Friday, January 31, 2014

Featured Educators & EdTech Connect

Stephanie Cerda and I are re-birthing EdTech Connect with a new fervor this spring to connect tech entrepreneurs and educators by putting educators in the drivers' seat. However, we are looking to feature and chronicle teacher stories. For instance, we had the opportunity of visiting with Dan Wheeler, a Del Valley teacher, who raised over $12,000 through social media crowdsourcing for Chromebooks in his classroom. We want to raise awareness of these teachers - teachers like Cynthia Ruiz who are innovators in their classroom and who are finding new uses of existing technologies to increase student learning.

We will chronicle the stories of these educators and entrepreneurs through blogs, social media, and Google Hangouts On-Air. If you are interested in connecting and collaborating with an educator or developer, be sure to complete our form. And, if you know of any who would be great to highlight, please contact us and check out our site:

We'll feature our progress in this endeavor as we build authentic connections between educators and tech entrepreneurs on our site as well.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lego and Chrome united?

Yesterday, the Official Google Blog announced the partnership of Chrome with Lego. Now, you can build Lego masterpieces right inside your Chrome browser. There is a Build Academy where you can "learn to become a master builder." The application is supported in touch screen environments as well so users can build with their hands rather than a mouse. This is just another application to stem from the Chrome WebGL Experiments. As users build things, products go into the Chrome Experiments. Therefore, users get to publish products!

The only problem I see is that the login is through Google +. For users to use this application, they will need a Google + account. However, in a GAFE domain, Google + is not always turned on because of the under 13 rule and concern over social media. Though, users can still build without Google +, they need it to be able to share creations and build with others.

Check out Build with Chrome!

Monday, January 27, 2014

SAMR Model and teaching tools?

Recently, I discovered a diagram of the SAMR model with tools labeled next to each element of SAMR. Initially, I was excited about the chart and was anxious to check out which tools were put in which slots. However, after looking at a few tools, I thought about how this was actually the opposite of what I want from my teachers. If I show this chart to them, they will immediately start looking for which tools fit the different elements of SAMR. But, actually, it is not the tool that aligns to a specific element of SAMR - it is the method. For instance, I could use Aurasma at the redefinition level or the substitution level. It's all in how it is used.

Sadly, I've come across many of these charts. And, we are all too anxious to give these charts to our teachers and assume that we have given them the information to successfully integrate technology.

I am now on a mission to change charts that merely list tools to charts that list activities and skills. At the end of the day, we don't want students to be able to just make a movie. We want them to be able to think critically and to make positive impacts. While they may make a movie to do such things, what we assess and measure is not whether or not they made a movie. When we look on resumes, we don't want to know whether or not a candidate made a movie. Instead, we want to know if they are able to think critically, take action, drive change, raise awareness, and more.

So, in looking back at the SAMR model with associated tools, I'd like to shift this into something that shows how we can integrate SAMR into what we really want - to measure students' ability to think critically, take action, drive change, raise awareness, etc. How can we begin to shift current focus on tools and producing tools to producing quality citizens?

Here's what we have now...let's see what we can change this into!



Friday, January 24, 2014

Innovative communities?

I've had this debate for a while with myself and others in the EdTech field. However, the discussion seems to still go round. How do we get educators connected and how to we go from innovative pockets to innovative communities.

In helping organize an EdTech Women chapter and EdTech Austin, I see different communities developing. On one hand, EdTech Women is full of women in the EdTech profession - like me, a few teachers, and almost no developers. However, EdTech Austin consists of almost all developers, few people in the EdTech profession and almost no teachers. So, what's the difference? The goal is the same - to create and foster an innovative community. So, why are the communities heading in different directions? Location and promotion.

In EdTech Austin, we meet downtown (in a great space for innovation). However, it's not as convenient for teachers to reach and allows for excuses on reasons not to come. With EdTech Women, we meet in casual spots in and around Austin and the surrounding areas. We also do not have planned presenters. Instead, we have informal opportunities for building authentic connections. In those two differences, two different communities have arisen.

So, in trying to get teachers connected and build these innovative communities with developers and teachers alike, how do we attract teachers? What entices the best collaboration and the most authentic connections? Do we start with sharing and connecting those in "EdTech" and branch from there?

