Saturday, August 27, 2016

First Two Weeks of School

What a start to the school year at @SVEagles and @sv_elem!  Our IT guy is currently working remotely, so I've been in constant communication with him when something goes wrong.  If you work with technology, you know you'll have some sort of issue sooner or later.

For us, we start each new year with "The Best First Day of School Ever!" A concept developed by our superintendent, Darren Tobey.  This year's theme was Rock Stars.  We rented three limos to drive selected students to school where they were greeted by paparazzi (teachers) and treated like stars.  The smiles on the kids' faces were priceless.  We then went to the gym where a DJ from Omaha was playing music and students and teachers were dancing.  That's when I discovered we had no wifi in the gym!  As the guy in charge of our school social media, I was unable to tweet anything (btw, this is a major cause of alarm for me!).  While everyone was having a blast, I was busy working to fix our wifi issues.

I've been the "boots on the ground" for our IT guy to diagnose and try to fix some of our issues, which has taken a lot of time out of my day when I could be working on technology integration.  The silver lining of helping with IT is that I've discovered a lot of weak wifi areas in our two buildings that need to be improved if we are going to fully use our devices in every classroom, especially in the elementary.  We did get great news when it was announced that our IT guy, Jared Fausch, is coming back to SV!!!

I was asked to speak to Maria Ehrke's section of 1st graders on Monday last week about proper use of their iPads.  There are some characters in there, but they did a great job paying attention.  I must've made some friends as when they walked into the gym for Friday's pep rally, one boy gave me a hug as they walked by.  I spent 15 years teaching 7th and 8th graders as well as 11th and 12th graders, so I'm still adjusting to the hugs from elementary students.

With the Jr./Sr. High students, I finally got all the laptops checked out to everyone on Wednesday.  One thing that made the process last a week and a half is that 1. I insist on meeting with every student to explain proper use and expectations of using this learning tool, and 2. I have added a 3rd class that I'm teaching to my schedule, so it is difficult to get classes into my room during periods 1-5.  Something needs to change, but I firmly believe students need to hear clear expectations about their behavior when using school issued devices.

Another highlight of my week was going into Angie Culver's 3rd grade math class to help the students learn how to use Google Slides on their iPads.  I had already signed each student into Slides and we learned together how to use slides.  When a student started working ahead and adding color to shapes, I had him connect to the Apple TV to show the rest of the class how to add color.  I love to see the excitement in a student's face when he or she is teaching the rest of the class.

I was also invited into the junior high English class to see Meredith McQuay use @DocentEdu which is a really cool tool that can be used with websites to check students' understanding as they read.  Mrs. McQuay won a free year subscription by attending a DocentEdu session at ISTE this summer.

I also visited Tylor Fincher's 6th grade math class to see him use Classflow, which was impressive, but slowed down by our poor wifi reception.  I also stopped by Lacie Wright's 3rd grade class to see students playing "Spelling Baseball."  If you've ever been around 3rd graders, you know they need to get a little energy out so this was a great way to do that and learn at the same time.

When I'm not helping or observing in other classrooms, one of my duties at SV (other than running the website, preparing content for the Daktronics big screen, working with tech integration, overseeing our 1:1 program [including student discipline in grades 7-12] running our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and teaching three classes) is to live stream varsity sports events, concerts, and graduation.

We hosted our first home football game of the year.  Since we have been live streaming, we have always had wifi issues at the football field.  I spoke to the school board last winter about our wifi issues and this summer, Wade and Alex from ESU 11 solved our problem!

We live stream through a local Nebraska company,, and I was fortunate to have Taylor Siebert, CEO of Striv hang out in my room all evening.  He set up his "control center" in my room and it was fascinating to watch him communicate in various ways to the schools that live stream through his company.  Taylor is a great guy, so during the breaks in action, we were able to converse on a wide variety of topics.  Our football team lost the game, but I couldn't help being thrilled that our live stream worked without a hitch!

If you are considering live streaming events, I would recommend signing up to be a Striv school!  We are able to reach coaches', players', and students' distant relatives that otherwise would not be able to see their loved one compete, sing, or graduate.  We have even live streamed One Act plays and 5th grade plays.  I received feedback from a player's uncle who lives in Chicago.  He was able to watch his nephew play last night.  As Taylor would say, what a great way to tell your school's story!

The coming week will involve getting the Daktronics big screen ready to go for our first home volleyball game, making sure we can live stream in the gym, teaching teachers how to use Google Hangouts, LanSchool, and to continue to push for the use of Google Docs over Word so students can collaborate on assignments.  We are slowly coming out of the digital dark ages, but we are making progress!  Have a great week!  Enjoy the following pictures, as I try to use Twitter to help tell our story at Southern Valley.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A New Year, New Challenges

A new school year brings new challenges, but first, I'll look back at my summer.

What a busy summer! I visited the following places: Victoria, BC, San Jose, San Francisco, Beatrice, NE, Denver, Bethesda, MD, and Washington, DC.

