Category Archives: Blog

20,000 Downloads!

Today marks a milestone that I honestly never thought we would be celebrating. Last night, my podcast TOSAs Talking Tech hit the 20,000-download mark. It is hard for me to comprehend that amount of support for a small podcast started by two teachers looking to get tech tips out to their fellow teachers.

We started podcasting in early October 2015, and it was almost on a whim. I had some podcast equipment from a previous project and it was just sitting around collecting dust. My fellow Tech Specialist and I were having the same problems trainers have all over education, we couldn’t get people to voluntary trainings after school, and yet we had a mandate and a job to do. It was obvious that our current strategies were not working, and so we thought up an on-demand style PD that could be based on screencasts and podcasts, to be there and ready when our teachers were ready to start learning. As many of you know, I cajoled and pleaded and begged and, in the end, tricked Mike into recording our first podcast, telling him “I just want to test something out, can you read this with me on the mic?” Two hours later, that episode was up on iTunes and I was awaiting approval for our new show, TOSAs Talking Tech.

Continue reading 20,000 Downloads!

Conference Tips: Get the most of your time away

Conference season, we like sharing the knowledge and love of conferences. We have talked about this on a podcast before (episode 34), but with some awesome conferences coming up, we need to talk about it again.

  1. Get a favorite note taking method and go crazy. Whatever works for you, whatever you love to do, do it. Pen and Paper- Tom’s favorite. Bullet Journal, lots of pens, and lots of ways to get information. Digital- Mike’s go to. OneNote is awesome and shareable. Usable on your phone and device, very versatile. You can even put links to the session materials right in your digital note taking app! Sketchnoting can work with both types of note taking! great for summarizing and reviewing information! Cate Tolnai, Sylvia Duckworth, Ann Kozma, Misty Kluesner, Cynthia Nixon, and some other awesome people can help you get started! Check out SketchCUE going on Now!
  2. Really dive into the schedule. It may be big and intimidating but getting one or two sessions per time slot is best, just in case your first pick fills up. Be mindful of distances between session rooms as well. Some session locations can be far apart, make sure you account for that. Also, follow the speakers on twitter and see if they have resources online already. Have they presented on this topic before? how big is their following?
  3. Schedule some time for reflecting and downtime. This is essential, as you need to reflect on all of these ideas and process the info.
  4. Follow everyone on twitter! Biggest and best decision I ever made for my professional development was to engage with twitter. Engagement is more than having an account, it is planting seeds with good people you follow and watching them bloom. Plant a huge twitter garden, and then prune it for what you need. Make sure your feed continues to serve you.
  5. When in a session, think about the classroom application of what you are learning. Write some ideas down so you can remember them after you are done. I’ve had some brilliant ideas in sessions and forgotten to write them down and lost them when i got excited about my next session.
  6. If there is a session you really want to go to but don’t make, see if the materials are available online. Email or Direct message the speaker, so many of them will send resources or will help out! Most session I go to have people that are more than willing to go that extra mile, all you need to do is ask.
  7. Be social and have fun! I’ve made some really good professional connections, but even better friends and inspirations. Make connections and have fun, it will make your experience that much better.
  8. Power! With most conferences, it would behoove you to bring your favorite device, and your phone. Don’t forget to bring your power supplies and cords and chargers and backup power. If you engage on twitter and make new friends, you are going to be on your phone using juice. Make sure you bring the means to recharge.

 

Weekend Rejuvenation

Tom and Mike podcasting from IACUE Tech Fair 2018

(any twitter handles you see in this post you should follow immediately!)

I work hard on the weekdays, eight hours a day of helping, troubleshooting and innovating, and I find myself most Fridays looking forward to some rest and relaxation on the weekends to help charge my batteries up for the coming week. In the teaching profession though, we know that the weekend can bring more work in the way of grading and planning and prepping for the weeks to come. It is just the life of a teacher.

But this weekend, my time was spent travelling almost 200 miles and taking part on some of the best and most rejuvenating part of my job, presenting and attending conference.

Continue reading Weekend Rejuvenation

Holiday Cheer

It’s the holiday season, and I love this time of year. I taught high school English for over 15 years, and during that time, one of my favorite things to do this time of year was to break out the Robert Frost poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It is a favorite

http://mommyperfect.com/2015/12/stopping-by-woods-on-snowy-evening/

because of one of the interpretations you can read into the poem that connects directly to the holiday season. Here is the poem:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

BY ROBERT FROST

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Continue reading Holiday Cheer

One Thing at a time

A few months ago, I read a book called “The One Thing” by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan, and found myself enchanted by the seemingly simple ways to keep focus and to really work on being better One Thing at a time. It was a great read and I was able to adapt some of the ideas into my workflow and work ethic to make my life and work a little more focused and deliberate.

But recently I attended CETPA 2017, and went to a session by Dr.  John Morgan, Director of EdTech for Capistrano Unified that changed the way I viewed the book and the way I am now approaching teacher training for my district.

Continue reading One Thing at a time

My Visit with the Podfather

This weekend I crossed something off my bucket list- a visit to Eastside Studios and meeting a geek God, Leo Laporte. of “The Screen Savers” and “The Tech Guy” shows.

