Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day 7: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 7 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what this is all about, you can read more about it in my Day 1 post.

Today's challenge: Who was or is your most inspirational colleague?

As if I could choose just one...

We are all impacted by a variety of forces each day. It's impossible to ever just choose one. Some impact me in ways I don't realize until years later while others impact me instantaneously. Sometimes, it is the experiences we have that bring us down a path. For instance, if I would not have started out at Hallsville R-IV schools where an eMINTS4ALL initiative was beginning, I may not have gone down the edtech path. It was a result of being a first-year teacher thrust into a program focused around project-based learning and 1:1 initiatives. That event changed my career.

Some of my colleagues have inspired me instantly while others have inspired change days, weeks, months, or even years later.

So, here's a rundown of some of my most inspiration colleagues:

  • +Krista Tyler - Let's just start with my blogging partner in crime. She's a constant source of positivism. There's no wondering why she's the leader of our fun committee. Within our field, you can't have enough positive attitudes. She makes me smile and I admire the way she gets students and staff to try new things, learn new things, and take risks. 
  • +Brandie Cain-Heard  - Brandie is my competitive partner in crime. Since being teamed with Brandie for an Edmodo project two years ago, I have challenged myself more in education that I ever had before. As a result, I feel we can conquer the world. What's a little healthy competition to inspire you?
  • +Tracy Clark - Tracy is my EdTech Women partner in crime. She reminds me to keep balance in my field and to always connect my big ideas to curriculum and best practices. Since meeting her last year, I have completely changed the way I do PD. 
  • +Kasey Bell - Kasey is a fellow GEG Texas leader. I love the creativity she puts in her trainings and tutorials. Her trainings and tutorials have inspired me to redo the way I have made resources in the past. Now, mine are visual.
  • GTACHI - I can't speak enough of how inspirational my entire #gtachi (Google Teacher Academy - Chicago 13) was both in my career and outside of it. Because of my #gtachi crew, I have taken risks and pushed myself, my staff, and my students to challenge the norm.
  • +Kristen Fournier - Kristen was my librarian at Forest North. Partnered with her, I learned ways to connect with staff and ways to really make an impact with students. Her creativity, optimism, and leadership is the best in the district. Hands down. 

There are plenty more who inspire me. Some may come as an inspiration days, weeks, or years later. Of course, the greatest motivator is the students and staff I work with. Their needs define my job as an educator. I adapt to fit their needs. 

Who are your inspirations? 

Sorry, +Krista Tyler - mine is not a cool as yours!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 6: My Blogging Challenge

It's day six 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 is to: Explain - what does a "good" mentor do?

I have always thought of my job as a mentor. I mentor teachers, administrators, parents, and students along their learning journey. And, each day, I strive to do the following with each

  1. Provide support - Know when to step in and when to put them in the driver's seat. When I walk in to assist teachers, many are ready for me to "just do it"; however, it is crucial that I coach them to do it on their own.
  2. Listen  - this is perhaps the most important thing I have to do. Sometimes, teachers just want to vent about their frustrations or obstacles
  3. Be a helping hand - Be the role of a facilitator, a coach, a guide. Be a helping hand rather than the driving hand. 
  4. Be flexible - Be willing to change to better meet someone's needs. 
  5. Be open - This is a difficult one. Sometimes, a teacher or student has an issue and I know a way to fix it or I am overly excited for them to try a new solution. However, I have to be open to their ideas. 

These qualities don't stop at being an ITS, but rather, stretch to mentors everywhere. So many of our jobs in education revolve around these five qualities. 

What makes a mentor to you?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day 5: My Blogging Challenge

It's day five 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 is to post a picture of my classroom - describe what I see and what I'd like to see.

Since I no longer have a classroom, I'll have to adapt this challenge to describe by office that I share with a co-worker.

The stories this office could tell - this is actually by third office on this campus in three years, which brings me to my first wish: a stable location so teachers and students would be able to easily access us and so we would be viewed as a more stable entity on campus (as opposed to the temporary fixture movement implies).

Our office is actually a storage closet (a sticker was put over the word "storage" to reflect our names) which has brought upon several problems: mainly, no A/C. This was fixed about a week ago after two months of Texas heat. Though I'm relatively comfortable in a warm office, the main concern is for the uses of this office. We use it to reimage computers, train teachers and students, and more. However, an office that has no A/C, is uninviting and makes it more difficult to attract teachers and students to come in - one of our main goals.

So, if I could change any two things - it would be to have a stable location and an area more hospitable for training and welcoming in visitors.

My office as of 9/26/14

Here's what I do like:

  • It's larger than before - giving us more room to store computers, reimage them, and...invite in teachers. In fact, it's almost large enough to set up a kitchen and cook...bacon. 
  • It has a window - never underestimate the power of  a window. My vitamin D levels are up now and I feel more positive toward my staff and students. No kidding.
  • It has many, many, many floor-to-ceiling closets to store CPUs, monitors, cabling, and more out of sight. It makes our office seem cleaner and makes me more focused on work.
  • It has space to reimage computers in-office - this means faster turnaround for returning computers and fixing issues.
Our office is plain and simple. My goal is to add in elements to make it more welcoming  and to entice teachers and students to stay and learn. We are also in the throws of setting up a projector in the office to provide more on-demand trainings to teachers. Having more space has allowed us to perform small group trainings in our office without fighting for space. 

How do you make your space welcoming while functional for being a technology space?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Day 4: My blogging challenge

It's day four of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it is all about, you can read more about it in Day 1.

Today's challenge is to share what you love most about teaching. I think most teachers love the students and their co-workers. So, I am not going to choose those as that, for me, is a necessity. Outside of the students and teachers I work with, I love the constant learning I get to do in teaching.

