Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Story of Merle Herron-A Wake Island Marines & POW during WW II

As a former social studies teacher, my passion for all things related to social studies continues.  I know most people are familiar with the story of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; “the date that will live in infamy.” But, few know the story behind Japan’s subsequent attacks on Guam, Midway, and Wake.  My Great Uncle Merle Herron was a Marines on Wake Island during the attack and eventual surrender to the Japanese. 

He was held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war until the end of the war in August 1945. Click on the following link to read Merle's 5 page personal account from December 1941 through September 1945.

All the details in Merle’s account speak for themselves. You will notice the date listed at the end; January 12, 1988.  It took him about 40 years before he was able to talk about his experiences. The final paragraphs summarizes his reasons why:

After I read Merle’s account, I wanted to know more, so I completed additional research of the Wake Island Marines for classes within my social studies major.  I started my teaching career as a social studies teacher in 1993. It would have been great to have Merle speak to my classes, but even better, I was hoping to interview, video, and archive Merle discussing his experiences.  I was extremely grateful that he agreed to be interviewed and video taped on a visit to his cabin in 1994. Here is the video:

It was one of the moments of my life that I know I will never forget. Spending time with and having the opportunity to interview not only a World War II veteran, but one who survived the cruelties of war as a prisoner of war.  In my eyes, A TRUE HERO. But, I found one quote by Merle to be a true testament to his character and others who also served:

“Some of the fellas gave their lives, so they are more of the heroes than the ones that survived.”

Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, supports his sentiment:

“It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order.”

With so many troubling stories around the world and on the news every day, one can only wonder, why does war, hate, stereotypes, and racism continue today? It is obvious that the human race hasn't learned much or learned from its history, even after the sacrifices made by so many. The best way we can honor our veterans, former POWs, the MIAs, and those struggling with PTSD, is to model, hope, and pray for a more empathetic and peaceful world. Finally, we can also honor our veterans by never taking for granted the freedoms we have today. In Merle's words:

“I hope that helps the younger children to know what a lot of the ones in World War II sacrificed and especially the ones that died and gave their lives we wouldn’t have the freedom that we have.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The North Dakota Google Summit is Coming Back to Grand Forks in March!

In June 2014, the North Dakota Google Summit was held in Grand Forks for an outstanding professional learning opportunity for teachers in Grand Forks and across the region. What is a Google Summit?

After the keynote we are all off to four different sessions throughout the day, where participants can learn how to use a tool, delve into the pedagogy behind technology integration or wander into a session that looks into innovative ideas like design thinking or empathy in the classroom or moonshot thinking - an idea inspired by Google. In addition to the peppering of innovative sessions, there are sessions...on Digital Portfolios and Digital Citizenship offered by known experts in those areas. Chris Bell, COO of EdTechTeam, boasts: “We have compiled a group of world class presenters” that make up over 50% of the sessions to ensure the highest quality sessions around. Mix in a great combination of local talent and participants walk away with their minds blown and inspired to make real change in their classrooms. EdTechTeam makes sure that there is a list of experts and innovation specialist to help lead teachers down the pathways of impactful integration. Between sessions there is a break that allows for networking, sharing of ideas, the chance to pick the brain of a favorite presenter, and the creation of relationships that often lead to life-long friendships. (Holly Clark, #GafeSummit - Not Your Dad's PD,

Because of positive feedback after the North Dakota Google Summit in June, we are bringing this quality professional learning back to Grand Forks on March 21st and 22nd, 2015.  Here is what some of the participants said about the North Dakota Google Summit:
“This was a great weekend! There was so much information passed from person to person. Such an amazing collaborative opportunity. I was so glad to have the opportunity to be part of this fun experience.”

“This was a great summit. There was a vast amount of information I can use for my classroom. Since there was so much information it was a good idea to give us access to all the links so we can use them later. Thank you!!”

“This was by far the best, most informative, and most engaging workshop I've EVER attended!!!!”

“The summit was my first to attend. I am just getting started with Google in the classroom. I had an excellent two days at the conference and hope to be able to attend further conferences. I am excited about changing the world one student at a time in our learning environment. It was a privilege to be a part of the summit and to share with my staff. Thank you.”

“Could NOT have been more pleased with the knowledge (and inspirations) I left the conference with. A GREAT use of a Saturday and Sunday even in the summer!”

