Friday, April 29, 2016

As Seniors Prepare to Leave Us

As our seniors prepare to leave high school and continue their journeys, we had the opportunity to share some "last minute" tips and reminders to help them on their way. I had the opportunity to visit with all seniors about the importance of their online presence as they leave high school to pursue their passions. We discussed the importance of promoting themselves online and creating a positive online network with others that share their career paths, goals, and passions. We also discussed that now is the perfect time to do some "digital dusting" and clean up their social media. Many students have old accounts to services they haven't used and they should remove those. In today's society, their digital footprint is as important as their resume. In addition to cleaning up their online presence, they should begin thinking about creating digital portfolios and/or an page.  We wish our seniors good luck as they pursue their dreams and hope you find success in the paths you are taking!

I am including my google slides to share with all of you

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Connecting Through Communication

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~George Bernard Shaw

When we want to visit with friends and family, we usually grab our phone and call or send a message. But what about when we need to communicate with students, colleagues, parents, community, and other educators? As educators, we have the need to connect with so many different groups.  We must find the best way to do this with each group and unfortunately, not all groups use the same type of communication tools! We have so many choices today--text, imessage, email, google chats, hangouts, twitter, facebook, messenger, etc. These are all great tools but they are only useful if you can reach your targeted audience. Below, I am highlighting some of the tools I am currently using for communication and how I use them. Hopefully, you will find at least one of these to be useful also!


Slack is probably one of my most favorite “new” tools. Slack is a messaging app for teams. What I like most about Slack is the ability to organize the team conversations into open channels. Channels can be created for topics, teams, or anything that you want to discuss. Private channels and direct messaging are also available. Our district has recently begun to use the free version of Slack and it is amazing the dialogue and channels that have been created. Users can use slack as an ios app, chrome app, or website. I find this tool most useful to collaborate and discuss upcoming issues and topics with staff in our district. We also use it to share our blog posts and school twitter feed. For more information, visit


Bloomz is a new tool that we have recently begun using with our elementary staff. It is a great tool to connect with parents. Bloomz lets our teachers share information and photos. Our teachers used Bloomz to schedule Parent Teacher Conferences. This service let teachers send invites to parents for conferences and parents could sign up for the time slot that best fit their schedule. Bloomz also connects parents and classrooms with reminders and class calendars. We are using this service school wide so not only are parents a member of a specific class but the elementary community.  At this time, Bloomz is in beta, and we are using this service at no cost. Our teachers love the features of posts, announcements, private communication, and sign ups for events and volunteers.  For more information, visit


Many of you have heard of voxer but if you haven’t, this is a great tool to connect and collaborate with others. Voxer is a “walkie-talkie” app for smartphones (however, you can log in on a computer also) that lets you send voice messages. You are not limited to voice, you can also send text, images, links, and videos. I use voxer to connect with different Professional Learning Groups that are a vital part of my own professional growth. Any time I have a specific question or need help with something, I choose one of my voxer groups and send it out. Almost immediately I will get a response to help me solve my issue. Even though I have used voxer mainly to connect with others outside of my district, it is a great tool for our staff to use when we are attending a conference. We always use it for NETA & ISTE to communicate with the group of attendees. By creating a voxer group, we can find each other, share information we learned, or just plan where we are meeting. Voxer is a must for your group at this year’s NETA conference! For more information on voxer, visit


One of the hardest groups to communicate with is our students! We all know that they don’t check their email! Students have figured out what works best for them to communicate with each other--social media! They communicate through messages, tweets, and snaps. It becomes a little trickier when I need to communicate with a group of our students. I put it on twitter, facebook, and instagram, but I am not assured it will reach each one of them. One tool that has helped with communicating to a group of students is Remind. Remind lets me send messages to students without having their cell phone numbers or giving them my number. I use remind to send out quick notifications and reminders and know it is safe. Many schools are beginning to use a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas or Schoology and it has also made communication easier between student and teacher. However, if you really want to reach a wide group of students, tell your story on twitter, instagram or snapchat! For more information on remind visit


twitter.pngFor our district, Facebook and Twitter are still our best tools to reach our community and parents. Many parents are already using these social media tools so it only makes sense to use a platform they are familiar with. Parents love photos and both of these tools allow you to convey your message with photos or text. Messages placed in photos seem to reach more parents and these image updates are being shared more frequently. I have found tools like canva (  make it very easy to place a message into an image and post on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It is also very important to use your school hashtag and promote the hashtag in a variety of ways. 
no school snow day.jpg

