Day 1: Connected Educator, Connected Classroom

Today was the first f2f day of Connected Educator, Connected Classroom.  This is course 2 of a series of 5 graduate level courses in our new Innovative Instructional Leadership Program with Winona State University.  We meet 3 days (beginning, middle, and end – for 4 hours) f2f and the rest of the time is spent online.

PLN pic

Connected Educator Sketchnote – via @sylviaducksworth

There are 5 big goals in this course:

  • I am a connected
  • My classroom is connected
  • I influence others to connect
  • I am an active/contributing member in this cohort
  • My evidence and reflections prove I have met course objectives (ePortfolio)

I will admit.  I am very excited about this course.  Excited first because I can’t wait to see what the products, processes, and opportunities these educators in our class create, implement, analyze, and reflect on.  I have seen the amazing work of these educators – and you can too by clicking on their ePortfolios.  (Check out their Blended Learning Artifacts)

2015-16 Innovative Instructional Leadership Cohort!

Another reason for excitement with this course is that I am doing my own innovating as course facilitator.

#1 – I have eliminated grades in this course.   Yes. Grades.  I was inspired to try this after learning a few of our teachers in my district were going down this path.  I have been reading the books and blogs by @markbarnes19, and @mrssackstein, AND lurking, learning and participating in #TTOG (teacher throw out grades) groups via Facebook and Twitter.  Instead, the course is chalk full of self assessment where students maintain their own progress reports.  (see template here)  Most activities are on a 5 points scale.  Below is an example of a generic scale.  When my students submit their work, I will provide them feedback.  If we agree on the score, we are golden!  If not, we may need to have a short conference to discuss.  At the end, when all work is completed and evaluated – we will have a f2f conference to discuss their final grade.  This is the grade that will be posted to the college.  Please note – I was up front about this with my S’s as we discussed how learning would be assessed.

Generic Scale

#2  Besides a few scheduled twitter chats, this course is completely open! Teachers can go in and out of each module. They can work ahead or catch up.  They can revise all they want – to produce the best learning products to get the best results!  My students can also propose new activities/evidences if they have another idea – even better than mine.  I do have a few deadlines – just to check for progress as some of the projects are significant and will need quite a bit of pre-planning before implementation.  For instance, they need to develop a personal growth plan to create/expand their PLN.  They need to create a lesson plan to implement a global learning experience in their classroom.  They also will create an action plan to influence others (colleagues) to become connected.  Once plans are created and self assessed, they are put into action and implemented, evidence is collected, analyzed, and reflected on their ePortfolios.

Speaking of evidence – Below are 2 samples I shared during our f2f session today to showcase evidence of the “journey”.  To me, the journey is just as important (if not more) than the result.  I assured my students, if you do not get the result you want, that is OK!  What did you learn? What can you do better next time?

Evidence via @DonWettrick – the metacognition in this video is incredible!

Evidence via principal @dellwein – 8th grade middle school students doing live collaboration with students from Norway using padlet.

Both of these examples were found via my PLN (twitter or periscope) and serve as excellent samples of students during the learning journey.  I do want end products too – but the journey is just as important!

One of the things my students will have to do (under the target – I am connected) is create a blog to use for or I should say AS learning.  I have a few prompts for them to respond to, as well as providing flexibility in topics.  As promised, I also will be modeling the use of reflection through blogs and hope to blog just as many times as my students.  ( I need this anyways as its one of my professional new year’s resolutions!)

PS – the PechaFlickr icebreaker was so much fun!

Petcha Flickr Activity

Petcha Flickr Activity – an impromptu way of story telling and getting the creative juices flowing!


Giving back to my PLN!

Picture at awards

2015 Minnesota Technology Leader Award. December 14, 2015

On Monday, December 14, I  received the 2015  Minnesota Technology Leader award at the TIES technology conference in Minneapolis.  Its  a very humbling and exciting experience to be recognized for my accomplishments with Byron Public Schools.   So many congratulations from district members. So many congratulations from my peers and PLN via social media!  Words can not express the gratitude I feel to all who have influenced me and supported me through my journey.  (And I have so much more to do!)

