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!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Have students REALLY changed?

This past week, our 5-12 graders, had the opportunity to listen to @KarenHaase speak about cyberbullying, sexting, and online safety. First of all, if you have never heard Karen or Bobby Truhe (@btruhe) speak, it is a MUST. What was amazing to me, was the engagement of our students and the comfortable vibe they were demonstrating. However, it makes sense to me because she was "speaking their language".  The engagement did not end on the last slide of her presentation, some students stayed a little longer to visit with her and a few even caught her attention at the end of the day while she was preparing for her parent presentation. At the time, I thought about how much our students have changed because of mobile devices, smart phones, social media and just 24/7 connection and communication.

A few days later, as I was viewing my personal Facebook page, a post appeared in my timeline that caught my attention. It was posted by a former student and tagged a few other past students. The post was a #TBT for their last day of their senior year at CHS (1998). It was fun to see them 17 years ago and brought up great memories. What stood out to me as I watched the video was that they used an old camcorder which they must have snuck into school (they must have hid it in a BIG backpack!). There was some video shots from the girls restroom (NOT anything inappropriate--just being silly). As I watched this, it made me think that this was before cell phones and mobile devices but they still found a way to record and upload 17 years later on social media!

Today, we are teaching our students about photos, video, and social media. I would have never thought about teaching that to our students 17-20 years ago but obviously they even found a way back then. As I thought of the conversations we can have with students today about digital citizenship and speakers like Karen Haase who reinforce our teachings, I am glad that we as educators are aware of this need and teach our students effective use of all these devices and online activity.  I don't think our students have really changed at all--I think we have (and I am glad)!

This post is also posted on the #nebedu website at

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We All Can Be Leaders!

“...behind excellent teaching and excellent schools is excellent leadership—the kind that ensures that effective teaching practices don’t remain isolated and unshared in single classrooms...with our national commitment to make every single child a successful learner, the importance of having such a high-quality leader in every school is greater than ever” (Wallace Foundation, 2006).

Schools today are calling for Instructional Leaders. No matter what your “title” is, we all can be a leaders in our district. In the past, teacher leadership positions were limited. Teachers served perhaps as department heads, association officers, and curriculum chairs. In these roles teachers often served as "representatives" rather than "leaders" who would enact change.  Many teachers that wanted to take on more of a leadership role left the classroom and pursued an administration degree. Recently there has been a strong movement to expand teacher roles because teachers have daily contact with our students, are well informed to make critical decisions on instruction and curriculum, and they are capable of implementing change.  In the past it has been difficult for teachers to perform leadership roles because of lack of vision, structure, time, and training offered by the district. The teacher leader must be part of the overall vision of the school and district. If it is not part of the vision, it will lack the support of the stakeholders. The school must accept the new role and enable teachers to provide leadership. Teachers need time to become leaders in their district. They need time to experiment, collaborate, reflect, communicate, and build relationships. Teachers also need access to resources, information, and training to build leadership skills in their role as a teacher leader.  

The demands on schools today require leadership at every level. Schools must create an environment in which it is possible for teacher leaders to grow and flourish. Administrators must realize that leadership must be distributed to capable and effective staff. Principals cannot lead alone, nor can they lead in isolation. The “age of experts” is over, and we are all learners. It is critical that every teacher and administrator embrace this change and begin to connect to others, both inside and outside of their own district. Leadership is not about one person or one position, it is about building a shared commitment and building a leadership team. This leadership team should include teachers. Teacher leadership is important for change and improvement at the school and classroom level. Teachers who work together in a meaningful and purposeful way feel valued and supported in their work. Teachers in leadership roles can improve the quality of teaching and student achievement. Teachers have first-hand knowledge of classroom issues and they understand what is needed to be effective in their positions. When teachers are involved in leadership roles, education reforms will be successful.

So is leadership enough? I say that we must go another step--innovative leadership. Who are  innovative leaders? Innovative leaders are visionaries who have big ideas and do not settle for “that is the way we have always done it”. Innovative leaders are motivators of those around them. An innovative leader works with their team and encourages them to add to the vision and make it greater. An innovative leader is motivating and inspiring.  In our district we have really focused this past year on innovative leadership. We have some teachers and administrators with passions and creative ideas. They are great communicators and team players. With these individuals, our school is seeing some great changes.

Last week, my colleague Dave Evertson (@dave_evertson) and I, moderated the #nebedchat. Our topic was focused on innovative leadership. If you missed the chat, here is an archive of our discussion: I have also shared a few of the powerful tweets here. From this twitter chat, I realized that we have so many wonderful educators that are truly innovative leaders and are willing to help their school and other educators move in that direction. It is definitely a great time to be in education.

As educators, we can make a difference--we all can be leaders! Have you taken that first step? Are you willing to continue to move forward? Each step forward makes a difference in improving our students’ learning.

Quote from: The Wallace Foundation, Leadership for learning: Making the connections among state, district and school policies and practices. New York, NY: Wallace Foundation, 2006,

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Maker Fair 2015

IMG_2917.JPGAs educators we all strive for student engagement and student success. Sometimes, shortly after the beginning of the second semester, when students (and us!) are tired of winter, we hit a “wall”. The natives get restless in anticipation of spring. I am sure the #cozadMakers are not the only school system that experience this. We have always discussed ideas of how to regenerate our students at this time. Now, we don’t have a sure-fire answer but we recently had success at Cozad High School that has helped the February blahs and re-energized both our students and staff; in addition, we had some GREAT learning and student achievement--now that is what I call success! We called it Maker Fair 2015 (#makerfair15).

