Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rebel U 2011: Guest Post (Part 3 in Guest Blogger Series)

This a post in a series about Rebel U 2011.

As part of the Rebel U 2011 evaluation, we asked participants if they were willing to be a guest blogger on our Godfrey-Lee Technology & Media blog.  We were not only interested in hearing (and sharing) first hand accounts from attendees and presenters, but also introducing some teachers to publicly posting content online for the first time and building an online presence.

Today's guest post is written by 7th and 8th grade Language Arts teacher, Alissa Coil.  You can find Alissa online on Twitter.

Participating in Rebel U is by far the most relevant and interactive professional development I have participated in during my teaching career. This year I had the opportunity to participate both as a presenter and a 'student'. I enjoyed being able to share what I have learned about RebelNet with a group of teachers who did not have the same amount of experience with the website. Although presenting was a great experience, being a 'student' for the day was much more beneficial. I attended presentations on Animoto, Project-Based Learning, Voicethread, and 40 in 40 (a variety of tech resources). Some of the resources we discussed were refreshers for me, like Animoto and PBL, and others were brand new, like Voicethread. During the Voicethread presentation, we had time to create our own Voicethread to use in a class. I created one using different pieces of art from my first unit of instruction (8th grade ELA). Students were able to access the site and make comments based on the prompts that I provided. It wasn't the easiest resource to use in class, but I will use it again, and have students create their own to demonstrate what they have learned in different units.

I believe that if every school had their own version of Rebel U, education could be transformed in our county, state, and nation. I'm thankful that our tech team takes the time to teach us HOW we can "Rebel Up".

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rebel U 2011: Guest Post (Part 2 in Guest Blogger Series)

This a post in a series about Rebel U 2011.

As part of the Rebel U 2011 evaluation, we asked participants if they were willing to be a guest blogger on our Godfrey-Lee Technology & Media blog.  We were not only interested in hearing (and sharing) first hand accounts from attendees and presenters, but also introducing some teachers to publicly posting content online for the first time and building an online presence.

Today's guest post is written by several Godfrey-Lee employees.  An introduction to each is listed above their post.

Elayna Durso is a secondary teacher in the World Languages Department.  You can find more information on Elayna here.

I learned a significant amount of great on-line resourses for my stundents during Rebel U technology training at GLPS.  What really stands out are the amazing research options through the Kent District Library provided by Kelly McGee and the fabulous 40 teacher sites offered by Sarah Wood.  I'm excited to use these in my classes and introduce them to students through great new learning projects. Thank you to all!

Jake Manning is the 9th Grade Student Advocate at Lee High School.

First thing is first; the Rebel U was a huge success this year, and on many fronts. The Tech Team at GLPS did an incredible job of seeing a great opportunity for staff to grow professionally as well as collaboratively sharpen one another through a PD day such as Rebel U. From there, the Tech Team organized a day full of diverse educationally-charged technology presentations and workshops. The best  part, the talented presenters were some of GLPS' very own savvy staff members! Whether it was a detailed walk through our comprehensive RebelNet system, learning how to effectively mesh Twitter and education, or enjoying a burger (or two) on the front lawn of Lee High School with the entire GLPS family, Rebel U 2011 turned out to be an experience worth remembering by all. 

A huge 'thank you' is in order for the entire Tech Team and all the presenters on developing and executing such an outstanding day of professional development. We are proud Rebel U graduates of the class of 2011!


Teri Chandler is the Dean of Students at Godfrey Elementary.  You can find Teri online through Twitter.

I thoroughly enjoyed our day at Rebel U.  Notice I used the word "our".  I felt it was a TEAM effort to produce Rebel U and it was TEAM of educators that learned, experimented and were inspired together.  Our own staff with their multitude of experiences and talents were willing to share with others for the benefit of all.  This feeling became a strong current all day which led to a positive "I can do this!" attitude.  Eating lunch together, talking, sharing, and learning became the focus of Rebel U.  Our staff is now empowered and inspired to explore, use and implement what we were exposed to in our sessions.  This is the real spirit of Rebel U!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rebel U 2011: Photo Contest Winners

This a post in a series about Rebel U 2011.

