Category Archives: Blog

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.

Ok, so maybe not all teachers are looking forward to summer reading, but at least I can get you with the reflection and relaxation parts. I look forward to the summer reading lists that I have been curating all year because most times during the school year I am too busy with all my “work” stuff and have no real time to read what I want to. The other two Rs are very important as well, and luckily for me I can blend the three of them together and read while I relax and reflect on my past year.

I have about 5 books on the reading list this summer, and being a voracious reader, that might get me through half of July. These are all PD-style books that I have heard about during the year but never had time to crack open. Top on this list this year is Lead Like a Pirate. I am a big fan of “Teach like a Pirate” and I can’t wait to crack open this latest book.

Next on the list is Disrupting Thinking. I got this recommendation from the #ConnectedTL chat, and being an English Major and former English teacher, the whole premise of “how” we read and why it matters fascinates me. I have read Notice and Note from the same authors and loved it. It really changed the way I taught my students to close read. I am excited to see what insight I can steal from this new book.

Another book I can’t wait to dive into is Tony Danza’s I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had.  This book chronicles Tony Danza’s rookie year as a high school teacher. I have heard that it is funny, light reading and very compelling. It gives a candid and honest view into the struggles, successes and “light-bulb” moments as Tony tries his hand at teaching. It is full of awesome portraits of teacher and students he encountered, with the hard-earned wisdom and laugh out loud funny moments of a teacher we all grew up watching act.

Last on the list (until I get more suggestions from you at least) is Shift This. This is another #ConnectedTL recommendation, and it talks about how little shifts in the classroom can produce massive changes in learning and culture. Shifting culture in a school or district has always been an area of interest for me, so even thought I am not in the classroom anymore, I can’t want to see what kind of applications Shift This can have in my current role.

If you have any recommendations for summer reading books, please share them in the comments below. I would love to pick up another two or three to add to the list. Also, if you want to have some book club style discussions, hot me up on voxer, my username is techtombusd. Remember to recharge those batteries over summer my friends, and I hope to hear some recommendations soon!

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.

There was the English teacher who expected much from his students, and had a lecturing style that I have tried to emulate myself. He drew all these images on the chalkboards, seemingly disconnected and with no context; it was a little overwhelming walking in the first time. But then he would lecture, about a book, about a chapter, about a poem, and he would connected all of these hand-drawn images together like a symphony, connecting them, explaining them, and making them come to life as the lesson went on. I can still remember the Ulysses lecture and the images he used. It was then I saw that it was not enough to know the curriculum; you had to make it come alive. In my own classroom, I have found myself using this strategy of dressing the stage and then using a lecture or lesson to tell the story. It is a great way to build anticipation and excitement into a lesson.

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.
I started podcasting in 2012 as a project. I was heavily involved with my teacher union, and this new case was filed that could change teacher seniority rules, just absolutely flip them on their head. It was well covered in the news, but when speaking to my colleagues and teacher friends, they were in the dark. Being an English teacher, and feeling it was my duty to help inform them as a union negotiator and vice president, I dove into the podcast pool with both feet. My first podcast, “Tom Talks About” had three episodes. The first one was dedicated to the Vegara v. California case, a Detective Friday-Just-the-Facts-Ma’am hour long snoozer. I researched for about three weeks, making sure I had all the salient points and knew what I was talking about.