There are so many ways to communicate today and it is a moving target. What works today may not be here tomorrow. Even though I use all of the services I listed above, I still connect through other tools such as instagram, google, and basic email. I am learning to communicate through snapchat because that is what our teens prefer.  This past week of High School FBLA chapter attended their State Convention. Through snapchat stories, I had the opportunity to follow along with their day's activities and successes. It was awesome and I finally GOT IT--now I understand why snapchat is popular among our teens! 

I am not debating the importance of face-to-face communication nor am I saying these should replace physical voice communication, however; I know that we have to go to where the audience is.  As educators, we have to find what works the best to communicate with our parents, colleagues, students, community, and professional learning network. We also need to realize that we need to be flexible and change as the mode changes.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Many of you know that I talk a lot about our STOPiT class and the advantages this class has had for our school. STOPiT (Smart Topics on Personal iPad Technology) is a mandatory course for our students who have violated our Responsible Use Policy (RUP). Cozad High School began the STOPiT class in the Fall of 2012. In the Fall of 2013, Grand Island Northwest, with Heather Callihan (@hcallihan), joined us. Connecting, collaborating, and creating between the two schools has designed a program that has created positive benefits for both districts.

Our technology department shares many articles, news feeds, and resources regarding digital citizenship with our staff and students. Not only is this information shared with our students through STOPiT, but through social media, discussions, and other classes. However, we still have felt we are missing SOMETHING and we believe that "something" is educating our parents and patrons. So, through collaborative thinking, we have started our new campaign we have named STARTiT.

STARTiT (Social Teens Acting Responsible Together in Technology) symbolizes that teaching Digital Citizenship must start with parent, family, and community education. It must happen to reduce the amount of students that end up in our STOPiT class (or worse social consequences).  Our goal is to establish regular outreach and educational opportunities for parents in the areas of social media and digital citizenship.

We held our first conversational meeting last night of educators throughout our district and had a great representation of elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. We have decided to pursue this STARTiT campaign and our first mission is to create a team that will work toward our goal. Our team will consist of teachers, administrator, students, parents, and community representation. The group had so many great ideas and I am so excited to get this off the ground!

Stay tuned to learn more about our STARTiT campaign as it develops!

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's Complicated

This morning I posted our "winners" for our HS and MS Digital Citizenship Week activities, I took a few minutes to reflect on the activities and assess if (and how) they impacted our students. I know that I had great participation based on the entries but that may have been the motivation of a Free iTunes card! What I do know, is that I learned from my students! This week opened up some honest dialogue that I had with some HS students that gave me a new insight and understanding of their digital lives and social media.

In one of our discussions, I shared the following two quotes from the book, "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens" by Dana Boyd:

"In a world, where information is easily available, strong personal networks and access to helpful people often matter more than access to the information itself." (Dana Boyd, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens)
 "Along with planes, running water, electricity, and motorized transportation, the Internet is now a fundamental fact of modern life." (Dana Boyd, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens)

From these quotes, we discussed their social media choices, their different personalities in different contexts online, their perception of privacy, and their interaction with their peers in an online and offline context. Our main discussion was what social media added to the quality of their social lives and what it took a way.  A couple interesting comments I heard from students were:
"Social media helps teens stay connected and it also seems to "make kids cool." 
"Teens can plan more activities through social media and also talk to a larger amount of peers at once."
"Teens can receive help, encouragement, and motivation through their social media connections." 

"One thing social media takes away is privacy. Most people post on social media all day everyday so nothing is all that private anymore."  

