Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Google Teacher Academy

Today was the big day where they announce who got the golden tickets for the Google Teacher Academy in New York. I was not among them.

I went into this process with the right attitude. I knew lots of teachers would apply and only a small percentage would be accepted. But I figured if odds stopped me from doing things, I would stay in bed all day. Besides - if you never ask, the answer is always no. I vowed that I would consider this a learning year and if I wasn't accepted, I would simply try again. That said, I put everything I had into the application and video. I am not especially great with video, but I thought it took my message forward. The more I worked my way through the application, the more I realized I really wanted this. I know lots of amazing educators, but GTAs seem to sit at the cool table. Hey, I'm cool. I could sit there, too!  So I submitted. We knew today was announcement day. I struggled with focus all day long. I checked my email every few minutes. I was all over my social networks - Plurk, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.  I wasn't the only one on pins and needles. I was in good company. Finally, at 3:16 Mountain time, I received the following email:

Hello -

Thank you for applying to the Google Teacher Academy. We're sorry to inform that you were not selected to attend this event. We appreciate the time and effort that you have committed to this application. Even though only a small number of applicants can be accepted, we know from experience that each applicant is a dedicated and innovative leader in education. Thank you for your service to your students and colleagues.

We hope that you'll consider applying for the next academy, and wish you luck in your continued endeavors.

Cheers and best,
The Google Teacher Academy Team

I must tell you, I was far more disappointed than I imagined I would be. And the networks were buzzing with others, who like me, missed out. One of our friends hadn't heard anything and we assumed that was good news for her. It was.

So I tried to absorb the news and be positive about it. but I realized quickly that to not admit to my sadness and disappointment belittled my true desire to be granted this honor. I came home and just acknowledged my sadness. Then I took a nap. It is amazing what a nap can do for you!

As I awoke, I realized the following: Tomorrow I get to go back and work with teachers  in two of the online classes I am teaching, Blogs and Wikis and Introduction to iPads. Later this month, I will travel across the state to offer Promethean training and then I will go to another school and work on technology integration with a focus on Google Apps.  I have a number of Google Apps workshops on my calendar in the coming months. In September, I am presenting at a Wyoming conference and they were so pleased with what I submitted to present that they asked me to present one of my four sessions during every session of the conference. (Ballroom C must stand for Crofut!) 

Nothing has really changed. I still get to do exactly what I love every day. Somehow I didn't convince Google that I am ready for the cool kids table, so I am taking the challenge. The next time the Academy is offered in the United States, I am in. I will get better with my video skills. I will continue to add to my credentials and, SOMEDAY, I will be at the Google Teachers Academy. I hope those Google people don't think they scared me off! I am too old to scare off. Shoot! What can they do? Tell me no again? Bring it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

After promising to get back to my blog, I see it has again been a while. I keep telling myself busy is good. It's a good thing I love what I am doing!

This week we are spending our days in Guernsey (and Torrington), Wyoming with some truly awesome teachers. They are taking some time out of their summer vacation to come in and practice a few new technology skills! Every time I walk up to this school, I am greeted by the beautiful piece of art you see above. I am not sure who the artist is, but I find these two children with their books simply enchants me. The photo just does not do it justice either!

This afternoon we decided we should do a bit of exploring after our training was done and we saw some amazing places. Our first stop was to see the Oregon Trail ruts in Guernsey. Those are the ruts in the picture above. It is hard for me to fathom that the trail was worn so deeply
in some places that it is still visible this many years later. Yet there it is - history you can touch.

To continue our exploration, we went over to Register Cliff. It seems that travelers along the
way, carved their names and, in some cases, the year they were there in the
rocks of the cliff. Over the ye
ars, many people have continued the tradition so there are many names there. Getting to see names and dates from the 1800s continued to amaze me. I had to admit, I was tempted to carve my name in there with the others, but somehow it just didn't seem to belong.

When we arrived back in Torrington, we went to the park and watched the Platte River run. Like many places in the country today, the water is running fast and high. I heard that there is a church in town that is sandbagging, just in case. There is so much flooding in places and I hope they don't see it here!

I enjoyed our little adventure this afternoon greatly, but I have enjoyed talking about Google Docs, Google searches, and iGoogle so far. Tomorrow we are going to talk a bit of Promethean boards, blogs, wikis, and a few other tools. I just don't think life can get much better than this! I am one lucky woman to get to travel and talk to great teachers about things I am passionate about!