I was going to be putting this online, and I didn’t want to look/sound ignorant. I recorded (which took about three-one-hour-takes) edited and published over three nights, and it was on iTunes two days later. I followed up with a heavily pro-union opinion piece, where I could let out my shock and amazement and show some more mention about what I thought the case would mean to seniority and unions in general. I was passionate and had my soapbox moment. The last episode of “Tom Talks About” was dedicated to back to school, what certain things you do to get your classroom ready and such, but my heart wasn’t into it. I spend all my passion and fire on the first two episodes and didn’t have (so I thought) anything else to talk about that I thought others would want to hear.
It was a fun and insanely geeky adventure I loved, because it had cool tools, an underground cult following, and I was immersed in a world I knew nothing about. I was constantly learning new tips, techniques and ways to make my craft better. I was on almost daily, listening to his and other podcasts on the art of podcasting. I was geeking out on gear and software and consumed by a new world. Sad thing was, I didn’t have anything to podcast about. Tom Talks About ended after three episodes, and anything else I tried to talk/write/podcast about just didn’t ignite that fire inside like the Vegara case. I scrapped episode after episode. I thought the fire was gone. I was sitting on great gear and some good podcasting methods, but didn’t think I had anything worth sharing.
Then two years ago I became a Tech TOSA. Well, a “Technology Integration Specialist” to be exact. It was now my job to teach others how to use tech in the classroom, how to integrate strategies and tools to increase engagement, and thereby increasing attendance, behavior and scores (at least that is dream, right?) In my district of just over 200 teachers, there are two Tech TOSAs and there is no way to meaningfully address the needs of all those teachers with personalized and differentiated technological instructional practice improvement. And it wasn’t like technology was the only thing on their plate either. We had 8 big district initiatives to drive home to teachers: Common Core Alignment, Project Based Learning (PBL), Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new math textbook adoption, a new English textbook adoption, transition on a Microsoft Office 365 Environment, and one or two more things that have become lost in the shuffle.
I needed a meaningful and lasting way to reach all my teachers to bring them tech, on their schedule at their pace–Lightbulb—Podcasting! It sounds like an easy decision now, but I struggled with convincing my co-host, Michael Jephcott, to join me, and then struggled to make sure that we had enough material and practiced enough to convince people we knew what we were doing. Podcasting is not like leading a PD session or helping someone one-on-one, it is a performance. More of a portable and lasting conference session than a training. Jumping in with both feet, we “practiced” a podcast. Without telling Mike, I quickly edited and added bumpers, and that afternoon it was on iTunes.
We had another one in the can (producer term for recorded but not edited) and that was when we went to FallCUE. There we met Brian Briggs and Ryan O’Donnell. Inspired by their session on podcasting, we surged on and have been going strong since. Has it been easy? No. Has it made us insanely rich and famous? HA! (If you are asking that, you are in the wrong place) But what it has done is made us better at our craft, improved our researching and networking, and connected us with the #PodcastEDU community, and gave us a built-in time for reflection. Sure, podcasting is part of our job, but it is more than that. It is something we enjoy making and we hope you enjoy listening to.
If you have some feedback or suggestions, we can be reached by email (edtosas(at) or you can leave a comment here. Your feedback is always welcome!

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?

Keeping Focus, Monitoring Time

Time management has always been a strong suit of mine, until I moved out of the classroom that is. In my classroom, I was the master of starting class on the right foot, pacing lessons to stretch student engagement, and I could always find time when to break off into smaller group work or some individual tasks so that there was a great flow and pacing in the class. Students wouldn’t spend too much time on one class and get bored, which led to happier students and better results in class. I don’t care how much you love poetry, or physics or history, everyone has a limit of how long they can hold focus and be actively learning. I was a great judge of that, in my classroom.

After transitioning out of the classroom, I found it a struggle to calibrate my own engagement levels and time management when it came to tasks and projects. I was frustrated, and I had days where I looked at my calendar and thought “why would I schedule 10 appointments today?” or “when am I going to have time for ‘project x’ when ‘project y’ is taking up so much time?” And why did I say I would help with “project z” when I don’t have enough time to eat lunch? It had been a long time since I felt this overwhelmed about what is going on in a day, maybe even back to my first days as a classroom teacher. I needed a system of organization that worked with my workflow, something to help identify and prioritize those things I need to do now, and those I can wait to do tomorrow, or next week.

After searching the internet (because what else would a tech TOSA do?) and asking a few administrators and fellow TOSAs/Specialists, I narrowed down a few things I could do to ease my stress, make my workflow more organized, and untangle the stressful mess of projects and assignments into manageable chunks.

First step was recognizing I had a problem. Once I realized that, it was a matter of coming up with a plan to help me work it out. For me, step one was making sure I was properly scheduling appointments. Was I allowing for travel time and organizational time between appointments? Was I allowing for prep time before? It wasn’t enough to use my calendar, I had to be strategic about it and build it for my success, as a tool for helping me rather than just keep record of what I needed to do. After restructuring my calendar and building some pre- and post- meeting time for reflection, preparation and organization, I felt much less stressed about my schedule. It also forced me to schedule less in a day than I was, which also helped me breathe a little easier.

Next was coming up with a system of prioritizing my work, making sure the hottest fires got dealt with first and leaving the others to simmer until I had some time. This process was daunting at first. As a TOSA, I have a very well-defined job description and duties. I started with those things explicitly on that list, and placed them at the top of the To-Do pile. All those things that fell outside those defined duties needed to be reevaluated: am I the one to do this job, or am I taking it on because I was asked to? This was hard because it is in my nature to help when people ask for it, and when I was in the classroom, the last thing I wanted to hear when I needed help was “that’s not my job.” But if I wanted sanity, I realized that sometimes you must redirect assignments to someone else, and I had to be OK with that.

