Playdate Austin 2014: Student-led PD

If you have ever asked the question, “What does that Instructional Technology Specialist actually do all day?” then you are not alone. While attending SXSWEDU this year, I made friends with two folks from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. When I asked what they did, they said they we Instructional Tech Specialists. And then they stopped talking. I though maybe this was perhaps Danish stoicism at play, but we Southerners can’t let that be the end of the conversation now can we, y’all? I asked a few more questions and a conversation erupted on the nature of our jobs, misconceptions of technology usage, cultural comparisons of technology integration, etc. The more I try to give the elevator pitch of what I do, my team has narrowed it down to a simply stated, “We try and put ourselves out of a job.” It actually happened for the first time this weekend at Playdate Austin 2014.

Our entire super team is within a year out of the classroom, so becoming strategists who support teachers in their integration of technology took some foundational turns in the last year. We found very quickly that a majority of teachers hold the following misconceptions about technology integration.

Misconception #1 Innovation always includes a device

Misconception #2 Technology integration is sparkly and fun, but not connected to student achievement

Misconception #3 You have be tech savvy to innovate.

Misconception #4 Teachers don’t have time because they are too busy being teachers.

Addressing these misconceptions led us to do what we believe teachers should always do in their professional practice. Try something new! We realized that we could spend ages battling the monolith that is called “Educational Bureaucracy” or we could begin with the end in mind.

If the ultimate goal is to see students creating, presenting, utilizing 21st century tools, collaborating, accessing the world as their audience, or walking off the stage with a diploma and a portfolio of experience then why not skip teachers and meet that goal first. We hypothesized that teachers have the same hearts for student success as we do and that they had become jaded by “the machine.” What if teachers learned from students and we didn’t rely teachers to have to learn these tools? We predicted that teachers would be begging for support as they innovated their classrooms once students, not instructional technologists, showed their stuff. Y’all, it works like a charm.

@ManorHS innovative student leaders working with staff

@ManorHS innovative student leaders working with staff

Playdate Austin was so successful that this entry is only meant to share why student led professional development works so well for us. There is just too much good to post in 1 blog. But a teaser for Part 2 of this Playdate Austin 2014 review was my absolute favorite moment from last Saturday.

During our demo slam where teachers shared their learning with the student presenters, an elementary school teacher happened to visit a playroom where a high school student was presenting. The high schooler had been her student in the 1st grade! As they reunited, she shared to the crowd how proud she was of the growth this student had made and invited her to come teach her tech tool to her 1st grade class. My colleague assigned to that particular school chuckled and shouted, “Hey! that’s my job!” There it is…our mission is far from accomplished, but can you imagine the shift we would see in education when we empower student voices as agents of change and innovation in our classrooms? It’s no longer a theory, it’s being done right here in Manor ISD and it’s catching on…

Check out the full recap here.



I got stuff, now what?!

The day has come when your dreams have come true and you get that bundle of iPads, or those chrome books, or that projector (for some). We Instructional Tech folks call this “stuff” because Technology for the classroom is changing every 14 seconds. Perhaps you feel as if getting your stuff is a dream come true or your worst nightmare. Many teachers jump off the innovation cliff themselves, and they fly. They are doing innovative things that should be shared on a national platform and have no idea that they are changing the game. That is not who I’m talking about today.

I recently worked with a teacher who I was told would need a lot, I mean a lot of support. This teacher even told me that they would never be able to do the most simple level of tech integration in their class. Funny thing is, that the whole time this teacher was explaining why they couldn’t (not they wouldn’t, that is a very different problem) they were setting up the management specs on their new iPad bundle. I say, “Do you realize how complex the process you are doing right now is? You are doing it beautifully!” This teacher interrupted me refusing my celebration, “But I’ll never be able to do all these app things or fancy things everyone else can do.” After refusing my first public compliment, I rebutted with another, “I don’t believe you. If you couldn’t, you wouldn’t have done what you just did so well. Forget the how, tell me what you would like to see happen in your class with these iPads.” From there, I set up a plan with this teacher to to team teach with me until comfortable doing it on their own. This teacher is simply overwhelmed by all the possibilities (and probably my passion too) and doesn’t know where to start. Innovation in your classroom IS a daunting task. Let me share a tool that might help you take baby steps until you realize that you too are flying and not falling off the cliff. It’s called SAMR.

