Out Of My Hands

I began my role as Dublin Unified’s first Chief Technology Officer in January 2015.  The morale in the department was low and the frustration was high.  It was not a unique situation by any stretch. Fast forward to July 2017. I want to talk about the power of influence and the spirit of innovation. In my department, professionals that had been programmed to following help desk tickets to guide their work are now innovating at high levels in their daily tasks. The small things I notice as the leader of the department often go unnoticed by the team because it has become the way we conduct our business. I am a firm believer in empowering staff, encouraging risk, providing opportunities for play, and celebrating innovation. Sounds complicated maybe, but it is very basic.

Empowering staff
Encouraging risk
Providing opportunities for play
Celebrating innovation

Every day, in very small ways, someone in the department amazes me with their creativity and heart. Now they will tell you, “It’s no big deal.” They will tell you, “That’s the way we do business.” I say it’s something more. It has changed how they approach teachers. It has made them more confident to teach students (yes they do!).

IMG_7945Creating culture is no easy task. Following a game plan and not backing down is also difficult. I will break down each element of my change plan in coming posts.

What began as one leader’s agenda has now become the way we conduct our department. It is gotten beyond my reach and is now out of my hands. I stand alongside some of the hardest working IT Professionals in education.IMG_7956

I can look at my team right now and see where they will be in a year. I have shared that the while they are doing daily tasks, “I’m a year down the road watching them work.”  I’m not going to share with you where we’ll be in a year, that is going to be shared as it unveils itself. But wow, if you could see what I see. IMG_7927IMG_7917IMG_7918


The Power of Partnerships: Part Three

Disclaimer: It’s been far too long since my last post…..

In January 2017 while we were bombarded with daily news of negative imagery across our country I attended a full day MakeyMakey certification training that restored my positive outlook. During this training Tom Heck from MakeyMakey he shared a concept that I latched onto and have not stopped since. He saw an opportunity for using MakeyMakey in special ed classrooms serving students with physical disabilities. He teamed up with students from a local high school to solve a real world problem. The high school students went into the special ed classroom interviewed and observed the environment and got feedback from the special ed students. They then began to draft a proof of concept to provide assistive technology with makerspace materials and the MakeyMakey.  Tom Heck from MakeyMakey shared this video on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dln_5kYDU00

I immediately went back to my school district and requested a meeting with the Assistant Director of Special Education Department, Jennifer Chiarelli. She and I talked about the possibility and she agreed to allow me to bring my team in to meet with Dublin’s Special Ed teachers. We began with demonstrations showing teachers the potential of this tool meeting the needs of their students in classrooms.

Fast forward to next week & we will begin our first evaluation in A special Ed classroom with the goal of creating assistive technology with recycled materials that will have realized cost savings for the district. In addition to the financial benefit, my department will be able to solve a real world problem, and mostly the students will win with reliable assistive technology that can be repaired and/or replaced for pennies on the dollar.  This partnership that we now have with the Special Ed Department is another example of how powerful partnerships can be across departments at district levels in meeting the needs of students in a very direct manner.

Check back for updates and I will keep you on our journey as we continue to be awesome every day.  

If you have not MakeyMakey utilized  in your classroom, Power UP! Simi Valley_TBONDE I built for a recent training I did in Simi Valley. Please share and let’s make more teachers even more awesome than they are every day.

Space & Time 

Teachers, administrators and students alike need space and time to explore new concepts and experiment with new ways of doing things.

In Dublin Unified, the format for this years EdTech Coaches monthly meetings are interactive playgrounds-opportunities to try new technologies and concepts, and see other schools within the district.

Now most teachers do not like to brag about what they’re doing. But when given an opportunity to demo something, often they are more willing and not as pressured.

At this month’s EdTech Coach meeting, we met at Wells Middle School in Summer Chrisman’s science room. It was the perfect vibe to explore MakeyMakeys.

