Reflections


"Enthusiastically Curious Enough To Embrace Change"

posted Mar 1, 2017, 8:08 PM by Kelly Clifford   [ updated Mar 1, 2017, 8:11 PM ]


Being Thankful: A Tribute to MSD of Steuben County

posted Nov 24, 2015, 9:20 AM by kclifford@msdsc.us   [ updated Nov 24, 2015, 12:52 PM ]

Today, I give thanks for the amazing opportunities I have had to lead, learn, and grow over the past three years at MSD of Steuben County.  During my professional journey here, I have had the opportunity to lead the roll out of 1:1 devices, to provide leadership and guidance on how to most efficiently and effectively deploy Google Apps for Education, and to model what thoughtful and strategic integration of instructional technology should look like for our teachers and administrators. 

I sincerely thank each and every one of our staff members and administrators for making my job at MSD of Steuben County delightfully enjoyable. I think back to how far we have grown together on this journey, and it is absolutely amazing what we have been able to accomplish. With teamwork, a positive attitude, and the willingness to try, there has been NO precipice too high for us to reach!

In September, we began to fully embrace the deeper meaning behind "Blended Learning" and what it actually looks like in the classroom. I'm thankful for the way our district has dedicated itself to (1). Always trying to use the right tool for the right teachable moment; (2). Understanding that if it is worth creating, it is worth sharing; and (3). Taking the time to model that which we wish to see in our classrooms.

I'm thankful that our teachers and administrators are making an effort to share the small things worth celebrating, and that they are making sure those things worth celebrating are not staying stuck behind four walls! As educators, it is our duty to continuously spread a positive message about our profession, because that's who we are: positive people who believe in the power of what education stands for!


It has been my sincere pleasure to have known and worked with the staff members of this district, and I appreciate all that you have done to prepare me for who I am to become. Great leaders model that which they expect to see, lead by example, and let their passions shine through, and my hope is that in this season of being thankful, we all can both look within ourselves to let our passions guide the way, and also encourage others to let passion be their guide as well.
When we are passionate and determined to learn...no one can stop us!

Thank you for not only being amazing educators, but also for the hard work and dedication you contribute to our profession on a daily basis! MSD of Steuben County is truly a district that is well on it's way to embracing a culture that supports creativity, collaboration, and celebration! In the beginning of our journey together, it was tough to comprehend what "crossing the ocean" of technology integration would actually look like. Now that teachers are having the courage to "lose site of the shore," they are finding out that the world is literally at their fingertips! The ocean of technology holds so many special treasures for us, and I can't wait to see what amazing things will emerge as this district continues to excel on it's journey toward truly redefining the integration of technology.

Thank you, MSD of Steuben County. It is because of our experience together, that I have come to realize that sometimes it only takes bravery, sprinkled with a little determination, to make anything possible!

Sincerely,

Kelly Clifford
Director of Technology


Letting A Purpose Statement Guide The Way!

posted Oct 25, 2015, 11:13 AM by Kelly Clifford   [ updated Oct 25, 2015, 11:52 AM ]

Two years ago, we began a journey to collect data and to use that data to drive systemic improvement in our district related to technology and technology integration.  In addition to using feedback from teachers and administrators, we also looked at data and feedback collected from the members of the Technology Department.

For two years, the Technology Department staff members have been working very hard to address these issues, and to create a more stable infrastructure to support the great things our teachers, students, and administrators are doing!
   
This year, it was time to to pull the charts back out to assess how far we have come in the journey toward improvement.  As it turns out, we have addressed many of the topics listed in the pictures to the right, but we had yet to really dive into the issue of "clearly defining Tech Team Roles."  

In order for us to clearly understand the roles of every Tech Team member, it was important to first understand how we fit into the larger Vision of the district. Then, we needed to ask ourselves "WHY" we exist as a Tech Team. Essentially, we needed to compose a Purpose Statement that would define the purpose of our team's existence, and more importantly, that can be used to drive all future decision-making of the team. 

Using Quality Tools processes, we each wrote a purpose statement, and then silently passed each other's statements around the circle while underlining key phrases and words from each.  We then had a fabulous list of phrases that we could use to compose a meaningful Purpose Statement. After compiling the list, we worked as a team to collaboratively create a Purpose Statement. In the future, all Technology Department decisions can be based upon this Purpose Statement, "Our mission is to provide MSD of Steuben County with the infrastructure, support, and tools necessary to empower all personnel to maximize the learning experience for our students as they emerge into an evolving digital world."