Think of SAMR as Bloom’s Taxonomy for the use of Technology in the classroom. Just because you have iPads and they don’t have dust on them, does not mean you are using them effectively. This graphic will help you translate the levels of learning to how you are currently or planning to use technology in your classroom.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 9.59.28 AM


Our team often discourses about how we are seeing technology used for in these terms. If you are not printing worksheets, but your students are completing them digitally, you are substituting. If you are navigating your presentations wirelessly from the back of the class, you are substituting. This is a place to start, but don’t stop there!

Augmentation is when the process changes to something that is more efficient and effective. When you change a process, you are innovating if it is more efficient. Notice I said nothing about technology here. Drill and kill has no place in Augmentation, but any tool or program that makes life more efficient and functional does.

Modification and Redefinition is when you are changing the game of education. Forget rules, you are doing whatever it takes to see students behaving like the current workforce. A great anchor question at this state is, “Are my students creating with their knowledge?” You are not just using Nepris to learn a concept, but using that professional connection for students to gain feedback on prototypes from actual professionals. You are transforming how you communicate with your students and families. You are using Twitter and Remind 101 to share and send information out instead of a newsletter. You are seeing that the information is being absorbed, you are spending less time, and your students are more engaged in their learning environment beyond the traditional school day. When you students are sharing projects, giving feedback, and receiving constructive criticism digitally.

Still confused? Watch SAMR in 120 Seconds here

I would encourage you to set doable goals with someone who can support you (ahem, iTeach) alongside a cohort of a few others who are doing the same thing. For example, a goal might be to substitute a tech tool for a dongle. Using a practice app instead of a worksheet checks off the substitution tier. Using Doceri to navigate through your visual presentations makes the process more effective (you are in the powers one more), so you are now in Augmentation. Students turning in projects via Google Docs is Modification of a creation process. Students tweeting to gain feedback from around the world is the Redefinition of how they learn and produce. Each tier is a good tier. Technology integration requires you to move back and forth between these tiers. Setting 1-2 (not 7) goals within a semester or trimester will have you up and innovating before you know it!


Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Twitter, or getting connected rather, has been a major initiative this year for Manor ISD. The notion of sharing our stories, successes, and struggles for the betterment of all has really taken hold. Twitter really has become more than just a social hub at Manor and our first district Twitter chat of 2014 proved that more so!

This time around, the iTeachManor team decided to try crowdsourcing our summer PD plans during the chat in order to get a bit more voice from who else, but the teachers we are here to support!  All this in an effort to rethink current practices and provide a more learner-centered, knowledge-centered, and community-centered environment at Manor ISD. Our district Twitter chat is just one way we’ll start the conversations! Here’s how it went:

The iTeachManor team started off by asking teachers what tools and strategies were already working out for them. It was good to hear that teachers are really enjoying app-speed dating and other student-led PD efforts. We then moved readily along to what tools and strategies they’d like to continue to learn about this summer.

 Twitter Chat1

Quite honestly, it’s just so great to have the feedback and get a feel for the kinds of learning teachers would like to engage in. We talk tons about giving our students relevant learning experiences, and we must do the same for adult learners as well. So here are just a few of the suggestions we got, along with our responses:

 Twitter Chat 2

1) We love the idea of breaking up sessions into smaller chunks! Rather than overloading folks with hours worth of tools, we will focus on just one or two during shorter sessions so teachers/admin can come specifically get what they need.

Twitter Chat 3

2) Our teachers want the chance to just PLAY! Good to know we are on the same page! In fact, we are already planning #PlaydateATX14 for just this reason. Playdate Austin will give teachers the time to tinker and explore, just like they want. Oh yeah, and it’s student-led!

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 12.01.56 PM

In the end, we know we have an incredible opportunity to take advantage of time being on our side this summer. We’ve also been there and done that when it comes to top down professional development. The iTeachManor Team knows that one size does not fit all and we want to make sure we meet all of our teacher’s needs. So why not use our Twitter chats to have the opportunity to collaborate and discover new ways to innovate our professional practice together?

By changing the game with student-led PD and by providing relevant learning experiences to incorporate technology (and growth mindsets!), we expect the spark that ignited this Twitter chat will become a full blown bonfire for our summer professional development series.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 9.52.05 AM

Our team is always looking for ways to be more responsive to our teachers needs and interests. We’re glad to know that our monthlyTwitter chats can serve as a good way to touch base with one another. Ask and ye shall receive, Manor. Like @JacobTech said, we are listening to your ideas. Stay tuned.

The Best Meeting I Ever Had

Cornell Notes discussion in AVID: Example of Collaborative Learning classroom set up.

