Mic Dropping (again) at The White House – #CSforAll 

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Never did I ever think there would be a “part deux” to  blogging about speaking in the White House, until it happened again. Most people don’t get invited to the White House even once, let alone twice.  It’s humbling; it’s surreal.  It’s one of those experiences that you get to share with your kids and their kids.

About a month ago, I received an invitation from the Office of Science & Technology to attend both the #CSforAll forum and a PD session on what other districts from around the US and its territories are doing.  These meetings are the results of numerous initiatives from the President with the goal of getting computer science classes, programs, clubs, activities, or all of these into all schools.  If it sounds like a very broad and ambitious goal, it is.  To give every student the skills needed in order to succeed in today’s society has always been prized as a local initiative.  However, when the President of the United States sets an initiative, you want to follow through on it and use every resource you can.

The morning workshop was fantastic!  It contained leaders, teachers, government officials, and students from around the country, US territories, and Native American tribes.  I was able to hear about how uber wealthy, dirt poor, gigantic, and minuscule districts all had students writing code from grades K to 12.  I heard how a southern California high school rolled out a series of CS classes and how a school district in Florida started an hour of code and turned it into a massive community outpouring.  I was floored with how a tribe in Oklahoma has kindergarten students coding on the reservation. Meeting students where they are is an understatement.

The afternoon was a summit with national partners that highlighted how students, companies, colleges, public & private schools, and the government have come together to promote computer science for all.   From the Girl Scouts to Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, it was a fascinating afternoon.

The event was live on whitehouse.gov; you can watch the summit here:

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We finished the day with a student exhibit in the Old Executive Office Building.  Besides seeing our future working on computer science projects that would take me days to figure out, we were also treated to some White House cupcakes.  Hey, cupcakes are cupcakes, but they are much cooler when the seal of the President is on them.

Three takeaways from another fantastic day in the world of education…

1. Computer Science is real, and it is easy for all ages.  Like all things new, it takes a bit of time to adjust.  CS classes are no longer “dehumanizing” (as one teacher from the forum put it) and can be injected into kindergarten classes.

2. Socioeconomic factors are finally starting to “not count” when it comes to trends in education.  The fact that Native American tribal schools are achieving success with kids from 5-15 should be a giant wake-up call to all blue-collar & white-collar school districts that say, “They can’t do that,” or “We don’t have the resources.”  Newsflash: They can, and the last time I checked, free resources don’t cost anything.

3. Regardless of who becomes President next, this project will continue to move forward.  It was adamantly clear that regardless of what happens in November, the star power and drive of so many Americans is obvious.  Computer science is a skill set for all learners and will only become more important as we move on in the future. 

 

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With Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States

A teacher doing what she does best… educating others.

There are bloggers, and there are those who speak from the heart.  Kelly Grotrian (pronounced Grow-tree-an, not Grow-train) is one of those advocates.  I had the privilege to work with Kelly for a few years teaching 8th-grade history; she’s passionate, she pushes her kids to work, and she is fearless.  Read about her struggles below, but more importantly, read about what she’s doing about it.

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I wanted to write this post and I decided that I will share what I’m comfortable sharing and hope that my story may help someone else “out there.” I am living with a variety of mental disorders for which I seek treatment and I wanted to tell “everyone” […]

via A Post Not About Teaching… But About a Teacher — Kelly Grotrian

“That guy”, Good guy, Bad guy, or THE guy?

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image credit: newgrounds.com

So… here we are again…another summer that flies by, another school year ready to kick off, and another few weeks of thoughts swirling in my head about what exactly to say to the hundreds of staff members who wait for my every last breathYou know the last sentence was sarcasm, right?  I used to despise listening to administrators giving speeches to begin the school year.  As a teacher, I already had so much to do, a classroom to set up, curriculum and IEP’s to look over, etc. The last thing I wanted to do was be herded in like cattle to sit and listen to some know-it-all administrator tell me how I’m going to do my job and how wonderful I am, even though he had never met me.

 

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image credit: shamelessmag.com

 

And now I am “that guy.”   I don’t like being “that guy.”  You know… “That guy” who cuts in front of you in the lunch line, “’that guy” who just has to have the last word, “that guy”’ who has been the gift to education since he stepped into a classroom and knows absolutely everything.

I don’t like the labels “good guy” or “bad guy” either.  My job isn’t a movie plot or a professional wrestling storyline.  However, some will correlate good guy and bad guy, because that’s what was always done.