After creating the Purpose Statement, it was important to dig deeper into the issue of why there was an underlying issue of Tech Team members not having a clear understanding of their roles.  So, we listed the things that DRIVE us to want to have clearly defined roles (bottom picture). Team members said, "we want to be efficient, we want our customers to be satisfied, we want to be effective every day, and we no longer want to feel overwhelmed."  Then, they listed the things that for many years have PREVENTED them from clearly understanding their roles.  Team members listed 5 things that have been "preventers."  

One of the best things we can do as leaders, is to remove preventers, or things that PREVENT our teams from accomplishing their goals.  The Tech Team members voted and ranked the preventers in order of highest priority.  After adding up the scores, the "preventer" that the team voted to work on first is addressing the very OLD and outdated Job Descriptions from 1994.  Think about this...it is now October of 2015, and 1994 was 21 years ago!  These job descriptions were created when technology first came to the school district!  

In the next few weeks, the team will work to identify roles and descriptions that match the work we do in 2015.  Also, we will work together to identify gaps and areas in which we need cross-over and/or cross-training to support the needs of the district.  

In addition to working on roles, the team will also begin to identify PROCESSES that lack efficiency and are in need of improvement, and to create FLOW CHARTS for those processes.

In the end, the goal of the team is to work as efficiently and as effectively as possible, in order to uphold the new mission statement, "Our mission is to provide MSD of Steuben County with the infrastructure, support, and tools necessary to empower all personnel to maximize the learning experience for our students as they emerge into an evolving digital world."

Over the years to come, my hope is that regardless of personnel additions, changes, and/or retirements, the new purpose statement will be strong enough to (1). drive the direction of the team; (2). keep all team members on the same page regarding expectations and purpose; (3). communicate to district stakeholders the level of service they should be able to reasonably expect from the Technology Department; and (4). to create a strong alignment between the Technology Department, teachers, administrators, students, staff, and all district stakeholders.     

Sincerely, 

Kelly Clifford




 




Leadership Sprinkled With Seeds of Innovation!

posted Oct 2, 2015, 12:54 PM by kclifford@msdsc.us   [ updated Oct 2, 2015, 12:55 PM ]


































On October 1st, 2015, I had the wonderful 
opportunity (along with Mr. Lance Yoder), to represent our school district at the Northern Indiana Leadership Symposium hosted at Penn-Harris-Madison School District!  To kick off the day, we participated alongside two other school districts that delivered reflective keynote addresses regarding challenges, outcomes, and solutions that our districts have faced during our technology 1:1 roll-out journeys. 


In addition to learning from these keynote stories, all participants of the day attended classroom visits, participated in "innovative design" activities, and collaborated about transformational best practices!

Powerful Take-Away's: 

First, it was overwhelmingly evident that not ONE of the districts in attendance at the conference discussed "the device."  It was amazing to be with like-minded educators who agree with the statement, "it's not about the DEVICE, it's about WHAT YOU DO with the device!"  

Second, it is important to know that EVERY district has challenges.  As James Leonard from Google shared, "One of the common challenges we all share, is being unafraid to kill projects."  Perhaps it is time that we think deeply about this idea in education.  The definition of insanity is "doing the same thing and expecting different results."  All too often in education, we try to fix and put bandages on programs that really just need to be scrapped.  It's OK to start over, and sometimes, it is in fact the most efficient and effective thing you can do for your district!  

Third, it was clearly evident that it is CRITICAL to build relationships, culture, and vision before ever thinking a 1:1 program will be successful and sustainable.  There are MANY pieces that build this puzzle, and missing any of the key pieces can lead to unsuccessful roll-outs as well as lack of buy-in and trust from staff.  "Culture eats strategy for breakfast!"  I thank James for sharing this quote with the group, because it powerfully sums up the fact that without CULTURE, we have NOTHING!  Nothing to build from, and nothing from which we can springboard ourselves into the future! 

Next, it is IMPERATIVE for District Leaders to MODEL that which they expect to see from their staff and students!  If you want your staff to be reflective practitioners and/or writers, are YOU modeling what that looks like yourself?  If you want your staff to "flip" and "screencast" portions of their teaching, are YOU modeling the practice of screencasting and flipping your staff meetings?  If you want your staff to collaboratively use Google Apps, are YOU modeling what the collaborative use of Google Apps should look like in your building?  

