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?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

SxSW Interactive - Day 2 & Health Focused

Sessions on Day 2 of SxSW Interactive went further into data and privacy but a few I followed went into data and health.

With all the data being collected, how are we physically and psychologically prepared for what is coming?

Beyond hardware, sensors, and data collectors, big business dollars are generated from health care. This has been the buzz for two years now. And SxSW expanded a thread of the Interactive conference at the new JW Marriott specifically toward medical technology this year.

Session: Are You In a Social Media Experiment - Storified
This session focused on Social Media Intelligence which goes beyond looking at the images and text we post online but the behavioral science behind why we post or don't post information. Social research then predicts your personality and future. The idea is as we post more and more online, our social networks know us better than we know ourselves due to the data we share.

For an in-depth look at what this means, use on your own Twitter or Facebook account. It gives you a behavioral science look at your personality based on what you post. Very interesting.

Session: Digital Shift: Tomorrow's Relationships & Ideals - Storified
Along the same lines, this session focused on how technology has changed how we interact socially, personally and with nature. A common thread here was how we have separated ourselves from the physical world through digital access because in a digital world, we have more control. But in the previous session, the idea of data streaming to multiple channels means we lose control and our data falls into different analytical hands making predictive assumptions based on what we post.

Our digital self isn't the same as our physical self. It is a distortion. Most of what we post online is public relations material and narcissistic at that. We talk of innovation and future but we haven't made a plan for where we want that future to be. Where do we want the technology to go?

Also, as narcissistic as we have become, more of the Internet of Things devices are about more self-awareness. There are deep cultural questions we need to look into before delving into more narcissistic enhancements of self are introduced.

Session: Hacking the Brain - What's Next for Neuro-Health? - Storified
Dr. Geoffrey Ling from DARPA's Biological Technologies Office shared in this session. He is also recognized as the inventor of the first FDA approve prosthetic arm that connects to the brain for movement. The focus of his talk was to look at non-invasive mobile and web tools to improve mental health.

He pointed out that with most mental health issues (Alzheimer's, Parkinsons for example), there is an iceberg effect - you only see a tiny part of the disease externally. Most other body systems have a health number like blood pressure but the brain doesn't have a number for "normal". An cognitive testing is done in an office setting but not in a patient's setting.

He posted the idea of disrupting hospital testing to have people test themselves at home using web-based cognitive performance measures. With Internet of Things and cloud health, a patient could have a brain dashboard for deeper analytics. Looking at the two previous sessions and the amount of personality type data in the health cloud, there could be predictive tools to provide brain augmentation for patients who need it in a closed-loop response.

Lumos Labs has a Brain Performance Test (BPT) and has measured over 60 million people online to develop a brain health grade. And Luminosity has a BPT that can discriminate between individuals at risk for Alzheimers.

Session: Nudges for Good: Apps that Make People Better - Slideshare
David Caygill, Co Founder & Innovation Lead at The Iris Nursery shared about apps designed to help. He shared that the more data people have access to regarding their health, the more confusion and guilt they have about that data.

He relates to the book "Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness" by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein to apply their ideas to how these apps can work better. The first way is that the device has to fit directly into the user's life. It can't be an extra step they have to take to access it. The second way is that the data can't just be all about the person - it has to be comparative to others. People like competition. And third, the relationship has to be right - the app has to be humorous when the relationship with the user requires humor or pushy when the person needs to be pushed.

This ties into again the idea of Artificial Intelligence for applications to work well with users and applied social behavioral sciences.

Session: The Art and Science of Data - Storified
This session was about how data is providing more for everyone: designers, publishers, and advertisers but it isn't an engaging story when it is a data dump. This session focused on how to make the engaging story from the various forms of data. Storycrafting from data for journalists.