Cornell Notes discussion in AVID: Example of Collaborative Learning classroom set up.

Not too long ago, I attended the best meeting ever. Odd proclamation, you say? Hear me out.

As the Innovative Teaching Coach, I work with the MHS LITE (Leaders in Innovative Technology in Education) and the MHS ISLT (Innovative Student Leadership Team) – we really like our acronyms. One chilly winter morning, I had a meeting with my LITEs and my ISLTs in one of our conference rooms. The goal of the meeting was to assess and revise our classroom management with technology training. Now, anyone who conducts training will tell you that there seems to be a negative stigma attached to professional development pertaining to classroom management, whether one-on-one training or whole group. Walking into the meeting, I expected reluctance from both LITEs and ILSTs in discussing this issue due to its connotation. So naturally, I did what any southerner would do and brought baked goods for everyone. Little did I know that while the “lovin’ from the oven” fare was delicious, it was not needed at all.

Once the meeting commenced, it seemed as though dialogue and questioning happened naturally. I stated the purpose of the meeting and both teachers and students began to give fantastic feedback about uses of technology in classroom and methods of promoting classroom management strategies that would increase engagement and learning while also quelling off-task behavior.

Watching this amazing collaboration occur between two different sets of stakeholders, I couldn’t help but wonder what made this particular meeting so productive and worthwhile? I then began looking at how everyone was placed. We were all seated in office chairs around a large table, facing each other. The teachers were seated amongst the students; neither students or teachers were huddled to one side. Additionally, each person in attendance listened to the person talking. No one was texting, emailing or working on some other task. Voices were at a regular level and choice of words were honest and authentic. When the meeting was over, each person left with something new to think about and many commented, both students and teachers alike, that this was a really great meeting!

After everyone had left I reflected on the aspects that made the meeting so great and I immediately emailed my team to let them know what had happened.

So, why the blog? As an Innovative Teaching Coach, part of my job is to work with teachers to promote a collaborative, creative learning environment that promotes 21st century learning. While we cannot purchase office chairs and move large conference tables into each classroom, what can we do right here, right now that promotes a collaborative environment?

Layout: What does your classroom look like? Are all desks focused on the “sage on stage” or are students able to interact with each other? How can you position students so that they can  both work with each other AND interact with you, the learning facilitator?

Culture: What kind of culture is promoted in your classroom? Are high expectations set? Are goals and norms consistently adhered to? Do students feel that they can create and explore with their learning? Is each person’s voice respected? Do students feel that the content addresses their needs versus the content addressing what has alway been done? Is the classroom even conducive to establishing cultural norms?

While it’s easy to write off re-creating “the best meeting ever” in our classrooms by blaming behavior, I’m sure, upon further review, that a solution can be found. So many times in education I have both cultivated and witnessed this type of classroom environment containing many kinds of students. Time and time again, high expectations were set and adhered to, even when it was hard to keep them upheld. (Why do upcoming school holidays seem to bring an onset of off task behavior? Are high expectations still being adhered to or are student just that excited? Combination of both?)

Moreover, trends can be recognized in how the expectations are adhered to. If the high expectation is upheld, the culture, layout, mutual respect, and most importantly, engaging learning, are all symptoms of such standards.

My hope in this blog is that an idea is sparked to try something new…just one small change. Teachers sit with students during discussion or circle the desks in a room instead of rows. Promote collaborative learning because that is what our students face in a tomorrow we do not exactly fully grasp today. Margaret Heffernan once said, “A fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.” What does your “best meeting ever/best day of learning ever” look like? I’m sure an echo chamber does not come to mind.

Math PBL In Action: Example of Collaborative Learning Classroom Set up

Math PBL In Action: Example of Collaborative Learning Classroom Set up


Meet Allison

DSC_0121 - Version 2

Mrs. Allison Starling, member of iTeach Manor, is the Innovative Teaching Coach at Manor High School in Manor, Texas. Allison received her Bachelor’s degree in History with a concentration in Secondary Education from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Shortly after relocating to Texas due to her husband’s military service, Allison began teaching 7th grade History. In 2011, Allison received her Master’s degree in Educational Administration with Principal Certification from Texas A&M University and, soon thereafter, began teaching at South Belton Middle School, a 1:1 iPad Campus and Apple Distinguished School that encouraged the use of Project-Based Learning to produce life long learners. After leaving South Belton Middle School, Starling started her administrative career as an Instructional Technology Specialist in Temple ISD.