As part of the Rebel U 2011 experience this year, we held a photo contest to engage participants in an activity that extends beyond the learning that takes place in their sessions. We had several people participate in the contest and it was difficult to select a winner. Winners will receive a web cam for their photos. Winners were selected based on how their photo fit one of two categories:
  1. Rebel U 2011: A picture that represents the theme of Rebel U - "Innovation Through Collaboration"
  2. Godfrey-Lee: A picture that symbolizes Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.
... And the winners are...

Rebel U 2011 Theme: Julie Swanson

Godfrey-Lee: Melissa Gill
Description: I took this picture of someone working on their netbook with the netbook as the focus because of our school vision being focused on 1 to 1 with the "anywhere, anytime, any device" motto.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you again to everyone who participated! If you would like to see a collection of all the pictures gathered from Rebel U, please click here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rebel U 2011: Guest Post (Part 1 in Guest Blogger Series)

This a post in a series about Rebel U 2011.

As part of the Rebel U 2011 evaluation, we asked participants if they were willing to be a guest blogger on our Godfrey-Lee Technology & Media blog.  We were not only interested in hearing (and sharing) first hand accounts from attendees and presenters, but also introducing some teachers to publicly posting content online for the first time and building an online presence.

Today's guest post is written by 6th grade Language Arts teacher, Melissa Gill.  You can find Melissa online on Twitter and she also has her own web site.

A Rebel U Presenter P.O.V.

This was the second year of Rebel U and my first year presenting there.  I figured this would be a great way to practice speaking in front of my peers.  A small step towards self improvement.  Not only one session, but presenting two 90 minute sessions.  No problem, I can make that work!  In fact it was set up nicely.  My first 90 minute session would be with Sarah Wood and my second session would be on my own.

Session 1 - Test-Taking Strategies & Tools
Sarah and I had met numerous times the previous school year and a couple over summer break on our session Test-Taking Strategies & Tools.  We had surveyed and tweaked our presentation to meet the needs of our attendees as much as possible.  I, of course, was nervous but also at ease with Sarah presenting with me.  Having another person presenting with me helps alleviate the stress and when I forgot to say something, she was there to help and vice versa.  In fact we ran out of time and we could have done another 90 minute session finishing our presentation.  I thought our session went really well!  On the other hand, I have no idea what our attendees thought.  

Take it:  Having a co-presenter really helped with stress.  I would also keep the time allotment for the attendees to actually do the activities helped them make connections to the student point of view.

Leave it:  We could have narrowed down our strategies to allow time for the attendees to share some of their test taking strategies with everyone.  By no means am I an expert on test taking strategies and should have allowed the time for others to share what has worked for them.  I would also create a session evaluation to see what the attendees thought.

Session 2 - Effective Tech in the Classroom
My second presentation was on Effective Tech in the Classroom.  This session was was solely on me.  I use technology on a daily bases in my classroom and wanted to share what works, especially with the middle school staff that will be dealing with the 1:1 program in the near future.  I organized my presentation based on how I learn best and feedback I have received from other teachers about learning technology.  After a bad start with major nervousness, I got everyone started on their QR code scavenger hunt, then gave them time to play around with some web tools, and finally wrapped up the session with each group presenting on their group’s coolest tool.  That way everyone was responsible for only one tool, but can refer back to the Google site any time to check out the other tools at a later date.

Take it:  A few attendees expressed that they enjoyed the movement (scavenger hunt) and time to try out some new web tools.  That time to learn the tools was valuable to them, so I would keep that and it allowed me to walk around and help those that needed it.

Leave it:  The 90 minutes was long and I did not fill it appropriately.  I could tell a few attendees had become bored and were ready to go.  I should have planned more active activities because it was the last session and everyone was a bit worn out by then.  I would also have changed the name to “Effective Web Tools for the Classroom” because I wasn’t showing how to use any technology, just different websites they could use in the classroom.

Presenting at Rebel U was a great experience!  The technology department, especially Sarah Wood, did a fantastic job organizing everything and making the presenters feel comfortable.  I will definitely do it again!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rebel U 2011: Teacher Learning & Experiences

This a post in a series about Rebel U 2011.