One of my recent accomplishments is to be working with Winona State University (WSU)  in the development of the Innovative Instructional Leadership Certificate Program.  This is a graduate level certificate and can be an “emphasis” area in WSU’s M.S. Education Leadership Program.


Innovative Instructional Leadership Certification – COURSE OVERVIEW –

Throughout this process,  I always had the intent of putting an creative commons license on my work.  Many districts across our state do not have the resources to develop these types of courses or the resources to pay for this type of training.   Other entities, like higher ed teacher prep programs, regional trainers, ect are also free to use however little or much they need from my course.  My goal, develop the courses, have a cohort go through them, and then publish the courses for others to use, adapt, and share alike!

What better time, than the day I received my award, to give the 1st course away.

I just finished course 1 of 5  and I am extremely happy with the outcome!  You can check out my learner’s ePortfolios to see some of the paths they chose to take.

If you want to take a look at the course (or download), Blended Learning Environments, please visit by going to  Use the guest login to access.   Any questions? Feel free to reach me at @jenhegna!


Model, Model, Model!

Second take away from #TIES15 this year.  Model, Model, Model.  Too often, there are expectations for educators to accomplish things in their classrooms, when they have yet to experiences them as learners!

I was VERY fortunate to be on a team with Matt Hillman (@mahillman), Michelle Ament (@mlament) and Rachel Gorton (@raztech ) for a session called Pathway to Personalized Professional Development.   One of the things we decided to do, as a team, was to provide participants choice in what they would learn.  So, upon coming into the session, participants would make a choice, based on a 1 minute or less pitch by us – the facilitators. We would then take our groups and split up.  After about 20 minutes of showcasing our ideas, we did a jigsaw so members of our groups had an opportunity to learn from members of other groups.   We brought the group together for a whole group conversation – and follow up with a call to action Flipgrid. (I believe we ran out of time for this activity feel free to add your ideas now!)

Group Picture

Pathways to Personalized Professional Development Team!

While I have much to share about my topic – Differentiating PD (future post) – the point I want to make is the way we rolled with this session. I have participated in Jigsaw activities, but I have never facilitated PD like this.    What a great way to model good learning strategies.  I will certainly take this back to my district and use it with my own staff when the opportunity arises.

In November, at the New Prague Blended Learning Conference – I decided to do something a little different with one of my sessions. I BLENDED it.  Yes, it was a f2f session, but at the last minute – I decided to do a blended lesson using this presentation  At the very beginning, I shared with the audience, I had never done this before.  This was true.  I also shared I had my own thoughts this would crash and burn.  Also true – my fixed mindset nagging at me!  (also incredibly important to model!)

At first, the majority of the participants were not excited about this idea.  I shared – I am here to push you out of your comfort zones and besides this is the Blended Learning conference!  And then….it was MAGIC!  The participants really got into it. My only request – they had to complete Module 1, and then they could choose what module interest them next.  They had choice in where (location) they participated.  My only request,  I wanted to be in eyeshot.   They were in the classroom, out in the halls, sitting on the floor, or sitting on the stairs.  As they went through the lessons, discussions, I walked around, monitored, answering questions.  I had a chance to talk with EVERYONE!  I also wanted to get their feedback – thoughts beyond the formative assessments I had built into the lessons?  From my observation, the engagement was very high and the hour seemed like minutes! We finalized our session with an big group discussion.

Photo collage

Pictures from my Blended Session

So that brings me to today.   The last week or so, I have been running sessions around formative assessment tools with teachers.  Its been quite successful as we have conversations about opportunities the tools have to better inform instruction.  But, how often,do  we, as technology directors, model good use of technology with our leadership teams?   Formative assessment tools can be incredible to help differentiate and bring discussions deeper within our meetings.  Many times in large group staff meetings, only a few will speak up (or monopolize) the discussions.  These tools can provide everyone a voice.

