My Big Thoughts on Back to School…

1995 kindergarten 2ndgradeOnce the back to school sales begin, the remnants of an old melancholy feeling start to bubble up. Sending my kids back to school was never something that made me happy. It served as an end to carefree days and late evenings, to swimming, camping and playing but more than anything it served as a marker that another precious year had passed….

It is fitting that I now work in schools and get to experience “The First Day of School” with hundreds of students and parents every year. I love to watch the first kids get off the bus, their backpacks bulging with hand sanitizer, tissues, crayons and pencils. Big sisters helping little brothers find their classes. Moms and Dads struggling to hold back tears as they take their first or last child to school for the first day. The warm welcome that they all receive as they walk through the halls. Teachers wearing big smiles and sharing hugs in newly decorated rooms. (did you know that EVERY year they have to totally breakdown and rebuild their classrooms?) Sparkling halls buffed to a shine by hardworking custodians. The smell of biscuits from the cafeteria. New pencils and crayons….

Did you ever stop and think that our public schools take on everyone? The best and the brightest, the physically, emotionally, mentally challenged, students who speak no English, who struggle to sit still or walk. They don’t discriminate. They face shrinking budgets and paychecks. They face ridiculous blanket standards such as “EVERY child will graduate with a College Prep degree, EVERY school will make sure that EVERY student make 100% on a test. They are constantly criticized and analyzed. But yet THEY still move on….

They move on, because they are filled with people who are passionate about what they do. People who take pride in their shiny floor, the food they prepare, the bus they drive, the lessons that they teach. Each school operating as a small city, presided over by a mayor and staff, who organize and orchestrate educating hundreds of students, prepare balanced healthy meals, safely transport yellow buses filled with noisy wiggly children, manage classroom behavior, continue professional development, supply special services, support classroom management and provide physical education and medical attention. They nurture and nudge, push and pull, listen and love.

For all the criticism that goes on against public schools, they continue their forward motion. Those that find it necessary to criticize and judge this amazing organization should spend a day, or better than that a week, walking the halls, serving in the cafeteria, riding a bus, sitting in on a meeting where dollars are stretched beyond imagination. Sit on the back row of any classroom, attend the many classes and meetings that teachers and staff attend to continue to grow and become better at what they do. I think the average person would be astounded at what goes on every single day inside of those big block buildings! The tide would turn, sentiments would change and demands would be made for more support for this incredible institution called “Public Education.”

1995 First Day of School
So if you read this post and know a teacher, custodian, principal, counselor, administrative professional, food services employee, maintenance worker, technology specialist or anyone that works in education. Tell them you support and appreciate the important work that they do. Give them a hug, get involved, volunteer or better yet, give them some new crayons!

If you ARE a teacher, custodian, principal, administrator, maintenance worker, technology specialist, paraprofessional, food services worker or anyone who works in education, THANK YOU. You matter and what you do matters.

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E2 in 500 Words or less…

Okay so more like 1500….but even that was a challenge!

Tuesday Arrival


Two weeks ago, I boarded a plane and flew five hours to Redmond, Washington to begin what would be one of the most amazing professional experiences of my life. The Microsoft E2 Exchange attendees converged from 87 countries, 250 strong with excitement, energy and excellence. Upon arrival, I quickly checked into the Courtyard Bellevue and joined some of what would be my new friends (did I mention I knew no one!!) on the bus heading to the Microsoft Campus to take MCE exams. Fortunately, we all passed, received our green ribbons and were whisked back to the hotel to get ready for the reception. (By now, I have been awake for 18 hours)

After a scenic walk from the hotel, (thanks Richard) I could hear the reception before we actually were in the reception. Immediately Mike Tholfsen, (Program Manager for OneNote and Avenger) enthusiastically introduces himself personally as well as to Chris Pratley, (CREATOR of ONENOTE and SWAY!) and so began a surreal evening of meeting the actual persons connected to the products, voices, the tweets, the blogs, the Facebook posts that I have followed the past 7 months. It is here that I met some of Team 23, Jen, Philippines, Kausik, India, Graciana, Argentina and Olga, Albania. My heart was full as I looked around and saw people from all over the world, enthusiastically interacting. This was going to be a great week.

