Monday, September 26, 2016

Join Us This October: Focusing on Using Technology with Kindness

Like last year, Minnetonka Schools are planning events for Kindness in Chalk Day (Monday, October 3),  National Cyber Safety Month and National Bully Prevention Month.  Last week at its first quarterly meeting, our District Digital Health & Wellness Committee met and discussed ways to merge these events and themes into one. We decided to focus our October efforts on treating one another kindly through our use of technology

See more photos & Tweets from Kindness in Chalk 2015
Staff at each site are planning events to help remind students of the importance of using technology appropriately and positively. On Monday, October 3, most sites will have student leadership groups meet before school to write positive messages on sidewalks before buses arrive with students for the day. Students will learn anti-bullying lessons in classes and teachers will have discussions with students in classrooms about using technology with kindness. There will be many more events that take place and we look forward to see all the things that happen this month to remind students and our community on using technology positively.

One of the things I talk about with students when I travel around the state speaking is the importance of using technology with empathy, compassion, and integrity. As you have discussions with your students and/or children, consider these words and their definitions. Reflect on how they help us to focus on using technology with kindness:

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Compassion is having sympathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Furthermore, consider the explanation below of integrity from Amy Rees Anderson on Forbes and how important it is to think carefully about how we use technology: 
"Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity." 
You can follow our related posts on Twitter: @TonkaSchools #TonkaStrong #KindnessInChalk #WeAreOne

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Monday, September 19, 2016

iPad Setup & AppleIDs Simplified: Out of the Box & Running in Minutes

In the past few weeks we have had over 7,000 students and staff set up an iPad in our new Mobile Device Management system. Half of these students and staff kept their iPad for the summer. The other half turned in their iPad on the last day of school in June and received a new iPad Air 2.

iPad Setup Instructions
For the students and staff who kept their devices over the summer, we provided these instructions on how to erase and self-enroll their iPad into our new Mobile Device Management system, Casper, this summer. Then in August, juniors and seniors came to school early to pick up their new iPad Air 2 and take it home. They were tasked with having it set up and ready to go for the first day of school, September 6, following the same instructions.

Starting on the second day of school and over the following week, we handed out new iPads to all of our fifth and sixth grade students during class. After spending about 45 minutes in class, students had their iPad initially set up (following the same instructions which we also had in the slide deck shown below).

In a later class period, teachers followed up with additional instructions and tips (also shown in the second slide deck below).

Setting up iPads for individual students in 2016 is a much easier task than it was just a year ago because it is now possible to set up new devices without individual Apple ID accounts. This greatly reduced the time we spent setting up devices compared to past year, helping individuals with Apple IDs, forgotten passwords and email addresses. Most students were able to have a working iPad ready to go just a minute or two after turning it on for the first time.
We do still have students use an Apple ID for backing up their iPad itself and Notability notes to iCloud. In the past we had to have Apple send each student’s parent an email for approval, and as you can imagine (or perhaps lived through yourself), spent a lot of time following up with parents to determine if they received the email, resend it, etc. All that headache was gone this year and we were able to create non-commerce Apple IDs for students under age 13 using Apple’s School Manager System without relying on parents’ involvement. Our tech staff even emailed each fifth grader their Apple ID and temporary password to make setup even simpler.

I am thankful for all of the staff who worked so hard this summer and during first week of school to make this year’s rollout run smoothly. I am also thankful for our community and their continued support of technology in our schools.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Technology Shouldn't Be Absent When the Teacher Is: 5 Ways to Ensure Substitutes Are Ready

Just like students, sometimes teachers are absent, whether it is for a meeting, conference, or due to illness. In a teacher's absence, it is critical that the substitute teacher step right in without any problems so the learning continues. Because so much instruction is done with the help of technology, it is also essential that reserve teachers have access to and knowledge about using the necessary technology for uninterrupted learning to happen. Here are five ways to ensure it does:
  1. Training
    For many years we have been providing technology training for our pool of substitute teachers. Each year we offer technology classes that reserve teachers can take to better understand our systems such as SMART Boards, iPads, Schoology, Google Apps for Education, and more. We want reserves to be comfortable enough to jump right in where the regular teacher left off. We offer these classes in August and during the school year.  

  2. Access to Necessary Accounts and Data
    To protect student data and ensure security of our systems, regular classroom teachers do not share their personal login username and passwords with a substitute. Instead, our Technology Department generates logins for reserves. Substitute teachers receive this information from building secretaries when they report to the school office at the start of the day.  These accounts and passwords are frequently changed protect data security.

  3. Access to Needed Hardware
    All of our classrooms have a desktop PC workstation connected to the projector, so the hardware and platform is consistent from room to room and building to building. We don't need to worry about the teacher taking a laptop home with them and there not being technology for the substitute. I was surprised recently to hear a teacher from a different district describing how their teachers use laptops but reserves are left without any computer to use since teachers take them home nightly. If your school uses laptops, be sure to have enough available for every reserve teacher so technology access for instruction can remain consistent and available.

  4. Access to Full and Clear Instructions and Files
    Our teachers leave their sub plans and files in a shared network folder that is accessible to reserve with their login. More and more often, teachers are even recording short videos and screencasts with their instructions prior to their absence, speaking directly to the students so it is clear what the lesson and assignment is. They also post this video to their Schoology classroom website and some even let the students know ahead of time that they will be gone. This eliminates any confusing or reteaching of complex content that could occur when a reserve does not fully understand or explaining things the way the teacher wanted them to do.

  5. Access to Help When Needed
    If the reserve teacher needs help, our Media Center staff is their go to point and first stop for technology questions and issues. We also have offered technology training for our paraprofessionals for years, knowing that this is not only important for them so they can better assist students, but also that a paraprofessional may often help the reserve teacher troubleshoot issues if necessary.
Do you have other tips for successfully preparing your reserve teachers to use technology for instruction? If so, please share them!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Minnetonka Teacher Instructional Technology Coaches

Minnetonka teachers at an instructional technology training
last week led by an Instructional Technology Coach
A key reason for our successful integration of technology in Minnetonka Schools has be due to the support staff we have in place. My position as Director of Instructional Technology & Media Services began in 2003. Starting in 2005, we began allocating additional staff to help with the job of coaching teachers on the meaningful integration of technology. Over the years we have added more teachers as Instructional Technology Coaches. These staff spend anywhere from an hour a day to full time to this role. 

We currently have seven "Tech TOSAs" (Teacher On Special Assignment) for Instructional Technology: we have a full time coach for PreK-5 who travels between buildings, three part time middle school instructional technology coaches (who are 0.4 - 0.8 FTE at two sites), and three part time high school instructional technology coaches (who are 0.4 - 0.8 FTE at our one high school). These teachers remain in their positions for up to four years. I have been fortunate to work with many talented teachers over the past eleven years, and Minnetonka teachers and students have directly benefited from their skills, talent, and expertise. The job description for our Teacher on Special Assignment for Instructional Technology is below:

Job Duties and Responsibilities:
  1. Provide job embedded, before and after school, and extended calendar summer staff development to teachers to support the integration of technology at the individual classroom level as it relates to curriculum, instruction and assessment. 
  2. Assist as needed with the trouble shooting of technology issues related to instructional technology. 
  3. Provide support and professional development with new instructional software and District technology initiatives. 
  4. Collaborate with the Director of Instructional Technology & Media Services, other Tech TOSAs, Teaching and Learning Team, District Technology Department, Principals, Media Specialists, Site Trainers, and Technology Committees to provide the highest level of service and support to teachers. 
  5. Find innovative technology resources that enhance the teaching and learning process. 
  6. Attend and present at local and national technology conferences and events. 
  7. Attend building and District technology related meetings as needed. 
  8. Performs other duties of a similar nature or level.   
Specific Responsibilities:
  1. Willingness to work a flexible yearly schedule, willing to exceed the days in a yearly teacher contract for a stipend, and willingness to work part of August.
  2. Willingness to work a flexible daily/weekly schedule, with possibility of working evenings and/or weekends. 
Training and Experience:
  1. Experienced teacher with successful technology leadership and training responsibilities. 
  2. Demonstrated successful experience working with students and teachers. 
  3. Demonstrated success working with peers or other adults in leadership and/or training roles. 
  4. Past evidence of technology training; documentation creation preferred. 
Knowledge and Skills:
  • Working knowledge of technology hardware and software.
  • In-depth knowledge of iPads and Apple iOS, with evidence of previous teaching and training with iPads experience preferred.
  • In-depth knowledge of Schoology, with evidence of previous Schoology training experience preferred.
  • In-depth knowledge of Google Apps, with evidence of previous Google Apps training experience preferred.
  • In-depth knowledge of SMARTBoards, with evidence of previous SMARTBoard training experience preferred.
  • In-depth knowledge of a variety of other district-wide technologies, with evidence of previous training experience preferred.
  • Understanding of adult learning styles and past history of teaching technology skills to adults.
  • Ability to develop effective and positive working relationships with students, staff, administrators, parents, and the community.
  • Maintain professional composure while dealing with a variety of personalities and situations.  
  • Demonstrated organizational and management abilities.
  • Show initiative and function as a self-starter.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills and interpersonal skills as applied to interaction with coworkers, supervisor, the general public, etc. sufficient to exchange or convey information and to receive work direction.

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