Sunday, March 22, 2015

The One Where Sandy Takes a New Job

This is it. The blog post where I talk about taking a new job. And it isn't in educational technology.

Back in January, I wrote about an opportunity I had to fill a gap while my district was looking for a new communications director. That opportunity eventually led to an offer to work under the newly hired director as a communications specialist. I accepted the position and have been working in and learning my new position for the past eight weeks.

Although not an opportunity I was directly seeking, it came along at a good time for me. I'd been experiencing a "stuck-in-a-rut" feeling for at least the past year in my previous position, as the responsibilities of it kept me in my office the majority of the time, away from the schools and classrooms where the action I love takes place.

By contrast, my short six weeks of filling in on the communications front in the fall had invigorated me. I was energized by getting out on campuses to cover events and interfacing with teachers and staff to bring the great things happening in our schools to the attention of the public. It helped, too, that I received positive feedback about my efforts from fellow staff members. And when a couple of colleagues mentioned I seemed more upbeat than I had in a long time, it did make me start to wonder if it was time for me to take new steps in my professional life.

I am not a believer in coincidence. I prefer to call it "Godincidence," when the One who is watching over me and knows my heart far better than I do orchestrates circumstances to open a door I didn't even know I needed to have open, I'd be a fool not to walk through.

I know without a doubt that I made the right decision for this time and place. I am still struggling with one thing - not calling myself a teacher. Over the past few weeks I've met tons of new people and when they ask me what I do, I stumble a bit. Not because I don't know. But because with all my heart I am a teacher. It's the way God wired me.

When I was talking about this with a good friend recently, he reminded me I am still teaching. I'm teaching people about what's going on in their schools. And I went on to reflect on the fact that I will be mentoring colleagues, and maybe even students, in communication and the importance of sharing their ideas and learning and accomplishments online and establishing a positive digital presence.

I've also been discouraged with the way educators and public education have been portrayed by politicians and in the press in recent years. Now I am officially part of the group of professionals whose job it is to publicize the learning that takes place in our schools every day.

So for this season of my professional life, however long it may last, when I'm asked what I do, I will answer that I'm a Communications Specialist for a K-12 public school district in Texas, but my hard-wired vocation of Teacher will always be the driving force behind that official title. Always.

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

MOOCs for Professional Development - #TCEA15

Notes from MOOCs for Professional Development Presentation at TCEA 2015

Dr. Kay Abernathy, Lamar University

Lamar University sponsored the MOOC on Social Media Communication Tools for Educators which Dr. Abernathy facilitated. It was free, but offered a certificate of completion. Participants can later pay a fee to get college credit. Partial purpose was to recruit future students for online masters programs.

Built in You can build up to five MOOCs for free on this platform.

Dr. Abernathy also put all of the course information in her Word Press blog. She said we can use it!

What is a MOOC? - Massive Open Online Course
Video Explanation by Dave Cormier

More Characteristics

  • Courses do not have specific assignments but active participants are required to stay up to date with rough schedules.
  • Participants and instructors aggregate, remix, and repurpose that content during the course.
  • Classroom is one of many hubs where interaction occurs, including blogs or portfolios, websites, social networking sites, and more.
Topic and Purpose
  • To investigate a MOOC of social media content for PD related to initiation and implementation of social media tools for PD concepts transference to PK-12 educators and students.
  • 112 Enrolled
  • 100 did not complete (MOOC Option)
  • 12 completed course and survey
  • 10.75% response rate
  • Examination of blogs, Facebook postings, and Twitter posts representative of participants who completed the MOOC course during the same timeframe as the 12 survey respondents
  • Analysis revealed three themes: Social Media Tools, Reflective Writing, Transference to Practice

Questions to Consider
  • Who is the audience?
  • Why are we encouraging the use of MOOCs?
  • How will we show evidence of learning?
  • How will we encourage others to express their voice?

References and Resources

  • Facebook: LU Social Media for Communication MOOC
  • Search for Social Media Communications Tools for Educators

MY THOUGHT: K-12 could really benefit from all the MOOCs out there in Coursera, edX, Canvas, etc, by allowing teachers to gain PD credit for completing them!