Recommended tools: Kimono and Google Refine

Saturday, March 14, 2015

SxSW Interactive Day 1 - Notes from the Frontier

A common thread through sessions in Day 1 of SxSW Interactive is customer interaction through design. Sessions and panels covering topics from Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and marketing all threaded the idea of connecting business to customer experience. The buzz at SXSW is the interaction element. 

I follow these sessions because I am a consumer. I want to know how the marketing world is planning to market to me. I also work as someone who is connecting my community (teachers, students, parents) to resources our district can provide. What can I learn from current marketing strategies to help connect my community to our district resources? As one of these sessions below shared, content provided by us all competes with everyone else's content. So I find value in what these sessions are about in helping me find ways to connect, share and engage people in the content I am providing. 

As an educator, getting my community to engage in content is what most of my job is about. 

Interesting notes on how one media covered baseball game quantifies to 30TB of data with 2GB per pitch. With this in mind, companies should not focus on data but on outcomes. Same with education. We tend to focus on the data too much but we really need to focus on what the data produces toward outcome. 

Artificial Intelligence isn't a future concept. It is being used currently to analyze and predict big data. It is a way to forewarn and predict failures in order to prevent them. Speakers referred to us not as homosapiens as much as homodigitas in the world of data and AI. 

The idea behind this session was to follow the data trail left behind with users engage with brands. These trails along with behavioral science can help marketing create more relevant experiences for the consumer. It isn't about branding anymore. It is all about consumer experience. 

Data that can be visualized and reflected on allows for more strategic use. Design with strategy and analytics are the top tools for user experience. Interesting note that the average user switches between devices 27x per hour. Predicting over 500 Internet connected devices in every home within the next 5 years. 

"The Dress" was a timely topic for this session. A BuzzFeed publisher shared how their company is connecting the audience to content. This idea proliferates through the other sessions below. 

BuzzFeed makes 50/videos per week with a team of 150 staff and gets 1 billion in monthly views. The content is the identity as the viewer shares things they identify with. What people share are the things that move them and these serve as their proxy for conversation. 

Key content has global reach as humans all over the world are inspired by kindness and generosity. 

BuzzFeed's site is a CMS they built themselves that allows them to influence the editorial behavior. Editors spent all day looking at laptops or large screens so they had to get them to think "mobile" when they publish. 

BuzzFeed's idea of their site is that you will click on a story that you will eventually share. The editorial staff studied epidemiology measures for transmission of diseases (viral) and applied it to content. This allows them to predict how often something is likely to be shared. 

Key thought: BuzzFeed doesn't promote popular content (it would be tool late). They promote content that WILL BE popular. 

Interesting data:
Videos that are personal play better on Facebook. Videos that are informational perform better on YouTube! Videos that invert gender stereotypes crush all social media statistics. - @MobileTrevor

"The Dress" post was seen by every country in the world in 12 hours. It was seen 38 million times. 

Ben Lerer from Thrillist shared on this topic while drinking a beer on stage. He started with a look at the past before the Internet when content creation and distribution were expensive and controlled by a few. Media has had to shift because now everyone can create content and it is cheap.

His most retweeted statement was that media companies will need to leave traditional models of advertising in order to directly monetize users. The media company's core asset is to access, build relationships, and influence its' audience. 

He predicts the future media publishers are companies like BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Box, Vice, Mashable, Funny or Die, etc. who are already building experiences with their audiences and helping visitors consume content. They aren't storytelling anymore but "StorySelling" - branded content that provokes a behavior or action

Two separate departments in business need to work together in one group: Media & Commerce. 

Content shouldn't just be clever, it needs to be useful. The consumer is in the driver's seat and as a brand you are competing against your customer's closest friends and family. For marketing success, user generated content performs best. It creates the message that you are a 1:1 marketer and you know your customers. 

Social media has forced HR, Sales, PR, Marketing, Product, and internal communications to all talk together. Test and track your content so you know what your audience wants. 

