Friday, November 21, 2014

Hour of Code - why do it?

There is a lot of buzz surrounding coding in schools right now. If you mention coding, I'm sure you will generate a lot of attention.

However, before moving down the path, I think it's crucial to ask yourself "why?" Why is coding important? Why does everyone want to code? Is coding just the new buzzword? Well, yes - it is. But, it can be more than a buzzword.

It's important to know why you're jumping on the coding train. Because of it's new popularity and support from several high profile names, it can become something people just do. For instance, I have encountered several educators this year who are now pushing the Hour of Code and code in the classroom because of its fame but not because they know or understand the need.

And, as a result, we have classrooms where coding is separate, where coding is this fun extra activity, where coding is an addition. Rather, coding should be pushed for it's value; for what we know it does: encourage logic.

Logic is a way of thought that is difficult to teach. However, coding can be implemented in any curriculum to help with this understanding. Logic is a skill everyone needs.

So, I urge you - do join in on the coding momentum because coding is logic and logic is a way of thinking we all need to be skilled at. However, don't join in the coding movement simply because "everyone else is." This only separates coding from being an integral part of the classroom. We need to know and understand why it's necessary.

In honor of Hour of Code, the two clubs I sponsor at my high school, Girls Who Code and Warrior Tech, will be sponsoring a week of activities including an introductory session and a mentoring session. Rather than simply engaging in the games - because everyone is doing it - these activities (all still part of the Hour of Code) have purpose behind them - teaching logic and mentorship. Our students will assist other students in completing the activities to shed light on their clubs as well as our Computer Science classes. Our students will also assist students at an area elementary school in completing the hour of code. By doing this, students see a purpose and a connection.

Your challenge: when completing the Hour of Code, give it purpose and continuance. Don't let it just be an "hour," but, rather, use the Hour of Code to bring it into the classroom full-time.

Curious what we're doing? See our activities below and read about them here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

GEG Lesson Plan - afterthoughts

Earlier this week, several chapters of GEG Texas led a pilot of Google's Lesson Plan Jam with 30 educators in Google's Austin offices. In the planning process, we weren't entirely for sure of the outcome, but that's the beauty in it. It's great to not have a known outcome and to let learning guide the day. At the end of it, I was surrounded by 30 educators determined to make a difference for their students for 8 hours. And, what more could a girl ask for?

Other than, perhaps, Chrome cookies! 

The day was full of pods of innovation, connected in the context of one room. 

And a team of MCs with a passion for creativity and learning. 

Wait! And, more Chrome cookies. 

The day started off with discussing current frustrations in the classroom via sticky notes. Problems ranged from frustrations on document naming conventions to a lack of admin involvement in PD. 

And, after a brief tour of the Google Austin offices, educators were sent back to develop unit plans - either as a group - or individually met to innovate or target those problems.

3-4 educators were paired with a subject-area lead learner who helped pair the technological leader with the content expert. 

The pairing led to a room of inspired educators.

 With great collaboration not just on technology, but in person and on drawing boards. Sometimes, there is no substitute. 


Like teachers presenting to teachers their ideas through Demo Slams and project share-outs.

Or teachers just having fun, having the time to plan and collaborate. 

Guest appearances by Google for Education. 

And a late afternoon share-out of the day's learning.

Educators have a week to complete the lessons/unit plans started at the Jam. Once completed, lessons and unit plans will go up on our GEG Lesson Plan Jam site for others to search and adapt. The goal is to share learning and ideas. And, though many educators chose to integrate GAFE into their plans, the end goal was meant to be on the students - sharing, collaborating, and innovating the existing educational wheel. 

Check out our event's Google Site for more details on the lessons submitted. 

In the meantime - how can you get involved? Join your area GEG and what not join GEG CENTX while you're at it?! Stay tuned for more events - both virtual and face-to-face - in the coming weeks. 

Who are the digital natives?

Recently, I was having a discussion about online textbooks.

Who are digital natives? Well, it's not the students.

The term "digital natives" has become part of common speech - so much so that the meaning has been lost.

According to Google's definition, it's "a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age."

In talking with teachers about online textbooks, the point was raised that many districts go online because "students are digital natives" and "students are doing everything online." And, though, I'm a proponent of most things online, I have to disagree with this assumption.

