Monday, December 14, 2015

Edublog Awards

Thank You!
I wanted to take a quick moment and say thank you for the Edublog Awards 2015 nomination. I appreciate it very much and enjoy sharing through my blog as often as I can. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and looking forward to 2016!

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Tech Director's Reflection V: Be Happy Now

Part V is going to be a two question wrap up of a Tech Director's Reflection. I have enjoyed sharing these questions with everyone and I hope you have enjoyed answering the same questions yourself.

When you work in IT, you have to understand that constant change, end user issues, and other variables that you can't always control are part of the gig. If flexibility and understanding are not part of you, then satisfaction on the job is probably going to be hard to come by. Salary in the K-12 setting can also be a challenge for some as it isn't always comparable to a similar industry job. Talking often about other reasons that create personal satisfaction on the job are an important part of a tech director building a strong team.

What is the most important personal satisfactions connected with your position?
Knowing that what we are doing on a daily basis provides our students and teachers with an opportunity to have and provide a relevant education is very rewarding and that makes the stressful situations seem very minor.

What other job(s) does your background qualify you for?
I don’t think there is a specific job(s) that I would name to answer this question. Good leaders develop a style that work in a number of settings because they understand how to build great teams.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Tech Director's Reflection IV: Leading From The Middle

Everyone Can Lead
I truly believe that everyone can be a leader if they choose to be. Leading up, down and across can be beneficial for an organization if encouraged and there is a way for the communication to happen. The saying is a bit old now, but bringing everyone outside of the four walls of their classrooms and cubicles is still relevant and if we can do that, strong working environments can happen.

How do you promote and encourage the use of new and emerging technology in the classroom and district?
I like to share as much as possible through my social media outlets, write using my blog, and support staff through quality service. More important than that is  providing  a way for the real experts, the classroom teachers, to have a way to collaborate with one another and share what they are doing with emerging technologies and practices. To do this we have a Technology Integration Specialist, Collaboration Coach Leads, and Collaboration Coaches in the district that work to support one another. I do my best to support them with what they need to make that happen. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Tech Director's Reflection III: The Journey

Morning Coffee
The great thing about careers is that often we have no idea where our current jobs and experiences will lead us in the future. I understand  that many people may map out a career path from first job to retirement, however I would assume when that plan is reviewed while sipping coffee on the front porch enjoying the morning sunrises of retirement, that there were different roads taken along the way. Reflecting on how you have arrived at your current position is a good reminder of the hard work that you have done over the years and a nice trip down memory lane, give it a try!

Courtesy Jeff Power
What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
I feel all my positions in education have lead me to my current position. When I started my career as a classroom teacher, I gained knowledge of what it is like to not only guide students, but what teachers need to be successful in the classroom. As a Technology Integration Coach, I was able to work with adults and develop leadership and collaboration skills and also continue to become familiar with technology on the data center side. These real world experiences prepared me for my current position and everyday is another opportunity for a hands on learning experience for continued improvement.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Tech Director's Reflection Part II: Why Tech Director?

Morning Commute 
We should all be able to answer in a few sentences why our jobs interest us. I have spoken to a number of people that have to ponder how to answer that question and reply with, "that's a good question." The ride to work everyday should not be dreadful, if you are looking for an excuse to exit the freeway early, it may be time to reflect on why, so you can start enjoying the commute to the office.

Why did this type of position interest you and how did you best prepare for the job?
I enjoy change, moving forward and trying new things regularly. The technology landscape is an ever changing world that continually reshapes itself and that keeps my job fresh and challenging. Preparing for an ever changing set of circumstances takes understanding, patience and the ability to have strong people around you to handle the situations that will arise. I believe I prepared by being in real world situations, working hard, and not being afraid to fail. 

How does your job interest you?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Tech Director's Reflection: A Typical Day

Courtesy Eusebius
The Assignment I was recently asked by a teacher if I could answer a few questions for them as part of an assignment they were working on in their leadership program. I may be in the minority, but I don't mind doing it, because it is always a good opportunity to reflect. I am going to share one question a day this week with my response and challenge others to think about the same question themselves as a way to reflect.

What does a typical day consist of for you?
Being responsible for the technical well being of an entire district tends to keep most days very untypical. The ever changing landscape of technology and the challenge to keep a network and devices working as efficiently as possible makes each day a little different. What I try to do on a daily basis is be there for my staff to provide them what they need to best do their jobs supporting our network and users. Reviewing and managing technology work orders, communicating with schools and departments, managing department budget, and staying active in my PLN to keep the district current are other typical day activities. What does your typical day look like?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

ISTE Gems!

