Sunday, November 22, 2015

How Do We Know That Our EdTech PD is Working?

We have four school weeks left until our Winter break.  To say that it has been busy is an understatement.  This is my second year as an administrator, and my first one as a Principal (yes, I am still the IT director too).  I like to think that I have all of the answers (it looks good on paper), but every day brings new questions.  I am being challenged in ways that I could not have anticipated, and things that I thought would be tough weren't.  But, that is not what comes to mind while I write this.

My good friend Andrew Schwab (@anotherschwab) has been in the forefront of EdTech for a while. He has an excellent blog ( podcast ( about it.  In his latest blog, he touched upon something that a few of us in our school district have been feeling of late.  The approach to PD and especially EdTech PD is a wrong fit for what we want to accomplish.

Student Focused
I believe that the majority of the PD does not truly address integration that support classroom strategies for all teachers on a level that is quantifiable.

I make this claim, to point out that most EdTech and a lot regular PD just delivers content.  There are minimal efforts, if any, to follow up on what happened in the classroom.  How do you measure the value of the classroom targeted PD?  We have all been in PD sessions, and have filled out the dreaded end of session self-reflection.  If it is a self-reflection then why didn't they follow up with me about it, or more important why did I never go back and reflect on it in a week or two?  As a teacher, I had to make sure that I had a lesson plan, and efforts were made to ensure that they were completed.  There were formative and summative assessments that I could give during and at the end of the lesson, that would help guide my instruction.   So, I ask all administrators out there.  How do you know that the EdTech PD or any PD you provided is working in the classrooms of the teachers that attended?

This is something that Alison Lopez (@alopezlg), another good friend and English teacher at Le Grand HS, have been discussing this last summer and during this last semester.  Alison is our district's technology coach, and is a successful presenter and EdTech evangelist.  Over the last five years we have had the opportunity to use Action Research in Education to evaluate how EdTech PD is helping teachers and students in the classroom, and we have used Instructional Rounds to help us inform PD.  This has helped us identify strategies that support our problem of practice and improve student learning at the higher order thinking levels.

LGUHSD Clarity Survey
With the lessons we have learned about PD, Action Research, and Instructional Rounds, we decided that we need to think differently about how we approach EdTech PD with our teachers.  We have decided upon the following to try out.  We take time to go into the classroom to observer what the teacher is doing and what the task that the student is asked to do.  This observation follows the IR protocol for observation.  We then meet to determine what type of technology or tool can the teacher use that will support the strategies they are using and will support what tasks students are asked to do. We ask to meet with the teacher one on one to go over a couple of different ideas that will work with a lesson that they are going to use the next day/period, and how to use the technology.  We schedule a follow-up observation.  Lastly, we follow up with a survey to track what the teacher has to say about the integration and compare it to the observation.  We try to follow the Action Research protocol through this process.  The process is time consuming, but the results are looking positive for getting teachers to practice teaching at the higher order thinking levels, with strategies that they are using, and with technology/EdTech that they can become comfortable using.  We use Action Research to determine if this is working or if it is not, and as feedback to make adjustments to the application/integration of tech in the classroom.  We just started this, but we already feel that this is the direction we need to go.  We know this is a long term process, so we will be relying on Instructional Rounds to continue to provide us with data about what students are doing and how strategies are working in the classroom and what strategies we need to focus more on. Lastly we rely on the data that Clarity, BrightBytes, provides us in terms of how tech is being perceived or used in the classroom.  Again this process is a work in progress.  Initial findings look positive, but we will be looking at this long term.

We, educators, talk often about data driven decisions, and we are moving in the right direction.  We need that same approach to EdTech PD and PD in general.  We need to ask the same questions of our PD that we ask of our approach with Common Core.  The most important question should be: How do we know it is working?

Magboo, Mike Student Focused. 2015. Le Grand Union High School District, Le Grand.
LGUHSD Clarity Survey. Digital Image. Clarity., 2015. Web. 22 November 2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Face that goes with the Technology

Prom Night Stars
In the last two weeks, I have had the opportunity to connect with students in a manner that does not deal with technology or EdTech.  I had the wonderful opportunity to attend our school's prom event.  Needless to say it was a great prom.  I had a wonderful time connecting with students about the night and their future plans.  They were all brilliant, inspiring, and a bunch of very well dressed and good looking young adults.  This event and the days following had me thinking about our students and how, as IT/TechEd folks, we interact with them.

I am stating the obvious, but they are the reason we have jobs.  In a lot of school districts, students are nothing but numbers to the IT/TechEd staff.  But with the push for 1:1, can we really afford to be that distant to the largest part of our organization?  Those of you that know me, have heard me talk about the need to connect with teachers, but honestly, since I left the classroom, I have not focused as much on the student needs as I believe I should have.  These last two weeks have helped me put some things in perspective.