Until next time!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Far Too Long

I am saddened by how long it has been since I have posted to my blog. It isn't because I didn't want to. I have been so incredibly busy and had so many changes in my life since my last entry that I don't even know where to begin!

Let's start with the job. At the end of the last school year, I was feeling the need for a change. I had been at North Middle School for 11 years and just didn't feel like I was making much of a difference any more. That is just not a good feeling. After just a couple of prayers for guidance, lo and behold, I found a new home at TIE (Technology and Innovation in Education.) I cannot imagine a better fit for me! I get to work with teachers and school districts around the state. We help them integrate technology and think about 21st century skills. I even get to go to Wyoming and work with an incredible district that has gone 1:1 in grades 7 - 12.

I work with some of the most amazing educators at TIE. It is a positive, forward-thinking organization that has allowed me the opportunity to think about education as a whole and what we need to be doing to be agents of change. I have been incredibly busy, but for the most part, I thrive when that is the case.

We just finished the 25th Annual TIE Conference. I have attended for years and have presented at it the last several. It is a whole different thing being on this side of the conference. I figured they were a lot of work, but I truly had no idea! That being said, I still loved every minute! The keynote speakers were wonderful. The participants were awesome! The conversation was thought provoking! What more could you ask for?

On a personal note - we are pretty much empty-nesters. Chris is in Kansas doing his thing at Spirit Aerosystems. Tony is currently at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri recovering from shoulder surgery and hopes to finish his National Guard training soon. Jamie is a junior at USD in Vermillion. The boys are doing great, but as a mom, I really miss them. Mike and I are both incredibly busy, but took some time to go visit his family in California earlier this year. That was fun and time we both needed.

I plan to get back to this blog on a regular basis now. I have lots of thoughts about education and technology that I would like to share!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Much Love to My PLN

It was my intention to blog every day of the NECC conference, but for me Washington DC moved fast and late into the nights. I still want to write about the things I learned, but I am still processing. The thing I do want to talk about is my social network.

I was very excited to go to Washington DC knowing I was finally going to connect with my PLN face-to-face. I have met with some of my online friends before and am constantly amazed by how powerful the experience can be. This time was no exception. Sitting in my in-depth session on Sunday, I was watching the Plurks abound from my friends in the convention center. A large concentration of them seemed to be in one room and my session ended before theirs did. They told me to come on over. I was going to hang outside the door and wait for them, but one of them ushered me through the door and right into the group. I can’t even fathom how bonding can be that instant, but it was. We all went to the Keynote together, but during it I got a text from Audra, the Rapid City teacher and great friend of mine that had come with me. Her mother was in the hospital and not doing well. She was going to have to leave. I went back to the hotel to spend the evening with her. She took off the next morning. Normally, I don’t think I would like to be in Washington DC by myself, but I never felt that way. A core group of us seem to form and I was always included in the plans. We all checked in with one another and found we enjoyed each other’s company immensely! I think my greatest learning came from this group of incredibly creative and talented people. We are from South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Pennsylvania and New York. These people have a real love for students, education, and technology. Just being with them gave me the recharge I most certainly needed after a difficult school year. I love the timing of this conference because it is early enough in the summer to give me time to play with some new applications and plan lessons that are relevant and engaging for my students.

I got to see much history of the United States while in DC and I love that, but I think watching how people connect and network in this modern world is every bit as interesting. I have heard people complain about how the internet is ruining people’s communication skills. I find it to be absolutely the opposite. I have the privilege of communicating with people I would never have had the opportunity to before and we are exchanging ideas that I am sure would have been much slower to reach South Dakota years ago. I find that so exciting.

I know there are many people that are reluctant to connect with strangers via the Internet and with all the bad things that are out there, I understand. But sometimes if you don’t take some chances in life, you miss out on some amazing things. I think there are ways to take that risk and still be pretty safe and I am so glad I am connected!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Washington DC - Day 1

Today was my first day in Washington DC. A dear teacher friend of mine, Audra, came to NECC this year with me and we flew in two days early to do some sightseeing. It has been a wonderful but exhausting day!

First we found the Metro and headed for the Ford Museum. We were disappointed to find that it was closed. But they assured us it will be open tomorrow. We went across the street to the Petersen House, the house where Abraham Lincoln was taken after he was shot and where he died. You get to see the front room where people waited and the bedroom he was in. Being in the midst of that kind of history was amazing.