My parents were treasurers and managers. I know they had to learn on a daily basis, but their daily work life was rather consistent. However, when I enter work each day, I know I will interact with a different crop of people, and be challenged with an entirely new problem. This profession lends itself to continuous growth or to being a recluse more than other professions I have seen. The spectrum and continuum for learning and growth is staggering. Each day, I work with students learning to write their name for the first time and teachers still learning how to work the projector to students launching rockets and teachers connecting their class to NASA. The spectrum is enormous and that's what I enjoy the most.

It is that spectrum that motivates me and inspires me to provide support and nurturing to all stages of learning.

It is the learning that keeps me going each day.


What keeps you going?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Day 3: My 30 day blogging challenge

It's day 3 of my blogging challenge. If you missed what it is all about, you can read more about it in Day 1.

Today, I've been tasked with: Discuss one observation area you would like to improve on your next teacher evaluation.

Since I am no longer a classroom teacher, I don't have an observation area per-say. However, I can reflect upon my own instructional technology department's goals.

As a classroom teacher, I worked hard to help my students, but was often frustrated that, when they went home, that help seemed to cease or there was a barrier. As an ITS, those frustrations and challenges are the same. In order to help learning across the board, learning in all populations must be addressed. So, that means we must better support our community and parents/guardians in their own learning. If they are not also supported, how can they support students when they leave the classroom? Luckily, with tools like Google Apps for Education and Google +, we can help connect educators to the community and to parents. A teacher's impact and range can be greater than ever before.

My area, then, is to focus beyond the teachers and onto a student's network of support. For instance, I will offer parent lunches to learn a quick topic or to showcase what their students are doing. Last year, I was able to get some parents set up with Duolingo to assist them in learning English AND get gmail accounts set up so they can keep in contact with their child's teachers. Though simple, this now means that the student is better supported. And, isn't that our end goal?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Day two - My 30 Day Challenge

It's day two of my blogging challenge. If you missed what this challenge is all about, you may find more about it in Day 1.

So, today's challenge is to write about a technology you're hoping to see this year. I'd like to revise this to "write about learning you're hoping to see this year." The longer I've been in this field, the more important it is to reiterate that it's not about the technology - it's about the learning.

Today, I met with our Warrior Tech students (a group of high school students who serve as a tech liaison committee for the district). When I asked them to identify teachers who "rocked it with technology," and describe why, most did not give a specific piece of technology the teacher used. Rather, they described HOW the teacher utilized the technology and WHY the teacher used the technology. Rarely was the what the main point. So, I tread lightly with this question. What stands out and what makes an impact are the whys and hows. How can I use this technology to improve and enhance and Why is this technology appropriate. Most students mentioned they wanted classrooms to be less-device specific. They liked having the freedom to move between multiple devices and use technology to make them productive.

Funny thing is - when I think about my favorite tools, they are also the ones that make me the most productive. But, for some reason, with students, we always try to find things that are specific to education and not for use after school. Let's switch that.

So, in answer to today's challenge - I'd like to see educators using tools that we use outside of the field of education. As much as I love Edmodo, students will not use that after school. We don't teach students to drive on video games - we still take them out in the car and let them be challenged. Likewise, I'd like to see more teachers do this with technology. Educational apps are great, but they are not usable outside of education. My wish is to see a line of products that are for the classroom AND outside of the classroom.

What about you? What are your wishes for technology?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 1 - My 30 Day Blogging Challenge

I'm not new to blogging, but I love any excuse to blog more and to get others blogging. So, when I saw Jesssica Johnston (@edtechchic) share Reflective Teaching's post on 30-day blogging challenge for teachers, I thought "why not?!" However, I'd like to use this to challenge not only teachers, but students to get to blogging in a positive manner.

As a former English teacher, I can recall students submitting Works Cited pages to me, citing various blogs that they had not evaluated for accuracy and legitimacy. I would return it to them and ask them to evaluate the source. In doing so, though, I think we also generalize blogs as a "one-man's rant" page rather than what they can be - a chance to give authorship to many and to inflict change. So, when I saw this post, I thought this would be a great way to get teachers comfortable with blogging and, in turn, get students blogging in a positive manner.

So, here it goes - Day 1:

Write your goals for the school year & be as specific as you can!

  1. Focus on the small steps: the day-to-day actions that make change
  2. Remember that there are many stages of success: stage 1 is not necessarily bad; it's staying on stage 1 without a desire to move up that is a problem.
  3. Don't overwhelm with too much excitement: contain your tendency to show too much and show just enough to get them talking.
  4. Focus on the students: in my position, I don't get to directly teach them every day so we lose focus of what matters - students' learning.
  5. Process over Product: as much as I love Google, we often sell it as a tool rather than for what's its uses are: collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking.

Stay tuned for the next 29! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

My 7 Favorite Google Secrets

My teachers often ask me: where do you learn all of your Google things and how do you have time?

And, I think that highlights a major point of need: the ability to know where to find information and make sense of it. It's an oldie, but a goody. Unfortunately, it hasn't transferred as well to digital information because we now have access to information quicker and easier than in the past. Though that can make searching greater, it can also be overwhelming to many.

When I think back to my students, it was the same way - the ones that seemed to be in the know were, in reality, just good at searching and finding. And, that's why I can't reiterate enough how important being an effective searcher and seeker of information is today.

So, where do I find my information? Outside of the usual Google + and Twitter (follow me @christyfenne to see who I follow), I read a lot of Google's literature -  not every day, but I bookmark it and I save items to read later.

Check out these personal favorites (and you can subscribe via email so you can read once a day or however often you like).

1. Official Google Blog

2. Google Chrome Blog

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