As part of the Rebel U 2011 evaluation, participants were asked to complete the following sentence, "If you were at Rebel U 2011, you would have learned, witnessed, or experienced..." (similar to the question Scott McLeod posed on his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant). We received many responses that really spoke to the learning experience that teachers encountered during the day.

So, if you had attended Godfrey-Lee Public Schools' Rebel U 2011, you would have learned, witnessed, or experienced...
  1. Teachers focused on doing what is best for students.
  2. New ways to implement technology in the classroom.
  3. A very involved staff who knows a lot!
  4. A lot of talented people who took a lot of time and energy to create, master and explain things they use to help in their classrooms.
  5. How to use technology in your classroom without stressing out.
  6. Practical ideas to use yourself or with your students.
  7. How to integrate technology into your classroom to increase engagement.
  8. The welcome involvement of technology at all levels of education.
  9. Co-workers teaching co-workers new ideas and new uses of current things.
  10. The technology and wisdom of those presenting.
  11. Technology doesn't stop even if servers are down! We just kept on learning.
  12. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things with technology.
  13. Multiple ways to engage learners in active experiences in order to prepare them for the digital world in which they live.
  14. You would have witnessed Ron Houtman.
  15. How professional teachers look forward to being more effective.
  16. Educators who are focused on 21st Century learning and very valuable collaboration amongst our Rebel family.
  17. Teachers learning and playing together.
  18. Staff members presenting information they are excited about which would make you excited about using the tool presented!
  19. Cooperative learning.
  20. How far I am behind in technology and what great opportunities lie in the future.
  21. The constant buzz of different technological tools as people experienced many different conversations and applications.
  22. Teachers working together to help each other be more effective.
  23. Teachers learning the tools needed to reach the 21st Century student.
  24. Highly effective teachers increasing their knowledge for a technology driven curriculum and school year.
  25. Supportive instruction.
  26. How dedicated the Godfrey-Lee staff is to trying new things and implementing technology into their classes, not only so that their students learn and grow in an exciting way, but so that they can learn and grow from their students!
  27. Individuals talking together, helping each other and an understanding of issues that arise from technology.
  28. Teachers in students' shoes learning new ways to engage their students.
  29. Fantastic ways to connect with others and explode learning into bits of fun, fantasy and future use.
  30. How hard Dan T. works.
  31. Many professional and talented educators modeling and teaching their peers.
  32. Enthusiasm, excitement and empowerment.

The buzz of Rebel U could also be found on Twitter and TodaysMeet. Some of the tweets noted from the day:
  1. The excitement leading to Rebel U.
  2. The Tech team working early to get ready for the day.
  3. Teachers looking for bribery.
  4. Teachers using Twitter on their mobile device for the first time.
  5. Past Tech team members still joining in the day.
  6. Teachers overcoming technical difficulties to keep the learning going.
  7. Teachers learning about Twitter while using Twitter.
  8. Teachers sharing resources they learned about in their sessions.
  9. Teachers collaborating together for session presentations.
  10. Teachers promoting the motto of the Tech & Media team.
  11. Guest presenters participating in a panel discussion.
  12. People not associated with GLPS or Rebel U enhancing the discussions of the day.
  13. Teachers exploring test taking strategies.
  14. Tech team members calling each other out.
  15. Showing some sponsor love!
  16. Panel discussion members being serious.
  17. Tech team members reminiscing about Rebel U preparations. (Picture here.)
Doesn't it make you wish all technology professional development was like Godfrey-Lee's Rebel U?

Rebel U 2011: Recap

For the second year, the Technology & Media Team at Godfrey-Lee Public Schools has put on a district-wide professional development opportunity, Rebel U, that allows teachers and administrators to explore ways to integrate technology into their classrooms and professional practice. The theme for Rebel U this year was "Innovation Through Collaboration," allowing participants to collaborate with one another and delve into new ways technology can be utilized in the classroom. We had many teachers that stepped forward to share tools and resources they are using in their classroom as well as techniques and strategies that have proven effective for their students. This day would not be the success that it is if it weren't for our fantastic presenters!