Stay tuned for ideas as we launch GEGCENTX - one of Google's pilot Google Educator Groups!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I've had the "should students have email" and "do students really use email" debate numerous times over the last few years. Within my own district, we have student to staff email, but nothing else for a couple of reasons: first, the belief that students do not use email and second, the concern for safety of students emailing other students our outside the domain. However, in recent discussions, I wonder what the long term impact is on withholding email from students. In my experience teaching elementary through college, I have not found others who teach correct email correspondence. Yet, in the business world, that is still the main form of communication. In assuming that, since students prefer to text and Tweet, are we selling students short in not providing them email and email education?

When I was in high school, I can recall learning how to type up formal letters. At the time, email was already becoming a more predominate way of communication. However, in the professional world, "snail mail" was still the top choice. So, we were taught how to write. Do we need to apply the same ideology to students now?

And, by being fearful of students emailing to the outside, are we failing to provide them with education? Can education overcome negative behaviors?

Friday, January 17, 2014

To change the world or the individual?

After reading the 2013 Syracuse University commencement speech on going for kindness as a lifetime goal, I've begun to re-evaluate my thoughts on our goal as educators.

I am guilty too. In my personal and professional life, my goal is to "change the world." With my students and teachers I work with, the task I set forth for them is to "change the world." And though it is a very ambitious and worthy cause, sometimes, it causes us to forget the day-to-day. Instead, we focus on the grand schemes and forget about the relationships that we must forge.

As we try to get our students on Twitter and other social media in an educational context, I think about their previous uses of such media. Though, they may change the world with inventions and new technologies, are they being kind? And, to relate it to my profession - are they being digital citizens?

Though, we should not stop teaching students to aim big and to change the world, it is important to first build relationships and discuss the importance of being kind and effective citizens. Because, isn't that changing the world? If we changed one word we said to a person, how might that have changed our relationship and their/our life? Instead of ignoring the quiet student on the playground, how could we have changed the world by being kind to that student?

It may sound like It's a Wonderful Life, but it's worthy of discussion. Our district is reading one book together this year: Wonder

And, perhaps the biggest takeaway is the belief of: "When choosing whether to be right or to be kind, always choose kind."

 We can change the world, but how can we do it by focusing on the day-to-day relationships? How can that change education?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Where have all of the educators gone?

Last week, I read the Forbes top 30 educators under 30 list like many other edtech professionals and teachers. Last week, the focus was on: why are none of the top 30 educators under 30 actually educators? And, though that is an argument to be had, it is not surprising as the creators of the list - Forbes - are in business, not education.

My larger question was: why do none of the top edtech creators under 30 have education background? I guess the question is somewhat similar, but the focus is different. My focus is not on why a magazine only chose to show edtech businesses over educators. Rather, my focus is on why edtech companies are, largely, not created by teachers or former teachers.

I started working on a project after my experience at the Google Teacher Academy to help bridge this gap between developers and educators, but the problem was highlighted by this list. Though all of the services offered by these companies are useful and impactful, they are driving the change in education as opposed to education driving the change.

When will education the needs of students begin to drive changes in the products and services schools purchase. Now, teachers attend a conference and find a service that they can adapt or fit in their classroom. When can teachers go to a conference, talk to developers and create a product driven by the needs of their students.

Though the difference between the two approaches is small, I think it is critical in giving students a voice and allowing education to by change-friendly.

Monday, January 13, 2014

PD Challenges: Leave with a product

A co-worker of mine, Brandie Cain-Heard, originally shared Tony Vincent's post, App Task Challenge with me and the ideas have been non-stop ever since.

Craig Badura, a PK-12 Integration Specialist in Aurora, Nebraska, started the App Task Challenges to provide training and provide teachers the opportunity to produce products from Apps.

I am anxious to start a similar program at my district, providing a series of PD cards for educators with challenges. I'm a proponent of PD that culminates in tangible products and results. For instance, rather than just giving a training on how to use Google Docs, delivering a training that calls upon attendees to use Google Docs to solve a real #eduproblem they have. In doing so, learning is authentic and deliberate.