I felt this session tied closely with the previous one. Local news organizations are dying out because of the connected population it is trying to connect with. In order to survive, local news needs to engage with readers/viewers as a two-way median. 

Content isn't key to connecting to readers/viewers. They want information that matters to them. Millenials, for example, want more than news - they want to know how they can get involved! 
News also needs to focus on the mobile device as the primary platform for distribution of news. 

The most important metric is "time well spent", not on number of pageviews. 

Ideas by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick on how to achieve maximum results to use social media for marketing and branding. The art of social media needs to do three things: inform, assist or entertain. 
Tip 1: Be valuable: Not about what you want to say, but what the audience wants to see or hear. 
Tip 2: Be clever about how you generate and curate content. 
Tip 3: Be gracious when you use other's content or if they retweet yours. Say thank you!
Tip 4: Be organized in using tools that work for you.
Tip 5: Be dramatic by using visuals
Tip 6: Be optimal by perfecting your covers, your image ratios, your avatar. 
Tip 7: Be bold by taking a stand and showing your passions

Friday, March 6, 2015

A SxSW Experience from the Past

I recently discovered my old Flickr account which had pictures from 2009-2012 stashed away in there. I found a few from SxSW Interactive conferences I thought I would share as a retrospective view of this conference and why I enjoy it so much.

Seeing Mike Tyson promote a new game while in his own ring as part of the Palmer Events Center gaming expo.

The cement columns in and out of the Austin Convention Center are open for anyone to post any print flyer. Great creative ideas are shared. I try to photo as many as possible. 

Visual notetaking - I first saw this at SxSW 2012. Main stage sessions still get visual notes taken on large whiteboard sized canvas which are posted around the conference center for photos. 

Napster's Sean Parker interviewing Al Gore.  
Dean Kamen getting mic'd up.

Blogging Cafes are not the same at EDU conferences. These blogger cafes have full bars, snacks and live bands performing in them. 

Open writing spaces for creative types to graffiti or post random drawings/thoughts. The "maker" movement of 2011.

Creative signage for an event for UK participants to attend tea together. 

The hosts of Top Chef explaining how they were the first televised show to connect audience to show via blogging. 

Signs outside a Circus Mashup - run like a circus but inside were startups sharing their new ideas. 

The woman next to me was the VP of Evernote. We were trying to get a photo of the man behind us in the bright colored clothing. Found out soon after that he was one of the original developers of the early web.

The exhibit hall is literally the hallways. Packed around the outer edge of the convention center are the vendors. They setup sitting stations for everyone to visit in style. 

Lego tables under staircases allow people to just build and have some fun. 

I think anyone who knows me can see why I enjoy this so much. It is chaos. It is design. It is interactive. It is art. It is literally like my brain exploded in this place and I love it when I get to visit and see all these people sharing and connecting together each year. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

South by South What?!?

It is the most fantastic time of the year! For me, Spring Break is when I get to attend the South by Southwest (SxSW) conference in Austin. Now there is always confusion about this conference so let me break it out for you. SxSW is a multi-week conference of events based on theme.

SxSW EDU is a conference for more visionary education leaders and corporate education sales to get together. I volunteer at this conference. It isn't one I feel I am suited to attend but I use it to get the hours I need for a badge to....

SxSW Interactive is my ultimate ADHD/brain-melting/cutting-edge/design conference. From the SxSW website it is defined as the "incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity [with] five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games, and startup ideas the community has to offer". (from SxSW Interactive Our Story)

SxSW Music follows Interactive and is aimed at educating and inspiring musicians. There are lots of music venues in the live music capital that is Austin, Texas but they increase exponentially as more music groups come to town for this conference.

And during both the Interactive and Music pieces of the SxSW experience, you have an overlap of the SxSW Film component. Film screenings and sessions with film designers are going on as well.

In other words, downtown Austin becomes an explosion of media design and creativity for about 2 weeks and I love it! This year I get to experience some of the movie screenings thanks to a friend in the biz.

