Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Girl Power: STEM edition

Today's feature post is not on encouraging more girls into STEM, but on changing STEM to be more inclusive of diverse thought. I read an awesome article from EdSurge on the questions we need to be asking to change STEM. I have posted the highlights of that article as well as a number of resources for girls in coding/STEM/STEAM on my Girl Power presentation. As more resources become available, I will continue to post them.

You can find all of my resources at fennovation.org. Enjoy!

Highlights and updates to Girl Power include:

From EdSurge (link)


TeachThough includes even more resources for girls and STEM (40 to be exact).

And, the Girl Scouts are going STEM!



The full presentation is available below:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Google Geo Tools are where it's at!

If you didn't know, Google Geo Tools are one of the best things to come out of Google. Over the past year, I've tried to organize some of my favorites into one single location, a presentation.

Today, I've added a few updates to make your Geo experience even more awesome!

  • YouTube Map Explorer - search the YouTube videos that have been uploaded in a certain radius.
  • Google Earth Voyager - this came out a few months ago on Google Earth's 10th anniversary, but it is an awesome resource!

Enjoy and share the Geo love! You can find more resources at fennovation.org.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Become a Google Search Ninja - updates! #googleedu #gafe #gafechat

As we start back the school year, I feel the urge to remind others how important searching is as a life skill. As educators and adults, we expect that students can search. We start research projects and we expect students to be able to find valuable and critical sources online - without any or much training. This is a travesty to me.

When they leave school each day, one of the first things they will do with electronic devices is search. Rather than figure out the answer themselves or ask someone, many will search. And with millions of search results to sort through, that task is enormous.

So, to help with that and to encourage teachers to incorporate basic search lessons into their classroom, I have compiled some of my favorite Google search resources into one presentation.

Updates include:
  • Searching graphs of various functions
  • View the text version of large numbers
You can view for information on fennovation.org. In the meantime, enjoy and search!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#YourEduStory - model risk-taking in the class

This week's topic: how do you model risk-taking in the classroom?

This is the first year I have had a "class" in five years. However, in those five years, I have been teaching teachers. So, while I may not have had a traditional class, I did model risk-taking to hundreds of teachers.

As learners, we take a risk every day, every second. When you open yourself up to learn, you are taking a risk. You are exposing your knowledge or lack thereof. In doing so, you are also showing courage and strength.

There are some things I find learners, especially adults, more willing to learn and, therefore, more willing to take risks. Being the designated "tech" person, it seems there is a reluctance to learn tech. Though the same skills go into learning to cook a new dish, I find more reluctance when it comes to learning a new program.

The key to risk-taking is making it not seem like that large of a risk. I still don't have the answer to why learning tech seems like a larger risk, but it does. My guess is that it has a stereotype of being a "nerd's club." Therefore, anyone who doesn't identify themselves that way, thinks the risk is too large. I don't identify myself as a math person so, when I sit in a math class to learn statistics, I have a lot of fear. My learning risk seems enormous.

Going in to any training I deliver, I try to remember this: tech has a stigma surrounding it. We need to take the edge off the risk they perceive. For me, that means giving learners small tasks - simple things they can do and feel successful at. Call it trickery if you wish. To me, it's scaffolding. For instance, in helping staff members become more efficient and productive, I've helped them switch to Google Drive. However, showing them all of Drive intimidates them. The risk is too large. So, I break it into chunks: today, we'll work on uploading your old files here so, now, you know where to find them online...tomorrow, we'll work on organizing those files. And, eventually, you'll just use these files. Finally, you'll start creating new files here.

And, that's how I get learners to take a risk and make something new. Take the edge off of the risk.

Though I take a lot of risks, I've noticed that staff members will just disregard it and say, "well, Christy is just really good at that." I find that happens to many "risk-takers." I have worked with some very innovative teachers and, historically, other teachers do not want to learn from them because they are intimidated. They see someone who is very risky and it scares them.

So, even though I model risk-taking, I don't think it's my modeling that helps build learners. In fact, it intimidates many around me. Instead, I try to highlight learners who take small to medium-sized risks. Those risks seem manageable to others and, therefore, they are more apt to try them.

Think about your students. Do they model the student who does everything right & above the bar? Or, do they model the ones they think they can follow?

Make yourself "follow-able." Take the edge off of risks as you model them. This means breaking things down. And, that also means bringing yourself to a human level. This cannot always be done, unfortunately. But, if you are "intimidating," find another "safe" person who can help those in need take risks.

Co-workers call me the Google Ninja. And, even though I love teaching all levels of Google integration, some teachers are afraid to ask me for help because they think I'm the all powerful - or a version of that. So, in those cases, I lean on my student tech team to help make those risks seem more achievable.

It's not about how I model risk-taking; it's about how I delegate risk-taking.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

#BeYouEdu: Find your hustle

Great topic, +Dr. Will Deyamport, III !

A couple of weeks ago, I started work at a new school - a private school. It's my first time working in a private school. After completing my 10th year in public school, it's already seeming so very different. The one thing that has resonated with me in these first weeks is the idea of a 360 teacher. It was evident in my interview process and it's even more apparent as a tech integrator.

So, in finding your hustle, keep in mind the idea of a 360 educator. Your hustle should not be limited to education. In fact, that is detrimental. It can lead to burn-out/brown-out and a less fulfilling impact. We are 360 educators and we teach 360 students. That's an aspect I often forgot. To our students, they are not two dimensional. They are not just students. They are artists. They are musicians. They are skaters. They are athletes. They are gamers. They are brothers & sisters. They are 360. So, don't hide your "360" from them. When talking about your hustle, don't limit it just to education. You are not two dimensional.