In August of 2013, an opportunity arose for Starling to move to Austin and join the iTeach Manor team, working with Manor High School, a 1:1 iPad campus. Starling resides in Austin with her husband Matt. Follow Allison on Twitter: @iTeachManor and @AllieStarling.

Whatever It Takes!

iPods,iPads, & laptops, oh my!

iPods,iPads, & laptops, oh my!

This week I was particularly blown away by the 5th grade teachers and students at Oak Meadows Elementary who are doing whatever it takes to get connected.

What Oak Meadows might lack in terms of technology, they make up with an overwhelming amount of teacher heart and creativity.  Bert Bassett, in particular, has gone to great lengths to scavenge enough devices to supplement a makeshift BYOD (bring your own device) environment that began earlier this school year. Yesterday, we brainstormed even more ways that students could use what they have to further their classroom collaboration and they will be going Google next week.

It’s this kind of can-do attitude that really exemplifies the growth mindset we value here at Manor ISD. Look for further updates as OME 5th graders first connect with one another and then take their collaboration beyond their classroom walls!

The Conover Effect

In my last post, I mentioned that I ask the question, “What if?” a lot (hence my twitter handle @whatifclass). In my line of work, a benefit of being out of the classroom is being able to visit teachers far and wide who are changing the game. My role is to not only celebrate what is happening in our own classrooms in Manor, but also what is happening right next door…in Pflugerville.

Through a serendipitous series of events, many of us have had our minds blown by visiting Mr. Conover’s class at John B. Connally High School. Hang with me while I explain how a Chilean copper mine, game salad, the Geology department at UT, skype, and project management have in common. When you enter Mr. Conover’s classroom, you see a student skyping with some scientists and sharing her clay models with them, other students working on a keyboard writing music, some digitally sketching, but all are on task completing completely different tasks. Conover has created an environment where within multiple periods, students must collaborate digitally via Google tools in quite a unique structure. We interviewed teams of artists, musicians, designers, and even project managers (talk about giving students a role!). A junior in high school we spoke with was incredibly articulate as he explained how to his second year as a project manager put him in a position to help develop first year project managers. He explained his expectations for his teams and the routines he set up to check in on their progress. Again, this is a junior in high school. These students create not mock businesses and proposals, but actual presentations for graphic artists, game developers from those currently working in the Simi Hills of Austin. Many were so impressed that the relationships end up in internship opportunities and donations to the class. Conover has taken his role as an educator and leveraged it to CONNECT his students to the actual workforce. I said to stay with me on how gaming, geology, and Chile are connected, so here it is. The key vocabulary to focus on here is relationship, connected, creative, and digital.

The story goes like this. Dr. Pierce from the Geology department at UT worked in Chile preserving local geological resources in that community and built a relationships with the local copper miners there. Meanwhile, Conover decides he wants to shake up his STEAM class and knocks on some doors at UT. Conover and Pierce really look outside the box and ask, “What if we didn’t just teach kids about gaming, but gaming with a real word purpose?” Together, they help students digitally collaborate with the miners and the geology department to identify community challenges so that they can create a game to help bring awareness and solve that problem.

This is a different call of duty. For example, I interviewed a students who was developing a game using a free web 2.0 program that was reminiscent of Pac Man. The goal was to bring awareness to oil spills near Texas forest habitats and “eat up” the oil barrels in the environment he’d created. The student even revised the game after he found that players were cheating the system and actually doing more damage to the forest environment to merely win the game.

This may be happening in a district next door, but I encourage you to start asking “What if?” for your classroom. I know what you are thinking, “Lacy! You want me to work a full day teaching, go to my staff meeting, grade papers, prep for the next day, feed my family, and THEN go rub elbows with the Austin Tech community in an effort to make connections from the real world to my classroom?!”Nope. I want you to feed your family well, make eye contact, AND enjoy them as well as what you do. I just want you to ask,”What if?” more! Here are a few great ways to build relationships, connect your classroom to the real world, and give your students an audience. Here’s a few simple, efficient ways to have your own “Conover Effect.”

1. Network and View all your Relationships as a Possible Asset to your Classroom. When you go to your spouse’s holiday party, get social! Find out what they all do! You might run across an interior designer who would love to come and digitally come (Google Hangout) to your class as you happen to be teaching area and surface area or measurement in an upcoming TEK.

