Wednesday, August 27, 2014

This Week @Elkmont & Beyond! August 17-23, 2014

Digital Passport Initiative Set To Launch at Elkmont High School

Elkmont High School is proud to announce that on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 1:00 pm CT Limestone County School District’s Digital Passport Initiative will officially launch for the 3rd and 4th grade students at our school.

The Digital Passport Initiative is a 1:1 (student to laptop) initiative of the Limestone County School District. Under the supervision of Dr. Tom Sisk, Limestone County is dedicated to providing a device per student which will serve as their "Passport" to 21st Century Learning. This initiative is not a device initiative; it is a curriculum initiative. Limestone County Schools are dedicated to using the device for instructional purposes to advance student learning. A 1:1 initiative has proven to increase test scores and student attendance and decrease student discipline in districts all across America.

The rollout for the Limestone County 1:1 Initiative is different than most other districts. We believe we should begin at the elementary level and foster these digital natives early rather than the widely used method of a top-down approach. Therefore, we will begin placing 11” MacBook Air laptops in students hands in grades 3 and 4 in September 2014. This rollout will include approximately 1400 students and 130 teachers district wide.

Teachers of these grades have already received the laptop in the Spring of 2014 and are familiar with the device. Ms. Nikki D Robertson at Elkmont High School, along with Instructional Technology Facilitators embedded at each Limestone County School with 3rd and 4th grade classes, have been hired to assist teachers with the digital curriculum pedagogical change that will take place as a result of having devices in the classroom.

To keep up with the learning taking place with these devices and the objectives of the Digital Passport Initiative visit the Limestone County Schools DPI Website at Each week a blog post detailing our learning adventures will also be posted at

If you would like to learn more about the LCS Digital Passport Initiative at Elkmont High School please contact Ms. Nikki D Robertson at

This Week in Pictures

3rd & 4th Graders Continue Digital Citizenship Lessons

This week the 3rd & 4th Grade DPI lessons veered away from Digital Citizenship. We spent this time learning several important things as well as having a bit of fun with our MacBooks. We started out learning how to sign into the MacBook using our personal usernames and passwords. It is very important that student know how to do this on their own so that they can use their laptops at home. We also discussed how to completely shut down your computer and why. For instance, no one in Ms. LuAnn Adams class could get their login credentials to work. We held down the power button until the computer screen goes black. Then press the power button to turn the computer back on. 90% of the time powering your computer all the way off and back on again will solve most computer problems. We also learned how to log out of our accounts so that someone else can log in to the computers we are currently sharing. The last "technical" thing we learned and practices was how to properly take care of the charging cable for the MacBook Air.

For fun we explored Photo Booth. We had such a good time being absolutely silly! We then transitioned into a bit of musical fun by becoming beat box musicians using IncrediBox.

Next week will finish up our Digital Citizenship modules.

Just 5 more days until our BIG DAY! YAY!

Celebrating Our Successes!  

Mr. Kenny Jordan, Assistant Principal, walked and talked with me this week about how much he likes using Remind (formerly Remind 101). We then went door to door down the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade hallway knocking on doors and asking teachers about their experiences using Remind as a way to communicate with students and parents. Every teacher that uses Remind had great stories to share. One teacher shared that she sent home a Remind message for her students to wear red for Spirit Day. All of her students came to school wearing red the next day.

Paper notes and newsletter can get lost or never read. Emails, websites, blogs, and electronic newsletters are often left unread as well, but a recent study proved that 100% of all text messages are read. Thus, if you want to make sure your message has been received use a text messaging service like Remind.

Another service that I like even better than Remind is Check it out if you would like or stop by E1 to have Ms. Robertson help you set up an account to use with your students/parents.


Ms. Pat Gartman, Assistant Principal, continued learning about Twitter and the power of a hashtag this week as she tweeted about the 5th Grade Project Based Learning field trip to Downtown Elkmont.

Be sure to use hashtags like #EHSRedDevils, #LCSForKids, and #iConnect to share the learning fun we are having at Elkmont High School this year.


