coaching innovation (pre-course)

Today is Day One of Global Online Academy’s PD Course: Coaching Innovation! I’m excited for a two week intensive course to learn strategies for working/coaching teachers in innovation and creativity. We are using Canvas as our LMS which seems a bit similar to Haiku in a lot of ways but so for their iOS app totally rules (Haiku only has an iPad version.) I was struggling to get good quality video for my intro to the class and uploaded directly from my iPhone to Canvas, voila! The video clip I took on the iPhone was the best quality over my mac webcam and my lenovo yoga webcam. Woot! Score points for Canvas.







This will be my first time taking a course from GOA, so I’m excited to explore the process of blended learning. This is of particular interest as the NAIS-Teacher of the Future topic of the year is Blended Learning. (more on that later!!) So I will approach this course both from its content of Coaching Innovation and from its instructional design. A two-fer learning experience is always good!! Stay tuned for reflections!



coding update: platform trials

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m spending some time exploring options for use with our coding workshop for 7th and 8th. This week, I have played with a variety of platforms that would enable our students to learn various languages, specifically javascript and html/css. I have looked at 3 options this week. Here is a brief review, so far:

Code School


Course: Java Script Road Trip I

This looked the most promising to me because I love the video tutorial aspect as well as the downloadable pdf’s for “quick access”. The tricky part with Code School at this point is when I get stuck there is no way to get help directly on the site other than the introductory video. I was stuck in a spot with Strings yesterday and had to “buy” (using points) my way to a solution. I would have like to work through it but the feedback method is points related rather than success related. (Success in my intrinsically driven mind.) I have found working with a notepad for solutions to help “see” the process has been helpful.

At some point, I’m going to max out on the free content on Code School and that will make me sad.



Course: JavaScript

I am 7% complete with the course, though it feels like I’m working through a lot.  This is giving me hands on practice but I’m not sure yet how it all strings (hahaha, bad JS pun!) together to make something tangible.  (More on that topic in a minute.) I find the hint button on Codecademy super helpful. It has led to me figure out my own problems through trial and error.

Code Avengers


Course: Intro to Game Development (Java Script)

I finished level 1 of the free trial of JS. This was a neat tutorial in that it provided a way for me to manipulate the code and expand it and actually see it “live” in a window. I could see the code that I was manipulating become a game. That was pretty rocking. Alas, if I want to go to level 2, I have to purchase it for $39. I do have access to a lot of other material that is free, but I’d love something sequential.


My biggest Luddite question in all of this is…when I actually want to write code and build something that translates into something real-where do I write it? I understand how to translate html from notepad to a browser, but I’m not sure how to translate lines of anything else into a “real game” or app. I feel really really dumb asking this question, but can anyone give me some feedback? (Please be gentle and kind-I’m a tech integrator not a CS teacher by trade!)

Happy Coding and if you are at #iste2014, send me some swag and ideas!!  ;-)

So we are coding…

After a super successful Hour of Code last fall, I have been tasked (along with my courageous Middle School Head) to create a 7/8 elective in Coding/Computer Science/Etc. I resisted for a long time with questions such as:

  • “Are we just jumping on the hit parade band wagon?”
  • “Do our middle schoolers really need this?”
  • “What has to give from their other courses for kids to take this class?”
  • “Why would I, a person with music ed, ed leadership, and curriculum integration skills, be the right person to teach a course in coding?”
  • “How do we differentiate a class that is appealing for our advanced coders (like our amazing app writer) as well as to our kids who think it would be cool to try something new but have no experience?”

So we answered them:

  • Maybe, but this is about thinking skills, so we are cool with it either way.
  • Yes, this is their time to taste lots of disciplines and so a this amuse bouche of coding comes at the perfect time.
  • Nothing, we with our new six day schedule this will be an additional choice in the visual art rotation.
  • It is about project management, thinking skills, and facilitation more than actual content knowledge of coding, so yup, I’m going to be ok. (This answer took the most convincing and cajoling by my MSH and Dir of C&I.)
  • We work collaboratively, providing both leadership and independent work opportunities for our advanced kids. We create differentiated experiences where the outcome is more about thinking skill and process, rather than product.

Now comes the tough work, design the course. Where to start? Information gathering!! I’ve looked at countless approaches to how to teach “kids to code”. We have all the iPad apps. We have an account with idTECH365. We’ve played with We’ve purchased some Raspberry Pi devices. I’ve played Code Combat, Minecraft, and Scratch. We’ve downloaded STEM and CS standards from the state and national level. I’ve  saved #kidscancode to our hootsuite feed.



At this point, we need to sit in a room and ask some more questions:

  • What is important? (For me it is thinking skills over language.)
  • What are our major objectives? (I’m thinking we have three major units surrounding EQ’s.)
  • What are our resources?
  • What is our timeline?