The day started out unexpectedly with some server and Internet connection problems, but despite being a day focused on technology, teachers and presenters adapted and the day went on. Shortly after our second session began, all connections were restored and the sharing and learning continued. Although this is not the ideal start to a day focused on technology, I think it represents an issue that can happen any day in the classroom. As great as the technology is that we have in our district, glitches happen and the learning must continue. Teachers don't completely throw a day of learning out the window because their plan A didn't go as planned - plan B begins and the learning continues. This is exactly what happened at Rebel U and is representative of the day's theme - "Innovation through Collaboration" - teachers came together, improvised and the learning continued.

One of the goals of the Technology & Media Team for Rebel U is to foster a learning environment that is comfortable and relaxing. As the day is structured after the model that many other technology conferences use, the time allotted for lunch is limited. After a morning of attending several sessions, teachers often need a break to step away from technology and refuel. One thing we have been proud to do for our teachers last year and then again this year is to provide a free lunch. As funding was tight this year, we had to look to outside sources to help us offer a free meal as part of the day. We had an awesome sponsor step forward this year, Townsend Innovative Collections, and cover the costs of providing refreshments and lunch for the day. It was a beautiful day and teachers were able to relax on the front lawn of the high school and enjoy burgers, brats and hot dogs that were grilled up by one of our administrators, Brett Lambert, and a school board member, David Townsend.

As part of our on-going efforts to provide meaningful and effective professional development, we asked all participants to complete an evaluation of the sessions they attended as well as the day in general. On part of the evaluation, teachers were asked, "In ONE word, how would you summarize your Rebel U experience?". There was a wide range of responses that were received, but the most common response was "Informative" (as seen in the word cloud below). I believe this truly speaks to the fact that there are many technology tools, resources and strategies that are available that there is always something new that one can learn.

We hope that the spirit of Rebel U will continue throughout the school year and teachers will continue to explore, collaborate and utilize technology tools with their students. The Technology & Media Team would also like to extend a special thank you to Superintendent David Britten, who firmly believes in the benefits of using technology as a tool in the classroom and as a professional development tool and makes it possible for us to organize a professional development day focused on technology for the teachers and staff at Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.

Look forward to further posts regarding Rebel U 2011. We have several more posts lined up about some of the exciting aspects of Rebel U and also had many teachers volunteer to be guest bloggers and talk about their experiences during Rebel U. The sharing continues!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Preparing Devices for One-to-One

This summer we took a step forward in our one-to-one program by welcoming 150 Dell 2120 netbooks to our 6th Grade Campus. As last years 6th graders take their 2110 models with them to the 7th grade, we now have over 300 devices that we have to prep for the new school year. We went back and forth trying to find a convenient and efficient way to manage these devices especially as we continue our program through middle school and eventually through high school.

The Technology Department along with Dan Verwolf, our previous Network Admin, sat down and discussed some possibilities and we came up with the perfect solution. We decided to use Linux Ubuntu as our main source for deployment. We figured we will start deploying this build on all of our incoming netbooks.

We made the decision to go with a open sourced Linux operating system rather than a Windows OS for many different reasons. We feel that this solution would save money for the district in the long run which will allow us to purchase more sturdy and reliable devices. We also feel that the web resources that we have available for the district will allow us to work in the cloud and not rely on software applications. We also feel that our Technology Integration Support and Professional Development led by Sarah Wood was more than adequate to support our needs.

The issue that we ran into was how we would efficiently deploy this build to the lot of netbooks. We tried many different options until we came across Ubermix. Ubermix is based off of the Linux Ubuntu operating system, but comes with a mix of user applications that are effective for school use. Jim Klein, Director of Information Services and Technology for the Saugus Union School District in California and his team are responsible for this wonderful solution to our deployment problem. Their SWATTEC program has inspired us to use Ubermix and I can personally attest to the effectiveness and quality that this build brings to our program.

In less than 5 hours, Melissa Gill (6th Grade Teacher) and myself inventoried 150 netbooks and imaged 330 devices with 15 usb flash drives. This has certainly been the quickest and most efficient deployment we have had. Not to mention the clean and easily customize-able look the dashboard has. We sincerely offer Jim Klein our thanks and appreciation for his continued efforts to bring quality technology into our classrooms.

Please feel free to read more about Jim and Saugus Union School Districts work.

