Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Living the Grand Forks Public Schools Technology Vision

We have a monthly technology department meeting with technicians, curriculum technology partners, et al. to discuss initiatives, organize projects, and address current issues.  I usually have an agenda with several items to discuss as a group.  Every once and while, I like to mix it up a bit.  As often as possible, I provide reminders of how our work as individuals and as a collective group is related to our most important priority; STUDENTS (and in our case, students learning with technology).  Here is an example of one of my reminders (Appreciating and Working with Awesome People).  Last Friday, I started our meeting off by handing out a ½ sheet of paper with our technology vision:

Grand Forks Public Schools Technology Vision
The Grand Forks Public Schools believe technology is an integral component of learning and is necessary to learn effectively, live productively and participate globally in an increasingly digital world. Technology resources transform learning by allowing learners to create, publish, collaborate and communicate with others in a global environment. Technology helps learners gather and analyze information, solve problems and develop higher-level thinking skills through authentic real-world experiences.

On the lower part of the paper, I listed 3 blank lines and asked each member of the technology department to answer the following question:

Over the past week or so, how have you contributed (directly or indirectly) to the vision?

There was a slight pause, then everyone got to work.  After each member of the technology department wrote their list of 3 or more, I asked each person to share their list with the group.  Here are several of the items from our collective list that were shared at our meeting:

  • helped film, assemble and act in videos for a “pride in others” pep rally
  • worked one on one at the team level with teacher to implement Google Classroom, Flipquiz, XC Collaboration, Today’s Meet, and Kahoot
  • helped plan, film and create an iMovie for our YORS student group to submit to Safe Kids for distracted pedestrian safety
  • presented to 6th grade students on evaluating credible resources on the web
  • facilitated Skype session with a marine biologist from the Bahamas for informational writing
  • started a “tech club” that meets once a month
  • started a “Makey Makey” club that meets during the lunch hour to create, collaborate, critically think and present a final project
  • create books to share in iBook Store for school to read
  • worked in a 6th grade classroom to install Google Read and Write
  • met with a project based learning group to help with planning the final portion of their project and authentic learning piece
  • completed and dispersed information for NDATL registration and conference
  • planned for the Google Summit
  • fixed, documented and repaired netbooks
  • facilitating a book study
  • working with students to integrate Google Read & Write tools with writing activites
  • writing a grant for a maker space area
  • worked on netbooks
  • planning with teachers on how to use Read & Write tools
  • met with the Scholastic trainer
  • revisioning special education transition form and meeting agenda for more effective special education meetings and integration with TINET
  • digitizing the Smarter Balanced accommodations form for better data storage by school
  • helped student log into ACT ASPIRE
  • showed Smartboard 14 XC Collaboration and Goegebra to math teachers
  • helped a student create an animated drawing to go with a college application
  • reloaded netbooks for teacher to continue her foreign language project
  • ensured ACT Aspire was organized and working for students
  • completed an online counselor appraisal form
  • preparing new forms for Area Learning Center
  • imported winter 2015 MAP results to ViewPoint
  • worked with high school secretaries to generate E-Transcripts for students
  • prepared iPads to be loaded
  • created student Google accounts
  • facilitated timely repairs of netbooks
  • facilitated a response to an ongoing printer problem
  • completed multiple Technology Help Requests on time
  • assisted Child Nutrition with future technology purchases
  • helped multiple teachers with Technology Help Requests at multiple schools
  • updated iPads and installed needed apps
  • helped out with printer issues
  • repaired netbooks to keep student working
  • worked to keep the network running for everyone
  • worked with active directory creating student accounts
  • prompt when responding to Technology Help Requests so teachers would have the tools they need to educate
  • worked on being more efficient so my tools and skill set is maximized
  • trained some staff yesterday on multicast that will better help them communicate their digital message
  • convinced PTO to purchase sets of iPads
  • worked in a 5th grade classroom on Google Presentation
  • met with a grade-level team to plan for a research project
  • helped a teacher set up Google Classroom and created the first lesson
  • worked with our counselor on a presentation for an all school assembly
  • participated in Monday night #gfedchat on Twitter on assessment
  • facilitated a 5th grade colonial America project with iPads
  • celebrated the 100th day of school with kindergarten students using KidPix to create a collage of 100 stamps
  • worked with a tech and teacher to figure out how to get her Android to integrate with iPhoto
  • helped a teacher set up blogs to share student work
  • worked with 5th grade students to create a green screen projects of their biographies
  • planned projects with teachers and students to create and publish their writing to share globally
  • worked with kindergarten students to show their understanding of teen numbers using iPads
  • helped students publish their informative writing digitally
  • met with a principal to discuss the purchase of iPads and how I will provide professional development to support teacher learning
  • guided student with publishing future jobs project in kindergarten
  • posted projects and assisted in creating projects for a Google Site
  • helped facilitate Google Hangout for teachers during the elementary literacy

