Thinking about leadership and my own professional growth

I have been doing some soul searching on my own leadership qualities to better understand how I can improve.  Our district leadership team did a StrengthsFinder assessment several months ago.  Its amazing how a self assessment can tell you a little about yourself.  Below are my findings. In my mind, it pretty much nailed who I am.

MY TOP 5 STRENGTHS (my report – pdf)
1 Futuristic
2 Strategic
3 Ideation
4 Self-Assurance
5 Arranger

I also completed a Meyers Briggs Self Assessment via and again… similar themes came out.  After taking the assessment twice  – my personality type did not change. I am considered an ENTP.  I enjoyed reading what an ENTP’s strengths and weaknesses.  And, frankly that is me in a nutshell.  Tonight I did a little more research on ENTP’s and this wikipedia reference really resonated with me… “ENTPs are quick to see complex interrelationships between people, things, and ideas.”  I really enjoy listening and learning about new topics/ideas and seeing how they relate to my work….

However, this week I am struggling a bit.  Our district recently switched to the Marzano Framework for Teaching/Learning (Pdf of the criteria).  I will admit.  When I look at the teacher side of the framework – I can see exactly where technology has a role.  There isnt a single domain, element that is not relevant to edtech and I can easily provide samples/examples where edtech has a place for each!

BUT, this year, I am being assessed on the Marzano District Leadership Framework (learning map – PDF). This is where I struggle.  Usually I can see relationships of ideas/content to my role and edtech. But I am having a difficult time relating the leadership elements to myself. It is  very frustrating that I can not see the link!  I took the self assessment in iObservation and found that I could barely relate to the scales and wound up in the “Developing” mark in many of the elements.    This assessment does not correlate to my StrengthsFinder assessment or my MeyersBriggs self assessment.   I can look at our strategic plan – and immediately relate to what I can do to improve myself and my department to support our organization.  But, it is not very clear with the Marzano side.  This is a time where I would LOVE to communicate with people like me.  Tech Directors who are using and being evaluated on this same framework.  Know of any?

While I share frustration – my growth mindset says – keep moving forward.  Eventually it will make sense.  I hope I can look at this blog post 6mos and realize where I went wrong in my thinking. Can’t wait for that lightbulb moment!

Testing and promoting our makerspace green screen

My HS Media Specialist has been working on creating a HS Makerspace in our media center.  We actually have a small room, right next to our library that is the perfect space.  She recently installed a mobile green screen.  (green fabric and a curtain rod).  The room is great for video recording as you can shut the door to get better audio quality.  We also purchased an iPad/tablet mount for a tripod and 2 external microphones (lavalier and handheld) for better sound quality.  The app of choice  – TouchCast.

On Monday, we decided to test it.  So much fun!  Literally in 30 seconds I had a video of myself, on a beach.  The video – could definitely use some work and we need to play around with lighting and settings of the app.  BUT, even though the quality was not there,  I couldn’t resist and  sent the video out to our entire HS staff.  This immediately sparked teacher interest.  I look forward to this technology getting in the hands of our students and watching them creatively make their video artifacts  more interactive and engaging. So much fun!

How the 140 character discussion helps me

Tonight marked the 1st #MNLEAD  twitter chat. Michelle Ament (@mlament)and Lisa Sjogren (@lisasjogren) did a fantastic job creating the discussion agenda and moderating the event.  Having the agenda ahead of time really helped me keep track of the answers to the questions and flow of the conversation.  I also appreciated learning about tweetchat – a tool specifically for twitter chats.  For those of you who have not participated in a chat before, essentially a moderator will ask a question and then you respond.  Typically you get 10 minutes to have a rapid conversation (I mean crazy-fast high-adrenaline discussions) around the ideas presented, before moving on to the next question.

Below is a sample:

My response



While what I tweeted was nothing earth shattering, it was a my statement, my thoughts and something that I could have a side twitter conversation about.  This is what  like about twitter chats.  A single tweet leads may lead to a favorite or  retweet (RT) which can lead to a reply.  The reply leads a formal twitter conversation that may include actual samples and  ideas that are being currently implemented  in districts.  That 140 character conversation leads to follow up email or in this case an invite to a  Google community #MNTransformEDU.  Follow up emails and/orconnections in Google communities can lead to longer more in depth conversations. If online discussion is not enough it may be necessary  for a phone call and my favorite – Google hangout.  I can not begin to tell you how many times a spark on Twitter has lead to some pretty significant change in my district as well as my own professional growth.  Because of that 140 character discussion cycle, I have now have a deeper connections to like-minded colleagues around the state (or world) who support me, but more importantly challenge me in my thinking.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still learned quite a bit from our chat.  I like that we had 40-50 ed leaders in MN come together to talk about leadership and what we like, what we do, and how we will follow up with what we learned.   We also have to tweet our actionable items throughout the rest of the week – (this was a nice touch!)  If you are wondering what the lollipops are about – please watch the video in the agenda.


