Monday, March 21, 2016

The Switcheroo

Last week I made a big change in my life. I bought a new phone and it wasn't an iPhone. I decided to try something new. I purchased the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge phone. This is my first Samsung phone since the SGH-i607 Blackjack model I owned before my first iPhone.

From The Indiana Express:
I was interested in a phone with a larger screen size, more memory, a better video camera, and features I wasn't used to in my previous phones. I was open to any phone when I visited my local phone store as long as my grandfathered-in unlimited data plan wasn't altered.

It wasn't a malicious decision either. I have enjoyed using my iPhones over the years. I still use a Macbook and an iPad for work.

But I also continue to use a Windows PC and a Chromebook.

I have had some heated response from friends and colleagues on social media about the switch. People are really hung up on their favorite device.

Here's a little secret about me......I use them all. I work completely in the cloud. ALL my files are virtual.

I will still use my dual screen Windows PC at work.
I will continue to use Microsoft Office.
I will continue to use Google Drive.
I will also continue to use Adobe Creative Suite.
I will also continue to use OSX and iOS.
I will also use my Chromebook.
I will now use my Android phone.

Working in the cloud makes me device agnostic. I will work with any of them. It really doesn't matter which one it is, I will use it if it helps me get my work completed.

I think there is a complacency among those of us associated with technology and change to select 1 device or 1 operating system to rule over them all. But in reality (at least for me), I have to use all of them. I admit I enjoyed the Apple Kool-aid for a while but I also enjoyed reading what the rest of the market was doing with OS and phone changes. Each one improving on the last one's ideas. You have to admit, the phone of today has so much power in our hands no matter which one you use (yes, Jitterbug, even you).

Keeping up with the market means I am happy to hear when your phone or your device gets an upgrade. I celebrate that with you. It is great for ALL of us! I really don't care which one you use. But people get ridiculously heated about THEIR favorite one. They will slam people and these companies because they hate them so much. They may not have ever used the device themselves but they have opinions on those who use them and the devices as well.

In a time when we face world hunger, disease, famine, flood, death, cancer, etc. - is the argument of iPhone vs. Android or Windows really worth getting into?!

I am device agnostic. I will use Microsoft, Google, Apple, Android, iPhone, iPad, Chromebook, Windows, Adobe, etc. as needed. I actually enjoy them all. They all help me be successful. And I am excited to learn something new in the Android system. Perhaps learning something new will help me support my Android teachers and students better than before!

So far, I am not pushing the right buttons on my phone. They are not in the same location as where I am used to them. I downloaded an antivirus for my phone which was a first too. I love the Edge screen. I love being able to add storage memory to hit as well. I am learning!

PS: I did get to keep my unlimited data plan in the transition. Here's a helpful tip: don't purchase phones through your service providers. They will try to sell you a new plan. Go to an electronic store to get the phone. They can't really touch your plan unless you want to move from one carrier to another. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

One Word

Tomorrow, our leadership team will be discussing the book One Word that will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page (no Led Zeppelin affiliation). It is a short read.

The idea is to select one word to be your focus forward for the year. You are to pick a new word each year and cannot recycle previous ones. It is a great reminder to spend time in silence thinking of your goals and things you want to accomplish. It is timely with the New Year's resolutions not far behind to help determine this one word.

I was reminded of meditation techniques involving assigning a mantra (a sound or word) to help someone achieve their meditative state by repetition and clearing of the mind. Having a one-word focus helps clear the cobwebs and craziness of the world around you to hyperfocus on this one element, goal, drive, purpose, or failsafe to connect you back to your internal focus.

Instead of just reading this book and choosing a word, I decided to follow what the authors outline to help you discover your word. They recommend turning off your electronics and spending time in silence to listen for God or the universe to deliver the word.

I spent some time tonight in silence without distraction. I wrote down a few words that came into my head:


I decided to focus on MINDFUL.