5th grade teachers, Ms. Tessa Hardiman, Ms. Candi Holt, and Ms. Missy Bailey, used digital cameras this week to begin documenting their Project Based Learning (PBL) Unit. You can follow the pictorial history of the project as it happens by checking back to the Flickr album below from time to time. Pictures will be added as new events are captured.


Ms. Katherine Pankey, Mathematics Teacher, signed up for Google Classroom this week. 
Ms. Robertson has setup a Google Classroom Classes for each of Elkmont High School's PLCs.

Not familiar with Google Classroom? Watch this will blow your mind!

Professional Development

Thursday I had the pleasure of spending the evening learning from the always inspiring Jennifer Lagarde as she presented 27 Ways To Make This The Best Year EVER!  Check it out for yourself and see what you missed! Then make a note to never miss anything Jennifer presents again!

Saturday I got to spend the afternoon doing PD in my PJs with SimpleK12.  Not only was I able to learn great information about Google from presenters like Kyle Pace, Monica Burns, & Kimber Thompson, Caitlin Tucker, and Lori Maldonado,  but I had the honor of presenting as well.

My presentation was about using Google Hangouts to make learning rewindable.  The great thing about SimpleK12 is that the learning can take place 24/7 and is there for you when you are ready.  Plus, they have engaging, well informed presenters.  You can't lose when you use SimpleK12 for your PD needs.

Fun with Family

Friday, Saturday & Sunday my daughter and grandson from Atlanta made the three hour trek to Huntsville to visit.  Our weekend was fast, exhausting and fun!  We took the grandson to Sci-Quest which features more than 150 interactive exhibits pertaining to the principles of science.  Even at 3 years old, he loved it and so did we!  The Earthquake simulator ROCKED! Literally!  The other place we took the grandson was to the US Space and Rocket Center.  It was truly an amazing experience to see and do some many things there.  I love that I was able to spend some quality time with my family while building brain synapses that will help my grandson have points of reference as he learns and grows.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Week @ Elkmont High & Beyond: August 11-15, 2014

DPI Modules:

This week 3rd and 4th grade students began using MacBooks to explore how to be good Digital Citizens and how to stay safe online. Students are completing five learning modules through Common Sense Media's Digital Passport programMrs. Laura Dougherty's 3rd grade students were the first to get their hands on the MacBooks and did an AWESOME job!

I learned quite a bit from that first lesson and adjusted the lesson accordingly. Next, Mrs. Atina English, Mrs. Tina McMunn and Mrs. Anita Bates classes got started on their learning modules.

During our first visit students learned how to make safe passwords, how hard it is to multitask while using a cell phone to talk or text, and the importance of staying safe while online as well as online privacy.

Tech Comfort Survey:

Tackling a new position this year offers great new learning opportunities.  To get a better feel for the educational community in which I am now working and as the Instructional Technology Facilitator, I followed the advice gleamed from the Flipped and websites and sent out a Tech Comfort Survey.  While the results in the slideshow below may look dismal to some, to me they let me know where the "need to work on" areas are as well as who my "experts down the hall" are. 

My next step will be to work with my administrative team to create blocks of time during the school day each month for small groups of teachers to meet in a workshop setting. This workshop time is vital as it allows for collaboration between teachers and professional coaching from the Instructional Technology Facilitator.

Other open ended questions asked on the survey that will also help navigate the professional learning needs of my new school community included:

  • What technology (app, website, etc) not mentioned above do you have a high degree of confidence in using in a school/classroom setting?
  • What technologies have you heard about through PDs, other educators, or friends that you would like to learn more about?
  • If you could only learn three (3) technologies this school year, which three (3) do you feel are critical to helping you in the classroom?

Perhaps my favorite and arguably the most important open ended question came last in the survey:

I'm looking forward to an amazing year of developing meaningful learning connections with my new school community.  