The educational journey is about teamwork, and about ALL members being on-board.  It is about being vulnerable in front of your colleagues, and showing them how you rise up from occasions of failure. The captain of the ship can certainly help to drive it, but he must realize that he, too, is partaking in the voyage itself just like everyone else.  Thoughtful modeling, sprinkled with seeds of innovation, can be a very powerful step toward building a culture of risk-takers!

Last, I encourage everyone to think about beginning with the end in mind.  James asked us to consider the following question: "How might we create rituals and routines that establish a CULTURE OF INNOVATION in our schools and classrooms? Our leadership group of Administrators from Northern Indiana collaboratively brainstormed ideas on how we could take a blank canvas, and truly begin to design what INNOVATION could LOOK LIKE in our buildings. If we all spend a little more time in our "Google Garage," perhaps we can take that blank canvas and turn it into something previously considered unfathomable!  This would be "redefinition" at it's finest!   

Thank you, to all of the educational leaders who attended this event, and for the fantastic collaborative effort you put into being part of a larger vision...a vision full of determination to bring about positive innovation in our school districts!  

Sincerely, 

Kelly Clifford
Director of Technology
MSD of Steuben County Schools

 

Utilizing Staff Feedback As Fuel To Drive Our Future!

posted Sep 27, 2015, 8:21 PM by kclifford@msdsc.us   [ updated Sep 27, 2015, 8:36 PM ]

This weekend, I posted a reflection on our September 25th District-Wide Staff Pd Day, entitled "Our 2015 Journey into Blended Learning!"   What excites me even more than spending the day having meaningful dialogue and professional development time with teachers, is hearing their constructive feedback at the end! 

As an administrative team, we wanted clear evidence and feedback on whether or not it would be worthwhile to repeat a district-wide PD event like this in the future.  We are now officially a 1:1 school district, and it is critical that we both collect feedback during our journey and use that feedback as fuel to drive improvement processes and overall direction for the district.  

Below, we have included screenshots of our staff feedback:






Not only were these results overwhelmingly exciting, but they also clearly pointed out that the day was worthwhile!  Time is a precious commodity in the world of education, and it's amazing what time "well-spent" can produce!  

During our time spent together, many teachers said that they appreciated the time they were given in the afternoon to collaborate freely with their colleagues.  In every break-out room, teachers worked with one another to come up with fantastic blended learning ideas for their grade level and/or department!  In the secondary break-out rooms, many teachers enjoyed the opportunity to work with grades 6-12 content area colleagues. For the first time in a long time, they had conversations related to "vertical alignment" of lesson plans and content covered.  Overall, it was an awesome opportunity for our teachers to converse with one another, and to use that collaborative spirit to brainstorm ideas for the future!  Below, I have included the list of amazing ideas that our teachers at MSD of Steuben County would like to try to implement this school year!  

Blended Learning....Here We Come!

Staff Ideas for Blended Learning Implementation 2015-2016




3 Leadership Questions To Ask Yourself!

posted Sep 13, 2015, 7:50 PM by kclifford@msdsc.us   [ updated Sep 13, 2015, 7:58 PM ]

Last week, I officially began my journey into the COSN CTO2B program, which is a leadership mentor program designed specifically for Technology Directors. At our first gathering, we met our partnering districts, and had a chance to reflect with others regarding our strengths and opportunities for growth as an educational leader in Indiana.  As we dove deeper into the conversation about qualities of great leaders, we watched the following video of Colonel Arthur J. Athens giving his Capstone Address.  In Part 1 of his speech, he focuses on Leadership.  

YouTube Video




During this video, Colonel Athens discusses a scenario in which a young lieutenant was assigned to a unit that contained several sergeants who had much more experience than he did, and he was now facing the challenge of stepping in as their new leader.  Somewhat intimidated and ultimately questioning his own ability to lead these men into battle, he asked them, "Why Would You Follow Me?"  