Some people will call me a good guy, some a bad guy, or, even worse, “that guy.”  While I don’t think I fit any of these personas, I’ll tell you what I think I am. I am the guy.

  • I’m the guy who was appointed by the Board of Education to lead a school district down numerous avenues, sometimes even trailblazing.
  • I’m the guy who is charged with leading principals, supervisors, managers, teachers, and all employees in any and all school interactions, as I have oversight of, either directly or indirectly, every district employee, all school programs, and all facilities.
  • I’m the guy who signs the checks, approves the bills, and makes sure we are getting the best that money can buy.
  • I’m the guy who serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Education and am responsible for the administration and supervision of the school district in accordance with Board policies and New Jersey Statutes.
  • I’m the guy who will inspire, lead, guide and direct every member of the administrative, instructional, and support services team in setting and achieving the highest standards of excellence, so that each individual student enrolled in our district may be provided with a completely valuable, meaningful and personally rewarding education.
  • I’m the guy who is an ex-officio member of the Board of Education and serves on every committee, like it or not.
  • I’m the guy who advises the Board on the need for new or revised policy and prepares drafts for Policy Committee review.
  • I’m the guy who supervises the effective implementation of all constitutional or statutory laws, state regulations, and Board policies. Some love that, and some loathe it.
  •  I’m the guy who recommends for promotion, appointment, or employment all employees of the Board and assigns, transfers and recommends for dismissal any and all employees of the Board.
  • I’m the guy who assumes ultimate administrative responsibility for the health, safety, welfare, discipline, assignment, promotion and retention of all students.
  • I’m the guy who will report to the Board of Education on the conditions and needs of the school system and effectiveness of the policies and regulations under which the system is operating.
  • I’m the guy who supervises the physical operation of the school plant and its facilities and makes appropriate recommendations.
  • I’m the guy who is responsible for the general supervision of the instructional programs as well as the one who supervises research essential to the efficient operation of the school system and the improvement of instruction.
  • I’m the guy who makes recommendations to the Board of Education for its adoption of all courses for students as well as the purchase of textbooks, instructional supplies, and equipment.
  • I’m the guy who schedules meetings and professional development for school staff as necessary for the improvement and welfare of the school district.
  • I’m the guy who makes the call for the opening or closing of school during emergency situations.
  • I’m the guy who has to enforce Board policies and implement Board goals whether I like them or not.

I could go on and on for another 8 gazillion bullets, but, hopefully, you get the point.  Bottom line: If it has to deal with school, from a broken pipe to a broken link on the website, I have something to do with it at some point.

You can love me, you can loathe me, or anything in between and outside of the scope of that, but know that this guy is here for your kids.  Kids first! Always!

I think I just finished by back-to-school address.  Here goes nothing.  If it hits home to one person, awesome.  If not, I have Dave Burgess to fall back on this year!😉

Here’s to all having a great back-to-school year!

Wanna REALLY learn? Check out a TeachMeet!

Another packed room for the Dirty 30 v.4.0!

I’ll admit it – I’m an edcamp junkie. I love spending my own time on weekends or using my vacation days to go learn something new about what’s happening in schools. I’m passionate about my craft, 24/7. 

Kyle Calderwood kicks off #tmnj16

Over the years, the edcamp movement has exploded, but there is also another Un-conference that is gaining major traction: TeachMeet. Today, I attended my third TeachMeetNJ in Toms River.

73 teachers partook in BreakoutEDU

There are some differences between an edcamp and a TeachMeet. The two biggest differences are that a schedule is predetermined, and morning sessions are only 20 minutes, with participants voting at lunch for 45 minute sessions in the afternoon (based on what they saw in the AM). 

I had the chance to run a session on one of the most interesting educational tools to “break out” on the scene, BreakoutEDU. The room was packed; always a good thing. Packed rooms, on weekends or days in the summer, always show me that there are educators all over that want to learn more and more on their time. The room was very intrigued and it appeared that some would be looking into the kit for the upcoming school year.

TeachMeet scheduled food trucks for lunch!

I attended sessions on NextGen, Makerspaces, 8-bit gaming, and even gamification. And yes, I presented my annual Dirty 30 – now as version 4.0.

Three major highlights of the day –

1) Seeing one of my teachers present her knowledge and skill set to others. She had a  full crowd and lead the workshop with grace. I really have some amazing staff members. 

2) Food trucks for lunch, with a $5.00 voucher to be used towards them. Ingenious.

