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.

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