One pondering question I have.  What if we had MORE edu leaders participate and engage in Twitter Chats.  What kind of movement would that create in MN schools? Join us Sundays at 7pm cst!

#Ties13 Sparks and Action

Part of my experience with TIES is also taking away actionable items to begin implementing right away.  Its been a great experience and I am  so fortunate to have connected and collaborated with so many new friends, old friends, colleagues, and above all my #byrondlc team.  It is leaders like these,  with their own  individual  brilliance and passion for improving our schools – that makes me love to come to work EVERY DAY.


Byron Digital Learning Coaches making last minute preso edits for Tuesday sessions

Here are a couple of my take aways from the conference.  I have many ideas, some can be implemented now, while others will take some time.  Hoping these sparks will materialize…

  • Remind staff about  iTunes U – Huge resource in Apple Distinguished Educators (Beyond campus ) as well as many other nuggets of personalized PD opportunities! (Spark via Ryan Cox )

  • Develop more Student led PD/sharing/collaboration opportunities (Spark via Ryan Cox).  Had a engaging conversation with #byrondlc team. Janelle, Katie, Matt, Josh, Josh, Andy, Amber, and Holly about this concept and I think it could very well be a game changer. Maybe even to help promote more growth mindsets! – 1st potential opportunity – Student Led Amended day based on exciting projects done in the classrooms in every building.

  • “Top Gun” training for  Innovative teacher leaders – Design a training day for very high flyer educators…  (maybe pair up with another school or two)  (Spark via Ryan Cox)  While it is important that our innovators are connected – there is something to be said bout the ability to hop in a car and be able to connect within a couple of hours.  While my virtual PLN is incredibly valuable – I find I have become to value those 1 or 2 times I get to connect with them IRL. (In real life)  There are just some things you will not (or should not) discuss online or in web conferences.  Is it possible to connect MN innovative educators via grade level/subject area? Is it needed? Stay tuned!

  • Create formal pd learning environments that are very collaborative in nature.  (21st century assessments) based on framework in which participants explore and participate together. ( Spark via Tom Brandt and Andrea Wilson Vazquez)  One of my favorite things to do is observe others present information.  Tom and Andrea did a great job facilitating a very engaging environment.  I will be honest – the 3 hours FLEW by and the conversations at my table were very rich.  Between the excellent prompts, the self paced (or group paced) activities, and the self chosen pathways… This was not your typical 3 hour PD.   I have GOT to learn how to master this type of PD.   I appreciated the loose structure, and appreciated even more – the opportunity for us to learn from each other.  (As well as from Tom and Andrea!)

  • We need to come up with a formalized mechanism to share innovation happening in our classrooms.  This is a challenge.  This year, my professional growth plan includes visiting teacher classrooms to observe technology integration in action.  Within my visits this year, I have come to  realize – we have so many teachers doing amazing things and no one knows about it.  George Couros shared at his session – to go from pockets of innovation to a culture of innovation you must have 2 things – 1) the willingness for an individual to learn and 2) mass sharing.  Even with individual learning, there has to be a growth mindset to do so and no fear of failure.   A short Tweet conversation later that night lead me to realize that many principals also have a significant role in this too.  I decided to post the question out to the #ties13 group.  Here is the twitter discussion with Farmington principal Jason Berg.

    twitter discussion image

    Twitter discussion with Jason Berg

    The problem of sharing is a problem.  The last 2 days, several of our coaches presented their experiences at TIES13 and our own staff and administrators havent even seen their work!!!  (PS they were awesome!)

    As for the “sharing” we need an intuitive system.  While this is somewhat related the idea of the  Connected Educator Academy – I think there are things we can do now that wouldn’t be too intrusive.  Google Communities has a huge potential because of its tie with Google Apps for Education.  It also has the ability to be private – to our domain only.  I like how you are notified within your email account when there is something new.  Innovation brings a special buzz…  an internal buzz is contagious.  More thoughts to come. One great idea that was shared by Kristin Daniels was an idea for Sharification.  Experience points (XP) for sharing.  We could have competitions, leaderboards, ect.  Needs to be manageable however.