Even with my Warrior Tech students - students who run Linux on their HP Chromebooks - I would disagree that they are digital natives.

Rather - I would say that they are digital users. They are not native to this environment. Native implies they are from a place. However, students are not from the digital age. WE ARE. We are the ones who witnessed the evolution of digital tools. We are the ones who created those tools. And, we are the ones who have the foundation in it. Students have been transplanted into this digital age. Additionally, digital native implies that students must also be familiar with computers and the Internet.

However, as students born in a digital climate, they are immediately exposed to the current digital world, with little foundation in the previous digital worlds. This is where the disconnect occurs.

We make the assumption that our students know the digital history that we know, but they were not around to witness that. And, as a result, we have students coding and running systems, with little background as to why its necessary or what power it has.

We cannot make the assumption that students are digital natives until we also have proven that they are familiar with computers and the Internet. As a whole, we assume that since the first half of the digital native definition is true, the other half must be true of students. However, that is a great fallacy.

Students are brought up in a world where there are textbooks on almost any concept. However, we cannot assume that, therefore, they are familiar with the concepts in those texts. Computers and the Internet familiarity are the same. We cannot assume students know and understand it.

What are students familiar with:

  • Social Media
  • Collaboration

What are we familiar with:
  • Content
  • How the pieces fit together
We can use what students do know to help them become fluent, but we must not assume they are digital natives. 

What do you think? Where do you expect students to be now? Are they matching up to those standards?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Google Classroom - Month 3

Three months ago, my teachers took the plunge into Google Classroom and have not looked back since. There are now teachers who were not using Google Apps who now using it as a result of Google Classroom. I still have several teachers on the line on whether or not to use it and plenty not using it.

Though I don't think all teachers need to use it, I think it fulfills several basic functions like digital dropboxes that can't be overlooked. It also allows teachers and students to be mobile and to be non-device specific. With new devices entering the classrooms and businesses frequently, it's crucial to be able to operate no matter the platform.

So, I'm composed a list of frequently asked questions for why you should use Google Classroom and how you can make the migration simple. These ideas are not new. However, I've kept them concise so as not to overwhelm teachers.

Lastly, I've found that creating a Google Classroom for staff is a miracle in the making. One drawback for my teachers was that they did not know what it looked like from a student's perspective. So, why not create a faculty Google Classroom? Have teachers join as teachers (important) and then, post assignments for them. Allow them to add comments and turn in work. This is a huge eye-opener for staff!

View the complete Google Classroom Tips & Tricks below and here.


To make your classroom migration smoother


Choose to either turn this feature off or educate users on this feature.
Option 1: Educate students - remind them that their name is displayed next to their post and can be
easily printed for administrative action.

Option 2: Set students to read-only viewing - With this component, students
cannot post. They can only view the teacher’s posts.


Install this or have your ITS install this for you. Since Google Classroom creates accompanying
Google Drive folders, this allows teachers and students to access their classroom files from their
desktop - perfect for when the Internet goes out.

If you use Google Classroom for no other reason than for a digital dropbox, you are still making
waves. No more worries about how to share documents and folders; Classroom does it all for you.
Assign ANY type of file for your students (even Photoshop) and allow them to upload it to classroom. Access it online or on your desktop (for those who downloaded Google Drive for Desktop).


Since you cannot pin a post to the top of your stream, why not use the About section to put in links to
documents/files that students will need throughout the semester or year. By placing links in this
section, students no longer have to scroll for information.


The temptation is strong for some of us, but leave those Google Classroom folders alone in your
Google Drive. This is the advantage to Google Classroom - you don’t have to manage those Google Drive folders and sharing anymore. So, let Google Classroom take care of it for you. Think of of this as just a storage space. The real work happens in Google Classroom.

  1. Stay tuned for more!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 30: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 30 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more in day 1. And, today marks the end of this great blogging journey!

Today's challenge: What would you do as a teacher if you weren't afraid?

As co-organizer of EdTech Women - Austin, this is a question we ask of our members - what would they do if they weren't afraid. It's a critical question that we should all ask ourselves - students, administrators, teachers, and more.