Our technology director (@dave_evertson) has always promoted NETA and ISTE Conferences to our leadership team. He firmly believes that the investment in sending administrators and teachers to these two educational conferences is one of the greater returns on an investment. Last summer we were fortunate to take 16 teachers and administrators to the ISTE 2014 Conference in Atlanta, GA. Our high school principal, assistant principal, and counselor brought back some great, innovative ideas for their building and the district. They were excited in improving our school culture. Our high school ed-tech group (Maker Movements) meets weekly to discuss our vision, goals, and actions at the high school. In the fall of the 2014-15 school year, Mr. Beckenhauer (@bill_beckenhauer) was excited about the Innovation Week session he heard at ISTE. Through many discussions we decided to try something like this at CHS on a smaller scale. We decided to offer a two-day activity in mid-February which would give students the opportunity to take part in courses that are not typically offered at CHS. The other decision was to create a team of teachers to plan and implement. This team took ownership and were awesome! I truly believe the success behind Maker Fair was the work and dedication of this team and the staff.

On February 5th and 6th CHS held their first ANNUAL Maker Fair. Students choose ½ day or full day classes. Staff and 21 community members taught 37 different sessions. Courses ranged from jelly making, robotics, taxidermy, self defense to football 101. It was awesome to see our teachers share their passions with our students. Comments such as “this is awesome”, “that was so cool”, “I want to do that again” could be heard in the hallways.What even made the day more exciting was all of the students and teachers tweeting and sharing their story.  A CHS student tweeted after the first day “Learned so much today at #makerfair15 this should have happened years ago! #carstuff #selfdefense”.

IMG_3713.JPGAfter two days of Maker Fair, I felt re-engaged. Parents and community members shared with our administrators and staff that their children had talked more about school the past two days then they have in a long time. Not only did our students enjoy the two day, they learned so much. I am just so lucky to have been a part of this experience. Thank you to the students, teachers, administrators, community members, and presenters for your contributions to our Maker Fair.  

For more information and a list of the courses available, please visit our school website post at: If you have time, take a look at the short video and see the opportunities and smiles of our students!

Mr. William Beckenhauer (@bill_beckenhauer), CHS Principal--"Maker Fair was everything I had envisioned it could be for the first time.  From my original exposure and ideas I got from ISTE to the creation of the fair by the teaching staff, it was everything I had hoped it would be for students and teachers."

Mrs. Jann Kloepping, CHS Teacher--”Maker Fair was one of the most exciting two day events that we have experienced in several years!”


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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

PD in 140 Characters?

Can you really create professional relationships in 140 characters or less? Absolutely! Today after a great day at #YorkMLK15, I reflected on my own professional development the past few years. I realized very quickly that twitter is one of the most relied-upon resources in my Professional Learning network and development.

Four years ago, at ISTE 2011 in San Diego, I saw many educators and presenters talking about Twitter. I had a twitter account that I created for a workshop but had no idea how this social media platform could be beneficial to me as an educator. I quickly realized that by following the #ISTE2011 hashtag how many educators were sharing information about the conference. After the conference, I thought “that was kind of nice but I have no idea how I would use it now”. A year later, I was at a workshop at ESU10 and happened to be sitting by an educator from Grand Island. I noticed she was using twitter throughout the morning. Finally, I approached her and shared with her that I just didn't get the whole Twitter thing! By the end of the workshop, my new acquaintance, the legendary Heather Callihan (@hcallihan), had me following “strangers” and creating my first tweets. This was the beginning of my great journey to a great Professional Learning Network and the beginning of becoming a connected educator. Now, two years later, I credit Twitter (and @hcallihan) as the beginning of a major reform in my professional growth.

Through twitter, I have become connected to some #rockstars. There have been so many great connections that I don’t want to forget anyone but some of the most influential include @hcallihan, @mrbadura, @mickie_mueller, @j_allen, @shellymowinkel, @annfeldmann1, @dave_evertson, @mandery, and MANY MANY more. Through these connections I further developed my PLN by presenting at NETA, York MLK, and various technology conferences throughout the state. I have had the opportunity to moderate a few twitter chats and expand my twitter connections even more. My professional connection with @hcallihan encouraged me to run for NETA Board and now I have the opportunity to work with some of the greatest educators in our state.  Through collaboration, @hcallihan and I have created a STOPiT class in our district and work collectively on digital citizenship and technology integration with our staff. I now have the opportunity to work with @taylorsiebert and @strivedu on the launch of the blog site. (Make sure you check it out at:  I am excited for the possibilities.

Through my journey, I am now focused on getting staff in my district connected to other educators through social media such as Twitter. This is one more step on their "tech-lete" workout.  It is critical that teachers and administrators embrace the changes in education and begin to connect with others. Many of you reading this are probably already connecting with other educators, but if you are not, give it a “tweet” and see how quickly your professional growth and connections grow. Don’t isolate yourself--share your passions!

So, does 140 words make a difference? ABSOLUTELY!