Wednesday
One word for breakfast…BACON. Then led by a High School Marching Band
(WHAT!!?) we entered The Mixer where we were greeted by the Drum Café and enjoyed a group drum rectangle with 300 of our closest new friends. After being challenged with a dynamic keynote by Anthony Salcito, VP Microsoft Worldwide Education, to be “Brave, Courageous and Leaders”, the room is so charged with energy we could have lit up Seattle!

We head to our stations to present our Teach Meet Projects in Building 92. It was overwhelming to see such a variety and depth of projects and the only thing lacking was time to spend with each person. It was here that I met Ari Schorr, Product Marketing Manager for One Note as well as Toni Townes-Whitley, Worldwide Public Sector VP at Microsoft. (These people are serious about education!)This was followed by our regional sessions where we joined, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan for the presentation.

Next on the agenda was grabbing a cookie and connecting with Team 23 to hear about our Global Challenge which would be presented on Friday. Josh Sawyer and Mette Haute challenged us with their presentation and we began the work of 7 unique personalities from 7 unique countries coming together to create a “Learning Activity and Pitch”. We brainstormed for roughly an hour, overcoming language challenges with Bing Translate and a wonderful assistant! After sharing difficulties students encountered receiving an education in different countries, we had a focus and began to delegate the work and TIME WAS UP.

We headed back to the hotel, changed clothes and headed up the street to a US Team dinner at the Parlor hosted by the amazing Robyn Hrivnatz who has been our fearless leader from the beginning of the MIEE trek. It was great to sit and chat and we were honored to have several Microsoft members come to “hang out.” Just ask me how I know what the original name for SWAY was….. (Thanks Chris Pratley for a listening ear)

Thursday

More BACON and breakfast with the USA E2 Crew then back to the Mixer. Our keynote speaker was Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala, She is known mainly for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. His message touched my heart deeply and I struggled with tears listening to the bravery and sacrifice of his family as I tested my own weaknesses. Such a privilege to have heard this man and his story. This will remain in the forefront of my E2 memories.

Our next event was the educator led trainings, Josh Sawyer, Kevin Sait, Tammy Dunbar, Marija Petrska, Darcy Grimes and Stacey Ryan shared OneNote, Sway and Skype in the Classroom presentations and rocked it! So many great tips and examples and the passion was contagious. Time for a quick lunch and then two hours to work with Team 23.

One thing I have to say (and Aaron Mauer said it best in his blog post), Collaboration is HARD. It is hard work to let go of control, to balance the load, to include everyone and be respectful of ideas and thoughts that might not line up with your own! We ALL had great ideas, we ALL could have created a presentation, we ALL could have been the main speaker. But in the end, it was a beautiful thing, a true collaboration, an experience that I fell in love with, just as I loved my team members. JEN PADERNAL – De La Salle Dasmarinas, Philippines, OLGA ILCHENKO – School 548, Russia, LINDA FOULKES, NetLearn Update, South Africa, KAUSIK GHOSH – Vidyasagar University, India, GRACIANA MABEL GOICOECHANDIA – Escuela Bilingüe Dante Alighieri, Argentina, Argentina and MIRJETA DOMI – 28 Nëntori Secondary School, Albania. My new brother and sisters.

Once again time was up and we grabbed a box of food, jumped on a bus and head to the Kent School District Technology Expo
(WOW) to view over 100 student projects integrating technology into all subject areas. I was fortunate to spend some time with the OneNote crew sharing the OneNote Love at the Microsoft booth. Time to hop back on the bus where we took the scenic route of ALL the hotels. Literally fell into bed and next thing I knew it was…

Friday

You guessed it, BACON and off to the keynote. One of my favorites. Angela Maiers(I covet her arms) She shared her heart on Genius Hour and her Choose2Matter focus. A passionate communicator, Author and teacher her energetic message was hard not to catch. Looking forward to seeing her in the Fall at our own GaETC Conference in Georgia! It was a good message to hear before we began our Global Educator Challenge presentations. Gathering Team 23, we retreated to an empty room and ran through our presentation, tweaking a few things and enjoyed the time together.