~Dan Townsend
District Technology Coordinator

Monday, May 23, 2011

Moving Forward

Last week, the Technology and Media team said goodbye to one of its valued members. Our Network Administrator, Dan Verwolf, accepted an opportunity at another institution and will no longer be working for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools. This is certainly a bittersweet ending to the week as we say farewell to our friend, yet we know that he is moving on to another level of his career. We are extremely happy for Dan and his family as they make this transition.

Working alongside Dan has been a rewarding experience for me, through the years we have shared many conversations that I will remember for a lifetime. He has openly shared his knowledge with me and I am grateful for that today. Even through our disagreements I feel that my beliefs and ideals have strengthened because of him. Dan’s creativity and innovative thinking has been a contributing factor in the growth of Godfrey-Lee’s Technology program and the success that has come from it. We were blessed to have him as a part of our team and he will be truly missed.

With that being said, we must continue to move forward providing quality support for the Godfrey-Lee School District and its stakeholders. We are determined to deliver a level of continuity for our staff and students as we come to the end of a tumultuous school year. We know that none of us are perfect; we all fall short sometimes. However, we are willing to strengthen the areas in which we are weak, embrace our failures and use them to take us higher. In a time where K-12 education is fighting to stay afloat, teachers and students need support more than ever. Our Jobs go beyond providing technology support. We must let our teachers know that we support them in every way.

The Godfrey-Lee Technology and Media Team is ready to go above and beyond expectations. We are ready to be more than a voice on the other end of the phone. We are ready to stand on the front-lines and prove that Godfrey-Lee is a community worth fighting for, because our kids are worth fighting for. We have some of the best students in West Michigan because we have some of the best Educators in West Michigan. Standing together, there is nothing we can’t do.

Here’s to a new frontier.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Student Views on Technology in the Classroom

As the end of the school year is upon us, I decided to send out a survey to students asking their thoughts about using technology as a tool in the classroom and their preferred learning habits. The survey was sent via e-mail to all 6-12 students and 66 students responded to the survey over a week's time period. Some of the responses were what I expected to see, but others were a bit surprising. Some of the questions and responses collected are listed below.

Most of the time I enjoy participating in class.

I enjoy working with classmates on class assignments.

I enjoy applying things I learned in class to real-life problems.

I like thinking about problems with no obvious "right" answer.

I like using technology to help me learn.

I like looking for answers to problems instead of my teacher giving me the answer.

I feel comfortable asking my teacher if I can complete an assignment a little bit differently.

I also asked the students several open-ended questions about the online resources they use to complete their work and how using online resources has changed the way they do their work. The students provided honest answers and I was surprised that outside of our district's web portal, the main resource they used was Google. The students use Google to not only search engine for information, but also as a way to be directed to specific web sites. This proves the necessity for information literacy to be an integrated component of content instruction.

The question that provided the most interesting information was that of, "If you could give your teachers a message about using technology in the classroom, what would it be?". Some of the responses included:
  • "I would tell them to let us use computers and laptops more so we can study."
  • "Make everything on the computer."
  • "Let us use computers more to take notes rather than hand writing them."
  • "This Is The Message I'd Give Them: Dear Teachers, Using netbooks in class helps us very much so I think you guys should let us use them more."
  • "To put more assignments on the computer."
  • "To allow us to use it to our advantage. "
  • "To let us use our phones."
What does this say about our students and their thoughts on their learning? The biggest thing that speaks to me is that they want to have a voice. The students had no problem sharing ways that would help them learn in a manner that is more efficient and effective for them. The responses varied based on individual student learning preferences, and not everyone was in favor of using technology (one student responded with, "I HATE using computers they separate the connection and help a teacher gives."). This statement alone speaks to the important role that teachers will always play in the learning process, regardless of the technology used and how often it is used.

While reading the responses of this survey, what I enjoyed most was reading the honest responses from students. The evaluation piece of implementing technology in the classroom is critical, but is some times overlooked in lesson planning and implementation. If you are using technology in your classroom, how do you use student feedback to guide your re-teaching or future instruction?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MACUL 2011

This year, members of the GLPS Technology and Media Team will be presenting at the MACUL conference in Detroit.  We are excited to be part of this great conference and feel there many great things happening in education with regards to technology.  If you will be attending MACUL, feel free to stop into one of our sessions!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

RebelNet on a Snow Day

Last week's blizzard required the school district to close for two consecutive days. In the past, this kind of unexpected break in the middle of the week before conferences would make it difficult for many students and teachers to stay on track with their daily tasks. However, with more staff and students now familiar with RebelNet, getting access from home was easier than ever before.