  • Do a site visit to East Carver County school district.  “We will know we are successful when we no longer categorize our kids”  Have you ever went into a TIES session expecting to learn a few basics about a topic?  Well, 10 minutes into the East Carver Count personalized student learning presentation, I could hardly contain my excitement.  First of all, what they have done there has totally challenged any status quo of what we call school.  I will be honest. I am jealous.  They started this discussion in 2007.  We began our discussion last year.  In a nutshell, flexible groups, flexible grades, flexible schools.  They also differentiate teachers based on strengths.  I think what is so intriguing, is the roadblocks they have overcome and my realization of roadblocks we have yet to challenge.  I was very impressed with the openness and collaboration of the administration team.   (Spark via Brenda Vogds, June Johnson, Brian Beresford)

  • Create a virtual Digital Coach pair share  (Spark by Neil Andruschak and Casey Rutherford and #byrondlc team. Janelle Groehler, Katie Krueger, Matt Weyers, JoshBurton, Josh Bernards, Andy Pethan, Amber Aslakson, and Holly Vos)  We decided to take a break from the formal sessions and skip the Tuesday Keynote. (GASP, Its True!)  Instead, a group of us sat down and talked about coaching and the direction of PD in our schools.  Such brain power! So many of us are working on similar strategies and ideas and have overcome challenges.  We could learn from each other!  Ideas sparked about opportunities for coaches to virtual observe other coaches in PD sessions.  I also have to wonder…with 12 DLCs in my district – would it be valuable for our DLCs to observe and experiences sessions in other buildings?  I know my experience with our PK-K staff has been invaluable for me. I need to do visits in other buildings as well!  (Goal for the remainder of 2014!)

  • Connect our teachers and administrators!  So this weekend I worked on mapping out The Connected Educator Academy.  I have been working on this idea for some time.  From conversations to implementation, I am looking forward to collaborating with Kasson Mantorville  Tomi Swanson and Kelly Braun and my Curriculum Director Donita Stepan to roll this out between our districts as a small pilot.  There may be other integrationalists that want to participate.  My hopes is to ramp it up by this summer if others are willing to jump in and help..  Between  conversations with Kasson, the Gamification session and 21st century learning session, and the Leader Edge Certification Course (my portfolio) – this has been on my mind for MONTHS!  Here is the map I created over the weekend….  (Still in draft mode)  Creating a map is a great step in gamifying learning!

    The Connected Educator Academy

    The Connected Educator Academy

  • Gamify 1 PD day.  – First of all. Wow.  I have never understood what gamification was.  I thought – it was how a teacher could have students create games, or play games in a classroom. But after learning from Chris Hesselbein it really is a design way of thinking in delivering your curriculum.  I was hoping to do something  Jan 20 which is right now scheduled to be an internal edcamp.  However, I may rethink this because of timing.   At any rate, here is my plan for a 1 day gamified event– ready to ready to implement.  I’d also like to  consider gamifying our entire DLC process but it would be great to have a short pilot on a 1 day PD day first to understand how to best facilitate this and how the staff react to it.  I know my reaction was very engaged.  WOW Moment.    The  #byrondlc team would need to be involved in the pilot as well as any other further development of it within the DLC process.

  • I would love to expand project based learning at BPS.  I feel pretty fortunate that I was able to spend an entire afternoon with Suzie Boss learning about Project Based learning and Technology Integration.  It was mind boggling what she has been able to observe in schools all over the world.  While we have made an initial start to introduce PBL on a district wide scale – I think it would be great to provide further training on how to do this.  Right now, there is discussion between a few DLCs and I to create a hybrid course and roll it out during our academy this summer, pilot it, fix it up – then present the training at TIES next year during a pre-conference workshop.  (Maybe even give the course away to all participants!)  One of the things I took away from the time with Suzie is that there is alot of misconceptions of what PBL is and I think if we should consider the framework that has been provided by the Buck Institute.  The concept map for this course needs to happen soon.  Before I forget everything I have been able to learn.  One last thing I need to do – check out/share  Glocalization and Quad blogging.  Cool terms. Cool global project ideas.

