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:

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.


What I learned…new school year & change is coming…

I have written a variety of series breaking down the key learnings that I observed with teachers, coaches, and administrators. Today I am going to selfishly reflect on my own takeaways from the recent leadership summit that occurred at the Dublin Unified School District.  Our retreat occurred over a day and a half. It began early in the morning with a breakfast crafted to provide ample time for networking and check-ins with leaders that have been gone for the duration of summer. We were intentionally grouped at tables in non-job alikes. School site administrators sat amongst district administrators and department heads. There was a mixture of veteran and new leaders at every table. This approach set the tone for what we would experience over the course of the next and a half. Visiting with others in our district that we would generally not work with on a daily basis was a great opportunity to form and ignite relationships.

Our new superintendent, Dr. Leslie Boozer, began the day by telling her personal story. It was an opportunity for everyone in the room to learn about Leslie and her background in a very meaningful manner. There is a lot of buzz in leadership right now about telling our story and encouraging principals especially to begin social media accounts to begin combating negative information that is in our news media and often on social media in our district. The personal story she told was not scripted nor did it feel disingenuous. She modeled what I will assume she would like each of us to do (especially for new leaders) in Dublin Unified.

We rotated through concepts as a group and learned about elements of the district. A gallery walk with imagery/data graphs showing the history of Dublin Unified and our current academic and social/emotional climates in our schools.

I am fortunate that I work with all departments on a regular basis in my role. Many of our staff do not get a chance to sit in Educational Services meetings learning about academic and other elements of “the work”. I heard many administrators share how grateful they were for that exposure.

The afternoon was followed by an actual board game we played with new groups on the topic of change. The board game was a wonderful opportunity to play with some very challenging concepts:

How do you move change through an organization? How do you deal with naysayers? How do you capitalize on anyone with any social influence to help spread your vision?

Following the change board game, we were all invited to have an informal dinner together which allowed for more networking and debriefing from the day.

Our next day began with a dynamic presenter on the topic of cultural relevance. It is a topic that many of the administrators in the district were hungry for. As we debriefed this element of the day as a team, it became a fast highlight for many administrators. Now we know we have begun the conversation. More on this topic as that story unfolds.

The above was in a folder at every table for administrators. I want to emphasize no one ever was asked to pull out this new org chart, nor was any mention made that it was even in the packet. This very subtle way of introducing a very powerful new org chart to our organization was much appreciated. And the fact that Leslie put students at the top of this org chart tells me how important the work this year is going to be as we lay the framework with a new era of leadership in a high-performing district. I personally am very excited about what’s next on the horizon. We have an incredible group of leaders in Dublin Unified. I feel very grateful to be a member of this team.

Everything Student Centered

Over the course of the past two school years, Dublin High School has had experiences with internally prompted DOS attacks. What does this mean? I am very confident stating that we had students that were hacking by way of bots pulling our network down with a good old fashion saturation of packets. This is troublesome for many high schools across the country. In my past three districts, we had students hacking into systems to sell grade changes, cause disruption prior to exams, and hack for the bragging rights.

This topic is prime for a very real and robust digital citizenship model.  We had worked with various law enforcement agencies and had challenges in getting results due to a lack of precedent set for minors violating cyber security laws. In meetings with the high school, staff wanted to have a list of potential offenders and then remove their access to technology. My red flag- they would only add fuel to the fire. I proposed another approach which is as follows:

Ask the students involved in Leadership to begin a marketing and public relations campaign to stop bullying via hacking at the high school. Students created flyers and submitted their art for consideration. The video production department let students script, direct, and star in short videos on the topic with the soul message of “stop hacking”.

The campaign began in the late spring of 2016 and ran through the end of the school year. Posters created by the high school students are now on every classroom wall at the high school and at the district office. The first video has run a number of times at the high school during morning announcements.

The campaign being led by students for students is the most powerful way to instill change.  Teachers that were initially concerned about the idea have since shared they have found it to be very effective as a delivery for messaging.

And since the beginning of the hacking campaign, I am happy to say we have had no internally prompted hocks occur at the high school as a result.  It may not mean that they will stop altogether, but when it does begin, students will be empowered to address it with their peers.  And you and I both know the students know exactly who’s hacking the system.

For the past 14 years, I have been supporting teachers in delivering digital citizenship professionally with their peers and to their students in their classrooms. Moving into the 2016-2017 school year, my plan is to do a student centered delivery of digital citizenship at all secondary campuses in the district.  We have great teams of leadership students that want to make a difference on their campuses and we have Character Ed programs that will be great frameworks for the delivery of digital citizenship. I’m envisioning high school and middle school students visiting elementary schools and delivering the same type of digital citizenship concepts to the upper grade classrooms. is the district adopted platform for digital citizenship and Dublin has reframed the name from digital citizenship to digital tattoo.  The leadership students at the secondary level campuses will receive professional development on the topic and have conversations about the best way to deliver. Video, badging system, and collaboration opportunities are all on the table for consideration. My plan is to create space and time and allow the students to work out all the details. Everything student centered.