Check out the following videos about the North Dakota Google Summit (Credit: Carla Haaven)

What makes this summit so special is the ability to have a high-quality national summit in our own backyard.  Many schools and districts are using Google Apps for Education.  Attending the Google Summit contributes to an educators’ overall growth, but will also increase their overall understanding of how Google Apps and technology can transform teaching and learning.  Teachers attending the summit will find a variety of sessions focused on both pedagogy and technical skills, but their students will ultimately be the primary beneficiaries.

We are enthusiastic to bring this high-quality learning opportunity back to Grand Forks.  Please consider joining us at the North Dakota Google Summit in Grand Forks on March 21st and 22nd.

For more information about the North Dakota Google Summit and to register, click

Monday, November 17, 2014

Professional Learning at #gfedchat live: No money, No agenda, NO PROBLEM

Sometimes wonderful learning opportunities happen when ideas are allowed to percolate, transpire, and come to fruition.  The idea I am referring to is the #gfedchat live event on Saturday, November 15th at South Middle School in Grand Forks.  This “unconference-type” professional learning opportunity was planned in two weeks and did not need money or an agenda.  Here is a summary of how this event came to be:
Jodi Dodson on October 27, 2014 at wrote:
Brainstorming....I want to have a mini “ed-camp” for 6th grade teachers.  I would like it to be on a Saturday.  Where could we have this?  Thoughts?  We have no built in time from the district, so we want to create our own time.  We could include tech partners that want to come.  Starting small....looking to go BIG!
Carla Haaven on October 28, 2014 wrote:
Sally, Jodi, and myself would like to host a "edcamp" event at South.  Sally came to me last week after our Monday's #gfedchat.  Jodi talked to me today so we started brainstorming for Nov 15.
Joel Schleicher writes:
Yes and Yes.  I'm in full support.  Let's talk some more and let me know what I can do to help.
Jodi Dodson writes:
WHAHOO!!!!!!!  I am so excited!  Carla and Sally came up with a great name for it and my calendar is clear!  #gfedchat-live.  I can't wait to work out the details!  My heart is happy....much needed today. Thanks!  

Recently, I have thought more about framing decisions and discussions from the “Yes, and…” and “Why not” perspectives.  (Check out the following blog post by Scott McLeod: From ‘yes, but’ to ‘how can we?’ and ‘why not?’  From my perspective, this was an easy “Why, Not” answer. (I’m not even sure why they needed my permission, but they got my full support in return.)  I was excited to attend #gfedchat live as another educator.  The #gfedchat live event was advertised and organized for all area educators and administrators.  The question was, “How many will show up on a Saturday morning?”  All involved agreed that it really didn't matter because those who did show up would be willing participants with a willingness to learn and get better.

At 8:00 am on Saturday, November 15th, educators began filling into the South Middle School library.  There was a positive buzz in the air as 30 or so educators chatted and eagerly waited to get started.  Jodi and Carla outlined the “rules” for the morning and facilitated the the development of session topics.  Here was the schedule that was developed:
Was the event a success? Absolutely! Understanding the success and overall feeling of the event can be captured through the following photos, quotes and tweets.

"Genius hour discussion is really eyeopening and exciting!" (Lorraine O'Shea)

"Read Write for Google. Great job @mgaukler"

"Teachers from GF, EGF, Holy Family learning about Genius Hour, Chrome Extensions, Flipping on a cold Sat morning." (Carla Haaven)

Towards the end of the event, a participant asked the following question: I learned so much this morning from the other educators, will our district professional development ever adopt this type of professional learning?  This question provided anecdotal support for the #gfedchat live event and also highlighted the type of professional learning many teachers are requesting.  I believe we should be considering all professional learning that models the type of learning that should be happening in classrooms; student centered learning vs. teacher centered teaching.  I could sense that the success of the event was based on topic choice instead of a prescribed agenda and the power of sharing and learning from each other.  As the participants left the event, there was positive vibe and many were asking when the next #gfedchat live would be scheduled.  Those who showed up on a Saturday morning to learn and get better provided me with tremendous joy and inspiration.  I was also inspired by Sally Akerlind, Jodi Dodson, and Carla Haaven for taking a risk and organizing a wonderful professional learning opportunity for local educators.  So, when is the next #gfedchat live?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Reflections on Being a Connected Educator through Twitter

