Final #ISTE13 Post: Connect and Reflect

ISTE hall

ISTE seems a world away now that summer vacation is here and my days are filled with story hour, diapers, ear infections, and naptime (or lack thereof). But I would be remiss not to reflect on yet another great conference on connecting with my current colleagues, fellow SIGISers, and new educators.

This list really isn’t in order of importance:

1. I’ve been using the SuperBetter app for a week now and dig it. I look forward to pressing the “I DID THIS” button and getting the happy ding of the achievements. I’ve even set up some of my own Power-Ups and Quests but I haven’t recruited any allies yet. I’m not sure how I’ll measure the long term changes in my behavior, but I’m enjoying the process for now. I’m hoping to pass this on to our support staff as a potential option for struggling students.

2. From the second keynote: I love Steven Johnson’s remixed quote, “Chance favors the connected mind.” I love the idea of getting out of your silo, connecting with others, drinking coffee, fueling creativity by stepping outside your comfort zone. That said, I have two thoughts:

  1. What about the quiet, mindful, reflective, independent time? I think this is needed in the balance and some people need it more than others. After reading Quiet last summer and identifying myself as an introvert, I guard “me time” as important in my own creativity. Is this another “everything in moderation” type deal?
  2. I’m curious about how the zone of proximal development applies to this idea of connecting with people out of your silo. I would think that the cafes of the 1800s were fairly local and culturally homogenous. When we mix in diverse groups, what happens if we’re too different? Does this break down the connections? Hmmm. I don’t have an answer for this. I’m really looking forward to my first day of Intercultural Competency training this August.

3. If I attend ISTE next year, what would be the best format for me? This year I LOVED the keynotes and poster sessions, but I was disappointed by the sessions I attended. What is the value of me going to this conference, year after year? I was thinking that what I would get the most benefit from is four days of concentrated work on an issue at school or a new project. Could I work on that in Portland? Yes, but I wouldn’t have access to the people that I have at ISTE. So maybe it would be a four-day informal get together (i.e. not paid) where a group gets together, and we learn how to build apps or design professional development portfolios or design a parent education series. This could leverage the power of the ISTE community and give me the space and time to work on a project for my school. ISTE14 is a long way off… but it could be fun!

4. I’m really excited about the summer of making, sponsored by SIGIS and SIGCT. I’m worried most of my “making” will be from 7pm-midnight after the little one goes to sleep, so I hope I can find the energy for it. My goal is to delve deeper into Scratch, take the 3DGameLab course on how to create an iOS App, and print something on the 3D Printer. Okay, I’ll be happy if I do ONE of these!

5. Last, my goals for ISTE13 were:

  1. Be where I am. Done. I feel good about this one.
  2. Gaming. 3DGameLab, SimCity. I feel good about this one too.
  3. Support. Not sure I got enough of this, but it will come out over the summer. I know some people’s brains were so full by the end they couldn’t process. Sounds like a follow up meeting in August would be good.
  4. Reflect. Once this is posted, done!

Now I should really go open that free Surface still sitting in the box…

Poster Presentation #iste13


Yesterday evening I presented my SimCity project here at ISTE 2013. (You can find all the info on the conference resources page – please feel free to remix and reuse!) It was definitely a highlight of this conference for me, not just because I got to talk about my favorite work that I’m doing but because of the connections I made with other teachers and tech coordinators.

There are two connections that I’m really excited about though they are very different. The first connection is with two teachers from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, who teach at a small boarding school for Cambodian students. It would be fascinating for our 7th graders to video conference with them to discuss the ideas of urban planning and design. What interesting perspectives they would have on city development and infrastructure!

The second connection is with a teacher from Quest2Learn, the gaming public school (OOPS! – I initially posted that it was a charter) in NYC, and his referral to SimCityEDU. I thought it was just a forum for teachers to post lesson plans, but it sounds like the Institute of Play is actually taking SimCity5 and modding it to provide scenarios that teachers can modify for their classes. It might then offer feedback to the student and teacher about how they are interacting with the system. This means that I could see evidence of systems and design thinking rather than just believing that this project is effective.

Presenting my poster also affirmed the value of having other perspectives on your work. One visitor said that he no longer uses the word work in his classroom, but calls it purposeful play. It sounds like a small, semantic difference, but I do believe words matter.