So, today I introduced AND had our team do a Socrative Quiz (around a topic relevant to us) and demonstrated the opportunity of Edpuzzle as a flipped meeting tool.    The dialog was rich and hopefully the tools were seen as helpful for them to use with staff to better differentiate their own staff meetings.  (I should have done an exit ticket!)

The point is this.  Talking the talk is fine, but we ALL need to experiences how technology can be meaningful and drive deeper learning/discussion.  If we expect our classrooms to be using the tools, we should also be modeling the effective use at technology (as well as good learning design) at the school/district level too.

And so, #mnlead!  This CTA is accomplished!  (I hope to do this in future meetings as well)


My call to action after participating in #mnlead chat at #ties15







PD, Online Learning, and Growth Mindset

This week will mark the end of yet another 8 week e-Classroom course and 6 more Byron educators will officially be e-Certified.  I developed and have been facilitating this for nearly 4 years and am constantly tweaking and fixing the course (via Moodle).  The smallest of improvements  can have great impact for future participants.  One of the things I LOVE about online learning, is that I have a record of discussions, reflections, and feedback.  This is critical – not for the participants – but for myself, my facilitation, and my course.

eCertification Framework

Establishing your eClassroom – Framework

Because of the way I have crafted the eClassroom course, it has provide extra time to focus on very personalized feedback.   Last year, I stumbled on Dwecks Mindset book.  It has changed my life.  I was determine to put extra time and effort to  focus on growth mindset techniques in all of my responses.   Generally reflections in Mod 1 indicated frustrations, doubt, and fear.   This is very natural and module 1 generally requires significant facilitation.   I will not lie.  I have seen some very VERY significant growth in participants this time around.  Not just growth in skill and technology but growth in mindset. From “I dont think this is for me and my classroom” to “I am ready to do this”!

I always provide opportunity for my teachers to give me feedback after each module and in an end of course survey.   The narrative provided this time around were great and the comments reflected my work in facilitation.

End of course feedback

End of Course Feedback from October-December 2014 cohort.


Improvements needed – my reflections

1. Somewhere in Module 1 or 2, I need to create a video about Moodle Design.  I would hope this would eliminate the amount of adjusting/clean up participants would have to do in Mod 4.  OR – better yet, maybe when I create their sandbox course – I only allow 2 or 3 topics. That way, they will try to keep unit materials under 1 topic.

2. Our district recently adopted the Marzano Framework for teaching.   This course is very aligned to Domain 1, 2, and 3.  I need to take some time and align the course to the framework, as well as ISTE and INACOL standards.  I would like to try utilize outcomes in Moodle.  If I could do standards based feedback/grading via Moodle – that would even be better. Word is @moodleshare may have figured this out!

Moodleshare Tweet

3. I would like to add a few scales to my activities to help with clarity in assessing the learning artifacts.  It is always important that my participants get opportunities to improve them.  I really like the Moodle rubrics.  Will I use those – or just a simple scale?

4. Give choice in reflections.  Either allow participants to reflect with me 1:1 (Moodle activity) or allow them an option to create a blog and reflect to their own audience – submit link to me.   I noticed one of my participants reflection improved significantly when the reflection went to our course discussion board in Mod 6.  Makes me think  – audience matters for some! I remember when I was in my masters courses and I loved LOVED blogging vs. private reflections.

5. Pay special focus with teachers in the as they are developing their units.  As they begin creating tasks and resources – its important that I provide feedback on whether or not the resources and tasks are age appropriate.  I would love to do cohorts of teachers in similar grade levels.

6. Consider either a module in copyright/fair use  or adding an activity in Mod 2/3.

7. Add more relevant research in hybrid learning.  When I first created – it was focused on online learning, I then readjusted to include flipped classroom.  I believe “Blend/hybrid” is the best solution and need to find research to support it.

