Sunday, April 27, 2014

26 School Days Left, How will you make an IMPACT????

It is hard to believe, but we have only 26 school days left in the 2013-2014 school year!! We have truly accomplished a lot with our students and staff so far this year. Implementation of Common Core standards in every subject/every grade, NEU acceptance and full implementation, Bring Your Own Device implementation, Chromebook implementation, technology integration , Apple TV transitions, Coding integration, writing across the curriculum in EVERY class/EVERY day, College/Career Fair, State Superintendent Torlakson visit, student and teacher Blogs, and Ed Tech one on one support!! That is just to name a few!! We have a lot to be proud of for the 2013-2014 school year! Here are two short video clips that capture just some of the amazing accomplishments for Crystal Middle School this year.

Crystal Year in Review

A Glimpse at Crystal

Challenge yourself and your students to make the most of the remaining 26 days. If you have been thinking about getting on Twitter but haven't yet, start an account. If you have wanted to try G-class folders with your students, but haven't yet, sign up to get Josh Harris for a one on one to show you how. Think about your next lesson you are going to deliver and see how you can raise the Depth of Knowledge. If you haven't visited a colleague's class yet this year, get it on your calendar and make it happen. Make an upgrade in your next lesson and see how you can challenge your students to think more critically with less teacher scaffolding. Flip it so the basics are done at home and the application is done in the classroom. You have 26 more days to make an impact on your students. What will you do?? The options and potential for what can be done are limitless.

#edcamp: Remember, we will be holding our very first ever #edcamp at our May 6th staff meeting!!!! In last week's blog I shared a Youtube video on what an #edcamp is. In case you missed that, here the link again: #edcamp101   And... here is a link to a great article (thanks to Geoff Belleau and Twitter) that debunks some myths about #edcamps. Myths about Edcamps Debunked

PROVE: Prove is to show that something is true by providing facts, information, etc. 

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence! 


Monday, April 21, 2014

1 on 1 Collaboration to Support Technology Integration @CrystalMiddleCA

We lost one of our veteran teachers earlier this year when he moved on to become an Ed Tech Specialist for the District. It was initially seen as a huge loss to our site, but now has become a huge benefit. Josh Harris who is now an Ed Tech Specialist has begun to hold One on One coaching days at our site. His expertise is now spreading beyond the walls of his own classroom into multiple classrooms at Crystal. Our teachers are on a journey for mastery with their technology and see a true purpose for implementation. As word spreads on campus, more and more teachers are signing up for a time slot to work with Josh. After hearing from several teachers about how much they were able to learn and what they were excited to implement after their one on one session, I wanted to share. I told Josh that I wanted my next blog post to be about his most recent One on One sessions. I am so happy to see so many of Crystal's teachers taking on new ways of incorporating technology and streamlining their classrooms. We have embarked on a very exciting time at Crystal. Teachers are willing to take risks and try new things when they see the academic benefits for their students.

"There were a couple of things that I worked on with all of your teachers. One of the main items that seemed to be universal, and was seen as unanimously valuable by your teachers was signing into the Chrome browser. We talked about how this is different than just signing into your Google account, and how it syncs your bookmarks across all of your devices where you have signed into the Chrome browser. This makes Chrome, at least for web-based things, an excellent bridge between devices since it allows you to look up what web page tabs you have open on other devices. Also since the bookmarks and pages are saved to the Google account, as opposed to the computer itself, when we change or upgrade computers or mobile devices we don't lose all of our bookmarks. I also showed Carole Schneider a Chrome extension that adds a timer to the web browser.

On Monday, I worked with Tammy Collin and Carole Schneider. They both just got their Apple TVs and TVs installed in their rooms recently so we were talking about some ways to transition to the new technology.  We worked on some basic things in transitioning from laptop/desktop and SmartBoard methods of teaching, and using Microsoft products to using iPad and Google Chrome, Drive, and Docs. I'm proud to report that Carole has already started putting her lessons onto Google Slides. She was actually rather quick and comfortable to abandon PowerPoint.  As mentioned above, I had them both sign into their Chrome browser and then showed them how to use that along with signing into their Chrome app on iPad to bridge between the two devices. As well as preserving bookmarks, homepages and other data. They both were enthusiastic about working from different devices in different places at any time they liked.  

