Sunday, April 5, 2020

Video Conferencing You Can Do

About a month ago, I would NEVER had guessed that I would be returning from Spring Break ready to continue with distance learning in my district, let alone across Ohio & much of the world! This is new territory for everyone!

Video conferencing has been around for awhile ... but before March 13, I hadn't done much of it. Since then, I've stopped counting the number video conferences I've been a part of. And not only is it "normal" for me, it's also "normal" for my own daughters.

When my district moved into distance learning, several of us began working through what would become guides for our teachers. I won't profess perfection, and we learned a lot by reading and talking with others. We did formulate a plan and have moved forward with it.

My district decided to utilize Zoom. Is it right for you? I can't say. We decided this was the best plan for ourselves after weighing pros/cons of a few different platforms. EVERY platform will have pros/cons so please don't think that I am saying Zoom is better than others. It is what we decided on. But, I do feel like the guidelines we shared can work for ANY video platform.

I am sharing this out today in case you are interested in something to help guide what you do & don't do while video conferencing. As with anything I share, please feel free to make a copy & modify to fit you & your district better. I've kept it very simple, as I believe simplicity is best, especially right now. I also do not believe the focus should be on the "tool" ... it should always be focused on the usage and goal of the tool. 

I recreated the doc for our district on Slides, to make it more visual. Below the one for teachers, I created a VERY generic video conferencing tips for students. This one is not specific to any platform.

Here is the one for teachers:


Want to make your own copy? ↬ Link to "View Only" (please use File --> Make a copy)


Here is the one for students:


Want to make your own copy? ↬ Link to "View Only" (please use File --> Make a copy)

I hope these guides help. 

As always, if you have a comment or question, please feel free to comment below, reach out on Twitter (@kiefersj), or email me (sarah@techyoucando.com).


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Remote Learning By the Numbers You Can Do

W O W.

It's been a little more than 2 weeks since Governor DeWine ordered the closure of all schools in Ohio. I was sitting in the Curriculum Department when he made the announcement. I look back at that day & feel like it was surreal. I'll remember that day forever. We had been anticipating an announcement of some kind - but the swiftness was overwhelming. The next day was a pre-planned in-service day for my district and we pivoted from what we had planned on doing, to prepare for what it would mean to teach remotely.

Here I am, 2 weeks later. We used 2 calamity days and 8 days of remote learning. I can honestly say that nothing - and everything - in my teaching career has allowed me the strength to sit here and write this to you. I have no magical answers; I have no "right" answers; and I have no idea how much longer we will continue remote learning. But what I DO know is this:

  • I will not be broken by this.
  • I will be stronger because of this.
  • I will make mistakes and learn from them.
  • I will cry and dry my tears.
  • I will be upset - even angry. And then I will channel that anger into something productive.
  • I will see my colleagues create amazing digital lessons.
  • I will see students do some pretty cool things at home.
  • I will see my district leadership guide us through this time of uncertainty with grace and strength that even they didn't know they had.
  • I will see a change in education that will hopefully prove to be for the better. 
I know these things to be true even though all of this stems from something so unexpected, so strange, and so unwanted.


This week is spring break for me. And it's one more thing that will be pivoting. One more thing that will be changed. I had been looking forward to 5 days of being home while my family carried on with their normal lives. This was what I expected. Instead, I will work with my daughters on their schoolwork. I will be thankful my husband is still employed and has a job he is needed at. I will work on school "stuff" - even though I know I don't have to. I will also do some of the things I had planned previously ... and I'll get to that in a minute.

I have focused my writing on activities and lessons that you can take and do in your classroom. I don't share a lot about my personal life. But today I am going to open up a bit. I feel like I need to be more open. Contrary to what many might think, computers and technology aren't my whole life. I do unplug and I do have other hobbies. 

For one, running has been a major part of my life since college. I have completed several half-marathons and 5ks. I run 3 or 4 times a week. On the other days, I do a fast-walk or the Maxtrainer. I've also included planks to strengthen my core.

I journal daily. Not like the narrative type - I shared my journal style two weeks ago in "Uncertain Times You (& I) CAN Do." I have done this faithfully since late December. It has given me focus, routine, and a means to reflect. I am encouraging my daughters to do the same.

And I LOVE DIY. I love watching it and trying things on my own. I grew up watching "This Old House" and I still am a faithful viewer. While I do not have a huge repertoire of tools, I do own several and they come in handy quite often. And many assume my husband does the work, but he finds DIY frustrating and allows me to do it. He's MUCH better at the outside work. He loves taking care of our yard and plants and all of that. I have brown thumb. I couldn't identify more than a couple of flowers and 1 tree - my favorite, a Japanese maple. We balance each other well in this respect.

