NYSCATE 2016–What I’ll Be Up to…

Going into NYSCATE for the third time, I’m complete primed for an in-depth learning experience where I learn far more than I can ever use. In my first two years, I left my opening sessions with more technology to explore than I knew what to do with.

As much as this is about the technology, I don’t want to lose sight of what it’s really: building that PLN, and finding ways to make what I do with students better. I hopefully with  walk away with more stuff for PBL, collaboration, modification and redefinition in SAMR.

So, I’m super-charging my devices, making sure my mobile hot-spot can get me past some funky, convention center WiFi, and ready to use this time effectively. Here’s some of the sessions I hope to hit.


I’m registered for the hands-on session on Top Tech.

12:30 Sessions:

Blending, Flipping, Mixing

Digcit Certification

Formative Assessment

Participatory Learning

Collaboration Across Districts

Students Videos & Animation

1:00 Google Expedition Open House

1:45 Sessions:


Guiding Students on Inquiry

3:00 Sessions:

Access to Text

Creativity & Design Thinking

Game-based Learning


8:00 Sessions:

Breakout Edu

Flip Blended Inquiry with Google Forms

Interactive Inquiries

Paper Extinction and the rise of E-Portfolios


App Smack Down

Google Classroom Worksheets


Editing Video on a Chromebook

Blogging 101



Google Apps Tips & Tricks

App Smackdown

Classroom Makerspace

Additional Features of Drive and Docs

Multi-course classroom


Breakout Edu

Tools for the Modern Classroom


Genius Hour PBL

Google Sites with 2 Bald Dudes


Media Maker

The premise of the course is simple: Teach yourself something, and by extension, me and your peers as well.

There’s an ulterior teaching going on as well. The course, called “Media Maker,” will have students studying writing created for the web, and then turning that study into their own written content: blogs, web pages, podcasts, wikis, video podcasts.

Early in the course, students establish a “jumping off point” based on personal interest. They’ll use social bookmarking sites, such as Diigo or Delicious (I’m also, from quick first impressions, becoming a fan of Docentedu), to create lists of web-based content, share those with a learning community, and then use it as a reading list for their semesters.

The weekly schedule is simple. There are five things we’ll do each week. I’m going to tell the students what each of the five days are, and then through some open discussion, we’ll decide what will happen on each day.

One day will be a reading workshop from a shared reading list of web-based content that I provide. This will allow me to ensure that everyone accesses reading that is appropriate to the standards and grade-level, give us a share point for discussion, examine a piece of writing that hits on particular writing skills. These discussion will either happen in class either verbally or in our LMS as synchronous and asynchronous discussion. I’m working on a list that will include text-based readings, as well as non-text based readings such as, for example, audio podcasts, Serial season 1 will be required listening.

Another two days will allow students to read from their own lists, and compose weekly blog posts on their reading.  

Another day will be for students to read each other’s blogs, comment on content and writing.

Another day will be a whole group sharing of blogs, podcasts, and technology tools. I’d like this day to be the last in the cycle, providing a class meeting before we start a new cycle of readings, writings and sharing.

Through all of this, students need to meet regularly with me to review work, set goals, and returning to what I said above, showing me what they’re learning about their topics.  

I see three or four major assessment pieces in the semester long class. An audio podcast, something modeled on This I Believe, a web page designed to convey information, a video podcast of a debate or argument, and then some multimedia project using text, audio and video to convey something about the passion and learning students engaged in during the semester.

Much of this course owes credit to David Carr, former teacher and journalist for the New York Times and the course he taught before his death, “Press Play,” and the writing of Troy Hicks, digital writing guru. There are many others who have been shaping my thinking on this course over the past several years. Continue reading

What I Left NYSCATE Thinking

I went to NYSCATE thinking I’d get great information on the best new apps, web tools and information on innovative LMS systems, technology roll outs for the uninitiated.
Instead, the conference spoke to a theme that’s been running through my mind over this school year: How do I make a classroom that fosters a culture of both independent and collaborative learning preparing students for the 21st century? And really, how do I continue to evolve as an educator after almost 20 years in the classroom?
Here are some of my walk-away points from this year’s conference:
1. Ask kids what problems they want to solve and not what they want to become. This came out of Jamie Casap’s key note on Monday afternoon. By asking students what problems they want to solve, we encourage auto-didactic thinking and practices. When we ask kids what they want to become, we ask them who they want to work for, and really, we turn them into consumer and commodities.
2. The technology really doesn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong! I’m still a proponent of 1:1 integration, adopting LMS systems, full access to a range of social media for students. However, I’m reminded that technology isn’t going to fix the issues we have. Yes, it will stream line our classrooms, help with collaboration, ease assessment and grading practices. But, it won’t fix the lack of creativity we extend to our students, the lack of autonomy we give. If we don’t use it well, then it will only make more rigid our systems of standardization.
3. There are lots of new apps, web-based tools, Google hacks that I can’t wait to try. I’m not trying them until I have a bigger picture in place.
I’m thinking now about the kinds of cultures I want to create, the kind of teacher I want to be for my students, the kind of teacher leader I can be to my colleagues. As part of a District Technology Committee and a subcommittee on adoption of an LMS, there’s a lot of exciting work ahead.