Presentations & Connections:

This past Tuesday I had the wonderful opportunity to present to the Lauderdale County School Librarians.  The invite to speak with this amazing group of librarians came from District Technology Teacher, Carol Pace, who I met at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference (AETC) this past summer.

I feel as if the presentation was an epic fail, however, because I, despite having experienced a few previous bumps in the road, have still not secured a HotSpot in case the venue in which I am presenting does not have adequate Internet service.  

The lack of adequate Internet (speed in this case) prevented use of several valuable audio and video components of the presentation.  The worst aspect of my over site, however, was that the attendees were unable to actively participate in a presentation that was designed for audience participation. 

I hope that despite this, the attendees gleamed something from the session and didn't feel as if their time was wasted.  

Here is a link to the presentation and if you have adequate Internet service be sure to click on the many links embedded in the pictures to get the full effect: 

Friends shouldn't let friends listen to Voxer and drive.   

I feel very fortunate to have friends who are in this "starting a brand new job boat" with me this year.  We have our own little, private Voxer group where we can vent, encourage, support and make each other laugh as we journey down our new found paths.  

With that said, friends shouldn't let friends listen to Voxer and drive.  Jennifer, you know what you did.  I almost peed my pants and drove off the road I was laughing so hard! 

Despite the almost peeing in my pants incident I am so very grateful that I stepped outside of my comfort zone, began connecting and building professional relationships on Twitter and have developed true friendships with professional educators across this country.  If you do ONE thing this year make it TWITTER!  It will transform your life.

#iCONNECT Tech Tips Newsletter-August 11-15, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Voice is Power: Are You Using Yours?

This post is a featured guest post on The Media Specialist's Guide To The Internet.  A special THANK YOU to Julie Greller for asking me to guest blog on her site.  Julie's blog has been an inspiration to me for years!

Summertime immediately brings to mind the raspy, soulful voice of Janis Joplin, sleeping in, and sand between my toes.  In reality, though, summertime is a flurry of professional development sessions, educational conferences, lesson planning, and connecting with other educators.


This summer I attended four conferences, five professional development sessions, one 3 day workshop, moved, visited my new granddaughter in Kansas, got married, went on my honeymoon, and started a new job and I have loved every minute of the non stop action!  

As a connected educator, cofounder of EdCamp Atlanta, a “groupie” of all things EdCamp, a blogger, and a Twitterholic, I take for granted the fact that I speak up and contribute to educational conversations on a regular basis.  But many educators do not feel comfortable following suit, and this is a problem.  It is a problem because if we fail to speak up then who is doing the speaking for us?

Quote by Vickie Davis (aka: Cool Cat Teacher) Photo:

It is a problem because if we fail to speak up, connect, share, and learn from others how are we going to continue to grow professionally?  Is passively waiting for our school district to provide us with timely, relevant, professional development good enough?  Do YOU want to be just “good enough”?

At one of the conferences I attended this summer the failure to speak up and it’s consequences became glaringly and embarrassingly obvious.  An amazing speaker had just finished talking about the importance of making our voices heard and how each one of us has a story to tell.  Immediately following this riveting speech that received a standing ovation the conference transitioned into a SmackDown session.  For those of you not familiar with a SmackDown session it is one of my favorite things!  During a SmackDown everyone in attendance is encouraged to come up to the microphone and share, in two minutes or less, an app, website, lesson, etc., that they used or discovered that year.  There is usually a long line of people waiting to share their great finds and often a cut off point is determined by the moderator of the SmackDown.  It is fast, energetic, exciting, and you learn a lot of new, cool things in just a small amount of time.


At this particular conference for school librarians, however, no one shared during the SmackDown session.  

NO ONE.   

Yes…. NO ONE.  

As moderator, I and a few board members modeled how a SmackDown works.  I then encouraged the attendees to share some of their great tidbits.  


I encouraged attendees, saying, “Certainly everyone here has at least one thing they did in their library this year that they can share (big smiley face)”.  