2. Capitalize on the Network of Others. Some folks DO have the ability to go to all those after school activities that inspire educators. Find a few well connected folks, use and abuse them! Ask them to share resources that might be pertinent to you. You can do this by following them on Twitter or Google +. The only wrong question is the one unasked. Someone may personally know a screenwriter that can speak with your class about the process from napkin to silver screen. Set aside 15-20 minutes to check up on what the guru’s are up to. It’s a great practice to set aside time that will refresh you.

3. Treat Yourself as a Professional. Professionals network, grow their network, and diversify those they work with. Don’t be afraid to reach out to programmers, coders, voice over actors, geneticists, universities, etc. They all WANT to give back and simply don’t know about the opportunities to do so. You’d be surprised how many Austin companies actually incentivize their employees to do more community service in exchange for extra PTO.

This is not bring your dad to work day I’m talking about. I’m saying ask and hunt for free, creative, integrated speakers and activities using things like Clearsea, Google’s new Connected Classrooms (stop reading this right now and Google that-it will rock your world),  or a physical guest to give your students an audience that will motivate them and connect them to the universities and companies that make Austin such a promising city. As you start to think towards starting a new year your students may be starting to tune out your voice, start asking yourself how you can bring new voices into your classroom. Just remember to start that thought process with, “What if?”


Digital Citizenship Comic Poster Campaign


As with all districts, Digital Citizenship is a large part of the technology curriculum, but shouldn’t this just be a part of everyday curriculum?  In today’s classroom, we see technology that connects us used by teachers and students every day.  So shouldn’t good Digital Citizenship practices be more then just a mandatory unit at the beginning of the year?  Here in Manor, we are trying something different.  Instead of just having one Digital Citizenship campaign at the beginning of the year, we are going to run at least 3 campaigns in the 2013-2014 school year to keep the conversation going.

Our first campaign in September was distributed directly to teachers in our district. We borrowed from the best public resources about digital citizenship on the web and created a course on the Manor ISD iTunes U page.  We believed this was a good introduction to Digital Citizenship to our students in Manor.  The course was split into 5 days with each day focusing on a new important topic.  This was a district wide initiative but the course delivery was a campus decision. Many campuses chose to present this material or use other material through the campus computer labs.  This is what we usually see most campuses and districts do.

Our second and most recent campaign was a 5 day Digital Citizenship Comic Poster & Podcast series.  Very much like Common Sense Media’s campaign in October, Manor ISD chose to have it’s DC week in November.  iTeach wanted to make the campaign more relevant to our students because they are our target audience.  This campaign, the brain child of Lacy Bartlett, took on a new way to deliver proper DC practices to our students.  The adventures of Digital Citizenship Man & DC Girl were born.  In their fight against the Cybervillian and proper use of technology, DC girl and DC man were introduced to Manor.

DC Girl  DC Girl  Cybervillian  Cybervillain  DC Man  DC Man

Aligning the comic with popular Marvel and DC comic series, we tried making this a fun new way to get the information out to our students. (You can find the comic poster series on our Manor ISD iTunes U page) Using Hero Machine, Comic Life and Garageband, the campaign came together rather quickly.  The goal was not only to make it fun but have students be the ones to ask the questions about copyright and proper use of technology.  This time the campaign was district wide with the posters and visible to all students at the campus.

Our next campaign will have a student produced comic book poster series where the they get to design the characters and write the story.  We feel this will make the content even more relevant to our students. Let us know what you think?


Hope for Alejandro

photo (7)

Ah, the power of social media… especially when used for good :)

Last week, the world fell in love with #SFBatKid and the collective efforts of a city that went to great lengths to make a young leukemia fighter’s wish come true.  Many of us watched the live stream or followed his adventures via Twitter and our faith in humanity was restored although I prefer the term strengthened.  I say this because I know that similar demonstrations of good will occur daily, it’s just we might not hear about them as readily.

I’m proud to say that here at Manor ISD we have a similar student-led effort at Pioneer Crossing Elementary that is attempting to raise money to help a friend who is also battling leukemia in kindergarten.  PCE’s Student Council is selling “Hope for Alejandro” bracelets and have been hard at work creating signs and spreading the message on mediums such as Twitter.  Two weeks ago, I was asked to help put together a video with the students and it has been an absolute moving experience to watch these students put so much time and energy in helping a fellow student. They all helped to capture footage from iPhones, iPads, and emails, and learned how tedious the editing process might be and still kept at it. We started off with iMovie and then moved over to Animoto because it seemed to better fit their needs, even if it meant starting over, demonstrating a daunting amount of grit and tenacity.

