The Ponderosa Elementary Tech Club met yesterday and had a super fun time! Says organizer Jen Paterson:
Jen and her colleague Megan Stricker, both TILT alumni, started this project because the two decided last year that with all of the digital tools and resources available to them, their school should have a "tech club!" As part of their vision, they decided to start with a discussion on Internet Safety and digital citizenship, move into their version of a digital passport focusing on Google Apps for Education, and then immerse the students in a variety of tech devices including Osmo, iPads, coding, etc.
Huge shout out to Cody Sticka, Jesse Karls, and Eric Paulson for their help bringing technology to life (or is that death!?) for these super-savvy students, and to principal Clay Herron for his support of this exciting opportunity!
Way to go, Jen and Megan!
All over Billings, people are grumbling about the state of public schools because when the doors close, and the community is left out, everything that goes on inside is a secret. But what if there was some way for them see all of the brilliant things that are happening in there? Introducing Bragging on Billings. This initiative is designed to bring out the best of BPS by hi-lighting innovative teaching and learning and telling the stories of those who are making it happen.
Here’s how it works: We unlock the doors through digital tools and social media. We let observers in. We let the people with the loudest, most positive voices shout the awesomeness from the rooftops of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and beyond. Messages feature teachers who are inspiring their students to continue learning beyond the classroom, students who are excited about what and how they’re learning, principals who lead with a mission, and community stakeholders who feel pride in the citizens they support. That’s Bragging on Billings - because the secret world that’s happening inside needs to be let out!
I learned SO MUCH today! A few highlights:
I learned how to use html code from sites like thecutestblogontheblock on a Weebly instead of Blogger (thank Traci Piltz for that one!).
I learned from a student in Kim Lane's class that you can screencast a Chromebook to your projector using Reflector (or something like it) and a Chrome Extension called Air Parrot.
From some of Kim's other students, I learned at least 3 different ways to add a background image to a Google Calendar.
I learned from one of Kami Palm's kids how to use the Quick Add feature in Calendar to create repeating events that terminate on a specific day (say June 3, for example!).
I found out that this year's Tech Cadre, themed "Cirque de Cadre," is going to be TONS of fun! Organized by Shaundel Krumheuer, Courtney Cox, Charlene Ingraham, Traci Piltz and Shelly Stanton - the dates are set and plans are in the works!
Cortney Falcon and I found out that AirParrot (mentioned above) actually costs $5, but that students can add a different Extension called Googlecast if you have Reflector 2 (a $15 upgrade from Reflector).
I learned about a REALLY cool gamified classroom management tool from Mark Berg! It's called Classcraft and those 6th graders are going to LOVE IT!
It was confirmed today that the staff at Orchard is amazingly wonderful and patient and kind and ready to make the Gear Up Lab the community training space it was designed to be!
AND I found out that BPS teachers, including Diane Brown, Jamie Hofferber Nixdorf, Hillary Harris Gnerer, and others will be starting STEM Saturdays, where 3-6 graders can come experiment, create, and learn about things like flight. So awesome!
If you didn't know it already, there are some truly incredible things happening all across this public school district of ours - it's awesome, and I'm proud to be part of it!!
What's the point of aiming at anything you know, with 100% certainty, you're going to hit? Learning - REAL learning - the kind that hurts a little before it feels better - comes from ideation and iteration. Those are fancy words for the process of creating ideas that seem ridiculous at first, then trying, and trying again to make them become reality. My TLI capstone was born from a collision of two projects:
When I was first hired as a TIS, I was struck by the awesome sauce that I saw being smothered over our entire district. Teachers, with very little training or extrinsic motivation, were iterating with interactive whiteboards, ideating with Promethean, and innovating with Google Apps, yet no one was showing the community that we were "getting their money's worth!" After our first TLI Face-to-Face meeting back in October of 2014, listening to myself complain about how "someone should" promote the TLI teachers' awesome ideas, I was slapped in the face with the realization that "I am someone, too!" When I was invited to the Google Teacher Academy that December, the issue was rubbed in my face with the idea of Moonshot thinking, and I was asked to set a goal, which, by then, was obvious:
Billings Public Schools is home to over 16,000 students and 3,500 staff members. As the largest school district in the state of Montana, Billings has the potential to set the tone for public education in our state. Even to this day in Billings, no position exists in which someone who works for the district deals with Public Relations or Communication on behalf of the district. My goal is to tackle the some of the roles of this position and create a “grass-roots” movement to chip away at the years negativity.