Next we headed for the National Archives. Being from South Dakota, we are not used to this kind of heat with humidity. I felt like I was melting. We had a rather long wait to get in, but it was worth it. We spent a great portion of the day in the Archives. They have an 11-minute movie that started us off and then we started in the exhibits. We went to the Boeing Learning Center and it made me wish I were still going to be teaching American History this year! At the end of our visit there we made it in to the Rotunda where we saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, among other primary documents. I can only telling you that it took my breath away! To be in the same room with the same original documents that this country was founded on was incredible!

We then headed to the Museum of American History. We grabbed a late lunch and then started at the top and worked from there down. Unfortunately, the lines were long. We saw the American Presidents’ exhibit and much more about Lincoln. We saw the war exhibit. We saw the First Ladies’ exhibit (which was a very long line) The 2009 Inauguration pictures were wonderful. Again, being teachers, we wanted to read everything at all the exhibits. So we also spent too much time there. We really wanted to make it to the Holocaust Museum, but it closes by 5:30. There was no way to have enough time there. We have decided to put that off until tomorrow.

We finally made our way back to the hotel. Our feet were hurting and we were sweating buckets. So second showers were in order before dinner. We have eaten at the same restaurant two nights in a row. I suppose that is bad when there is so much to offer, but the host at Rumors is awesome!!! He has lived here 41 years and is a wealth of information. He has helped us plan our days and we have enjoyed talking to him. Plus the food is great. A huge storm moved in at the end of dinner and we had to duck in a drug store part the way back to the hotel while the worst of it blew over.

Tomorrow is another full day and I can hardly wait. Washington DC is an amazing city! So much to do and so little time!

Today's pictures can be found on my Flickr.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

TIE Conference 2009

Today we started the TIE conference! It is an event I look forward to eagerly each year. I started with a four-hour in-depth session on Thinkfinity with Lisa McNeely. We started off a bit rough. The Internet only let a few of us in and never for any great length of time. It made it very hard for Lisa to do her presentation! I was able to get mine to connect (for a while anyway) so we plugged mine in to the projector and off she went. Lisa managed amazingly well, despite the technical difficulties.
I have heard a lot about Thinkfinity (mostly from Lisa) but have not had the time to explore this resource. I am thoroughly impressed with all the resources available within this site. They address all subjects and are set up with 21st century skills. I already found a lesson using resumes that I intend to use this year. There were a lot of things I wish I would have seen earlier this year!
This site also has amazing maps! I am going to spend hours looking at all the resources available from all the content partners. I am already pretty familiar with ReadWriteThink, but I even found new things from them.
Thanks Lisa for all the great help and encouragement. I loved seeing your favorites and exposing me to so many of the things that are available.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Five Changes to Education--A new Meme

A dear friend of mine started this wonderful meme and has made me really think about the future of education. You should check out Terry’s blog at We are hoping that this will create some thoughtful discourse on the state of education. There is much finger pointing, some of it deserved, buut let's dream of a world that we get to make decisions and where the learning and the kids are FIRST and all the real world of budgets and excuses are last.

List FIVE changes you would like to see in the educational system. Your responses should represent your perspective and your passion for learning and students.

Here is my list:

1. Technology would not be something that we strive to integrate, but something that is a natural part of the classroom, just as it is a part of the world today. Our students do and will live in a different world than most of us grew up in. It is imperative that we, as teachers, do our very best to keep up and prepare them for that world. We must help them learn how to think deeply and problem solve as they will encounter problems we can’t even fathom today.

2. Teachers should never have to move up to administration to make a decent living in the education world. I believe that tiered licensure is a great idea. Teachers should have the option to be teachers or to take on more responsibilities as master teachers helping mentor other teachers. Teaching should not be done in isolation and many of us have so much to offer to our fellow teachers.

3. Merit pay has a place in education. Why should a teacher down the hall make more money than another just because they have lived longer? Teachers should be paid according to the skills they have and the success they have in the classroom. The tricky part is figuring out who decides the pay. There are far too many administrators that have their own agenda and would not be able to make fair decisions. There are ways to do this fairly and the TAP program seems to have it figured out. And, yes, I work in the state with the lowest teacher pay in the nation, so I do believe we are underpaid. My pay may not force me out of the profession, but it certainly is impeding many districts from having quality applicants for many of their positions and that concerns me!