First completed floor
A handful of years ago, we ripped up the carpet and vinyl flooring on our first floor and replaced it with a click-together flooring. While we were mostly happy, we've realized it wasn't the best option for kids and dogs. We've sorely needed to replace carpet on our 2nd floor. Can you guess what I had planned for spring break? That is my big project. I am replacing all the carpet in our bedrooms, hallway, and closets. No small feat. It also allows me to work out some stress and frustration. We had the flooring picked out, so on weekends that might have been spent at soccer fields, I am spending it replacing the floors upstairs. So far, I'm proud to share I've completed 2 bedrooms, about half of the hall, and I'm heading into our youngest daughters bedroom today.

All of this leads me to the share I have for today. As I was working to figure out a cut around a doorway Thursday night, I started thinking about all the things I have/haven't done over these past two weeks. And with the "By the Numbers" template Ryan O'Donnell (@creativeedtech) shared a while ago as inspiration, I've created "Remote Learning By the Numbers ... So Far." 

Here is mine for the past two weeks. I am thinking I will update it again at some point. (Maybe while it's all over. Maybe after spring break. Maybe I won't.) It sure would be fun to see some others Remote Learning By the Numbers ... So Far. Please share yours! 



Would you like to use mine to make a copy for yourself? Feel free! Here is a link to my Google Drawing. You are welcome to make a copy & modify it to fit yourself.

If you have any questions or comments or if I can help, PLEASE reach out. Please comment below, reach out on Twitter, @kiefersj, or email me at Sarah@techyoucando.com.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Uncertain Times You (& I) CAN Do

Today's post was originally going to be incredibly different from what I'm writing ... it's hard to even believe. A week ago, I was coming off the high of working on a wonderful project (which I was going to share, but I'll now save for next week) and now I'm at the beginning of a mandated 3 week shut-down of school.

Let's start by saying this: these are uncertain and historic times. I could NEVER have anticipated this. Prior to Thursday, my district hadn't even closed a single day for the flu! I had been aware of the stress and concern over the COVID-19 disease through my email threads but it hadn't really hit home. When I received the request from Becky, my curriculum director, on Wednesday asking us to clear Thursday morning schedules to meet and help plan for the potential closure ... it hit home. She never asks us to clear our schedule.

During our pre-planned in-service day Friday, we rolled out the best plan we could to our staff. Becky had already given the staff her expectations and guidance via an email. She & other district leaders were making their way to each building on Friday to address the staff in person and answer questions. I was to work with my elementary buildings to come up with distance learning opportunities. As I worked with each grade level team, I reiterated Becky's expectations and did my best to support them. I was so impressed with these teams that I left Friday feeling incredibly confident in our elementary plan for distance learning.


I want to share a few of my take-aways from Thursday & Friday, as well as my plans for the next 3 weeks.


Take-away #1 - 
THIS IS HISTORIC. I've had snow days off school. I've had cold days off school. I even had a few days off when the remnants of a hurricane created a multi-day power outage (important to note I'm in Ohio). I've never had a governor-mandated closure. As one of the kindergarten teams noted in their letter home ... we are all witnessing history! We will all look back one day and remember this. We will learn from these days and we will -hopefully- be stronger.

Take-away #2 -
This is NOT a vacation. This is more so for the mom in me ... I have 3 daughters who are also out of school. They know this isn't normal and I don't want them to be scared. But literally ALL of their activities have been cancelled. ALL of them. As we ate dinner last night, we talked about it not being a vacation. The younger two were sent home with most of their workbooks and the oldest has her school-issued device. They will be expected to be doing "something". I told them we aren't going to stay up late and sleep in late and we are going to have some designated learning time. (Don't worry, I'm not super mean - but I have always believed in a routine of some kind!)

Take-away #3 -
This is NOT homeschooling. I am not becoming a homeschooling mom overnight. I even tried my best to stress this to my teachers, we can't expect the parents of our students to become teachers either. I want my girls to have learning opportunities during this time - preferably from their teachers - but at the least, reading books, doing some writing, and practicing math in some way. I'm not interested in mastering 3 different grade levels worth of content, nor do I want my daughters to be stressed over gaining 3 weeks worth of curriculum at home during this time. Let's be honest - we need to stay healthy and maintain where we are now. Also, we are going to have a LOT of family time, too. We need to keep busy in a different way because we are going to be together a LOT. (Even more so if my husband is told not to come into work any more either ...)

