Are You Indispensable?

People sometimes tell me that they don’t know how they handled technology before I was hired. While I’m flattered that they need me, I wonder if I make them too dependent.

When I worked in business, upper management always reminded us that we should train our people to not need us. Wise words. 

I believe this applies to our students as well. Teaching independence and critical thinking  help others to grow and find their own voice. If we constantly spoon feed and protect them, we develop dependency and stunt their brain growth. 

Coaching teachers to grasp onto a new technology is much like teaching elementary school. I’m certainly not saying that we should treat adults like children, but I AM saying that we need to break down the steps for them. 

Learning a new app or tool is sometimes so stressful for an already over worked professional, that they appear to reject your teaching.  In fact, they are usually just completely “info-whelmed”. The know they are intelligent. They probably have earned multiple degrees, and they think they should “get it” right away. It stops them in their tracks when it seems beyond them to understand new technology.

So, my goal is to develop more independence in those that I coach and teach. 

While I’m not indispensable, I am grateful for being needed and wanted at a job I love. 


What is a “Connected Educator”?

I have certainly understood the term connected. I am certainly an educator. Being a connected educator takes many steps and facets to really complete. This blog post was a great way to fire up my Wednesday. The infographic is great for me. I love infographics! They really speak to the visual learner that I am.

I always thought that being “connected” was more of a negative term. If you were “connected” you knew people in high places. You might even have been a bit of a snob. Of course, today being connected takes on a whole new meaning.

How are you connected? Do some or many or all of the icons below look familiar to you? Some were new to me, and I feel as if I’m a fairly well-connected educator. So, I have some researching to do about apps like Trello and Slack. Have you used either of those? My quest to add to my curated digital toolbox continues. Thankfully.

When I stop learning, I’ll just wither up and fade away. Being a life-long learner is crucial to being an effective educator no matter what your role is.

Follow me on Twitter @barbvinal or LinkedIn or Facebook. Let’s get connected!

How do you stay current, relevant and up-to-date with the new technologies in education? What Connected Educators do Differently has answers for educators looking to start and cultivate a professional (or personal) learning network (PLN) to stay current and connected. Following are key takeaways from the book and from two other resources that go beyond […]

via 3 Takeaways from “What Connected Educators Do Differently” — Online Learning Insights

YouTube in the Classroom

I love Educational Technology and Mobile Learning! Every time I see the name in my inbox, I just know they will have come up with something awesome!

YouTubehands-589474_640.jpgHere is a great link: A Handy Chart Featuring YouTube Guidelines for Teachers

Oh, how I love PD in my PJs! (Or wherever I am). No longer do I have to wait for people to contact me for Professional Development, nor do I have to wait for someone to come to me. Now I can just go get the answers I need when I need them.


Presentation Overload

Is it possible to have too many slide sets in your Google Drive? I love the new Explore feature in Slides as it makes my slides look professionally done. But it just doesn’t play well with a Conference template. Darn. 

With several upcoming conferences, I was hoping to provide more visually appealing slides (just in case the content wasn’t as exciting to my audience as it is to me!) But, alas, I must rely on my long ago desktop publishing training for layout. If you’re under 40 you probably don’t know what I mean by that. Design techniques are about using white space well. It’s about using succinct wording and hooking the attendee. And I used to get paid to do what Explore now does for Slides. Times change. 

The preparation for NCDPI’s Home Base Symposium this week and NCTIES next week on two distinctly different topics, has kept me thinking. The ease of using G Suite in the cloud makes everything so much easier. 

I keep my G Drive well organized, but I have so much in my Drive that I have to search to find anything. Too many presentations? Maybe. But I’m honored to have so many different topics accepted at the local and state levels. 

Hopefully my session attendees will find a few nuggets of information from my presentations. And hopefully Google will always be there for the next Presentation in the overloaded folder. What happens if Google ever isn’t there?!? Not tonight…

Creating a Collaborative Student Experience

Teachers often ask me how many devices they are going to get. “Not all of my kids have a device. I need to increase the number of laptops in my room so that they each have their own.” While this sentiment is valid for student individual use, it doesn’t speak to the need for us to teach collaboration.