Through out the last four years, I had the opportunity to interact with students on several occasions without a technical agenda.  I saw students working together in both school work and in play.  They were happy and I really enjoyed seeing them that way.  I saw students that had issues, and I was able to be supportive in that moment.  I saw students that needed direction, and I was able be there to guide them.  I was able to communicate with student on a personal level, and they have seen fit to come to me for advise, and not just about the technology.  The last two weeks, really pointed out that one of the main benefits of being in the classroom is the interaction with students.  I also know that most of our IT peers never really get the chance to experience that level of interaction with students.  That needs to change.  They are the biggest stakeholders in our occupation, and we really need to pay more attention to them then identifying them as a number or a statistic.

Digital Classroom
I know it is easier for this to occur in a smaller school district, but I challenge my peers to start to take an interest in the reason we are here:  our students.  They have a lot riding on their school career, and every student needs to see that the adults around them support and care about their future.  So, take some time away from the technology and spend some time getting to know one, two or a group of students.  Sponsor or advise a club or sports group.  Attend a school event as a chaperone.  Spend lunch outside in the quad or in the cafeteria.  Let them see you as an adult that cares, as a human being that is on their side, or as a mentor to confide in.  After all we all want them to succeed.

Our district has been 1:1 for six years, and GAFE for since 2007.  We have endeavored to provide a learning environment that is rich in technology, academically challenging, and will serve as a launchpad for both college and career for all of our students.  Yet, I know there is so much more I have to offer to our students instead of just being the tech guy.  So I will leave you with this and encourage you to get to know the students your support.

"Lead students to greatness, follow through on your promises to them, and get out of the way when they are creative." 

Magboo, Michael. Prom Night Stars. Digital image. 2 May 2015. Web.
Magboo, Michael. Digital Classroom. Digital image. 2 May 2015. Web.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

1:1 iPads: What has happened since taking over as the IT Director

This is a long overdue continuation of my last post.  For Pete's sake, it has been over a year since I last wrote.  Hopefully, I will be able to continue to post in a more timely manner.

In the first part, I talk about the technology that I took on and how it has evolved.  This segment is about the EdTech/Technology Coordinator side of this job, and what that has transformed into.

My role as IT Director is not just the tech side, but rather a combination of roles that are synonymous with an EdTech/Technology Coordinator position. This year is interesting to me as it will mark my 20th anniversary as an educator, and it is my first year as a credentialed administrator.  I came into this position knowing that I wanted to be part of an educational culture change that embraced technology, and Le Grand Union High School District's 1:1 iPad implementation was a great chance to explore and participate that change.  But, I never realized what that would look like.

This is our sixth year of being a 1:1 district, but I can honestly state that we do not see ourselves as a 1:1 district.  We are a district that happens to have a 1:1 program.  This is directly related to how we (the district) now looks at things, and how we operate.  Three years ago we started taking a look at how students learn and how we taught.  The process we took is called Instructional Rounds.  Simply put, this is the practice of looking at what students are doing and taking that information to develop PD on strengthening teaching strategies.  This process changed our view on what is really important to our district.  That in turned guided us on the path to become a Professional Learning Community (PLC).

You may ask what does this have to do with technology and our 1:1 program?  Well, the bottom line is that any program will not be a great program without people.  Without our district and the faculty taking time to develop our Instructional Rounds and PLC initiatives, we would not be were we are now.  According to a BrightBytes Clarity survey we administered, we are a district that in which 96% of our teachers believe that technology use in class can enhance student learning (Le Grand UHSD, 2014).   What this means is that we have reached a point in our 1:1 program where technology is now seen as a tool.  This was very different from our results of a Chico CSU Action Research study that we participated in.  The results from that study showed that we had only 42% acceptance among faculty of our 1:1 program (2012).  Through Instructional Rounds we have seen the trend of technology becoming a tool that is used to promote learning at the higher levels of Blooms, the use of the Four C's, and mastery in accordance with Common Core.