The Stack
Every year I return from ISTE with a backpack full of information and a google doc filled with session notes. Like everyone else who has been to ISTE over the years, I have come to find that the connections made during the conference are invaluable, but there is still a benefit with sharing the little gems with others who didn't attend. These are just a few highlights that I found in my pile of "stuff".

Maker Movement
I think it is safe to say that Raspberry Pi has made a dent in the maker movement, and allowed students to learn programming skills, create technology rich projects, and not break the bank in the process. At the Raspberry Pi + iPad session, Mike Amante did a great job sharing his experiences with the device and how he is using the technology with his students and plans of expanding the program in the fall. More information from Mike can be found here. A big surprise at the end of the session were two representatives from the Raspberry Pi Foundation showed up and shared news about Picademy USA, you can find more info here.

Innovators Mindset
If you have ever listened to or follow George Couros, then you understand that he has a great way of using short, but thoughtful statements that make you really think about education and what it could be. I always try and catch one of his sessions at ISTE because he never fails to provide great thoughts that can easily be shared at admin meetings, staff meetings, or lunch time conversations. Here are a few (as accurate as I could be) that he used in the session Developing the Innovators Mindset.
  • Relationships are the most important piece in schools now and in the future
  • Biggest barrier is our own way of thinking
  • Think different
  • Digital factory model is still factory model
  • Technology is more than a tool
  • Technology can be transformational in hands of a great teacher
  • Would you want to spend all day in your own classroom
  • Everyone is a teacher and a learner

One of the hardest thing for many educators to do is build their PLN. Taking that first step from
Courtesy Roy Blumenthal CC 2.0
picking which social media platform to venturing out of the four walls of the classroom can be scary, but absolutely necessary to grow as an individual. The session, The Passionate PLN, by Jessica Raleigh, was a very informative hands on experience that introduced Twitter to everyone as a way to connect and make a difference. A highlight was The Breakfast Club, #BFC530, as a place to participate in a one question twitter chat, every weekday at 5:30am. If you are looking to build your PLN  and connect with others, give it a look here.

ISTE 2016
The ISTE conference has a little something for everyone and is consistent with the variety of sessions that makes it a good destination. If you are an educator looking for an event with options, want to grow your PLN, and meet like minded peers, then I would recommend educating your school boards and administrators on the opportunities ISTE has to offer. But remember, finding local events, lunch and learns, Twitter chats, coffee on a Saturday morning, also provides collaborative time and opportunity for connections to help us grow professionally. Get out of those four walls and see what others are doing and share!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Blast From the Past

Spring Cleaning
Recently I spent some time going through my office filing cabinet. When you take on a task like cleaning out old hanging file folders, or any place with "old stuff", it is best to build in a little nostalgia time. I was surprised however to find the folder consuming all my time was labeled tech agendas. As I started going back through the years, it turned into a great moment to reflect on where we were and how far we have come as a tech team. The successes and failures, the innovative ideas and the not so innovative ideas that didn't work out, but provided direction for the future, all very valuable information. I haven't saved a paper agenda in quite some time now and won't be starting again, but this is one Spring cleaning effort that turned into a great opportunity to reflect on the journey over the years. If we are to continue innovating and moving forward it is important not to forget the past, happy cleaning!  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Full STEM Ahead

New Kid in Town
Courtesy Tech Crunch

The tech industry has been involved with the medical industry for years, however recently there have been a few big announcements that may highlight the future of tech disruption in medical breakthroughs. Google and Johnson & Johnson have announced they will work together to build a robotic surgery assistance platform. Apple is also recently in the news with the release of their research kit, which will basically turn the iPhone into a diagnostic tool with it's data collecting capabilities. Stanford and other universities are already planning to take advantage of the technology for studying the affects of chemotherapy and heart disease patients, and have developed apps to work with the kit. Collaboration between the pharmaceutical companies and the tech industry is important in my opinion as I feel it will be outside industries that will truly push medical breakthroughs and change peoples lives.