We sent out a short survey (using Google Forms, both easy and free) to all staff in the district and students in grades 6-12. The survey simply asked if they used RebelNet at all during the snow days and if so, what prompted them to. Here are some of the results:

Of the 173 responses, 129 were from staff members and 44 were from students. That's more than half of staff members and about 1% of students with access to RebelNet. That's not a great sample, but the survey also included a place to submit comments and suggestions which together, gave us some strong insight into how they use RebelNet.

Of the staff members who responded, 83% accessed RebelNet during the snow days. Their primary reason for logging in was to check Google Mail. After that, over half of the staff members were also accessing Google Docs and Infinite Campus (for grades, reports, etc.). Only about 20% of these staff members used RebelNet to access files stored on the district network.

Of the students who responded, only 25% had accessed RebelNet during the snow days. The primary reason given for not accessing RebelNet was that they had no reason to. Some students mentioned that they did not have an available internet connection.

Probably the most helpful information gathered from this survey can be found in the comments and suggestions section by the students. One student commented, "I had no reason to use RebelNet. Have more teachers give work on-line for us to do at home."

Another student commented, "I love RebelNet. It makes it easy to talk to my teachers and my friends."

In order for students to learn how to utilize technology as a tool rather than just a distraction, they need to be given the opportunities to use it properly. What is stopping teachers from posting more assignments online? What is keeping students from being engaged inside and outside of the classroom? Feel free to post your comments here.

Who are you? Do you even care?

Photo by Hay Kranen

As technology grows day by day, methods of communication seem to become more advanced at the same time. Not only is it important to make your presence known in person, it is now equally important to make your presence known online. This leads me to my first question; who are you and do you even care? Of course you know who you are, but as we move forward to become digital citizens, we have a responsibility to inform the world as to who we are.

This idea is sometimes overwhelming to think about especially when most people are worried about privacy, and rightfully so. However, in terms of your web presence, you have the power to create the information that is displayed about your persona and offer up words of wisdom to someone seeking it. Think of it like this, a student sits in the back of his robotics class for the entire school year and never says one word to anyone. The student just sits there and blends in with the rest of his classmates. No one knows that this student is somewhat of an expert in robotics. The teacher and the rest of the class already have an impression of this student. They think the student is quiet, anti-social and has little to offer. If only the student was to speak up and talk about what he knows, he can be of more help to his classmates and the impression that the class has of him will ultimately change.

This is no different when it comes to your impression online. When we lay dormant, keep to ourselves and blend in with the rest of the web users, we withhold all of the information, knowledge and true potential we have to offer. If we don’t leave an impression of ourselves, someone else will do it for us. Think of all the endless possibilities life has when we are all connected sharing valuable information and ideas.

The internet is a scary place sometimes but it is just a tool, how we use it will determine its value to us. It is sort of like the rest of the world, if we want to change the way the internet works we need to start with that person in the mirror. We should make our presence known, offer our knowledge and ideas and learn from others who are doing the same. Give it a try, start a blog for yourself. See how easy it is here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rebel U 2011 Planning Underway!

"Innovation Through Collaboration"

The planning has begun! The Technology and Media Team have started planning for Rebel U 2011 and working to provide a dynamic professional development day. The theme for Rebel U 2011 is "Innovation Through Collaboration." We hope that as a district, we can provide collaborative support to one another to build learning environments where students are engaged, empowered, challenged and foster a love of learning.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Managing Technology with Patience

This morning, I saw that Chris VanderSlice tweeted out a link to a blog post he wrote about being patient with technology. He also included a link to a clip of Louis CK on Conan entitled, "Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy" (video embedded below). His post made me think more about how technology has become such an integral part of our daily lives that we often take it for granted or become frustrated when things do not work as expected.

