Week One – My thoughts

Today marks the end of the 5th day of classes for our students.   That means we’ve done ONE FULL WEEK!  Congratulations to our students, teachers, staff and parents.

In addition to 5 days of classes, we had 4 teacher days before and another day of student registration.  And on top of that, many of us have worked other days as well.

I wish I could say I have some amazing great reflection or analysis of those days, but, alas, that’s not the case.  But I can share a few observations.

  1. I love teenagers!  It really is true. 
     In the last few weeks, I’ve had students make me laugh and make me cry (in a good way).  I’ve worked with students who gave up their last days of summer to help us get ready for school.  Their commitment, energy, and enthusiasm is contagious. I love working with them!
  2. Attitude matters!  It’s amazing how two people can have vastly different experiences with the same situation.  So often that depends on their attitude.  I know we can’t always be positive all the time, but trying to be positive when you can makes such a difference.
  3. Excitement is contagious.  I love watching excitement for learning move in a school.  You can almost see it flow down the hall from child to child and room to room.  IMG_4195
  4. Communication is key.  Knowing what is happening and why it is happening makes all the difference.  Being on the same page is possible when people communicate effectively.
  5. Asking for help is essential.  I will be the first to admit I like to be in control and do things myself.  I struggle with asking for help.  But I have had to do that in the last few weeks, and what a difference it has made!  We’ve all heard the saying TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More.  I can say that asking for help and working with people is a great way to make that happen.


I am SO excited about what this school year is going to bring.  We have new administrators, new teachers, new staff, and of course, the 1780 students who show up everyday to learn.  Granted not every student (or adult) is at his/her best everyday, but we’re still there and in this together.

May 2017-18 be the best school year yet!

#foxpride  #pridein5

Hey, Mom!

JJ and MommaWhen I had the opportunity to move from being a classroom English teacher to being our school’s instructional technology coach, one of my biggest concerns was whether or not I would be able to develop the same types of relationships with students once I no longer had my own classes.

Because, as all educators know, it’s about the helping kids!  Of course, helping kids depends on building relationships with them.  And, to be honest, it’s not just about what the kids get out of it.   Having positive relationships with kids is the fun part for us too!

While I do not have the same kinds of relationships with students that I used to, I am please to report that I have developed different types of relationships; ones that are valuable and still fun.

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I had not realized that instead of knowing mostly my students in my own classes, I would have the opportunity to know almost all of the students at school.  I might work with an honors English class one block and then see some of the same students in an art class later in the day.  I’ve had the opportunity to see students working at a variety of projects

and subjects, so I’ve had a chance learned more about them and see their different interests and talents.

In my role as “the iPad lady” for the last four years, I have had much more of a presence on campus than I ever would have imagined. I love when students I may not know very well greet me and call me by name.  I am not always great with names (especially at a school of 1700+), but I still love to talk to students and learn about them.

2016-17 iTeam

I have also loved working with students on our iTeam (worth a separate blog post).  These students are our volunteer tech team – an all around great group of kids.  In addition, participating in Shadow a Student day and being a part of our STEM program gives me more chances to get to know students.

Another way I’ve gotten to know students is through our mentoring program.  This program has varied through the years, but the first time I signed up I was skeptical about what I had gotten myself into.  “Randomly” tracking down my mentee about once a week and trying to talk him/her about school, home, or whatever the students wanted was awkward.  But those relationships grew.  One of my proudest moments was seeing a student who had been an “at risk” 10th grader when we first met walk across the stage this June. I was SO proud of her!

I will have to admit I have two favorite students at school – my own two daughters. It is one of the greatest privileges of my career to get to work where they go to school.  I love when I happen to help in one of their classes or run into them in the hall, or when my youngest hollers “Hey, mom!” across the commons as she heads for class.
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But a strange thing has happened these last few years. Besides being mom to my own daughters, I’ve found that other students have “adopted” me as a school mom.  Often when I hear “Hey, mom!” or “Momma!” in the hallway, I have to look to see which of “my” children it is.  I also think it’s funny when I can tell that other students are thinking: could those four students walking down the hall (all colors, shapes and sizes) really  be my children.

Whether they are mentees, iTeam kids, friends of my children, or any other students at our school, I know my life is better because of the relationships we have.  I am thankful my job still provides me way to develop relationships with some pretty amazing young people!


Teaching & Learning at SC Midlands Summit

Like many other teachers, I spent some of the first days of summer working.  Some was spent at my school with other teachers and administrators, but I spent Wednesday at Richland Two’s SC Midlands Summit.

Richland Two puts on a nice annual event filled with lots of “Googly” and other edtech learning.  I love seeing so many teachers, administrators, instructional coaches, and media specialists taking time out of their summers to learn and to share what they’ve learned with others.

Here are just a few of my takeaways:

1 – It’s important to share the process and the problems, not just the successes.

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This year I presented “Rethink Research with Infographics.

In this session, I shared a collaborative project we did with English 2 classes.  It was a joint effort between the classroom teachers, the media specialist and myself.