Take-away #4 -
We WILL be slowing down. While this is being forced upon us, I'm not going to say it's all bad. I had even commented in my blog just last week, that time hasn't been my friend and if I could have skipped sleeping, I would have. Guess what? I now have enforced time to really slow down. No running to soccer or basketball or dance ... no cramming in dinner ... no need to set my alarm (but I will ... keep reading to find out why) ... and so on. We are going to experience a very different way of looking at time.

Take-away #5 -
I can choose what I want to focus on. I better understand COVID-19. I better understand it's potential impact. I better understand how I can be smart about protecting myself & my family. Armed with this knowledge, I also am better able to focus. I will focus on keeping things simple ... keeping things "normal" ... keeping things "regular" ... and helping my family and colleagues to do the same. It'll be a different looking normal and regular, but I'm eager to learn.

With all of this being said ... what am I planning to do?

Project #1: Daily planning
Continue my daily planning. Around Christmas break, I started each day with a daily plan. I had listened to Rachel Hollis (of the "Girl, Wash Your Face" fame) and she shared the journaling she had been doing for years. I have faithfully done this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since. I set my alarm for 10 minutes earlier, just to fit it in. It has been a fabulous way to start my day and looking back at previous days really helps me to see what I have/haven't accomplished. I'm going to insert the "plan" that I've followed, slightly adapted from Rachel's plan. Feel free to use it or adjust it.

My "take" on Rachel Hollis' journal.

Project #2: Blogging
I've got a plan rolling around in my head how I can use these next 3 weeks to better support my colleagues (and you, my readers). Nothing wild and crazy, but what a better time to try out a new idea than when I'm not incredibly pressed for time? Look for something soon! 

Project #3: Keeping in Touch
I am planning on keeping in touch with my colleagues over this time - so here's your warning! ๐Ÿ˜ We have to keep this time away as human as possible. There's always the phone, video conferencing, texting, and email (and probably more options I'm not remembering right now).

Project #4: Keeping a Routine
Like I mentioned above, I'm going to stick to a routine. I'm not going to get up at the same time, but I AM going to set my alarm so I keep my body in a rhythm. I'm not going to stay up until all hours of the night. (I'm going to do the same for my daughters.) I'm going to keep up my workout routine - as much for my mental health as for my physical health. We are going to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner around "normal" times. We might even do some "home ec" and do some baking and cooking! We are also going to do school work Monday-Friday and keep weekends less structured.

Project #5: Home Improvements
What better time to tackle some home improvement than a time where staying home is being encouraged? We've already painted my oldest daughter's bedroom and now we are moving on to replacing carpet with new flooring. My girls are getting some much needed manual labor experience!

Project #6: Continue My Own Learning
I'm currently taking a break in-between coats of trim paint to write this. Since this is really a one-person job, I am able to catch up on some podcasts. While my girls do their reading, I'm going to be able to read books of my own! This is something I've really gotten away from. First up - "Vintage Innovation" by John Spencer. There are a few online activities I might also dip my toe into ...



My bottom-line is I'm going to do my best to keep myself (and my family in as "normal" a routine as possible so we don't get lost in the crazy of this time. We are going to navigate this time - together - as best as we can. I hope that you do as well. Don't be afraid to reach out if you are not feeling connected ... we are all here and we are blessed enough to have multiple ways to connect without being in person. Please take care of yourself and your family and stay healthy!

And when we go back ... and we WILL go back ... I hope I do it better and stronger than I did before. ๐Ÿ’–

If you have any questions or comments or if I can help, PLEASE reach out. Please comment below, reach out on Twitter, @kiefersj, or email me at Sarah@techyoucando.com .

#WeAREBetterTogether


Monday, March 9, 2020

Innovation You Can Do

Have you had a period of time where it doesn't matter how you look at it, time isn't your friend? That has been me the last month or so. So many GOOD things going on and if I had the ability to completely skip sleeping I would have done so! I chose the word "Intentional" for my word this year and I am struggling to be true to it. My blogging was one of the items that needed to be put on hold while I completed other projects.

One of my BIGGEST projects has been my Google Innovator project. I am nearing the 6 month point and I feel like it's a great time for an update. I am blessed to have 3 amazing educators working through my project with me. I have a great cohort and coach working with me. And my mentor is incredible.

I've kept my project on the quiet side, mostly because I am protective of it and like most people, I really worry about putting it out there. It kind of feels like I'm letting one of my "babies play in traffic" ๐Ÿ˜† by sharing.

Deep breath ... here's the background. For my application to the Google Innovator Academy, I had to identify a problem I saw in education. I had to share my problem as a video. I am no video expert, but I am pretty proud of this video. I used the skills I had, and with the photo skills of my youngest daughter, and a few free pieces of tech (remove.bg, the Noun Project, Bensound, Screencastify, and few others) to create it.