Badges for these conferences are sold individually (usually starting near the $700 mark for each) or you can purchase a Platinum badge for access to everything (starts at nearly $1700). I choose to go the poor educator way by volunteering at SxSW Edu and part of SxSW Interactive.

Why I enjoy it?
The conference isn't called SxSW Technology. It isn't called SxSW Creativity. It is called SxSW Interactive because the focus is on cross-industry conversations. This isn't an educator's conference. It is a conference for connecting this educator to video game designers, non-profit communication directors, film producers, media editors, journalists, social media specialists, human resource staff, writers, artists, etc. and discussing similar issues in all our fields.

If you watch TED Talks, consider SxSW to be the after-party where the interaction is the theme of the entire conference.

I've had the pleasure of sitting in audience when Al Gore interviewed Biz Stone (founder of Twitter) about the future of social media. I enjoyed hearing Billy Corgan (of The Smashing Pumpkins) share the perils of the music industry and how fans had to use social media to sustain their interests in music. I loved watching Dean Kamen share how his company Deka R&D with Coca-Cola are distributing clean water systems to third-world countries.  I am still getting support and tips on video editing from a respected film director I met at a SXSW movie screening. I enjoyed sharing how teachers were using Evernote with the Vice President of the company while she and I were waiting for our session room to open up.

Why you will enjoy it?
Since 2012, I have been "attending" this conference but only physically in attendance in March of 2012. Each year since, I have trolled the web for the pre-defined hashtags for each session and curated notes from them. My notes are shared via my Storify page. I then take themes from the conference and write blog posts about the topics.

You can enjoy it by simply following me on Twitter @mradkins where I will be tweeting links, buzz themes, pictures, and storified session notes.

Here are some previous sessions I have curated:

Data Driven for the Win!
Top Chef: How Transmedia is Changing Television (with Top Chef judges and Andy Cohen)
Computation with Stephen Wolfram (of Wolfram-Alpha)
Ray Kurzweil - Expanding Our Intelligence without Limit
Biz Stone - Content as a Means for Social Change

Topics of Interest: 
So far, the topics I am most interested in are:

  • BIG data - cloud data, cloud intelligence, wearable tech & data, visualized data
  • Automation - how cloud data connects homes, cars, spaces, and our bodies
  • Entertainment: Omnichanneling - multi screen experiences
  • Video design - using video to connect by experience
  • HR issues - working with Millenials; workspace design; attitudes and improvements
  • Failure and failure as a catalyst
  • Future of MakerSpace/Making
  • Ideas for future meetings/conferences
As you can see, education isn't in my list. I want to know how these things apply to education.

Next week, I will be volunteering during my Spring Break at this conference. I get to see behind-the-scenes how all this works. I get to interact with other volunteers. But overall, I get to be part of the buzz and conversation of the SXSW Interactive experience. Best of all, I get to share it with you all. 

So be on the lookout and follow my tweets if you are interested. I guarantee it will be overload! 

Here is my pre-hashtag list of sessions by day and hour (use tabs at the bottom per day). But just stay tuned because it will be a blast! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Planning Summer Learning by District Plan

This is the time when most districts build their summer staff development catalogs. We try to have a published catalog in March so teachers can start making plans for their own professional learning while enjoying their time off in summer. 

For me, building the catalog in February has been leading the cart before the horse. My focus has been on creating the most attention-grabbing titles in order to compete against the offerings of our GT, ELL, Special Education, and Curriculum teams. I always wanted more people to come to my events than the others. So without building the actual content of the course, I would just build the attention grabbing headline and then do a write up to make it sound like the most exciting thing possible. 

It is the same way I submit a conference proposal or session. I am getting my session into a catalog where I am competing against other topics. Surely my catchy title and summary will grab more attention than simply writing the name of the piece of technology used?!?