"I'm guilty of choosing social media over family-time sometimes"

I wasn't really too surprised by their discussion of social media and being connected but what I did learn was that to our students, it is not a "thoughtful" choice if they are connected or not, it is just part of life. It's what they know and have grown up with. Just like 40 years ago I went to the swimming pool every day to stay connected with my friends over the summer. It didn't matter if I liked to swim, I didnt' go there to swim, I went to see and connect with my friends.

The conversation then moved to SnapChat. As a social media user, I try all the apps to see what is and isn't but even though I attempt to use SnapChat I just "didn't get it". These students made it easier for me to understand what draws them to this social media platform. They aren't trying to be sneaky or hide things, they are not all sending inappropriate snaps, they are connecting and communicating in a style that they like. The majority of the students discussed that there is no pressure from SnapChat--no likes, comments, favorites, etc. They add a picture and it becomes part of their story. They aren't checking to see if they received any positive feedback.

It's all so complicated, but the teens get it! I feel as a educator, parent, and grandparent, that I need to try and see through the eyes of these digital natives.  I know one thing that I am going to do is go back and read the book, "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens" by Dana Boyd. If you have not had the opportunity to read this yet, it is definitely worth the time.  The author does a great job exposing youth culture and "uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens' use of social media." I recommend adding this to your reading list!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

So Now What?

The 2015-16 school year started with a bang. This school year we officially rolled out over 900 devices to students in grades 1-12 for our 1:1 initiative. Now, it may not be as amazing as I am trying to give myself credit for, because students in grades 5-12 had iPads from the previous year. We did get those out (for those grades that do not take home over the summer), prepared new student devices, and teachers were up and running within the first two days of the student school year. I spent the next two weeks for grades 1-4 and the Friday before Labor Day, they were all delivered to the students. I made my first of the year timeline goal! Now, comes the TOUGH part. What do I do to help my teachers integrate these devices into their daily curriculum and routine.

I know how busy teachers are and that the days are not long enough to accomplish all they need to do. I want these devices to be more than an expensive tablet for worksheets or a device to use only for testing. So, now I need to be creative to help our teachers and students.

After attending a session this summer at ISTE on badges, I am considering creating challenges and badges for our staff to help them move up the technology ladder. How do I encourage my staff to participate? How do I get our administrators to model and support this professional learning? Teachers need time and resources. I can give them the resources but time is a conflict.

I am working on my first challenge. We are using the idea of #TYIW (This Year I Will) from +Adam Bellow. Hopefully this first challenge will have teachers set their own personal goals for the school year, share with others, and be held accountable. From their goals, I will hopefully also receive insight as to what I can help them with.

If you have time, please check out our first challenge and I welcome suggestions and thoughts. I also welcome ideas for upcoming challenges, badges, etc.

#TYIW Challenge

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 ISTE Reflection

My blog entry today is more of a reflection for myself to reflect on my ISTE 2015 experience; however, if you are reading this, I hope you can benefit from some of the information I have reflected on.

This conference was motivating, engaging, and provided great connections. I really enjoyed the Ignite session on Sunday night. The Ignite sessions are fast paced, 5 minutes and 20 slides. Pernille Ripp and Rafranz Davis focused on our responsibility for the change that education needs and that if we do not move forward, we may be harming our students. I really liked the format of the Ignite Sessions and the 1-in-3 sessions. The 1-in-3 sessions was a new presentation format featuring 18-20 presenters, each with just three minutes to share their best technology integration moment. I really enjoyed hearing from educators such as Holly Clark and Patrick Larkin.

ISTE 2015 seemed to have a heavy focus on maker movement, instructional design, communication and collaboration, professional development models with strategies for coaches and flexible learning environments.  The conference did not focus on devices but movements that embrace new ideas for engaging students and encouraging teachers to rethink and redesign their instruction.