When I first thought of this topic, I thought of finding my hustle as it relates to education. But, that's assuming I am two dimensional. So much of what contributes to me as an educator has to do with who I am outside of school.

Take time to reflect on your 360. That's where you will find your hustle. What gets you out of bed? How would you spend your perfect day? In there, you will find your hustle.

So, what gets me out of bed? What is my perfect day? Creating of all types is one of my favorite things to do. I love giving things "makeovers." It's part of the reason I am a secret cleaning star. My family jokes that I actually like doing renovations, cleaning out refrigerators, and doing any cleaning overhaul. But, I like it because I can see change. I can see what it was before and what it is now. I am creating. I am creating a new space and a new look. Creating is essential for me.

I also have to have the outdoors in every day. This includes windows - a lot of them. I need my own space. I love to collaborate, but I need quiet outdoor space to be productive. I need to move. Sitting is one of the least motivating things I can do. It's tiring and draining and uninspiring. The only time sitting is great is after a hard work-out, a long day, or outside. No exceptions.

Why is all of this important? It's what makes me a 360 person. Each aspect impacts my own "hustle." It impacts my motivation.

It's now not a secret why I make a ton of presentations. I love to create. It's not a secret anymore why I moved into technology - I love to move and create.

As a high school English teacher, I found myself constantly finding new ways to innovate my classroom - not tools - but ideas. I was excited to try them all out, but I didn't have the time in the year to do it all. So, I needed to move to a larger scale - an arena where I could share out many ideas and help create change. That's what moved me into the edtech spectrum. I wanted to create large scale change. It's change that drives me. It's the ability to create that drives me.

My love for the outdoors has moved me into the makerspace arena. I never saw myself as one working with Arduinos, robotics, Raspberry Pis, Makey Makeys and the likes. However, I found it because of my love for tinkering, moving, and being outside. It combines tech with art, nature. It is 360.

My hustle is creating. It is not just related to education, but to me as a whole person. Your hustle extends beyond just tools and cool new devices. It is a way of life. What makes you tick? What are the constant themes in your life?

I will always be a creator, an inventor. It's who I am. It is my hustle. What's your hustle?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New #google secrets!

I can't seem to stop finding more awesome - free - Google tools that are great for the classroom! Check out the latest additions to the Secrets of a Google Ninja. More updates to come on the Secrets...Directory.

Know of others? Do share!

You can check out the full directory on fennovation.org.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#YourEduStory: Proud to be a teacher

This week's topic: What are the things that make you proud to be a teacher

I've had to think about this one for a while. The question is usually phrased: what are the things that make you proud of your students? I am trained to think about learners I serve and what makes me proud of them.

Many of my fellow teacher friends had family members who were also in education. But, I did not. In fact, my mom is one of 100 cousins and none of them are in education. So, during my first year of teaching, I learned quickly that teaching was different than the other jobs - the jobs I was surrounded around when I grew up. My dad was an investor and my mom was a purchaser. They were business people.

In the business world, you shop, you bargain, you return, and you find the best. This where education is vastly different. In the business world, you can return parts if they don't meet code or standard. In education, we cannot. No matter what a student's circumstances are, we must educate all and we cannot return any "parts." We are individual parts that are all necessary for the wheel to spin.

On our best days, educators are passionate. We are excited to help others learn. We want to make a difference. We are creative. We are renegades. We swear. We don't follow a set of rules. We are cheerful. We are learners. We love our jobs. At the best, we set the world on fire. We watch the world glow.

At our worst. we are burdened by tests. We are buried in paperwork. We drink too much coffee. We gossip. We are burdened by the incessant demands rules place on us. We are downtrodden. We are broken. At our worst, we leave education behind.

I'm sure many will say it's the students who make us proud to be educators. It is them, of course. But, it's so much more than that. It's also about who we are as people that make me proud. When we focus entirely on the students, we lose the uniqueness that brings us to the classroom. Focusing entirely on the students ("I do this for the kids") can lead to burn-out. Though it sounds counter-intuitive to say "I do this for the kids," but I don't, it's the truth. It's what makes me proud.

I'm proud to be in an industry where I can be creative. Where I can be a renegade. Where I can break rules. If I focus all of my energy on students, I lose what students enjoy most: passion, creativity, care.

I'm proud to be a teacher. I'm proud to be a learner. I'm proud to be surrounded by constant growth.

So, while I don't do it just for the kids. I benefit greatly from them. I prefer to say: I'm proud to be surrounded by kids." Even in high school, there is optimism in students. Though they may come to class and put their head down, there is still optimism. They still have their future ahead of them (and if they don't see it, it's my job to guide them to that place) and there is optimism in knowing they have time to become what they want to be. They are always learning. I taught Huck Finn for five years and every year, I still learned something knew. I'm proud to be surrounded by people who challenge me.

I didn't get into teaching because of the kids. I got into teaching because I knew students would help me. And, in turn, I would pass along the favor. Perhaps it is selfish. But, it's what has kept me in education (now my 10th year!). It's what makes me continually challenge education. And, it's what makes me become better.

As the students come back over the next couple of weeks, I remember that I do this as a learner.

I am not only proud to be a teacher; I am proud to be a learner.

I'm proud to be among learners.