Mindful is when a person can truly be living in their moment by being present in the experience of it. I think of cooking and taking the time to savor a bite. Enjoying the flavors, scent, and textures of each morsel.

I am mindFULL - not mindful.

My mind is constantly jumping from past to future. It is rare for me to be in the moment. I jump to regrets from the past to fears of the future. I tangent to other conversations. I grab my phone to look up an email or check a calendar date. In conversations, I am involved in an internal monologue about what to say next or connecting what is said to conversations from the past.

It is rare for me to be in the moment. I can turn off my phone but my thoughts bounce around. I am not enjoying the moment while I am physically in it. So I am working on being mindful and taking time to cherish the moment I am in.

Anyone else have their One Word? I'd love to hear it and your story behind it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Healthy Resolutions and The Secret Simmons

I know this isn't a "digital learning" post but it about change and ways to motivate practical change in an organization. And I hope this idea can be replicated and shared in other places so feel free to take any of these ideas and use them as you wish. No credit required!

Each year brings on new resolutions about health and fitness for me and many of my colleagues. We all talk about it daily. We all have our own diet regimen, our own exercise plan, and a sometimes willful push to get together as a small group to "walk the track" that never seems to come to fruition.

We get bogged down with meetings. We forget to bring our workout shoes. We have a family emergency. We get tired. The routine of change doesn't stick.

We lose momentum.

This year, I am leading the charge in our administrative offices to apply practical steps for goal setting and group motivation so we can all help each other out with our various health and fitness changes. Surely as a group, we can extend our behavioral and diet changes to last beyond the expected fail date at the end of February!

First Step: Goal Setting & Sharing
With any change, there is a point where you must define your goals, your action steps, your achievement dates/check-in points, and the rewards for completion of those goals. In setting health and fitness goals, people normally just set the goal of "I need to lose weight" or "I need to exercise more" without quantifying what that actually means. And here we are in education where we set tangible goals measured by actual data all the time. So let's apply this to our own personal progress.

Our guide for goal setting includes these questions:
1. Why do you want to achieve your goal(s)?
2. What is your health goal?
3. List action steps and achievement dates (gave 3 blanks)
4. What are your challenges in achieving these goals?
5. How can someone at work best support you to meet your goals?
6. What rewards have you set for yourself along the way?

This information collection is on one piece of paper for participants to complete and save for their own records. I respect confidentiality so I didn't want to have anyone feel they had to turn anything in if they felt it was too personal. Then this goal sheet could be posted near their desk if they wanted it for self-guidance.

Second Step: Group Support
The second page of our goal-setting had questions more oriented toward building a group dynamic exercise plan. By knowing what apps or wearable technology our participants use, we can build competition and support inside the apps for the products used by the same participants. We can also look at finding a shared workout space for all the various videos, unwanted weights/machines, etc. to share together for after hour workouts. No funding required!

1, List any wearable technology you are using to help with your fitness goals (ex. fitbit, garman, nike+, misfit, etc.)
2. List any websites/apps you are using to help with your fitness goals (ex. weight watchers, loseit, myfitnesspal, etc.)
3. Would you be interested in exercising with coworkers after hours? If so list options of interest (ex. walking, Zumba, yoga, etc.)
*This question does not offer a before work time because we do not have a space for showering on site. I limited it to after-hours to prevent the need to provide a place for showering (which would require funding).
4. What days would you most likely be able to commit to each week?
5. Do you have any exercise equipment you would be willing to donate if we built a central office workout area? If so what? Note to include physical exercise equipment and/or DVD/workout videos.
6. Would you be willing to serve on a committee or donate your time outside of the normal work day to develop a central office workout area? If so, write your name below.
**This is the only identifier on page 2 of the form. I made this the option for the information in case anyone wanted to complete the other areas of information gathering without identifying themselves.

I am truly proud of the last ingredient for our social fitness resolution support: The Secret Simmons.

I am sure you are familiar with the "Secret Santa" concept which is usually only used during the weeks leading up to holiday break. You submit your name and a list of your favorite things to be randomly drawn by other participants and you all become recipients of secret gift exchanges.