As I mentioned above, we also started our PLC initiative.  I can honestly say that without Instructional Rounds and the conversations that happened through that process, I don't believe that a PLC would be working here.  The one thing that the PLC initiative has made a positive impact on our district culture, is that it has helped us to become better communicators.  Are we there yet, NO, but we are on our way.  This really matters to what I do and how I approach the use of technology in the classroom.  I have always been the guy that people turn to to get their technical answer, but often when I give them the answer, they need a translator to interpret what I said.  I know that I have a Geek Speak handicap, and I constantly strive to talk so that others understand me.  Luckily for me, I have a wonderful teacher (+Alison Lopez ) that is also our technology coach and she helps with the translation when needed.  One of the more important lessons that I have learned through the PLC process and my experiences as a new administrator is that everyone has a level of communication that they are very comfortable with, and that I need to respond to them using their communication process if I am to help them with their technology/classroom integration.  This has definitely made a positive impact on how I present PD to our district.  As of late, I have been reflecting on some of my past presentations on student use of technology, and I realized that although I constantly championed for getting more technology in the hands of students, I never really thought or talked about getting the teacher ready for that type of reality.  With the 1:1 wave getting stronger, the one thing that I can state, is that there is no such thing as too much PD.  If you are curious about enhancing your technology PD efforts Google "Adult Learning Theory".  If you get a chance to, go see/listen to what +Andrew T Schwab is doing about EdTech and Technology PD in his school district.

This past weekend, I had the privilege to present with +Alison Lopez at the ETC! 2015 conference in Turlock.  Our presentation was on 1:1 and Common Core work flows.  We had a wonderful time at the conference, and hit was great to connect with other #edtech leaders.  The take away for both Alison and myself was that our 1:1 program really depended on the people in our district.  Our technology support is not really about supporting technology, but rather supporting people who happen to need or use technology to help students learn.  We ended our presentation with the following image.

As the IT Director, I would not have had the opportunity to be part of Instructional Rounds or be a true active member of our PLC, if the above chart was not the norm in my district.  Technology and technology support has to work consistently and be highly dependable before it can be seen district wide as a learning tool.  

Le Grand Union High School District. "21st Century Learning." Survey. BrightBytes, 15 October 2014. 12 Jan. 2015.

Friday, March 14, 2014

1:1 iPads: My Two years since taking over as the IT Director (Part 1)

It has been two years since I became the IT Director for the Le Grand Union High School District. This is part one of that journey.

iBook on iPad
I came in to the position in the middle of the school year and thanks to +Andrew Schwab, who did a great job in getting the district's technology to a point that supported a 1:1 implementation, I did not have to worry too much about the infrastructure.  Although the position is an IT Director position, it became clear from the start that I would be able to continue the EdTech charge that he and +Danny Silva started.

Andrew did a lot of things right, and for those of you that are looking to go 1:1, he has a lot of insight into how to set up the infrastructure to support any 1:1 implementation (follow him on Twitter @anotherschwab).  The following are my insights after I took over.

First and foremost, get you bandwidth to the Internet to where it will support the number of devices that will need Internet access.  Second, make sure that your WiFi is in place and is rock solid.  Don't just plan for what is the current WiFi standard, but look to the future and plan accordingly.  With Erate the way it is currently, that can be a little difficult, so you need to impress the Cabinet and the Board that continued support for new APs is just as critical as getting devices into the student's and teacher's hands.  Test you WiFi at over the recommended settings, because sometimes you need to supplement the density an AP can provide if one of them goes down. Third, make sure that you filtering system is as scalable as the amount of devices you plan to deploy.  There is nothing more frustrating than realizing that you are at capacity for the devices you plan to support.  Lastly, hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

In the past two years we went from having about 300 devices on our network, to having over 700 devices on our network, and this was with the same 23 APs that were there when I took over.  Thanks to the efficiency of Erate, I am still waiting for 2011 funds to become available so that I can extend the WiFi functionality and availability.  Our network is solid because of the Ruckus solution that was implemented on our campuses.  As with a lot of smaller rural school districts, I am part of the Lone Ranger IT group.  I can say without hesitation that it would not be possible without Ruckus.

Another thing that I am grateful for is the fact that the district is mostly an Apple campus.  As a result my service tickets for Apple repairs are minimal.  It is quite manageable to support all of the Apple devices with only two part time assistants (~12 hours/week each).  To compare this, at my last district, I had three FTE network technicians to support over 1000 windows systems and 44 servers across 13 sites.

I will also add that the support that the board and the superintendent has provided me and to the district has been phenomenal, and with that support, my job would be nearly impossible.

My biggest technical problems are two-fold:  iPads are a pain to manage and deploy, and even with the recent release of support tools that Apple has issued, the management and deployment will still be difficult. The collection and deployment/re-deployment takes a large chunk out of the summer and anytime that Apple pushes out a IOS update.  The second part is breakage and loss, although this is less problematic than the first year.  In the first year, it cost almost $24K to repair cracked and broken iPads.  This was due to the type of case that had been purchased.  We now have fully enclosed cases for the student iPads, and we aggressively market insurance to the students and their parents.  The result is that our annual repairs hover around $6000 a year.