What an impressive list!  I am so proud of the work our technology department staff does on a daily basis, yet so often goes unnoticed.  It is often challenging for people to “brag” about what they have done for students when most feel it is just part of their job and nothing extraordinary. But, this activity provided a couple of opportunities: 1) to gain an appreciation of what others within the department do and 2) for each person to get a well-deserved “pat on the back” for their contributions to our #1 priority; our students.  The positive vibe in the room was amazing as others listened and applauded each person’s dedication to students demonstrated in so many different ways.  This is a tough time of the year for everyone, so taking some time to appreciate our individual and collective work was time well spent.  It was also great for our activity to get a nod of approval later that evening via Twitter by a member of our awesome crew:
I am inspired by and appreciate everyone in our technology department.  As I take another look at the list above, it is a wonderful reminder of the great opportunities happening for students each and every day.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Do You Remember Me?

It is a question all educators are asked by former students; “Do you remember me?” I’ve been an educator for over 20 years.  I can remember most faces, but the names of many of my former students are falling out of my head at a rapid pace.  Here is my excuse, 10 years as a classroom teacher with about 100 students per year, followed by 4 years as a middle school associate principal with about 500 students per year, followed by 5 years as a high school associate principal trying to learn as many names of the 1100 students as possible and now in my 3rd year out of the school building as the district technology director for 7200 students. The number of former students, time, and my age are 3 factors not working in my favor, but I always do my best.

Whether we remember our former students’ names or not does not matter, because our students remember us, no matter how much time has past. So, it happened last Sunday in church.  At the conclusion of the service, I was approached by a man who looked somewhat familiar, but recalling his name just wasn’t going to happen.  He said, “Hi Mr. Schleicher, do you remember me?”  I said, “Hello, sorry, but it’s been awhile, you are going to have to help me out with your name.” He told me his name and the memories of this student came back quickly.  We’ve all had this student in our class or school; nice enough, but motivation to do well academically was low, assignment completion and grades both low, and his ability to disrupt class was often high.  As a middle school educator, I didn’t always know the rest of the story regarding students graduating, going to college, finding a job, etc.  Nonetheless, this student was eager to share; “I’m doing well now, head cook at a restaurant in town, coming to church every Sunday, I have my life together now.”  I took this to mean that he went through some tough times to get to where he is today.  I told him that it was great to see him, glad he was doing well, and was proud of him for working hard to get to his current position as a head cook.  We shook hands, looked each other in the eye, smiled, and he left.  My wife turned to me and commented; “did you see how happy he was to seek you out and share that he was doing well.”  It was another reminder of the lasting impact we have on our students.

Later in the day, as I reflected back on our brief conversation, several thoughts began to scroll through my head:

  1. Our Handshake: As an associate principal, I facilitated a school-wide “rule of the week” from Ron Clark’s book, The Essential 55.  Rule #33 was on the importance of a handshake and that is exactly what he did.  Have even some of these “rules” stuck with my former students?  In this case, yes!

  1. A Smile and Positive Attitude: I thought about George Couros’s recent blog post titled “A Simple Smile.” As an educator, I always tried to have a positive persona which meant smiling and greeting students (even if on the inside I may have been frustrated, stressed, etc.).  I sincerely believe in the following quote from George Couros; “A smile can make someone’s day, can be infectious, and have a tremendous impact on school culture.”  I am hoping my positive attitude was recognized and felt by my former students.

  1. Believing In and Not Giving Up on Students: Knowing how happy he was to share his positive story with me, while at the same time remembering that this student was challenging at times, I reflected back on how I handled challenging student situations.  Keep in mind, I was a middle and high school associate principal for 9 years.  Some teachers expected the associate principal to strike fear in students and administer severe punishment in order to correct behavior.  My goal was to listen to the student first, maintain a positive rapport with the student, seek to educate vs. punish, all while still holding the student accountable.  After a “chat” in my office and possible disciplinary consequence, I always told students that I would never hold a grudge and would continue to believe in them.  This meant, I would greet the student in the hallway with a smile.  I thought about Todd Nesloney’s recent blog post on “Why I Will Never Quit.” and the following quote; “I'm here.  I'm present.  And I'm going to stand tall, stand proud, and stand bravely for those kids who need me to.  For those kids who have no one else willing to fight for them.”

Regardless of your position in education, the following should be our mantra every day:

I feel fortunate to have had many awesome conversations and encounters with former students and the one last Sunday was no exception.  Thinking about the students in our classrooms and schools today, how do you want those students to remember you years from now?