Saturday, November 28, 2015

LOA Diaries - Edmodoing Again

I am back on the train and that six a.m. alarm seemed incredibly early. +Edmodo invited me to come back and work on a new project so literally and figuratively I am back on board! My job this time around is to help increase awareness and use of an open education resource hub which is part of the Edmodo product suite. Spotlight is free, though teachers can sell resources if they choose.

Ever since my first year of teaching, I have seen the need for teachers to have a way to share resources. At each of the three grade levels I taught, I started a wiki where my district colleagues and I would, I envisioned, share resources such as lesson plans, unit plans, projects and the like.  I was shocked when one teacher I worked with said she didn't want to share anything because, 'what if I shared and no one else did, then I wouldn't get anything!' This, coming from an adult! It was an uphill road, one I never fully conquered within my districts. But many of the teachers I've worked with did see the value and contributed to our collections.

But then an interesting thing happened on the way to the classroom, teachers discovered the Internet. I began to connect with like minded teachers across the country who wanted to share ideas, questions and resources! Eureka!

Fast forward a few years to what was one of my worst years teaching. Edmodo unveiled Spotlight and I couldn't be bothered. It's not that I didn't want to share, I just didn't think anything I had to contribute was worthy of sharing. And honestly, I could not bear to add one more thing to my plate.

A year later, I found myself consulting with Edmodo and was asked to meet with a user experience specialist, +Kul Wadhwa,  to talk about why I, a long time user of Edmodo and an Edmodo Ambassador for goodness sake, didn't use Spotlight. This is how disconnected from the product I was, I wore my Snapshot (a different Edmodo product) shirt to the meeting! I didn't even know what we were meeting about!  I was brutally honest with my feedback. Kul was unflappable, took it all in and asked me to give it a try so I could give him user feedback.

Some of my barriers to entry were it looked confusing, I didn't have time or energy to try something new and I didn't think I had anything to offer. Kul started me off with simple searching using filters. Aha! I hadn't noticed the filter ability before and it made searching for resources oh so much easier. As I was looking at resources, I realized that hey, maybe someone might be interested in our Twitter Tuesday routine, or our Regions of the US project, or, or, or.... I started seeing how I could make that wiki dream part of reality, on a global scale!

So I agreed to upload one 'product'. I started simple with a presentation I'd given at a tech conference, Writing for the Real World. That was easy! So then I got brave and created a few more, using projects I'd done for years in my classrooms.  I started asking my Edmodo communities for feedback and their comments and suggestions were invigorating. The more feedback I got, the more I wanted to share.  

Later, when Edmodo wanted some help igniting its Spotlight Luminary (super user) program, I was invited to step in. There is an irony in that I was slow to adopt, and still haven't earned my Luminary badge, but like a reformed smoker, I've found I am quite the evangelist.  And I am not alone. We just launched an incentive program and many of the Luminaries are creating their own challenges. Ms. Osborne has challenged herself to review one product from every person who has submitted content! Ms. Collins challenged herself and others to upload one holiday themed product for the next four weeks! They are making my job easy!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

LOA Diaries -Ed Tech

Almost as soon as I got the gig at Edmodo, I, along with my cohort of iPad Academy

4/5 of the Original iPaddians
members received an email from our former fearless leader, +Kirby Fell. He had moved down to a school district in the central coast area of California as the Chief Technical Officer of Orcutt School District  where he joined our former superintendent, Dr. Debra Blow. We were invited to kick off their iPad Academy, all 5 of us, with a one day training at their district office. We would have done it for free but they were even going to pay us! We stayed at our colleague, Lorena's, second home near Paso Robles, and made a fun weekend of it. It was great to share our experiences with a receptive and enthusiastic group of educators, quite different than the reception we'd received in our own district when we first started out on our iPad adventure four years ago. As my friend and colleague, +sheila monger was quoted in The Orcutt Pioneer, "It was an honor to work with the Orcutt teachers...It takes a brave educator to take the initiative and risk to learn so much so quickly...each one ...will take back an idea that will immediately and positively impact their students' educational experience."

