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,  http://bit.ly/1ExWYWZ)

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?’ http://bit.ly/1ztAqE6)  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: http://bit.ly/1pV5gzk)

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 (bit.ly/1rnhiBp) 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