I admit, it has been quite selfish of me to work that way. I feel now that I am more directed to apply summer staff development into a more comprehensive plan for all training than separating it out to compete with the other teams. 

We have District Improvement Plans, Campus Improvement Plans, and even Technology Plans but often these are unrelated to each other. Some districts will use them to outline a bare minimum requirement in order to complete the required task for submission. But what if they are missing out on the ability to use the planning system to build a real, strategic plan?

What if instead of these different plans, we built a District Plan? Perhaps even using a model that would be to create a District Plan first followed by each campus submitting a plan to support the District Plan? Each plan should involve data-driven decision-making processes and emphasize research-based strategies for implementation. There should be some definite immediate (next year) and long term (3+ years) areas for improvement. The resulting document would be a Program Improvement Plan. The district budget would be developed from this comprehensive plan, according to a defined process.  

An example could be:
  • Central Budget Needs: Operating Budgets (Maintenance, Transportation, Organizational Software (Student Management, Business, Transportation, Communication, Personnel, etc.), and other functions that effect the entire district or school plants. 
  • Department Needs: Curriculum, Special Education, Athletics, etc. would budget for district-wide needs as outline in the District Improvement Plan, coordinated with state-related initiatives. 
  • Campus Needs: Priorities would be set at the campus level to determine priority objectives based on the District Plan, specified campus initiatives, and teacher requests. 
In this way, everyone is following a coordinated plan that will improve communication and accountability. 

As this drills down, we look at improving professional development as part of our Program Improvement Plan. Successful companies usually invest significant amounts of money to the training and retention of personnel. Educational delivery of training must be upgraded. Technology can be coupled with new strategies of training to make these significant improvements. For example: 
  • Integrated Training: There are many aspects to integrated professional development sessions. Presenters might seek to integrate technology applications into a content training session; they might integrate special education, GT, and other areas into content sessions; they might integrate various curriculum areas into a single session. The idea is to reduce the number and types of training into more comprehensive, coordinated sessions
  • Technology-Based Training: Allow teachers to generate a Personal Professional Development Plan based on classroom observations, content needs, instructional or assessment needs. The plan would include the sites to be investigated, a written report on key lessons learned and the research behind the content, resources identified, and invitations to observe the concepts practiced in the classroom. 
  • Lesson Modeling: The number one request in data surveyed in my districts about professional development is to provide sessions where the instructional methods are modeled, not lectured about. For example, the presenter assumes the role of a teacher and the participants are the students. They are divided into groups, assigned specific tasks related to content and technology, and given time to complete the tasks. They are working in groups and the instructor is "managing" the class as research defines. At the conclusion of the session, the presenter and the teachers discuss the various content and/or technology objectives completed. "What was the rationale for the various activity definitions?", and "What were the "hidden" assessments made by the teacher?"
  • Classifications: Professional Development might be divided into "required" and "elective" sessions. All identified staff would be required to meet certain proficiencies, but could choose other courses to meet personal education goals. 
  • Integrated Sessions: Develop some activities to bring teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors, custodians, etc. together to learn appreciation for each other's responsibilities in the district. 
  • New Employees: Do not forget how many things district teachers have learned over the last few years (Student Management Systems, New Technology Resources, Student/District Data, Parent Expectations, etc). Provide an on-going annually updated new employee program that will help staff with a smooth transition. 
In other words, use the entire district resource catalog to develop meaningful professional development activities allowing for different learning styles, different interests and needs, and meeting the district/campus goals. 

It is, in effect, a Professional Development Plan for every department to use as the draw to meet the needs of the new District Plan. And I believe that it would help curb the old method of technology management where decisions were left to technology people instead of curriculum leaders who did not embrace technology as an integral part of the curriculum and instructional process. 