Making is a mindset, not a strategy.

The maker movement  which began in the Bay Area of California roughly 12 to 15 years ago has become a hot term in education as recent as the fall of 2015.

Some see it as the next potential silver bullet to transform an age old institution. Some see it as the flavor of the week by over enthusiastic teachers and administrators who are always looking for the next thing. The maker movement  is just that, it’s a movement.

The spirit of the maker movement is a revisiting of an age old concept. Makers, a.k.a. entrepreneurs and inventors are not new to our culture. Inventing brought our country and others to the Industrial Age. Inventing also brought the world to the Information Age.


We now call it making, hacking, crafting as common terms. In 2015, at the MakerFaire in the Bay Area, early entry on Friday began as an opportunity for schools to see and experience the maker movement . In 2016, the morning of that Friday, a workshop was held for administrators and teachers who want to begin makerspaces at their school sites.

And making in classrooms and schools is not a new concept. Teachers and school sites have been doing projects since the inception of education as a delivery for instructional goals.  There is a lot of excitement and a new push towards making in schools. I caution teachers and administrators to not fall into getting on board this popular concept. It is not a strategy that can be used in the classroom like silent sustained reading. It is really a mindset in the way that you approach your instructional practices and the culture at your school site promoting a spirit of inventing an entrepreneurship with students.

What this may look like for your classroom and your school culture depends a lot on your students. Are they excited about the idea of being makers? Do they understand the value and the importance of risk-taking and failure? Are they encouraged to own their educational roadmap and take risks?

In my own district, over the course of the last year and a half, we have begun to have explorations around the maker movementCapture1.PNG

We are creating spaces and opportunities in libraries and on campuses where students can explore and demonstrate their learning in differentiated ways. We have no answers and have many questions. We are encouraging our students to bring their maker practices from home to school. That bridge between what many students are doing at home for the love of hacking and exploring and the required schoolwork will create a stronger community overall.

In my own technology department, we have attended the Friday MakerFaire  event as a department PD so my staff can support teachers and students that want to hack their education. I will also say that naturally, IT departments often operate in the spirit of the maker movement. On a daily basis, we hack solutions that will fulfill the needs of our students and staff. It’s a natural fit for school based technology departments to be hackers. If you are thinking about a makerspaces for your classroom or school, do it.  There is everything to be gained in instilling an inventing/hacking mindset in curious minds. And, they are doing it at home already-bridge it.

Follow our progress at #celebratedublin and @tr_bo.

The power of partnerships

In 2003, with a toddler and a long career in the private sector, I chose to circle back to where I began in public education. I re-entered as a district administrator in Pittsburg Unified. I stayed in that position for nine years and had a great opportunity to collaborate on projects with other district leaders in other departments. In Pittsburgh, collaboration across departments was expected as an element of a functional professional learning community. We were encouraged to meet the needs of all students in our specialized areas. During my time there, partnering with other departments was obvious.
In the private sector, different departments are expected also to work towards a common goal. There is very little leeway given to departments that are isolated in nature and non-collaborative as a an approach to the work.

I have been in three districts since re-establishing my commitment to public education. At each district I have seen great examples of district level partnerships across departments who have members committed to our only goal: educating students. I have also seen departments that do not believe there is anything to be gained in partnerships. How many have you heard this comment, “that’s not my department. “. Those four simple words can cause ongoing ripples in the system that directly impact student learning.

In my current district, I am very lucky to have a partnership with the Director of Maintenance and Operations, Mike Benzien. He is an absolute pro and on a daily basis over extends his reach in an effort to ensure all students have a quality educational experience.  Because of his attitude towards his work, he and I very quickly established a partnership that has served us and the district well. We are entering our second summer together and our approach is very simple tech follows maintenance.  When I meet with my department on the topic of summer planning I reiterate the statement often. Tech follows maintenance. This approach is as follows: Tech needs to prep the room, maintenance cleans the room, Tech put the room back together. Over and over and over across 11 campuses this is the mantra.

This spring break, Technology and Maintenance embarked upon a very aggressive schedule. Both departments worked extremely hard towards the same goal: preparing spaces for learning. And following the mantra mentioned above, Tech followed Maintenance.

When we begin our very short summer with our very long list of projects we will not be alone as a department but rather a partner with Maintenance. The power of partnerships are as critical as the power of relationships. Do you have a district department that you are not working well with? Have you ever approached department leadership and asked them if they would like to partner on a project?

Please feel free to add your comments on this topic. It is not one that has been given much thought or attention but I believe it’s a real gem worth considering.