Is there such a thing as the “perfect” course?  I doubt it.  But I will do my best to conquer and build it!  In the mean time, I am satisfied with the completion rate of Byron teachers (who voluntarily sign up) and the feedback they provide me to improve this course!

certification rate

eClassroom certification rate as of December 2014


My CTA (Call to Action) 15 minute reflection each day

My Call to Action - Reflection Last week after our #mnlead chat, I publicly promised (via Twitter) that I would try to carve at least 15 minutes each day to reflect on my learning as well as successes, challenges, and needs.   While it didn’t quite work out to reflect each day – I decided to compile a weeks worth of learning in several posts.

Each day, I highlighted my thinking, challenges, successes, or new things I am learning.   I have found it extremely valuable to think about my thinking and my own personal growth.   I would like to try and keep this up on at least a weekly basis.  Hope I can commit!

The class of 2020 goes to college

It was the turn of the century.  After schools  thankfully survived  Y2K, many of us  turned to visioning 21st century instruction.  And the class of 2020, was considered to be a monumental milestone on the 21st century edu timeline.

Fast forward to last Friday, April 24, 2014.

Friday was a good day. Wait, Friday was a GREAT day!  Matt Weyers (blog, twitter) and I had the opportunity to go and present Divergent Teaching: 21st century strategies for education to teacher candidates at Winona State University.  We also brought 5 co-presenters from Mr Weyer’s 6th grade class …which happens to be the class of 2020.

Photo Collage from WSU visit

This was a great experience to co present with students.  Each student shared how, within Mr. Weyers classroom, they had created their own online TV series via YouTube,  created a survival guide for the city of Byron in the event of a zombie apocalypse, (Mr Weyers shared that the majority of his students self chose to turn in 10+ page plans and it was some of the best writing he had ever seen) and published their very own book on  (See student explain the project below) 

 In our small group discussions, students also shared how they had frequent skypes to Argentina, created roller coasters out of paper, and are currently collaborating with their art teacher to create works of art that will be on display in various businesses in Byron.  (works of art will also be based on businesses and the goods/service they supply)

Its was very obvious that learning in Mr. Weyers classroom is fun but more importantly relevant and memorable.  Kids shared how they loved to write and create.

As I reflect on this class of 2020, these are exactly the type of experiences that I would hope they would have.  In these learning environments, kids do not question their teacher “why do we have to learn this?” because their work is authentic. Their audience – authentic.

I decided to ask a few of the teacher candidates, “Are you being prepared to develop learning experiences like this?”  They shared that they have their devices (each is issued a laptop and an iPad)  and  they have a breakout technology class in which they are learning how to use SMART boards and other technologies.  But they had not heard of back channels, Google forms, Google Communities, hangouts, and twitter chats.  All of the teachers at my table knew what  flipped learning was and how it worked, but did not know how to design or apply those types of experiences.

Twitter post via Justin Tarte - also understood that an invitation went out to almost 200 candidates as well as their professors.  We had 8 or 9 teacher candidates attend.  These were an awesome group of individuals and shared with them that THEY were the teachers we were looking for.  They are not waiting to learn  in a “required” 3 hour workshop or class.  We need teachers who have a growth mindset, who learn from failures to improve their practice. We are looking for teachers who challenge the status quo.  One great way for teachers to learn how to do this is to develop their personal learning network (Sample from Kathy Shrock) and observe and collaborate with teacher leaders  across the state/nation!

Here are 2 blog posts, I stumbled on tonight, by educators who have found value in developing their PLN.


If these soon to be teachers are not learning how to develop these learning environments in college – what about student teaching?  Again, each had varying experiences (most did not have any) in designing and applying 21st century instruction due to  the differences in the  schools they were selected to serve.

And finally, I reflected on our own induction of new teachers into the Byron school system.  If new teachers are not prepared for 1:1 iPads, Flipped/hybrid learning, Google Apps for Education, Project-Based Learning, and our new 21st century  strategic plan – how will we do a better job in preparing them to create authentic learning opportunities with these technologies?  It must be incredibly overwhelming for a new teachers to enter into our school system if they have not had formal training in 21st century learning design.   This has really got me thinking and I think there are opportunities…but that will be for a later post.

