Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Building your e-Portfolio with Google Maps? Yes!

It was during a session at the Google Geo Teachers Institute where Sean Askey, creator of Google's Tour Builder, where I had an epiphany. We were tasked with creating a practice tour with Google Tour Builder. At the time, I thought I'd make one about my road to Googleness.

But, as I was creating my tour - chronicling my road from a high school English teacher at Hallsville High School to a tech director to an instructional technologist, I thought: why does this just have to be my journey? Both literally and figuratively, the Google Tour Builder is a map of a story, a map of a particular location's historical changes, and even a map of a person's life. In other words it is a tour of where they have have been, what they have done, and where they are going.

Typically, I see ePortfolios as Websites. I am still a big supporter of Websites, but do ePortfolios all have to be the same? For those students who are spacial thinkers or who have been on that journey, a Google Tour may be the perfect solution.

To access Tour Builder, students only need a Google account (this is not part of the Google Apps for Edu suite). From there, they can build tours. At each location, they can add links (think about links to audio using Vocaroo, or links to Google docs & other Google products, links to videos, and more!). They can also easily browse for images and videos to upload. They can turn on historical imagery, overlay Google Earth files, and more.

So, are you ready to get started on your tour?!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Best Reading: The Official Google Blog

If I were to  pick one reading source for newcomers to Google, I'd pick the Official Google Blog.Some of the best reading I get each day comes from the Official Google Blog that I get via my email. I filter the blogs into a Google Blog label in my Gmail and return to it during my lunchtime reads.

Where do you find the Official Google Blog?
Go to each day or....

Add it to your email feed for daily reading.

Click on the Feed button:

Then, sign up with your email:

What can you learn?
I frequently share the "Ninja Secrets of Google's Projects" to educators around the world. And, often, they are blown away by the depth of resources available from Google Dev Art to Building with Chrome. However, I attribute my knowledge of all of those resources to the Official Google Blog. Additionally, the information shared daily is great discussion material for students. For instance, check out this article on popular searches related to the World Cup.

My recommendation:
Send it to your email, filter it into a folder and read it when you get a chance. You will be up-to-date on the latest Googleness and you'll have plenty of info to fuel classroom discussions for your entire school year. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ISTE 2014 - One year later, my 5 takeaways

ISTE 2014 – One year later, my five takeaways

Since ISTE 2013, many changes have happened. I became a Google Certified Teacher, co-founded the RRISD Google Ninja Academy, created the first competitive robotics team at my school, organized student tech slams, developed EdCamps, and many more things I don’t have space to list.

However, those all have one thing in common – things I have done. What about the things others have done? Though I know these things I’ve done have impacted others, I can’t say they were the direct focus. So, as I leave ISTE 2014, I have started a new challenge for myself – to focus not on doing more things, but to focus on the impact each action has. This is where I believe there is a huge hole in Education. As people asked for my Twitter handle and my followers increased, I couldn’t help but think about the many teachers not on Twitter who are making impacts or who have yet to be challenged. As my co-worker, Krista Tyler, said in her “5 mistakes as an EdTech Coach,” avoid the “Me Monster.” Avoid focusing on your actions as a coach and focus on the others – the teachers and the students.

So, takeaway #1 from ISTE 2014 is to switch my focus to not on actions that pad your resume, but on the less glamorous actions – the ones that need to happen to truly change education.

Takeaway #2 from ISTE 2014 – is to get more teachers and STUDENTS to conferences. Though I was excited to see some students, I was disappointed to see a hole in students. In fact, I went to two of the Ignite sessions, but was highly disappointed by Ignite session 4, which focused on developers giving “sales pitches.” Next year, I would like to see these developers sessions changed to focus on students – students giving Ignite talks. As I mentioned after Playdate Austin, the most learning I have done at a conference came from students. Simply put – we need more students.

Takeaway #3 from ISTE2014 – money distribution. I couldn’t help but notice the amount of money thrown into the Expo center and to making things “beautiful.” I’d like to ISTE take back the EdCamp model that focuses on learning and not on the extras. These extras could very well be student and teacher passes to ISTE. Having more students and more teachers – the ones who don’t come to conferences of this stature – yields more learning and more educational impact and change.

Takeaway #4 from ISTE2014 – Iron Chef. I LOVED this idea for a session. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I’m taking the model back to PD. What was so different? I had to work at a session. Many times, I attend sessions and I am able to email and tweet the entire time. There is something to being able to tweet, but in the end, are you able to focus on learning? Or, are you focused on promoting? In the Iron Chef format, learners form groups. Then, they choose a meal – student projects, apps, or funding. From there, they are giving ingredients - % of special needs, and ISTE NETS-S standards. They are given about a day or so to formulate a presentation and plan for carrying out their meal. On the final day, judges vote on the meal that best meets the criteria. By partaking in this format, I collaborated with a group, networked, and learned from those in my group – not a designated presenter, but those whose voices aren’t always heard. I left wanting more of these sessions, but also disappointed by the small number of people who actually attended. Why was this not well attended? Do others not know about these sessions or are others afraid of being responsible for their learning?

Takeway #5 from ISTE 2014 – presenting. In presenting nearly six times at ISTE, I realized a few things. One – we need more student and teacher presenters. Two – we need more action coming from sessions. In some sessions, high theory was discussed, but what action came out of it? Three – we need to divert the focus away from tools and shift it to the processes. I know those sessions that focus on products and tools bring in the crowds and we all like them. However, they do not yield the educational change we need to see. In fact, tools will change routinely. The processes for how to find tools that best yield our outcomes are what we need to see. How can we shift this? How can we, as educators, shift this focus? This is, perhaps, my greatest takeaway.

