Wednesday, February 29, 2012

20 Questions: a simple PD Activity

While scanning my twitter stream, I came across a tweet requesting assistance from Cathy Koos (@ckoos1). Cathy is the LS Head at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, FL and she was looking for someone who would be willing to essentially play 20 questions with her faculty.   I was intrigued by the request for several reasons. First, the request was coming from a division head, second, it was a PD activity that modeled an activity that could be applied in many areas, and lastly it was an activity that illustrated that the division head was willing to take a risk in front of her faculty in an effort to broaden their experiences. It took me a few seconds to recognize that this was a worthwhile request so I quickly responded and let Cathy know that I would be more than happy to participate.


The activity itself is quite simple. Using Skype, I was brought into the meeting, introduced, and the faculty was briefed on the guidelines. Please ask our mystery guest yes/no questions in order to determine his location(city).  This was simple and brilliant!  The teachers were engaged, they formulated better questions as they were trying to hone in on my they worked together, they used a pretty basic web app, and they had fun doing it.  As I recall, it didn't take 20 questions but does that really matter?  
Going forward

I had so much fun with this activity that I shared it with a teacher friend of mine via Facebook. She was excited that I was heading off to Mumbai, India for ASBunplugged and she was hoping I could chat with her class since they were about to start learning about Asia.  Rather than chat, I described the 20 question skype session to her to see if her 1st graders would be interested in this type of activity. And sure enough, I will be doing another mystery skype.

Thank you Cathy for sending out the request and modeling great instruction. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Social Media worth the effort?

What is the ROI on using Social Media for your school?

While this is a tough question to answer, without metrics in the form of page views, an increase in your application pool, increased enrollment, or an increase in giving by the alumni, sometimes the effort pays off in ways one could never imagine.  At St. Christopher's School, we have multiple twitter accounts(@stcva, @stcvafootball @stcvatrack), a facebook fan page, a youtube channel, and now a Google+ page. Yes all of these avenues require TLC, time, and a dedicated team that ensures that the content is current, because our constituents expect it.

So has the effort paid off? 

It's not easy maintaining multiple social media outlets but the payoff in this particular instance was incredible.

Check this video out and see for yourself.  ESPNHS Video picked up our playoff game which is on our YouTube Channel.

Special Thanks to Stephen Lewis, Asst. Director of Electronic Communications & Sports Information  for taking our social media footprint to a whole new level and Cappy Gilchrist, Director of Electronic Communications, and Susan Mistr, Director of Marketing and Communications  for investing the time to promote our school using Social Media.

7 Myths About BYOD Debunked

Earlier this month, Lisa Nielsen tweeted for assistance on an article she was writing about myths associated with BYOD.  Having just deployed a BYOD program(laptop form factor) in our upper school, I could not resist the opportunity to share my thoughts on this topic.  The result was an article posted in THE Journal.

The Myths:
  1. BYOD deepens the digital divide
  2. BYOD will result in lessons geared toward the weakest device
  3. BYOD will cause students to be distracted
  4. Teachers need to become expert in all the technology students own
  5. BYOD will result in students engaging in dangerous activities
  6. Cell phones are not that powerful, so we should not waste our time with them
  7. BYOD will necessitate the standardization of apps and software across all devices
To view and read the reasons behind each myth, please go directly to THE Journal Article here.

A special thanks to Lisa Nielson for giving me the opportunity to contribute to her article. To read more of her posts, please check out her blog The Innovative Educator and follow her on twitter @InnovativeEdu

Our School-Wide Migration to Dropbox

As our school's technology access model continues to evolve(1:1 school) so must our infrastructure and strategy for backing up faculty and student work.  Prior to our 1:1 initiative, all faculty and student computers(labs/carts) were synchronized on our file server.  With the introduction of an additional 240+ computers to our campus, some changes to the file server were made to accommodate the increase in users and load but it came at a cost-synchronization was failing.  There was a work around but it required us to touch every single computer on the domain.  Needless to say, our tech department aka the tech squad was not happy with that option and a few faculty members were not pleased when some files were lost during the migration.  So the tech squad examined the options and we decided to recommend to the administration that we move to Dropbox.