In making an App Task Challenge of sorts for my district, I would like to see tasks that cross paths and lead to a larger challenge. I would also like to see challenges that increase in aptitude to encourage learners to connect and spread out.

Stay tuned for more information on how we convert app task challenges to a PD program set to encourage advancement and authentic & deliberate learnin.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Yesterday, I had the privilege of talking to Jessie Arora of TeacherSquare as part of our ETW Hangout On-Air series. In discussing, she brought up the point that PD needs to evolve with the new technologies. Likewise, we need to give opportunities for our students to experiment. She brought up this phrasing instead of saying students need to fail.

These discussions aren't new, but they seem to get even more importance. How do we provide meaningful PD? Do they have to be the standard 6 hour sessions or can they be broken up? Can they be delivered online? And, can we award credit to non-standard opportunities like MOOCs, etc.

And, how do we create authentic opportunities for our students to experiment?

Lastly, the concept of "leaning in" was introduced - how can we better connect while still maintaining that power to grow as individual. George Saunders gave a graduation speech at Syracuse last year, reinforcing the need to "be kind." What do you think? Where is the balance between growing as a collective and working on individual growth?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Little Red Flying Hood Revisited

Over Winter Break, I was cleaning out my work bag and I stumbled upon a hidden gem, "Little Red Flying Hood." Somehow, it must have been squished between all of my devices.

This past summer at ISTE San Antonio, I was invited to the Adobe breakfast where presenters preached on creativity and allowing creativity to flow in schools. The culminating presenter was a teacher who had worked with a high school student, Ben Nelson, to create and publish his own book. Though nothing unusual about that part, Ben was autistic and struggled to pair words with the creative images he conjured. The resulting product was "Little Red Flying Hood."

Reading this book again, I think about the message behind the book - creativity - and how we can cultivate that in our students and educators. Last night, I passed out butcher paper to a group of teachers and they stood their aimlessly, embarrassed to draw. If our educators feel afraid to create, what does that mean for our students? What does that mean for innovation?

Creativity and innovation walk side by side. To innovate, you must create. Creativity, simply put, is originality of thinking. How can we allow our students to be original if we have prescribed answers and questions?

In the flipping movement, focus has shifted to flipping questions instead. Can we give students the power to ask the questions and students the power to explore their learning? If we do this, will students feel open and willing to create and innovate? How will this impact future advancements?

Monday, January 6, 2014

What constitutes learning?

Flashback to my senior year of high school: students frantically filling out college applications, checking class rank, hoping to get into one of the Ivy League schools as opposed to a junior year college.

I can remember my frantic push to get into my dream college while in high school. At the time, the only thing I thought was relevant were the courses I took in my International Baccalaureate high school. When I was in college, I pushed to make straight 4.0s. And, at the end of my college experience, I was tasked with finding my first "real" job.

When I interviewed for my first job, the interviewers checked over my education as that was all there was to go on. However, after my first job teaching, I can't say my education - my three degrees, GPA, honors, etc. - have ever been brought up or have been the deciding mark on whether or not I got the job.

So, if a person's collegiate background is not as critical in the long run, what is? And, why aren't those skills given credit?

In the push to award badges for learning that does not follow the standard high school/college route, I would like to see learning be redefined. When is something constituted as learning and how can it be recognized in a global manner? Do we have to go down the standard 4-year college path or can other experiences constitute as learning?

Thursday, January 2, 2014


As I gear up for the spring semester with teachers and students, I want to bring the same Edcamps and similar events to my staff and students to inspire them to innovate just as I was inspired. I have noticed that, while educators attend many conferences, few conferences are chances to network, to collaborate, to solve eduproblems. Therefore, educators leave the conferences with new ideas but few plans on how and when to integrate them. At Edcamp ATX, we put on a session to solve #eduproblems. At the end of the session, attendees were to leave with a product to go back and share and implement. If this same mentality were brought back to teacher PD and student learning, how would learning change?

Hence, my Eduresolution is to provide learners with the opportunity to create. Creation alone is a skill missing from many trainings and instruction. Yet, it is, perhaps, one of the most critical. When we look back on advancement, what is the one thing in common: the opportunity to create.

I challenge you to focus on creation this year and document how learning changes within and outside of your classrooms!