All in all, I could not express how proud I was of these 6th grade students and of course their teacher – Mr Weyers.  They absolutely loved their experience in this workshop and the overall experience at WSU. The learning opportunity was fantastic  – again –  writing and speaking in front of an authentic audience.  (College cafeteria food was also a big hit!) They were very proud of themselves and could not wait to share with their families and friends what happened that day. It would be great to connect with these students and I have to wonder, 6 years from now, when they are preparing to graduate from Byron if the paths they have chosen were at all shaped by experiences they had in this 6th grade classroom.

We had a few minutes to spare so I asked the students what they learned that day.  They all had varying responses and are going to create a reflective video for me about their experience.  But one student comment really resonated when he responded, “I learned that teaching was a hard job”.  Yes it is. Yes it is!

Personalizing PD with digital learning coaches

Situation: Effective use of technology is essential for teaching and learning in a global, digital age.
Problem: Many teachers do not know how to design and support technology-rich learning environments.
Solution: Coaching, combined with communities of learning, is a highly effective job-embedded PD model.

(ISTE, Technology Coaching and Community June 2012 –pdf)


Byron Public Schools had a problem.  Most technology integration professional development at BPS was organized around the preparation or introduction of a technology.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 10.28.42 AM.png

The district had been very good at introducing technology opportunities.  The majority of these “opportunities” were either shared as a “How to use this technology” or “Look at what happened in my classroom because of technology” in a one-size fits all workshop or assembly.  So many times our teachers were excited and eager to try something new – but by the time they got back to their classrooms, the realities set in, and the time to focus on the new idea was gone. Some teachers also had difficulties in aligning and integrating technology to support and enhance current student learning objectives. After the workshop was done, there was no support available for teachers throughout the integration process.  While some teachers were able to take the tech idea and do amazing things, the majority of the teachers were left to their own resources and the gap between transformative learning environments and the traditional learning environments were widening at a very rapid pace.We needed to transform the current model of tech PD to not only support the preparation of technology integration, but the active implementation and evaluation phases as well.

We also desired to develop new teacher leadership models in Byron.  Feedback from our 2011 Baldridge feedback report indicated that this was one of our SIGNIFICANT areas of improvement:

Alignment of Workforce Development. While the district encourages workforce development and allows staff to attend training sessions and suggests training topics, there is not a systematic process to ensure that workforce and leadership development is fully aligned with the district’s core competencies, Aims, and Goals. (2011 Minnesota Quality Award – Feedback Report for Byron Public Schools)

Many districts had begun to hire full time or part time integrationalists to help with the tech integration challenges.  There clearly are benefits to this, but Byron also wanted the ability to spread this leadership around and have edtech leaders available and present in each of our buildings. (PK, ES, MS, HS)  Fiscally, for a district our size, full time integrationalists in each of our buildings was not doable.  We already had pockets of innovators/early adopters in our district. Was it possible to capture and utilize the strengths of our current staff to:

  • Support the needs of technology integration/PD in our district?

  • Develop edtech leaders at a district level to provide input/feedback into district level decisions relating to edtech goals, purchases, and support systems?

  • Develop edtech leaders at a regional/state/global level to learn and share from others to bring fresh ideas back to the district while sharing great transformations in our own classrooms?

It seemed if there was a way to harness the talent we had, it could really prove to be a win win for all.  And so, a plan was formulated to develop a cohort of Byron leaders…called the Digital Learning Coaches (DLCs).

 Digital Learning Coach Skill Requirements – Several skills became apparent as a need.  We needed coaches who were tech savvy, or even more importantly, had already taken risks with new ideas in their classrooms.  Teachers who displayed a passion around technology and learning were a plus as they were already self motivated to engage their learners and transform their classrooms.

