Thursday, December 19, 2013

C'mon Get Happy (Yep It's a Partridge Family Tribute) #NTNHappy

Hello, world, here's a song that we're singin', c'mon get happy...

Easier said than done, eh?
Just what does it take to have a happy life? A happy community? A happy school?

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I am unabashedly an admirer of the New Tech Network people I work with, both on our staff and in our schools!  

One of my fav colleagues , Sarah Field, and I Vidyo-ed a couple of weeks ago when she was inspired by this post from Upworthy….

I am very intrigued by this project for so many reasons, some personal….I feel like I was sort of "born happy" blessed with a happy nature. I tend to be an optimist, a pollyanna, an "everyone thing will be okay" kind of girl. …..nature or nurture? Which makes me wonder...

Can we
 CHOOSE happy? 
CREATE happy?

I do know what makes me happy…the fact that this project is open to everyone, everywhere, every grade, every age!

Connecting people, projects, places, resources, ideas…that makes me happy!

I am so excited to watch how this will unfold, what our students will discover, who they will connect with , what they will teach us and what we will learn!

Now if you haven't watched the Partridge Family video at the top of the page yet, you should….(full disclosure: I did get a David Cassidy guitar sometime during the early 70's for Christmas and have had this song as well as "I Think I Love You" on my iTunes playlist forever!)

Monday, December 16, 2013

#PBLChat and #INeLearn team up to talk Common Core & PBL

By now blog readers know I work with New Tech Network (and that I LOVE it).  Sometimes in the network we laugh and wonder if we "over collaborate"…..but we keep going because two (or more) heads are better than one!

In the spirit of collaboration we are teaming up with the folks at #INeLearn (Indiana E-Learning) to talk about Common Core.  You often hear from the people at BIE that "Common Core is the what & PBL is the how".

Is PBL the "how" that can help you as we find our way with the Common Core?
Do you have some resources to share that may help others?
Just need to vent & discuss how you feel about it?
Join us (whether you are from Indiana or any other state!)
We typically have students present & engaged at this chat so it is a great time to hear their voices!
Have questions you want use to pose during the chat? Add them to the comments!
We are using the #PBLChat hashtag, but feel free to add #INeLearn, too!
See you Tuesday 8pm ET!

To prepare for the chat….check out this Ignite Talk
Common Core Will NOT Bring About Armageddon 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let's Ask Students About Homework!

I have been pretty opinionated about the value of homework in the past.  Especially where elementary age students are concerned.
(See this blog post…STOP with the Homework Already, They Are Kids! )

This past week for #PBLChat our topic was HW and project based learning.  We have always been fortunate in this chat that we always have students jump in and chat with us.  As usual they shared some very insightful thoughts during the chat.  Here are a few of them:

Of course not all of their thoughts around homework were negative!  Many students jumped in with advice on how to make homework more meaningful and valuable to them. 

What do YOUR students think about homework? Have you asked them? 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

BlurryLines : If I Can Find It, It's Okay to Use it & Other Copyright Myths

If I can download it, it's okay.
If they don't want me to use it, they should make it so I can't.
It's for "educational purposes".
If I can just right click and save, it isn't copyrighted.
It's not like I'm hurting anyone.
If I can find it, I can use it.
All of the above are things I've heard teachers and students say.  I'm certain I've said something like "It's for educational purposes" without even being sure what that meant.  I was someone who was okay with what I thought were the blurry lines of copyright. it was easy to  rationalize my behavior, I just told myself  that it was something a student needed and that made it okay.  Then I had an experience that led me to think more deeply about copyright.
Read the full post that includes resources on New Tech Network's blog where it was originally posted. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

College: They All Went but They Didn't Stay

Follow your dreams.
Life is a journey, not a race.
Figure out who you are…
Maybe try "un-college"...

The whole "un-college" thing is all the rage these days and it seems like a good idea….for other people's children!

So, I have a history of encouraging kids to follow their dreams, take the "road not taken" etc... In our early 30's my husband and I even quit our great jobs, sold our house in the suburbs , cut our income in half and moved our 3 boys under 8 to a city 800 miles away so he could follow a dream and I was totally onboard with this.

 But imagine my surprise when our own boys  followed in our footsteps! 