On May 4th, 2010. through partnership with a receptive school board, a "willing-to-listen" community, and a staff who was ready for positive change, our superintendent, Jack Copps (through his reputation as a popular community figure - and, as a fun fact, the Governor's step-father!)), was able to accomplish the near-impossible: Billings Public Schools passed its first General Fund mill levy since 2007. Granted $1.4 million, this General Fund Levy was dedicated for use as deficit reduction, maintenance and improvement funds for 22 local elementary schools, and the re-opening of Beartooth Elementary in Billings Heights. And then, thanks to a long-fought battle, the tireless pavement-pounding of Superintendent Terry Bouck, and a near-miracle, the voters of the elementary district were asked to approve a $1.2 million elementary technology levy, and on May 7, 2013, they said YES! Because of this, my friend, ally, and partner in crime, Shelly Stanton, and I were hired as Technology Integration specialists for Billings Public schools. As K-8 specialists, Shelly and I are able to have a district-wide view of the incredible feats PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS are pulling off in their everyday duties. They are impacting kids in ways that the voting public has and never could imagine, and I see part of my job as being the "someone" who tells the world their stories.
Through the inspiration of my peers (specifically Shelly and Ann Keith) in the Teacher Leadership Initiative, and spurred by the moonshot thinking of the Google Teacher Academy, I have decided that I AM one of the "someones" who might tackle the issues that I recognize when I say "someone should..." With the advantage of having a district-wide perspective, I am able to see that the "awesome" happening in my district not only should be shared, but needs to be shared.
And so, it's time for take off! Through the TLI and GTA forum, I intend to share a few of the hundreds of positive things that occur in Billings Public Schools on a daily basis! In the last year, I have successfully achieved not only a forum, but also the equipment and the backing to support and promote my peers and their educational "awesome sauce." My goal is to celebrate excellence in teaching, innovation in learning, and the positive outreach toward a supportive community.
To the moon!
This lady is one of my technology super-heroes. Julie Schopp, 2nd grade teacher extraordinaire at Newman Elementary School, is the epitome of a success story. After teaching for several years, Julie took off some time to raise her family, then returned to the profession. She has been teaching for a total of 20 years, and one might think, after all that time, that she has earned the right to be in the "comfortable" phase of her career . . . but it's quite the contrary. Julie is not just one of the most enthusiastic teachers I've seen, but she's also among the most innovative.
When the wave of 1:1 devices first started washing over Billings, Julie decided that she wanted to ride that thing. A generous friend of hers agreed to partner up with her and help fund a couple of iPads, and she found a couple more on Craigslist. Also around that time, she stumbled upon Donors Choose, which is "a nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects." Through the creative use of this program, Julie was able to successfully fund the remainder of her iPads. The fun didn't stop there, though! She continued to use Donors Choose to add to her classroom collection - Chromebooks, shelves, a charging station, and more.
Julie doesn't just use technology for technology's sake; she seamlessly integrates devices, apps, sites, and resources into what she is already teaching, and has found that they have not only enhanced her lessons, but taken them to a whole new level. According to Julie's principal, Travis Niemeyer, "Julie continues to make large strides in technology use for her students' success. She does not shy away but faces that disequilibrium we all feel with technology advancement. She is very aware that when we engage kids in authentic learning opportunities, kids flourish. That is the ultimate goal...to engage kids so they can flourish academically."