Support It
One thing we do know is that it will take scientists, engineers, programmers, and innovators to keep these collaborations happening and progress moving forward. The United States has always been a global leader in this area, however many are worried we do not have the interest from students or teachers necessary to continue being a global leader and focus on STEM is needed. The US Department of Education has provided data to show the increase in STEM related jobs by 2020 and said that "Only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career." These numbers explain the push by the President and the Committee on STEM Education for creating the 5-Year Strategic Plan that guides efforts in improving STEM education. Along with the federal initiative there are many other organizations around the United States dedicated to bringing awareness to the importance of STEM education, a quick search will return valuable STEM resources in your state.

Old News
You may be thinking that STEM is old news, high schools are full of STEM programs and science and math classes are being taught at all levels. The debate is not one for me to dig into here, but exposure to STEM and critical thinking skills are more important now than ever due to the vast amounts of information we have at our fingertips. Providing our students with opportunities and exposure to these skills will help with any path they will travel and should be a priority. 

If you are involved with a particular STEM related program or organization please share in the comment section. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Go Aunt Myrna!

Hi World
I was sitting in my office recently and heard some laughter and then a loud, "Aunt Myrna has a Facebook account" come from our Student Data Technician's office. My curiosity was immediately peaked and further investigation was in order. It turns out that Aunt Myrna is a 94 year old young lady who just opened a Facebook account and her first post was rather refreshing.

New Tricks
Rehashing the same old discussion about change, and why it is so difficult for many, isn't what I necessarily want to get into with this post, but it is hard to ignore. We often hear that young folks like change because they are not afraid of anything and our older population has nothing to lose. Those reasons may be partially true, however our comfort zones become so warm and fuzzy with routine, that stepping outside of them is to risky and this prohibits us from learning new tricks.

Aunt Myrna's actions honesty inspired me to write this post, as simple as it may sound, her asking for patience in her first post makes perfect sense. She's putting it out there that she is trying something new and is gonna need help, but it didn't stop her from making a change to stay in touch with family and friends. If we are going to move forward and continually improve in the workplace, home, and anywhere we are, change is necessary. Thanks Aunt Myrna, happy posting!  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

25 Pound Backpack

My Back!
Have you picked up one of your kiddos backpacks lately and immediately thought, oh my gosh that seems heavy?  I often compare my backpack that contains a laptop, iPad, and miscellaneous cables to theirs that are full of books, binders, and pencils, and there is no comparison. I literally weighed one of them recently and it weighed 25 pounds, which I thought was crazy heavy. After digging into the backpack, I found the culprits to be a math book and a social studies book. The good news is the school provides two sets of books and the students do not have to transport them back and forth on a daily basis, however it leads us back to the conversation about textbooks and where we are at with them as an educational community.

I have to be honest, I started this post a few weeks back and it has been sitting quietly waiting to be finished. When I read the recent Center for Digital Education article covering the FCC Commissioner's discussion in San Francisco, the timing seemed appropriate. Jessica Rosenworcel addressed an audience of tech industry professionals, updating them on the recent FCC initiatives, encouraging "digital disruption within the teaching and textbook industry." Rosenworcel pointed out a few things that I feel are worth sharing here.

  • “In the rest of the world, we have an infinite array of digital tools to change our civic and commercial lives. Yet somehow we’ve put up some barriers at the school doors, It’s time we started inviting them in and wrestling with them and doing some good things”
  • "As a market estimated at $17 billion and with price increases in the last decade at 800 percent, the textbook industry’s services burden educators and students alike — average school districts only able to afford textbook purchases every seven to 10 years"
  • “I just think it’s crazy if we keep on doing what we’ve done before because the world and the job opportunities that are out there look remarkably different"

These statements have all been said before in a number of ways by others looking to lighten up backpacks and promote change in a system that has been relatively unchanged for a number of years. I applaud anyone who takes the initiative to start these conversations as a way to reflect on the education we are providing our students. We must provide a relevant experience and not allow a $17 billion industry to give us what we have always had because that is what we have always done. Industry will provide what the educational community wants, so the conversation is important to have at the school, district, and community level. Listen to our teachers and students and allow their ideas, thoughts and needs, drive the industry to develop the disruption that will keep our classrooms moving forward.

I want to make it clear that I am not a book snob by any means and would never advocate for throwing all classroom texts in a big bonfire. Going to the extreme in any direction is what has kept technology a conversation piece, big shiny object, instead of just an everyday part of our classroom environment. But, providing our students with something other than the same basic textbooks like we have always done, is a conversation that is very necessary for today's classroom.