I was aghast at the deathly silence that engulfed the room filled with school librarians from around the state.  Librarians who had earlier expressed grave concerns about zero funding of their libraries for the last nine years.  Librarians who had just lamented the firing of all school library aides throughout the state.  Librarians who recounted horror stories of school districts that had received waivers from the state department to do away with having a school library at all.  Yet, these same librarians couldn’t find even one thing to share during the SmackDown session at a conference for and about school librarians.  

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that the state legislators don’t see school libraries as valuable enough to fund?  

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that principals and superintendents don’t allocate local resources to help fund their school libraries?

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that administrators don’t see libraries as valuable enough to even have at their schools?

At another conference later in the summer I asked a librarian friend of mine who was there that fateful, silent day, why she had not shared during the SmackDown.  Her reason for not sharing was that the other librarians in her district were jealous of her and “bullied” her when ever she spoke up about anything so now she just keeps her mouth shut.  Seriously???  She was “mean-girled” into silence by other librarians?


This time I was silent.  I simply couldn’t think of anything to say in response.

Now that I have had time to recover from the shock, this is what I want my friend and all the other librarians to know:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

I challenge you, whether you are a school librarian, teacher, administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator/Facilitator, Superintendent, etc., to share.


Your voice matters!  

I also challenge you to ask yourself this question:  

Have I done, taught, discovered anything today, this week, this year, that is of value in my school, in my classroom, in my library, in my district that is worthy of sharing with others?  

If your answer to this question is no… turn in your letter of resignation.  You are hurting the rest of us and more importantly you are hurting children.

Yes. Speaking out and sharing is scary. What if people don’t like what you have to say? What if someone criticizes your blog? What if you sound stupid?  What if you aren’t as great as someone else?  The stakes in education are too high for the barrage of negative “What ifs” we cripple ourselves with and our students are too valuable for us to cheat them by giving into the fear that the negative “What if’s” bring.


If nothing else in this post has yet convinced you of the power of and importance of your voice, please watch the video, Obvious To You-Amazing To Others by Derek Sivers.  It does a great job explaining why you should share.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Digital Passport Initiative...LAUNCH!...Well...Kind of

Today was AWESOME!  It was my first day taking MacBook Airs to the classroom to start a series of Digital Citizenship modules via Common Sense with our 3rd and 4th grade students.  While my initial plan for the one hour session skidded completely off the rails, the learning that took place was much more valuable than what I had planned.

My original intentions/objective: 
Lead students through the Communication and Privacy modules with in the Common Sense Digital Passport modules.

What actually happened:
Students learned how to use a trackpad, how to access the Internet via Safari, what an address bar is, how to type a capital letter, how to type a character, what a colon is and how to type it, what a forward slash is and how to type it, what a safe password is, and just how darn hard it is to multitask while using a cell phone.  

Although my original intentions did not come to fruition, a great deal of valuable learning took place.  I can't wait to work with even more classes as we count down to the BIG DAY when students receive their very own MacBook Air! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

This Week at Elkmont & Beyond: August 4-8, 2014

This week at Elkmont was a busy one as everyone prepared for students to arrive on Friday, August 8th.

DPI Parent Meetings

Digital Passport Initiative Parent Meetings were held on Monday, August 4th and Tuesday, August 5th. There were only 26 parents that were unable to attend either of these meetings. During these meetings, parents and students learned about the Digital Passport Initiative (DPI), why Limestone County Schools is implementing the DPI program, and when they will receive their MacBook Air.

Below is the presentation parents and students saw during these meetings.