Brandon McCoy from my department came and did a fabulous demonstration utilizing a MakeyMakeys and items bought from a local dollar store. Need LED lights and don’t have five bucks to buy a very small number? Go buy an LED flashlight for one dollar and busted in half. You’ll see in one of the pictures that types of materials he bought for today’s demonstration.

The demonstration was a brief 10 minutes The next 45 minutes was a hands-on playground environment with the dollar store materials provided. To appreciate the scope, watch any of these brief videos:







The Power of Partnerships: Part Two

In my previous post on this topic, I talked about the partnership between Dublin Unified’s Technology Services department & Maintenance and Operation.

Partnerships across service providers is very common. I want to share a partnership across three different entities (public, private, non-profit): Dublin Unified Technology Services, Integrity in Action and EWaste Direct who understands the importance of all students having access.

The problem we were trying to solve was how to provide laptops to students at home that could not otherwise afford technology. In discussions with my department staff, we talked about the idea of asking EWaste Direct  to donate laptops back to the school district so they could be given to students.  The EWaste Direct was more than happy to accommodate our need.

When we are ready to EWaste laptops, we go through the regular mandated process. Once done EWaste Direct donates laptops back to the school district. It’s a win-win for both sides.

Through Integrity in Action program, Cindy Leung works very hard to reach out to families that need technology at home so our students can access the Internet 24/7 for their instructional objectives.

img_5126We take the donated laptops and drop the free Ubermix operating system onto them to ensure families never have to spend any money moving forward on updates. We put the district preferred browser: Chrome, on every laptop so students have a seamless experience getting online. All this work is done by department staff and during evening sessions, they donate their time. We call our sessions fix it clinics.img_5124

Students sit in front of donated laptops and we take them through an overview of the Ubermix operating system including a how to video showing all of the functionality. We then practice logging in , how to check for Wi-Fi and how to do basic troubleshooting.

In the past year, during these fix it clinics, we have served 100 students in many families. We provide a how to guide for looking for free Wi-Fi in Dublin California and tips on looking for Wi-Fi in other cities.img_5125

Beginning this fall, we have also begun a partnership with everyoneon and with donations from community institutions like Rotary Club of Dublin, we are now offering paid Internet at home for one year for a family for $120.

What does this mean for the students? Simply put, they now have access to all of the same resources their peers have that have a variety of devices at home. We are now working at providing multiple devices to families with more than one student so they do not have to wait for their turn to get to the Internet.

Why do they YouTube Minecraft?

In September 2016, I attended MINECON with my 11-year-old son. We got on the plane on a Friday afternoon to experience a Convention for one of his main passions: Minecraft a game built by Mojang. The convention center in Anaheim was home to 12,000+ people that weekend all with one similar passion: Minecraft. My assumption going into the weekend was that it would be very similar to Comic Con and other events of hero worship for the gaming alternative community. What I discovered by the end of the weekend was something very different.img_4512img_4508

In the fall of 2015 on a Saturday morning at Murray Elementary School, we offered a M&M Maker Day and Minecraft was one of the topics parents and their children could participate in together in our computer lab. During this time, I had many parents ask me a very similar question, “Should I allow my child to spend countless hours on YouTube watching Minecraft videos?” Having a son who has catalogued thousands of hours watching Minecraft YouTubers and building in the game, my response was yes. That inclination to answer yes in 2015 was even more cemented this past September when I experienced MINECON  with my son.

During panel sessions, in hallways, and at the EXPO, I saw many examples of our students work sitting alongside the work of YouTube gamers with enormous followings of fans. Our students watch Minecraft videos on YouTube on devices while simultaneously playing the game on a computer in a server with friends (some of which they know) many of which they have a shared love of the game. Our students are crafting far better worlds then many of these YouTube superstars. That makes this very different than a Comic Con convention. At Comic Con and similiar events, our students will dress in costumes, get autographs, see examples of their heroes, and dream of superpowers. At MINECON, there is no difference between the attendee and the presenter whatsoever.  img_4495There is a shared understanding and it was clearly stated often that are Young Minecrafters are as good or better than the gamers they worship on YouTube.

