The Most Powerful Lesson From #MIEExpert15 US Forum at #ISTE2015

Pay It Forward

One of my items still sitting on my education bucket list is to attend an ISTE conference. I was so close this year being able to fly out to Philadelphia  for a few days before the conference kicked off. To make a long story short I thought I had things lined up to be at ISTE, but due to some scheduling conflicts it just did not pan out. However, I had an amazing two days being with my fellow Microsoft Innovative Experts and learning a valuable lesson.

This lesson that I learned goes beyond any education app, technology tool, curriculum tip, software, hardware, lesson planning, pedagogy, or anything else that comes around the field of education. What I learned from some of the most wonderful, powerful, game changing people and educators while at the US Forum is something that has really hit me deep inside my own heart and mind.

This is it! Seriously.

Paying it forward is nothing new. This is not a new paradigm shift in education. However, many times I feel like when people share, pay it forward, help you out, then you feel like you must pay them back somehow. Whether that is intentional or not I often feel like people help with the mindset that they will need something from you later down the line.

This was not the case. In my short 40 hours in Philadelphia this idea of sharing, connecting, and helping happened to me several times. It happened and I was moved. I was moved on an emotional level. I was moved on an educational level. I was moved in spirit.

The reason these were so powerful was that it is just who these people are. They don’t even realize the greatness they were spreading. They don’t realize the impact they had on me. They don’t realize it because it is just who they are as people. That is what makes it all so powerful.

I would like to give a public thank you to these people. I know that these people would never take credit. They would never ask for recognition. They probably don’t even realize what impact they had on me.

I have made it a personal goal to be one of these people. I want to be someone that helps where it just happens without thought. I would like to think that I do help others, but I want to up my game a bit. I want to continue to pay it forward and have been really thinking hard on beginning steps. Like anything you have to be deliberate to build habit. The goal is to just make it a habit.

In no order here are the people who I want to say thank you…

Stacey Ryan – I met Stacey at the E2 Conference a few months back. She has an energy that just permeates a room. Every single time I talk to her she is all smiles. Stacey helps people like me to connect with others. I am not always the best in a room full of people just starting up conversation. What a person like Stacey does is introduces people like me to others. She is a connector. She knows how to bring people together. She allowed me the chance to talk with some amazing educators and share some ideas. Because of her I developed new connections and some possibilities for future projects. Not only that but we have been developing some projects together where math will be included which unfortunately does not happen as often as it should. Besides her ability to help others connect she has a mind for projects in the classroom that are so good. I am really pumped up to be working with her on some projects this year.

Becky Keene – I met Becky also at E2. Becky I don’t know her as much, but I am amazed at what she gets accomplished. She is a game changer in education to say the least. The reason I want to thank her is due to the fact that her generosity goes above and beyond most people. A few months back she was developing a makerspace workshop. I had contacted her asking some questions and not only did she answer, but she provided me literally everything she had created. There was a ton of work put into her workshop for teachers. I was moved by her kindness. The same thing again while at ISTE. I had to fly home but I saw a session with Minecraft and tweeted about it and there she was again sharing all the resources and helping me stay connected while not being there physically. As I thanked her she thought nothing of what she was doing and this is what makes her so amazing. It was genuine and she was just doing her part.

Todd Beard – I am always pumped to connect with Todd. He is his own beast and I mean that with the greatest respect and admiration. I also met Todd at E2. The best thing about Todd is that he shares. Todd has done so many cool things and he openly lets you know how to do it all. Not only that but we have had some really great conversations while staying up late after a long day of learning and talking. We had a great chat discussing website design. At 1 am we are scouring websites and discussing how to do this, how to do that, why we should clean this up, etc. I consider him a friend and despite only connecting in person twice we just pick up where we left off. I have learned a great deal about robotics, engineering, being an ambassador for kids and education, and once again the trait of just sharing.