Touch Screen Devices/Apps
Ever since I earned my masters in instructional technology, I notice how technology is used in different places.  Going through customs, as I reentered the U.S. in Seattle, I faced multiple rows of touch screens which gathered information, scanned my passport and sent me to the next area for verbal questions.
In Victoria, my wife and I ordered from iPads at one restaurant.  We took pictures with our phones of the beautiful scenery and shared that with friends and family.  I used PicCollage and Typorama to capture the highlights of each trip.  We used FaceTime to talk to our children.
In San Jose, we rented a car to drive to San Francisco.  Google Maps took us to the "Full House" house, Fisherman's Wharf, Google Headquarters, Apple Headquarters, and the Golden Gate bridge.  We were also able to find the nearest gas station to the airport so I could fill up before returning the rental.
In DC, I used Google Maps to navigate.  With Google Maps, I was able to find the nearest Metro station to get us from one place to another.  I rented a car one day to visit the town where I was born.  After riding the Metro from Bethesda to Reagan National Airport, we used Google maps to find the Battle of Bull Run site, the Army base where I lived, as well as the town where I was born.
As we waited for a weather delay at Reagan National Airport, I used the Southwest app and checked weather on Safari via the National Weather Service website.  I used Twitter to keep my mind occupied as well as to message Southwest airlines to find out more information about the delay.
In Denver, I attended the ISTE Conference with several colleagues.  I used my iPad to take notes, take pictures of presenters' notes and to communicate with my family.  I used a Google Doc to take notes so that I could share that with my staff.
In Beatrice, I was asked to present on live streaming.  I used a Google Presentation and in the sessions I attended, I used Google Docs to take notes so I could share with my teachers.  One highlight was learning from Leslie Fisher!  If you ever have an opportunity to attend one of her sessions, you must!

The summer ended with the death of a former student/athlete I taught and coached.  Cole Bergan was part of one of the best classes to ever come through Southern Valley.  He was a great young man that worked hard, served our country in the Navy, and became a teacher.  He was a member of the first Southern Valley football team to go to the playoffs in back to back years and will be sorely missed.  The members of those teams will always be special to me as I enjoyed coaching them as well as having them in my classes.

Upcoming Challenges
We've added 6 grades of devices to our 1:1 program!  We now have laptops for students in grades 7-12 and iPads in grades 3-6 as well as two carts of 20 iPads for grades K-2 to use.  One of the major challenges was setting up the devices, as we are in a unique situation with our technology coordinator.  With the help of an elementary teacher, we were able to get all of the devices set up!  I am still working on getting charging cords into laptop bags and am getting tired of labeling, but we'll be ready to go when students return.
One challenge I will have this year is an expanded teaching load.  I will be teaching digital citizenship to 7th graders.  I love this age group and we have an outstanding group of incoming 7th graders.  The challenge will be to try to help teachers, supervise the 1:1 program, and handle online behavior discipline while teaching 3 periods every day.
Another challenge will be to find time to assist teachers in integrating technology into their lessons.  It seems that we are not going to be doing much PD during our designated teacher workdays, so I created a Technology PD class in Schoology to help teachers.  I hope this is more effective than the Google Classroom I used last year.  Teachers, like students, have different learning styles.  Some would rather meet in person and be shown how to do things.  With my schedule, this will be difficult, but I hope teachers are willing to make use of time before school and during lunch in order to seek ways to use technology effectively in their classrooms.

Looking back at the apps that I used this summer, I'm going to make a point of teaching these apps to the students at Southern Valley.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

First Week of School!

I've challenge the teachers at Southern Valley to follow me on Twitter and to post at least one tweet per week to show off something cool their students are doing in the classroom.  Almost all of the teachers have followed me, but we have a few that haven't, yet.  The ones that have accepted the challenge are doing a great job, so keep it up!

Here are a few of the tweets from various grade levels and subject areas:

The best/worst experience of the week was when my superintendent called me into his office to ask me a question.  I answered it, he turned to his cell phone and began talking, which I interpreted as he was in a phone call.  I was walking back to my room when I heard my name........ It was the superintendent, asking me if I was upset about something because I had left when he was talking to me!  Oops!  I assured him that it was a misunderstanding.  The next day, after conversing with the superintendent, I asked if he was done talking because I didn't want to make the same mistake.  Fortunately, he has a great sense of humor and laughed it off.  

Next week, I'll be working with the Junior High Social Studies classes.  We will go over how to log in to our LMS, finding the notes online, and how to use the online study guide.  I'm looking forward to this as I taught the 8th graders last year and will get my first opportunity to work with the 7th graders.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

First Week as Tech Integration Specialist

Had my first meeting as the Technology Integration Specialist at Southern Valley during our first teacher workday on Thursday.  We have a wide variety of teachers as well as a wide variety of comfort levels with using technology.

I asked the teachers to start using Twitter and challenged them to tweet at least once a week about something cool that students are doing in the classroom.  Some already use Twitter, while others are newbies.  I also asked them to "follow" me on Twitter @JamesReedsv, and that I would add them to the SV Nation List I created so that we could see what we are doing in our classrooms as well as in the other building.  We have some that are holding out and have not followed me, but I think it is their loss.  They could pick up some great ideas from seeing what other teachers are doing.  We shall see how this goes.  Fortunately, the administration is on board and supports this idea.

The other main thing I asked teachers to do was to sign in to our SV Technology Google Classroom.  I had sent invitations to everyone last year, but several did not sign up (is it a coincidence that it is mainly the same ones that didn't follow me on Twitter?....)  Anyway, I'm using the SV Tech GC to easily communicate with all teachers as well as give them links where they can find help with issues they may encounter.  I think GC is a wonderful tool to use, but again, some teachers are choosing to be left out of the loop.

Day 2 of my new job opened my eyes as far as teachers seeking help.  Most things can be covered through using technology, so I've asked teachers to send me an email or if it is an emergency, send me a text.  I had a couple of teachers pop in, so I showed them how to use Google Hangouts so that we could work through their issue by using technology.  I'm new to Hangouts, but love it!  I work in two different buildings, so it will save me a lot of time to just connect with a teacher online versus running (walking) back and forth.  I hope more teachers are open to this idea as we can model this for students as well.

I love to learn and challenge myself and have tried to instill the love of learning and to challenge my students over the years.  I think it is very helpful to model the behavior you want.  Try new things!  Will they always work?  No, but you can have fun while trying out what works for you.

I am challenging myself this year in my new position and by blogging.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015