Limestone County Schools DPI Website

Be sure to take a look at all things related to the Limestone County Schools Digital Passport Initiative and our progress through the year on our website:

Celebrating Our Accomplishments

The thought of using technology in the classroom can be intimidating to many teachers. I'm glad to say that Elkmont, however, is busting at the seams to get started with using technology! Here are some of the accomplishments we should all celebrate this week:

  • 3rd and 4th grade teachers are using a shared Google Calendar to plan for DPI lessons and collaborations.
  • 5th grade is using a shared Google Calendar to plan an awesome Project Based Learning lesson.
  • Tessa Hardiman, 5th grade teacher, is a Twitter and Google Drive EXPERT! Yay!
  • Tessa Hardiman and Candi Holt both have DonorsChoose Campaigns going to get technology in their 5th grade classrooms.  Support Ms. Hardiman HERE and Ms. Holt HERE.  If we all give a little they will meet their goal in no time at all!
  • Ms. Walker/Ms. Dougherty are using Class Dojo, a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. 
  • Inclusion Teacher, Amanda Wilson, sat down with me for a mini tutorial on Twitter and Google Sheets.  
  • Michele Brazeal and Beth Bates wrote a grant for two MacBook Carts and have been using them ever since. I can't wait to stick my head in their rooms to see all the tricks they have up their sleeves for using MacBooks!
  • I've heard tales that Math Teachers Katherine Pankey and Linda Schmidt are technology gurus! I'm looking forward to connecting with them more this year.
  • The Elkmont Technology Committee is using a Google Doc to create an Acceptable Use Policy for the Bring Your Own Device initiative rolling out this year. Members are: Ethan Whiteside, Michele Brazeal, Beth Bates, Mary Beth Lewis, Katherine Pankey an Duane Wales.
  • Missy Bailey has uploaded many of her files to her LCS Google Account for easy access and device agnostic ease of use for students.
  • Limestone County School educators got into Twitter and #selfie during Institute Day using the hashtag #LCSforKids 

Google Hangouts

This week I had the opportunity to have two Google Hangouts with some of my favorite people.  Early in the week Gwyneth JonesJoyce ValenzaJennifer LaGarde and I connected via Google Hangout to discuss the upcoming season of TLVirtual Cafe, #TLChat LIVE!, TL News Night and Joyce's newest venture, Global TL: Librarians Without Borders.  I absolutely LOVE all the opportunities the TL Community offers for professional growth, connections, and collaboration.

Thursday night I connected with Elissa Malespina and Jeff Flynn at the request of Jeff as he steps up as a library leader in his Baltimore school district.  This hangout was recorded and can be viewed below:


Elissa Malespina is a big user and advocate for the Voxer App.  Voxer is a next generation push-to-talk app that is differentiated from others by providing live voice that is simultaneously recorded, delivered over a any data network, and stored in the cloud.

I see it more as voicemail which I never check on my phone.  How Elissa wrangled me into using this app is beyond me! With that said, I really have enjoyed using Voxer as Elissa, myself and Jennifer LaGarde have started a private little support group on Voxer as all three of us venture into new territory this school year.  It's nice to hear their voices and know that you have friends just an app away to calm you down when you are stressed out and cheer your accomplishments.


I was honored to be the Keynote Speaker for the Huntsville City School Librarians as they began their school year.  We delved into the importance of a strong digital footprint and sharing your story from the library.

EdCamp Atlanta

Hard worked continued all this week as EdCamp Atlanta draws closer!  Just 35 days until the big event on September 13, 2014.  We have brought several new organizers on board this year as well as some great sponsors.  Be sure to check out our sponsors and support them for supporting us.

#iCONNECT Tech Tips Newsletter

The first issue of the #iCONNECT Tech Tips Newsletter went out to faculty and staff at Elkmont High today. This newsletter will be a weekly feature at Elkmont.

Friday, August 1, 2014

This Week at My New Job @LCSforKids July 28-August 1, 2014

iLearn Summer Institute Training
B B Comer Memorial School
Sylacaulga, AL 

Pictured above is the amazing group the visionary Karen Tucker, Director of Information Technology for Limestone County Schools, spent many careful hours, days and months assembling to assure a successful implementation of the Digital Passport Initiative.  Unlike many other 1:1 initiatives that I have been a part of or have observed, Ms. Tucker knew that having technology facilitators embedded in each school was critical to a truly successful implementation if teachers would be able to reach the higher levels of the SAMR Model.  Other school districts hire a scant few technology facilitators who breeze into a school, present a PD session, and then disappear back into the depths of the Central Office.  Here are the names of the lucky group that gets to be a part of this great 1:1 initiative this year with Limestone County Schools: Wendy Brightman, Cindy Wales, Michelle Mitchell, Nikki D Robertson, Rachael Wright, Wendy Davis, Casie Barksdale,  and Amanda Gibbs (Group also known as The DPI Team).