This new method of building a District Plan would mean that content goals and objectives drive the use of technology and act as the integrated component in the learning process. This integration is a key job responsibility of the district curriculum leader and implies a level of proficiency with both technology and traditional curriculum responsibilities. The person responsible for curriculum and instruction in the district should ensure that any use of technology activities in the classroom support learning objectives and instructional materials (print/digital) conform to approve standards. 

Ideas? Thoughts? Feedback?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Running again

I wish I could say this post title related to exercise but it only refers to my running for TCEA TEC-SIG office again. For those who do not know, TCEA is a statewide organized membership for the Texas Computer Education Association. As an extension of TCEA, there are various special interest groups that run under the umbrella of the greater TCEA organization. These serve as the informational and advocacy arms for instructional technology leaders across the state. From 2009-2012, I served as VP/President of TEC-SIG and am now running again for office.

A few weeks ago, a former colleague and I were discussing TEC-SIG and she was considering running for office. I was encouraging her to run as I felt her background would lend a new leadership perspective not seen in the current run of instructional and technical directors. And then later in that week, I was contacted by other colleagues who asked if I would consider running again for office. I had not considered it until these fine gentlemen persistently asked if I would run. I responded that I would run if they nominated me. I guess they did as I am now on the ballot.

Today, I was shocked to see colleague Miguel Guhlin is also running for office. I consider my candidacy defeated at this point. Geez! You can read his post about running here. In his blog post, he shares valid points that I agree with in regards to extending our membership numbers; how our meetings are run; advocating statewide; and more diverse training for our wider membership base. I can honestly say these are things I believe in as well.

When I agreed to run, my summary position was "I feel we are at a point of being able to engage more in strategic conversations with TEA regarding E-Rate, reporting and sharing resources. [It seems] we are all doing the same work, isolated in our silos. It is time we all work together."

As much of a punchline that Project Share continues to be, I feel it wasn't a bad idea in concept. The idea was to have a connected space for teachers across the state to connect and share in professional learning.

I yearn for this type of resource each year when I, in my very limited knowledge of science, must create the district Blood Borne Pathogen eCourse because I'm the guy who makes digital learning possible. I am not sure how I am going to make a training on Human Trafficking that is now required by the state. It would be nice to have a statewide system providing these learning opportunities for our teachers to access.

I also know we are all creating the same PDFs and video training for our staff to use the variety of instructional materials and resources for district professional development and learning, if we are so lucky as to have time to do so. With such variety of online learning communities, I believe we should be able to develop something to provide leveled learning opportunities for all teachers to freely access.

I also feel that with the changes in the TEA Educational Technology leadership, we have a greater opportunity to reconnect and work together. In my previous term, we tried different ways to give TEA time to present in ways that were more productive for both our membership and their presenters. But like Miguel mentions, we need to look at completely diversifying how the meetings are run and maybe develop together a greater resource beyond attending a meeting.

As for membership, the purpose of the SIG is to "encourage active interest in technology on levels PreK-12 & higher ed throughout the state of Texas". I believe we need to bring in more of our higher-ed level counterparts to our conversation. Not only will this help with membership budgeting but it increases our stake as an advocacy group for statewide initiatives. It gives our group greater statewide voice. And in this age, we need a stronger voice.

I think when you read this post and Miguel's post you will see similar ideas. I won't be insulted if Miguel wins over me because of the similarity in ideas. I know for a fact that I will continue either as VP/President or not to press forward on all these points. We need to increase membership. We need to establish better connectivity to our statewide partners and leaders. We need to build new, open, and shared resources statewide. We need to offer more resources to our diverse membership. This is our time to do it.

I just won't be able to do it as fancy as Miguel in his Pink Jacket from ISTE's Making IT Happen 2009 award. :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

My TCEA 2015 Schedule

TCEA convention 2015 is just a few days away (9 days!) and I want to share the list of sessions I plan to attend during the week. If there is a topic you would like to learn more about or you don't see covered in my list, let me know in the feedback below and I will get the information you need. 

