MISD Project Launch Pilot
This week our school board voted to deploy an iPad pilot appropriately titled, Project Launch. While it's certainly small, one classroom per school across the district, its impact is sure to be felt. A discussion among the board included mentioned a nearby district distributing iPads to everyone at the secondary level...no training, no protocol. Is this an effective and efficient way to deploy these expensive tools? I would say not. Our superintendent compared that deployment to ours by replying that these tools in the hands of tech-savvy teachers would render a much different outcome. I agree. With budgets tight, I feel we owe it to the taxpayers to be good stewards of our resources and maximize our bang for the buck. Exploring and establishing best practices will make the transition to future technology tools much more effective and will more quickly leverage a dynamic learning environment.

As we launch this pilot program, there will be much to do. Establishing protocols, guidelines, best practices, and workflow will keep these nine teachers very busy. We are currently in the phase of curating resources. Our friend and colleague, Sandy Kendall, recently posted her district's initial launch into a similar pilot on her blog, EdTechSandyK. One advantage we have today is being able to collaborate with other districts connected through social media to increase our knowledge base and resources. I personally have decided to curate resources by creating a Pinterest Board dedicated to iPad resources for deployment and establishing best practices.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, tips, techniques. It our the desire to leave no resource undiscovered. As we proceed through our journey, we are committed to share our story and hopefully pay it forward for those contemplating this move and for all teachers who find these devices in their classrooms one day. It's time for blast off!
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Well, the Midlothian technology training, The Zombie Teacher Project is about to launch tomorrow so in an effort to celebrate this unique professional development opportunity, I thought I would post some tips, techniques, insights, and reflections. Teachers have 24 hours to video, edit, and create an educational video. This year's project is taking on a couple of new dimensions. First, MISD Instructional Technology Department is partnering with the city of Midlothian to sponsor Zombie Teacher Project in the Park June 23rd, 8:30 pm at Hawkins Spring Park. Every summer the city of Midlothian hosts Movies in the Park on selected Saturday nights. This year, one of those Saturday nights will include the Zombie Teacher Project Film Festival! This is exciting because it allows MISD to showcase the talented teachers of our district. It will be a fun time for the district and the community to celebrate this unique experience, I mean this is about as close as we get to the Academy Awards in Midlo...

Secondly, our teachers have been working extra hard on the project this year. They have been required to complete an online course developed in ProjectShareTexas that included a variety of movie-making resources. There were discussion questions to complete as well as activities that all helped with developing their storyboards needed for their video shoot. These are resources that will also be available for use in the classroom with students and can also be found in this wiki, Zombie Teacher ProjectThis has afforded teachers the opportunity to explore online learning and ways to extend the classroom beyond the physical building.

The greatest benefit for developing these video skills is learning how to create educational videos to use in the classroom. This next year, teachers will have access to YouTube Edu which is an extension of YouTube that has been filtered so students won't be exposed to undesirable content. Educational videos have been curated according to grade level and content area. This will be a great tool for flipping the classroom and blending learning opportunities. Utilizing these videos with Google Forms for video response opportunities or vialogues (meaningful discussions around videos) will help integrate educational videos in a meaningful way into the curriculum so developing excellent digital media skills is a must for educators today.

Here is a look at last year's winning video, Break the Silence by Kirsten Marcum, Jennifer Bailey, Ally Houchin, and Eryca Spiller:

Good luck to all the teachers as they descend on Midlothian and the surrounding area to capture video for their Zombie Teacher Project...at least for 24 hours, there is no need to fear the zombie...

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I would have to say...2011-2012 has been the Year of Learning. Having gone back into the classroom after spending last year as a technology trainer, I was provided with some real opportunities for exploration, questioning, and seeking of answers. The answers came from students, fellow teachers, administrators, and people literally across the world who are all part of my PLN.

This year I was able to implement many new things and fortunately, my students provided the best feedback for ensuring the most productive means of implementation. So here are a few of my favorite take aways from this year:

Edmodo: This proved to be a very valuable tool that I utilized this year. As the year progressed, I learned a variety of ways to extend learning in my classroom through the use of Edmodo. We used it to manage our class projects by posting resources and links for student use and also for turning projects in through Edmodo. This learning management system provided a great way to have access to all projects and to be able to comment on projects as I graded them. It also allowed the students to see their grades even before they were posted in the gradebook. I believe the tool I loved most in Edmodo was the Quiz tool. All of my tests were administered through Edmodo, online, and as students completed their tests, they received immediate feedback about what they missed and what their grade was. My only complaint here was this tool doesn't have a randomize button or the ability to shift question order, but the people at Edmodo assure me this feature is coming! I also loved how Edmodo has seamlessly integrated certain sites such as Google Docs or Google Drive and Quizlet into their platform; these are tools we used with every unit of study! Edmodo provided a great platform for collaboration and connectivity for my students. They helped one another even when I wasn't available. This spring Edmodo launched an app store and I was fortunate enough to be able to pilot this launch. My students made some GoAnimate videos covering Leading Causes of the Civil War. I was shocked at the creativity and depth of knowledge those videos exhibited. I can't wait to explore this more next year.