As this story began to unfold in the video, I started to realize not only how important his answers to this question were, but also how much those answers will help me personally in my journey with leadership.  At the age of 33, I too, am a young leader in the role of Director of Technology for my school district.  Of all the leadership training and experience combined thus far in my life, the three bullet points below hit home more than anything I have ever heard before:

To his young new Lieutenant, The Sergeant said, 

"Here are the 3 Questions We Will Ask About You As Our New Leader:"

  1. "Do you know your job, or are you striving hard to learn it? (Do you study, ask questions, listen, are you not afraid of failure?)
  2. Will you make the hard but right decision even if it costs you personally? (We want to know that you are a leader of integrity! When the moment is right, will you stand up for us?)
  3. Do you care as much about us as you care about yourself?"
He then went on to summarize "The 3 C's of Leadership"

1. Competence

2. Courage

3. Compassion

He said that more often than not, many leaders forget the importance of being compassionate.  Being compassionate means having GENUINE concern for your people, and that you try to make them feel special whenever possible!
  1. "Extraordinary leaders have genuine concern for their people! "
  2. "You will never release the full potential of those who work for you if you don't have that genuine concern."
  3. "Leadership is about influence."


In my new position as a Central Office Administrator, it is more critical now than ever, that I can provide my staff with adequate support and answers to the "3 Questions!" It is important that they see me "striving hard to learn!" It is important that they see me trying to "make the right decisions even if it costs me personally!" It is important that they know "I care as much about them as I do myself!" And finally, it is important that I practice and demonstrate "competence, courage, and compassion" on a regular basis!

In addition, I believe that no matter what title or position it is that we have, it is CRITICAL that all of us ask ourselves the "3 Questions!" This means all stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents, community leaders, school board members, and our legislators! All stakeholders, working together, help to lead our school districts to success.  Let's encourage one another to show genuine compassion, to demonstrate the courage it takes to bravely pursue our journey, and to competently model that which we would like to see from others!  

As Colonel Athens has suggested, We must ask ourselves...
  1. "Do you know your job, or are you striving hard to learn it?"
  2. "Will you make the hard but right decision even if it costs you personally?"
  3. "Do you care as much about us as you care about yourself?"

 Sincerely 

Kelly Clifford

Full Steam Ahead!

posted Jul 8, 2015, 10:43 AM by Kelly Clifford

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Full Steam Ahead! A New Journey as "Director of Technology"


Today is July 1st, 2015, and it is officially the first day of my new journey as "Director of Technology" for MSD of Steuben County!  As I reflect and plan for this exciting new adventure, I keep coming back to a quote that a dear friend of mine introduced me to:  "Start where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can!" 


Start Where You Are

So, where are we right now?  I am very proud to say that our district is about to begin our very first year of "true 1:1" technology integration!  During the 2015-2016 school year, we will be utilizing Chromebooks in grades 3-12 and iPads in grades K-2. 

At our secondary levels, we will be focusing on "taking technology integration to the next level!" What does this mean? It means that now that we are familiar with the devices and how they function on a daily basis, it is time to think creatively about how we begin to accelerate beyond using technology at a basic "substitution" level.  We need to begin our mission to "augment," or to add functional improvement to our lesson plans, to "modify" and redesign our ideas, and to "redefine" our teaching with the creation of new and previously thought inconceivable learning tasks.  As Director of Technology, I am extremely excited to support our secondary teachers in this adventure, and to personally model the examples and expectations we are setting forth for our staff!  Secondary teachers, get ready to move FULL STEAM AHEAD!

Our four elementary buildings will be focusing on their first year with Chromebooks in grades 3-5 and iPads in grades K-2.  As we begin to get comfortable with our devices and Google Apps for Education, we will explore relevant and useful tools that allow our students to "make, create, publish, and do" fantastic things in our classrooms!  I cannot wait for this school year to begin, and for our elementary teachers to finally feel the freedom of having a classroom no longer bound to 4 walls!  Elementary teachers, get ready to move FULL STEAM AHEAD!  

In grades K-12 we will also focus on Digital Citizenship, and what it looks like and means to be a "good" digital citizen.  2015-2016 IS GOING TO BE A FANTASTIC SCHOOL YEAR! Let's get ready to move FULL STEAM AHEAD!

Use What You Have

So, what do we have?  Perhaps I should be asking, what "don't" we have?  At MSD of Steuben County, we have the following:
  • Students who are eager and ready to "make, create, publish, and do" amazing things with Chromebooks and iPads!
  • Teachers who are dedicated to finding the very best ways to integrate technology into their teaching curriculum!
  • Administrators who work hard to support and model the effective use of technology for their teachers!
  • A small, but mighty tech team of men who work hard every day to maintain our infrastructure and devices for end-users!
  • A Director of Technology and Technology Integration Coordinator who are 100% dedicated to doing whatever it takes to empower teachers in their journey with technology integration! 
Let's use what we have and build upon that to push us FULL STEAM AHEAD into the 2015-2016 school year!