I think the poster sessions are the hidden treasures of the conference because you get to see all kinds of different projects in different phases of development and you get to talk to the people doing them. As a pragmatic person, I appreciate seeing lesson plans and rubrics because I’m always thinking about the literal how-to of a project.

Speaking of pragmatic, next time I present a poster I will remember to bring my own video adaptor and push pins!

Over Ambitious Planning for Next Year #iste13


I’ve got a couple ideas for a new approach to my 6th grade class, and I’m pretty much just going to list all the things I’m thinking about. It’s a little jumbled stream-of-consciousness right now, but hopefully writing it all down will help.

I teach 6th grade technology. In the current schedule, I see a group of 18 students one week on Tuesday and Wednesday for an hour each day, and then not again for another month. The librarian also teaches in this rotation, so for next year we are thinking of team teaching the group of 36 students in order to see the kids for more time and have more continuity. In this set up, we would do two-week long projects.

But what kind of project is engaging to 6th graders in an hour-long class right before lunch? Honestly the best class I can remember was teaching them how to use Scratch. Actually, I wasn’t so much teaching as just allowing them the time to play it.

So I have two ideas:

1. Gamify the class using 3DGameLab and turn it into a series of quests. We could find quests that involved using library and tech skills so that they were learning the skills from both classes. Some of the early quests would be fast, like taking a screenshot of their calendar to show they had properly subscribed to all their teachers’ calendars, and some of the later ones could be longer, like designing their own avatar. I’m daunted by the amount of work that would be needed to build this all, but maybe it would be worth it both for the better structure to the class and to test out what that looks like. Hmmm.

  • There is a camp through 3DGameLab to learn how to design your own app, which I’ve always wanted to learn and I have one in mind to build. I could do the camp and get the license to build for students.
  • I would love to pull some ideas from Jane McGonigal’s Find the Future game, like having students write their own constitution and/or origin story.

2. A project that I have always wanted to do with students is to have them design their own avatar or logo. They would first build it as a profile image that they could use for their google apps account. We could talk about image resolution and thumbnails if they were to try and print it the size of a page. It should be an image that looks good large and small. The FINAL step would be for them to print it from the 3D printer as a stamp, so they could stamp their logo.

  • I’d like them to workshop it to get feedback from each other.
  • I want it to be something that is really meaningful to them.
  • They could research logos for different companies, read excerpts from Tipping Point or Made to Stick.
  • They could make Scratch stories to tell their origin story and then turn them in to an adventure game at the end.

At first I was thinking I would have to choose one or the other, but after writing this out, maybe we could do BOTH! I am hesitant to try a new format with a new project, but it seems like a huge opportunity.

Also, my class is a rotation class that meets twice/week and repeats. It wouldn’t be that much prep. And how can I expect other teachers to try it if I don’t? Besides, our head of school asked us to change one thing this coming year. Reimaging my class in both content and form sounds like a good place to start!

Pre #ISTE13


(I had intended to write this last night, but travel exhaustion and a crying baby kept me from my computer…)

It’s my favorite way to celebrate the start of the summer. Now that the tiring, hard work of finishing up a school year is over, I can sit back, relax, and explore/connect/create (Hmmm… sounds very essential competency-ish).

Turns out, I have done significant professional development every June for the last 5 years:

2009 – Finished my Masters of Science in Science Education

2010 – ISTE – Denver

2011 – Klingenstein Summer Institute

2012 – ISTE – San Diego

2013 – ISTE – San Antonio

Honestly, I’m giddy with excitement for the next few days.

I remember my first ISTE in Denver. Thanks to Angela (then MS Tech Coordinator) I attended with several other teachers from OES whom I would later work closely with (Brad, Gomes, Jeffrey, Lara). I had a tough first year in Portland personally and professionally (never underestimate East to West Coast culture shock) and was really questioning where I should be, what I should do. I found myself in the midst of teachers excited about education and all these amazing tools that could really help connect with students. I learned about Google Apps, Twitter, SMART boards, to name a few. Attending that conference probably kept me in teaching.

San Diego last year was different because I was now the tech coordinator and the one responsible for bringing other teachers with me. I also narrowed my focus, concentrating on gaming and professional development. My most memorable sessions were playing WoW with Peggy Sheehy, learning to program in Scratch and AgentSheets, and connecting with current and former colleagues.