I took prioritizing one step further by categorizing things into 3 groups: To Do Today, To Do this week, To Do within two weeks.  I scheduled 15-30 minutes every night at the end of the day to go over that list and adjust for the next day. I could cross off what I did, promote things to get done, and push things back that needed more time. This 15-30 minutes a day has proven to be my saving grace, and I have become much more purposeful and focused on tasks now. I estimate that those 15-30 minutes save me at least two to four hours a week because I am better organized and can manage what is coming up without it being overwhelming.

not my actual desk!

Lastly, I cleaned my desk. I read that you can waste 10-15 minutes per project just looking for the right materials. I do not have the best organizational skills when it comes to my workspace, I am more “organized mess” that I just happen to call my “system.” It wasn’t very systemized at all, and mostly based on when I last touched something. If I touched it in the past day or so, it was on the top of a pile. If I hadn’t seen it in a week, start looking under piles. I knew that I needed to straighten up (literally and figuratively). It took about three hours of good organizing and sorting and labeling and foldering for my desk to be clear. I found things I was missing, discovered things I didn’t know were there, and got to see the actual top of my desk for the first time in a while. I felt accomplished after that cleaning and organizing. Now to keep it that way. To make sure I don’t regress back to my “system,” I now use my 15-30-minute closing routine to put everything in its place. I put away what I finished today and take out what I need for tomorrow. In this way, everything is ready for me in the morning and I can start my day organized and on the right foot.

I am still working on perfecting this method, and there are times when something gets dropped in my lap, but unless it is due that day (which can be rare), it makes the organizational list during my planning at the end of the day. I place it under the right heading and deal with it like my other duties and tasks. It felt strange for the first two weeks or so, but it has evolved into something that is helping me become that master of time management, like I was in the classroom.


Just the Icing: Keeping your Perspective at Conferences


Conferences are great! I love going to them, getting some new ideas, learning about teaching and perfecting my craft. I have been privileged enough to be able to present and help share my own excitement, strategies and enthusiasm as well. It can be an invigorating and refreshing opportunity for teachers, no doubt. But in my first few years of teaching, that enthusiasm was tempered with a jealousy and maybe even a little bit of resentment that I didn’t work at a place where innovation and exploration was happening. It could become a little depressing seeing great things and having a hard time realizing innovation and change like the teacher/schools/districts that were on display. So while I came away with some gems, there was no real hope of change except in my classroom. (I never realized that great change really only happens one classroom at a time, but that discussion is for a later post!)
As I have matured and become more experienced, my views have changed considerably, and can be best summed up by a conversation I had recently with some colleagues. This Conversation took place while sitting around and talking shop with a visitor to the BIC. It went something like this:

Teacher A: Yeah, I love going to conferences and networking and learning new things, and I am grateful, but I always feel that my school/district is so behind what is going on out there. So much awesome happening.
Teacher B: I know what you mean, there are all kinds of awesome going on, and I just image what could happen if all those teachers presenting could get together and start their own school/charter/district. That would be some powerful teaching happening, we could do anything.
TOM: That would be awesome, but I think that some perspective is needed as well. I think of the teachers we have going to and presenting at conferences. We are the top of the top, the cream of the crop in many of our school districts. We wouldn’t be presenting otherwise. We are the dreamers and the reachers, living on the bleeding edge at times. We are the icing on the cake, we are color and beauty and we get noticed first. But there are other layers to this cake. At conferences, we get icing overload.
Teacher A: Icing overload, I like that!

The icing metaphor has stuck in my mind, rattled around and every so often pops in at unexpected times. How can I get that icing layer to be just a bit thicker in my school/district? Mostly, I thought, it is by bringing back those strategies and innovative ideas I see at these conferences and spreading them over my district. It is through the sharing and spread of these ideas that we can slowly build that capacity at home.
The best cakes have a nice even layer of that icing spread around the whole cake. One huge dollop of icing just doesn’t work, and in that same way, we need to spread the icing we pick up at these conferences. Sure we can have islands of greatness within our schools and districts, but the best ideas and best strategies quickly spread, and that is how we build capacity, that is how we affect change.

I keep that thought firmly in my mind when attending or presenting at conference now. I no longer harbor secret or open jealousy, but have hope that by bringing some of that icing back to my district, I can start building and spreading a nice, thick, and even layer of excellence. Because who doesn’t like cake?