Do What You Can

So, what can we do? This school year, I am not "taking my district" FULL STEAM AHEAD on a technology journey.  I am embarking "WITH THEM" on a technology journey FULL STEAM AHEAD! Together, we are going to do everything that we can reasonably do to make a positive impact on our students.  

  • We can participate in "book studies" that help inspire us to use the things we are passionate about to enhance our teaching! Check out principal Amy Heavin's Summer Book Studies!  We are reading "Teach Like a Pirate," by teacher and author Dave Burgess and "Ditch That Textbook," by teacher and author Matt Miller! When you get a free moment, you can check out Dave's TEDTalk here!
  • We can go to amazing workshops to see other educators modeling effective strategies and ideas that work in their classrooms!  Check out our Summer of eLearning Conference on July 21st, 2015:  IntegratED.  Follow us on Twitter @IntegratEd15. Come to watch and support several of our very own MSD teachers as they present! 
  • We, as teachers and lead learners, can start learning how to search for inspiring content and ideas ourselves, rather than waiting for the ideas to be delivered, or "spoonfed" to us. On September 25th, 2015 we will have an amazing keynote speaker come in to share with us ways in which we can develop our own avenues for searching out awesome digital content and web tools with which our students can make, create, publish and do fantastic presentations! With these strategies, you can finally make Professional Development activites find their way to YOU!
  • We can support one another in collaborative conversations about things that are "working" in our classrooms and things that "aren't working" in our classrooms.
Finally, our teachers can have faith in the fact that they have a Director of Technology who believes in "using the right tool for the right teachable moment."  Sometimes technology is the best tool for the task at hand, and sometimes it is NOT!  If it is not the most efficient way of doing something, then don't do it that way :)

This summer, I have been participating in a book study focused on the book "Ditch That Textbook," by Matt Miller.  Matt, who is a Spanish Teacher from Indiana, shares with us a very meaningful quote, "Let's outsource and automate what we can with technology to spend our time doing what's most important: living life!" One of my goals in my professional life is to be as efficient and as effective as possible in all daily tasks, so that I can spend time at home with my family, which includes my husbad, a wild 3 year-old named Howie, my newborn baby, Phoebe!


If nothing else, my biggest wish for the 2015-2016 school year, is to help my teachers learn to "outsource and automate what they can with technology to spend their time doing what's most important in life: LIVING LIFE!" Thank you so much, Matt Miller for sharing these words of wisdom with us! You are truly a teacher and an educator who "gets it!"
We can make this coming school year whatever we want it to be. Thank you, MSD of Steuben County, for inviting me to transition into the role of "Director of Technology." Together, we will embark on a technology journey, FULL STEAM AHEAD!

Rise Up & Attack the Day with Enthusiasm!

posted Jul 8, 2015, 10:42 AM by Kelly Clifford

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Educators: Rise Up & Attack The Day With Enthusiasm!



It's official: the choice is up to you!  You can choose to wake up and attack the day with enthusiasm, OR you can choose to wake up and make it a day just like any other day.  As educators, we need to think about what it is that makes each dayunique, worthwhile, and exciting!  We also need to stop and ask ourselves the following questions:
  • What are we passionate about personally?  
  • What are we passionate about professionally? 
  • Are we taking time to follow our passions and to actually give them a chance? 

Chances are, if you are not doing something you are passionate about, you may feel "un-enthusiastic."Sometimes, I think people sit around and WAIT for their passion to find them instead of getting in the driver's seat and going after it!  Maybe some people really are lucky, and exciting things just find them, but I have always found that the best way to drive my own day/week/month/year, is to devote all of my energy toward building the doorways that lead to new and exciting opportunites both personally and professionally!  

Have you ever ate in a restaurat that offered a "create your own combination" dinner?  Think about it...you pick your favorite items and eat them in a spectacular combination!  Have you ever read a story that was "create your own adventure?"  Think about it...what is more exciting than creating your very own adventure?  And the amazing thing is...this doesn't have to only take place in restaurants and story books!  I challenge educators to personally and professionally think about this as a challenge!  