So, in preparing for this coming school year, I want to bring the focus back to the classrooms and shift the focus away from the shiny new apps and app smackdowns and bring it to the processes and how to embed any tool into those processes. Who’s with me?

What were your takeaways?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting the little things going

As I head to #iste14 tomorrow, I can't help but think about where I was a year ago and the "little edu things" that have transformed not only my year, but the educators' around me.

Nearly a year ago, I was sitting in #gtachi, having the networking experience of a lifetime. Now, I'm gearing up to present at #iste14, sharing the experiences of my last year and preparing for the GTI academy.

And, after a week of educating teachers on the importance of process over product, I think about the learning I have seen in the teachers around me. Many times, I've focused on their ability to create a great Google Site rather than the process of getting them to collaborate and them providing their students the opportunity to innovate.

So, as I enter this next transformative year, I plan to look at those little edu things that signify learning in educators and students. Because, at the end of the day, I don't want teachers and students who can make stellar movies. Instead, I want those who are leaders, team players, listeners, collaborative - and all of those other soft skills that distinguish individuals.

What are the little edu things you're doing? What are the little edu things you want to see in educators & students?

Share them on the Little Edu Things site and join the community! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

See, think, wonder means...

Today, I did a training as part of a series on metacognition - thinking about thinking. It's something we all want to do, but don't always know how to do. In fact, it's something we often forget when integrating technology.

Today, though, it was during a discussion with a teacher regarding a series of questions (thanks to Tracy Clark for the questions!) on art and the thinking thought process, that I realized our end goal: to create. At the end of the day, we want our students to explore and create. We don't need to know their end product. Rather, we want to equip with them with the knowledge, skills, tools, and opportunities necessary to be creators.

In looking at a commonly used picture, the teachers analyzed:


  1. What do you see?
  2. What do you think about that?
  3. What does it make you wonder?

In the end, though, I asked - what is the purpose of these questions. Teachers responded with: to interpret.

When we interpret, are there correct answers? As the teachers responded, no, there are not. When we ask students those questions, we are not looking for any specific answer, but a certain way of thinking, a certain way of exploring the material. When we give them the ability to explore and interpret, we give them the ability to create. Because, to create does not have a specific outcome.

We need to train our students and teachers to not work toward a desired outcome, but provide them with the thought processes that produce creators and innovators.

What do you expect from your students? 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Getting the Little Edu Things Going

Recently, I decided to create a site, Google + community, and a Twitter account to document all the little things that happen that make big changes. For the past year, I have tried to come up with the big idea that will change the world. But, recently, I gave a training on the basics of Chrome. After the training, I had teachers (who previously did not understand the term browser) syncing bookmarks, going incognito, and increasing their productivity by at least 100%. It was then I remembered that it's the little things that change the world. By teaching these educators to organize their bookmarks, they are now more confident and productive in Chrome, and will therefore, be more apt to use it and use it in effective ways in their classroom. Perhaps the change that happened from that training was the increase in confidence in reluctant teachers.

So, I've decided to document those little things, map them out, and watch as the little things change the world. And, in the process, help a few teachers share their ideas for products or change and grow as entrepreneurs.

The idea is basic, but the concept is grand. It is built upon collaboration and its success will be in sharing and communal support.

So, join in now and document those little things you have done. Watch as you start seeing the little things pop up on our map and changes begin to take hold.

Here's the Website for now and, here's our Google + Community.

You can follow us on Twitter @littleeduthings

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Learnings from two schools' first exposure to EdCamps

This Monday and Tuesday, I led an EdCamp at each of my two schools - an elementary and a high school - in two slightly different fashions. Since both had never had exposure to this type of learning before, we did some of the session planning ahead of time. However, the intent is to allow them to move to full-EdCamp by the fall. Nevertheless, this modified way still held onto the holistic approach that makes EdCamps what they are. 

Today, the halls were filled with teachers holding onto phones, papers, tablets, and laptops searching doors for their sessions. Teachers carried their backpacks, laptops, tablets, and more to come learn about topics of their choosing. With over 60 sessions to choose from, teachers had created lists of options for their sessions. They had done their homework and came ready with a variety of sessions to attend. 

From day one, teachers submitted over 60 ideas they wanted to learn and submitted nearly 800 votes on Google Moderator to show the sessions they most wanted. The moderator votes gave me ideas on total attendance numbers. I wanted to keep each session under 10-15 people each so, if a session had over 30 votes, I repeated it three times. I also created overflow rooms for teachers. For instance, if a session went well and teachers wanted to stay and learn/play more on a topic, they could move to an overflow room and continue learning. Learning was kept teacher-centric to allow for the most authentic experience. 

All rooms had signs posted on them with QR codes to complete the attendance survey (Google form) at the end. This was, yet, another attempt to get teachers using the technology they learned. 

However, the EdCamps have been more than technology. In some rooms, facilitators were not as confident in their topics. However, the attendees then had a more active role - the sessions became discussions and information was gained through collaboration. In some sessions, the facilitator was very confident, but the pace was slowed down to meet the needs of the learners. 

We hope to do more of EdCamp PD with our teachers. However, I'm torn between doing true-EdCamp style learning with topics chosen on the spot and doing my blended EdCamp with topics chosen in advance. In the advance method, teachers had a long time to vote and continue suggesting ideas so the options grew. However, in the true format, teachers must break loose of traditional schedules. So, the question is: why can't both ways work? 

How have you seen EdCamps grow and change PD? Have you modified your EdCamps any?

Stay turned for more feedback from my two campuses' first exposure to EdCamps (and modern PD in general).