4. Teacher training would properly prepare teachers for the classroom and there would be support in place to help new teachers through those first few difficult years. We are facing a teacher shortage and we lose many of the ones we do get in within the first five years. Many of them come out of the university with stars in their eyes and are not rooted in the reality of just how difficult the job is. Good teachers work long hours prepping lessons, grading papers, and continually learning. The school day takes far more energy than they are prepared for and there are a lot of extra duties that they have no idea about. Too many college professors have not been in a K-12 setting for a very long time, if at all. It is one thing to teach theory and another to give them the tools they will need to survive!

5. Professional Development must be teacher-driven. The best professional development I have every gotten was the National Board process, but it was something I chose and something that was about my classroom and my teaching. I have also learned much from some conference I have had the great fortune to attend, but my principal is very good about letting the staff ask to go to conferences that interest them, although she will sometimes point one out to us if she thinks it offers something of value for us.

6. I am going to add one real fantasy wish. I wish that teaching would once again become the highly respected profession it once was. In some regards, this is our own fault. I have heard far too many teachers say, “I am just a teacher.” There is no just in what we do. We should be proud of the impact we have on our students’ lives and our role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. We need to be willing to publicly express our pride in what we do. But most teachers are humble and believe we are serving the greater good quietly on the sideline. We are not in the business to toot our own horns. We just want the respect to magically be there.

I tag the following people... All from a variety of perspectives. If you have been tagged, tag as many people as you choose, but try for a variety.

Kevin Honeycutt - (Tech integration specialist)
Karen McMillan - (Teacher)
Heather Burleson - (Teacher and Tech Integrationist)
Cynthia Garrety - (University Professor)
Sharon Elin - (Instructional technology integrater)
Kymberli Mulford - (Learning specialist)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

National Board Certification

Friday, November 21, 2008 I was sitting at my computer just before 7 AM waiting for that magical moment that I could press the button and see if I had achieved National Board Certification after my second year through the process. My husband was by my side assuring me that he felt good about it, but I was mentally preparing myself to take on a third year. I was beyond delighted to see that I had succeeded!

I must say that I am thrilled beyond words to be Nationally Board Certified, but there is a tiny part of me that is sad this phase of the process is over. Going through certification has been the best professional development I have ever had. It was personal - about me, my teaching, my students, my classroom. I have changed a number of things over the last two years and really feel like I have grown as a teacher. I have learned much from reflection and it is a practice that I will continue.

I am excited that 16 members of our staff have signed up for Take One! this year. I am going to get to assist them in the process and that is very exciting. I hope they get as much from the experience as I have.

All in all, professionally, I am having a fabulous year!

Reflections on the Past Year and Some Current Thoughts

Last weekend I had to prepare remarks for the South Dakota Board of Education about my year as a Milken recipient. I love times of reflection because I truly grasp how fortunate I am. Not only did I receive the Milken and all that goes with that, I had a number of opportunities open up before me. I was asked to serve on the Governor’s TCAP Summer Study Committee and I learned more than I could have imagined from there. I am part of the first Teachers Advisory Committee to the Board of Education. I was part of the planning team for the Governor’s Teacher Leadership Conference. While there I got to be part of the opening and speak to about 400 teachers. I was also presented a plaque from the Governor for my Milken award. I was introduced to the state legislature and asked to speak to the Board of Education at the beginning of my year. I had the opportunity to submit some of my lesson plans to Corwin Press for publication. (But since I haven’t heard back, I am not hopeful!) I got to witness the South Dakota Teacher of the Year process up close. I always knew we had some amazing teachers in our state, but having those teachers in the room was inspiring!
I was also names one of Black Hills State University’s 125 Accomplished Alumni. This was quite an honor. It was their 125th anniversary and they selected their top from everyone who attended the university. They treated us to a great lunch. Introduced us all with a short bio and gave us a medal. I was also asked to ride in the Swarm Day parade the next day and be introduced at half-time of the homecoming football game.
I have also had an impact on how my district recognizes and utilizes national award winners. We have the newest Milken in our state right in our district again and I suggested that we honor the fact that we have so many in our district and perhaps pull these people together to do some good for the district, particularly in the area of good PR. In this day and age, teachers need to be recognized in the public as the professionals they are!
I enjoyed my time with the board on Monday. They are always very receptive to hearing from teachers. I also enjoyed my time to reflect. It made me think about the growth I have experienced over the last year in particular!
I realized over the past year that I have gotten over my fear of public speaking. I also realize I have some pretty definite opinions on a few things about education. I worry about how prepared new teachers are fresh from the university and what kind of support they get when they get into the trenches. I worry that we are truly going to see the effects of the teacher shortage soon and it is going to cause things we really don’t want to see happen. There are already rural schools closing and overcrowded classrooms. I don’t think most teachers are doing a very good job of integrating technology in the classroom and we are currently teaching the students that are going to have to be proficient with that when they get into the workplace. I worry about South Dakota being lowest in the nation for teacher pay. I think it is going to prevent us from being competitive attracting new teachers and we are going to lose them to neighboring states.
Perhaps most of all, I worry that our profession as a whole is not as respected as it once was. In many ways, I think teachers are our own worst enemies on this one. Most teachers are very modest about what they do. We are called to serve and we feel no need to toot our own horns. I most certainly understand that. But it has led to people saying things like, “Oh, you are just a teacher.” It has also become the fall-back career – well, you can always TEACH! Sheesh! Where did this come from? When parents drop off their children at the school each day, they are leaving us with their most precious possessions. They better hope we are up to the task of not only caring for these children, but helping them become the productive members of society that we need for them to be. I know I take this responsibility seriously – as do most teachers I know. I think we should, at the very least, be respected for our choice to teach!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's been a tough year so far!