Well, we have created the Secret Simmons here which uses the same concept but extended for the entire semester where gift exchanges are simply secret motivations to keep up with your health/fitness goals. It doesn't have to be a tangible gift. It doesn't have to be given on a specific day. The idea is you are randomly assigned someone to motivate from now through May 20 by completing a survey with your health goal. You could send notes of encouragement to your recipient or you could send them bags of almonds and healthy snacks. It is really up to you.

Our Secret Simmons form includes these survey questions:
1. Name
2. Your health goal:
3. Any food allergies?
4. Favorite healthy snacks?
5. Favorite healthy drink?
6. Gym/Fitness Club membership? - some offer gift cards/incentive points
7. Restaurant most often visited?
8. Reward you plan to treat with?
9. Do you collect anything?
10. Favorite workout music?
11. Favorite color to wear?

Our first meeting will be this afternoon where this is presented to our central office/administrative staff. I will post in comments how it proceeded and overall responses to it.

Again, I hope this post is helpful to you and whatever organization you work in as a possible motivation toward good health planning as a group or individually. Good luck and stay the course toward great health! Cheers!

Friday, November 20, 2015


Continuing with the broad goal setting of our professional development, I made a chart yesterday to organize my thoughts and ideas about summer learning opportunities.

Column 1: What should we STOP doing?

Column 2: What should we START doing?

Column 3: What should we CONTINUE doing?

Here are my thoughts so far:

Column 1: STOP doing

  • Technology topics
  • Face to face technical training (too individualized)
  • Training
  • Awarding credits by hours completed
I consider the large group face-to-face PD on specific technical topics and how it is really focused on the individual in the room instead of the group as a whole. Each person is learning at their own pace individually with little time for group sharing. Flipping technical training to video on-demand can give everyone their learning at their own pace and then use the group setting for testing out what they learned by incorporating into a lesson for peer feedback. 

Column 2: START doing

  • Peer coaching
  • Group collaboration
  • Facilitating
  • Awarding credit by outcome
Perhaps using a peer coaching cycle where groups of teachers observe a lesson taught by a teacher, then provide feedback for improvement, and then teach again with additional feedback and reflection. Facilitating a peer coaching group distributes the control of the learning back to the group itself rather than the trainer. Allowing teachers to keep documentation of lessons to use for T-TESS evaluations could assist with multiple dimensions for proficiency and above. 

Column 3: CONTINUE doing

  • Online task oriented technical training (individual)
  • Online task oriented collaboration (group)
  • Encouraging idea sharing and group research
  • Purpose & goal driven professional development
I think we will always need to provide technical training for individualized learning but it must be video blended with example documents. We had tremendous success last year with Amazing Race and group learning and sharing online so that will continue. I want to see us look into Action Research and taking the time to discover current problems and spend time researching effective actionable items to solve them as a group. And finally, our professional development must be grounded with purpose and goals. Each offering must have a measurable goal instead of simply making a memo or state-mandated requirement into a training opportunity. Tie it into the district goals, district improvement planning, and campus improvement planning if possible. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Early Stage Summer PD Planning

I usually start planning summer professional development in January but with the new teacher evaluation system T-TESS coming in to play next year, I have started earlier than usual.

I'm really low tech when it comes to planning out big ideas. I start with an empty canvas - a giant Post-It sheet of paper on my wall and some sharpies.

On this canvas, I just brainstorm. I think of what worked last year and ideas I have for this year. It is global and not specific to sessions yet. Just general ideas, goals, and the shape of what I think staff development should be that is different from what we did last year. 