If you created your own adventure every day at home, you would definitely be enthusiastic!  If you created your own adventure every day in your classroom, you would be not only enthusiastict, but also inspired to create moments of opportunity for your students to do the same.  The hot topic in "educational conversation" right now is the idea of "passion-based learning."  It is important that first, WE, as educators find things that we ourselves are passionate about. If we can't do this, then how can we ever expect to model the idea for our students?  Basically, I'm challenging you to find at least ONE thing that you can be personally enthusiastic about...and ONE thing that you can be Professionally enthusiastic about in the next month. Then, try to devote at least ONE moment each day or each week to working on that very thing you are passionate about!  Chances are, you will feel better about now being in your own motivational driver's seat!

If you are a fan of Twitter, it can be an excellent place to find 
motivational and inspirational quotes!  

Here are just a few that I have seen tweeted out lately!


The above quote is absolutely true!  Quit "wanting" and "wishing" for things to happen!  Get up, and MAKE things happen! If you don't make it happen, then someone else will...and it may be too late!  



In education, sometimes we "talk about" what we dream the ideal classroom would look like, or what we dream our lesson plans could be like. Well, instead of talking about it...let's SEE it!  SHOW US!  You are perfectly capable of devoting your energy to "showing us your dreams!"


Sometimes, I take "heat" from my friends and colleagues for being unafraid to talk to strangers.  Well, I find that "being afraid" is usually what limits people from opportunites that could be amazing!  Yes, there are definitely things that I am afraid of, but overcoming fear is one of the most freeing things that you can do for yourself both personally and professionally! 

Think About This:
  • If you were not afraid to talk to strangers...think of the amazing people you could meet!
  • If you were not afraid of heights...think of the awesome places you could go!
  • If you were not afraid of public speaking...think of all those that could hear your inspiring message!
  • If you were not afraid of technology...think of the spectacular ways you could digitally present and publish your story!
Remember, the choice is up to you!  You can choose to wake up and attack the day with enthusiasm, OR you can choose to wake up and make it a day just like any other day.  Come on, educators! Rise to the challenge!  

Sincerely, 

Kelly Clifford

Time to Pump Up Technology Integration!

posted Jul 8, 2015, 10:41 AM by Kelly Clifford

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year! It's Time to Pump Up Technology Integration In Your Classroom!

Happy New Year!
It's Time to Pump Up 
Technology Integration In Your Classroom!

(Image From: http://princetonfound.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/princeton-fireworks-photos/)

Can you believe it? We are half-way through the school year already!  Now that we have had time to relax and rejuvenate ourselves, it may be a good time to reflect on what we have done so far this school year to integrate technology into our lesson plans, and to also reflect on what exciting new ideas we can try during the rest of the school year! Need some pumping up?  Let's get started!


Ask Yourself the Following Questions to Kick-Start Your Spring Lesson Plans!

  • What "Units of Study" do I have coming up this Spring?
  • Are there any units that I wish to make more EXCITING?
  • Are there any units coming up that have concepts students typically struggle with? 
  • Are there any student-created final PROJECTS or PRESENTATIONS that I could revamp?
  • Are there any units that could use a few teacher-created "HOW-TO" videos for my students? 
  • Will there be any times I will be "out of the classroom" this Spring for conferences? If so, think about creating a few short videos of the "digital YOU" teaching those lessons! Post them to YouTube or push to students via Google Classroom!  Once you try it...you will be addicted!

When it all comes down to it, we need to remember to begin thinking about the idea of technology integration by thinking about our LESSON PLANS first!  Please remember, you are a TEACHER first and foremost, and the focus needs to always be on content itself and the accompanying lesson plans. 

Because we are "Teachers of Children" first...it means that NEXT, we are teachers of our Content Areas, Literacy, Citizenship, and more!   When I say "Literacy," I mean ALL types of Literacy!  Regular Literacy, Digital Literacy...you name it! When I say Citizenship, I mean ALL types of Citizenship! Regular Citizenship, Digital Citizenship...and more! Technology is here to stay, just like "literacy" and "citizenship" are here to stay, so our challenge is to think creatively about the ways in which we incorporate ALL of it together as a single streamlined package to our students via our daily lesson plans!

When thinking about your Spring Lesson Plans, I challenge you to keep these Six Simple ISTE Technology Standards for Students in mind! 