I was elated to find out in August I had been accepted to the #NYC19 Google Innovator cohort! At the academy, they put us through the Design Thinking process with the help of Les McBeth and other Innovators. Let me just say, those were 3 FULL days packed with thinking, re-thinking, and thinking some more! It was an amazing experience I will carry with me forever.

And my project was born ... "Innovation You Can Do".

Truly, the best part of my job is working with teachers and students. Therefor, my project focuses on creating a framework, a structure, that - I hope - anyone can use to take their idea from the "spark" to the "launch". I've had many teachers throw an idea out but then follow with they don't know where to start (I know that feeling!). That's where my project comes into the picture. My hope for "Innovation You Can Do" is it will walk the "Designer" (the one with the idea) through the process from "spark" to "launch". The "Collaborator" (the coach, the support person) acts as a second perspective, an additional resource, a friend, a listening ear, a question-er to the Designer in this process.

Currently, I am honored to be working with 3 amazing educators who were willing to bring their idea to life using "Innovation You Can Do".

At our first meeting, I give them a copy of "Innovation You Can Do" and we walk through the workbook. Each project is unique, so the first task to be completed is a "Needs Assessment". When we meet again, we go over the needs assessment and questions are asked to clarify as well as agreeing on a rough timeline. While it has the ability to flex, we are looking to pin down a "launch" date. At this point, each project takes a unique path. We decide what the next piece is that needs to be done and when to meet again. Once a date is decided, we lay out what each of us is responsible to do prior to the meeting.

I am excited to get these projects off the ground and solidify "Innovation You Can Do". It has already come a long way from what I initially put together and I see it taking shape. Innovation really IS possible ... and when you have someone walking the path with you, it is definitely achievable.

I know all I've shared is my idea, but my hope is that this is enough for you to picture it. I will be back to share the actual project.



After reading this, if you are willing, I'd love to know your thoughts and feedback on it. You can comment below, respond on Twitter (@kiefersj), or send me an email - sarah@techyoucando.com .


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Import Calendar Dates You Can Do

Do you create numerous calendar events? Are you a "calendar" person?

Google Calendar is my lifeline. I depend on it every day. I also see how powerful Google Calendars are for larger purposes ... buildings, staffs, communities, large groups, etc. But the problem is, creating calendar events on a large scale can take large amounts of time. It can open the door for errors.

Awhile back, I searched and searched and found a few helpful resources. I found an article or two, a couple of videos ... but what I really wanted was a template that was ready-to-go and "easy" to use. What I had found was the "theory" behind using a Google Sheet and importing it to Google Calendar. Since I couldn't find a template, I made one and today I want to share that out.

It is a basic, simple, and straight-forward idea. Take a Google Sheet, format it correctly, load in your dates (& as much info as you want to), save as a csv, and upload to the correct Google Calendar. Voilรก!

I have used this method for athletic calendars very successfully. I've also recently shared this idea with my district for our yearly calendar. I see this as very helpful. Each building can have its own tab. Tabs can be duplicated - or individual rows can be copied over - for events that need to be on multiple calendars.

To be 100% honest, the first time you create a large number of events, you are not going to "save" a ton of time, but the benefits come in when you have repeating events or you use the same large number of events over and over. For example, a weekly repeating meeting ... create the dates on 2 rows, then use the "magic" of selecting them both & pulling down on the "blue box" to keep that repeating time frame. And if you are like many schools, you probably use "comparable dates" year after year ... and that is where I see a Sheet saving time. [Also, one person can create the district-level events and they be copied over to each building, or use the calendar layering ability to have them all show at the same time.]

Included with the template is a tab for directions. I also tucked in "notes" on each of the column headers to help guide you when you are actually creating your events. I've tried to create this to be something ANYone can do, but if you get stuck or you need help, feel free to reach out!

And finally, at the bottom of the instructions tab, I added a couple of tips on ways you could go further. Interested in an automatic creation of events from your Sheet? Yep - it's possible ... check out the "How to automatically add a schedule from Google Sheets into Calendar" video. Maybe one day, I'll tackle that, too! 

Here is a sneak peak at the template ↬

Link to "template/preview" option (allows for quick copy)

Link to "View only". Please use the "File --> Make a copy" option to make your own copy.

You can also find this on my "Templates for Teachers" website. Feel free to check this one out, along with the 70+ other templates my colleague Beth Kingsley & I have created and shared out.


Looking for Sheets or Calendar ideas/tips/tricks? Check out my Wakelet collections: 
Google Sheets Wakelet
Google Calendar Wakelet
          

And, as always, have a question or comment? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below, email me at sarah@techyoucando.com, or find me on Twitter @kiefersj.