Why Dropbox?

Recognizing that change is difficult, we focused on what the value adds were by going to Dropbox. The table below summarizes the differences between our file server and Dropbox and it is pretty clear what the value adds are.  See table below

Next Steps:
  • The tech squad provided instructions on how to install Dropbox and migrate files from the file server to their dropbox folder.
  • Referral strategies were encouraged/created so each teacher received a bit more than the allotted 2 GB.


The faculty loves Dropbox and all of the value adds it has over our local file server. It also provided many of our faculty and staff with additional access now that smart phones are becoming more prevalent on campus.

Summary of File Server versus Dropbox

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When you hire someone you hire their network!

As schools prepare their budgets for the new fiscal year, the time comes when either new positions or vacancies must be filled. In most instances, the hiring process can be quite labor intensive.  Assistant heads, division heads, teachers, and students are often involved in the process but in an effort to reduce load, I simply propose that your school consider this, when you hire someone you hire their network.  While the concept of networking is not a novel one, I would emphasize that my definition of network is better suited to the personal learning network.  If your school is serious about developing 21st century skills, developing relationships with other schools, and making better global citizens, then it is essential that those doing the hiring recognize the importance of the network potential employees can bring to their school.

After reviewing resumes, like many organizations, I head to the web to see what kind of digital footprint the potential candidate has. Essentially, does the candidate Google Well.  If things go well for the candidates, they are present in some of the following digital arenas: 
  • they have a blog or they post comments regularly
    • preferably about their educational philosophy or activities that convey that philosophy
  • they have an active twitter account with useful tweets
  • they actively participate in educational nings
  • they have their own website
    • an ePortfolio of activities
  • their Facebook page does not contain questionable material

Will one miss a jewel in the rough? Possibly, but one can certainly glean a great deal more from a candidate who participates regularly online.  While this method works when looking for instructional technologists, tech directors, and tech coordinators, it is time for schools to be more selective and expect candidates to Google Well because it is no longer good enough to simply know the material.

from the Atlantic Monthly

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Professional Development: When 1 size doesn't fit all

Like many schools around the country, our doors were closed for school on Columbus Day.  Our faculty and staff on the otherhand were required to come in and participate in a professional day.  The day was broken up into a couple of parts but for the puposes of this post, the focus will be on the edtech related PD.

Before the faculty and staff were sent off to their discussion groups, we asked them to fill out a google form so they could select the classes they would like to take during in each of session.

Things we remembered to do before they filled out the form:
  • provide netbooks for the faculty/staff that only work on desktops so they can participate in the workshops
    • we have COWS(computers on wheels) which made this possible
  • send/post the link to the Google Form via email and post on the website
    • provide multiple ways of accessing links
  • When the faculty and staff returned from their breakout sessions,  the sessions were tallied, room locations were set, and we emailed the information to the faculty
 Send them on their way:
  •  We were off and running with our tech sessions but the really valuable information would be realized a couple of days later.

What worked and what didn't. Some comments from the faculty and staff:
  • thank you for giving us the opportunity to sign up for sessions we are interested in exploring
    • choice is important!
  • sessions should be longer so there is time to tinker and play with someone to guide
    • learning through doing!
  • add a 3rd block-I wanted to learn more
    • maintain and foster passion!
  • track the sessions so there is a novice and advanced track
    • I am well beyond how do I reply in gmail? I wanted to learn how to apply filters and labels
    • provide differentiated instruction
      • provide enrichment and remediation opportunities 

Lastly, we certainly didn't hit a homeroom, but it does seem like we managed to hit at least a double.  The constructive criticism was great feedback and if the end result is that our faculty and staff in effect wants more and more levels of PD, then our students are the real winners!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Announcement: Backup up your work

The following announcement was posted on our 1:1 Blog for our families.

6 weeks have past since the start of school.  Have you backed up your files yet?
If you haven't, here are some recommended strategies:
Be smart and be proactive with your data.