I focused my sessions on the topic of professional development and tech coaching. Three great sessions that I felt were the most beneficial were:
    • Courtney Cohron and Andrew Swickheimer
    • Research shows that teachers need at least 14 hours of high-quality PD on a single topic for effective classroom teaching (Center for American Progress, 2013)
    • Adult learners value choice and interest when it comes to learning (Pink, 2011).
    • Use of digital badges and backpacks
    • creates competition and conversation
    • Diana Neebe (@dneebe) and Jen Roberts (@jenroberts1)
    • Start with a conversation
    • consider two tracks (let teachers pick)
    • offer drop in coaching
    • create a central hub
    • have fun! Use badges to mark Teacher completion and progress
    • Alyssa Tormala, @alytormala, #techcoachBP
    • What is a tech coach?
      • informed collaborator (can’t be expert!)
      • policy advisor
      • tech helper
    • The real coaching doesn’t happen of a schedule. Cannot be set weekly schedule times. Does not work with all teachers. Need to be available
    • Things I MUST remember
      • practice what I preach
      • uncover collaborators
      • create an active online presence
      • find your village (thank those who helped you)
      • know who is really in charge
      • lead as a learner, not an expert
      • recruit and nurture the master teachers
      • PD should be short, engaging, and choice-based. IDEA: Speed Geeking. You get 5-6 teachers that have done something “cool”. 4-5 minutes with pictures. Split rest of faculty into groups. Ring bell, move on
      • Know what my job is NOT and don’t be afraid to stand firm
      • believe in the power of failure!

In addition to the professional staff development (which will be my #1 goal this year), I believe that ISTE 2015 showed the importance of Maker Spaces and coding. This cannot start at the high school level. We need to be implementing this in elementary and up. We need to give our students the exposure to creating and inventing. We need to introduce the benefits of coding to our elementary. This needs to be a district-wide goal.

I did not have the opportunity to attend sessions on Digital Citizenship at ISTE this year but this continues to be a topic we must focus on K-12. We need our students to be digital learners, creators, and citizens!

Friday, May 1, 2015

To Keyboard or Not To Keyboard?

Do you remember "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country" or how about "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"? If you answered yes, then I am sure you took "typing" or "keyboarding" in school and are probably over the age of 30! Okay, so that may be a wild assumption, however, I have been thinking of keyboarding/typing a lot lately. I can remember in my undergraduate college days, I had to take three typing classes (yes 3!) and in order to get an A, I had to hit 90 words a minute. Now I look back and ask myself was that really worth the money per credit and did it really make me a better teacher? Granted, I can type fast on my keyboard as I write this, but I have had to "rebuild" that skill for my phone and mobile devices!

As an OLD (maybe the better word is VETERAN) keyboarding teacher, I do believe that it is a skill that is necessary in today's world. I taught "ASDF JKL;" for many, many years (just ask @CHS_Mr_F), but I know things have changed. These changes in education and technology have created some questions: how many years of keyboarding is necessary? Is it necessary if it takes away from teaching other technology? Do we wait until 4th or 5th grade when students have already had a lot of screen time? Do we solely teach a keyboarding class or implement it into the classroom?

Last week I attended the Nebraska Education Technology Association (NETA) and saw so many wonderful things our students can be learning and doing with technology. This conference is definitely a leader in educational practices to engage and increase student learning. It is not only about technology (a device, an app, or a program), it is about innovative teaching and learning, making connections, and taking a leadership role.  The keynotes and sessions were great but I thoroughly enjoyed the Maker Spaces "playground".
These students and teachers were demonstrating robots, drones, 3D printing, makey makey, legos, and so much more (presenters and topics at When I visited with some students I was so impressed with their engagement and excitement. I want this for our students! So my questions grew: do we need to teach keyboarding 4, 5, 6, and 7th grade? If a student has basic keyboarding technique and skills taught to them will their accuracy and speed increase as they use it for coding, gaming, etc? I believe it will (sorry to all the veteran keyboarding teachers out there!). I have had others say to me that these young students type fast but they are only using two fingers and their hands are not on the home keys--if they have speed and accuracy and can concentrate on the words and not individual letters does it matter if their hands are not on the home row?

I know this topic is debatable and I can see both sides. I just know that there is more to technology class today than keyboarding. Lets not miss out on some great skills for our students because we have always in the past taught keyboarding until high school. We can do both! Let's be creative and innovative!