This year I’m here again in a few different roles.

  1. Several of my colleagues are here and I’m excited for the conversation it always generates.
  2. I’m presenting a poster Tuesday 4-6pm on my work with SimCity.
  3. I have been selected for the SIGIS (Special Interest Group: Independent Schools) Executive Committee, so I’ll be at the Meet & Greet Sunday 3-5pm and the Yearly Meeting Monday 8:30-9:30am. I’m excited for this chance to volunteer with ISTE, connect with more independent school techies, and work to support others.

Questions that I think all ISTE goers should ask themselves:

How will I organize myself?

  • Evernote for my own notes/thoughts and lists of resources/articles to return to
  • QR code with my contact info so people can scan my phone
  • Phone for tweeting and googling when the internet is down
  • Texting with colleagues

What are my goals for these 4 days?

  1. Be where I am. Don’t try to be everywhere at once and don’t over commit. Stop and have conversations with people rather than running off to something else.
  2. Gaming. I’m hopeful for several gaming-type initiatives at our school so I want to continue to find ways to talk about it with kids, teachers, and administration.
  3. Support. Three out of four of our middle school arts teachers are here to learn about integrating tech into their classroom, particularly with stop motion animation projects. I want to hear about what they learn and what they need from me in terms of support. This is important to me because people often go to conferences and get energized while they’re there, but then lost momentum when they return.
  4. Reflect. Blogging about recaps, highlights, special moments. While I can’t promise 1 post per session, at least once per day.

Let the fun work begin!

Accreditation Visit

I began working on the report with the self study committee 2 years ago, and this past week we had our visiting team on campus for reaccreditation. As I’ve watched the whole process, I had a couple thoughts:

  • First, we received a commendation for how we did the self study, particularly for our use of technology. The tech infrastructure was my part of the team, so I was particularly proud of that. I’m planning to write up that piece in my portfolio.
  • I would like to be on a visiting team at some point, and I realized that it’s more than just walking around talking to people. You need to be a confident facilitator, whether that is knowing how to ask questions that probe deeper than what is already in the report; you need to be read to step in and redirect conversations that get tangential, circular, or personal; and you need to be prepared to diffuse potentially tense interactions amongst faculty or staff that you do not know or have a relationship with. I was particularly impressed with the two men who facilitated our middle school discussion and the questions that they asked.
  • One of the biggest realizations I came to in our middle school discussion was that, for the most part, people WANT feedback on their teaching. We want our colleagues to visit our classrooms. We are proud of the good work that we do and want to make it better. This is one of the reasons I love being in the Critical Friends Group with four of my colleagues. It gives us a place to get constructive feedback on units or projects. I reaffirmed for me the importance of this protocol.

I’m no longer on any committees or taskforces, which makes me a little sad, but there are other projects in the back of my mind that I’m ready to focus on!

Personal vs. Professional

In the world of social media, the line gets gray…

At the Klingenstein Summer Institute, they asked us to write down “questions we are living.” I love the idea of living a question because conceptualizing a question this way allows space to explore it through everyday experiences and think about it without seeking one answer. For example, at the time, I wrote:

  • What is good enough?
  • Who inspires me? Do I inspire my students?
  • How can I make the greatest impact? Is it in schools? Is it in policy? Education law? Direct leadership?

A question that I am living right now is,

Where is the line between personal and professional?”

This is called “Single Identity Transparency,” where our online presence is the same as our offline self. There are legitimate reasons for being who you are and their are legitimate reasons for being anonymous. (Changing your name to be on Facebook underage is NOT one of them…)

Here are a couple (12) infographics about the internet and identity.

Usernames & accounts. I tweet with the handle @pdxkali. When I created this username, I didn’t think too hard about whether this would be a personal or professional account. I have kept it because too much content is associated with this account now that I wouldn’t want to lose, but I wish now that I was @julierobison because it is a professional account. I don’t do a whole lot of personal tweeting, though I occasionally share something about being a new mom.

