Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Only #ISTE2015 Post You Need to Read

I thought it would be a good time to send out a post on #ISTE2015 for all of the first time attendees out there. I've done others in years past, (Star Wars ISTE Guide, 10 Things I Hate About You ISTE 2011ISTE 2012 Guide)There are plenty of great resources out there, but I wanted to share with all of you the tips that have worked for me over the past 5 events I have attended.

1. Wear comfortable shoes

You will be walking al lover the place every day. You will be walking to sessions and places to eat. You will be going up and down stairs and rushing to the bathroom. If you have a nice pair of shoes you want to show off during the night, back them in your bag and take them out for the dance party. Comfort is key as you rush from one session to the next.

2. Bring the power

No matter what you might think, you will need your charger at some point during the day. You will need to plug into an outlet and recharger your phone, tablet, laptop, etc. Do not be the awkward person asking to borrow another person's charger during a session. Have it with your and ready to plug in at the nearest outlet. 

3. Sitting in Sessions

Find the seat closest to an outlet so you can charge your devices while you are learning a think or two. 

4. Stay Hydrated

Lots and lots of water will be good for you as you move around all day. You might not feel it during the day, but it will hit hard when you decide to have a good time with your friends in the evening. Buy a water bottle and fill it up throughout the day. You need to stay hydrated if you are going to keep your brain going. 

5. Eat

Do not skip your meals during the day. Make the time to eat breakfast and have a nice lunch. Dinners are a time for friends to get together and hang out. Lunches are always hectic because sessions are running all the time. These might be more of a fast paced snack than a full meal. Make sure you save time to eat. 

6. Stop in the hallways

Make sure you take the time to stop and engage people outside of the sessions. These are the places where the best conversations can take place. Meet the people you have followed online all year face to face. Share a few laughs about stuff that has nothing to do with technology or education. Be funny, be silly, but most importantly, be you. 

7. Have a good time

Have a very good time at #ISTE2015. It is your chance to share with others and learn from others, but you should have a good time. Avoid the drama and just hangout with friends, attend a few sessions, visit the vendors, find me and say hello, and just be you. You will have a blast. 

8. Find +Kyle Pace (@KylePace) and give him a hug

Tell him Nick sent you. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

No Thank You Needed

I was telling a friend that a student thanked me for a good year and for making them like English for the first time. It was a nice moment in a long year that really meant something to me. My friend asked me if it bothered me that more students do not thank me. It was such a weird question. I really don't think about it, but here are some thoughts I shared with them.

I never signed up to teach for the thank you. Not just from students, but admins as well. This is a not a job where people can thrive on thank you. The look on a student's face when they finally understand something is worth more than any thank you they could offer. 

They thank yous I have received over the years are beautiful and are something I hold dear. I think we could all thank people more than we do for the nice things that happen every day. Maybe it's sad that I do not expect thanks for what I do every day for students. I just never got into teaching for the thanks. I got into teaching to maker a difference. I can do that without the thanks, but when I do get them, they are stored in a special place so I can revisit them when times are tough.

Take a moment and thank someone who is awesome. It will make their day.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why TEDx Matters

On Saturday, 17 students from Grosse Pointe South High School are going to get up on stage in front of 100 members of the community and hundreds more on the livestream to share something that matters to them. 

TEDxGrossePointeSouthHS is one of hundreds of TEDx events that take place all over the world. Most people have seen the Talks that feature celebrities sharing interesting stories and the ones that go viral around the world. That can be great, but that is not what TEDx is about. 

TEDx gives all people an equal chance to be heard. Everyone has a voice on the TEDx stage. This fact is why TEDx matters. My students have access to the same stage as everyone else. I want my students to feel like their voice matters and TEDx allows them to share what matters to them. They do not have to feel marginalized because they are teens. 

20 Time is at the heart of this event, but the students that want to speak at TEDx choose to take the extra step and share something that matters to them to everyone. 20 Time did not go exactly as planned and some might think it should be shut down as an ineffective of reaching students. Watching my students prepare for the event as organizers and speakers shows me why 20 Time matters and what TEDx can bring out of students.

I'm so proud of the students who have worked hard this year to speak at TEDxGPSHS. They are one reason why I teach.

If you would like to watch this year's event, check out the livestream at 1PM EST Saturday June 6. 

If you are interested in TED-Ed Club to your school, check out this link.

           TEDxGPSHS 2014

Saturday, May 30, 2015


I'm sitting in the classroom and the gauge is on E. I'm not the only one though.

Being "on" all the time is simply exhausting. For those of us that expend every ounce of energy we have to be there for our students, the end of the year is tough. It's just trying to squeeze a few more miles out of a bone dry gas tank. 

I've been away from Social Media for the past few weeks. I've just been too tired to be active. There are so many awesome things going on in my classroom, but I can't find the energy to write about them. I'm just on empty. 

I've built a Makerspace for my school and have put together over 60K in grants and donations for it. I helped put together a video to make a sick student smile. I've set up TEDxGPSHS so students can share their stories. I've been a shoulder for many students to use as the burden of their lives gets too much to bare. Even though I know I'm not alone in these stories, it doesn't make feeling empty any better.

Is all of the energy expended during the year worth it if I'm a shell at the end? Am I "Highly Effective" if I crawl to the finish line? Should striving to be the best require so much that there is nothing left? 

I wish I knew the answer to these questions. 

Maybe I do. 

I mean, I always come back for more. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #37 #BbK12Live

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #37 #BbK12Live

I've partnered with BlackboardK12 to share out the awesome sessions they are having this Fall. Educators can sign up to attend and share with other great educators what they have learned. I'll featurae the session and the description on my blog each week and on my Twitter account. If you have questions, feel free to shoot a tweet to @BlackboardK12. Have fun learning and sharing!

iReach: Incorporating Blackboard as a Cornerstone for Digital Conversion

Maryville City Schools, a small, public Tennessee school district of 5000 students, will be sharing their first year implementation story of using Blackboard as a cornerstone product for the district’s digital conversion model, iReach. Presenters will focus on sharing information about the preparation and training for a successful implementation in grades K-12. In addition, details will be highlighted regarding our development of a 3-year plan, building instructional capacity, and establishing a strong communication system with our stakeholders.

Amy Vagnier, Principal, Foothills Elementary School
Andy Lombardo, Instructional Technology Coach/ Technology Coordinator, Maryville Junior High School
Jodi Eanes, STEM Teacher/ Technology Coordinator
John Sevier Elementary School; Maryville Public Schools

Amy Vagnier has served as principal at Foothills Elementary School (Maryville, TN) since 2006. In addition to her responsibilities as principal, she also serves as iREACH leader for the 1:1 digital conversion in the Maryville City school district. In this role, Mrs. Vagnier is working with instructional, technical, and communication teams to implement a phased transition to the utilization of 1:1 devices in 2015. In addition to her leadership roles, Amy’s classroom experience includes teaching in grades 1, 4, and 5. Mrs. Vagnier has also worked in gifted education, as a technology coordinator, and as a writing instructor for teachers at the state level. She holds an Ed.S. in Administration and Supervision and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction.

Andy Lombardo is an Instructional Coach/Technology Coordinator for Maryville Junior High School and a Blackboard Coordinator for Maryville City Schools. In his eleven years in education, he has worked primarily as an English teacher who worked to incorporate science and technology into the core curriculum. He has previously served as an Educator Intern at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont as a researcher for Discover Life in America and the All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, in the Education Department at the Knoxville Zoological Gardens, was selected as a participant in the Toyota International Teacher Program to Galapagos, and completed an EarthWatch research fellowship monitoring mammals in Costa Rica.

Jodi Eanes is a STEM Teacher/Technology Coordinator for John Sevier Elementary School. Jodi has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She has been in education for 17 years with experience teaching first grade, technology for second-fourth grades, and currently STEM for second-third grades. In addition to her classroom responsibilities, she provides professional development and support for teachers implementing technology into their classrooms. Jodi is currently working to implement a 1:1 digital conversion in Prekindergarten through third grade using tablet devices.


Amy Vagnier
Twitter: @aevagnier

Andy Lombardo
School twitter handle is @mjhsrebels and personal twitter is @andylombardo

Jodi Eanes

Monday, June 1, 2015 3:30 PM EST

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 Here is the playlist where you can watch this recorded session and other sessions you might have missed.