We needed coaches who were empathetic. Empathy was an extremely important skill as these were going to be coaches who would need to recognize and celebrate the wins of our staff no matter how big or small the effort.   This leadership role was not to build up the leaders while leaving the rest behind.  This role was to build leaders who will help inspire and support other teachers to take risks in transforming learning in their classrooms.

And finally, we needed coaches to have a deep understanding of the teaching and learning process (pedagogy).  It was critical that we have coaches that understand the purposeful use of technology – not to try new things for the sake of the technology, but to understand when and where technology could have a significant impact on instruction.

 After coaching skills were identified, and discussions with district administration about the initial process was approved the all call to district staff went out.  (Please note –  this concept was not accepted the first time it was shared.  It had to go back to the drawing board several times over several months before receiving administrative approval)

Coaches were selected in a partnership with district principals.  Then, we needed time to learn and develop the process as a DLC cohort.  The first item on the agenda was to develop and align coaches to the ISTE Coach standards,  and the second item was to  develop a process for all Byron teachers.   A 2 day retreat in August was created and the district was fortunate to be to collaborate with  Stillwater tech integrationalists Kristin Daniels and Wayne Feller and learn about coaching as well as the the flipped PD process they had developed in their school district.  The final process was to share with district administration to ensure 100% participation in the process.

Benefits for coaches include:

  • $1500 yearly stipend

  • DLCs generally are the first to get/try/review new gadgets.

  • 2 days to the TIES conference  – Please note, while this was originally thought of as a great place to go and learn from others – we soon realized this was a great RETREAT for the DLC cohort to connect and gather ideas to implement in the district.  This is an invaluable time together for team building as well as strategic visioning for the district!

The coaching process

 DLCs visited and presented the process to each building (as a team) to discuss the process and answer questions.  Time was allotted by building administrators during opening workshops.

  1. Teachers would self create goals using a template via Google Docs. (year 1, year 2)  Year 1 we focused on several key areas – Online Learning, Digital Devices, Global Views, Communication and Collaboration, Year 2 we focused on 21st Century Pedagogy.Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 4.54.06 PM.png

  2. Teachers would meet with DLCs for approx 1.5 hours each month.  This time would be used to provide coaching on their goals.  If teachers did not need coaching, this was time that was given for teachers to further develop and work on their goals.  Subs would be hired to allow the DLC to come out of the classroom for the entire day AND allow teachers to come out of their classrooms to receive coaching.  Subs for teachers would be rotated through the system so that every 1.5-2 hours a new small group of teachers to come out and receive coaching or work on goals.  This allowed DLCs to differentiate teachers by task, by skill, or by subject area.  (we have tried all)

  3. We wanted this process to be very reflective.  Both for the coach as well as the teachers.  The learning plan docs had a space for teacher reflection after each coaching session.  For coaches we wanted a reflective process for each to reflect about the coaching process after each monthly meeting.  These reflections could be then discussed with each other during monthly DLC cohort meetings.  This was also a great way to learn from each other and determine potential needs/roadblocks to the district.


#1 challenge = TIME.   The biggest problem we is the amount of time DLCs spend outside of the classroom to coach teachers.  In the 2013-14 school year, we added more coaches to increase support in our districts 1:1 while hopefully decreasing the amount of time coaches spend outside of the classroom.  An idea I have heard from other districts to  fix the issue:

  • Principals/counselors take group of students outside of classroom on a regular basis (Might do a unit of learning about digital citizenship or  digital footprint)  This would eliminate the need for coaches AND teachers having to create “sub plans”.

  • An idea that has been tossed around is further partnering with local universities so that new teacher interns could come in to allow the digital coach more time to go out of the classroom.  The challenge with this is that they are new teacher candidates.  Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not.  Is it possible to always get the “good” ones?

  • Is there some flexible scheduling opportunities we have not tapped into?

  • Evaluate teacher leader model vs. full or even part time tech integrationalists.  As I said before, the thing I love about or model is that it spreads the leadership around.  These teachers also have quite a bit of respect by other teachers as they are all still in the teaching  trenches as their peers. Yet, if our coaches had more time, they would be able to develop more flipped resources and digital learning opportunities to companion face to face opportunities. (blended learning)

  • Other – What is working for you???  Ideas very welcome!