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Giving Students Voice - #TCEA15

Notes from Presentation at TCEA 2015
Zach Snow, Instructional Technology Coordinator, Royse City ISD

Kevin Worthy, Superintendent, Royse City ISD -@kworthy11

Empowering Students, Shaping the Future - Vision statement that came out of Royse City ISD strategic planning.

Start With "Why?"

The most important voice in our educational community is our students. It's also the least heard voice. Students have incredible things they want to accomplish and want to see done, but we often don't take time to listen to them.

Live has changed drastically since most of us were in the classroom as students.


Through strategic planning, Royse City did a number of things to involve people in decision making processes in the district. They had many advisory teams, but felt like they were missing student voice. After year one of planning, they formed a student advisory team.

Students help us keep connected with our Why.

Biggest question was how can we change instruction in the high school by using technology? What device is needed and how should it be used. Members of student advisory team were given Chromebooks to use and to give feedback. Cabinet members come to meetings with the student advisory team so they can hear about the student experience.

Talked with students on the advisory panel about 21st Century learning. We know best practices, but if they aren't connecting with students, they don't matter. Found out in some settings where we think something isn't a best practice, it might be. For example, they found out some teachers were really good at lecture and students liked it. Also found that some students prefer the AP route over dual credit because of the rigor of the learning.


Listen. But just listening isn't enough. We have to respond. What we hear should influence decision making.

Advisory team members - 2 seniors, 2 juniors, 1 sophomore, 2 freshmen; 4 girls, 3 boys

  • Students introduced themselves and felt good about being able to give input and be listened to by the superintendent and technology coordinator.
  • Love being able to speak on behalf of the student body.
  • Students talk about their concerns with peers all the time, but now they have someone who can make changes listening

Social Media and Student Voice
  • Monday nights at 8 there is a #StuVoice Twitter Chat

Questions for the Student Panel

Who is on social media?
  • Every student! They have Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other stuff. And they check it constantly. 

Who is listening when you're on social media?
  • Everyone is listening. It's a powerful tool for communicating.
  • Everyone. Adults. Other students. One of the students on the panel was encouraged when she posted about a women's issue and got responses from adults.

Compared to other high schools, Royse City High School has many more followers. Twitter is engrained in the culture at Royse City.
  • @RC_StuVoice is run by students.
  • Students often look at student organization accounts to see what is going on.
  • Twitter acts as a release for students to express themselves and their thoughts. They get to advocate for what is going on in the school. People in the school community pick up on these conversations and sometimes this leads to action.
  • If schools don't tell their story, someone else will tell it for them.
  • Twitter has also become a part of PD in Royce City. It takes individuals to model this behavior.
  • Every campus and principal in Royse City has a Twitter account.
  • Modeling is important for digital citizenship,

How do the students feel they've influenced their teachers in the use of social media and technology?
  • Feels validated knowing that principals and administrators are listening
  • Feels like ideas are being taken seriously because they are seeing results based on the opinions they've shared. For the first time in the educational system, the students feel like they are considered equal instead of "less than" the adults in the system.
  • By using Chromebooks they've been able to show teachers that they want to use technology.

Do you want adults to interact with and comment on your social media? Your parents?
  • This depends on the student or teenager.
  • A couple of the students said they don't care who listens or comments. They are trying to show their accomplishments. Other students, though, might want to just vent.
  • One student shares she feels good when her mom or band director favorites or re-shares her posts. It makes her feel important.
  • Another student shares he likes to get in conversations on Twitter as long as they stay civil. He disengages if someone gets ugly.

Does knowing your school admins or parents are following them on Twitter make you think twice about what you post or make you want to go elsewhere to post?
  • A lot of kids do use Instagram because parents don't use it.
  • Student quote - "What you post online reflects who you are. If you aren't comfortable with others knowing it, then you shouldn't be posting it."
  • Social media should be used as an outlet for what should be said. It shouldn't be vulgar or immature. 
  • People who follow you aren't only people you know.

This is a group of good students. Do you feel you represent marginalized students? Do you represent all corners of your school?