What’s in your Bag?

After seeing many of the TOSA community as well as my friends Ryan O’Donnell, Roland Aichele and John Eick share what’s in their bag, I thought I would give it a go as well as we kick off 2017. It was pretty fun to have to unpack the unruly beast I carry all over, and it prompted some cleaning too, so thanks guys!

Take a journey along me with to explore what I keep close at hand.

  1. Cheat sheets for Microsoft 365. I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to go when I need help. Being a Microsoft district, I find I am pulling these things out less and less and I become more versed in the programs and problems our teachers are having most often.
  2. iPad Pro- it is the big one. If I need to record or edit on iMovie or show something, this is my go to. I like the big screen, and it makes it easy to see from all over the classroom if I need to help it up. It is also great for gaming when I am travelling.
  3. Business cards- I ahve 3 distinct types. One for work, one for my site, and one of the podcast. I find I don’t use them as much as I thought I would, but I always have them handy.
  4. 8in1 cell phone camera lenses. Bought these on a whim and find myself using them all the time. Great for the phone and iPad, and they were cheap on amazon.
  5. Mini Drone- DX-1 quadcopter. Small enough to fit in a bag and fly in a classroom, but fast and fun enought to speed around and have fun with. Thanks @TechMikeBUSD for the Secret Santa gift!
  6. Pens. I love my pens. I ahve three Pens I am most proud of and I keep them safe and sound in this case. The pens are (l to r) Montblanc Starwalker Platinum Fineliner, Montblanc Starwalker Extreme Screen Writer, and Montblanc Starwalker Black Fineliner. Love these pens.
  7. Moleskine Journals- I carry anywhere from 3-5 journal size notebooks. One for blog and podcast Ideas, one for work stuff, and one for reflections.  Right now I am rocking a Home Simpson, Luke Skywalker and First Order Trooper covers. I love the branded style Moleskines and have about 15 filled in a closet at home. They range in theme from “the Hobbit” and “Game of Thrones” to Superman and the Avengers. I like the craftsmanship and quality and just keep buying more.
  8. Laptop Stickers- I carry 3 with me to hand out. One is the new TOSAs Talking Tech sticker. The next is the VIP Guest on TOSAs talking tech, only available to those we have interviewed on the show. And Lastly, I have some ConnectedTL stickers.
  9. Macbook Air from work. It is a workhorse and I love it. I used to carry two laptops, work and personal. I got over that quick, as my bag was over 20 pounds! I store everything in the cloud now, so if I really needed to I can access anything anywhere.
  10. Spacemarines Codex, Warhammer 40k- I am a nerd, if you couldn’t tell. I just got into Warhammer 40K and I can pop this sucker out when I ahve a few extra minutes. It is my sanity away from work. This could have easily been a monster manual or player’s handbook for DnD, but on this day, it was Warhammer.
  11. Dongles and charger and cables. Essential for any tech specialist. I keep them about as organized as a Rat’s nest, but I can always find what I am looking for.
  12. Kindle paperwhite- Great for when I just want to read. I have the kindle app on my phone and Ipad, but nothing beats these little e-book readers for pure reading. Easy on the eyes, and the battery life is second to none. And it is small and weighs nothing, so I can take it anywhere.
  13. Charger for laptop. I have a brick charger too, but it was not in my backpack this morning because I drained it last night and it is charging.
  14. Ricoh Theta 360. Great for 360 shots and video. A go-to device when doing anything fun. It captures the moment and always brings oohs and aahs from teachers and students alike. I like my tripod for it too, it can be placed and grip almost anywhere.
  15. Lighted Magnifier for iPhone. It turns your cell camera into a Microscope (x60 power). great for entertaining kids, impromptu science lessons and exploring what’s around you. Picked it up after hearing Hall Davidson keynote at SGV Cue Techfest.
  16. Lanyards and LED badges- I go to quite a few conference, and I never throw the lanyards out. I always find uses for them. Also, we need to be badged in at all sites in our district, so I make sure I always have that on me. The LED badges are great icebreakers, and programmable with up to 8 rotating messages. Never fails to catch the attention of people walking by.
  17. Han Solo in Carbonite- it is a business card holder from ThinkGeek. It is Han Solo in carbonite, and when you push two buttons on the side, a compartment for business cards slides out. It is a novelty item, but I love it and it never fails to elicit responses.
  18. iKlip Studio iPad stand. So many uses, and folds flat and weighs next to nothing. Great for showing clips, reading, and shooting video.
  19. Blue Lil’ Mikey. A lightning port microphone for catching interviews and sound clips on the go. Never regretted the purchase as we ahve caught more than a few Manic Minute interviews and sound bytes on this workhorse.
  20. Logitech Presentation clicker- Always presenting and giving PD, so this comes in quite handy. It also has a green Laser. Works well and always handy.