Jennifer Mitchell – Another kick butt educator who is spreading the powerful ways of teaching to all parts of the world. She just makes it happen. One minute I am talking with her and the next minute she is helping me connect with other educators. She is one of those people where you don’t always realize what she has done until she has moved on to the next great cause on her list. I love talking with her and just finding out what she is up to. I thank her for the connections she helped me develop while in Philly. More respect for her than she realizes!

Robyn Hrivnatz – Our fearless US MIE leader. Robyn has a way to make you feel right at home. She is never rattled. No matter how many times she is bombarded by requests she just rolls with the punches. She too is a giver always helping me when I have questions, ideas, and just regular inquiry. Working to keep the calmness amidst the hustle and bustle is something that I want to continue to work on. I know that she probably does not always feel that way inside, but her presence puts people at ease and she just makes things happen.

Sandi Adams – Sandi is another rockstar that I met through MIE and E2. I reached out to her about something she has developed. It was actually something I have been toying around with myself and so I asked her about it. We connected and she just poured it on me letting me know how it all worked out for her. The beauty of this was it gave me a perspective about how to go about my idea and develop it to make it work for my school. Because of our conversation I have moved my idea from being a thought into action. Meetings have been setup and I am hard at work bringing the idea to life. Her passion and excitement motivated me to find a way to get the idea out of hibernation mode. Without our chat my idea would still be sitting in my head. Sandi has this energy about her that just pumps you up for making great things happen in education.

Ginger Lewman – One of my education heroes. I did not meet her at MIE/E2, but I have to mention her. I met Ginger about 4-5 years ago at a NAGC conference. One small conversation lead to a multi-hour chat that has lead to a great friendship. She is one of the most honest and real educators I know. She is the one I go to when I need real talk. She gives it to me straight. We don’t always agree but because we have a deep respect for one another it is never personal. This is a rare trait and rare condition in education. Many are afraid to have real conversations due to possibly hurting the feelings of others. Not only this, but she has helped me connect with educators that I did not even know existed. She brings people together and that is once again a very powerful trait. I have learned more from her than anyone else in education and that is a strong statement!

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Obviously, this is a short list. So many more have helped me along the way and will continue to help. These people all had a positive impact on me in some powerful way in just the short amount of time we had together. This is what education is about. It is about sharing. It is about relationships and helping one another be better by just being good people. A blog post is not enough to say thank you, but it is a start to remind me to continue to help others and spread the message of paying it forward. Thank you.

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Microsoft Surface 3 Episode 9: OneNote Clipper

Best thing since sliced bread and coffee and chocolate and well....just check it out!

Here is another quick easy tip when using Surface Pro 3 and more importantly the amazing tool of OneNote. As I continue to morph my whole world over to OneNote there are more and more efficient possibilities to making this tool even better.

This tool is nothing new, but sure is worth the time to explore if you are new to OneNote and the Surface family. One of my favorite tech tools of all time. And that is a bold statement my friends!

 

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Microsoft Surface 3 Episode 8: Print Articles From Web To OneNote

Here is another quick easy tip when using Surface Pro 3 and more importantly the amazing tool of OneNote.

There are times when you are reading an article, blog, or website online and you want to make notes, highlight, and store the information. I have been a huge user of Evernote, Diigo, Google Docs, and more. However, nothing has been as easy to use as OneNote nor have I found a tool that keeps me organized.

This video will showcase one way in which you can quickly add a piece from the Internet to OneNote so you can write, highlight, add audio, as well as many more options.

This is not perfect. You can see in the video I have another option called OneNote Clipper which I will share in the next episode. One drawback to printing is that the links do not work so that is one bummer, but there are times when that is not important to me and perhaps I want to just focus on the article and not wanting the distractions of clicking here and here and here.

One more easy tip that I have learned in which I share with you. Enjoy!

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Microsoft Surface 3 Episode 7: Moving Files To OneDrive

Here is another simple and easy tip to implement when using your Surface Pro 3 or Surface 3. Many of you might already know how to do this, but this is something that I just learned when I reached the point of having no more memory on my Surface 3.