Our presentation Student Hands of Hope…A   World of Solutions was shared by each team member with conviction of their belief. I stood with pride knowing we had come together, each so different but bound together by our love for students. Before we could blink the presentation was over, we answered a few judges’ questions and out we went. While in the end we did not win the formal challenge, we were all winners and better people because of the experience.
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The next part of the day turned surreal as we again entered The Mixer for a “fireside chat” with a Microsoft executive, who was none other than the CEO, Satya Nadella! Everyone went wild, when he was introduced and listened intently as he shared his heart for education and Microsoft goals. He opened up the floor for questions and again I was touched by diversity sitting in the room and the thoughtfulness of their inquiry. The next part was magical.

I, Sandi Adams and 7 other MIEE from around the world, 2 Fellows and 3 students were whisked away to a magic wall which opened into the coolest James Bond living room for a private personal conversation with Satya Nadella.
(WHAT?!) Also in attendance were Anthony Salcito and Toni Townes-Whitley. Was this my real life? We were warmly greeted by Satya and encouraged to share our thoughts on the MIE program, Microsoft in Education and offer any ideas. Each of us took turns sharing our thoughts and ideas and all too soon, it was over! What an honor and incredible experience. Truly as my husband said, the icing on the cake.
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A quick tour of the campus as I was shuttled by Christina and off to a tour of the Surface Development Labs and then to the hotel with thirty minutes to get ready for the GALA!! Again, we load the buses and head to downtown Seattle, one of my favorite cities on a beautiful evening. The Gala was held at the EMP Museum. The area had a cirque du soleil feel which contributed to the great celebration. Awards were given to the winning teams and we cheered each group as they took the stage.
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Special shout out to my E2 USA Crew winners, the unsinkable and talented Tammy Dunbar, the amazing and calm, Kristen Messer, the beautiful and witty, Holly Dornak and the big winner, the sweet and humble, Dianne Krause. The night ended far too soon with goodbyes to our new friends from around the world. It was with a tinge of sadness that I climbed off the bus and headed to my room. However with the magic we call technology, there is no doubt these relationships will stand for many years.

Before I end my epic novel about the week experience, I have to say a global thank you to Microsoft for recognizing the hard work that goes in to educating and loving on the world, a more local thank you to my new friends and Team USA and a special thanks to Robyn Hrivnatz for her encouragement and confidence in us all.

Additional Pictures can be found in my E2 Sway which is under construction :)

And You May Ask Yourself Well…How Did I Get Here?

The lyrics are from a song by the Talking Heads titled Once in a Lifetime…. They describe my thoughts as I over pack and unpack (an obsessive compulsion I have had for a lifetime) in preparation for the Microsoft in Education E2 Global Educator Exchange. Thinking back to last June when I attended my 2nd Microsoft Innovative Educator certification workshop where my tech twin, @fredawilliams and I were introduced to 21st Century Learning Design. Josh Sawyer was the lead trainer and did an enthusiastic job of challenging everyone with new material, rubrics and a sneak peek at some new Microsoft tools.

July brought ISTE to Atlanta, and we became Microsoft stalkers, attending every session they presented and meeting Kelly Green, Helen Gooch and Kelli Etheredge.  Office Mix, OneNote, Office 365 and more. We began to plan our 2014-2015 school year. August brought a Microsoft teacher workshop to Atlanta where we were officially identified as groupies, met Robyn Hrivnatz and saw our first glimpse of SWAY. (Oh how this right brain girl loved the concept of SWAY!)

The school year began with intensive training on our newly adopted Office 365IMG_7238 to staff and students, our first 1-1 initiative in a new middle school, more training and plans to certify an entire 78 member staff at Holly Springs Elementary Stem Academy. After achieving the Microsoft Innovative Educator trainer status and a little nudge and encouragement from a friend (RH :),) I submitted the application to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Notification that I had been selected came early November while I was presenting at the GaETC conference on Office 365 in the Classroom and so began an entirely unexpected and wonderful journey.