You can see the steps in our process:

Copy of 2017 Midlands Summit - Rethink Research with Infographics - AplinWhen I was putting the presentation together, I kept thinking about all of the things that did not go quite how we’d wanted them to.  The project goals were good, and the students did have to think critically to research, analyze the research and create their infographics.  However, I still was hung up on the parts that didn’t work.

That’s when I realized, it was important to share what didn’t work.  Sharing what I would change the next time around mattered as much as sharing what went well.  Teaching is a ever changing process, and we need to let people know that no teaching experience is perfect.

When I was actually presenting, I think talking about “areas to improve” was when I felt I was making the biggest impact on the educators in the room.  The attendees asked great questions about the process, the details, and about what didn’t work.

2 – You never know who you’ll help

When I was waiting for my session to start, I walked around and talked to some of the people in the room.  One woman told me she’d attended my session last year about Actively Learn.  She’s a history teacher who had used Actively Learn this past school year because of last year’s session.  It was so rewarding to hear that something I’d done had made a difference for this teacher and students I didn’t even know.

3.  People take away different ideas from the same experience.

No matter which of the sessions I was attending, I was reminded that all of us come to the sessions from different places.  I have experience with screencasting and flipped PD and classrooms, but I still gained insights from Janelle McLaughlin – @Ms_Mac4 – and Nick LaFave – @NFLaFave – and their presentations.  What I got out of the sessions was different from what someone new to these ideas would have learned even though we were in the same rooms listening to the same speakers.2017-06-07-10-04-30.jpg

This experience is exactly the same as what our students experience when they come in our rooms (our our teachers who come to PD sessions).  They come to our classes with different backgrounds and prior knowledge.  They also come wanting different things out of our time together.  It’s important to keep this in mind when planning PD sessions or classroom lessons.

It is also important to remember that we all have something to learn from each other.  Even though I knew most of what was shared, the presenters still had me thinking in new ways and reflecting on what I do and how I can improve.

District 5 at SC Midlands Summit
A few of the teachers and leaders from District Five who attended SC Midlands Summit.

4. Learning never ends

Many of us from @LexRich5 were at the Summit – all of us were there to learn and some also were there to teach.

It’s great to know that so many of us are spending time this summer doing what we love and what we know will make us better educators.  We care about making our classrooms and schools better places for our students, so we’re willing to be at a conference the first week of summer.

And it is not just this week, this conference, or these people. I have so many District 5 colleagues and others in my worldwide PLN who are attending conferences, teaching classes, taking classes, grading AP exams, working with students, writing curriculum, doing professional reading and so much more.

Learning never ends.

I can do this! Blogging for Reflection

blogging buddiesAs I’ve mentioned before, I believe in the importance of reflection and that blogging can be a great way to do that.

I’ve also mentioned that I’ve struggled with consistency when it comes to blogging.  Whether it’s feeling too busy or (more often) not feeling like I have something that others might want to read, I have not lived up to the goals I’ve set for myself.

Participating in The Innovator’s Mindset MOOC blogging challenge this spring was incredibly helpful.  But when that ended, my blogging faded again.

So I come back to the “why.” Again. Why blog?  For me, it has to be about having a place to stop, focus and reflect.  I have to get over whether or not what I have to say will be important to others.  Reflection is important for me and doing it on a public blog is a way for me to stay accountable to myself.

Three other factors helped renew my commitment:

1 – Jennifer GonzalezLetter to an Overachiever Blog Post

Capture1Jennifer’s blog is great!  I enjoy following her on Twitter and reading her posts.  This 2015 post talks about how being an overachiever (guilty!) can stop us from doing things because we only want to do them if we can do them well.  She ended the post with ” Please drop the ball on something. Just do it. You’ll realize that the world won’t end. Everyone else will make slight adjustments in their expectations of you, and those expectations will be more realistic, and they’ll see that you are human, too, and everything will get better.”

With all the craziness of the last few weeks of school, this was a message I desperately need to hear.  It also reminded me that while it’s great to set blogging goals, I need to make sure I don’t let those goals or fear of not doing things perfectly stop me from doing what I want to go.

2 – Steve Barkley’s End Of Year Coaching Reflection Post

In Steve’s blog post, he shares how he led a group of instructional coaches through an end of year reflection.   He ends this 2015 post with “Whatever reflection process you use as the school year closes out be sure that it leads to identification of future learning opportunities.”

Through an extensive Google Form, I gather end of the year data from my teachers about technology goal setting, the coaching process, and future technology support needs.  I realized that my blog can be a place for me to do my own end of the year self-reflection as well as a place to synthesize information I gather from teachers through the Google Form.  Future Post!

3 –  ISTE Ed Tech Coaches PLN – Blogging Buddies.  blogging buddies

I saw a tweet last week asking EdTech Coaches to commit to blog at least once a month and then comment on other blogs.  The timing seemed too perfect. So, I’m in!  Thank you to @Katie_M_Ritter for providing a community to help me and others grow together.