Resolutions- Best Tech Resolutions for the New Year?

While listening to the Podfather, Leo Laporte, over break, I was reminded that the new year is a time of renewal, of hope and of putting our best foot forward and starting this New Calendar Year off right. For teachers, it also gives us a chance to change and correct our course the middle of a school year. I give you my tech resolutions for 2017, and hope that I can inspire you to do at least one, maybe two and hopefully all of these common-sense style Tech Resolutions and get 2017 started right!

Back-Up- both school and personal

If your laptop or phone was (tech-gods forgive) stolen today, how much irreplaceable data and memories, lesson plans and records, would you lose? Do you have any backup solutions? According to the Podfather, it is best to have 3 sources for your most important things: the original, an on-site backup (portable hard drive or flash drive depending on need) and on offsite backup. For my offsite backup I use an internet service to keep my files in the cloud. My work also offers OneDrive for employees to keep files safe and secure. Look into buying some piece of mind if you do not already have one. And don’t forget about your phone! Would you want to lose those photos? For your phone there are nice online backup solutions through Apple, Google and Android, and it doesn’t matter what type you do, the important thing is to do it! They can be free (like Google photos) or a subscription (like Apple’s iCloud) now would be a good time to start your backup plans.


Continue reading Resolutions- Best Tech Resolutions for the New Year?

TTT Cyber Monday Primer

Age 2-4    
Educational Insights EI-5112 GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope



Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Telescope


Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set 16.00
Melissa & Doug Abacus – Classic Wooden Educational Counting Toy With 100 Beads 10.00
View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack 15.00
Osmo Genius Kit 80.00
Scientific Explorer Tasty Science Kit 12-24
Learning Resources Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set 32.00
K’NEX 100 Model Building Set – 863 Pieces – Ages 7+ Engineering Educational Toy 50
Wonder Workshop Dash & Dot Robot Wonder Pack 200
  K’NEX Education – Intro to Structures: Bridges Set – 207 Pieces – For Grades 3-5 Construction Education Toy 16.00
OWI 14-in-1 Solar Robot 20.00
Elenco SCL-175B Snap Circuits Lights Electronics Discovery Kit 45.00
LEGO Mindstorms EV3 31313 350
Ozobot Starter Pack, Programmable Robot Toy, Blue 45.00
Bloxels: Build Your Own Video Game 33.00
Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App Controlled Robot 100.00
littleBits Electronics Smart Home Kit 200
Parrot Mambo 85.00
Parrot Swing + Flypad 102.00
Parrot Mini Drone Jumping Sumo – White 85.00
Parrot Airborne Cargo MiniDrone – Travis (Yellow) 70.00
Raspberry Pi 3 COMPLETE Starter Kit, Black, 16GB Edition – Pi3 Model B Barebones Computer Motherboard 64bit Quad-Core CPU 1GB RAM, Black Pi3… 70.00
Piper Computer Kit | Educational Computer that Teaches STEM and Coding through Minecraft 300.00
New Matter MOD-t 3D Printer 375.00
Sphero Ollie App-Controlled Robot 60.00
littleBits Electronics Gizmos & Gadgets Kit 180.00

*we are not affiliated nor sponsored by any of these products, but we are recommending them based on our experience. Please take our recs with a grain of salt and remember to do your due diligence on each of the products to see if they are right for you.

Vision Quest

I wrestled before and during high school, so this phrase always brings up those memories of a sweat-slick floor, a hot room, and a pervasive odor of BO, the vinyl/rubber and bleach smell from cleaning the mats, and the yeasty smell of dried BO on whatever shirt I was wearing that I forgot to take home and wash and it can now stand on its own!
I wrestled before and during high school, so this phrase always brings up those memories of a sweat-slick floor, a hot room, and a pervasive odor of BO, the vinyl/rubber and bleach smell from cleaning the mats, and the yeasty smell of dried BO on whatever shirt I was wearing that I forgot to take home and wash and it can now stand on its own!

I am currently taking a class for some professional development through Leading Edge called Professional learning leader. It is a great class, and you can hear all about it in episode 21 of TOSAs Talking Tech, but there was a piece of the curriculum that really stood out to me and has been percolating in my mind for about two weeks now, and it was creating my own mission and vision statements.