BYOD: This year our district launched a Bring Your Own Device initiative; however, due to budget cuts, there was no piloting of this or best practices training for teachers...so, I dove in and developed my own. Don't get me wrong, I was continually researching and consulting members of my PLN. We front loaded the curriculum with probing questions students had to respond to before a lesson, they used devices for copies of the notes posted online, they used devices for participation in social media type activities such as participating in the Battle of the Alamo while watching the video clip, and collaborating on projects and activities using Today's Meet, Type With Me, and Google Docs. They went on scavenger hunts using QR Codes matching correct vocabulary terms with their definitions. They used Socrative for formative assessments and team-based review games. I will say, it took developing a BYOD culture within the classroom for students to see the value in these devices as tools for learning...it didn't just happen. But by the end of the year, I had more and more students bringing in their own devices, even those with few resources, because they began to see the value in having one.

My last major area of learning revolves around Google. I was fortunate to be selected to attend the Google Teacher Academy in London this past April and I was amazed at the tools available to educators through Google Apps for Education. Of course I was also excited about becoming a Google Certified Teacher! Last summer I created a new class website using Google Sites in preparation for the BYOD initiative. I wanted a class website that would be mobile friendly. In fact, that is what I love most about the Google products! We kind of played around with a class blog using Blogger this year, but that is something I will definitely expand on next year. Being able to have the students post to a class blog from their smartphone is amazing! Another great option Google now provides is the addition of Youtube Edu! They have created a filtered YouTube for educators and the quality of the content is amazing. This will really open the door to some quality content for flipping a classroom that will allow for  more effective implementation.

Well, these were my big 3 for the year. There were more, but these were definitely my biggest take aways. As I have continued interacting on Twitter, following my favorite blogs, and reading books such as Teaching Generation Text, I have definitely come to realize, if you aren't seamlessly integrating technology in a meaningful way into your curriculum, you are shortchanging your students and not preparing them for the world they will be entering beyond your classroom. How we do education has changed because our students have changed, our world has changed...have you? What have been your big take aways this year? I'd love to have you share!
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Or any EdTech Conference!

Late last month I received word I had been selected to attend the Google Teacher Academy in London, England. Needless to say I was quite surprised when I received my email from the Google Academy Team! I had applied one time before when the academy was held in San Antonio, but I failed to make the cut. Since that time, my school district, Midlothian ISD, has afforded me many opportunities to expand my edtech knowledge and share my learning. But applying this time was even more of a long shot because this particular academy was billed as an international one. Because the application process required a video submission, I really decided it was just too much work with only three days to the submission deadline, but the prodding of my daughter-in-law got me to formulating a video storyboard. As my storyboard developed, the more compelled I became to actually create it. Fortunately, my co-teacher's daughter was available for the last minute voice-over, I already had pictures and video from our TCEA presentation in February, so compilation of the video only took a couple of hours and my last minute submission was complete! You can view my video submission below.
With one week to go, time is counting down until I board the plane for London. Having been selected to attend the 2012 Google Teacher Academy in London April 4th, I decided to do a little prep to ensure I maximize my opportunities for this incredible experience. While I was attending SXSWedu in Austin earlier this month, I stumbled upon a great blog post that gave attendees tips for making the most of that unique edtech conference. While I have been unable to locate that particular post, there were several tips I particularly remember as being applicable to most any edtech conference...so I am going to recap from memory and incorporate some of my own.

Tips for Maximizing Your Learning:

1. Investigate! Don't wait until you arrive to see what's on the agenda. Do your homework, come prepared, and be ready to hit the ground running. You don't want to waste any time...it's the most precious commodity!
2. Network, network, network! Tap into the broader EdTech community. This is not the time to stand back or be intimidated. Rich sources of information are all around; zero in on it. Expand your perspectives by learning from those around you who have different roles, come from different backgrounds/locations, AND be willing to share what you bring to the table.
3. Develop relationships! This is a fabulous opportunity to collaborate in order to move ideas/information forward...disrupt the status quo. Challenge yourself to keep an open mind and soak everything in so that you truly can become the agent for change you wish to see take place.
4. Exploit the opportunity! Share out through Twitter, blogs, notes...it's not just about you! Many are anxiously awaiting the information, so take as many people with you along this journey.
5. Don't forget to say thank you! There are many who have had a part in making this happen for me and I want to thank everyone!...to Carol for your encouragement, to Robyn for introducing me to Jana who is graciously providing her London flat, to Maddie for her incredible voice-over, to my students for continually supporting my crazy ideas and experiments in attempting to seamlessly integrate technology into our curriculum, to the MISD Curriculum & Instruction Department along with the FSMS admin and Social Studies department for supporting all my edtech craziness!

Look out London...you are about to be invaded by 50 educators from around the world who are ready to take on the world...powered by Google!
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Last week I was privileged to head to Austin for TCEA2012. It is always such a dynamic learning experience that nets many great ideas to take back to the classroom. One of the new ideas I had been exploring was implementing the use of social media in the classroom. At the HP booth in the exhibit hall, they featured Mark Brumley who moderates their HP Teacher Experience Exchange website. He was presenting a variety of short presentations, one of which included using social media in the classroom. He discussed dividing students into groups, assigning them characters in a book they were reading and having them tweet "behind the scenes" information as that character. I loved this idea which sent me on a path of exploration for ways to implement this in my Texas history class. Today, I used one of the many ideas that presentation sparked.

We were watching the battle of the Alamo and I had students select who they wanted to portray. I let them select anyone associated with the battle. We used Today's Meet for our platform. I created a room on that site, posted a QR Code in the classroom that took students directly to the site and had them start "tweeting" as their character. The students were so engaged in this activity and I feel it took their exploration and analysis of this event to a much deeper level. Today, I truly believe my students relived that fateful day in March. Click here to check out their comments. The room will only be open until March 17th. After that you can access the transcript of the day by clicking here.

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