Both my husband and I have our college degrees, I have a Masters and often ponder a Ph.D ( I google, I bookmark, I can't commit)  We have talked to our boys about college for as long as I can remember. The question was never, "Are you going to college?" it was "Where are you going to college?" 

And they all went, but they didn't all stay.

Our middle son Trent has always had a calling to do "good works".  His high school resume is filled with philanthropy. Nevertheless, when he first went off to college he sort of denied this part of himself.  It didn't last long, after a semester, the school he chose didn't feel like a fit.  He applied to work with Americorps for the next year and off he went from Indiana to California to live and work with people he had never met.  He had amazing adventures, from planting native species while camping on the beach to working at a therapeutic horseback riding center to re-roofing cabins at a national arks.  He was happy!  When his Americorp stint was over, it was back to college. ( I MAY have been a little pushy about this….) This time he studied "Non-Profit Management" and got involved in philanthropic groups on campus.  But honestly, he felt like he was just jumping through hoops and not DOING anything.  Much to our surprise (even though we knew he wasn't really happy) , after a year and a half it was bye bye college & hello again Americorps.  

Currently he is in Las Vegas working with The American Red Cross.  He is making a difference for people every day.  He isn't jumping through hoops, he is bringing resources & help to people who need it. He talks about returning to college so he can go further in the non-profit world, but again…he is happy…the world is currently his college, his boss & colleagues are his favorite professors.  

Trent is on the right end

Alex also set off to college right after high school.  He had a scholarship to run cross country, I will now, in hindsight, admit that he was never all that pumped up about going to college.  He went because we thought he should and the majority of his friends were going.  He had a great first year, ran, made friends, had fun and... didn't want to go back. 

GRRRR how is this happening to me again.  

He has always been an avid skate boarder. He eats breathes & sleeps it.  Really skateboarding and any sport that makes a mother's heart beat too fast. The thing is, he is really good at them.  Currently, Alex is living in a city about an hour and a half away from us with his girlfriend who goes to college & works.  Alex is working at a really great alternative sports sort of store True West Coast Style .  He lights up when he talks about  meeting with sales reps whose products are in the store. He has led the store in sales, never misses works and loves it.  He is….you guessed it….happy.  The customers, sales reps and store owners are his professors.  He learns everyday. He also talks about going back to school, studying something that will help him design skateparks.  He isn't in a hurry, but wants to take a few classes at a time so he can still work & skate.

Photo by Chris Johnson

So who learned the most here?  Likely the answer is me!  The boys are alright…they are independent, pretty much the only bill of theirs we pay is their cell phone. I'm not saying it has been an easy journey, , but as I may have said more than once in this post, they are happy & that makes me happy. 

So, it is true, life IS a journey, not a race….even when it is your OWN children's journey!
Some resources in case you listen to your kids better than I did:

Friday, November 1, 2013

I've Got a Big But…..

So I confess, I've got a big but…..
I haven't written a blog since the beginning of summer because of my big but….
Well, I might have more than one big but...

I don't have time.

I'll do it after I finish this project.

I can't figure out how to say that.

That idea is dumb.

I might make a grammatical error.


My big but has gotten in the way of my blogging so it is time to get rid of the big but.
What is your big but?
How is it getting in your way?
What is your big but keeping you from doing?

Gotta go…time to work out my big but!
I promise a blog post next week! NO BUTS!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

We are Living in a #PBLWorld and I am a PBL Girl

So we JUST ended #PBLchat tonight where we had a super high energy chat about making global connections for and with our students.

You can see the archive here in Storify (want to see it as a slideshow? Just add /slideshow to the url, trust me, it is fun to read and share this way!)

Just want to share a few loves...

I love that the folks at this chat have either worked all day, been at a conference all day, are either super close to bedtime or just before dinner time, tweeting from a soccer practice or chatting from their phone while waiting in line somewhere all take time to share and learn with others. 

I love the fact that while I get to work with an amazing network,New Tech Network ,  of collaborators, we are also a part of the larger PBL community across the world and tonight's chat made that so evident.

I love that it was fun to see "friends" at the chat tonight that I have never met, but they have become resources & experts for me via Twitter and/or their blogs or even I have met them just once and I can't wait to see them f2f at conferences this summer.

