upload a photo or video to show that you actually did it!  (Mom & Dad, you get an instant email whenever your child submits something. You can always edit it or delete it.)

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4.  You earn a patch!  At first, your submission (evidence)  is pending review by real humans, but then it gets approved, you get an email, and you’re on your way to earning a patch!  Remember, you must do three challenges in any category before you’re patch-worthy.

Okay, so you’re sold.  I knew you would be.  You probably have your eye on about a half dozen of those beautiful patches, right?  You’re already mentally pairing people you know with patches…I do that, too!

BUT before you go…..I have a few really valuable tips that you might want to read first:

  • Is it safe?  Well, they’ve thought of everything.  Here’s what their site has to say:  “DIY is a safe setting for your kids to try social media, get feedback, and be inspired by a community of peers. Every member’s privacy is carefully monitored by a staff of moderators. No real names or faces are shown without parental permission. Comments are allowed, but jerks and bullies are not.”   Note from me: When I signed up for a kid account, it required an email be sent to a parent, and then even credit card info provided (NOT charged) as proof of actual adult-ness!
  • Create a family/class account: Rather than having individual accounts, skip the competition between your kids and encourage the collaboration.   Everybody can work together to be a part of the success!  Create a shared account with a shared password.  You’ll feel safer, it’s easier to manage, and it’s a great bonding thing!
  • Skip the camps:  You’ll see prompts that offer specialized camps for $10.  I believe these are probably excellent based on the quality of this site, but there is SO MUCH FREE STUFF that I encourage you to live in & explore the DIY.org world before you start paying.  Maybe next summer if little Johnny BEGS for that robotics camp…?
  • Get the app:  All the info is on the app, and it’s great to have it with you wherever you go!  It also makes taking a photo or video for submission so much easier.  When Suzie catches her first fish for the angler badge, shoot a quick vid, upload it right from your phone, and you’re on your way!

Okay, so I leave you with this…my favorite patch, and the one I’m best at by far.

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I’m Kerszi, and I’ll see you on DIY.org!

As always, I love feedback & sharing!  You can send your thoughts & ideas here on WordPress, to @kerszi on Twitter, or follow My Primary Techspiration on Facebook.

Why Digital Badges?

I am excited out of my MIND!!!  I’m so proud to say that my school district is getting very progressive about the way it offers professional development.  We’re moving away from the “Sit & Get” workshop format and starting to explore options that involve choice!  Our first HUGE foray into this world involves something powerful and amazing called Digital Badges.

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If you happen to Google the term Digital Badges, or even follow the hashtag on Twitter, you’ll see that there are all kinds of platforms for creating, issuing, and using Digital Badges.  You’ll also see that it is becoming an increasingly popular way to motivate people for all kinds of things.  Businesses, colleges, leagues, clubs, MOOCs, and more are using these.  Heck, even my Fitbit uses Digital Badges to do its best to keep me motivated!

In our district, we’re using a badging site called Credly.  It’s free!  It allowed for our district to set up an account and create a set of digital badges.  Each badge represents some skill to be learned involved the learning AND APPLICATION of an ed tech tool. For instance, there is a badge for the site Wordle, which teaches badge applicants how to create cool word clouds with their students at the website wordle.net.  There’s another badge for a cool web tool called Thinglink, which teaches badge applicants to create an interactive image with hyperlinks to all sorts of unit activities.  There’s even a Digital Badge that teaches folks how to use that PRNT SCRN button on the keyboard!

There are about 20 starter badges there now, but the site is designed to grow – get this – by CROWDSOURCING THE GENIUS OF THE USERS!  This is undoubtedly the best part!  The second to the last badge on the page is a Screencasting Digital Badge.  It teaches users how to create their own screencast to explain a new web tool to others.  To claim this badge (or any badge), users must submit specified evidence.  In the case of the Screencasting Digital Badge, an applicant must submit the link the actual video that they have created.

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These are just a few of a growing list of badges that may be earned in our district!

Wait…this is where this whole thing EXPLODES WITH AWESOMENESS!  After the screencast is submitted, approved, and the Screencast Digital Badge is issued, the district uses it to create a new badge which is then added to the site!  The person who was generous enough to submit it gets credit on the Digital Badge site, and they also earn a bonus:  The Digital Leader Badge!  (The highest honor in all the land!  See the credit given in the photo below!)

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As you can see from the image above, each badge on our district’s website has a cute little picture of the badge itself, a link to the website, a brief description of what the site is or does, and a link to claim the badge at Credly.  That Credly link gives more information about what specific evidence is required for each individual badge.  For the most part, evidence involves actual proof of the tool having been used by a class in some way.  Photos, videos, links to student-created work, screenshots of class dashboards with online scores/results, Word documents or actual student samples – these are all indicators of true application.  These are the real credentials – the ‘metadata’ – that back up a Digital Badge and make it so much more than just a cute graphic.  Digital Badges MEAN something!

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As part of the roll-out of this new system, I created a “Why Digital Badges?” slideshow using a cool presentation tool called Haiku Deck (more on that in an upcoming post).  Before you close out this post so you can dash away and start exploring Digital Badges, do yourself a favor and click through this slideshow.  I’ll bet it makes a Digital Badge lover out of you, too!

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Please click on the hyperlink below to view this slideshow.

https://www.haikudeck.com/p/dixvM2WBsM

Note: WTPS just rolled out this system two days ago to a beta-testing group of 30 teachers.  Within two days, over a dozen badge applications were submitted…..and it’s summer break!

Note 2: Beta-testing is a very good idea.  The initial group found some kinks in the system that needed to be corrected.  Additionally, our district is ONLY implementing this for the elementary staff at this point for very much the same reason.  Test small scale first.

As always, I welcome your comments, thoughts, questions, and suggestions.  You can still always reach me by commenting here at WordPress, on Twitter at @kerszi , or by following My Primary Techspiration on Facebook.