I hope you find the tip helpful and this is just one more step in my learning journey using the amazing products, software, and cloud storage of Microsoft.

In case you were wondering, I made this video using Microsoft Office Mix. You can check it out in the gallery. After making the video, I simply made a video file and uploaded to YouTube. Perhaps this will be my next video on how to do this.Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 8.27.02 AM

https://mix.office.com/watch/7smh4wf4ikn9

You can check all previous tips and posts related to Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 here.

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Literacy Across the World

Once again, the power of Skype has come through in our classrooms allowing students to gain a stronger connection with people literally on the other side of the world.

Sue Owen is another one of our outstanding educators who has really pushed the envelope with project based learning. Sue is one of our sixth grade language arts teachers who was able to connect her students with students from Indonesia. This was possible by her staying in contact with one of her former student teachers who is now located in Indonesia.

As Sue shared as we talked about the project and how it came to be she said,

In reconnecting with my student teacher of last year, Cady Windish, who is now a teacher with the Peace Corps in Indonesia, I learned that her school is in desperate need of free reading books for the students. When I plan my Language Arts projects, I always like to incorporate service into the plan so my students not only make a connection with the world, they make the world a better place. The connection between my students and those in Indonesia seemed like a perfect fit! In sixth grade this year, I’ve really focused on students using strategies to understand the elements of literature, so this was incorporated into the project as well. I invited Rachael Dierckx(another language arts teacher in our building who is amazing) to join me with this project, and she readily agreed.

Our students each brought a gently used or newly purchased book from home and read it during Language Arts. They then created a plot diagram, so I could make sure they understood the elements of literature in the novel. Once they were good to go, they summarized the novel, and then created a storyboard, which would be used later in Digital Literacy with Connie Jeschke (yet again, another amazing educator). Connie had the students use their storyboards and WeVideo to create books trailers, which will be sent to Indonesia as well to entice the students to read our books.

At this time one of my guided reading groups was reading The Limit, which is all about staying within your budget; so they investigated the cost of shipping our 100 pounds of books to Indonesia and reported that it would cost $1200! As a class, we brainstormed ideas to raise the money and decided on a garage sale at BMS. Students solicited donations, and then we held the sale May 15 and 16. Students did the marketing for the sale by making flyers using Microsoft Publisher and worked both days to raise $1347.50!

Last night 35 students returned to school at 7 p.m. to Skype with the Indonesian students and let them know the books are coming. The thing that made the biggest impression on my students was when we asked an Indonesian girl if she could have anything in the world what would it be. Her answer was books.

Hopefully you see that using Skype was the perfect way to solidify all the hard work the students put into their class work and service work. Skype allowed them to see the students and share the good news. Once again, we used Skype in an innovative way to showcase to students that the world really is a global village where we can all connect. It was not used to just talk, but it allowed the students to strengthen their connection with people. It allowed students to see who they were going to be able to impact.

My favorite highlight of the night was when the students from Indonesia sang us a song. It started with a few, then all of them were singing and the next thing you know our students were clapping. It was a powerful moment where people were able to connect from opposite sides of the world.

After the Skype call we found out the song was called “Sakitnya tuh disini” by Cita Citata. It is a very popular song in their country and is a type of music called dangdut.

I am so proud of the students and the teachers who worked to make this happen. Students were given a chance to not only learn, but to develop an understanding of what it means to be human and to provide service to others. The learning was authentic. Students volunteered their time and weekend to running the garage sale. Students came back to school to Skype. Students were doing so many amazing things that they often don’t get credit for and none of this would have happened without the educators involved.

Below is a Sway. Scroll down through it all. It contains everything from the project including pictures, project plans, Skype recording, and book trailers. If you have not used Sway you need to give a try. It is one of my favorite presentation tools out on the market right now and it is free!