3) 73…… Yes, 73 teachers stayed for breakoutEDU; they broke-out in under 18 minutes. Pretty damn cool. 

In all, one of the best PD days I have attended and facilitated this year. People left charged – the excitement was palpable. Here’s to a great school year!

Chicagoland: science, STEAM, and sheer awe

The following was published on the BAM radio network and on the AASA website:

In late July, I had the opportunity to participate in the AASA digital consortium summer meet up. The consortium visited two superb districts (Leyden High School District 212 and Deerfield Public School District 109) as well as one Titan in its own class (the Chicago office of Google).

 

The symposium started with an overview of the Leyden school district. A diverse, blue collar town, Leyden has a little bit of everything to offer. What was most impressive was the fact that Leyden truly understood the necessity to prepare young adults to be adults in the workforce.  Not that they weren’t preparing for college prep too, but it’s always fantastic to see what schools are doing for the student going into the workforce. 

Tours like this always start with “the nickel tour” (tour of the building),  which was immaculate. The building itself was over 70 years old, but you would never think it. I later found out that the entire maintenance team are non-outsourced employees, which we all know leads to high quality work and investment in work. When I say immaculate, I could have eaten my lunch off of the floor.


We then saw two specific programs that were essentially turnkeying students for the workforce. One program focused on CNC machinery (tool & dye) and the other was computer repair. You may think CNC machinery as odd, but there is a large CNC plant in town, and the district collaborates with the plant in creating and maintaining the program. The epitome of win-win.


The computer repair program was a variety of mini-stations: a student-lead technology help desk, a chromebook repair station, and a coding station. All stations were oversaw by a teacher, but all work was being completed by students. From diagnosing computer problems to 3D printing parts for said computer problems, it was a well-oiled machine. 

The next day was spent at Google’s Chicago office, where Superintendents from around the country gathered to brainstorm and work through problems. This was all done in one of many conference rooms that Google has. And yes, before you even think about it, he offices were amazing. Part IKEA, part arcade, part diner, and part cubicle, the offices were amazing. All of the things about the Google office that I heard were correct, including:

  • Funky furniture
  • A manicure/pedicure and massage office
  • Fully stocked kitchens on every floor
  • Nap pods
  • Ping pong
  • Some of the most creative minds I will ever come across.

The third day was focusing on another Chicago suburb school district, Deerfield. The district, the almost polar opposite of Leyden, is a K-8 district focusing on preparing students for college prep classes in high school. Most impressive was the newly built science wing, which took three years to build after scads of tinkering to perfection. To be honest, words can’t really begin to describe the detail and quality of these science rooms. The pictures below speak for themselves. Every single aspect of the room was focused on; no stone was left unturned. Highlights of the wing include:

  • Floors that had scientific Equations embedded in them, as well as state of the art seating

  • Monitors all around the room are are connected to one camera in front of the teachers station, so the teacher can model as students partake in labs

  • Rain collection stations for fully functioning aquaponic workstations, along with camera equipped bird houses
  • A hallway designed with RGBOYV for studying purposes, along with monitors that are reporting outdoor temperatures and scientific data

The tour also included a new STEAM lab and was loaded with students talking about their daily experiences. 

In all, three amazing days this summer. Superintendents need to see this – it shows all of us that work needs to be done in our home districts, and also shows us that all of the dreams and thoughts that run through our head everyday are indeed fully capable of becoming student reality.


I’m looking forward to the next collaborative venture. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Second Hand News

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Summer is a time for relaxation, recharging, and for some, regrouping. I’m a big fan of just zoning out on the beach to some tunes. One of my favorite bands, Fleetwood Mac, was just on with their hit “Second Hand News”. I know the song has nothing to do with school, but the title sure does.

As a Superintendent, I am constantly addressing the rumor mill and second-hand news.  There’s not a day that does not go by where I don’t hear “well I heard that…” or “someone told me that…” or “is it true that…” To be clear almost every administrator goes through this. In no way, shape, or form is this unique to me.

Once you think you hear it all, something else comes along.  It’s constant, but almost expected.

Why would I waste time blogging about this? Simple; others folks in my position need to know it’s not just you, your district, or location. It’s everywhere. What you need to do is simply laugh it off and keep moving along. The only time I address rumors is when someone is personally being scrutinized for something.

Will rumors ever stop? Never. Will they dictate my life or my leadership. Absolutely not. Rumors are rumors, and peddling, laughing, and rolling with them is just as much a apart of school culture as snacks in the faculty room.