On Monday I also worked with Paul Walpole, and then on Tuesday I worked with Katie Molina, Barbara MacFarlane, Lisa Lewis and Shannon Balthazor and on both of those days, with all five of those teachers we basically worked on some digital workflow solutions. The digital workflow solution that we implemented was based on the gClassFolders script that runs in Google spreadsheets and its companion script, called Doctopus, that also runs in Google spreadsheets.  Pulling a query from the account that I have, I was able to put together a class roster spreadsheet for each one of the teachers. Then, using Google Drive I transferred ownership of the spreadsheet to the teachers, and then walked each one through the relatively simple process of setting up the gClassFolders. 

Consequently, this also afforded us a side opportunity to look at some of the features and uses of spreadsheets in Google Drive.  I also informed them that, probably over the summer, we will be upgrading to the new Google Sheets, and that some of the procedures would change. After seeing how simple the process was currently, none of them seemed to be daunted by the prospect of having to learn a new set of procedures after having just seen this one. 

gClassFolders automatically creates an individual folder in the teacher's Google drive for each one of the teacher's students that is shared only between the teacher and the student. However, it also sets up two additional folders for all the students in that particular course.  It sets up a course-wide view folder, and a course-wide edit folder. We discussed some of the possible uses for the course edit and view folders as those are new tools in the teachers' toolbox. Not only do these folders give the teacher's whole class digital options for assignments, but they also allow for period-to-period collaboration on assignments and activities in a way that has not previously been known.  Doctopus is a sort of digital photocopier that can work with gClassFolders to place assignments that are individualized for each students automatically in their personal folders, but it allows the teacher a lot of control and quite a few more options (for example: switching all of the students from editors to viewers with 2 clicks) over the cycle of that particular assignment.  All of the teachers were really happy to have this digital workflow and turn-in solution for their Google Drive – especially because it streamlines the sharing process and cuts down on notification emails from Google Drive from sharing.

This next thing was one of my favorite incidents that happened during these two days of one-on-one visits with your teachers, and is one of the most enjoyable parts about individual teacher coaching--when the teacher and I stumble upon something new together.

While demonstrating Doctopus for Paul, we found something that I didn't know, but is going to be a really cool way to do an assignment using art and images. We distributed to each student a copy of a JPG image of the painting, American Progress. We then discovered that using the commenting function we could have the students select certain parts of the painting, and then using the commenting feature in Google Drive, write explanations of each portion's symbolic meaning in the historical context in which the painting was created.  We talked about how he might demo that to the whole class (using I-do, we-do, you-do) before turning them loose on the actual assignment themselves. That way he would be implicitly teaching them Google drive and computer skills while explicitly teaching his history assignment and content.  

We generally think this is the best way to teach computer skills: we teach them implicitly as the means to an end of an academic goal or objective. We don't spend time separately teaching specific computer skills that make it seem like the computer is used in a separate domain of knowledge. Thereby, the computer becomes a tool we use in all areas of knowledge, instruction, and learning as opposed to something separate from what we do in the rest of school."   --Josh Harris, Ed Tech 

#edcamp: I have read a lot about #edcamps on Twitter and I am intrigued by the idea of an #edcamp and how it works. Several teachers at Crystal have also expressed interest in being part of an #edcamp. Well, there is no better time than the present to try it at Crystal. I am excited to announce that our May staff meeting will be run as an #edcamp. I shared this idea on Twitter last week and....... it looks like Tim Goree, Geoff Belleau, and Josh Harris will be joining us too!! Here is a Youtube video to give you an idea of what an #edcamp is and what it looks like. #edcamp101YouTubevideo

PROPOSITION: Proposition is a statement that consists of a carefully considered opinion or judgment. 

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence! 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

How FLIPPED can we become?

I had the pleasure of presenting on Innovation Day yesterday with Tim Goree and Geoff Belleau at the Lead 3.0 Symposium in San Francisco. It was a great opportunity to share what Crystal has done and will continue to do with Innovation Day. More importantly, the leaders that came to our presentation now have a good idea of ways of incorporating Innovation Day, 20% time, or Genius Hour at their schools.

Lead 3.0 Symposium: Geoff, Tim, Kathryn, Julia, and me

Last week I talked about thinking of ways that you can make your classroom more innovative on a regular basis. "Flipping" your classroom so that the basic information is presented outside of the class and the application is then done inside the classroom is one great way of making a monumental shift for the students. If you follow Tim Goree on Twitter you may have seen his Tweet on "The Flipped Classroom for the Common Core." If you missed the Tweet or if you don't follow Tim, I have included the link here: This is a great resource for More than a Million Common Core Videos, Games, Assessments, and Courses. The site is managed by OpenEd:

About OpenEd »

OpenEd is the largest K-12 educational resource catalog, with over a million Language Artsand Math games, video lessonsassessments, and courses. While it integrates with all popular Learning Management Systems it offers its own simple “flipped classroom” LMS oriented to using resources.
It is the only site completely focused on offering Common Core resources. It features a wealth of math games, Language Arts and math quizzes and tests, and math lessons andLanguage Arts lessons from dozens of educational content providers.