In contrast, a few people that I follow on twitter for their educational comments put personal content like pictures from vacation or check-ins at events that I don’t really care about. Their twitter feed is primarily personal. (I should probably unfollow them and just subscribe to their blogs…)

A couple of my colleagues decided to make two usernames, one for personal and one for professional, but I was mentioning the wrong one in my tweets or they wouldn’t be paying attention to both feeds.

I have always kept separate work and personal email addresses, because if I leave a job, I don’t want any accounts tied to an email address I no longer have access to.

When I started blogging, I initially created the and was blogging as the middle school tech coordinator. When I started to write more personal posts, like this one, I wanted it associated with me, not with my position.

Devices. We have been piloting iPad minis right now, and a colleague who already owns one, asked if he could borrow one for school use. Realistically, though, carrying around another device is just going to confuse things and wouldn’t he rather just have everything in one place? iOS devices are increasingly designed to be personal and group management of them is difficult. So should schools buy iOS devices for employees and have them use their personal accounts?

I carry around my iPhone all day at work. Sometimes I answer personal text messages, but the tech department often goes between email, text, or calls to reach each other. It’s beneficial to the school for me to use this device for my job, but I pay for it. On trips, we often use our phones for finding directions or emailing parents or taking pictures.

Boarding schools. As a dorm parent, I live where I work. I can see into classrooms out my front door. Kids see me on the weekends after a workout or at dinner feeding my 7 month old mashed peas. Clearly, I have accepted a blurrier line than most!

Final thoughts:

  • I feel comfortable with my current blend of professional and personal, though sometimes if feels like the workday never ends. (And at boarding schools, you are never really off duty until vacation!) I love my job and spend a lot of time outside of M-F 8-4pm thinking about education and teaching anyway.
  • People who are not connected to me via social media (professionally or personally) don’t know me as well.
  • Perhaps blending personal and professional allows us to see each other as more human? Maybe in workplaces where this happens there is greater social cohesion?
  • This whole idea of separate identities is very industrial-age with the idea that you go to a specific place for a specific length of time to do work.

Reading about gaming


I got an email today about SimCityEDU and a Google Hangout that is happening tomorrow at 1pm. Unfortunately, I’m already triple booked at that time, so I won’t get to hangout, but you can bet I’m going to watch the video later and review the twitter stream #playtimers. As I read more about the Institute of Play, I stumbled onto website after website. Rather than tweeting the whole stream, I figured there must be a better way to share and curate all the URLs I was finding. Diigo!

It took a little persistence, because I had to remember the password, download the extension, fool around with lists and tags, refresh a couple times, check that it was working… but ultimately I think I successfully have this SimCity list to share with you. Like I said, it’s a collection of website related to SimCityEDU and gaming in the classroom.

This all came after a few discussions today about gaming during the school day. More on that to follow. I’m not quite ready to process my opinions and write them in an articulate way.

For now, three shameless promotions related to all this:

  1. My SimCity presentation at NCCE in Portland, 9:45-10:45 Friday March 1
  2. Playing SimCity with 7th graders in science again this spring
  3. Presenting a poster of my project and research at ISTE in San Antonio at the end of June

Facilitating my first video conference

We set up a video conference for a 6th grade student this morning. It was the first time that I have set this up and the first time that we have used the classroom for a student conference.

Reflections on how it went:

  • Admittedly, I was nervous since I’ve only connected with Jabber a few times and I don’t know all the ins and outs of the client, but I was nonetheless able to help them fix a few problems.
  • Having phone numbers to connect and help troubleshoot was really important.
  • I think the clarity of the sound and video made the interactions more seamless. There was a slight time delay, but pretty fluid.
  • I think next time I would sit teachers closer to the camera and potentially even zoom in on them when they were talking. I think it was hard to see their faces and thus their expressions.
  • Teachers were fantastic – ran it just like a normal conference. Didn’t sound stilted or nervous. They still asked questions of the student, which, to me, felt more natural.
  • I was impressed with how comfortable the kids seemed with it.

I am reminded again of the professionalism of my colleagues. They are compassionate, clear, prepared, thoughtful, and, perhaps most importantly, know the kids. I’m glad the technology was seamless enough to support that.

Critical Friends Group

In her Educational Leadership article Redesigning Professional Development (Vol. 59(6), March 2002), Deborah Bambino writes, “By providing structures for effective feedback and strong support, Critical Friends Groups help teachers improve instruction and student learning” (25).