#2 Further personalize PD for teachers – How do we maximize learners of all levels?  Right now we require 100% participation in the program.  Some of our staff may not need coaching as they are already are very savvy, make the time to learn how to integrate tech / transform learning opportunities.  Some of our staff may need more coaching opportunities.  How do we better personalize learnings based on needs?

  • I believe more blended opportunities can help suffice these needs.  Little Falls schools has created PD opportunities in which teachers have approximately 15 minutes of online review and reading they do before meeting with their coach at 7:30 to further discuss.  Check out their Teacher Led – Learner Driven series currently underway in their district! (you should check out their learning walks too)

  • Osseo public schools (@lisasjorgen, @tombrandt) shared a couple of interesting opportunities they have created in their district.  Tap into Tech gives credit for participation in workshop sessions, but gives further credit of learning for reflective work.  (2-8 credits).   They also have developed another option in which their teachers. C4 Training differentiates the learning of their participates based on ISTE standards.

  • EDcamp.  Our staff loved our unconference this year.  Are there ways to create similar learning opportunities more often?

  • Does gamification have a role in professional development?  For some, it could.
  • Universal Design for Learning – I have been investigating this framework for some time in looking at better how we can better personalize learning for students.  I have to think – the same guidelines would work for teachers as well?


  • What is currently working for you?

Feedback from Staff – At our last district wide PD day a short survey was sent out to all teachers further asking questions on how the DLC process could better serve their needs.  We also asked them how we could better utilize the time during DLC meetings.  Below is the results of that survey.  Please note the survey asked for them to select all that apply.

How can we improve the DLC process to better support your needs? Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 8.25.56 PM.png

How could we make the DLC coach time more effective? Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 8.27.20 PM.png


Thanks to our DLCs! I can not express how proud I am of these individuals (we have 12!) and the work they do for our district.  I look forward to our retreat this summer as we consider all of these opportunities to better improve our process for next year.  I also look forward to learning from others how they further improve and personalize learning for all staff. This has been an awesome journey and I look forward to continuing it in the years to come!

The power of the unconference

Byron Unconference

Whole group reflection after our district’s unconference

Yesterday was a great day.  Probably one of the  funnest  inservice  (oxymoron?) days I have participated in a while.   What made it fun? We decided to run the day edcamp style.  That is right.  No hired experts.  No hours of sit and get with no time to collaborate with peers. No pre-selected sessions with polished presentations.  Instead, with approximately 60-70 teachers we were able to crowdsource a schedule with 30 PD sessions in 30 minutes…  For our teachers, by our teachers.

So how did we  pull this off?  I am going to highlight some tips as well as some ideas we have already to improve our next go around.