Quotes I heard in presentations worth mentioning

  • “We need to show reverence for the past but not live it!” – From Prensky
  • The smartest person in the room…is the room.” – Couros
  • “True change will not be top down, or bottom up. It needs to be “all hands on deck!”  – Couros
  • “Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop – Adults should not either!” –  Couros
  • “Freedom is actually a bigger game than power.  Power is control, Freedom is about what you can unleash.” – Courous
  • “Biggest shift for educators using technology is not skill set, its MINDSET” – Couros
  • “We have to start our learning with things that kids care about!   Especially problems with GLOBAL significance”  – S Boss
  • “Q) How long should PBL take?  A) Long enough – should not be rushed.!” – S Boss
  • “We will know we are successful when we no longer categorize our kids” – East Carver County Team
  • it’s complacency that is EDU’s enemy…  Hegna (My realization after all my learning)

Most awesome risk taking video EVER! 

Girl on Ski Jump


Learn. Share. Innovate. Inspire

In Start with Why, Simon Sinek writes,

“The role of the leader is not to come up with all of the great ideas. The role of the leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” ( p. 99)

I am extremely excited to share a few components of our district’s new roadmap.  Over the past 6 months, we have been meeting and collecting feedback from our community, our staff, and our students.  We’ve heard about things we have done very well, heard about areas we need to improve, and listened to ideas that will take us into the future!  From this work, a new 5 year strategic plan has been developed.  This may be some of the MOST invigorating work I have been a part of!

Our Mission Statement:  Learn. Share. Innovate. Inspire.

I have to admit, I feel these 4 words encompass who I am and why I come to work every day.  These 4 words ARE my passion.  Yes, some days are better than others – but as I reflect on our culture at Byron – I think this statement   delivers on why we do the business we do.  In education, our main objective is our clients, our students – but I also feel these words should connect equally with our staff and our community as well.

Our Vision

By 2018, Byron Public Schools will be recognized as a leading, renowned school system in the world by:

  • Challenging the status quo and developing new norms for education
  • Leveraging real world tools & skills to develop a passion for learning
  • Developing students that demonstrate outstanding character
  • Creating a safe school environment that is happy, healthy & caring
  • Utilizing purposeful technology to develop 21st century learning and skills.

These are some very powerful statements and I believe my district can achieve all of them.  I will say, for my personal perspective that the first statement really hits the nail on the head.  We can not continue to provide traditional education in a digitized world.  It doesnt make sense.   Just today I was able to see Will Richardson’s slides from his #ISTE13 keynote presentation.  While I was not physically at ISTE this year, this slide deck certainly struck a very deep chord with me!  I believe our district is on the right track!


We also have 7 new priorities of focus.


  1. Personalize learning for all students
  2. Promote and provide applied learning experiences within the school and community
  3. Develop well-rounded students in the areas of character, community, and academics
  4. Ignite and inspire students to explore their passions and share their talents
  5. Maximize the personal and professional potential of all staff
  6. Maintain excellence in resource management


While I feel we have COLLECTIVELY created our Why in our mission and some of the What in our vision statements – Our priorities will help us develop the How.  Teams of district stakeholders will be creating action plans under each priority.  It was very difficult for me to choose what team to be on because I was inspired by so many !  In the end, I chose to partner with others and form a team  around Priority 4 – Ignite and inspire students to explore their passions and share their talents.

 A little bit about our Priority 4 journey.  It was important for our team to understand the ideas around passionate learning.  It is a concept that has recently received quite a bit of recognition – especially in the twitterverse and blogosphere.   I felt it was important to introduce the team to the concept  so I created my top 10 resource  list  for our team to review prior to our 1st meeting.

Hegna’s top 10 resources to support Passion Based Learning

  1.  (Watch the student Valedictorian speech)

  2. Hack Schooling – 13 year old Ted Talk –

  3. Guidelines for Passion Based Learning – by Angela Maiers

  4. 20% Classroom (Video) by Kevin Brookhouser

  5. User Generated Education by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

  6. Stillwater Public Schools – T Need for Passion

  7. Edutopia Passion Based Learning by Aisissa Ramirez

  8. Stop Stealing Dreams – Seth Godin Ted Talk –

  9. Gallup Results – Student engagement decreases with each year

  10. Washington Post – If Students designed their own school it would look like this

We had great discussions and really had to stretch our minds.  Since then, some of our “blue sky” ideas have   formulated into action steps and measures.   We are almost there!  I am so excited!  With any change (especially in edu) there will be  roadblocks we will have to conquer.    We WILL FAIL.  But we will also WIN.  I can not wait to begin to walk the talk.  We have had a tremendous amount of planning, planning, planning.  But now  Its GO TIME!