This year marked my 15th year working with the Cherokee County School District as a Technology Project Specialist. This role includes researching new and emerging technologies, training teachers on new tools and integration in the classroom, training students, evaluating hardware and other duties as assigned. The MIEE path was energizing. Attending and listening to each monthly webinar, beginning to blog again, stopped lurking and started tweeting, trained and trained and trained. Communicating with program managers, resolving challenges in our district, receiving a Surface Pro 3, establishing an entirely new PLN becoming a part of the Surface Expert team, and Sway Champion was just part of what made the experience so amazing. Applying to the E2
Global Educator Exchange, presenting the year in two minutes was a challenge but a reminder that this was a year of growth.
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Meanwhile, we graduated our first professional development class of certified MIE’s as the process of certifying the school continued. Changes started almost immediately from the top down, the administrators started using OneNote, students used Office 365 to collaborate with each other, teachers starting Mixing and Skyping, first graders learned to Sway and everyone learned the definition of BING!! Each session introduced a new learning dimension and Microsoft tool which would inevitably lead to someone trying it in their classroom! Late February led us to the culmination of all of the hard work. Holly Springs Elementary STEM Academy became fully certified as Microsoft Innovative Educators!

Early March brought the email that I could hardly believe. I had been selected to attend E2… What?!   This recognition also had a personal side to it. Shortly after being selected as an MIEE my father was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He was so proud of me and even though this was a man who worked with his hands and had no interest in technology, he loved hearing my stories and watching videos of the students in my school. He approved my application video and watched it several times. I received the email that I had been selected to attend E2 sitting by my fathers bedside and he was the first person I shared it with… Sadly, he passed away on March 30th. I’m so thankful to have had the legacy of a strong work ethic, integrity, character and his encouragement and support throughout my lifetime and hope to represent him well.

This journey has just begun in many ways, learning so much, being in awe of what fellow educators are doing in their schools, following new friends around the globe through our Facebook group, the presentations, the tweets and meets, blog posts and messages. The support offered by Robyn through this entire process has been so appreciated and is something I hope to pass on to others who find themselves blessed enough to be identified with such a talented and incredible group of individuals who are passionate about students.

It is with great excitement and anticipation that I prepare for E2, but as my husband said, this is the icing on the cake. Once in a lifetime….
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Differentiation in the Classroom…When it is Filled with Teachers…

I LOVE teachers……. kindergarten teachers, middle school teachers, teachers of students with special needs, high school teachers, math teachers, science teachers, language arts teachers , teachers who are small, teachers who are round, teachers who are tall, teachers who are thin, I like them all. I am in awe of them.  They are right brain, left brain and both brain. They are sensitive and tough and proud. They are passionate, creative and resilient. They are hard workers, resourceful and gritty.

FullSizeRender (2)Teachers are all different …just like our students with different gifts and different learning styles. So when it comes to professional development there can be challenges. Often when immersed in a program like the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts, (and how did I get here?!)  it is easy to forget that for every amazing, gifted technology wizard there are twenty teachers who struggle with integrating technology in the classroom. Some don’t have time, some are afraid it won’t work and for some it just doesn’t come easy.

It is important to be an advocate for these teachers. The black birds, the blue birds, the red birds. My goal is to NEVER make anyone feel inferior because they don’t Sway or Mix, but to LISTEN TO THEM and to lead them, starting with their abilities, to another level. I could never be a math teacher (right brain alert!!!) and I most likely would be unable to manage 25 kindergartners scampering all over the place on a daily basis.  That this is my THING, it is intuitive to me. That my desire is to help with their comfort and skill level.  I LOVE watching teachers bloom into technology users and excitedly share their first notebook, movie or mix.