I like to think that I take a lot of risks as an educator. In fact, my co-worker and I were talking about this the other day. When we look at our students and teachers we help, we have some who aren't afraid to press the buttons and troubleshoot. And, then, we have a section who are afraid to break something so they don't touch those buttons and, consequently, don't learn. It is this way in every industry. You have the people ready to press all of the buttons and the people who don't want to out of fear.

We need to press those buttons.

We need our teachers and our students to press those buttons.

I can't say I'm afraid to take risks. My entire teaching career has been one of risks. However, there is still more to do that I have not done. So, I guess I would say: what do I want to do? Isn't that the same thing? There should be no difference in being afraid or not being afraid.

I want to change policy. I want to change our definitions of learning and teaching. I want to walk into classrooms and see learning at all paces - not one mandated by the state. I want to see innovation happening. I want to see students and teachers pressing those buttons.

How will I do this? Gradually. I work on this every day. I try to create environments open to learning. Baby steps with teachers in the form of App-y Hours, and numerous informal learning opportunities.  Opportunities for leadership with students in the form of student tech clubs. I inundate people with learning and innovation opportunities.

What about you - what would you do if you weren't afraid? Or, better yet - what WILL you do?

This has been an awesome 30 day challenge and a great model for student blogging. Please share out and give it a try! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 29: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 29 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more in Day 1.

Today's challenge: How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

I'd hope everyone's answer would be YES! Change is part of any profession - not just education. Each day, each year, each decade are not the same. Therefore, your practices should not be the same.

That said, I like to think I've a very different educator from when I first started. When I first started, I was fairly creative in the types of lessons and assignments I assigned. I loved integrating technology and I loved trying new things. However, I was also less confident and was overwhelmed by all of the demands placed upon teachers.

Part of my change is due to just advancing in a career - meeting new people, encountering new situations, and just wising up. However, other parts of my change are due to my connections.

In my first year of teaching, my principal said, "Hey, you're getting an eMINTS4ALL classroom." And, that was that. So, for the next four years, I implemented more and more as part of the program and attended training after training. It was, in those four years, that I really found a love for instructional technology and helping teachers help students. So, I switched roles.

I became a tech director.

It was in those two years that I realized I did NOT want to be just a fix-it person. I had to work with teachers and students. And, I realized I wanted to influence change in education more than ever.

So, I became an instructional technology specialist. I'm in year three of this position now and, each day, my focus and passion narrows, causing me to adapt who I am as an educator. I used to be about the tools and now, I'm about the content driving the tools. I'm more liberal as an educator and more forgiving of students. It's hard to say exactly how I've changed, but I continue to evolve from the people I meet each day.

What about you - how have you changed? Consider reading this article and see if it changes you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 28: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 28 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more about it in Day 1.

Today's challenge: Should technology drive curriculum or vice versa?

On first glance, I thought - well, curriculum should always be at the foundation of any educational decision. And, while it is, technology is also at the foundation.

Here's why: technology drives change in our society. Facebook was created and now, our social interactions have forever changed, calling for action in the education industry. So, in that regard, technology does drive curriculum because it creates changes in our day-to-day lives, which calls for change in education.

HOWEVER...curriculum should also drive technology or at least be the backbone. One of the common mistakes I see teachers make (and I do this myself more often than I'd like to admit) is find a cool new tool and try to force it into their curriculum. Doing it that way is just forcing technology into the curriculum. When I ask my high school Warrior Tech members how technology should be used in the classroom, they say "it shouldn't be used to just use it. It should be clean and careful." Meaning, technology should be used to help teach something you couldn't without. For instance, when I taught HS English, I was frustrated at teaching research skills to my students. They did not grasp citations nor did they ever cite their work. I stumbled upon Easy Bib and integrated into my classroom as a solution to that issue - not because I just had to use Easy Bib. See the difference? It's a fine line.

So, I guess they are kind of the same. Technology is used to help students learn. It drives change in our day-to-day lives which, as educators, we must address in the classroom. In addressing it, we may use technology to help those students. It's cyclical. You can't have one without the other. You need both technology and curriculum. And, they aren't separate. For every curriculum discussion, there needs to be those in tech-focused areas involved and vice versa.

I could go on...

What about you? Should tech drive curriculum or vice versa?