Walk the Talk

Image Credit =

Expanding 1:1 iPads in our district

I am very excited to announce that our school board has formally approved our plan to expand our 1:1 iPad (Project Bears21) initiative to include grades 7-12 for the Fall of 2013.  While 1:1’s are popping up all over the place – I feel there are 2 unique components to our plan that may differ from others and would love your feedback.

Financing 1:1. 

We have decided to blend our 1:1 with several options for parents.  Below are the options that parents will have. While we will have some record keeping to do (thinking of tracking through either our helpdesk system (asset management) or our SIS – Infinite Campus).

Cost of the iPad

  • iPad 2 – $380
  • Case – $40 – Case is the ruggedized Griffin Survivor Case.
  • Apps – $50 – The district will purchase the apps, but will be “owned” by the family.
  • Total cost = $470
 Options for parents
  • Option 1 – Leasing Directly with Apple. (Grade 7-12) –  In this option, the district would sign up for the lease and make payments on an annual basis.  The district would require a $40 yearly insurance fee from parents ($35 for those eligible for reduced lunch, $30 for those eligible for free lunch) per student/device with a family cap of $120 per year.  Parents would be responsible to pay the district for this option. At the end of the lease the district would essentially own the device but would turn the devices back to the company for a $100 trade up.
  • Option 2 – Invest for Learning. (Grade 7-11) – In this option the district would partner 50/50 with the parents.  Parents would be required to pay the leasing company their share of the lease (could be yearly, quarterly, monthly).  Total cost to parents would be approximately $121/year/device.  At the end of the lease, the parent could buy out the lease (for each device) for $20. The iPad would then be owned by the parent.
  • Option 3 – Bring Your Own iPad2 (BYOi) (iPad2 or better). (Grades 9-12)  – In this option, the parent already owns the device.  The district would provide approximately $50 in apps per student.  The parent must agree to enroll the device into the district’s mobile device manager (This is how we will provide the student with paid apps).  The parent assumes all insurance/maintenance of the device.

Professional Development to support 1:1.

It was a plan by 1:1 plan by Northfield Public Schools (pdf) that really captured our eye.  They included 4 year staff development plan based on the SAMR model of technology integration by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura.  We have adapted that idea and created our own model.    While I feel we have quite a few teacher that will blow past the SAM levels of the SAMR in year 1- we need to recognize that not all our teachers are at the same skillset.  This plan looks at ensuring classroom transformation in ALL classrooms within 3 years.  Sometimes, you have to go slow to go fast and we do not want to leave any classroom behind!

Below is a video that highlights our plan for PD in preparation for implementation this fall. We also will be developing /providing plans for job embedded PD for the school year as well.  Again, would love to hear your feedback!

Currently we have approximately 155 iPads for grade 7 students.  Since we want all devices to be on the same schedule, we are going to take those ipads, as well as other “loose” ipads in our high school and expand more mobile carts for teachers in grade K-6.  This is an interim plan to build the skillset and capacity within our teachers as we look to expand the 1:1 concept in the lower grade levels as well.

More information coming soon!

Like us on Facebook

Hooray!  My district now has an official fan page on Facebook. (  We are very excited about this opportunity to first give our students, parents, alumni, and community an opportunity to see what it is like to be a student/staff member in our district. We also feel that it will give a more personalized tour of the culture of our district to potentially attract new students and new talented staff.

FB picture

Planning for Facebook

While we had “parked” our pages for each school some time ago, it was decided, by our communications committee, that we needed to contain all of our district into 1 page.  Because we are a smaller district (1850 students) , it would be much easier to maintain and parents would not need to like multiple pages thus receiving too many updates or duplicate information.

We decided that administering FB would not be the job of a single employee – but we would spread the Facebook facilitation (FB Admins) to key people in each building.  (Mix of secretaries and media staff)  These individuals typically have a pretty good grasp of what is happening in our buildings and things that are worthy of spotlighting on our fan page.  It was important that we keep the Facebook page up to date AND  it was important that we NOT  blast our followers with too many status updates.  We decided to do an update  at least  1 time per day with  a max of 2 each day.  Each building FB admin  picked a day of the week that they would update the page.  If there were specific questions from our fans, they would answer on an as needed basis.