Curated notes will be shared via Twitter @mradkins as well as my Storify page. You can follow my posts as well as other CISD staff attending using the hashtag #cisdtcea15 

Monday - Feb 2
I will be in the all-day long Google Academy. This is a conference within a conference with breakouts each hour on a variety of topics. I believe all of our Crandall staff attending will be part of this Academy so we should have good coverage on the topics presented. 

Tuesday -Feb 3
I am presenting from 8:00-9:00 on the topic "Getting Kids (& Adults) to Love Data". I am putting that presentation together now but the focus is on personalizing data to make it more interesting to those who just don't "get data". 

From 9:00-4:00, I will be participating in the iPad Academy which is also an all-day conference within a conference. Again, many of our Crandall attendees will be at this all-day multi-session breakout workshop. 

Wednesday - Feb 4
8:00-9:00 – Participatory Learning in an Online Learning Environment
9:15-10:15 – Bare is Beautiful – Software-Naked Computing (tools for every operating system)
10:30-11:30 – Makerspaces: Curating, Creating, Collaborating
11:30-1:30 – TEC-SIG luncheon with guest speaker Kyle Pace (author of Integrating Technology with Music Instruction)
1:30-2:30 – Exhibit Hall

2:30-3:30 – The Internet of Things (iOT) in Education: I will be presenting this topic. I have covered it for about 2 years now but have new ideas to share and resources. 

3:45-4:45 – iTech Nation: Flipping Professional Development
5:00 – Google: Driving Our Way to Success

Thursday - Feb 5
 8:00-9:00 – Failure Con – Learn from Failing: I will be co-presenting this topic with colleague and friend Eddie Mathews from Kerrville ISD. We are covering how failure helps us learn and guides us to win. 

9:00-10:00 – Exhibit Hall
10:00-11:00 – Blogger area, Makerspace, playgrounds
12:00-1:00 – Creating Purposeful PD via District Twitter Chats
1:15-2:15 – 3-D Printing in Schools – Steps to Getting Started
2:30-3:30 – The WHY of Genius Hour
3:45-4:45 – MOOCs for Professional Development or Flying Your Video to New Places (Drones!!)
5:00 – Meet your Area Director (Region 10)

Friday - Feb 6
8:00-9:00 – eBooks a Dynamic Curriculum Plan
9:15 – 10:15 – Flipping Your Faculty Meetings
10:30 - 11:00 - Exhibit Hall
11:00 – Closing Keynote Session

Friday, January 16, 2015

TCEA planning

We are less than 20 days away from the Texas Computer Education Association conference in Austin. The conference will be February 2-6 at the Austin Convention Center. This will be my 20th year to attend the conference. Before becoming a teacher, I used to visit the convention center with my Dad when he was presenting and I was just a student in college.

I am excited to be attending with a fresh group of newbies to the convention. The iCoaches will be in attendance for their first time to TCEA. We have lots of workshops and sessions to attend. Plus, they will be feasting at the TEC-SIG luncheon and getting to tour the miles long exhibit hall.

Taking newbies to TCEA is so fun! They have no idea what to expect and they are overwhelmed with new ideas, good ideas, new friendships, networking deals, and bags of goodies by the second day. On that second day, you can see they are hurting because their brains are overwhelmed! It takes almost a week for them to catch up on work missed while processing everything they learned and going through their bags to find all the cool stuff they picked up.

It reinvigorates them to see how far we've come here in comparison to other places and challenges them by seeing how far others have gone beyond where we are. The perspective shifts after the conference and they have a greater network to rely on for new ideas. Meetings are more cooperative too.

And this year, I am surprising them with something they will (hopefully) enjoy as part of their experience. I can't share it yet. It is a surprise. But I know my colleagues and peers will be so jealous once they learn what it is my Crandall peeps will have with them for their conference experience.

We are going to be sharing what we find with #cisdtcea15 on Twitter so follow along. If you have tips for travel or for the conference week, share below.