We live in such an amazing time. Where augmented reality can let you fly into the aurora borealis, where information is literally at FullSizeRenderour fingertips, where we can collaborate on presentations in Office 365, or Skype with a classroom around the world, where we can print BODY PARTS in 3D, where there are apps that allow us to share how a machine or a heart works, where we can wear computers on our arms and cars can drive themselves. In the famous words of Bill Gates… “Ten years from now we will wonder why we were so limited…..”

We will wonder why we were so limited…

So today, show a little love to those teacher birds, they all tumble out of the nest at different rates.

Can People under 4 feet Tall SWAY?

After being introduced to SWAY in our Holly Springs Elementary STEM MIE certification course, a first grade tremendous trio, Ms. Hemphill, Ms. Hausler and Ms. Russell approached me about working with their first graders on a project. I said, “YES!!!!!!!” Remember, first graders are usually under 4 feet tall and under the age of 7! Students researched animals in Ms. Hemphill’s class and famous Americans in Ms. Hausler and Russell’s class using PebbleGo, a subscription service our district provides for pre-K to grade 3 database for reading and research.  Each student had already researched their animal or person and had an outline with title and headings. (Smart teachers!!) Research first Each teacher created a class SWAY account and added a blank Sway for each student with their name on it to make getting started a little easier. (I wanted to kiss them for that!) To add a little more fun to the project after they were completed the teachers then turned their Sways into a QR Code for parents to scan. Now, I am going to issue a warning, doing anything in the computer lab with 25 – 4 foot tall 7 year olds is not for the faint of heart BUT it is so worth it!! Unlike 5-7 years ago MOST students today do not come to school knowing how to use a mouse or keyboard. (The days of reader rabbit on the computer are gone….) They are SWIPERS Not TYPERS!!! So there is a learning curve. Things like Shift key, space bar and “Mrs. Adams, where is the dot?” are common. BUT if we don’t let them learn it with us, when will they? But, I digress!! Back to SWAY. The lab was  logged in to Sway under the teacher account and set20150326_153443387_iOS to My Sways. (yes, we logged in to the same account 25 times and nothing exploded.) We started with each student clicking on their name and adding a Heading card for their famous American.  After carefully     t   y   p  i   n  g their title, they searched for and added a picture of their animal or famous American from Bing. Then it was a matter of adding a text card and then a heading for each of the outlined topics. The students were super engaged and while there was a lot of assistance initially, some actually figured out to go to the next step on their own. They loved choosing their images from the assortment Bing offered them. The best part was when we were wrapping up and I asked them to click REMIX. There were lots of “ooohs” and “That is so cool” They remixed over and over until they found a mix they loved and then shared.

I asked them what they liked best about Sway and here are their thoughts.

Here are a couple of samples from Our First Grade Classes. I will post more when they have completed all of their cards.


If you have not explored SWAY, now would be a good time! Appropriate for all age levels.

The resources listed below will give you a good start.

SWAY OFFICE BLOGS
SWAY USER VOICE
SWAY

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Learning Agility and the 21st Century Work Force

steIn early March I attended and presented at The Georgia Scholarship of STEM Teaching & Learning Conference held at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Participants included educators, students, industry professionals and research institutions who were invited from all USG colleges and universities, private higher education institutions within the state, industry, research institutions, and local area K-12 schools. The conference focused on STEM Initiative whose goals include: promoting K-12 student preparation for and interest in majoring in STEM fields in college; increasing the success of STEM majors in college; and producing more and better science and mathematics teachers for K-12 schools.

I was particularly excited to meet and hear the keynote speaker. Shan 11043252_10206196555535695_2324334824400984796_nCooper is Vice President of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company and General Manager of the company’s Marietta, Ga., facility, (which is also where my husband David has worked for the past 35 years!) She is responsible for the company’s operating locations in Meridian, Miss., and Clarksburg, W.Va. and serves as the company’s Vice President of Business Ethics.

Her keynote was titled “Educating the Future Work Force”. I listened carefully as she shared the difficulties of finding a work force with the skill set needed to design and build some of the world’s most recognizable military aircraft. She stressed the need for technically-educated, employees to sustain the company and industry. She shared that not every employee needs to be an engineer, that Lockheed had welders, aircraft technicians and mechanics making healthy salaries. She shared the difficulty the company had finding 400 employees that could pass the math portion of their application process. She empathized with the profession of teaching that has their game plan changed almost annually, unlike aircraft and security corporations which have five and ten year business plans.