Here’s our great opportunity today in classrooms all over the country: understand that our students are creators when they are not with us in the classroom. They utilize online resources like YouTube in ways that we never could have had access to when we were their age in any other media format. They have a level of understanding of what is possible that far exceeds what they know to be as limitations. In many classrooms all over the country, video creation, collaboration, and design are still fairly new concepts to teachers. Yet our students are cataloging thousands of hours of YouTube video watching gamers design, edit, & modify Minecraft worlds for their consumption.  With today’s technology in most classrooms around the country using Chromebooks and iPads, we have a great opportunity to allow our students to create in with tools like Minecraft or a Google doc or any other platform where they can design, fail, collaborate with others, and show you their awesome skills.

You do not have to attend MINECON, or even play Minecraft to understand what is happening with our students today. Ask them: Why do they spend so much time on YouTube watching Minecraft? Let them write an essay about it. Let them do a presentation about it. Let them demonstrate it to you as an instructional outcome. Meet them where they are and understand their potential is limitless.


Sweat the Small Stuff

My school district open it’s doors to students on August 15, 2016. It was my 13th year in a leadership role overseeing opening of school as a technology leader. Anxious parents, new students, excited teachers, and leaders throughout the district work together to ensure it was a good first day. And in all the years I have opened schools from a district office perspective, this year was by far the best.  The network was ready as were the classrooms due to the collaborative effort of two departments dancing all summer long.  The Maintenance Department and Dublin Unified had the best summer in the history under their Director Mike Benzien. The Technology Services Department also had the best summer and much of that can be attributed to the staff themselves.Capture2

Our calendar changed in the winter and we were notified we would have one less week to prepare for 2016-2017 school year during summer. Mike and I began to meet in early February and map out how we could achieve the goals of opening school as well as adding six brand new classroom buildings to one of our middle schools.  We also moved all of our professional development to the Nielson Ed Center as a result of these early meetings. We spent the spring preparing that site with 3 to 4 new rooms that could accommodate up to 200 teachers for their professional development.  It has become one of the projects that Mike and I are most proud of as leaders of the district. Capture7

When I notified my department of the news that we would have one week less during summer you could imagine they were quite distressed envisioning the task at hand. We knew we needed a new approach to the work and I went to them directly for the solution.  I picked three team members all with a unique skill sets to plan how to approach the summer work as a team and achieve more tasks in less time.
The trio met a couple of hours and came up with a wonderful approach to the summer model. Each department member would partner with another in a very specialized areas as follows:

Deep cleaning team
Re-connection team
Imaging team
Student inventory team
Network team
Classroom move steam
New classrooms (x32) setup
Inventory team
Project team

They worked with each member of the 11 person department to determine who wanted which team. And with cherry picked student workers we began a journey as a new department working with a focus on projects and everybody in a leadership role.


On a daily basis we had to pivot and shift based on the needs of the Maintenance Department. We also moved around a lot based on our own progress in our specialized teams. There were days that a site was not ready for imaging yet, so we shifted and moved to other sites or reassigned projects for the day to team leaders. There was a lot of fluidity on a daily basis and also required flexibility occasionally hour by hour.Capture1

Not only did the Maintenance Department finish one week early, but the six new classrooms were done.  Our department worked right up to the Sunday prior with key staff fine-tuning rooms to ensure the readiness for day one. The feedback we received during the first week of school was like nothing I have ever experienced in any year prior. All of the small stuff that we accomplished like removing antiquated technology, plugging holes, fixing wiring, cleaning runways, and little touches like remote controls attached with a bungee to every TV seem to be noticed by many of our teachers and staff.  Capture6


I know not every district has the ability to have the manpower we had this summer with student workers, but I am convinced that a team approach with all members of the team in leadership roles is the way to go to accomplish goals. This model will be the new way our department works as a group on a daily basis. As I tell them often, we are one team each with areas of specialization and we complement one another skills with an awareness of what our limitations are and what we bring to the table.