Several weeks ago, we did our FB Admin training.  Now,  it is NOT difficult to do an FB update.  However, the majority of our time was spent discussing how to protect the personal FB profiles of our FB admins.  We went into the privacy settings of their personal FB profiles, and talked about what those settings actually mean.  We also talked about appropriate use of the tool and making sure they understood that even thought they had access to comment and interact with their personal friends, it probably is not a good idea.  Every like, friend comment is logged and timestamped in FB.  Posting personal comments at 9:30 am on a work day will not look good when you are supposed to be working.  But to interact with stakeholders on our fan page is AOK!

Next we spent some time discussing what we actually would be posting on the site to be sure we really showcase our district’s culture.  Below are some ideas that were shared in post How Schools Can Use Facebook to Build an Online Community by Mashable.

PHOTOS – Photos are an excellent way to showcase school culture. A school may choose to use photos to highlight a variety of aspects of the school, including:

  •     Students exhibiting values the school encourages
  •     Celebrations of student work
  •     Field trips
  •     Experiential learning activities
  •     Assemblies or school-wide celebrations
  •     Recognition of individual students for excellence

VIDEOS – Videos can be an incredible way for a school to personalize its online presence and actually demonstrate what it is that makes it special. A school may add videos that showcase a lot of different things, including:

  •     A variety of learning, including different subjects and age groups
  •     Assemblies or school-wide events
  •     Community meetings
  •     High caliber teaching and student engagement
  •     Students, teachers, and members of the community discussing what makes the school special
  •     Share songs, chants, or cheers that are used as a part of school culture or academics
  •     Sporting events

After comparing FB fan pages from districts in the area as well as the state, we really wanted to make sure that our posts included pictures and videos. There are simply some things you can not capture with text alone. This actually excited our FB facilitators as they wanted to go out, visit classrooms, and take pictures of our culture in action.  We will also allow pics and stories to be submitted by our staff to the FB facilitators. We decided that only those with FB admin privileges would be allowed to post on our fan page.  See the image below for specific page settings and reasons they are set that way.

Facebook Fan Page security settings


Whats Next?

We will be lifting the ban on Facebook for all of our staff.  We will be lifting the ban on Facebook for our high school students.  (HOORAY) We will be doing some formal/informal training of all staff (most likely flipped PD) about how to secure profiles and also how to utilize FB appropriately as a teaching/learning/communication tool.  I am also hoping to work with teachers about how we can teach our students to appropriately use this tool and all other social media tools.  We do have a district scope and sequence for Internet safety (and developing students appropriate digital footprint) and hopefully we will have the ability to showcase and teach good use of the tool!

At the time I wrote this blog, we only had 173 likes.  Most of these likes came from the either word of mouth or the nature of social media.  We will be marketing that we now have a FB fan page through other district communications.  I also added a Like us social plugin front and center on our district website.  We will be monitoring our likes, we will monitor our FB insights.  The analytics of FB are outstanding and if you have a FB fan page I highly recommend you check them out!  Here is a snippit of ours!  173 Likes has a potential of reaching 29, 529 friends of our fans!

Screenshot of our Facebook Insights. (analytics for FB)

The perfect recipe for school innovation

This week we were visited by the Stanford Research Institute and they are doing a case study on Byron High School.  As you may, or may not know, Byron High school won the 2011 Intel School of Distinction award for their innovative math program.  The experience was amazing and the opportunity – exciting.  (See my capture of the moment we won – BEWARE turn down your speakers)

This could be viewed as a breakthrough moment for our district as it was highly publicized and our math department opened their doors to other schools wanting to learn from them.  The school innovation flywheel began to spiral.  Since the award in 2011, we have had many “break throughs” in education innovation including Hybrid Learning, ePortfolios for all students grades 7-12, Our first annual Innovation Fair, 1:1 iPad Pilots in Grade  7 as well a few 1:1 carts (K, 2, and FACS) and the addition of the Digital Learning Coach this year a “flipped PD” edtech coaching model.