Three key points stood out in her passionate and lively message. She was insistent that students needed these three skills in order to find success in today’s global workplace.

  • Critical Thinking –the ability to apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations. 
  • Problem Solving- The process of working through details of a problem to reach a solution.
  • Learning Agility……..hmmm what was the definition of learning agility? (I had to research the exact definition.) The concept of “learning agility” has been used to describe individuals who possess skills such as openness, willingness to learn, and flexibility. In addition, a learning agile person is curious about the world, has a high tolerance for ambiguity, good people skills, vision, and innovation.  In general, learning agility relates to adaptability and willingness to explore the unknown and learn from experiences. (I like this skill!)

As she spoke I couldn’t help but to relate these points to 21st Century Learning Design which is the platform of the Microsoft Innovative Educator program.
Knowledge Construction, Collaboration, Skilled Communication, ICT, Real World Problem Solving and Self-Regulation, tools to help our teachers challenge and guide our students. All involve critical thinking, problem solving and my new personal favorite, learning agility.

Ms..Cooper stressed the need for industry to join together with educators and schools in partnerships. Her belief is that corporations can help guide curriculum improvements by sharing information with educators regarding emerging trends, industry practices and technologies, and skills and competencies needed from future employees.

She ended her keynote by coming out into the audience and answering numerous questions. Once again the passion, commitment and caring of individuals who work in education was evident. Each question centered on the students and how best to serve them. It is always a renewal of spirit to see such fine examples of servant leadership. The combination of the keynote, the conference attendees and sessions renewed my belief that we are steering our ship in the right direction and our students will have the opportunity to be successful in a global environment.

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A Day in the Life with Office 365

On a typical morning in Ms. Ingrams fifth grade classroom, students enter the classroom, log on to their laptop or learning device and head straight to Office 365. Most had edited a biography PowerPoint class assignment from home and were anxious to tweak their final product before presenting. Others checked email in Outlook for assignment updates from teachers and looked over notes in One Note for an upcoming quiz.20150108_150829242_iOS

Student life “in the cloud” means no forgotten papers, lost homework, corrupt or washed flash drives or any one of a dozen common excuses given for not having an assignment. Soon to be unlimited storage in their OneDrive means plenty of space for all of their documents and projects.

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Student work is created in Office 365 from a current Office Suite including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and One Note. Documents are automatically saved and can be accessed anywhere internet is available, 24-7.  Mobile Apps found on smart devices add to the ease and ability to access and edit their work.

Having the capability to share documents allows for easy collaboration among peers or with their instructor for grading or editing comments and works well with 21st century digital learning goals. Student in our district from fourth grade to graduation have access to all of the apps available. These tools mesh perfectly with the district “Bring Your Learning Device” initiative and bridge the gap for those students who don’t own premium versions of Office on their home computers.

Office 365 also houses a full version of Microsoft Outlook with 50 GB of space allowing email communication within the closed network of the school district and full calendar functionality for planning and organizing. Our students email accounts are “in house only” giving them the opportunity to use these accounts as their professional account and giving us a great platform to teach digital responsibility skills.

A Day in the Life

Teachers enjoy the benefit of Office 365 as a one stop shop, where they can manage, communicate, share and collaborate with peers and students.  The addition of tools like OneNote Notebook Creator allow teachers to create “textbooks” for each class, housing content, a collaborative component and a page for each student. Homework assignments are easily copied to student pages and completed only to have a teacher grade and comment from a single location. The addition of OneNote Staff Notebook creator really offer application for our administrators at another level. Teachers love the Excel Survey app as another tool beneficial for collecting links to assignments and assessments.

Office 365 moves the teacher and the learner beyond the walls of the classroom, anytime, anywhere. Creating mobile learners with access to educational tools and preparing them for success in all types of environments.