This is shaping up to be a tough school year. Two students that were in the other 8th grade Core last year have committed suicide this year. Two of my current students have been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts this year and five students in our school were hospitalized this week. This just terrifies me! We have heard about suicide pacts and I know a lot of our kids are feeling stress.

I think the economy problems must be playing a factor. I know it hurts all of us, but those in poverty situations must find it overwhelming. It is good to see gas prices coming back down, but I know that has caused a great deal of turmoil for many of my families. Food is more expensive and when you can barely feed your family how can you deal with that?

I try to keep my classroom a safe environment so that kids can stick to the task of learning, but they come in with so many things on their minds it’s no wonder they have trouble dealing with English. And that’s if they make it there at all. I had a student missing this week whose family is dealing with a fire in their home. Grandma is currently taking care of 9 grandchildren and they had a fire in their rental home. The oldest grandson awoke and alerted all the family and three of the boys helped get blankets and such and take care of the babies and little ones in the snow while the fire was being put out. Now they are displaced and have no money to survive on. He is supposed to be back in school next week, but only time will tell.

I have another student that has been a handful for a week – picking on other kids and generally just messing around. A few conversations with administration and I have discovered that his younger brother (6th grade) is struggling with cancer. I am certain that my student is worried and also probably not getting much attention at home right now.

Another young man’s house was foreclosed on and he has missed school to help his family move. A young lady had a note intercepted that discussed her first sexual experience. There is one that is struggling because English is not his first language and is not spoken in the home. I know there are several on probation or DSS is involved. My list of IEP students is very long.

Logically, I know that I must continue to keep my classroom a stable and nurturing environment. I know it is often the only constant place in their lives. While I empathize with their problems, education is the best way out for most of them and I must continue to not only give that to them, but to make them see the value in it for their lives.

Emotionally, I am struggling a bit this weekend. I know it is the suicide thing that is bothering me the most. I don’t know how to deal with that. Our two that are back from the hospital concern me. One is acting out a bit and everyone is afraid to come down on her the way we should. One is still in contact with the boy she has the suicide pact with. How much are we supposed to be watching her? And as I look out on the sea of faces, how many others are feeling that death is the only way out right now? What more can I do for them? Our counselor is overloaded and seeing students as fast as she can.

I try very hard to not take this kind of thing home with me, but this weekend it has not given me that option. Worrying about my kids is weighing heavy. Maybe I need to take a suicide prevention class of some sort. (Like I have any more time in my schedule to fit in more stuff.) Maybe something smaller, like some sort of Thanksgiving activity where I tell each of them how thankful I am to have them in my life and why? I don’t know if that would help with the big stuff in their lives, but even though most of them know I care, it never hurts to tell them again and tell them why. Hmmm…. Something to think about!

Thanks for listening to my ramble and I am open to any suggestions for my kids you might have.