Stay Positive!

For many school districts in the Bay Area we are roughly 2 months into the school year. The honeymoon for our students has ended. We figured out our routines and strategies from the moment the day begins until the door closes. If were highly effective teachers, we are protecting our students from an extremely hostile environment. Daily on social media, in the news, and too often now in common interactions we are struggling with a wave of negativity that is rolling across the country. I don’t have a magic bullet. I don’t have any answers. But here’s what I have that I exercise on a daily basis: choice.

I am choosing every day how my day will go. Commuting for 30 minutes with my son down the 680 Corredor, we listen to mindful meditation to set the right intention energetically for both of us to begin the day. While he navigates extremely busy hallways in a middle school packed with students, I navigate a district dealing with extreme growth and challenges at every corner. I choose to be positive. It may not move a mountain. It may not make any difference for anyone around me. But it makes me personally feel better. It is simple-it is easy and I believe it is the right path. I encourage all of us to get involved in any way that we can to support one another during these difficult times. I think a lot about teachers all over the country that are struggling with very difficult conversations with their students and trying to find solace in the chaos. I’m thinking about you. I hope you can remain positive.

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AHOD Summer 2017

This past week marks the conclusion of my third summer in Dublin Unified School District as the Chief Technology Officer. There were many facets to the summer’s work that were no different from prior summers. Staff adjusted their schedules and tackled school-based tasks in teams. Here was my approach that was unique this summer that I had not done in the prior two years.

In the spring of 2017, I carved out time in my schedule and walked elementary school classrooms in the district across six campuses. I talked with teachers and tested hardware in every room. It gave me an opportunity to gather some much-needed qualitative data regarding hardware and the teachers over all feelings about the technology in their rooms. Teachers that had laptops in disarray were given a form to complete filling a Google sheet and they coordinated time to drop off their laptop prior to leaving for the summer. In addition, teachers that did not need specific hardware in their classroom (that had been the district standard hardware) had an opportunity to request removal.IMG_8081

In testing hardware in every room in front of teachers and students, I was able to convey the importance of targeted summer work. It also allowed teachers input into priorities in their rooms while gone.

I gathered notes and dropped into a project spreadsheet that would be utilized for the summer work on a site-based level with order of importance applied prior to the beginning of summer. In addition to meeting the needs of hardware in classrooms across all K-12 schools, The department also had a number of initiatives that we took on as a whole team.IMG_8089

My philosophy in my department with all staff is regardless of your job title there will be times during the year that everyone is expected to pitch in. We have dubbed projects: all hands on deck (AHOD). These are really team building and training opportunities that I see as invaluable for operations. Some leaders might suggest it’s not the best use of time to have all members of a department working on a task. I have found it to be quite the opposite. While we are doing something as simple as assembling teacher podiums with hardware, the conversations between the staff members often involve real-time professional development that I could not create on a schedule. Digging deeper on any given technical concept with Network Technicians in the room alongside Computer Technicians has meant real-time growth for all in the department. The teambuilding element of the work goes without saying. We had a minimum of three all hands on deck opportunities (AHOD) through the summer and I still believe it was some of the best work we did.

As the leader of the department, my technical skills improved greatly through the summer as I partnered with Computer Technicians in the field and allowed them to be the boss for the day. I believe these opportunities are also critical to empower staff and give them a chance to lead the department through an exercise or a task. With much joking and fun, all of them have been able to rise to the occasion and be leaders.

During this particular summer, in addition to all the tasks that resulted from my spring walkthroughs of every elementary classroom, the team also built 25 new classrooms across three campuses.

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The hard work and effort of the whole group to ensure that we were ready for the beginning of school has led to the smoothest first week of school that I have had in my career Educational Technology yet.IMG_8044

As we move through the 2017–2018 school year, I will take more opportunities for the AHOD concept to play out to ensure staff has opportunities to learn together, grow together, work towards common goals, and learn more in a hands-on environment than they would in any coordinated professional development that I may offer.

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.
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Empowering staff
Encouraging risk
Providing opportunities for play
Celebrating innovation
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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.