The transition to November today provides me an opportunity to reflect back on October as Connected Educator Month through the lens of my own short journey to becoming a more connected educator. In 2009, our Technology Director at the time, Darin King (@darinrking), assisted the district administrators in setting up a Twitter account. Why would I need Twitter, I wondered? After all, I had a demanding job as a high school associate principal, was in the middle of working on my doctorate degree at UND, and wanted to ensure quality time was spent with my family.  I honestly did not have any additional time for something extra. I completed my dissertation and Doctor of Education degree in 2011. My dissertation included the research, pilot, and study, of a netbook computer initiative in middle and high school social studies classrooms. Looking back, how unfortunate to think that I missed out on some potential and outstanding opportunities, resources, and connections to enhance my dissertation. In August 2012, I assumed the district Technology Director position. Through the learning process of my new position, I really did not have time for anything extra, but I began to consider Twitter as a learning tool through following and lurking. I rarely retweeted and hardly posted tweets, because after all, who would care what I would have to say. But, just about one year ago, I really jumped into becoming a connected educator.

The moment when I moved from “lurking” on #ndedchat to participating was the moment I became a fully engaged and connected educator. That moment was following the Fall 2013 NDATL F2F Conference when Kelly Rexine (@mrrexine) and Jeremy Holkup (@mrholkup) advertised #ndedchat. My first full participation on #ndedchat was November 2013.  Now, I rarely miss a Wednesday because there is so much to learn from others across the state and beyond. Now #ndedchat has joined #westedchat once a month, which has only increased the number of connections. Becoming more engaged with Twitter has connected me with so many educators and their ideas across the state and beyond.

Participating in #ndedchat inspired some of the Curriculum Technology Partners and I to launch #gfedchat in our district on February 3, 2014 as a pilot. Through #gfedchat, we explored many topics, made connections with each other, shared ideas, and learned outstanding things happening in classrooms across the district. The #gfedchat sessions provided me insight into teacher pedagogy, passions, philosophies, projects, and interests that I would not have known otherwise. For example, #gfedchat has highlighted some interesting teacher blogs that I like to read such as Eileen Zygarlicke (@zygwriter) at Community High School. Knowing the kind of work Eileen was doing with her students through the use of technology, the need to reallocate some devices became apparent. Here is a brief summary of what can happen:

“At a recent Twitter chat (#gfedchat—Monday nights @ 8:30—check it out), I invited Joel to our building, telling him he had an open invitation. I thought he was taking me up on it. Instead he...brought over six used Macbooks for me to use in my classroom. For my students to use!!!  Later as I was processing this unexpected gift, I thought about the greater gift I had received that day. I had administrative support in my quest to infuse technology more into my curriculum.  Not verbal support, action support.” (Blog post:

It sounds strange, but I believe this connection and opportunity would not have happened without Twitter and #gfedchat. As a district leader, it is an ongoing challenge to stay connected to 700 or so educators across the district. #gfedchat has provided an opportunity to increase the number of connections significantly. #gfedchat has also allowed many to become a more connected educator.  Ideas are shared and enthusiasm is generated. Here are a couple of examples:
I have shared the "Ten Tips for Becoming a Connected Educator" with #gfedchat participants ( via Elana Leoni (@elanaleoni @edutopia)

1. Embrace Making Mistakes
2. There's No Right Way -- There's Only Your Way
3. Just Jump In!
4. Be Open to Learning Unexpected Things
5. Follow Like-Minded (and Not So Like-Minded) People in Education
6. Join the Edcamp Movement
7. Join a Live Virtual Event (i.e. Twitter Chat)
8. Block Out Time to Get Connected
9. Be Yourself and Help Others
10. Start Blogging

#gfedchat takes place on Mondays at 8:30 pm. We now have over 75 regular participants and hope the number of participants and willingness to connect “anytime-anywhere” continues to grow.

Yes, even with so much information shared through Twitter and blogs, there is still a place for professional learning through books. In fact, Twitter has brought to my attention many great books. I’m probably reading more than I ever have. Here are a few examples:

Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger)
As I was reading Digital Leadership, I was so inspired by the message and the content, I thought, how could I best share and discuss all the book had to offer with the principals and directors in my district. Currently, our book study has moved through chapter 4. The book highlights the importance of being a connected educator. We have had outstanding conversations as some have admitted to their fears of Twitter while others have discussed overcoming their fears and embracing the learning through social media. Some principals are warming up to Twitter as a professional learning tool and not just something they have to deal with in negative ways through student use. Some are jumping in and most are asking for some additional professional learning. This is encouraging, so I am planning a follow-up training and practice “chat.”