Shannon sent me a link to a great TED talk by Dan Meyer. The focus is math but the message is applicable to all subjects. Take a few minutes to watch the video. TED Talk by Dan Meyer  You should also check out Dan's blog at

Additionally, if you have been at any of the last few Board meetings you have seen elementary school students presenting on their application of the Common Core. For those of you that have not had the chance to see the presentations, or for those that want to see the presentations again, check them out here: Student Common Core Presentations  They are AWESOME!!

PREDICT: Predict is to say that something will happen before it happens. 

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence! 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

What about Innovation Day, EVERY Day?????

As I walked classrooms last week there was a lot of positive energy. The classrooms where students were the most engaged and the most interested in what they were learning were the classrooms where students were leading their learning. To just name a few: students were coding with Khan Academy in Balthazor's math classes, and students created parachutes to test acceleration, gravity, and air resistance in Moretti's Physical Science classes. Here is a short clip of photos and videos from last week. A common theme you will see is technology, however; application of concepts does not always mean technology integration.

Innovation Day last year was a huge success for our students. This year our students are once again looking forward to May 22nd to be able to innovate. Why is it that we are limiting our students to only one "Innovation Day?" I know we talked as a staff about having two days in the year as opposed to one. Hold on to your seats and let this sink in for a minute...... If we know that students need autonomy, mastery, and purpose to have true motivation, then, why are we limiting ourselves and our students? We could make every day Innovation Day. We could provide our students access to the "basic/fundamental" information that is needed before the school day, and then allow our students to apply that learning while at Crystal. This is not a novel idea, we have heard about "flipped" classrooms for quite some time. There are many of you on staff that are ready for this style of instruction. Our students are begging for it!!

I was talking to a colleague last week about what I envision Crystal classrooms looking like. After I explained what I would love to see for our students, he said, "Why don't you do it?" After I threw out the regular "excuses" he once again asked me, "Why don't you do it?" As most of you know, that statement is not one that I can let sit idle with me. I do need to make it happen. I want to make it happen for our students. I think every day about the ways that we can provide opportunities for our students to be able to innovate and create. I want to provide "spaces" for our students to take what knowledge they have and "tinker," "manipulate," "collaborate," "design," and "develop," not only an end product but develop their minds and their inter personal skills.

Saturday morning I spent time brainstorming with my husband and kids about ways that we as a school could tap into our students' creativity. Without standing in front of you right now you cannot begin to see my passion and energy on this topic. I want it to happen so badly for our students. When I was in Ken Baptista's class on Friday I was talking to a sixth grade boy who is clearly a Minecraft aficionado. He began to ask me about whether he could work on Minecraft on Innovation Day. I told him that we had several students last year that worked on Minecraft and that they somehow ended up in the same "workspace" and that we did not crash the server. He almost jumped out of his seat with excitement and asked me, "Did you set up a Crystal Minecraft Server?" I had to tell him that we did not, and that I wasn't familiar with what he mentioned. He went on to explain the process to me and further explained that there is a MinecraftEdu that is solely for educational purposes. He gave me a few Youtube links. At the end of our conversation, he said that maybe someday someone here could create a new Minecraft world template for Crystal. I looked at him and said, "Why don't you make that your Innovation Day plan?" Again, he jumped with enthusiasm turned to his Chromebook and started typing away for his plan. I tell you this story to solidify the fact that our students have ideas and potential beyond our imagination. We need to create spaces that foster that imaginative energy to flow and develop.

Give me your comments, suggestions, and ideas on this. Feel free to leave your comments on this blog post. I know that my next step needs to be at minimum to set up a lunch time space for our students both during A lunch and B lunch that will allow for this process to begin. I have ideas for apps for our school that I want our students to take ownership of and develop if possible. I also know that there are ideas out there that I couldn't even begin to think of and I need both you and our students to help start this new journey for Crystal. If we ever hear someone say, "Why don't you do that?" We need to remind ourselves that we can do it, we just need to find the right way to implement our new ideas.

OUTLINE: To describe something in a general way, giving the main points but not the details. Outline is to show the edge of something, or draw around its edge, so that its shape is clear. 

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence!