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.

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.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you

id-10078218I’ve been reading articles on low teacher morale in regards to Common Core, and if I were to internalize all the negative feedback, feelings, and opinions on this topic, I’d be really discouraged. Teachers across many states have already decided Common Core isn’t working. I don’t know how we can decide something doesn’t work when it hasn’t been fully implemented. I’m puzzled by the idea that national standards that help us make sure we are meeting the needs of our students are problematic. How can ensuring our students are college and career ready by following a technology-driven pedagogy be ineffective? I believe the bigger issue is a resistance to change. If that is truly the case, then the bigger question becomes how do we instill a spirit of change and flexibility in an industry (education) that is as old as our nation?

I read that some believe that the new exams (PAARC or SBAC) are “too hard.” Really? If we lower our expectations of students, will that become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

People say that we need to change education to better meet the needs of our students. Here’s my question to you: How can we improve our schools if every change we introduce is doomed to failure at the onset?

My answer to this question? I stay the course. Call me an optimist. Call me disconnected. I think change is good. It forces us to rethink our assumptions. It encourages us to take risks. So what if it doesn’t work and all of the naysayers are right? Then we teach our kids another important lesson-how to try, perhaps fail, and learn from it.

(quote attributed to Fred Devito/Image courtesy of mrpuen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Diversifying the technology field

Coding is a hot topic on Twitter, LinkedIn, and just about everywhere in the media. But the tech industry currently is not well known for being a center of diversity in race or gender. Article after article, interviews, and blog posts are all discussing this issue: how do we change the current corporate culture in technology to more accurately represent our diverse nation? And especially, how do we empower our girls to help them onto a pathway to tech careers?

As a female who has been in the technology industry for approximately 17 years, I don’t have any answers. I do have all of the same questions as everybody else. How do we get girls involved in any industry that has been dominated by men? How do we reach girls in low-income neighborhoods and kids of color to even consider technology as a course?

So, rather offer my thoughts as to how we can do it, I want to pose a question. What do you think is a way to reach at-risk, low-income students of color, especially girls, to consider careers in technology?