Offline: adventures in real time

As a technology leader over the course of the last 17+ years, I rarely if ever have opted to totally disconnect for more than a day. Two years ago over a long weekend, we took the family to Sebastopol California and discovered we were out of range of cell for two days and to our surprise we absolutely loved the experience. With my young pre teen + teen, we play board games, watched good all fashion DVDs together, read, ate and shared space.

I found in the next year plus I longed for that type of experience again for myself and my now very busy teens. I took an opportunity to go five days in Joshua tree National Park totally unplugged offline. It was an amazing trip. The family did bouldering, photography, played card games, read books, played boardgames, and just spent time together sharing space. The value of disconnecting was huge as we found ourselves in great weather outside enjoying the day together.

It is amazing how fast our culture has changed with the infusion of all elements of our lives being managed and moderated by some form of technology. I believe in today’s culture with young people especially, the value of teaching them to put down devices and go off-line be at for a long weekend or even the ability to go for a full week in the woods, in nature, or out of cell phone range is in valuable for recharging and resetting the body.

I am thankful for the ability to have done that trip last week and encourage all of you to find moments where you too can experience the same type of option off-line for even a weekend.

Disclaimer: I did use my iPhone X to shoot pics.

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What I learned from Fall CUE

Start here: Crazy Fun Pics/Vid’s

For those of us who attend conferences one, two, or many times throughout the year, the real Takeaway is often the relationships created and the opportunity to breathe just a little bit away from the daily grind.

I am not a conference junkie by any stretch. For my own professional growth, I cherry pick maybe three conferences a year that I think are worth investing in. Here is my shameless plug for FALL CUE–this is one of them. Now it begs the question why?

The real take away that you cannot quantify on your expense report is the energy you get by playing sharing and taking risks with other educational leaders teachers and support staff that have a similar mindset to yours.

I do not like conference formats where you sit for an hour and listen to people talk about something or nothing and then get up go to the next room sit and listen for an hour.

I prefer conferences that allow you to create some product even if that product is a photo album because you did a gallery walk learning how to use tools on your phone. Much like our students, I believe I now as an educator can access anything I need online in real time if I need to learn or know something. The real Takeaway is when I can create content with peers and learn to take risks in an environment that promotes growth.

Just like our students — we are no longer content consumers — we also need to be stretched to be content curators and content creators.

Modeling in our own professional growth what we want to see our students doing in our classrooms is critical to make the connection.

I predict that conference attendance is going to begin to decrease as we discover the teachers administrators and support staff no longer have a need to attend a conference where they sit and get information dumps one hour at a time.

Attend conferences or create opportunities in your location that really feed your soul and allow you to explore and innovate. Be awesome in everything you do.

That’s a wrap

Whew! Another summer of amazing moments watching dedicated classified staff prepare schools for teachers and students in anticipation of the next school year. In my new district, Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District which consists of two high performing high schools I have often again found myself amazed by the will and skill of classified staff.

Beginning my position as the Director of Instructional Technology, I joined on the last day of school. That was the first time in my tenure as a district leader that I began while so many of our students and some of our teachers/staff were finishing a long educational journey. For many of them, they were winding down and grieving the loss of a chapter. For myself, I was gearing up for a new chapter in my own professional journey.

Those of you that know me, know that I spent that time thinking about the projects that were coming down the pipe that would need a full a team effort to achieve. And so it began, my secret sauce in Leadership is as follows:

Meet the team

Quickly assess skills

Develop and communicate game plan

Jump into the deep end of the pool and have fun

This very small team in Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District were fully welcoming and had no trouble transitioning to a new style of work very quickly and effectively. We began by tackling projects as a whole team, and then smaller teams of 2 to 3 people pending on the need, the day, the location, and the timeframe.

Throughout the weeks to follow, as some staff took the month of July off, other staff stayed on and in a much smaller group. We continued the daily grind with many moving parts and a lot of flexibility required by all. Our use Voxer for daily “on the fly” “in the moment” “real time” communication helps dramatically. Voxer keeps all the team members abridged of any changes. It’s a great pathway to ask questions in the middle of a job. We have our fair share of funny gifs, decompressing moments with humor, and Real life challenges shared in the department chat. Images, video, and texts allow everybody to be heard and to understand directions in a variety of learning styles.