  • You're never going to be able to put every opinion out there.
  • One student shares that he does leave the meetings and asks others their opinions on what they are talking about. Word of mouth is a powerful way to get input and have discussions. Technology is a tool but it isn't the only way to gather info. 
  • One project the panel was involved with was getting students to participate in a survey. They made announcements, posted QR codes. They got over 600 people to participate.
  • Students realize they don't represent the opinions of every student in the school.

How are teachers using social media to help students, and how could they use social media to help students?

  • Majority is informational. Reminders, accomplishments
  • One way it could be used is to post what is coming up lesson-wise for the week so students can better prepare for the week. For example, which textbooks should I bring to school each day?

What advice would you give to parents and teachers of younger students regarding introducing social media to them and using it properly?
  • Start kids young even though it might be a little scary. But teach them from the start that they need to keep it positive. They should use it to affirm others, not tear them down.
  • Follow your kids on social media

Upcoming Meetings in Royse City ISD

  • Bringing in speakers to discuss digital citizenship with parents and students
  • Then doing a parent panel for community to ask questions
  • Then a student panel for community to ask questions
  • All of this leading up to providing a Chromebook for every student in the high school so they have access to information when they need it (staying away from 1:1 terminology; focus is on students driving their learning)

 All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes

Image Used With Permission Under a
Creative Commons License Agreement
Am I the only person who finds it adorable when kids try to walk in the shoes of an adult? Often the shoes belong to Mom or Dad. What's their motivation? I've always assumed it to be either "I want to be a big kid NOW," or "I want to be just like you when I grow up." I probably read too much into it. Most likely the kids are just having a little fun!

Figuratively, walking in the shoes of someone else can be a learning experience. It's difficult to REALLY do it, of course. But if you're lucky you might have an opportunity to do it. An opportunity like I had during the Fall 2014 semester.

For about six weeks, I was asked to take on some of the responsibilities of the communications director in my school district. Our previous director resigned, and the process to hire a new person began. In the interim, communications processes needed to continue. I was happy to help.

During that relatively brief period of time, I learned a few things directly dealing with communications and public relations. But I learned a much larger life lesson. Something I sort of knew in theory, but which has been solidified in my mind through experience. And it's a lesson I hope to be always mindful of going forward.

The lesson?

No matter how much we think we know about what someone does, we really only know bits and pieces of what they do based on our points of interaction with them.

There's a corollary to the lesson, too.

When we judge a person's actions/performance, we base our conclusions on a relatively small amount of information.

These lessons probably don't sound very profound. I need to find ways to word them better. But perhaps some examples will help clarify what I learned, and give you some food for thought as well.

How often have you found yourself in the following situations, or similar ones?

  • A child is misbehaving in a public place, and the parent isn't dealing with it the way you think they should. You find yourself thinking, "What is wrong with them? If that were my kid, I'd ___________."
  • An issue comes up in your school, and an administrator addresses it in a way that makes no sense to you. You find yourself thinking, "That was crazy! That administrator should have _________."
  • You've had multiple conferences with a parent over concerns about their child, but no matter what you agree on, the parent doesn't follow through with what they said they'd do and the situation doesn't improve for the child. You find yourself thinking, "What a shame. That parent doesn't care about their child."

I could go on, but I think you get the gist by now. As I dealt with communications responsibilities and issues, things which I had wondered about as an observer of the public relations and communications in our district became more understandable. I also became aware of responsibilities that I didn't even know fell under the purview of the department.  

When we deal with students, parents, colleagues, administrators, or people in the checkout line at the store, we are getting a "tip-of-the-iceberg" glimpse at their lives. Even if we interact with people on a consistent basis over a long period of time, we never have a full picture of the journey they are making. What other concerns they are working on besides the ones we might bring to them. How something else in their sphere of life might take precedence over something we feel is of utmost importance.

And so, going forward, when I catch myself thinking, "If I were __________, I'd sure be doing _________ instead of ___________," or something similar, I'm going to try and follow it up with, "But I know I don't know all of the factors involved. And I also know they have different experience to bring to the situation. It will be interesting to see how this turns out."

I'm hoping an attitude like this will lead to less stress (i.e. less worry about things that are not under my influence or control) and more compassion for those around me.

    All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.