I love that I "think in PBL" I often use phrases like "I wonder" and "What are our next steps" in my everyday conversation.

I love that as I am planning the decor for an addition we are doing to our house that I want my sister to come visit and "critical friend" my plan.

I love that I can't  read or listen to the news without looking for a driving question or global connection.

I love that I watched & listened to educators run through their Ignite Talks for our national conference and they were FILLED with passion.

I love that several members of my online PLN are students and I value their opinion and so does everyone else in our PLN.

So much more to love about PBL....but that is enough for now!

Anyway...just a little celebratory post about being happy to be a part of something that I am proud to be a part of!

Join us for #PBLChat every Tuesday!  Usually at 8pm EST but once in awhile we change it up for a special collaboration or event.  Follow @NewTechNetwork to get all of the scoop!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Is Your School "Successful"?

Way back in 1997 when we were considering moving back to Indiana to my husband's hometown one of the reasons for choosing this town was because, while the local elementary schools were great where we lived, our kids were moving into middle school and I wasn't thrilled with what I knew (or thought I knew) about the middle and high school.

My views were that there was no sort of "be true to your school" feeling. High school events were well attended, sports teams sometimes didn't have enough players to field a team, the school just wasn't the hub of the community.  Since this was "pre-internet" I went to the library and checked out the Places Rated Almanac and my fears were confirmed around the data they reported for the school, too.

I was happy to be moving to Indiana to a community known by everyone here as "a great place to raise kids".  We often heard things like...

  •  You don't have to lock your doors.
  • Kids ride bikes everywhere, with no fear.
  • They can fish at the hospital pond.
  • On Friday  night everyone is either at the football field, or at a basketball game, depending on the season. (Go ZEBRAS!)
So did that make this a successful school system?

After we lived here for a bit, I actually checked out THIS school system in the Places Rated Almanac and guess what? They had pretty much the same data/test scores/grad rate as the town we left.  

So was one school more successful than the other?

Flash forward to present day and I am happy to say I consider this school (the whole system here) a success!  (It's been a journey undertaken by a lot of great people, but that's another blog post!) A few reasons might be...

  • They are on a path of continuous improvement and reflection
  • They have embraced project based learning
  • They do technology integration really well and are always looking ahead
  • Of course, fantastic dedicated teachers who, even if the face of year after year of budget cuts always find a way
  • The administrators work as a team & the school board is a part of that team
  • Many active, engaged parents & community members
My colleague @PaulSCurtis wrote a blog about school success and the rubric that New Tech Network is sharing. I really like it as a measure, it goes so much deeper than the newspaper headlines we see each year ranking schools by test scores alone.

We are going to be discussing and trying to define "school success" at this week's #PBLChat Tuesday June 11th at 8pm. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts! Join us for the chat!

Monday, May 13, 2013

But...I want you to know I'm a teacher!

I often wonder if those of you who have "left the classroom" feel as I do, that you are somehow....less a part of the real work of education.

My current job title is "Online Community Manager" with an amazing education non-profit, New Tech Network .  I'm so proud to work with our network, to interact with our schools and absolutely love the work that we all do together, but, when people ask me what I do, I tell them AND, I always always add, but I'm a teacher.

There is a line in "A Few Good Men" where Tom Cruise asks Demi Moore "Why are you always giving me your resume?"

She replies "Because I want you to think I'm a good lawyer"

I do that, I give people my resume...all the time...because I want you to know I'm a teacher.

I love what I do, to put it very simply,  I get to connect people to each other and to resources that they need. I get to tell your education stories, to share those stories and do everything I can to amplify all the great things that are happening in all of your classrooms.  It is a part of my job to learn every day and share that learning, casting as wide a net as possible.

It is a sweet, sweet job sharing the voice of people doing world-changing work. I really do love it!
I do get to connect with students all over the place via Twitter, these students share such a special place in my heart, they are my virtual classroom. I love to hear from them, listen to their opinions, read their blogs and watch them grow as learners and as people.

Sometimes, I even get to be in classrooms with students or with teachers and teach! I LIVE for those days, I love being a part of an entry event, Skyping in for a workshop, re-tweeting a student who is celebrating an #eduwin or an a-ha moment.