I have been listening to Leo forever, and cannot honestly remember a time when I wasn’t tuning into KFI on the weekends or firing up the TWIT app and tuning in for episodes of “The Tech Guy.” Being a lover of tech and all things geeky, “The Tech Guy” show has been my go to place to tech news and reviews, help when things go wonky (techguylabs.com is one of the best resources for tech help/news/reviews on the internet). He and his show are my dose of tech geekiness that completes my weekend, and when I can’t listen I feel out of the loop on tech news. Continue reading My Visit with the Podfather

The 3Rs of Summer

The year is winding down, and you can almost hear the sounds of summer calling. The waves on the beach, the ice clinking in the glasses of your beverage of choice, and the distant sounds of tunes coming through someone’s Bluetooth speaker. I look forward to this time of the year, it means I get to do the 3 Rs that teachers are really looking forward to: Relax, reflect and read.

Continue reading The 3Rs of Summer

Evolution of Teaching, #BetterTogether

How did I get to where I am now? Funny you ask. I had to submit something just like like that for my CSULB Masters of Ed. and Administration program. Here is that statement.


My educational philosophy started forming around the time I started high school. I attended St. John Bosco in Bellflower, and it was at that time that I started to see the different teaching styles present in the faculty. I had never experienced such a wide range of teacher styles before, having come from a K-8 private school with only one class per grade level. There was no difference from one class to the next because the same teacher taught it all. Moving into high school, I had seven teachers a day, most with a distinct teaching style. It was a marvel, and it really made me want to come to school and be able to learn so many different ways.

Continue reading Evolution of Teaching, #BetterTogether

Why Podcast?

There are several reasons to start podcasting, from tackling a certain issue, getting news and information out quickly, replacing a blog or journal as a means for reflection, or just having fun with friends around a microphone. But each journey is unique, and finding that path may take you to some out of the way places!
Podcasting has been around for over 10 years now, and the roots of podcasting stretch back to the earliest days of radio. But radio and podcasting are fundamentally different. Radio is more of a live event, happening repeatedly and updated constantly, where podcasting is more of an audio snapshot in time. Podcasting is the audio Polaroid: produced and admired for its ability to capture a moment quickly, and then shoved in a box somewhere, maybe to be heard from again, maybe not. But in the back of our mind, we take comfort in knowing it is there if we need it. Continue reading Why Podcast?

Teachers aren’t Taffy

I have been a TOSA for about a year and a half now and there have been some valuable lesson learned and some great Ah-ha moments along the way. First one was that even though teacher is the first word of the TOSA acronym, many of our colleagues will no longer see us as such now that we are in this position. That was a hard and fast lesson that came about a week into our jobs.

The one that I have learned more recently, and that I am really still learning, is Teachers aren’t taffy. What do I mean by this? Simple. Take my district for example. Right now, as I speak, here is the list of programs and initiatives going on:

  1. Common Core Adoption and Standards Alignment
  2. NGSS Adoption*
  3. ELA/ELD book adoption 2016-2017
  4. Math Adoption 2015-2016
  5. District Wide PBL*
  6. PBIS Implementation*
  7. Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS)*
  8. Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT)*
  9. Touchscreens and teacher laptops in each room*
  10. Office365 Integration

*Denotes year 1 or 2 of adoption

At the same time as all of this, I am tasked with the job of introducing, training and providing ongoing support, and pushing the Office365 system out to the teachers AND students. There is a lot going on, as I am sure that most districts have the same amount of things going on at one time. It is that one more thing, that final straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. In my district, that seems to be technology.

The change from analog to digital has seemed to be the biggest gap to fill. The rest of the items on the list above are analog, and that is a world that most teachers currently teaching are familiar with and fits squarely in the wheelhouse of even the least veteran teachers. The above list turned digital would increase efficiency, but that would take a few extra step and that magical and finite resource: time. On top of all of their planning and teaching, this one new extra thing is the one that gets lost most frequently.

Technology has a tough, steep learning curve, even for early adopters. We spend lots of time learning about and testing new technology for use on the classroom, or by our teachers, or for our students and teachers.  A little bit of investment of time can yield huge and game changing results, but many teachers are not willing nor able to invest. There are just too many other projects, initiatives, directives and programs pulling at the most valuable resource we have, time.

Towards the end of year one as a TOSA, attendance at trainings started falling off. That lead to questioning ourselves, topics and job futility. Were we too broad in our scope? Were we too general with our topics? Were we boring and making an already tough subject harder? We needed to figure this out, and quickly, so we turned to google forms for the answers and specificity we needed to improve our offerings and make them timely and relevant to the classroom. We carefully crafted our offerings based on the feedback we received and planned for a year jam-packed with what the teachers wanted. We had digital sign-ups and pushed out our menu-style offering to the sites to promote the new and exciting trainings available. It was going to be great.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,  and that seems to have happened. While attendance has picked up a bit, it is not the sardine packed results we were hoping for. The reason? Teacher’s Aren’t Taffy. With taffy, you can put a hook in it and pull it in several directions, stretching it out and pulling it apart, folding it over itself and even breaking it apart. Teachers, on the other hand, are highly resistant to pulling in more than one or two directions at once, as they should be. After-school trainings happen after a full day of teaching and planning. No one is at his or her best after putting in a fill day at work.  And with so many other programs and initiatives pulling for attention it is only a matter of time before we get pulled apart.

So what does this mean for technology TOSAs? For those of us mandated with the training of teachers?  Patience is key, and like a good taffy, teachers need some rest and recuperation before being able to start yet another something new. When teachers have time to start exploring they will, and it is our job to be ready to take advantage of it. Are you ready?