If it is not working, then here is a link to view it all

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What makes a person more than a number? Skype With Holocaust Survivor Using SP3

A few weeks ago we had an amazing opportunity to bring learning to the real world context. Our 7th grade students were able to experience a chance of a lifetime by speaking with a Holocaust survivor. Many of us have been taught this time period, have studied the unfortunate events, and many of us still teach this time period. For one hour we were able to speak with someone who lived the events and was willing to share with us.

This event started with a project created by Jessica Blaum. She is a language arts teacher who, along with the seventh grade language arts and social studies team, launched a project called “Every Life Counts.” The driving question, “What makes a person more than a number?” asked students to look beyond the statistics of the Holocaust at how real lives were affected by those events. Students chose an individual affected by World War II and conducted research on that individual’s life, including reading personal accounts of Holocaust experiences, in order to create a memorial that would reflect that person’s individual experience. Many students chose to research Holocaust survivors, and one student stumbled upon a survivor, Magda Herzberger, who had posted her contact information on her website. The student sent. Ms. Herzberger an email with some questions for research. Ms. Herzberger was not only kind enough to Skype with the student to answer her questions; she also freely offered her time to speak about her experiences in detail with our entire seventh grade over Skype.

Below is our first time Skyping with Ms. Herzberger. This was a chance for the student who reached out to her to connect for a bit to develop her project. We then scheduled another Skype session with Ms. Herzberger for everyone to hear her story.

When we were ready to Skype with Ms. Herzberger we had to use our cafeteria to house all 300+ students. Now, there is risk in this type of activity because that many middle school students squeezed into one location at the end of the year is just asking for trouble. However, despite some technological glitches the students were silent and well behaved. Despite some accent and lag in wifi we were able to hear her message and she was able to grab their attention.

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It is at this point in which I have to state my love for the Surface Pro 3. Had it not been for the SP3 this would never have happened. Our school is not equipped with the technology to Skype in our cafeteria. I was able to use the SP3 and the wifi dongle to make this happen. I plugged the HDMI cable into the project, connected my SP3 to the projector and we made it work. Thank you Microsoft for creating a product that allowed students to capture a story before it is lost forever. Due to our wifi having issues our video did freeze so I will not be sharing the video as it is not worth it to view, but the video above with will give you some insight. However, we do not have all the powerful details of her journey, but she has written many books in which you can learn about it all.

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After this session and being able to process what she shared Ms. Blaum connected the dots with the students. SThere were some big takeaways from the Skype session. When students were reminded that having this experience is very unique in that in about 10 more years there will no longer be any more survivors that really made them think. They had reactions like, “I never even thought of that.”

Additional reactions were the difficulty in understanding her as she has a heavy accent. This is a great learning opportunity, but does make the listener really focus and key in on words. The students that found that frustrating were also the same ones who realized it was very cool to listen to someone who was actually there and experienced these events.

Another idea that was brought up that I think is vital for student awareness is the connections they made with media. Students seemed to take away what she said about how no book or movie made about the Holocaust accurately captures how horrible it truly was.

In closing this was a powerful moment brought to the lives of students because of technology. Technology is never the answer, but when we have powerful learning moments that can be bridged with the use of technology, then we have something valuable. Without internet and Skype students would not have been able to make this happen. We thank Ms. Herzberger for sharing her story and for everyone who was flexible to allow this event to take place.

You can learn more about Magda on her website: http://www.magdaherzberger.com/index.html

I encourage you to read her book, Survival, which is her atu

 

 

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Microsoft Surface Episode 6: 60 Second Tip – Highlighting in Kindle

Here is a quick tip I learned as I continue to use my Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 more and more in my life. I thought I would create short little easy tips that might help others who are getting used to the Surface.

This is not a brain buster by any means, but once I figured this out it sure did make life a lot easier.

This tip is about how I enjoy highlighting in Kindle, but I am sure it works with other applications as well!