We will have many more questions to answer this week as we buckle down and hash out a curriculum. We also know that curriculum is a living thing and that it will grow and change with our students. We know there are many crossroads on the coding path and we’ll choose what is best for our kids and gives them the most out of their experience. More than anything, I want them to be empowered to learn and try new things. For our advanced kids that might mean exploring a part of coding they haven’t tried before or using their skills to teach others and for our newbies it might mean having them try something out of their comfort zone.

keep calm and code

I’m trying to practice what I preach in terms of teaching and learning right now; stepping out of my area of comfort and working to design an innovative, creative, and engaging course. Allowing for the students to be the leaders (with measured facilitation of course) and for them to take hold of their own learning process. This is an exciting adventure, time to jump in!






I came across a new MOOC that appealed to my sense of neediness. Alec Couros, in conjunction with the Dept. Of Education for Saskatchewan, is leading a multi-week course on Digital Citizenship for educators. The course overview sounded like a great medium to dive into conversation with others about living and teaching in a digital world. I’m also interested on how this is presenting in a large scale, government funded (yea Canada!) to a wide swath of teachers. How is the pedagogy learner-centered and is that even possible in a MOOC?

This week we are charged with defining our goals for the course. As stated above, I want to continue my participation in the conversation of teaching and learning in the digital age but also, I’m as a professional development leader-I’m interested in the balcony view of the course presentation and delivery. I will jump back and forth between the learning pool and the balcony as the course goes on. (If these terms seem ridiculous, check out Leadership On the Line.) I will achieve these goals by being an active learner-joining in on the synchronous sessions (when possible, they are in MT time), maintaining a presence on twitter and google+, and by reaching out in our asynchronous time.

Here’s to another learning adventure online!! #dcmooc


A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to brag on behalf of the neat work coming out of several of our classrooms. I am so proud of these teachers who are trailblazers for integrating tech into their classrooms. It was really nice to celebrate their work and now I share it with you!



How do you celebrate the success of YOUR superstars?


edcamp MetroDC has come and gone and I have that amazing feeling of happy exhaustion that comes from months of planning coming to fruition. As an edcamp organizer, I feel like this is one of my babies. As we plan, we draw together on the strengths and resources of our local and national PLN networks. We use lots of collaborative tools. We ask for a LOT of free stuff. We make pleas on our networks and within our faculty to build a registrant list. We use a lot of tape, sticky notes, bandwidth, and coffee. 


And then the day arrives. And it is like #educhristmas. I have never been to an edcamp that doesn’t seemingly fall into place and leave its participants inspired and excited about their educational practice. I have seen twitter friends meet in person, old friends cling to their annual day together, veterans teaching newbies, and ideas new and old swirl in the ether. It is my favorite edu-day.

This year was no exception. Our team worked for many months to pull our program together with hopes of leaving no detail aside. We each naturally took a role in leadership that highlighted our own strengths. (And as for me, challenging my fear of asking people/businesses for things, and GETTING them!) It was a fairly pain-free collaboration; to come together and put an event out there for educators to learn–what an honor! I had the pleasure of sharing edcamp with many of my Norwood colleagues, which was a great blessing! To see their enjoyment of edcamp was a gift to me. I also took advantage of my own learning time, particularly enjoying sessions on coding and mindfulness. And, as always, my edutriplets and I were able to share our knowledge and love of Twitter with the newbies in the room.


I’m sure my list of “edu-favorites” will continue to grow in the afterglow of edcamp, but here are a few highlights from the day:

15 Minute Filmmaking Session-This is edcamp

Mindfulness in Education

Smackdown (where @mrfichter brought me to tears with the NPR Women in Tech resources #nprwit)

And some great reflections from friends:





And so a brief hiatus from edcamp planning begins until we start fresh for 2015. In the meantime, edcamp Philly is in May and edcamp Baltimore will be in the fall. edcamps happen all over the world, every weekend and every one feels like #educhristmas.



The why before the how

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last two and a half years as a tech integrator asking questions. I usually start with, “what are your goals or objectives?” “What do you want your kids to know or be able to do, regardless of tech.” From there, a process of choosing the right tool, pace, and content for the project comes naturally.

When we start any conversation in ed tech with an app or a device, we are cutting short the conversation. We aren’t allowing learning to drive our choices but rather the tool. Unless we are speaking in the terms of CS or STEM, most technology is being used to enrich and enhance a learning process or product. (At least in the S and A stages of SAMR.)

As our ed tech revolution drives through our schools at an unprecedented pace, we simply must continually return to the why and what of our teaching. This will provide a pedagogically solid foundation of teaching and learning rather than surface level application of a cool tool.

My education hero, Lucy Gray provides an excellent op-ed in edsurge and I encourage you to check it out!

Shall we continue this conversation? Tweet me or comment below.