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!

#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


Steven Strogatz: Doing Math in Public

Dear Math picture

Image via

Today I stumbled on a video Steven Stogratz – Doing Math in Public – via Cornell University. I typically don’t watch people talk about math but I find this video very interesting. I happen to be one of those people, who did fairly well in my math courses in high school and even college, but alway had a hard time understanding the application of upper level math. I could work through and solve equations, and  pass tests – but I never understood how I could actually apply it to the real world.

The video then lead me to Steven’s New York Times Blog series, The Elements of Math.  The reaction to his posts, by the public, were very supportive. There  are over 500 comments on his first post – From Fish to Infinity where he also shares why he was writing this series:

“Crazy as it sounds, over the next several weeks… I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it. So, let’s begin with pre-school…”

Steven then created another 6 part series called Me, Myself, and Math. In which showcases math in real world scenarios. First post shares how math is related to  baby cowlicks and finger prints. I certainly did not understand those things had a mathematical explanation for existence, did you?

Again, the reaction to Steven’s work via blog comments and Twitter is interesting… by many people who are not mathematicians – like yours truly.  He has over 10K followers and shares many references to math in real world situations.  I am not sure where Steven’s resources could by used with K12 students. (I am not a subject matter expert in Math) but it does make  me to wonder… could some of his blog posts, scenarios, tweets lead to opportunities for real world dialog with students?  He is definitely fascinating and has one new follower! 🙂

Check out his Twitter Account –

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!

My “this needs attention” response…

My district is going to be going through a new planning process to develop a strategic plan for our schools for the next 5 years.  Staff were asked to share several things the district was doing well – and several things we needed more attention.    Here is my “this needs attention” response;

The traditional idea of school needs to be thrown out and rebuilt from scratch based on today’s global economy. We focus TOO much on testing and not enough on cultivating our kid’s passions and talents. Our kids need real world problem-based interdisciplinary experiences vs. the Sit & Get and memorize what you have learned education. This would require a PD overhaul and time built into the system for our staff. Learning for our students and staff should be to be personalized and individualized based on their skill-set/goals. I would love to see a model that brings Google’s 80/20 into education where teachers have more freedom to explore new teaching strategies/innovation and students explore their passions. We should focus more on the mastery of competencies and less on grades. Our system of grade levels, summer’s off, and bells and schedules is not conducive to the real world! And finally we need to do more to ensure every child and BPS is not only healthy but happy.

What do you think? What else should I have added?

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 –



Thinking about edtech PD…

Spent the past couple of days at our state Memo Conference learning from leaders from all over our state and nation!  While there was a tremendous amount of sessions to choose from, I decided to focus on sessions that revolved around 1:1, BYOD, Flipped Learning, and anything iPad. Within each of these sessions, I also asked alot of questions – specifically in the area of professional development.

We are at a cross road in our district.  We currently have a BYOD at our high school, but we also have a 1:1 iPad pilot in our 7th grade.  From my observation, the iPad project has not only been embraced more by our teachers and students but it also appears to be far more transformative than the BYOD project.  Yet, when I heard other districts share their BYOD  stories – I had to make my own comparisons.   What did we miss?  I knew teacher training was an issue in the BYOD program – probably because there was none.  Staff were left to figure it out on their own.

The next day,  I attended another  BYOD session in which the presenters (Josh Swanson and Jennifer Wykle)  shared a slide for managing complex change.   It was a lightbulb moment.  I could pretty much plug every complex initiative we have ever had into the table and recognize when we did something well, all of the areas under the “change” box were sufficient.  Yet, I could also plug in others – that were not so successful or were very slow moving (including BYOD) and pinpoint the main issue.

Educational Origami

Adapted from –

I also heard many not so happy stories from audience members who were really struggling in their districts.  By far, frustration was very common. Below are comments that I heard.

  • We have a 1:1 and the Network is not sufficient
  • We are not able to collaborate outside of our LMS (no wiki’s, edmodo, blogs, ect)
  • My district blocks YouTube
  • My district wont adopt Google Apps (to assist with iPad workflow)
  • I have to do all of the support on the iPad carts and dont have time to help other teachers
  • We have no money to continue the 1:1 effort
  • We do not have adequate technical support.
  • etc. etc…

One of the things that I have done during our 1:1 initiative, is to meet weekly with our teachers.  This has been very helpful – especially when considering expanding 1:1 to future grade levels.  When we meet, we first discuss wins – Some of which are exciting and game changing for our teachers and students!  We also discuss challenges.  I need to LISTEN.  How can I help remove the road blocks?  Sometimes it is a process issue and other times it is working with the staff to come up with work-arounds or even new solutions.  As the weeks go by, it seems we are talking more wins than challenges – and it is necessary to provide our staff with the resources to be successful.

Other PD highlights/Resources to explore

  •  Student Led Tech Conferences – Might try this during our Middle School parent/teacher conferences with ipads
  • Florida Technology Integration Matrix – Use this to assess our projects/classrooms?
  • SAMR –  The model allows educators to select appropriate tools, plan their usage, and design metrics for results as part of a single integrated process.
  • The earlier you can give your staff iPads, the better! (prior to 1:1)
  • 1/2 hour before/after school sessions.  (short sessions around an idea/tool to support learning) ( Give CEU’s)
  • 10 minute sessions.  – I was thinking of doing APPY Tuesday.  Introduce an app with examples/samples of how to use – including workflow.  This could also be flipped!
  • Find your tech champions to experiment – lead.  (Can be a digital learning coach or other tech saavy teacher)

Use of Video

Kristin Daniels, tech integrationalist for Stillwater, has identified 4 ways in which they use video to flip learning (PD) as well as archive and share successes.  This is very important and I, as well as my Digital Learning Coaches (DLC),  need to be sure we are using video in a similar way.  (time permitting)

  1. Proactive – prepare staff for a project, introduce technology
  2. Reactive – something that happens and need react.  When something goes awry – you can develop vids to assist the teacher
  3. Spontaneous  – capture the learning as it happens, archive
  4. Celebrate Student work – tug at the heartstrings of our staff, parents, community. IMHO, these are the very big wins we need to  push out to community to validate effective technology use.  (Via Facebook or Twitter – post on front of the website)

What I  like about 3 and 4 is that it will help spread  edtech ideas around formally/ informally – and may entice new teachers to try new things. Conversations matter – and I seen quite a few videos of student work.  Also – note to self – look at Camtasia for the DLC’s to produce quality vids.  (right now we use Screencastomatic – which I love)

 Help our staff develop their own personal learning network (PLN)

All keynoters  for the conference had developed an extensive PLN using Twitter and other tools.  (Shannon Miller, Kathy Schrock, and Gail Lovely – learned soooo much from these individuals)   I need NEED to spread and encourage TWITTER (first) to more of our teachers and administrators.  I want to first start with my digital learning coaches – and then move to the rest of the staff.   I love Twitter and have had some fantastic learning opportunities and discussions because of it!  Not only is it cheaper than formal learning (see below) it is also very personalized and will allow our staff to connect with other educators, authors, experts all over the globe!  Which could, in turn, give our students some global experiences!