In closTwittering, I feel like I should also mention that I discovered all three of these items on Twitter.  Twitter is an essential part of my PLN.  I learn something new every time I spend time on Twitter.

I know Twitter can seem overwhelming at times, but I don’t let that stop me.  You’ll never catch everything on Twitter, and that’s ok.  The two blogs posts I’ve mentioned here both happen to be from two years ago, but I saw them now and the timing was perfect for me.  You never know when 140 character will lead you to just what you need!




The best of times . . .

The end of year at any school is a crazy time.  Any educator knows that.

When I was in my own classroom, my main concerns were my students, their grades, my classroom and looking ahead to next year.

Now that I serve as the school’s Digital Integration Specialist, my concerns are ALL students, ALL teachers, ALL grades, ALL mobile technology, and looking ahead to next year.  At a school with 1700+ students and 110 teachers, that can be a little overwhelming at times.

But I’ll tell you a secret – I love this time of year!  I really do.

The end of year allows me to check in with almost every teacher in my building.  Whether we’re touching base about teacher iPads, new teacher Chromebooks, grade changes, gradebook checks, Google Classroom questions, End of Year checkout packet, exam review activities, or anything else, I love getting to talk to teachers.  I work with so many amazing people.

I love our Media Center staff and all the work they do for our staff, students, and for me. With a new inventory program and a change in teachers’ mobile devices, they have done an incredible job jumping in – as always.  I am so impressed by them.

One of my other endiPad Collection Stations of year jobs is collecting all 1500ish student iPads.

This year, as in years past, we’ve assembled a fantastic team to help.  We have teachers who volunteer to give up part of their precious planning time to help us at collection. Yes – they give up their time to help.  It’s amazing.  Not everyone has this outpouring of IMG_2748help and I am grateful for each and every one of them.

But I think one of my favorite parts of the end of the year is the kids!  

We have our iTeam Techs, student volunteers, who work before school, during the day, and after school to help us get iPads collected.

We have seniors who could be sitting by the pool or sleeping in since they are finished with exams, but they are here, helping.

I also love talking to all of the students who come through iCare to turn in their iPads. img_2796.jpgiPad Collection






The students are polite, respectful, and appreciative of the easy process we’ve set up for them.  They understand the expectations we’ve set for them and live up to them (almost 100% of the time!).

While tensions can run high, and we’re all exhausted, I choose to look at the positive.  This really is the best of times!

#IMMOOC Week 4 – Time for Reflection


One prompt from this week’s challenge is “What elements of the “8 Things to Look For in Today’s Classrooms” exist in your professional learning? What elements are lacking?”

First, I have to admit that I am finally catching up on my reading of the book.  I have been enjoying looking at tweets, others’ blogs, and the weekly live shows, but had not spent much time with the book.  Normally, when I sit down to read, I much prefer fiction.  I value nonfiction tremendously, but have a difficult time skipping over the latest novel I’m reading to pick up nonfiction.  But I’m so glad I made the effort with The Innovator’s Mindset.

One of the “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom” that I feel has been lacking for me is the time for reflection.  But this MOOC has helped me focus on reflection.

In addition, I have just completeAdobe Spark (1).jpgd a yearlong leadership program with the SC State Dept of Education.  One key component of that program was reflection.  We started each session with “Community in Silence” time – a time to stop and think about why we were there, what we had been working on and what we hoped to accomplish.
Each session also had time built in for writing reflections.  I have learned through practice how important time for reflection is.  

We often do not take the time to reflect and that’s something we must do as educators and we must help our students do.  Not just help, but provide time for it.

George Couros includes the quotation “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.”

That is a great lifelong lesson.


#IMMOOC Week 3. Post 3 – Outside our walls

This has been a busy week filled with much reflection and learning for me (more on that in other posts).  But to wrap up week three of #IMMOOC, I want to share some thoughts on innovation as it relates to communication and collaboration.

This week, I listened to several episodes from the Cool Cat Teacher Podcast Show “Every Classroom Matters” including one called “How Teachers Can Find Time to Innovate” by Annette Lang.

I was struck by Ms Lang’s “bite-sized” approach to innovation.  In order to not be overwhelmed, she decided to pick one new thing to try.  In doing so, she was able to connect her students in the US with students overseas.  The students collaborated on projects and gave each other real audiences for their work.  In just a year, she has transformed learning for her students.

Shouldn’t we all be doing this?

IMG_1981For me this connected to the example at the opening of chapter 5, when George Couros writes about how much communication has changed.  We used to worry how many minutes we talked to someone far away.  I remember being in Spain one summer during high school and having to go to the public phone several blocks away to arrange a very brief call back to my parents in the CA (and we wrote letters!).

Times have changed!  If my children can Facetime their cousins in PA & CO and their grandparents in CA for FREE with the touch of a button, shouldn’t all of us help our students reach out to other students around the world?
If we’re studying Japanese, let’s talk to people in Japan. If we’re learning about desert habitats, let’s see what they look like “first hand.”

Technology affords us limitless opportunities to communicate and collaborate outside the walls of our school.  Let’s Go!