I was asked – What was it that led your district to this exciting journey?  Hmmm.  I really couldnt pinpoint it.   We have always had moments here in Byron that have been considered innovative.  We went completely wireless in the district and gave every teacher a laptop in 2002.  In 2005 we  created a 3 year tech plan that included SMART boards in every classroom. We built a new High School in 2006.  Data Coaches came in 2007 and in 2008 we began our PLC journey as well as our Online Learning committee.  In 2009 we migrated to Infinite Campus and in 2010 we adopted Google Apps for Education (my personal favorite prior to winning Intel SODA).

We have had many schools come and visit us  in the last year.  When they do, we often hear comments like –   I wish we could “bottle this up” (our culture) and bring it back to our districts.  And then we hear about the roadblocks and challenges face.  Our administrators are not on board. Our Tech director is a Network NaziOur Teacher contracts/climate would never support these ideas.   I believe that in the problems other describe – lies the answer to the culture of innovation in our district.

BPS did not magically arrive to this wonderful place overnight.  I believe the partnership between our board/administrators, tech, teachers, and community is what has helped our success in edtech innovation. Its ok to have new ideas and challenge the status quo.  Our leaders remove barriers that stifle innovation (THIS IS BIG).  Most of the most innovative ideas we have had – have not been a top down initiative.  Teachers are allowed to take risks and lets face it – with risk comes failures.  And its ok to fail – as long as you learn from it.  Sometimes great ideas don’t work perfectly the first time around…. As a tech director I find that taking time to listen, reflect, and help resolve the issues… will improve outcomes for my teachers.

It is also important to listen to ideas around you.  (I use Twitter for my outside of Byron idea catcher)  Good ideas deserve your attention.  Whether they are online, in a school district down the road, or ESPECIALLY  in a classroom down the hall – sometime an idea just needs to be shared or encouraged to make it happen. Teachers that know they have their tech director and administration in their corner – are going to feel much more confident and  empowered.  And these empowered teachers have an amazing effect on  students and their learning.

I am not sure if this is the perfect recipe for school innovation.  But it certainly has helped move our district forward.

Image Credit –



Summer 2012 – Recap

It is the last day of August just before the nice 3 day labor day weekend. I have a few minutes before tasks and I thought I would be a good time to reflect on my summer! (with the district)  My edtech summer can basically be summed up in 3 words: Infrastructure, Devices, and Development.


This was certainly a year for infrastructure upgrades!  In preparation and planning for 1:1 and PLD it was apparent we needed the infrastructure to support these devices.

  • Internet Bandwidth – Upgraded from 45MB to 100MB pipe to the Internet.  Our plans are that we may have to double every year to support online learning in our classrooms.
  • Access Points.  We have nearly doubled our coverage in our schools and have upgraded many of our AP’s to the Cisco Aironet 3600i AP’s. More throughput and coverage for more devices at longer distances.  Also will be upgradable when the new AC standard comes out!
  • Apple Mobile Device Manager Server – With a 1:1 7th grade program we needed to be able to control and monitor the devices remotely.  Right now, I think the Apple’s server will do – but I am always looking for other alternatives.  I am already planning for “what happens next year” and adding additional iPad 1:1 grade levels.
  • More POE switches – We needed to add Power Over Ethernet switches (1GB) in several of our buildings to support the additional APs.
  • Wireless Lan Controller #2 – We needed another controller (50 client) to support our additional AP’s.
  • Moodle Server – Our district made the jump to the latest version of Moodle. 2.3 from 1.9.  The interface is different -but also much improved.  We also can easily integrate cloud storage from Google Apps, Dropbox, – which will be critical for the classroom workflow when using iPads or other PLDs.
  • PRI Circuits.  We have moved our phone system from many many spendy analog lines to 2 PRI circuits saving us thousands of dollars each year, including no more long distance bills.
  • Asset Management – We now have the ability to track our inventory through our helpdesk system.  We started the year tracking iPads but plan on putting every device in the system and associate them with users/classrooms.   No more spreadsheets – YEAH!


Even though this felt like a year for iPad deployment, we also had quite a few desktop and laptops we deployed.  We still have some needs for our curricular programs to have desktops. And as of now – we also have to ensure we have spots available for testing!  However, word out on the street is that our State testing program may be creating an APP for the iPad. If/When that happens, I do believe the idea of a “computer lab” will be antiquated and current replacement funding will be studies to support more 1:1.

  • 3 Computer labs (Project Lead the Way and 2 Business Labs)
  • 360 + iPads
  • Approx 12 laptops (new hires/replacement schedule)


We can not forget that people need to not only need to know how to RUN the devices we have given them – but also how to effectively integrate them into their classrooms.