The model of 1 device for every 3 students lends itself to students working in a more collaborative manner. We already know that they can work alone and under direction. At least most of them can. What we need to cultivate is the team creative effort. This is what is needed most in the real world. Finding the ability to plan and work together is a much missing commodity in the workplace.

By Lucélia Ribeiro (Children at school) via Wikimedia Commons

Business owners often say, “I can teach skills. I can train someone to use our software system. What I can’t teach is teamwork and personal responsibility. They should know that before they get here.”

We encourage, even demand, that teachers work together in PLTs (personal learning networks) so that there is a common, shared vision. We should be obligated to foster the same in our students. Individual growth, of course, is important. But individual growth will develop within a collaborative team. And collective thinking is more powerful that one person doing it alone.

How can a teacher help? Develop team contracts. Have job assignments when working on a project. For example, one student is the director, one is the scribe, and one is the submitter. These are just a few ideas. Students may even come up with titles for themselves that you never thought of. Give them the power to make the safe decisions in a team environment. This encourages growth and helps establish a work ethic and responsibility.

And only provide one device per team. 

Does this mean we should never use 1:1 in the classroom? Of course not! But, using the collaborative approach, the technology dollars will go further and we develop skills that are necessary. A real win-win situation!


Professional Development on Steroids

Spending a day with like-minded, creative people is amazing! The collective wisdom of the Instructional Technology Facilitators (ITFs) in my district rivals any R&D group. 

What makes this group of people so inspiring, is that they treat every meeting like it was their first     visit to a natural wonder. They are excited, love to share what they’re doing and make everyone around them energized to be part of the group. 

Now, I know for a fact that they are deep down, bond weary tired from interacting with teachers, students, administrators and email but they still seem to have amazing things to share. 

Makerspaces, coding, robotics, Breakout EDU (look this up – it’s a challenging set of puzzles), Coaching, teaching, inventory, scheduling… And the list goes on. And so, seemingly, does their energy. 

As a half time ITF with multiple responsibilities, I work to be time efficient. But I could never do what I do without these incredible people. Every gathering with them – even in social situations – is like professional development on steroids. 

Want to have that kind of meeting? Tired of someone talking at you? Then be the change. Ask your colleagues what they want to learn/share. Do break out sessions by interest. Led those leaders lead. Encourage the quiet ones to feel the energy and run with it. 

I couldn’t ask for a better place to work or better people to work with.  Can’t wait to jump in again tomorrow with all my new tools. I hope they feel the same way. 

Marlo Gaddis of Wake County School System
Marlo Gaddis of Wake County School System

Using Google Classroom Starting in 2nd Grade?

I’ve been using Google Classroom with 2nd graders since last year. The difference it has made in my technology instruction is amazing! Each student can focus on doing creative work either alone or in collaboration with others no matter where they are.

google_classroom_logoFrom the instructor side, Classroom gives me the ability to control what my students see, where they go, and the images that they use. I can check up on their work throughout the week, even though I only see them once each week. Their homeroom teacher can assign things that are shared between us, so I can truly integrate with what is happening in the classroom.

My second graders can access the accounts through the Classroom as well. I keep links to and links to a TIP chart (Term, Information, Picture) in digital form in the ABOUT section of the Classroom for easy access.

My students can navigate through Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Forms easily. They still struggle with spelling, reading a lot of words and following some of the directions, but the grasp the importance of adult communication. They are so excited when they get to collaborate on a document and when I comment on their work.

Google Classroom is a great platform for young and old alike. Professional development works very well in Classroom. Staff development and online courses flow nicely through this simple Suite. Just add Google Groups to the mix and you have a discussion board that is rich with conversation.

Virtual Classrooms are amazing!