But...I want you to know I'm a teacher!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

There is more than ISTEP in Indiana!

Ever get frustrated by the education headlines about your state? 
I KNOW! Me too!!!!
I can make my laundry list of complaints too, letter grades for schools, funding, ISTEP fails....

BUT I like to count my blessings and I would encourage you to do the same! 
What do you like that is happening in education in your state?

If all you know about Indiana education is what you see in the headlines, I'd like to give you a little different lens.

Do you know about Dennis Stockdale? 
Showing us that rural schools can DO!

Profiled as a "Leader to Learn From" by Edweek.

The most New Tech Network schools in the nation?
23 NTN schools that have "Teaching that Engages, Culture that Empowers & Technology that Enables" with more coming in 2013. 
Proof that PUBLIC school innovation can, and does, work. 
Our  2013 Report of Student Outcomes  

Indiana's Summer of E-Learning?
Our DOE awarded grants all over the state so that educators could share with other educators around student centered learning. There are options, dates and locations to suit everyone! Check out the conference locations.
Each one of them have amazing keynotes that you are likely already following on Twitter because they are definitely PLN leaders! Many are still taking RFP's and most have registration open.

Our awesome #INeLearn Chat?
Each Thursday on Twitter at 8pm EST, we chat about what ever crowd-sourced topic is selected. This is a positive upbeat chat full of sharing, not unlike the many other fantastic education driven chats! It grows each week. I love connecting with educators from elementary, MS & HS environments for this open conversation.

HECC Conference 
Is one of my favorite all time conferences. Filled with a great mix of Tech leaders, administrators and educators. I learn so many new things and about so many new tools each time I attend.

Ivy Tech Community College
Growing by leaps and bounds and not afraid to build actual campus' in small towns, offering major opportunities to adults & HS students alike. They work so hard to give people a leg up, especially 1st generation students. So happy we have a campus in our little town of 8,000 where HS kids can walk over and take college level courses during their school day.

PBL Networks courtesy of CELL
CELL makes their home at the University of Indianapolis and has been a major contributor to innovation in education in Indiana since 2001.  

Our DOE encourages innovation with a variety of grants offered each year, not only do they give MANY grants, but they create groups and connections from these grant winners to build support and communication between these schools. 

Of course there is so much more happening here! 

We want more, we want more, like,  you really like it so you want more...

So Hoosiers (or really everyone)...jump in here and share MORE! 

What is happening in your district, your building, or your classroom! 

Want to be sure you are following IN peeps? Check out THIS list

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Would You Starve Your Kids Now, If You Knew if A Famine Was Coming?

So if you knew food would be scarce in a couple of years, would you begin to make your kids know what it was like to be hungry now?  

Of course not.  It is far more likely that you would feed them well, lots of leafy green vegetables, fruits, proteins, make them as strong as they could possibly be so they could weather the tough times!  

We would never have them "practice" being hungry.

That is what I think of every time I am asked the question
"How will PBL students be  prepared to sit in a lecture hall of 300 kids in college?"  

I have kids in their 20's,  all newly in or out of college in the last few years, all three have had to collaborate, communicate, work in groups, present projects, find outside resources and experts, manage an internship,  take responsibility for their own learning and YES, they have had to sit in a lecture hall of 300 or so kids and believe it or not, they didn't need any experience to be able to do that.  The part they needed experience with was how to break down that lecture, apply it to their background knowledge, take and organize notes, find a group to study with, manage their time between work, school and fun, live on a budget, collaborate with others, give presentations, interview, plan for the future and more.

In a recent school tour, middle school students were asked this question about PBL and college, it stumped them a little, college is so far away when you are barely a teenager, their teacher tweeted out the question asking for a little help from project-based learning practitioners on Twitter who use the #PBLChat hashtag.  This crowd-sourced google doc was the result of @RyanSteuer 's tweet.  Feel free to add to that list!

In the meantime....Feed your children well!

(Now that Crosby Stills & Nash song is stuck in my head...Teach, your children well.....)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Building Bridges of Their Own #StudentsareAwesome

Just about a year ago I gave an Ignite Talk at our New Tech Network summer conference called "Bridges & Fences".  