Click here to check out my interview with this tech superstar!
Way to go, Kim! Awesome teacher, awesome project! And score one for a positive new story from a Billings school!
Allow me to introduce a fantastic teacher: Mark Kane, who rocks 1st grade at McKinley Elementary. This is Mark's fourth year in Billings Public Schools, having taught for a year in Laurel prior to that. I first met Mark on October 21, 2009, back when he was a substitute teacher. You might find it weird that I remember that . . . and let me say that it would be, were it not for my Google Calendar. At the time, it was my second year really digging into technology integration, so I remember a lot (mostly because I have it all documented - thank you, Google!). I was a participant in the TILT staff development program, which entails 6 full days of Professional Leave, and therefore 6 full days of who-knows-what back at "home" in my classroom. The first day Mark was there, I knew I had stumbled into a 2nd-year-of-TILT-with-6-days-of-leave gold mine. Always a little nervous to return to school in the wake of a sub, I actually drove back to my building at the end of that day to see the damage I would have to repair the next day. I was ever so pleasantly surprised to find a very detailed, professionally written note, attached to which was a plain and simple business card advertising the guest teaching services of Mark Kane. Knowing I would need at least 5 more days of this kind of goodness, I contacted him right away. He kindly agreed to several more of the opportunities (to work with one of the best classes I've ever had), but informed me that he would be student teaching that spring, and would therefore be unavailable for the last several days. Glad for the expert help, I booked those days, plus a few bonus ones in between.
Never having actually met this person, I was glad to get the chance when Mark covered my class one November afternoon. I had signed up to present at *GASP* - an afternoon High School Google training (and yes, it was every bit as terrifying as I dreamed it would be). When the lunch hour came and it was time for me to pack up and head out to Skyview High School, Mark walked in for the start of his afternoon shift. We exchanged polite conversation, and he asked if it would be possible for him to come in and work/observe/team teach in my classroom for a week. YES, YES, absolutely YES. He was getting ready to student teach, after all, and I was getting ready to have my first student teacher that next year, and I couldn't see how this wouldn't be a win-win situation.
Needless to say, I was very impressed with Mark. What made him so different from any other sub I'd had (or any other student teacher I have ever had!) was his level of professionalism. There was no doubt that he was in it for the real thing - to teach students. Even as a volunteer, he never hesitated to go and sit with a student, to help my struggling mathematicians with a problem, to read with a group, or walk around and actually learn something from the class. He taught a terrific social studies lesson in which he integrated technology like a pro (I believe it was TagGalaxy, to make the memory even weirder . . . ), and he even asked for feedback! Whoa. A newbie teacher who didn't already know everything?! Utter wackiness.
Among the fun parts of all of this was befriending the entire Kane family. It turns out that Mark's wife, Sara, was also in college, learning to "become" a teacher (note how I make fun of myself there, because neither of the Kanes needed to "become" teachers - they already were by instinct). I was fortunate to have Sara as a Junior Field student that following year. She, too, is a fabulous first grade teacher in Billings Public Schools, and for that, we are all so lucky!
And so, it gives me great pleasure to brag on this guy. What he has done for learners in his short time with Billings Public Schools has been astounding; and these learners aren't all of the first-grade nature. Mark himself applied and was accepted into TILT; he took on the responsibilities and commitments of a much more experienced teacher; he joined committees, he made presentations, he travelled . . . he put himself out there for others, and believe me others have learned! Both with and from Mark, other teachers have learned to put themselves out there, to take risks, and to take learning (and teaching) by its professional horns. Cool guy, amazing teacher. Thanks, Mark!
I am a proud teacher in Billings Public Schools, home to over 16,000 students and 3,500 staff members. Students in Billings are creating and collaborating like never before thanks to the technology to which they have access, and their teachers are providing them with opportunities that will make them incredible community leaders one day soon!