  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and Collaboration
  3. Research and Information Fluency
  4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  5. Digital Citizenship
  6. Technology Operations and Concepts
Take a look at these!  Most all of these are things you are already doing on a weekly basis, and it's our challenge to figure out how to sprinkle in a little more as we travel through the rest of our teaching journeys this school year.  Below, I would like to provide you with an example of just how easy it is to think about a unit you are already teaching, and to add a little creativity and pizazz to it!  Let's get started!

                                             
(Image from: http://www.hdwallpapersinn.com/yellowstone-national-park-hd-wallpapers.html)

I recently worked very closely with one of my 4th Grade Elementary Teachers on a unit about National Parks. She wanted to add something special to this year's delivery of the "same old" unit that she has been teaching for the last few years.  So, where did we start?  We started with the LESSON PLAN itself!  Remember, products and apps alone are worthless!  It's about PROCESS, NOT PRODUCT! Products and Apps are only meaningful when combined with the right reasoning for educational use.  Focus on your content and the learning outcomes you want to achieve with students, and the right digital tool will naturally fall into place! 

We talked through the content, the student expectations and learning objectives, and then finally what she would like to revamp with the "final product" of the unit itself!  In the end, we needed an exciting way for students to deliver and present what used to be "National Park Essays."  Once we focused in on the lesson itself and the areas for improvement, we tried out a few different apps and products, and finally decided that it would be very exciting for this year's students to try using an App called "Shadow Puppet EDU" to upload pictures of their National Parks, to add captions, and to record their voices over the top of these slides for a final video compilation of their parks! 

Mrs. Floto created her very own essay on a National Park, researched and found pictures to accompany the written paragraphs, created captions, and finally recorded her very own Shadow Puppet EDU video to use for MODELING this learning process for her students!  When it comes to technology, it is CRITICAL that teachers MODEL both the learning process itself and the product that is being used. 

What was amazing, was that the learning process itself was very similar to what it had been in the past, but we were able tosprinkle in some excitement and a very fun final product for students!

First, students researched their National Parks, took notes, and created and drafted essays on paper.  After the traditional part of the lesson, we encouraged students to critically think about creative pictures that could be added to drum up excitement for their National Parks. Following their essays as scripts, they had to make decisions and use good digital citizenship and judgement for choosing accompanying pictures and maps.  Next, students had to communicate and collaborate with each other and with their teacher in order to justify their story maps and slides, to provide evidence that their content was all in place and in the correct order, and to demonstrate that they were ready for the final step: RECORDING their voices! 

In order to record their voices, students had to use basic technology operations including recording, pausing, and finalizing their shows.  Once the shows were approved, they were SAVED and uploaded to their Google Drive accounts for easy access and sharing! Immediately following the completion of the student projects, the class selected a morning for "Presentation Day!"  This was the day that students were able to watch each other's National Park Presentations and to celebrate the success of their classmates! What an exciting way for students to learn about National Parks and landmarks across our country!  

As we reflected upon the journey of this lesson plan, Mrs. Floto was excited about the following take-away: "One thing I noticed from doing this is that some students who struggled with paragraph writing were finally able to visualize the concept!"  In addition to her excitement, think about how easily she was able to incorporate the 6 Student Technology Standards into her lesson plan!  Each standard was a natural fit, and it made for a smooth and streamlined lesson plan! Eventually, this teacher plans to post these student videos to her classroom website! Talk about an amazing way to showcase student work for parents and community members!    

This teacher found a way to "pump up"
 the technology integration in her classroom!  
She started by picking ONE lesson plan!  
Are you ready to "pump up" your lesson plans this Spring?  
Bring on the excitement! 
Bring on the passion!  
It's time to sprinkle some additional creativity into our lives!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Kelly Clifford

Think Positive, Be Positive, Anything is Possible!

posted Jul 8, 2015, 10:41 AM by Kelly Clifford

Think Positive...Be Positive...Anything Is Possible!

Think Positive...Be Positive...Anything Is Possible! 

A Positive Attitude results in Positive Experiences

It's that time of year again...the air is getting colder, all of our leaves are almost gone in Northern Indiana, and just the very thought of snow is making us all feel that winter is about to set in!  On Friday night, I took my 2 year old Trick-Or-Treating in the sleet and snow!  I, along with many other Hoosiers, started to feel the the first rounds of mother nature telling us that winter is about to arrive! 