The Relevant Educator by Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) and Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom)

This book does an outstanding job of covering the many aspects of being a connected educator, establishing a professional learning network, and using technology to learn anytime-anywhere. All educators getting started in becoming a connected educator should read this book. Here are a few quotes from the book that resonated with me:

“If we are educating our youth to participate, flourish, and successfully compete in a technology-driven society then they [educators] should be learning with the very tools that they [students] will be required to use.”

“Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant” (Steven W. Anderson)

“A Connected educator is as much a learner as a teacher. A Connected Educator is digitally literate and and progressing as needed to adapt to the changes that will inevitably occur. A Connected Educator is relevant in a world of rapidly paced change.”

Pure Genius by Don Wettrick (@DonWettrick)

This is another book that I may not have found right away without Twitter. I am passionate about project/problem based learning and intrigued by 20%/genius/innovation time. While reading the book, the following quote really stuck with me, so I tweeted it out.

Great Q to ponder: "Is education about earning a grade, or is it really about fostering learning and creative engagement?" via @DonWettrick

What followed, was a great example of what being a connected educator is all about.

This brief conversation with Don while I was reading the book would not have happened without Twitter. Now #gfedchat is considering Pure Genius as a topic or book study.

My short journey to becoming a much more connected educator has provided me with a renewed enthusiasm to continually learn. Twitter has provided me access to incredible resources relevant to my position as a Technology Director. It has also connected me to so many educators in Grand Forks, across North Dakota, and literally throughout the world. I will continue to encourage others to become connected educators, because after all, “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Digital Leadership Book Study - Ch. 1 & 2 Reflections

In January 2014, I attended a session by Eric Sheninger at the Florida Educational Technology Conference.  Eric had many thoughtful points regarding digital leadership, so I was eager to order and read a copy of his book Digital Leadership.  As I was reading Digital Leadership, I was so inspired by the message and the content, I thought, how could I best share and discuss all the book had to offer with the principals and directors in my district?  So, I met with our assistant superintendent to discuss a plan for a book study.  The books were ordered in the spring and distributed before summer for principals and director to read and/or get started during the “less” busy time.

I am a firm believer that we, as administrators, must model professional learning how we want our teachers to work with the students in their classrooms.  After the books were distributed, I asked each to complete a quick pre-reading assessment (Know and Want to Know) using the following questions:

  1. What do I know about Digital Leadership?
  2. What do I want to know about Digital Leadership? (What I Learned will be saved for after the book study.)
  3. What other related discussions do you hope we have pertaining to technology, 21st century learning with technology, etc.?
Additionally, the following video was shared to provide a 16 minute overview of Digital Leadership by the author Eric Sheninger.  I thought most would find it helpful to gain some insight into the context of the book from the author.

Book Study - Day 1 - Tuesday, October 7th

After much preparation, is was time to finally get started with the book study.  I hoped everyone else was as excited as I was for our book study. Here are a few strategies I used to facilitate the discussion:

1. We used TodaysMeet as a way for each principal and director to provide input into the discussion and allowed an opportunity to pose questions. For example:

Question #1: As school leaders, how do you ensure that all of your students have opportunities to achieve their dreams? Here are a few responses:

“Provide an environment that allows for free thoughts and creative thinking.”
“Work towards a safe learning environment ‑ safe to take risks so they can dream!”
“Give them an opportunity to explore and try new things.”
“I think by getting to know students and their abilities and desires, you work to find opportunities
that will prepare them to reach dreams.”
“Find engaging activities that push and challenge their creativity.”

Question #2: Based on the following quote from Eric Sheninger:

“It is time to transform schools into vibrant learning communities that are connected and allow access to numerous social media tools that can unleash the creativity of our learners.  This will increase engagement and, ultimately achievement.” (Sheninger, p. 5)

So often, when considering new ideas outside of our comfort zone, ideas quickly die when responses start with “No, because…” and “Yes, but…”  I asked the leaders to respond to the quote with “Yes, and…” as a way to to think in terms of agreeing with the quote as their starting point. Here are a few responses:
  • “Yes, and let's get going!”
  • “Yes, and....we needed to do it yesterday!”
  • “Yes, and this change is long over due!”
  • “Yes, and then we teach students how social media can be productive and engaging rather than gossip and negative.”
  • “Yes, and if the learning activity is constructed well, it will become a relevant learning opportunity for the students.”
  • “Yes, and it can create a dynamic real world learning environment for our students.
After we discussed for a bit, I did allow for some “Yah, buts.” There were not nearly as many as I anticipated.