Because the position of Instructional Technology Facilitator is a brand new position, setting the norms for this position is essential.  To help us with this and to clearly understand our role in our schools Ms. Veronica Rice with the Alabama State Department of Education and an expert in Instructional Coaching came to Limestone County for a couple of days to help us out.  We spent two days with Ms. Rice and came out ready to start working with the teachers, administrators and students at our new schools.

The DPI Team then headed to Sylacaulga, AL for three days to the iLearn Summer Institute to learn all about Project Based Learning.  What an awesome time to be an educator in Alabama.  Without any official standardized test looming over our heads, educators in Alabama have a rare opportunity to embrace different avenues of education all aimed towards empowering students to be masters of their own learning.  Dr. Tommy Bice, Alabama State School Superintendent, has given Alabama educators permission to break the rules.  During these three days of learning the ins and outs of project based learning from the entertaining and informative Craig Bates I also had the chance to work with the 5th grade team from Elkmont, my new school. Missy Bailey, Candi Holt and Tessa Hardiman were so much fun to hang out with.  Their idea for a cross curricular project based learning project they will implement this year is truly amazing and I can't wait to see how it turns out once the kids apply their voice to the plan.

Always the librarian, I curated some of the resources shared during DPI Training using Pinterest.

Monday night after the first day of Project Based Learning training I was on standby as Jennifer Hogan stepped out and tried something new for #USEdChat; broadcasting LIVE using Google Hangouts while monitoring Twitter as a backchannel to the conversation.  Ms. Hogan only needed my advice once that night but I was happy to be there to not only be a safety net but to participate in an engaging conversation about leadership.  Read more about this great Twitter chat experiment on Ms. Hogan's blog post, Demonstrating Learning is Scary!

Thursday of this week I spent my time setting up my classroom. This was an odd feeling. Odd to not be in the library. Odd to have a classroom. I hadn't had a classroom since 1997!  Mr. Jordan, one of the administrators at Elkmont, helped me move the tables in my room as I have a rotator cuff issue and my physical therapist would have killed me if I had tried to move those table on my own.  Every single person I have met at Elkmont have been friendly and helpful.  I'm feeling very positive about this school year.

Friday was the official first day of school for Limestone County Schools.  Instead of going to my school I headed for Jones Valley Elementary School to present to a wonderful group of Huntsville City School librarians.  I recorded the presentation using Google Hangouts and broadcast it LIVE for those who couldn't be there in person.

Click image above for Google Presentation

After connecting with the librarians of Huntsville City Schools I headed to Elkmont.  I got several things completed including meeting with the Technology Team about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program that will rollout this year in conjunction with The Digital Passport Initiative (DPI) that will provide MacBook Air laptops for each 3rd and 4th grade student in Limestone County.  The Elkmont Technology Team is working on a shared Google Document to compile an Acceptable Use Policy for BYOD.  In fact, as I am writing this blog post members of this team are working on the Acceptable Use Policy! How cool is that?! 

We also decided on a hashtag for our school, #EHSRedDevils.  Be on the lookout for this hashtag this year! Other tasks completed included stuffing folders for our DPI Parent Meetings August 4th and 5th, a Technology Comfort Level Survey for the staff and administrators of Elkmont High School, created collaborative Google Calendar for reserving the MacBook Cart, and a slew of email.  

I'm looking forward to an adventurous new school year with Limestone County Schools and the Elkmont High School Family!  If you are in a 1:1 school and want to connect and share notes, tips & tricks please contact me!  We can connect, share, learn and grow together!