At first I just looked at this as some assignment I had to do, not really giving it much more thought than any other assignment I had for the course. After all, I am sure many of us have been a part of this process in our districts at some point or another, sitting on committees, arguing about language, going through several drafts of the essentially same message reworking it and eventually flogging it into submission. But as I was going through the process for myself, I began to ask questions that I have never asked myself before, and although I am ashamed to admit it, never really thought of before.

As I began my Vision Quest I started doing more than going through the motions and completing an assignment. I started really thinking deeply about my educational philosophy. Before I could even start to encapsulate my mission and vision into terse prose, I had to think about what I valued about education, and what my goals were for myself as my career develops. After identifing that, I could come back and tackle the mission and vision statements with some clarity and guidance.

I used a this document as guidance, but I skipped to the bottom and hashed out my goals first. What was I doing in education? Where did I want to go? How would I get there? I started on these to help inform my vision. These were pretty easy once I started thinking about them, and committing them to (virtual) paper made them (virtually) real. I had a direction and purpose, and I felt a little bit better about trying to create a bigger idea like my own vision.

As you can see from below, my goals deal with technology and learning. It was a natural step to include those in my vision. Since a vision statement includes both a core ideology (technology/digital citizenship) and an envisioned future (tech for all), I had to sit back and think for a bit on how to fuse those. And when I say “sit back and think” I really moved my chair away from my desk, put on headphones with some background music, closed my eyes and thought about it. I thought long and hard and when I got to that place of Zen (no, it wasn’t a nap, I swear) I sat up, put pen to paper and BOOM, Vision statement.

Technology is an inseparable part of education today, and I will be an exemplar of technology integration, utilizing new and innovative means of collaboration, content creation, and visible learning. My teachers will create, produce, and publish electronically, gaining insight and feedback from peers and teachers alike, and starting to grow their own analog and digital PLNs which will reflect a personal and professional curation of great resources.

click for the large version
click for the large version

I tried not to mess with the original thought, cleaned up some grammar and tense issues, and then vowed not to touch it again for at least a day. Let it ruminate in my thought and see if tomorrow, it still rang true:

When I came back, it was still something I thought represented my core ideology and envisioned future well, so I left it. I moved onto the mission statement from there. I took it as a charge to answer the oft heard question (usually by some union rep or exec. Board member) of why do I exist? Not metaphysically or spiritually, mind you, but in my job and in my capacity of a Technology Integration Specialist, why am I here? Over the past year, and in our new roles,

this question has been circulated widely, and is something that all new TOSAs in our district and beyond plenty of sleepless nights. After thinking about it for over a year, it was pretty easy to answer:

I will bring technology to all teachers in BUSD, meeting teachers at their level and expanding technological horizons of even the most tech-reluctant teacher. I will be a creative force for technology integration, by example and by demonstration, enabling teachers to be more and do more than they ever thought they could.

Lastly I attacked the values. I found that after things and composing a vision and mission, this was not to tough a task. I bent them to my current job and role, because I felt it was important that it reflects both who am I am who I am striving to be. Because of this, they mostly deal with technology and the integration and teaching of tech that I do every day at work. I thought about what I do well (learning technology and integrating it to class use) and what I struggle with (being patient with the tech-phobic). If I could keep in mind those two things and work on letting one help the other, I would be doing OK.  I think they turned out pretty good.

  • I will be a digital citizen, and promote digital citizenship in all I do.
  • I will positively contribute to all PLN/PLCs I am a part of, learning, growing, and reflecting while sharing my experiences and fostering education, growth and reflection on the part of others.
  • I will commit to working with all teachers, tech embracing and hesitant, focusing on the benefits and enhancements that technology brings to education.
  • I will not force tech upon anyone who isn’t ready, but I will always be ready and willing to help any who ask.

Having never really committed to doing this before, or really thinking about it for that matter, I found this exercise enlightening and guiding. I have since printed them out and placed them on my desk so that I can be reminded of it frequently. When I train, podcast, teach, learn or work, I ask myself am I being true to my vision and mission. Will today get my closer or farther from my goals? And am I acting in accordance with my values?

If you haven’t done something like this, I highly

current desk setup with Mission and Vision prominent.
current desk setup with Mission and Vision prominent.

recommend it. If you have, take it out, look it over and see if it needs some updating. This experience has allowed me to put into words and actions something I knew was there, but had never articulated. Now with them clear and present, I can be more mindful and start truly living by them.