Some of the positives of our 1:1 implementation.  The iPad have performed very well.  At the end of this year, over half of our iPads will be three years old, and out of nearly 550 student iPads, only 10 device failures can be attributed to internal failures (I.E. the failure could not be attributed to dropped or student caused damages).  While the students needed some training on how to use the iPads in the classroom, that training is minimal.  The fact that we are a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school has been a big positive for the administration, the teachers, and the students.  Kudos to Andrew and Danny for putting that into place well before 1:1 became a reality.  GAFE is now second nature to all and the iPads work really well with it.  The last big technology that has had a positive impact in the classroom, was the installation of Extron PoleVault Systems and Apple TVs into the majority of our classrooms.  This is being used by every teacher that have them, and teachers are now more open to using that technology with the students and their iPads.

Looking back on the two years, the problems that I have with iPads are small compared to the positives that have and are occurring in our school district.  As I have mentioned above, my role has not just been the IT Director, but that of an EdTech/Technology Coordinator.  In my followup postings I will provide insights into what that looked like over the past two years, and the direction that we are heading into.

Lopez, Alison. (2013). iBook on iPad.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What if...

What if we went to school tomorrow without the baggage, without the attitude, without the bias, without the crap that all adults seem to bring along with them?  What if we went into our school and really strove to care, to love, to encourage our students?

This question has been on my mind for some time.  I have sat and listened over the years to teachers and admins both show off their baggage.  Guess what?! We are not invisible, our students see what we do. We are models for all students, even the ones that seem to not care or have that enormous chip on their shoulders.

This was on my mind today, and after I read Jose Vilson's excellent post "An Open Letter From The Trenches: To Education Activists, Friends, and Haters" (2013), I really felt compelled to ask all teachers  and school administrators out there.  What the hell are you doing if you think that this job is about you and the negative crap that you bring with you.  Yes, I get that it is hard to work in an environment that does not appreciate you, but some times life is hard.  Grow up and get over yourself.  Change the situation if it doesn't agree with you.

We are suppose to be here for the students, but sometimes our hands are tied by policies, administrative decisions, the law, and the community.  BUT, I have not seen one policy, administrative decision  legal precedence  and community pressure that condemns being a teacher or administrator who cares for all of the students at their school, who strives to be there for the students every freaking day, who will ignore the negative bureaucratic stuff in order to uplift a student, or who believes in all students can succeed.  Unfortunately, I have witnessed gossip, lunch/staff room conversations, hallway conferences, and even district ran professional development spout the negative about students, staff, the district, the mandated tests, the community, the Department of Education, and other stuff that does not even deal with the education of the students at school.

Jose Vilson has a quote that I rather like:  "The key here is, whoever walks through my door, whenever, and however, I accept them. That’s how we build communities of learning"  (p. 1).  I would like to add to that.

It is also key that no matter how I feel, I am a professional educator and I will leave my problems at the door, because no matter how I feel, every student needs me right now.  That's how we sustain communities of learning.

So...lets try it!  Let us adults all go to our schools and district offices tomorrow and let us all be there 100 percent for the students!

#bepositive #doitforthestudents

Vilson, J. (2013, April 13).  An Open Letter From The Trenches: To Education Activists, Friends, and
     Haters.  Retrieved from

Capurso, Alessandro. (2008). Baggage. [Online Image]. Retrieved from

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Your Skill Is Not Enough... (Part 3)

This is part three in my series for Ed Tech folks.  Part one was about communication.  Part two was about managing tech issues.  In part three, I want to add to the communication bit, by talking about building up your correspondence skills.

Email imageIn this age of twitter, texting, and short blips about what is happening, there is a lot of correspondence going on that mimic how we communicate via social networks.  For most of the Ed Tech community, our correspondence is done through email.  Email is not a social networking venue, so stop treating it like one.

Usually, the majority of your communication is done through email.  I hate to break this to you, but in education there are a lot of teachers and staff that will create opinions about you based upon how you write. By corresponding in a professional manner, you will increase your overall support image with those that you support.  Here are some quick tips on keeping your emails professional:

  • Begin and end the email properly.  Start with Hi, Dear, Mr. or Mrs. in your email.  It is OK to call the people you work with or are peers with by their first name, but always start off with a salutation.  Do this regardless of the type of email.  Always end the email with sincerely or regards, and your name and contact info.  Set this up as part of your signature.  Make sure that it is set on all your mobile devices too.
  • Be concise in your correspondence.  In other words, answer the question, give them an update, or stay on topic.  It is OK to discuss other issues in an email, just keep it out out of your tech support communication.
  • If an email starts to get too long, then call them instead.  Often talking one on one will clear things up faster than an email.  Follow up that email with a short note on what you talked about, especially if there was an agreement at the end.
  • Think about who else is in the email.  Be careful about the "Reply to All" option.  Remember this is not a social application, and getting into a heated email discussion can have unwanted results.  
  • Know when to include others in the CC section.  Look at your email, if it feels like your are tattling or trying to force an issue by including someone in the CC section, then you probably are.  Ask yourself if your intentions for adding a CC is professional.
  • You should never respond to an email when your are angry, frustrated, or feeling defensive.  Talk to a peer that you can trust to give you an honest and unbiased opinion of the situation.  I have found that talking to my supervisor before I respond has helped me keep a level head.
  • There are many times where you need to send an email out to all staff or all teachers.  When you do this, then be short and to the point.  Always let them know that they can contact you for more information.  If you are informing them of a service interruption  always apologize for any disruption even if it is not your fault.  
  • Remember that you are working in an educational setting, so make sure that your grammar and spelling are correct.  It will get discussed with or without your knowledge.
  • Be professional at all times, even when you don't feel like it.

Take some time to brush up on your email etiquette.  If you are an Tech Ed manager, then make sure that your staff takes the extra effort to correspond professionally, there is nothing worse then getting called out for an email that one of your tech staff sent.  As the manager you are responsible for the actions of your staff.

Ángel Antonito Acosta Roa. (2012). Correo Electrónico Institucional [image]. Retrieved from

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Your Skill Is Not Enough... (Part 2)

This is part two of my series for Ed Tech folks.  In part one, I discussed the need for communication and outlined a simple process for establishing communication with the teachers and staff that are being supported.  In this blog, I want to discuss managing tech issues.

For most school districts there are few tech support staff, and a lot of school districts have only one tech person for all their Ed Tech needs.  So, supporting technology is more a reactionary support process than a proactive support process.  There are a lot of technology that are available to help technicians with support issues, and I encourage the use of technology that helps Ed Tech support their end users.  But, it doesn't matter what type of technology is being used if support staff do not know how to manage tech issues.

The first step in managing tech issues is to keep a log of support issues.  It doesn't matter how good your memory is, there will be a few instances when your memory will fail you.  Figure out a way to keep track of your support issues.  There are a lot of free and paid for tools available for you to keep track of support issues.  It doesn't matter which one you choose, but find one that you are comfortable using, and that you use it.  The following are some steps that are easy to implement and follow, and when you plan your work, it will make it easier to become less reactionary and more productive.

  • Get a work order/tech issue system in place ASAP! A simple Google form is an easy way to keep track of your support issues.  You can have your end users fill in the form or you can fill it in as you get the support call.  Keeping precise, accurate records is very important to help with the issues.
  • Schedule your calendar or to do list based upon the support issues.  If you have a schedule, and you stick to it, your end users will see you as being responsive and timely on their support issues.
  • Figure out what your emergencies are and then let your end users know that you will reschedule a support issue to work on an emergency issue.  Talk to your superintendent or site administrator to help you decide what an emergency is.  For most school districts an emergency revolves around attendance and communication (phone/email), beyond that most support issues can be scheduled.
  • If the support issue needs to be handled by a third party vendor or a higher support person, communicate with the end user that this is happening, and then follow up on it daily, until the issue is resolved.
  • Start to plan your preventive maintenance jobs as support issues.  Place them on your calendar and then treat them just like you treat your other support issues.  They need to be done!  If you are constantly becoming proactive with your preventive maintenance jobs you will find that you will have less reactionary support issues that occur.
  • Make sure that you have a support schedule for most types of support issues (this gets easier with experience , and communicate that it will take time to resolve those issues.  Give yourself time to fix the issue, but not so much time that it never gets done.
  • Learn to recognize when you are banging your head against the technology wall.  Having a system in place to get your end users a replacement or work around for their issue, when you recognize that the issue will take longer to resolve.
  • Above all communicate with your end users about what is going on, and if the issue is major, then let your supervisor, the site administrator, or the superintendent know what is going on.
I know that a lot of Tech Ed shops have a system in place, and may have had them in place for a while, but it doesn't mean they are getting used.  If you are a manager or IT director and you are getting calls about things taking too long or that you notice your second level support personal seem to be over tasked, take a good look at how your shop is utilizing your support/tech issue system.  I am willing to bet that you will discover it is not being properly utilized as a tool to schedule the appropriate level of support.

There's an old phrase that I learned at a conference a long time ago that holds true in almost any situation "Plan your work and work your plan".  Until next time...

langwitches. (2012). Technology Supporting Learning [image]. Retrieved from