In education, we often rely on technology for many daily tasks - taking attendance, recording grades, presenting lessons, student projects, etc. Each day we expect that the tools necessary for carrying out these tasks will be available, properly functioning and run smoothly without any problems or errors. As those of use who rely on this technology know, this scenario only exists in a perfect world where technology is infallible and all solutions are simple and can be resolved in just a few clicks.

So, what should you do if you rely on technology for instruction or other daily tasks and it is not working?
  1. Take a deep breath. Getting all worked up, instantly frustrated and annoyed is not going to solve your problem.
  2. Ask yourself, "What is the problem? What did I do before the problem occurred?".
  3. If an error message pops up, make note of the error message. This is helpful information for the Technology staff if the issue needs further attention.
  4. Try restarting your computer - This often solves many problems you may have with your computer.
  5. Ask a student. Many students aren't afraid to speak up and provide assistance (when given the chance). Sometimes they may often provide a different point of view that you haven't considered before.
  6. Use the situation as a learning opportunity for you and your students. Your students are always watching and use the situation to model how to handle unforeseen circumstances.
  7. Contact your friendly district Technology support staff with your problem. (Calmly) provide them with specific information. Remember, they weren't there when you encountered the problem.

Some other useful resources for support when technology is less than cooperative:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teacher Spotlight: A Student’s Idea Gets a Chance to Shine

This post was written by Melissa Gill, a 6th grade Reading teacher in the Godfrey-Lee Public School District. Melissa is an enthusiastic teacher who thrives on collaborating with others, using technology as a tool to enhance students' learning experiences and learning about engaging and relevant learning techniques.
The 6th grade students in our 6th Grade Campus have been working on fractions for the past month.  I co-teach with the Math teacher and were trying to decide that morning on what to do as a review for dividing fractions. We decided to do a relay competition, with little preparation on our part and great review for students.  Within each class, groups of students competed for the best group of that class resulting in four student groups that will then compete in a tournament.  The best part of the tournament was the winning student group will then compete against teachers for a trophy.  Teachers competing were non-math teachers of course, to even out the playing field.
Later that afternoon a student was in my room playing with a microphone headset pretending to be an announcer.  He approached me and asked if he and another student could broadcast the upcoming math tournament.  Pleasantly surprised, I told him to ask his friend if he would want to announce the tournament live and if they both were both in agreement, I would do what I could to make it work!
I got an immediate response that they wanted to do it, so I in turn reached out to our Technology and Media Integration Specialist for help.  She suggested using UStream and gave me a crash course on how to use it.  We were both excited about having the students take control of the project.  Two days later, the morning of the tournament I showed the “hosts” how to record the broadcast and then stepped back.  The students took control and practiced how things were going to go; camera position, who was saying what, order of questions, etc.  They were pumped up!  Then it was time for the real deal!

Everyone was all set.  Hosts ready, competitors ready, the rest of the 6th grade patiently waiting in their classrooms watching the projector for the broadcast.  The hosts pressed record and nothing, closed out and tried again, nothing.  This was when I jumped in to help and found UStream decided to go into maintenance when we were ready to broadcast.  Now I started to sweat and my brain starting going through other options if I can’t get this to broadcast.  Thankfully, the Technology and Media Integration Specialist jumped in and mentioned trying another account, Live Stream.  She logged in and got it running in a matter of minutes and the show was on!  Later she told me she had never used Live Stream for a live broadcast before (only having used the chat feature previously) and had no idea if it would work.  I was glad she kept that piece of information from me until afterwards! (The recorded stream can be viewed below or here.)

Watch live streaming video from godfreylee at

With no scripts only their quick wits, the student hosts took charge and did a fantastic job.  They did not need me or any adult to help them host the tournament, they were naturally good.  And yes, these student hosts are also the students that are always talking before, during, and after class.  Their commentary was natural and relaxed with jokes and narrative, proving that they have been paying attention in language arts.

During the last round of the tournament, I had to go into another classroom while those teachers were participating in the tournament.  I was able to experience what the audience was experiencing.  This broadcast was a hit!  The 6th graders were loving every part, laughing, cheering, gasping, clapping.  Instead of watching the broadcast on the screen, I caught myself watching the students watching the broadcast and came to the realization that what I just helped do made a huge impact on these students and their thoughts of what school can be.  This project started from one student’s idea and all I did was provide the means to make it happen.  Now the students are asking to do more competitions in different subjects and to host the next broadcast!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is RebelNet?