One of the benefits of not being tied to a classroom is the ability to attend conferences, workshops and classes just because they interest me. Of course, the downside is, I have to pay for them, but often such activities targeted to the education community are free or at least reasonably priced.  Within the span of a week I attended Looking at Learning, Common Sense Education Teacher Institute at +Twitter headquarters in SF, and the SVEF iHub Pitch Games.  

Looking at Learning was hosted by and at the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College. After a lovely catered dinner, with wine made from founder Gay Krause's own grapes, there were three TED style talks to inspire and ignite educators. +Diane Main  presented her ideas on using gaming to goive students more control in the classroom. +Kyle Brumbaugh spoke about constructive friction. During his presentation his wife, +Elizabeth Calhoon, tweeted out from Dallas how she wished she was there to see him speak, so in less than 3 minutes I learned how to Periscope and she was able to watch her husband's presentation, and even catch a glimpse of her mom in the audience. The last presentation was +Esther Wojcicki sharing her teaching adventure with James Franco, first as her student years ago and more recently as her co-teacher, inspiring us to go for the moonshot in education.

+Common Sense Education teacher institute on digital citizenship was held at Twitter HQ in SF. If I thought +Edmodo has great perks, Twitter is over the top! They treated us very well and again the presentations and activities were inspiring and informative. The institute was all day on a Friday, something I could not justify if I were in the classroom. It was a great opportunity to network and learn from not just the presenters but my table mates. Plus it was a beautiful day if the city. What caught me off guard was, driving I'm into the city I realized it was the exact route, exit and intersection where I used to drop off Jim in those years when we commuted to work together. The memory took my breath away and I wiped away tears as I entered Twitter's lobby. Even on a beautiful day, focused on edtech. I can still be overcome with grief. 

About two weeks after school started I was approached by a former colleague and invited to participate as a teacher team in SVEF iHub. I explained that I wasn't in a classroom and she invited me to be on the short list selection committee. They met on a Tuesday at lunchtime at some Palo Alto office building, again, something I could never do if I was teaching. We were evaluating up and coming Ed tech companies who would then compete shark tank style, in Pitch Games. The winners would go on to work with selected teacher teams who would use their products in real life classrooms. The Pitch games themselves were fascinating. I'd been asked by Arati to be the Twitter moderator, a role I completely enjoyed. They even asked me to join in the judging process to add insights gained from monitoring the Twitter feed. 

I attended MERIT at the Krause Center for Innovation (KCI) in 2009 and have kept in touch with Maestro +Steven McGriff, professor-in-residence, ever since. We run into each other at various edtech events and I am always so impressed with his positive energy and outlook. He really is a breath of fresh air.  He's talked about me coming on board to teach for KCI but due to my schedule and dealing with my husband's illness and death, the timing has never been right.  After attending Looking at Learning, Twitter and iHub in the span of a week, and seeing some faces in common at each event, I was approached by Kyle Brumhaugh, who is now also working at KCI with Steve. He asked if I'd be interested in teaching a few of the sessions at an upcoming mini-MERIT program.  Of course I would! So finally, is will be a part of this amazing program from the delivery side. I am so honored to be asked and thrilled that the time is finally right!

Last week I was honored to teach two (of 5) days for a mini-MERIT program at local school district. It was a great experience to work with teachers so eager to learn. Mini-MERIT is a very hands-on, minds-on learning for teachers, TOSAs and administrators to develop knowledge and technical skill as well as work on real-life projects they will take back into their schools. I am hoping I will get to do more of these. I felt like I was making a difference, and the very part time, flexible nature of it fits my needs right now. 

Since I started working in education in 2005 I strive to integrate my experience and skills from my hi-tech career within the education system. It has been so exciting and rewarding to not only get to do so on a grand, fun scale, but also have time to share what I know, and learn from, like minded professionals. In addition, I am allowing myself time to personally learn, grow, grieve and redefine my life.

And it is only November!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

LOA Diaries: What part of Leave and Absence don't I Understand?