As I rehearsed for this I could never say the ending without choking up, you can hear in my voice at the end that I barely made it through.  I think it makes me emotional because those of us in education know so many students who are surrounded by fences they didn't build but must somehow get over to reach their dreams and goals.  As educators we try to empower them to build a bridge to get over that fence.

A big part of project-based learning and the culture of schools in our network is  is to be connected to each other, to their community and to the world.  A few weeks ago we issued a challenge to students around the country, "How have you been building bridges?".  We received over 60 amazing 2 minute videos from students that , in spite of the fences in their own lives, are busy building bridges to help those around them over fences.

Take a look at this playlist and be inspired by these amazing students who are building bridges of their own!

Monday, April 8, 2013

I Don't Care What Device You Choose, Really, I Don't.

Laptop, iPad, Android, Chromebook, BYOT, what is a school to do?
The implications of each choice can be far reaching, touching teachers, students, budgets, tech departments and more!

I get asked "What device do you think is the best?" almost every day and, here is the deal,
I don't care what device you choose, really, I don't.
I care about what your teachers & students are going to DO WITH IT. 

So let's begin with a one questions quiz:

Why are we moving to 1:1?

A.  All the cool schools are doing it
B.  We got a grant for iPads
C.  The state says we have to prepare for online testing
D. Our mission & vision support transforming the way we support teaching & learning
E. Worksheets look awesome on LCD screens.

I bet you know which one was the correct!
As always you gotta know your WHY  (Thank you, Simon Sinek) before you even begin to think about a device.

Because this is much more than a technology decision, be sure you have lots of voices at the table, teachers, parents, students the tech team and more.

Since I tweet out or reply to an email pretty much every week at this point in the school year around this question,  I thought I would just link right here to the resources I routinely share out.

Many of these links help you get to your "why" not just your "what", but there is also good "what" advice, too.

Implementing a 1:1 Program via Nick Sauers ( )
New Tech Network 's Pinterest Board with BYOD/BYOT resources 
1:1 Essentials Program from Common Sense Media
4 Questions to Ask Before Choosing: iPad or Chromebook via Edudemic
How to Choose the Right Tablet for Your School via @CenterDigitalEd
How to Choose the Best Device for Your School via Adam Webster ( @Cagelessthink)
Project Red
5 School-Worthy Alternatives for Education

In addition to the above articles here are three helpful chats and hashtags.

#1:1techat at 9pm EST on Wednesdays
#BYOTChat 9pm EST on Thursdays
#iPadChat 1pm EST on Wednesdays

I look forward to you sharing resources that you have found helpful on this journey!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Miss People & Sometimes Paper

Like most of you who are a part of a variety of social media networks,  I'm hyper-connected. My cell phone is WAY more than a phone. we have no home phone or alarm clocks, I text more than I talk, at night after I shut down my laptop, I check my phone before going to sleep. I can go days and only get texts, not actually speaking to our kids.

My home office is equipped with a laptop, dual monitors, an iPad and google chat is always open.
Today, I have had  a Vidyo meeting connecting Rochester IN with Napa and Oakland CA. , exchanged tweets with students in Michigan and Indiana.  I have chatted with teachers in Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Oregon, none of whom I have ever met in person.  In about an hour I have another virtual meeting where three of us in 3 different states will be collaborating around a project.

I work from home and can go days without seeing anyone face to face except my husband and my dog, Brinkley.

Don't get me wrong, most of the the time I love working from home! My morning commute is about 15 steps and I don't have to wait in line for coffee! The dress code is pretty relaxed, too.
But I miss people!

A few weeks ago I was able to attend the CoSN conference, conferences, for me, have become a place where I get to meet f2f people I've already talked to via Twitter or blogs for months or sometimes years.  I had no idea how conferences would change in nature for me as I became a "virtual girl".  They are still places of inspiration, learning and conversation, but now, they are so much more.

I'm super excited about the upcoming New Tech Network summer conferences. I'll get to see educators who I've been working with online face to face, to laugh and think together in person.

Also for Indiana's Summer of E-Learning conferences, I'll be attending and/or presenting at many of them. Indiana is the home of my very first PLN by way of the HECC list and #INeLearn.

Ohh and I can't forget two more!

EdCamp Fort Wayne is coming up in May, this will be my very first edcamp and I cannot wait!
Then another brand spanking new conferences in Grand Rapids, MI called Nova Now.  