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Microsoft Surface Episode 5: 60 Second Tip – Keyboard Placement

Here is a quick tip I learned as I continue to use my Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 more and more in my life. I thought I would create short little easy tips that might help others who are getting used to the Surface.

This is not a brain buster by any means, but once I figured this out it sure did make life a lot easier.

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10 Ideas I Learned from Satya Nadella Fireside Chat

 

One of the most surprising and memorable moments of the E2 conference was having the opportunity to hear CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, speak to the group. I will be honest I did not know much about him except for reading an article on him in Wired magazine.

I was more than impressed with Satya. He was so down to earth and I felt like he really understood education and educators. When he was speaking it felt so natural to him to just be himself. Here is the CEO of such a successful company and he comes in wearing regular clothes and speaking to us not AT us or as if he was above us.

His message really connected to me on many levels like all of the speakers and people at E2, but it really hit home to see it come from the CEO. This was a powerful moment in which I really felt like Microsoft is placing education at the forefront.

So often we hear lip service about this or that. So often we place our faith in people and companies that proclaim they care about education. I honestly feel like Microsoft is not paying lip service. The whole conference as a whole was a testament to them believing in education. The fact that the CEO took time to speak with us live and in person, field questions from the crowd, stayed patient through the chaos of the selfie moment, and more proved to me that I was in the right place.

Reflecting on his talk I a couple things really stood out to me

1. Democratization of technology to the world. The idea that with technology there is no reason that more people cannot access the tools needed to enhance education. Being at the conference opened my eyes to the fact that I more than blessed with the tools at my disposal where I work and am humbled by the educators who do more with less. I have been motivated to push my boundaries and expectations of myself as an educator.

2. Educators empower kids to be the best that they can be!

All I want to say is please never forget this mindset. Educators can change lives in profound ways. Often times we don’t have the luxury to always see the impact. We must believe in our mission and do our best to help students reach their goals.

3. Lifelong learner. This idea permeated throughout the talk

“Don’t worry there will be one more” phrase from his father that when he did bad on a test to keep at it and keep working stood out to me. We will make mistakes. We will have moments where we could and should do better. We must learn from those moments so they don’t repeat time and time again.

4. Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck

As much as this concept has been talked about time and time again I was struck that he referenced this book further cemented the idea that the power of growth mindset is huge. It is something that we must keep developing in students to allow them to achieve more.

In case you have not read the book, here is a link, and you must buy and read it now! One of the best books I have read on understanding the importance of mindset. I have blogged about growth mindset many times as well.

5. Computer augment our work, but will not replace. There will be displacement, but how can we adapt and grow along with the technology?

We can take the conference as an example. 87 countries represented. We are still connected and sharing using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. We are able to share our learning via blogs and tweets. We can collaborate globally using Sway and other products. IF you are not growing with the opportunities given to you with technology, then we must work to help others see the value in the tools to make better versions of ourselves.

6. Technology can change what learning means to those who have learning issues.

Very powerful. Technology does leverage the playing field for learning. There are so many tools that can help bridge the gaps in learning. Equally as important, these same tools allow those with gifts to excel in new ways.

7. TV Whitespace for internet. Mindblown  by this idea and concept.

8. There is not an aspect of life or walk of life that is fundamentally changed by technology.

I love this idea! You don’t want to get into technology to create technology. You want to get involved in innovation to make life better! Such a powerful statement. The whole concept of looking at what impact you want to have on the world, get involved in the field, and then think about tech to make an impact. That is a huge mindset shift from what is often discussed when thinking technology and STEM.

9. Clarification Issue: OneNote does have translate feature

There is a question posed about the ability to translate in OneNote. It is possible and just wanted to post how to do so here.

10. Show courage in the face of opportunity.

Satya discusses showing courage each day educators starting with the opportunity to help students be their best.  Beyond the scope of the focus on educators I think the question is how do help students embrace the opportunities they have before them and take advantage? I see so many students not understanding how lucky they are to have the opportunities before them. This is my challenge to myself to help them find ways to see the potential all around them.