 Thankfully enough their efforts have paid off!  What was once a school-based campaign transformed overnight as Manor HS students joined in after discovering this endeavor via Twitter. Manor High School sold 100 bracelets in one day and 200 more are now on the way. To date, nearly $1000 has been raised and last night, Pioneer Crossing’s student council took their campaign to the Manor ISD school board. We hope to see other schools and local partners within Manor join the cause and support these young leaders as they work to make a difference for a young student in our very own community.

Click on the link below to watch their final product:

“Hope For Alejandro”

To get your school to join the cause or obtain “Hope for Alejandro” bracelets please contact Ms. Britt or Mrs. Janosky PCE Student Council Coordinators.

The “MacGuyver” Mindset

I love telling folks I work for Manor ISD. They gaze at you like you just started to glow and say, ” The place where Obama came?” I smile, and say,”Yes, He came to Manor New Tech High School.” As a teacher, you walk into New Tech and feel just as Charlie did when he toured Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Every passion, belief, and hope I have for our broken education system is laid to rest when you tour that campus. They are just doing such amazing things! If you have never seen it. Go. Now.

BUT we also have 12 other schools in our district. These other schools are NOT 1-1. Some of our campuses dongle into a tv screen to project because they have no projector. Some of our campuses have 16 iPads available for checkout, but they are iPad 1′s with no camera and therefore cutting student creation opportunity in half. We do have 3 other 1-1 campuses, but some are actually 60%. You can see the look of despair on teacher’s faces when you explain all the things they could do with technology in their classrooms because they focus on what they don’t have, or the management issues that might arise, or find that the technology is glitchy when they do use it. George Couros recently came and spoke at Manor High School and said, “When we say we won’t use the technology available because it won’t work for us, we communicate to our students that they don’t have to use that math when it just won’t work for them.” Implementing Tech into low tech areas becomes a matter of practicing the perseverance we preach to our students.

Technology setups are so different for whatever reason at each campus, and teachers often focus on the “have nots” mindset. But then there are some that engage with what I can only describe as “MacGuyvering” tech usage in their classrooms. These teachers prove their growth mindset because they see the need and that our students deserve the opportunity to collaborate and be digitally creative.

Let’s take Blake Manor Elementary for example. When I was assigned Blake Manor, I quickly assumed that I would not spend much time at that campus because they have a few classrooms with even a projector. Many share one with a grade level. Yes, there are iPads in the library but they are 1′s with no camera. When you want to see student create, no camera presents some pretty tall hurdles to jump over. Yet, this is the campus I am constantly running to. This is the campus where Ms. Simpson is begging me to come spend an extra 20 minutes of computer lab time getting their kids logged into their district Google account.

Now, if you have never seen a 2nd grader send their first email, I can assure you it is the same as watching a little one taking their first steps. I got email responses like this…

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.38.02 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.37.28 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.38.28 PM

One girl inquired if you could do this at home. Before I knew it, this 2nd grader was showing her mom how she could email me from home and figured out the conventions of email naming so she could thank her teacher as well. 2nd grade, ya’ll, in a school where many teachers can only rely on their transparancy projector. This came out of a no iPad classroom.

Down the hall is a 5 iPad classroom. Ms. Boatright’s class was hoping to better practice strong beginnings through digital storyboarding in their fiction writing and happened to be writing spooky stories during the Halloween season. We decided that the structures in the imovie trailer app were perfect for having students storyboard their writing. The next time I popped in at Blake Manor, every Instructional Tech Specialist’s dream came true.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.39.50 PM Ms. Boatright didn’t just use tech for tech’s sake. She saw dramatic improvement in the writing structure these 4th graders were producing. There is so much happening to innovate the learning environment from our lowest tech campus. Here are the things that set Blake Manor apart…

1. They get what they get and don’t throw a fit. They have a can do mindset and are unaware of what their don’t have.

2. They create the time to make innovation happen. Many campuses see technology as an add on to the sheer impossible amount of tasks a teacher has on their to do list. They don’t halt instruction or pacing calendars. They ask for 15-20 minutes of an open pocket in the computer lab.

3. They make student creation happen in whatever “MacGuyver” fashion they must-duck tap, paper clips, bubble gum, and all. I’ll tell you they are one of the happiest campuses for doing so!

One thing we know about technology for sure is that it will most often get glitchy right when you need it to work. But that is it’s nature. Technology forces you to problem solve, collaborate, and ask for help. Your students need to engage with you in the troubleshooting process when the tech goes south. Adopting that MacGuyver mindset with grow your students more than your strongest delivered directly instructed lesson ever could.