My biggest discovery through the summer was that regardless of what district I am in, the dedication of the classified staff always exceed my own expectations. They may not be the center stars but they have as much heart and as much investment in students exceeding as teachers and administrators.

Our summer project task list, classroom punch list, and daily support for summer school literally finished at roughly 3 PM on the Friday afternoon before all the teachers were due back. Thank you to the classified staff in Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District in the technology department- the maintenance department- the business department- the HR department- the superintendents office and school offices.

For many of us, beyond ongoing daily support, after hours support, and weekend needs that we will stretch our capacity to ensure a good experience for our students and teachers: we also gave it 100% all summer long.

So for now, on a Sunday before the Monday of our first professional staff development day we are tired yet ready to begin the school year with the hope that are teachers and students feel like they are fully supported. That’s a wrap……

Attended @EBMakerFaire 2017

I have been attending the East Bay Mini MakerFaire at the Park Day School in Oakland California for the last 4-5 years. This was the first year I experienced the event flying solo. It is very different to attend an event like this with my kids versus by myself. And walking around, I found myself more often than not struck by the enthusiasm and excitement levels of the kids then I was by the Makers themselves.

As a Chief Technology Officer in a medium size school district in the Bay Area I have an opportunity every day to infuse the Maker movement spirit into classrooms in small ways. I crowdsource a lot of information and share it out with the hope that teachers administrators and students will find nuggets among the resources.

Even though we are a mere 45 minutes from where the Maker movement sprouted as a magazine and then blossomed into an annual conference, there are still so many parents and educators in the area who have never heard of it. I have taken it as an opportunity to share my love and commitment to the Maker movement.

After 17+ years as an educator, I absolutely know there is no silver bullet. There are many approaches to achieving the learning objectives teachers, schools, and districts have with their students. The shift though, is a societal shift & classrooms need to modernize in order to remain relevant. No longer can we ignore technology, the impact of students that are creating content in their spare time, and curating content around passion projects. What historically had been a hobby or after school activity, must become integrated in the school day. Parents now have choice around where their children attend school and that also must be a consideration for our classrooms today, not tomorrow.

The spirit of the Maker movement does not mean high technology in classrooms. The spirit of the maker movement is instilling a sense of curiosity and risk in everything people do as part of the Maker movement. One of the most compelling examples I heard today was a Maker telling a young student to not worry about what it would look like at the end, but rather focus on the tactile and texture of the materials exploring what could be built. In classrooms, in small ways every day, teachers can do just that. To make the movement truly a cultural shift in schools, we must integrate it beyond pockets of excellence.

When I began teaching Maker projects with classroom teachers a number of years ago, my focus was to give them lesson plans and tools that they could deliver immediately with a level of comfort and that same sense of curiosity and exploration. In the past year, my shift has moved more towards administrators and parents in an effort to educate them about the value of the spirit of the maker movement in classrooms. I am hopeful that this new angle will instill the same sense of creativity and curiosity in them that I have seen bubble up in many teachers.  Wish me luck……..

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.

Interested in obtaining lesson plans for MinecraftEDU from other teachers?

This resource will help you if you are ready for Minecraft EDU in your school or calssroom and lack the lesson plans. An excerpt from the Minexrafct Teachers group:
*Date/Time:* Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 9:00 PM ET / 6:00 PM PT

*Lesson Title:* Teaching Programming with Minecraft and ComputerCraftEdu
*Presenter:* Michael Harvey, Falmouth Elementary School

*Description: *This session showcases a Minecraft world that has been used
to teach programming and computer science concepts to elementary and middle
school students. Viewers and participants will get a sneak preview of the
highly anticipated ComputerCraftEdu mod, which adds programmable robots
(called turtles) and an icon-based programming environment that is
student-friendly and geared towards a transition to traditional text coding.

The world features hours of problem-solving activities for whole classes or
individual learners. This event will allow interested teachers to go
through the world as students, allowing them to see firsthand what the
lessons feel like. There will also be an opportunity for participants to
“fly” through the world, previewing additional lessons, discussing context
or classroom extensions.

*Participation Information:*
*In-Game Participation*

*Minecraft Version:* MinecraftEdu 1.6.4 build 14
*Mods Required:*
· ComputerCraft+ComputerCraftEdu1.63pr2
· CustomNPCs_1.6.2-1.6.4
*MinecraftEdu Server Address:* mine.temple.edu
*Mumble Address: *shoyu.craftx.biz