Here’s What I’ll Be Up to at NYSCATE 

This year’s conference will be a combination of looking at some of the practicalities of adopting LMS systems and creating flipped learning environments paired with thinking about using technology to assist with learning.Our staff development coordinator is having all district participants meet to coordinate conference schedules so that we take on a divide and conquer approach to the conference. For me, I’ll be looking to attend anything that might approach the following threads:

1. A premium on all this having to do with LMS and CMS. We are putting a hard look at adoption of both Google Classroom along with potentially adoption of Canvas or other such tools in order to be able to differentiate to diverse community of teachers and learners.

2. Flipping and the hardware for flipping. 

3. Tools for learning. Tools that will help me learn better and helping me to teach learning better. I’m reading From Master Teacher to Master Learner by Will Richardson right now and he’s helping my paradigms shift. 

I read this book last night and I’ve been thinking about it all day. I just don’t want to go to NYSCATE and find the latest app. I’m looking to be inspired to help my students to learn with technology.!

Flipping-Out Teachers

Last year, as part of a School Improvement Planning Team (SIPT) Subcommittee on Online Instruction, we’ve worked on developing a plan to get all teachers practicing online instruction. It was a great experience. Below I discuss some of the things we did and what I might do in the future to improve upon them.

1. Defining a Belief Statement to drive actions of the committee, and eventually faculty. There are lots of good ones on line to use as springboards for your discussion and as models for crafting your own.

2. Working to define what actually constitutes online instruction. Do we mean conducting online research, submitting assignments to a shared folder, using Google forms to give quizzes, using Edmodo or some other LMS or CMS. These are conversations that have to be had. Each community will have their own definition of

3. Invite union representation. We had a such a person early on in our process. It was necessary that we established on-line learning as an enhancement of the classroom experience in which teachers were vital to facilitating learning, and not a replacement of teachers. However, encourage continued union representation. Once the union is sure the goal isn’t to replace teachers, they should continue to be part of the process of developing meetings, PD, and as another conduit of information for the committee.

4. We conducted a survey to gauge teacher comfort, skill-level, and current implementation. It showed what we predicted–teachers at all places and levels. Not so helpful. We found that some people know technology and some don’t. Don’t survey if you think you can reliably predict what people will say.

After we did the above, we wanted to accomplish the following:

  • Flip a facculty meeting.
  • Build faculty skills to bring proficiency in online instruction skills to 100%. We wanted to use a gamfied system to train people in the digital technology skills and hardware they’d need to create on-line coursework. We have laid the foundation for this, but haven’t implemented it yet. It’s sitting in limbo right now.

Here’s what I learned:

Everything will take more time than you think. Planning our flipped faculty meeting took weeks. We had to plan a discussion. Find a topic. Set questions. Establish the rooms and the groups we’d use. We had to train facilitators. We had a dozen people involved.

As part of this, we attempted to use WordPress as a discussion platform. Good idea, but epic fail. Sites crashed and comments didn’t show up fast enough. Our tech-weary faculty gave up quick.

Don’t bite off too much, and keep expecatations low. When I teach, I’m all for plunging in and going for it, and seeing what happens. In doing so, I’ve done a lot with platforms like Edmodo and Canvas. I’ve done great on-line synchronous and a-synchronous discussions. I love the experimentation, adventure and challenge of this stuff. Just because I love it, didn’t mean some of my peers would. The more I talked to people, I found that in terms of online environments, email might be the farthest reaches of someone’s frontier. Online documents, cloud storage…for some this might as well be Greek, to use a well-worn cliche.

Doubt is part of the process and doesn’t mean that it’s bad. While our flipped faculty meeting bit it, I don’t think that it was all bad. We had some exposure to the possibilities of these kinds of meetings= and a kind of platform that we might use for flipped meetings. We also had faculty see how our facilitators worked around tech issues that emerge in the middle of a plan. Tech in the classroom will never be fool proof and there will be problems. Teachers have to figure out how to be flexible and go. Teachers did this before digital technology, they should bring those same skills forward into computer labs.