Here are ideas I posted yesterday that have started getting me thinking about this year's staff development:

  • Shift from hours to outcomes
  • Open lab was individual work; could there be a collaborative work?
  • Move all "technical" training to online task-driven courses (still individual work)
  • In-group offerings would be collaborative with focus on lesson-building
  • Look into peer/teacher coaching models
  • Create times for SOLE experiences: teachers researching topics they generate to solve global classroom/campus/culture issues

Hours to Outcomes
So with our new T-TESS evaluation system which moves from 6-domains of focus to 16-dimensions, I wonder if we will be see changes to the TEA & SBEC definition of credit for professional development. The current model is based on time: 1 hour credit for 1 hour of face-to-face learning. I want our PD to be more focused on the purpose of the learning opportunity and what our teachers can produce from their learning instead of the amount of time they are in a seat. 

Technical Training
I personally don't enjoy the 3 to 6-hour face to face technical training we have been giving teachers for professional development over the years. Most of them forget what they learned within the week after they attended. I've been transitioning away from it as much as possible because it is such a waste of everyone's time.

By moving technical training to online task-driven implementation, I have more teachers who realize they can review concepts learned in their iTunesU course materials than need to call me for a refresher. We will continue to offer more independent technical training opportunities plus this gives access to learning for our coaching staff, summer school and teacher travelers who miss scheduled PD due to other commitments. Feedback has been great about online technical training. 

Collaborative PD
Last year we had a highly successful and well attended opportunity every other week for teachers to come in to a lab to work individually on anything. Credit was awarded by time they spent in the lab. It worked well and I want to continue offering it but it was really individualized learning. Several times teachers would share things they were finding and resources they had implemented but the overall structure of sitting in a lab for credit by the hour was really individualized. 

I want to offer a way to move from the individualized "study-hall" atmosphere of Open Lab to a collaborative sharing of ideas and reflection. Going to keep researching this and developing it.

SOLE Groups
Each year, our district forms Academic Excellence Committees (AECs) made up of teachers, administrative staff, parents, and board members to research new ideas for implementation into our district. Each group meets once a month to share ideas and work together to research and implement their assigned concept. 

I don't think we can get away from this type of meeting during the year but I think we should offer this type of research as professional learning opportunities in the summer. Summer gives more condensed time to focus on an issue rather than spreading it out to 1-hour each month.

The SOLE method (Self Organized Learning Environments developed by Sugata Mitra) is one I have been interested in developing with teachers as a way for them to adapt for students. The idea is to form research groups focused on solving a particular problem that is not assigned but developed by the very members of the group. 

It is a blend of Inquiry and Project-based learning styles. I think we all need more exposure to researching and sharing as a way to learn professionally with each other. Plus, this very concept meshes into three of the sixteen dimensions of T-TESS. 

So I would like to see this type of group research offered as a professional learning opportunity for our teachers.  I just need to spend more time fleshing this idea out as well. 

Teacher Coaching
We need more time for our teachers to experience reflective practice. Technical training isn't helping our teachers educate better. Our teachers need more time to observe each other teaching and providing feedback to each other to improve practice. Teacher coaching would be a great way to move from the static view of a lesson plan to seeing it in practice and then making adjustments to realistically put it into the classroom experience. 

We spend a lot of time planning. 

But I think we are at the point where our teachers need to see plans in action and give/receive genuine feedback to one another. 

This is another area I plan to spend focusing my own research to develop further for our teachers. 

So all this is just brainstorming. I would appreciate input and ideas if you have any! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Immersed Interaction

Wow! It has been a long time since I have posted here!

I figured this would be a good place to post about something new we are trying out in district. 

The background on this is I am always looking for ways to increase interactivity with the professional learning content produced. I hate to have a video be the only way for people to learn. I want a video embedded with interactive elements to increase engagement. Videos are static. They don't offer ways to interact. I know that people can hit play on the video controls and then walk away. And I don't know that they watched the video or not unless I put a quiz at the end to test their knowledge. 

Our PD model for using online resources for training is to have a video for a shortened length of time to play with an activity or task or quiz at the very end to test if the person learned from the video. 

In order to do this type of PD, I have to use multiple resources: YouTube to hold the video, a Google Form for the quiz, and then a feedback form or Twitter chat to get feedback. I know I could go with a CMS/LMS to hold all these in one area but then I have to create and manage a whole other system. 