  • iPad Training for 1:1 teachers – We have several 1:1 pilots happening in our district.  1 cart in Kindergarten classroom, 1 cart in a 2nd grade classroom, 1 cart in a high school FACS classroom, and a 1:1 in 7th grade – We had Jenn Nelson of Eden Prairie come down 3 days to help faciliate training/discussions in using the iPads in a 1:1 environment.  I think the toughest scenario will be utilizing the iPads in a multi-user environment (FACS)  They simply are not made to be multi-user devices.  At any rate – we needed to prepare our staff for these devices.
  • eLearning Certification – I have developed a 6 week certification program for district teachers who want to teach online or develop hybrid courses for our district. We now have a board approved process in which teachers must follow before being allowed to teach hybrid.  It starts with the certification. This course is not just about how to do Moodle (even though they will learn how to do Moodle)  – it is more about how to facilitate online learning –  Developing quality online resources, activities, and assessments according to course objectives while building collaboration among students is the main focus of this course.  They have a peer review sample ready to go upon completing the course.
  • Bears Professional Growth Academy – Another great academy took place this year!  Attendance is between 60- 70% of Byron Teachers that VOLUNTARILY attend. Right now we have accumulated over 1300 hours of PD for our staff as well as others from other districts  Check out our PGA archive!
  • Digital Learning Coaches – Of all the projects we have accomplished this year – I would have to say I am MOST excited about this one.  We have always done a very good job preparing our teachers for technology, but not a good job helping with the implementation.  This is our answer to what others call “Tech Integrationalists”.   Here is the video “all call” I sent to my staff and we were fortunate to have quite a response from district teachers!  We plan on utilizing the FlippedPD idea and were fortunate to have Kristin Daniels and Wayne Feller (StillWater Public Schools) to help kick off the coach training!  I have some incredibly eager teachers who are very engaged on helping EVERY classroom (PK-12) effectively integrate technology to support teaching and learning!  We started the school year with a visit to every school share the processin developing our own teacher Digital Learning Network.  It was AWESOME and one of my PROUDEST moments for the district!

    Goodby Summer!
    Photo Credit –


I sincerely hope all of the summer of installs and planning pay off – and this school year is one of my best….EVER~!

iPads, Moodle, and the “Paperless” Classroom Workflow

Today we updated our sandbox Moodle server so that I could begin testing (and training) on the new system.  We will be officially transitioning our production Moodle to 2.3 this summer.  This couldn’t come at a better time.  As my previous post indicated, we will be piloting iPads in grade 7 and several elementary classrooms.

One of the very cool things about Moodle 2.2+ is that it integrates EASILY with Dropbox. This will assist teachers as they develop a “paperless” classroom with the iPad and Students will now be able to submit iPad created assignments to Moodle.  We have discussed sharing Dropbox folders and creating write only Dropbox folders. Why is this Moodle workflow option worth considering? The answer is easy…  Moodle helps with file organization of student submitted work. It also allows for a more organized way of providing private feedback to students.

Imagine – a math teacher posts a PDF of a worksheet for students to complete.  Previously students would print, do, and submit via paper/pencil.  Now students can download PDF,  open in PaperPort notes (or any other PDF writing app), write electronically on it with the iPad, save to Dropbox, and upload to Moodle.  Below is my thoughts of how this workflow would be implemented. (click image to see full size)



There is also the integration of Google Docs – however it is a little “hokey”.  (Yet works – but you do not have access to your folders?)  I am hopeful – HOPEFUL – that the iOS Google Drive is available by the start of school.  (fingers crossed – Julyish!)  I am thinking Drive  may eliminate students having to create a dropbox account. Students will already have Drive accounts via our districts Google Apps for Education integration. I am also hoping with Google Drive -that the Google Docs works better.  It is a bummer that docs is very basic on the iPad and does not allow for real-time collaboration.  Oh – and Google Presentation isnt even an option!

Below is a screenshot from the iPad in Moodle.  Students click Dropbox and easily navigate to the file (PDF, Jpg,  ePub, and even Doc, PPT, XLS).  Save it – and submit.  It is timestamped and ready to be graded!  Teachers can access via computer or iPad and then provide feedback about the assignment if appropriate.  Students can easily see what they have submitted, and what they need to complete because of the timestamp.  I think its a good option and we are going to GO FOR IT!

Moodle 2.2