Friday, February 12, 2016

Conferencing with Your People

Although the title suggests that I attended Comic Con, I did not actually attend Comic Con. I did, however, recently attend the OETC (Ohio Educational Technology Conference) in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

There's something about attending a conference of your PLN - especially those you don't see face-to-face very often. I know many of these folks not just through professional reputation, but also through Twitter chats and a frequent response for help. It's good to have an actual conversation from time to time. These are some amazing and talented people, my PLN!

Attending a conference with your people is energizing. I left the second day mentally exhausted, but professionally re-charged! The Greater Columbus Convention Center was full of 4,000 educators whose dedication, hope, and positivity reminded me what a noble profession I have chosen. "Teachers touch eternity through their students." ~ Freeman Hrabowski. True that...

Each year that I attend the OETC conference, I pick a focus. This year, I decided to extend my enthusiasm from The Hour of Code, and attend sessions to support my growth in being a Computer Science Evangelist.

It all started in December of 2013. I acted as the Pied Piper for a small number of Dublin Teachers into the first year of The Hour of Code.  December 2015 marked our third year of participation, and the number of "student hours" spent in coding activities has grown exponentially. The Hour of Code has become my thing.

A highlight of the conference was getting to hear Hadi Partovi, the Founder and CEO of, and the founder of The Hour of Code.

A quote that struck me was "How can we change the stereotypes without changing the facts on the ground." Hadi Partovi continued to talk about the discrepancy between girls and boys entering the field of Computer Science. As a woman, I want to encourage girls to jump into computer science with both feet and love it as much as I do. I know girls are just as capable as boys. Loud and clear was the message that coding is more than cryptic text on a page. Yes, it's about logic, patterns, sequences, and conditions. But it's also about working together to solve a problem. It's about communicating and collaborating.

So what now? 
I will continue my enthusiasm, encouragement, and support in The Hour of Code, and provide activities and resources for students who want to continue growing their skills. Next year's students potentially have been participating in introductory activities for 2 or 3 years. We need to have more "stretch" in our offerings for them. That is certainly a nice problem to have!

Dublin is adopting an LMS in the fall. I gathered a ridiculous amount of valuable resources that can be included in a course for intermediate and middle school students. How can I include collaborative activities for students outside of the online environment?

Several "Girls Who Code" clubs have started around the district. As much as I'd like to believe that girls don't need a club separate from boys, the data does not support that. Understand it or not, I'd like to provide girls some opportunities to build their foundational skills and confidence so that they may pursue computer science in high school and beyond.

I want to make a difference.

Monday, February 1, 2016


If I were to tell you that I am a published author, would you feel like you were talking to a big shot? After all, not just anyone can publish a book, right? The truth is that I have published a book... albeit a 17-page book on the iBooks store where anyone can publish their work. Still, the process changed me.

Let me rewind a little...
I am a Technology Support Teacher in Dublin City Schools. In this position, I focus on tools and their use in the classroom. I help teachers select appropriate tools for a job, and coach them in integration ideas and logistics. I rely on collaboration with teachers where I am the expert at the tools and their potential, and they are the experts in classroom instruction and content. Many teachers I work with are rock stars in workshop model, and I'm learning so much from them!

A couple of months ago, Franki Sibberson asked me if I could come show her kids the Book Creator app. I gladly accepted the invitation, and worked up an example to share with the kids. My focus was the tool and its bells and assorted whistles.

Fast forward to last week...
My colleague Laura Tucker shared with me that Book Creator had added some comic book layouts and features. I was pretty excited, and immediately grabbed my iPad to take a look. The next sentence out of her mouth is what changed everything... "Have you ever published anything to the iBooks Store?" I was game to give publishing a try so that we could work through the process. In order to do that, I decided that my book had to be publish-worthy. I started from scratch because things just got REAL!

Here was my thinking process:
  1. What should I write about? It had to be something personal so that I had something to say. I decided to write about The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium since that is near and dear to me!
  2. Who was my audience? I decided that children would enjoy a book about the zoo, so I picked primary students as my audience.
  3. What features did I want to include? 
    • Primary students would likely respond to pictures, so I wanted to include photos that I had taken. 
    • Many children have experiences of their own at the zoo, so I wanted to teach them about some of the animals. Text blocks would provide children with some information.
    • Since some of the words may be difficult for young children to read independently, I wanted to have the book read selections aloud.
    • Sound effects would add a fun factor!
    • Links - YouTube playlist of my own zoo videos and interactive activities on the Columbus Zoo website.
  4. What was my voice? Rather than being very formal, I wanted my book to sound like me and have an informal, conversational tone. 
  5. How would the book flow?
    • establish the voice in the role of docent
    • overview of the sections of the zoo - representative animals and the section's logo
    • showcase my favorite area, The Heart of Africa
    • share some interesting facts about a few animals 
    • favorite experience - the LOUD call of the Gibbon
    • some favorite animals
    • credits, why the zoo is important to me
  6. What specifics did I have to do to make the book publish-worthy? I had to be sure to model good digital citizenship by giving credit to pieces of the book that weren't my own. I carefully checked that spelling, grammar, punctuation were correct. Fact checking was important. Ensure that all links worked.
Publishing is a game-changer. Before I was considering publishing this book, I was focused on the tool. Once I shifted to publishing, my focus changed. It became more about the writing. How many students focus too much on the bells and whistles and not enough about the writing? Could publishing be the light switch for them too?
Since I've published this book and shared it with colleagues, friends, and family, I've had some unexpected conversations. Franki Sibberson, my writing workshop hero, asked me to come back and talk with her students about my thinking process. Friends shared with me that they downloaded my book and read it with their child. Twitter was all a-flutter with accolades. My mom thinks I should quit my job and become a writer!

What could publishing do for your students? Could they be transformed, too?

Check out Franki Sibberson's blog this week! She shares her perspective on Book Creator as a writing tool, and her students' writing process in workshop.

Visit Jon Smith's website where he talks a lot about the Book Creator app and his students' publishing to the iBook Store.