5 ways to use Pokemon Go in your classroom

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image credit: pokemongo.com

 

Disclaimer: Before you think I’m jumping on the bandwagon, I’m not.  This is intended to be used as another tool in the shed of an educator that connects to today’s learner. 

 

History does indeed come full circle. Pokemon is back in the news. When I first heard it over the weekend, I thought I was hearing things. Pokemon?? For real?!

Not even a week ago at this point, Ninentndo introduced a new app called “Pokemon Go” that has swept a country by storm.  Five days into its’ release, it’s scheduled to have more downloads and users than Twitter. You read that right; more users than twitter in five days.

Why? Sheer nostalgia meets a game that one can play with ease.

The goal of the game? Capture Pokemon creatures. Get Points. Get ranked. The epitome of gamification.

 

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image credit: pokemonfanatics.com

As mentioned earlier, this has become such a hit that it recently crashed a server because too many people were using it.  It also has received a ridiculous amount of press in a very short time, with not all of it being good.

Click here to watch a 3:00 report on NBC World News (for real, NBC WORLD NEWS!)

If you don’t know the basics of Pokémon,  it stems from the hobby of insect collecting. Players of the games are designated as Pokémon Trainer, and in the main series Pokémon games, these trainers have two general goals. These are to complete the Pokédex by collecting all of the available Pokémon species found in the fictional region where that game takes place and to train a team of powerful Pokémon from those they have caught to compete against teams owned by other Trainers, and eventually win the fictional Pokémon League. These themes of collecting, training, and battling are present in almost every version of the Pokémon franchise.

When playing the game, a Trainer that encounters a wild Pokémon is able to capture that Pokémon by throwing a tool called a Poké Ball at it. If the Pokémon is unable to escape, it is officially considered to be under the ownership of that Trainer. If a Pokémon fully defeats an opponent in battle so that the opponent is knocked out, the winning Pokémon gains experience points and may level up. When leveling up, the Pokémon’s statistics of battling aptitude increase, such as Attack and Speed. From time to time, the Pokémon may also learn new moves, which are techniques used in battle.

 

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image credit: wikipedia.org

I immediately thought of another game that has the same exact concept of moving around to collect things: Ingress. If you haven’t heard of ingress, it was created by the same company that created Pokemon Go – Niantic.  In Ingress, the competition in Ingress is between the two opposing teams rather than between individual players, and players never interact directly in the game or suffer any kind of damage. The gameplay consists of capturing “portals” at places of cultural significance, such as public art, landmarks, monuments, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular “control fields” over geographical areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of “mind units” captured. The necessary links between portals may range in length from meters to hundreds of miles. Gameplay relies heavily on the player physically moving about the community in order to interact with portals.

 

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image credit: citycapture.org 

Now that you have this crazy description, there has to be a way to inject this into classes; surely there is!  Below are 5 ways to capitalize on the craze:

Map Reading.  Starting in 3rd grade, per Common Core standard ERI.3.7, students should be able to use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur). While we all rely on GPS and mapquest, viewing and reading a map is paramount for anyone. PokemonGo is based off of maps; this would be a great way to teach direction and to incorporate the 5 themes of geography.

Digital Citizenship and Safety. I’m sure you have heard or read the headlines; the game has lead to people strolling into traffic, finding weapons and dead bodies, and has even lead people to muggings. Using real-time news and scenarios, you can easily inject the game into the importance of being safe in your surroundings, meeting strangers on the internet, etc.

 Probability. Pokemon is a game based on location, but also a game that circulates around rarity. It’s like fishing in a way; you never know what you’re going to catch. A lesson on the probability of catching a certain species to another species could be one of the best hooks that you can use for your students… and it’s compliant with 6th grade  CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.A.1.

 Local & Cultural Exploration. PokemonGo has brought people out and about.  Gatherings. Meetups. Excitement.  Not just in a park, but at art galleries, restaurants, sights, and more. The way the app works allows folks to truly explore their surroundings. You have a whole new level of engagement and urge for exploration that many did not have before.  Why not inject local history, art, music, and culture into this craze?

A perfect opportunity for research.   Tying into the exploration lab above, having students conduct research on the game, the fad, and the places they have gone in the process is an easy and simplistic way to engage as student in research practices.  If a student is interested in it, why not have them engaged in it?

Again, I certainly won’t be pushing a PokemonGo classroom next year, but teachers would be silly not to capitalize on the craze like everyone else has.