  1. Attend an Edcamp.  A small group of Byron staff(@mr_weyers, @rockychat3, mrbernards and I) took off on a Saturday in October to attend #EdcampMSP in Osseo MN.  While our main agenda was to observe an edamp in action… we also got caught up in the learning and sharing too.  Made some great connections and made some new friends (adding to my PLN!).  What I noticed about the day was the energy and the growth mindset of every individual at the conference.  I also found it was great to observe Edcamp gurus @lisasjogren and @tombrandtt  in action and I appreciate their support (tweets, hangouts, emails) as we expanded this idea into our district.
  2. Send a video short video to staff to let them know what to expect on the edcamp day.  This was a great suggestion by Andy (@rockychat3) and I would highly recommend you do the same.  There is just something about a short video clip that can clear up any well articulated email/plan.  2 minutes or less would be good.  Here is a link to ours.  (yes, its not high quality – but it did the job)
  3. The Introduction.  I think this was a critical component of the day.
    1. Intro “Teachers this is about you today.  You decide what you want to learn, you have input to what gets on the schedule”  I forewarned…this could be messy.  I don’t know what to expect.  I have no idea if this will work, but its worth a try.  (in my head….This is a risk and it may fail and I am putting myself out there in front of our teachers ).  We also introduced the 3 post-its at this time.  So people would start jotting down ideas.
    2. It was also important to highlight active participation.  If you feel you are not in the right room, move. Its ok.  .  Other ways to participate – Listen, participate in the discussion, help take notes.
    3. Presenters.  Your job – please show up at the time allotted to you.  Essentially it takes 2 or more people to get a session to go.  If some sessions only have 2 people in the room that is ok because the right people are in the room.  (idea from Osseo script)
    4. Build the schedule.  A couple of us with microphones would walk around the room to see if people would first sign up.  Later it was to engage others.  Many had post-its filled out, but wouldn’t call them out.  I could walk by and ask, what do you need and hopefully spark a session.
  4. As the date neared, the whole idea of the on the fly scheduling part scared me.  I had no idea if it would work.  What if we don’t get people to share? What if we don’t get people to make requests? What if awkward silence is what our planning session ends up being?  I must have visited the scheduling process at least a thousand times in my mind.  Should it be totally analog and then transfer it to a doc/site?  How long should sessions be?  How long in between sessions?  How many sections of sessions?
    1. Our decision – we will build it live on Gdocs, and project it for the staff  as well as provide a short URL (so staff could follow on their devices).  The doc had  a table with five 1/2 hour sessions and 7 rooms.   Collaborative notes were pre-loaded on every section.  During the event, we had 2 people man the schedule and watch for conflicts.  (like presenters who offered multiple sessions to not be scheduled at the same time)

      Edcamp Day

      Snapshot of our crowdsourced schedule

    2. Its important as you build the schedule you move down the doc and to the right.  A last minute decision.  The last room (mpr) would be an overflow room.  If the dialog was so good, that a half hour was not enough, we suggested people go into the overflow room.  We also wanted everyone to come together and reflect on the day (and take survey).  (Improvements for next year – maybe have some coaches available in the afternoon so people could actually start working through their ideas. Feedback we received also suggested that descriptions be provided on the docs.  So – maybe as we are building the schedule, once it gets placed – the facilitators could actually give a short description of what to expect when walking into a session.  Also – maybe recap the day with a smack down? Might be nice to offer a section of hour long sessions.  It might provide some depth and support)
    3. So what happened?  It took the first 1 or 2 people to make their requests and the ball got rolling.  I think this may have been one of the more intriguing parts of the day. Having input into what is being presented.  5 out of the 30 sessions were not necessarily technology related, but were very aligned to our district vision as well as other  district initiatives so they also were perfect for the day too.  Remember, this was our Teachers Day to decide.  Some sessions were demonstrations, others were conversations.
    4. A key point – administrators should make a strong effort to attend.  I absolutely loved it that our HS principal was actively learning with the rest of the teachers.   This is very VERY powerful.  If you are an administrator, and your district/building is hosting an edcamp.  Try and make an effort to participate… actively.  This is a great way to gain insight to the innovation happening in our classrooms as well as build relationships with a wide group of teachers. This one day could go a long way.  (Idea – invite board members?)
  5. Results.  It was pretty cool today when I walked into the school and I overheard teachers still talking about the event.  We tried to remember what we did the year before – nobody could remember.  So, I hope this will be memorable.  We received some great feedback and data from our survey.  This will be instrumental  in the NEXT TIME.  One note – The twitter backchannel was probably the least successful of the event.  However, I do not view it as a failure but as a benchmark to improve.  As more teachers get connected, it would be great for them to see value in tools like twitter.

Edcamp Feedback

So, was the unconference powerful?  YES.  The energy was amazing, empowering.  Everyone was an expert and many people who have never led a PD session, were leading.  Having a day to connect with other staff outside of a classroom or discipline or building was also very effective.  At the end, I shared George Couros quote from Ties 13 conference  “The smartest person in the room, is the room”.   Try and unconference/edcamp and you too will see the power of collaborative learning.

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!

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!