RebelNet is a platform used by Godfrey-Lee staff and students to access several district-provided network resources from any device, any where, any time. It provides users with a simple web page where they can log in and see a personalized, customizable web desktop with icons and links to familiar web applications.
There are three types of applications that can be accessed through RebelNet: private, hosted, and public applications.

A private application is one which is managed by the district and runs on district-owned servers. Examples include Infinite Campus (our student information system) and Moodle. These applications can only be used by Godfrey-Lee users. RebelNet provides a secure portal to these applications from inside or outside of the district’s network.

A hosted application is one which is managed by the district but runs on servers belonging to entities outside of the district. The primary example of this is Google Apps for Education. The district manages Google accounts for all staff and students, but everything is stored on Google’s servers. RebelNet provides easy access to these applications by logging you in automatically so that you don’t have to remember an additional username and password.

A public application is one which is completely managed and operated outside of the district. Examples of this include, but are far from limited to, Glogster, Prezi, and VoiceThread. Users must create their own separate accounts on these websites in order to use the applications. RebelNet provides links directly to these applications and can store your usernames and passwords in order to log you in to them automatically.

On top of the different types of applications, RebelNet also provides web-based access to personal and shared files stored on district-owned file servers.

RebelNet provides a single point of access for all of these different types of applications and resources whether you’re on a district computer, a school netbook, a personal laptop, a public library computer, or even your smartphone. Just go to

RebelNet is built on a product called Stoneware webNetwork. For more information on RebelNet, including how-to documents and screencasts, go to

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reaching Beyond the Classroom

For the 2010-2011 school year, our 6th grade is piloting a 1:1 Learning Initiative. As the Technology and Media Integration Specialist for the district, I work closely with these teachers to help them integrate Project-Based Learning and 21st Century teaching and learning models into their learning environment. As this learning model that allows teachers to move away from large-group, teacher-delivered, control-based instruction, there is significant time spent on collaborating, researching and developing resources.

In meeting with the team of 6th grade teachers, we identified some areas that the team wanted to research further - one being the question of, "How do we find resources to use with our students when there is so much out there?". To model a teaching approach, I came up with an idea that would help the teachers find relevant resources, immerse them in the research process and allow me to model some teaching methods that they turn could use in their classrooms. For this activity, I created a wall on LinoIt and asked each teacher to look online and find at least 2 web sites that were relevant to their content area and technology and post them on the wall. The Reading teacher (who co-teaches with the core teachers) and myself found a web site that pertains to each subject area. You can see our collaboration wall below or click here to see it full screen.

This "homework" (as they called it!) was given on a Thursday and we gathered again as a group on the following Monday. We spent time exploring the links that everyone had posted and talked about the process of the activity. In discussing how the teachers found the resources, it was interesting to hear the different approach that each teacher took to finding resources relevant to their content area. Some of the responses I heard:
  • Using the Edmodo forums to see how other teachers are using Edmodo in their classroom and resouces and tips they found helpful.
  • Using the district Delicious site to find relevant sites specific to the standard that is being taught.
  • Use Google as the main search tool to find web sites and resources. Teachers that did this found the choice of keywords to use for their search was important otherwise their search results were too broad.
The teachers found this to be a worthwhile activity because it exposed them not only to resources that were meaningful to them, but to resources that were of interest to their team members. As I continue to meet with the 6th grade team, we hope to continue these open discussions and collaborative work time to learn about how Project-Based Learning and 21st Century teaching and learning methods look within our school.

What are different approaches to embracing a new teaching method and learning style that you have found successful?

Welcome to Our Blog!

Welcome to our blog!  The Godfrey-Lee Technology and Media Team will be using this blog as a platform to share information as it relates to technology, education and all things interesting!  We hope to provide you with an unique perspective on the technology environment within Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and how we strive to build a web-based environment for our staff and students allowing access to resources anywhere, anytime with any device.

We encourage you to leave comments - we enjoy hearing feedback from people!

 The Godfrey-Lee Technology and Media Team


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