I recently visited a site called "Touchcast" that allows you to create layers of interactivity on top of videos you publish on sites like YouTube or Vimeo. You can create interactive polls and connect videos to other websites and videos where users can click while videos play.

While learning about TouchCast, I watched a video in a 360-degree view like the one below. As you watch the video, click and drag the view window to see what I am talking about. 

This is called Immersion filmography. And I am excited that we will be testing this out soon in our district with a Kodak 360-degree camera arriving soon. I hope to test it out in a band performance or theater rehearsal to get that immersive experience that a flat single camera view cannot capture. Instead of viewing from a side-angle, imagine being an invisible audience member in the center of the stage with the ability to turn around to view the different pieces of the performance at any given point. Rewatch the video again with a different view. 

Imagine using it for creating your example teacher lessons where you film from the perspective of the students in the room. The interaction of your students as materials are used or discussion flows can be viewed in multiple ways. Professional Development videos are not speaker focused but entire room experience. 

Add on to this the use of Google Cardboard to immerse the viewer into a play mode where their physical movement and turn of their head moves the view of the camera, and we are creating immersive and interactive experiences for our viewers. 

Facebook purchased Oculus Rift to develop this type of augmented immersive experience for users but the cost of that device may be too high compared to the $14.99 kit from Google Cardboard. 

The Kodak camera costs below $300 with the extra waterproof casing and attachments. 

I think this immersion experience could catch on to other areas: conferences, edcamps, meetings, makerspaces, and all the various experiences of community activity to share. 

I can't wait! What are some ways you think we could use this camera or interactive video?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SxSW Interactive Future

After 5 days of information overload from SxSW Interactive where technology topics are shared from different corners of the world (medical, sports, television, hiring, education, entertainment, etc.), what does the future look like?

Lots of Data points
Wearables are the technology of the present and future. More futuristic wearables will be gauging mood and the supplying that mood information to our environments to serve as triggers to enhance our moods. And with growth in Augmented Reality, the triggers from wearables will allow us to see the world differently and be embedded in stories in real time. The biggest field for innovative technology is in medical health in the realms of discovery (biometric) and repair (nanotech). 

It is a read-write world where augmented reality and immersion tech can allow you to create overlays on buildings and public areas. Immersion theaters are in development. 360-degree film-making is going on now and game designs are incorporating Occulus Rift and 360-degree views as part of the game experience. The idea is to start collapsing the distance between reality and fiction. 

Think of it this way, kids of the future will read Harry Potter then go to London to experience the books in an entirely immersive way. 

Check out Jaunt VR Cameras or the portable 360-degree HD cam for personal use. 

Imagine playing a game that is tracking your biometrics so that the game responds to how the player is feeling. Game creators are looking into ways to move the story from the game to the real world so that advances in levels can mesh with real life successes. 

Live Content:
With apps like Meerkat, Periscope (now owned by Twitter) and, live streaming apps were the hit of the conference. The trend will continue forward especially with storified advertising and the need for marketing to connect the story of the product with the story of the user. Millennials and kids are craving content. They want to be interconnected into the stories of the people and products around them. 

Advertising will be more storified based on the experience of the brand user. The trusted spokesperson for the product will be you. People are not captivated by advertisements. They are captivated by plots and stories so advertising will be adapt to the stories of their users. Add on the Millennial effect - Millennials want action with their stories. They want to know how to get involved, to be part of the solution, and to be recognized as part of that solution. 

So with these ideas of where the world is going, I point back to education to figure out how we can tap into the potential audience for learning? We are not gaining audience. Our "ratings" are low. We are competing for the attention span of the world around us and we are losing. 

It feels like so much of our focus is on changing the inside of the school building itself instead of maybe taking education to places outside limits of school.

If the future of marketing is directed to content, live streaming stories, social connectivity of the past and present, immersive experience, and data collections based on the devices we wear and carry, what can we expect from education?