Now that this cold season is upon us, it is sometimes a challenge to keep our attitudes as "sunny and energetic" as we do in the spring, summer, and fall.  My challenge to all educators is to use this time of year to focus on the things we are passionate about!  Passion is what motivates us, and it certainly can carry us through the long winter season! 

This weekenend, I came across the following quotes about ATTITUDE.  Educators, please take a moment to sincerely think about these quotes and how they apply to the educational setting! 

Quote #1: Attitude
"The only disability in life is a bad attitude."  Scott Hamilton


I have never really thought of a bad attitude as a disability before, but that is actually very accurate! Think about it...we have all come across both educators and students that have a bad attitude from time to time, and when that bad attitude is there, it presents itself as a disability not only to that specific person, but also to everyone around that person.  Bad attitudes can suck others into a deep abyss of negativity that is sometimes hard to climb out of.  On the flip side, think about those you know who have POSITIVE ATTITUDES! People with positive attitudes can attract everyone from all around!  Positive attitudes keep things flowing, and keep creativity alive! Positive attitudes also help us to create new opportunities and solutions!

Think about the people you know who actually have a real disability.  All too often, the people with the actual disabilities are the ones with the most positive attitude of all!  Go into any functional skills classroom and you will see exactly what I am talking about!  These students have so many challenges in the real world, and their sunny dispositions would make you believe a completely different story!  Wow! Attitude is everything. As I reflect once again on this quote by Scott Hamilton, it inspires me to continuously encourage others to keep up a positive attitude this winter! A positive attitude gives us the ABILITY to make anything happen!
Think positive.
Be positive.
Anything is possible!

Quote #2: Attitude
"A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes."  Hugh Downs


I sometimes wonder what people think of those who "always seem to be happy."  I personally happen to fall into the category of one who "always seems to be happy," so it's hard for me to understand what it is like for those that live outside of this category.  Why do I think it's important to be happy?  Well, it's because I have a father who perfectly matches this quote and is an inspiration to me every day!  My father is one of the happiest people I know despite the fact that he is living with a terrible set of circumstances.  My father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Medullary Thyroid Cancer 11 years ago, has been through many surgeries, was only supposed to live for a maximum of 5 years...and what has kept him alive?  We sincerely believe that his amazing positive attitude is what is keeping him alive!  His circumstance is now defined as living at home with Hospice at his side, but his attitude seems more like someone who is on "a Sunny Florida Keys Vacation."
What has this situation taught me about life?

Think positive.
Be positive.
Anything is possible!

When you see happy colleagues at school, they are not necessarily happy just because they have the perfect life, or because they are living with an amazing set of circumstances.  They may be happy because they choose to be happy despite the crazy details of their normal lives.  Happiness is a mindset, and sometimes a happy attitude is what carries us and motivates us to keep on going!  If I had to choose whether to be around a happy person or a negative person, a happy person is going to win every time! 

So, why am I always happy? Because I have a MISSION to always be happy, and I have seen first-hand the power of what a positive attitude can do for your life!  As educators, we need to model positive attitudes for our students every day!  So many of our students live with challenging situations at home, and it is important for us to show them how they can overcome any set of circumstances if they have a positive attitude that can carry them through!  Likewise, Administrators should model a positive attitude for their staff members for the very same reason!  Remember...


Think positive.
Be positive.
Anything is possible!

Quote #3: Attitude
"Imagine a place where everyone chooses to bring energy, passion, 
and a positive attitude everyday!"  Stephen C. Lundin

Close your eyes and picture your district, your building, or your classroom on a day when EVERYONE brings their energy, passion, and positive attitude!  Wow!  Think of the synergy, the true collaboration, and the amazing relationships that would be created that day!  In a perfect world, this would be our ideal setting for teaching and learning everyday!  Think of all that we could accomplish!  Think of what we could create!  Think of the places learning could take us!  Think of...all of the reasons why this is completely possible! 

Another quote I love is, "Forget all the reasons it won't work and believe the one reason that it will." Excuses tend to be cheap, easy, and lazy.  With energy, passion, and a positive attitude, anything is possible!  Don't let excuses hold you back!  In your classroom, bring on the energy!  Bring on the passion! Bring on the positive attitue!  With these 3 pieces in place, you will enable your classroom or district to travel far beyond your wildest expectations!

Think positive.
Be positive.
Anything is possible!

Sincerely, 
Kelly Clifford

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