I also miss paper

Not all paper, just sometimes.  At NTN we use google docs for pretty much everything. I have more docs than I can count (or sometimes find) but for some tasks,  I do better with paper.  I like my to do list on a yellow legal pad.  I make a new one everyday at the end of the day, prioritizing a la Stephan Covey's quadrants.  I have yet to find an app that is more effective for me!

During those virtual meetings, someone is always keeping notes on a Google doc, but I am also taking messy, scribbly notes of my own on that same legal pad.

I wonder... 

As we move towards blended learning, online learning, and less face to face, if we don't need to keep in mind that our students might miss face to face (and paper) too! Let's make sure they get time with people and with paper as needed!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Market Your School With Social Media! Or as the Doobie Bros say " Taking it to the Streets"

Well,  it IS a different world we live in!
I lived at 709 E. South St. in Frankfor,t Indiana back in the 70's and 80's and we just went to the school we could walk to.  I knew,  based on my address,  I would first be a Riley Poet, then a Frankfort Junior High Falcon and finally a Frankfort Hotdog.
No letter grades for schools,  no choice, no charters, no vouchers, I had an address and I had a school.

Enter the age of  school choice!

Whether you call yourself public, private, charter, Catholic, Christian or a combination of any of these you have entered the age of Education Marketing!
The deal is though, most schools don't have a marketing or public relations person, so what is a school to do?
I say, as the Doobie Brothers did in 1976, Take it to the Streets!....errr Interwebs....  
People are talking about you and your school!
What are they saying?
Are they right?
How can you get your message and mission out there?
I was fortunate to get to talk about this at #CoSN13 this year.

Here is our slideshare:
Branding & Marketing Your School With Social Media

The slideshare includes some ideas as well as links to schools that I think are doing a great job of using Facebook, Twitter and other tools to get their message out!
No one can reduce a student OR a school to a letter grade!
Not when a picture or a tweet is worth a thousand words!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Could a student do that? YES!

I've been asking myself this question a lot lately:

Could a student do that?

I find that the answer is often a resounding YES!

Some examples:
  • We are hosting our national conference for New Tech Network in New Orleans, LA this summer. I am creating a Pinterest board and wanted to fill it with restaurants in walking distance, some 'can't miss" sites and more. Except, I live in Indiana and I've never been to New Orleans.
Could a student do that? Yes!
Kaylin, student and member of the HRT team at Satellite Center is now pinning for us!

  • During #PBLChat we often discuss getting the community into the school for projects, entry docs,  as experts and more. Teachers are swamped busy, finding more time to make connections is tough
Could a student do that? Yes!
So many students chimed in during that chat and shared that THEY make the phone calls and coordinate the events bringing the community in to their schools.

From Anna, Kent Innovation High student

  • We often hear that teachers are reluctant to use tech tools in class that they haven't yet mastered because they couldn't be a resource for the students.
Could a student do that? Yes!
Chris M. student at Rochester Zebra New Tech High often made videos and tutorials with Camtasia teaching students and teachers the ins and outs of Photoshop and other tools. 

  • We talk about student voice a great deal these days. We need it during the interview process. Hmm? Have a professional voice and play a role in interviewing teachers for their school?
Could a student do that? Yes!
Students at Columbus Signature Academy play a role in the hiring process, asking questions and having reflective discussion post-interview with the facilitators and director of their school.

  • So many tech departments,  as we move to 1:1 and add even more devices, are so short staffed and struggle to keep up with the work order demands in the buildings they serve.
Could a student do that? Yes!
All over the country students are a part of the tech team, in many cases earning credits while they solve network issues, replace laptop parts, image computers and more. We called our team STAT (Student Tech Assistance Team, they even had t-shirts)

I'm certain there are many more ways we can empower students to be an integral part of their own learning in more ways. How are you empowering students?
As you go through your day tomorrow, ask yourself, could a student do that?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Grant Writing Advice: 5 Things I Know

 During my time as a Technology Coordinator for my school district I wrote or co-wrote many grants.  I learned a great deal while a part of that team and through writing and implementing these grants.