 

Overall, you can see I have a lot of ideas. I could write a few more, but these are the main ones. What ideas crossed your mind when listening to him talk? How will you take his words and make a positive contribution to society?

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Group Work Is Hard

Lessons Learned from #MSFTEduE2

How many times have we used or heard the following phrases

“We are doing group because it is something you are going to have to do in the real world.”

“When you get a job you won’t be able to pick who you work with.”

“This is a group project where you can pick your groups/pick some/pick none at all”

“You need to learn to work together.”

In schools around the world educators place students in group settings all the time. It is an expected norm of the classroom where we drop kids in groups to cover the 4C’s and to get ready for the so called “real world”(because the world they live in now is not real?)

However, one thing schools have forgotten to develop and focus on are the skills needed for group work to actually succeed. Group work is hard. It might be the toughest element in the school setting.

How many times do we organize students into groups and teams but we don’t take time to develop the culture, the elements needed to collaborate, the skills of honest talk, critical feedback, and building relationships in order for the group to work efficiently?

We don’t. We assume that these things have been taught previously. We assume they know how to work in groups. BUT, why is that every single time we have the same concerns from the students:

  • Student 1 is not doing anything
  • Student 2 is doing all the work
  • Student 3 is so quiet that they are intimidated to speak up against Student 3
  • Student 4 is the wild card that could be paired with Student 1,2,3 throwing the group to one side.

Now, I am guilty of this myself. I am not finger pointing at anyone. As an educator and parent I realize now more than ever before that I must go back to the basic building blocks of the skills needed to work with other people

Last week while attending one of the most surreal and powerful learning opportunities in my life I had to work in a group to develop a global education project focused on leadership, bravery, and courage(I am referring to the E2 event at Microsoft). My team like all 42 teams consisted of 6 members from 6 different countries. We had to face the fact of not knowing each other at all. We had to overcome language barriers, culture differences, and trying to understand one another on almost every single level let alone understand the project itself.

It was a massive undertaking. It was difficult. It was hard. It was one of the most personally challenging things I have done in my education career. And it was one of the most rewarding.

Throughout the project I was reminded again and again how difficult group work is for people. It reminded me that we as educators need to remind ourselves that when we move students into groups it is a very challenging thing we are asking if we want the group to operate as a cohesive and collaborative group.

I write this post as a calling to all educators to think about group work.

What are you doing to prepare students to understand how to work in groups?

What skills have you focused on in your class to allow group work to thrive or do you just focus on content?

What are the building blocks placed in the project to allow students to reflect, grow, and adapt along their journey?

On a slightly different note I reflected on my own practices as an educator and I think that many of these things don’t happen because we as educators need instruction. We need PD on how to collaborate. We are not the best. We meet all the time and do things in teams, but do we really know how to collaborate? Do the loud ones run the show? Is there a place for quiet ones? Do we take time to really listen? Do we actually put personal bias aside to achieve a quality product?

As much as students need help developing these skills we as educators also need help. I know that I have to work on hearing ideas, thinking them through, understand that all my ideas are not the best, and to not always take the reigns and take charge. The hard part is that many assume that I will do that so we move into our comfort zone roles. We must work together to mix things up. Allow others to lead. Find ways to merge ideas.

For example, when I was working with my amazing team 20 we had two ideas in development. It was tough to find a common ground where we could make both ideas work. We had to work to make things happen. We had late nights and early mornings to make the vision come alive and develop a project where I love everything about it! Through the hard work and collaboration you begin to develop an emotional connection to the work. Everyone had to play a part in order for the project to succeed.

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Next time you organize students into teams or groups please be sure you have created the context to allow the groups to thrive. Where are the support services? What skills have you focused on to help them become better collaborators? Have you really thought through the implications of the group work? More importantly, have you taken time to look inward on yourself to work on the skills you need to be a better group member?

Lastly, do we provide time to celebrate the success of hard work in pulling off a successful group project?

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