2. I used Kahoot as a survey tool to allow for each administrator's input while gaining some insight into overall perceptions.

First, we reflected on 5 of the characteristics of learners today (Ian Jukes, Ted McCain, and Lee Crockett, 2010, p. 15) and asked for an "agree or disagree" response for each question.

Q1: Digital learners prefer to access information quickly from multiple-media sources, but many educators prefer slow and controlled release of information from limited sources.
Q2: Digital learners prefer parallel processing and multi-tasking, but many educators prefer linear processing and single tasks or limited multi-tasking.
Q3: Digital learners prefer to network simultaneously with others, but many educators prefer students to work independently before they network and interact.
Q4: Digital learners prefer processing pictures, sounds, color and video before text, but many educators prefer to provide text before picture, sound, and video.
Q5: Digital leaders prefer learning that is relevant, active, instantly useful and fun, but many educators feel compelled to teach memorization of the content in the curriculum guide.

Some found this tough as they may have agreed or disagreed with part, but were forced to select agree or disagree.  Discussion followed after the results for each question were shown.

Second, I pulled 5 questions from the NASSP Guidelines to assist school leaders in integrating technology in their schools (p. 42 and 43) and asked the administrators to self-assess using a modified “Marzano” rating scale:
4 - Innovating
3 - Applying
2 - Developing
1 - Beginning or Not Using
Q6: The principal effectively and consistently models the use of the same technology tools they expect teachers to use in their classrooms with the students.
Q7: The principal is consistent in their decisions and expectations about integrating learning technology in the school.
Q8: The principal provides appropriate professional development time and resources to support effective classroom implementation of technology.
Q9: The principal supports early adopters and risk takers.
Q10: The principal sets and supports the expectation that student work will be done and stored using technology.

3. As s follow-up, I sent a link to a Google form for each person to provide a brief reflection and feedback.  Here is one of the questions and some of the responses:

Please list something new you learned or an "ah ha" moment from our book study.
  • I need to take a more active role in the seamless integration and technology into all classrooms.”
  • “Many leaders in our group are ready to move forward to "change paradigms for changing times"
  • “It is time to begin to consider allowing all students in K-12 to have a cell phone with them during the day to use as a learning tool.”
  • “Moving forward with technology integration to enhance learning is a must.”
  • “I do not believe this book is about being digital, I believe it is completely about leadership.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations we had on chapters 1 and 2 and look forward to future conversations in the coming months.  As we continually strive for better, I sincerely believe the content in Digital Leadership will provide us with ideas to challenge our thinking and guide our conversations.  Watch for more post-book study blog post reflections.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Appreciating and Working with Awesome People

Early in August, I had the opportunity to hear Angela Maiers speak at the 1:1 Symposium at Leyden High School in Chicago.  I appreciated her message of sincerely appreciating those around us.  On Friday, August 29th, after weeks of hard work preparing for the start of the school year, I typed up the following email to thank the technology staff for a job well done:

Technology Department Staff,

It's been a long summer of hard work preparing for the school year and has been extra challenging over the past few weeks.  The teacher MacBook Pro exchange project looms for a few more weeks, but I want to thank you for the work each one of you have done in preparation for our students to start classes next week.  The extra hours and "can do" attitude to complete projects and requests have been noticed and appreciated.  I am fortunate to work with such caring and dedicated colleagues with a positive attitude.  You are all geniuses!  The students, staff, and administration of Grand Forks Public Schools needs and appreciates your contribution because your impact on teaching and learning on a daily basis TRULY MATTERS!

Have a great "long" weekend!

(I also added “The YOU MATTER Manifesto” image by Angela Maiers to the email.)

As I was preparing to hit send, I received the following text from Angela Maiers (via @RemindHQ):

It was one of those moments that you just can’t make up.  Overall, I think I do a fairly good job of appreciating and thanking those around me, but the message and coincidence was a great reminder for me to do it even more often.  So, what are you doing to appreciate the students and staff in your school and district?  I am extremely fortunate to work with awesome people!

If you want to sign-up for the #YouMatter Class by Angela Maiers on Remind, here is the website: