Sunday, June 9, 2019

Summer Learning: Midwest Leadership Summit reflection

Last week, I shared several suggestions for educators to do some summer learning. I am excited to share the first summer learning activity I've done this summer. I was fortunate enough to attend the Midwest Leadership Summit this past week. And it was amazing!!! 

100% a dream come true!

Today I'm going to focus on Day 1 with George Couros. But let me back up a bit ... I bought the book "The Innovator's Mindset" about 2 years ago after reading good reviews. The summary of the book really appealed to me. . . . And then it sat on my shelf, unread. Our curriculum director, Becky Tompkins, pulled it out in a meeting and asked if we'd be interested in a book study. I agreed, thinking now I'd have some accountability in reading it.

Reading doesn't describe what I did with this book! Post-it notes, highlighting, scribbling notes in the margins, texting excited aha's! and "I love this!" messages back and forth is a more accurate description. Nothing in this book is earth shattering. It all simply reaffirms everything I know to be good teaching and learning. The book gave me the opportunity to pump my fist in the air and say, "Yes! THIS is what we need to get back to. THIS is good."

Our team loved it so much, we hosted a district wide professional book study. We gamified it - giving me the opportunity to put into action some much desired attempts at gamification. We incorporated several tech tools to demonstrate classroom application with our teachers. We hoped at least 10 would sign up and we had over 70! Using our LMS, the digital conversations across buildings brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Teachers bravely shared ideas inspired by the book. What an impact it had ... the conversations it sparked ... the relationships it helped me build and strengthen ... the excitement it inspired. Incredible! It was an amazing success!

I then facilitated round #2, as a joint venture between my district and BCESC. Another successful adventure where more teachers from my district and teachers in surrounding districts were able to share in the same wonderful discussion and idea sharing. I followed that with round #3 with even more teachers.

Now ... back to THIS summer. 
When I was invited, I locked in the date on my calendar - no way would I miss this. A great group from my district was attending and I was excited. I arrived early and we snagged the closest tables to the podium. George was finishing setting up, so Becky, my curriculum director, and I jumped on the opportunity to get our books signed and snag a selfie with him. When others from our group arrived, I shared my excitement. Our tech director even teased me about all the post-it notes hanging out of my book. I told him it demonstrated the thinking I was having while reading the book and what better honor could I give George but to show him that thinking he inspired?

We settled in and George began. To demonstrate the power of being a connected educator, George gave me a shout out --- whaaaaaatt????? That blew me away! He covered many of the quotes I've included below and I spent the day listening and reflecting and talking with a room full of people who share the same ideas and goals. Below are just a few of the quotes that had an impact on me while reading. If you've not read this book, maybe these quotes and my reflection on them might encourage you to pick it up. You won't regret it. And if you need someone to chat about it with, please don't hesitate to contact me ( or on Twitter @kiefersj). 

The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros

"Once you stop learning, you start dying."
~ Albert Einstein

The book starts out with this quote. WOW! It drew me in immediately and I think about this quote often. I always think back to college when my dad teased me that I was going to be a perpetual student. (I may have been changing my major for the 3 time ... 🤣) Now I think back and say, "How did he know???" YES! I would absolutely consider myself a perpetual student. What a compliment! I can honestly say I learn something every day. Maybe it's something I planned to learn, other times it's things I need to learn to do my job, and still other times, it's something I didn't expect to learn.

"If you don't believe in your idea, why would anyone else?"
~ #InnovatorsMindset

This one really speaks to me on a personal level. I had been toying with the idea of blogging for a while. I made excuses. I found other things to do. I reasoned with myself that no one would read it ... after all, I wasn't a writer. Reading this quote really hit home. If I didn't believe in it, of course no one else would! So I decided to take the leap, and with continued support from my husband, I published my 1st entry on November 18, 2017. I set the goal to write once per week, and for the most part, I've been successful . . . And I've had a lot of positive feedback. (Thank you, George! I might not have started sharing out if not for this.)

"... innovation is not about changing everything, sometimes you only need 
to change one thing."
~ George Couros

This quote has meant a lot, not just to me, but for many of the teachers I work with. This allows us to be human. This encourages us to make change possible. All of us can identify ONE thing to adjust/change/modify/overhaul and follow through to make it happen. ONE thing. Take one step. The enemy to this thinking, most often, is ourselves. When I'd talk with teachers about what they wanted to try/do/add/modify, we'd talk about this quote. I reassure them they didn't need an overhaul. They should only look at ONE thing to change. I firmly believe, once that "ONE thing" happens, another one thing will happen, and then another, and so on.

"... innovate inside the box."
~ George Couros

This final quote is one I talk about most often. Changing one thing allows us the grace to start. Innovating inside the box brings together the real world with the dream world, in a very realistic way. The way I explain this quote is to take all of the challenges we face and STILL DO SOMETHING to make learning work for our learners. We DO have limits with finances, personnel, state & curricular mandates, as well as time, and many more limits. All of these are limited. And 99% of the time, we can't do anything about these ... we have to exist within these. Wishing and hoping they change won't help. However, we don't have to allow them to be "game-over". We can exist within these and make wonderful things happen for our learners. That's where the challenge is - that's where the true beauty and joy will be found. 

Let's work together to flourish within the boundaries around us. Truthfully, isn't that what we want our students to do, too?

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Summer 2019 Learning You Can Do

Hello, summer vacation!!! Take a deep breath ... slow down ... enjoy coffee on the porch ... take a nap ... sleep in/stay up late NOT grading or planning! ... use the bathroom whenever you want ... shall I continue? 

Most teachers enjoy a slower pace on their summer breaks. I also know many teachers use - at least part of - their summer break to do some professional learning. I'm one of them. 

I often hear how kids are sponges ... I feel like I am, too! I honestly love learning. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't learn something. It's usually not earth-shattering. (I think that would get old real quick!) 

Last year I posted a few ideas ["Summer 2018 Learning You Can Do"] and I feel like this is such a good topic, I want to expand a bit more this year. I've found many non-traditional methods of learning that I've come to not only love, but depend on.

🔊 Podcasts

If you've followed me for awhile, you know I 💖 podcasts! I am a faithful follower of several. I listen on my drive to & from work several times a week. I listen while my daughters have soccer practice. I listen when I go for walks. I listen when I fold laundry or make breakfast. I focus mostly on edtech podcasts, but your options really are limitless. 

Podcasts are perfect for on-the-go learners. When I'm driving, I can't read ... but I can listen. When I'm at soccer practice, wifi isn't good. And while I love music (I listen to that when I run), when I'm walking, I get lost in my thoughts, and most of the time, my thoughts lead right to edtech. Podcasts can range from a few minutes to an hour or more.

I don't just listen. More often than not, I get ideas that I share with a specific teacher based on conversations I've had with them. I use it to create something. I tweet out a connection I've made to the podcast. Basically - I share it with someone. I encourage you to do the same.

Looking for suggestions? I've highlighted several podcasts over the past year. The label is #PodPeeks, or click HERE. ALL very good! If you want quick suggestions check out the shelf below.

📚 Reading

I also 💗 to read. Ever since I was a child, I have loved to read. I subscribe to several blogs - love how they arrive TO me. I click on links others tweet out. I have joined several Facebook groups and read things shared within these communities. I do very much the same thing when I find good stuff by reading ... I'll email it, or tweet it, or text it to the person/people I think would benefit from it.

There are also many phenomenal books focused on education, whether philosophy, pedagogy, or specific content. Often, the authors or various groups will run book studies. Better yet, gather a few of your teacher friends, agree on a book, then set a date to meet and talk about the book. (Tip: often you can find discussion questions online, or just have each reader bring a question or two to discuss.) Share. Talk about it.

Looking for suggestions? I have a list at the VERY bottom of my site of good ones (scroll until you can't scroll anymore). Looking for a few quick suggestions right now? Check out the "shelf" below. All GREAT reads!

🎒 Continuing Education

There are loads of classes - online & in person - you can take. It might help to contact your Curriculum Director. Many times they are able to guide you to good ones. Are you looking to advance your degree? You'll want to ensure you also get PD credit, too, so be sure to check with your LPDC before investing any money. There are many online options to check into, so choose wisely.

Interested in working to become a Google Certified Educator Level 1? I am facilitating an online course this summer through BCESC - Butler County Educational Services Center - on becoming a Google Certified Educator Level 1. I'd love for you to join us. It's set up to be done in your own time ... as your summer allows. I've included due dates, but only to guide you to complete before August 1. Interested? Click the LINK to register. If you use GSuite in your classroom, this is a perfect way to earn continuing education credit.

👥 Workshops/Conferences

Summertime can also be a great time to attend a conference or workshop! During the school year, getting a sub and writing sub plans can often be very difficult. Summertime can allow you to attend without these. Are you looking for workshops/conferences in your area? Most conferences will be posting information on social media & have hashtags you can follow, even if you don't attend.

Here are a few to get you started:

* Edsurge US K-12 Education Technology Conferences 2019  [website for additional info]
"The EdSurge K-12 Education Technology Conferences calendar PDF lists the dates and locations of more than 60 K-12 edtech conferences and events in the United States for 2019, big and small, that should be on your radar." Several of the ones below are included.

* Teach with Tech Conference online conference (July 22-24) [website for more info]
Completely free (option to purchase a "ticket" in order to have access to replays for 1 year) online conference with some big edtech names! 60+ VIDEO SESSIONS from 60 SPEAKERS. I've got my ticket ... and I'm looking forward to tuning in!

* [website for more info] is an online portal for access to loads of online webinars to watch. There is plenty of variety - you'll be sure to find something of value to you.

* Eric Curts webinars [website for webinars] 
Eric has posted over 15 Google-focused webinars available for you to watch. Take a short quiz afterwards and earn a certificate for it. Free!

* ISTE Conference in Philadelphia,PA (June 23-26) [website for more info]
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference is probably the biggest edtech conference there is. I've never attended but I have heard some pretty amazing things about this. I'd be willing to put money down that you will find something that will work for you.

* High AIMS in Fairfield, OH (Aug 1 & 2) [website for more info]
High AIMS is an organization committed to supporting school districts in SW Ohio. Each summer, a conference is held to allow educators “creating a network of leaders who inspire students and one another to be engaged, high performing learners.” If you are in the area, there is still time! Register HERE

***Bonus - I'll co-presenting a few sessions! I'd love to see you there!

* SPARCC at Stark State College in North Canton, OH (Aug 9) [website for more info]
For the 15th year, SPARCC is hosting an educational technology conference. Registration is FREE, but you must register. 

***Bonus - I'll be heading up to co-present with my colleague, Beth Kingsley. 

Shall I continue? 😊 There is no end to the learning you can do this summer! Books, podcats, in-person, virtual, and more. You have so many options.

Don't make excuses, make it happen!

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at

Monday, May 27, 2019

Celebration You Can Do

I'll keep it short ... it's a holiday after all! 

Maybe this week you are wrapping up your school year -- finish strong! 
Maybe you are enjoying your first week out of school like me -- yea! 
Or maybe you still have some time to go -- you got this! 

I'll be back next week with some summer learning opportunities & ideas.

. . . . In the mean time, enjoy your holiday!

P.S. If you are curious, Memorial Day is an American holiday where we honor all the men and women who have died while serving our country in the military. It's always on the final Monday in May. Interested in a short video (less than 4 minutes)? Check out this one's ↬ .

Monday, May 20, 2019

Reflection ... and a Look Ahead ... You Can Do

I had an unexpected conversation last week that led to some great thinking and sharing. In order to explain, I'll need my "soapbox" ... in honor of Jake Miller of the Educational Duct Tape podcast.

I was returning a repaired Chromebook to a 4th grade classroom at the end of the day and I ended up chatting with the teacher for a bit. I had just spent time with two of her classes. We had been cleaning up their Google Drives in preparation for them to move to our middle school this fall. (This is a great opportunity to teach them some digital organization: the 2 views of Drive, how to keep/remove "Quick Access", make folders, delete/move items, etc ... but that's a topic for another blog.)

I asked the teacher if there was anything else she would like to cover or anything she wished we could do. She mentioned her wish that students couldn't change their backgrounds. I paused for a minute before responding. [This isn't the first time I've encountered this wish.] And I simply asked, "Why?"

She proceeded to tell me how students spend a lot of time changing the backgrounds and some aren't super appropriate. She also feels it's just a time sucker. I agreed - because it can be a time sucker - and having knowledge of the Google Admin Console, I know full well we can restrict this. I met her eye and told her this was in fact possible. She looked slightly surprised, so I quickly continued. 

Ahem .... enter ..... my soapbox ......

We live in a digital world and in our district, we are 1:1 with Chromebooks from 1st through 12th grade. (We even have a mix of iPads and Chromebooks in our kindergarten classrooms.) We provide them with digital accounts and access to various programs to enhance their learning. We want, no - we expect our students to use them. We want them to create using them. We also expect the students take care of the devices. And we know full well, that long after they stop coming in our doors, they will be employed in a job that can almost be guaranteed to use a device of some kind. 

So this leads me to the following ...

Should we restrict everything? 

If not, how much do we restrict?

Is this in their best interest? Or ours?

Is this a good philosophy to utilize? 

Do we do this to maximize learning time and minimize distractions?

OR . . . do we use this as another teaching and learning opportunity? 

We would never expect a 1st grader to read and understand a book written by Shakespeare or solve complex physics problems. In that same thinking, we can't expect them to understand how to do (or not do) things on a device until we scaffold and teach them and provide time and opportunity to practice.

I proposed to her the following idea ... We want them to want to take care of their Chromebook. So, what if, next year, they allowed students to change their backgrounds? [Imagine her surprise! ... but let me continue ...] I reminded her students spend a LOT of time on their Chromebooks and we want them to feel some type of ownership over them. I suggested she decide a time frame she (ideally, along with her team) is good with, and set aside time to allow students to change their background during that time. It doesn't have to be long, 5 min per month is plenty! I offered to be available to help with this. 

And when the time comes, remind them THIS is the time to change backgrounds. Therefore, if they change backgrounds at other times, it's not ok and they can handle that the same as when students don't follow other rules.

I also told her she has every right to deem backgrounds appropriate and inappropriate. In fact, this is a conversation I hope they have them their students. Often! I went on to challenge her to stop and think about it. I said I was willing to bet the vast majority of  the backgrounds ARE school appropriate. (She agreed.) And just like anything else, if a student has an inappropriate background, she can instruct them to change it and if they change it to an inappropriate one again, treat it like any other discipline infraction. (I even suggested that if a student violates this too much, change their background to a very generic one and then if they are caught with anything else, additional discipline will be incurred.)

The final thought I shared was this. If she has these conversations now this hopefully can translate into a long-lasting positive impact on them as they grow up. I said the likelihood of her 4th graders choosing something SUPER inappropriate was small, and she can use this as a teachable moment. We can't talk to our students enough about what is and is not appropriate in this digital age.

Now, as I step down off my soap box, I hope I have shared a little nugget for you to ponder. Will YOU be the teacher who dares to talk with your students about appropriate and inappropriate digital actions? Will YOU be the teacher who allows students to make small mistakes and learn from them before they are huge mistakes with REAL and strong consequences? Will YOU be the teacher who decides one conversation isn't enough?

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at

Monday, May 13, 2019

A School App You Can Do

A few months ago, I wrote about creating an "app" using Google Slides, "Your Very Own App You Can Do". I focused on using it for our traveling purposes and even shared a template for one. There are many good ideas packed into that article.

I'm back with one geared specifically for a teacher to use as communication in and for the classroom. Newsletters are good, emails are better, digital platforms allowing direct communication even better, but to have something that will allow a constant stream of communication is ideal. As much as I love using Google Slides to create this method of communication, I firmly believe only YOU will know if it is best for your students, their parents, and your situation.

There are so many pieces to communicate as a teacher. But, as a teacher - one who uses these pieces every day multiple times a day - it doesn't feel like a big deal to navigate between all of them. As a parent, it's overwhelming and even aggravating! (Especially if you have children at different schools who use different platforms.)

Imagine this ... different pieces of your classroom brought into ONE location?!?!

It can be done!!! Using a Google Slide, you can organize, provide information, even link outside programs in a manageable way that makes it really easy for parents to navigate and use. And because it's a Google Slide, you can view it from the web, mobile, or tablets. You can also edit it from the web, mobile, or tablets.

I've created a template that you are welcome to make a copy of and hit the ground running! I've included instructions and tips for each slide, as well as the beginnings of ideas and placements. The beautiful thing about a Google Slide as an app, everything ... literally, everything, is customizable! The proportions, for example - I believe a useful app would be used mostly on a mobile device. You can change the setup of a Slide by going into "File", scroll down to "Page Setup" and then select "Custom". I maximized to proportions of the templates I created by customizing to 8.5 x 11 inches. However, if you believe most of your viewers will use your app on a computer, you may want to size it to maximize your dimensions to best fit a computer screen.

Check out "Your Very Own School App You Can Do" template. You can view it on your computer as a Google Slide. You can also click the blue "Use Template" in the top right corner and have a copy that is yours to adjust and manipulate to suit you.

If you click on this "Your Very Own School App You Can Do" link, you can view it on your phone like an app. When you open the link, it will open in your web browser, and then find the share button and then select the 'Add to Home Screen'. It will add it as an "app" icon to your mobile screen. This is a perfect option for parents, or students who use tablets. If