When I had first requested leave, I told our Asst. Sup. of Human Resources (HR) I'd be willing to do part time work. In early October I was approached with two opportunities within Cambrian, in addition to my BTSA coaching. Both are totally in line with the kind of work I like to do, so, of course, I said yes, and my mother asked my to clarify my definition of part time

One of the reasons I decided no to retire, but just take a LOA is the fact that next year Cambrian is opening a new k-8 school, Steindorf STEAM School. I've been on the teacher steering committee for the past two years and was hoping to keep my fingers in the pie. I was invited to attend the first planning meeting this year and was happy to make time to attend.  A couple of weeks later I was approached by Steindorf's principal, +Kristi Schwiebert and asked, since I had some time on my hands, if I could help with the website and communications for Steindorf.  It is by no means a guarantee of an offer to teach there, but it's a great opportunity to stay involved with this exciting project. 

Film Club

I was with Kristi at the DO (district office) being trained on the intricacies of Schoolwires, our website platform, by our new Director of instructional Technology, +Dr. William Jenkins . I'd been on the hiring committee and was happy that's he accepted our offer.  Will complimented me on the work I did facilitating last years' Digital Media Academy. Then he asked if I would be interested in leading the transition of the work from a teacher focused academy to student focused Film Clubs. He also suggested I might be tapped to lead some sessions at Cambrian University, our new voluntary teacher tech training program. How could I say no? I love this stuff!

More Coaching
Then just this week I was asked if I could coach two more teachers, new long term subs, through assessments, report cards and conferences...Just. Say. No. But since I need to do the same thing for my new teachers...

I am not at all complaining about the opportunities presenting themselves to me. In fact, I am thrilled. They afford me the opportunity to keep my skills fresh, stay in contact with people i enjoy working with and provide me with a little extra spending money. Perhaps my new title should be Teacher-At-Large. When I decided to "not work" this year, I was so worried about having too much time in my mind, now I'm not sure I'm getting enough time to just sit and be.

Monday, November 2, 2015

LOA Diaries: the first day of no school

I wanted to be sure not to be home on the first day of school.  I knew it would feel weird to be home while my teacher friends were greeting their newest classes. So I decided to do something special and booked one night at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel in the heart of Yosemite Valley. The trip was an homage of sorts, a place on my bucket list that held memories of Jim. We'd had brunch there once with my parents and had promised ourselves we'd come back and stay. One of Jim's happiest days
was the day we joined about 25 other S2000s in a day trip to Yosemite. 

I wanted to drive, in the S, and leave some of Jim in that special place. My friend Danielle, was our neighbor and a huge support taking care of Dharma and our house during those long days and nights at the hospital, Rich and Danielle have since moved south but we remain close. Her mom died about two months before and she has adopted me, and I've welcomed another 'child' to my clan. Unbelievably, she had never been to Yosemite. I knew she'd be a perfect companion for the road trip, and she was. 

As we neared Yosemite, I almost cried at the devastation form recent fires.  The terrain was apocalyptic, the smoky air burning our eyes. I worried that Danielle was wondering, 'where is the beauty?'  Fortunately the fires had not recently touched the valley and despite the drought, it was still impressive.  The lack of water in the falls made me sad but the granite walls were and always will be imposing and awe inspiring. We made our way to our hotel where I had booked a room with a balcony. The room was ready so we relaxed with a class of wine, gazing up at the sheer granite wall towering behind our hotel. Suddenly, Danielle gasped, having spotted the tiniest of climbers high above the valley floor! I got out the binoculars and was amazed to see two men hundreds of feet up.

Later, we had an over priced drink on the patio, and headed to the Yosemite Lodge for a lovely, and much more reasonably priced, dinner. The next day, Danielle had got us tickets for the valley floor tour on an open air bus.  I'd never done the tour and it was fascinating to hear both the geologic and human histories of Yosemite National Park.  

We left that afternoon and stopped in Groveland to visit my friends Don and Mike who are building their retirement home there. It is going to be an amazing home and I can't wait to visit again and stay longer.  It was a little bittersweet for me, Jim had always wanted to do exactly what they were doing, buy a piece of land and build our own home, far from the maddening crowd that our city is becoming.  But I am so happy for them, and happy to enjoy it with them!  We made our way home, I was tired but happy to have spent my first day of no school in such a special way. It was a wonderful kickoff to my endless summer.