When I attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute two summers ago, we learned how to run a Critical Friends Group (CFG). That fall, I began a CFG here at OES with four colleagues. We’ve now met 4 times and have plans to meet twice more this year. It has been one of the best components of my professional development. I have learned about other projects going on at school and gotten to know colleagues deeper on both a professional and personal level.

It can feel different from other interactions with colleagues because it has prescriptive structures and roles, it’s timed, there is a goal, and it is an intentional group of people. I have found that the focused time is the most important aspect for me because there are no tangential conversations or random brainstorming that distract from what I want answered.

Here is the basic format and description of what we do:

1. We follow a tuning protocol from the National School Reform Faculty developed by Joseph McDonald and David Allen. (Sorry I don’t have links – this is all from KSI)

Introduction (2 mins)

  • The facilitator briefly introduces the protocol.
  • Each participant reviews his/her role.

Presenter shares dilemma and asks for feedback (10 mins)

  • The presenter shares the context of the artifact he/she has brought.
  • The presenter explains the learning goals for this assignment.
  • The presenter identifies what s/he needs help with.  What’s not working? What is the dilemma? The presenter tries to frame this as a focusing question.
  • The Facilitator restates the presenter’s focusing question to confirm.

Clarifying Questions (5 mins)

  • Participants ask clarifying questions in order to gather information that may have been omitted from the presenter’s explanation.  Clarifying questions are nonjudgmental and ask for facts: How many days did you spend on this unit?  Was this the first test of the year?

Silent Examination of Artifact—unit plan, lesson plan, student work sample, or assessment (10 mins)

  • Participants now look closely at the work, silently taking notes on where it seems to be in tune with the learning goals the presenter described and how they understand the work in light of the presenter’s focusing question.

Probing Questions (10 mins)

  • Participants ask probing questions in order to give the presenter an opportunity to reflect further on the work and the focusing question: What were you hoping would happen when. . . ?  What are your assumptions about. . . ?  What would you have to change if you wanted to. . . ? What is the connection between _____ and _____ ?
  • Presenter responds to probing questions as they arise.  The goal is for the presenter to deepen his/her understanding of why this unit/ lesson/student work/assessment is a dilemma in the first place.

Pause to reflect on warm and cool feedback (3 mins)

  • Participants take a few minutes to jot notes on what they would like to contribute to the feedback session, thinking in terms of warm and cool feedback.

Warm and Cool Feedback (10 mins)

  • Participants share warm and cool feedback, speaking about the presenter in the third person.  Presenter is silent and may take notes.
  • Warm feedback may include comments about general strengths of the work and how the work presented seems to meet the desired learning goals.
  • Cool feedback may include comments about possible disconnects between the desired learning goals and the work itself, as well as other gaps or problems the participants perceive.  These may be phrased as observations, questions, or suggestions for strengthening the work.

Reflection (5 mins)

  • The presenter responds to the feedback; participants are silent.  This is not a time for the presenter to rebut or affirm each point, but rather for the presenter to think aloud about what s/he learned and what questions remain.

Debrief (5 mins)

  • The facilitator leads a discussion of this tuning experience.  What worked, and what needs work?

The times are quite serious – if it says 10 minutes, it means 10 minutes. Even if the person is “done” explaining, you sit and wait, because they might think of something else they should add or want to say.  Again, the times and the structure allow for a different experience that can be reassuring because you know you will not get interrupted.

2. We each take on a role in the protocol, whether as presenter, facilitator, or ideal team participant.

  • The presenter brings an artifact from their teaching (with copies to share) from a lesson plan that they want to improve. It should be something that needs improvement and is not just being developed. It should not be something that is already polished.
  • The facilitator keeps the protocol and time.
  • The ideal team participant can listen closely and really delve into the dilemma that the presenter has brought.

I know that this is not something I could have implemented without having watched those experienced in it first. I think it is important to have someone who knows how to do it because they buy in to the protocol.

Now that we’ve run this several times, our CFG is thinking of experimenting with the type of presentation given, since some of us have non-teaching responsibilities. Protocols such as “probing questions” might give us another format for talking about other aspects our of jobs that we’d like feedback/support on.

For more information on Critical Friends Groups, see the National Reform School Faculty.