Match the Grant with Your District Strategic Plan
No matter how cool the opportunity, if it doesn't fit with  your district vision, mission and strategic plan, you may end up with cool tools or a neat program that doesn't go any deeper than that. I know that sounds obvious, but I've been tempted to do this, I'm guessing you might be too. Your strategic plan should be a living document, so live within it so you can meet your goals. Sort of like asking yourself,

"Would you buy those shoes on clearance if they were still full price?" If the answer is no, don't buy them. If it wasn't important enough to include in your plan, walk away. Focus

Talk to the People the Grant Will Affect
I once worked on a grant with my superintendent to get video conferencing equipment for our entire school district. It was a really complicated, long process to write this grant. Eventually, we DID get the grant and then the fun began, it was super time consuming to implement and report on. The time spent on this grant in relation to the amount of use the equipment got was a fail.  The teachers in the buildings really weren't ready for or interested in video conferencing at the time. They already had a bunch of new tech tools, and a million other things on their plate. Actually, the whole tech department had a lot of new tech tools and a lot on OUR plate.  Eventually we made good use of the grant, but the timing was bad, talk to people who will actually use the equipment/program etc.. before applying.

Keep Copies of Everything
So many grants are now "submit online only".  I highly recommend writing everything in Word or Google docs, save it. Especially the section that asks for data that you will use over and over again as you apply for other grants.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I filled in info on an online form and had the form freeze up and I LOST IT ALL. (Nope, not really, I really really do put it all in word and then copy and paste it in. )

Check Yourself
In working on a grant  with a fellow administrator, we wrote a truly incredible grant, I mean, we were on fire,  it was an amazing plan. The only problem? We both had actual full time positions with the district already and the grant plan we had written would take a ton of time to implement, measure and report on. So we "checked ourselves". What is the essence of what we want to get out of this grant, what CAN we actually manage, we scaled back in order to do it well. And, we got the grant! 

Follow the directions
Sounds simple, right?
Surprising how many people don't do it. If the grant is to be double spaced, a certain font, font size, specifies no more than two attachments, wants you to stand on your head while faxing the app and singing God Bless America, DO IT.
Just follow the directions.

Lastly, where are my go to places to find grants besides just watching my Twitter Feed? These two.
eSchool News Funding Tab
EdWorks Facebook Page

Don't forget about your own state DOE, local community foundation and big chain stores like Target who often run mini grants for teachers:)

Happy grant writing!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let's commit to not just talking about "student voice" but actually listening to it!

The phrase "student voice" is getting a lot of traction lately.  Whether it is a part of our #PBLChat conversations where you often here the phrase "voice & choice" or if you have been following the #stuvoice hashtag we know we should be listening to students, but I'm not sure how often it truly happens. 

One place I know students feel at home sharing their voice is on Twitter.  I am so proud of how the voices of students have grown organically as a part of #PBLChat.  Each week we have a number of students join us , they lend an authentic voice to our conversations, several of our topics have even been student suggested.

We have a number of students who jump right in to our chats each week and they would be happy to be a member of your PLN as well.  The tricky part for you might be knowing that they are students.  They confidently share their opinions, advice and philosophy about learning in such a profound way that I bet some of our chatters have no idea they are talking to HS students.    Due to the busy lives of work, school, FFA 4H, sports and more the group changes from week to week and I find it even more impressive that they choose to take the initiative to learn alongside all of us.

These students found this outlet for their voices mostly because they were already connecting professionally via Twitter with their teachers or as a part of different projects in their school. I love how I see the students now connecting with each other, across states and time zones to discuss and share.

Here are some sample tweets from a few of our "regular" chatters. 



I love this next one!

Doesn't it illustrate how we all feel after a great connection with our PLN? 

Some of these students share topic ideas in our #PBLChat google doc, in fact, it looks like this week's topic will be one from a student.  I love how it is an exact concern we often hear from teachers!

Ask any teacher who has left the classroom for other positions what they miss the most and they will say "the students".  I love that students joining in on our chats makes me miss that less.  Sometimes, I even get to meet this student PLN in person.

I always love going to learn with students and teachers but this last visit was special. I got to meet @MrMackAttack1 and @Emcredible3 in person, tour their school and even have time for some great face to face conversation.

Let's commit to not just talking about "student voice" but actually listening to it!