Friday, May 11, 2018

Vanguard Unite!

On Thursday, May 10th, over 30 members of various School District of Waukesha Vanguard Teams gathered to meet and socialize with others from across the district.





This was the first of several professional learning and collaboration events that are being offered by the Instructional Technology Coordinators to all school's Vanguard Team members! There was time to meet and discuss our successes and challenges this year. Many teachers were able to make connections with others and some collaborative planning has already started. There was LOTS of food and prizes. Vanguard members in attendance even left with a bit of "swag" for their efforts. You may have seen them sporting their new Vanguard Team T's today.

If you are on your school's Vanguard Team but were unable to join us, look for upcoming messages on how to obtain your swag pack!

If you are on your school's team look for emails outlining future learning opportunities. We are very excited about the different sessions that will be held this summer and next year! Lots of opportunities for growing your own practice and expanding the ideas you have to share with your staff. On your school's Vanguard Team but not receiving our email? Please contact us at ITC@waukesha.k12.wi.us we want to make sure we are connecting with everyone!




The purpose of a Vanguard Team has changed significantly since our launch. The team was once focused on device rollout, logistics, and basic training. We are now at a time where Vanguard Teams should be exploring and sharing more meaningful uses of the tools to support deeper learning, regular collaboration, genuine creativity, and authentic communication in our classrooms. Come join us this summer as we deepen our understanding of these tools and how they can be used!

*A special THANKS! to South student Zoe McCarthy who designed our new Vanguard Team logo. This was a part of a collaboration with a number of other students in Tom Mancuso’s digital design class. You may see Waukesha One and Vanguard Team logos from time to time in communications. These are logos designed by students in the class.


Student Blogging: More than just pushing "Publish"

Passionate learners are infectious. Their enthusiasm for a topic shines brightly, and it rubs off on others. For a small team of students at Banting Elementary, they are working to spread their passion to an audience well beyond the walls of their school using technology.
Several students at Banting Elementary are
sharing their passions through a team blog.

This small team of students at Banting are passionate about different topics, but by working together they are combining their passion, knowledge and energy into a productive outlet to inspire other learners. These students have been working on a passion project over the past few months, and the power of their collaboration is just starting to shine through outwardly.

Deciding on a Publishing Platform
The students began with inquiry, research, and writing. The next stage was thinking about publication. After serious thought about the best way to reach their identified audience of other learners of all ages (both English and Spanish speaking learners), the team decided to start a blog to publish their information to the outside world. 

Their blog address is https://destinformation.blogspot.com/ and they would appreciate readers stopping by to read their first few posts. AND coming back to watch their journey as they continue to post.

Sometimes we can water down the idea of going public with our thinking. Somehow hitting the share button on a Google Doc falls short of meaningful publication for a real audience. However, these students have really put a fine point on what it means to think about your audience, to think about the best way to communicate with an audience. They considered the best digital outlet. A YouTube channel? A website? A newsletter? They ultimately settled on a blog because it gave them an opportunity to regularly update with the newest content at the top. They also could stay focused on writing and inquiry. The blog format gave them time to be thoughtful, play with their ideas in writing, and to ultimately incorporate other media (images or video or links) if needed. And they could work collaboratively on it with a shared blog. And they could keep their identities a bit more concealed by not being on video on a YouTube channel. That was important to this team.

That level of thought and critical thinking around a foundational question, which format is best for our intended audience, is something that showed the power of allowing students to pick and publish to their audience using tools that made the most sense to them.

Topics, Length, and Summary
As for topics -- well, that's where their passion comes into the picture. Each student is publishing posts on their own topic, but they also have to share their thinking and questions with the other students in their group. All of them have an equal say in what goes live to their audience, and they have already had thoughtful talks about pieces that may need more research before going live.

Regarding the length of the posts they are publishing, after some conversation with the team they decided to break down posts into smaller parts that they could publish over time. This gives readers smaller bites of information to digest while allowing the students to publish more regularly over time, something that students learned will encourage more regular, ongoing traffic to visit their site. It also allows the students to really focus in on a key question they are answering with their research for that post.

The ability for students to chunk their entire research topic into smaller parts, summarize the key points for a particular question they are answering within a larger topic, and then decide what parts to publish for an audience to answer these questions completely and accurately, these are skills we hope students can develop by the time they are in high school. These students are showing that with the proper outlet and motivation, they really can begin to develop the skills much earlier on in their academic career.

Personal and Group Accountability
Let's talk about accountability for a moment. This is a collaborative project with elementary students. The teacher is not looking over their shoulder and gently nudging them or requiring them to publish to the blog. This is a student driven passion project. They have to be responsible to themselves to finish the work they agreed to do. They also have to be responsible to the other members of the group to write, edit, and publish on the group's blog.

Student created Google Calendar to outline post deadlines.
Notice that dates extend into summer after school is out.
After some conversation talking about tools that could help to remind them and keep them accountable to one another, they decided two key things. First, they would ALL own the blog. It would not be one person's job to post, but a collectively shared experience between all of the students. Second, they decided to start their own shared Google Calendar. Nobody did this for them. The students created the calendar and then posted a weekly due date for each student who is responsible for posting.

This ability to distribute the workload and hold one another accountable for the completion of work is something our students are ready for at a very early age. The missing component is often a motivation to do the work they are asked to do. In this instance, the students are motivated to do the work because it is something they want to do.

Understanding a Global Audience
Oh, and I should probably mention that the students are also making sure that their articles on the post will eventually be available in both English and Spanish. They know that the world around them and beyond is multilingual, so they decided to broaden their audience by exercising their bilingual superpowers to make the blogs available in both languages.

Understanding that the world includes people of diverse beliefs, languages, ethnicities, and nationalities is something many adults still struggle to acknowledge on a day-to-day basis. These students not only identified this on their own, but they also have an outlet to practice their academic writing and language development in both languages for a real audience.

Underlying all of this is the fundamental reason we need to offer students opportunities to utilize technology in their learning. In this case study, it is about far more than simply writing. The collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, organization, and perceptive thinking about their audience and goals -- these are all value adds to the writing and research that will better prepare these students for success in school and beyond. 

Visit and Share the Blog
Logo located on student blog site Destination Information
The students are actively publishing their blogs now. They have their first three installments in the blog ready to go. Behind the scenes they are actively working on more articles in each series. Their goal is to continually publish throughout the summer and likely into next year, even though they will be headed to middle school. The structure they have built will allow them to continue the project if they personally commit to doing so.

They really would love to get some feedback on their project. Their writing is intended for learners of all ages. It would be appreciated if you could share their blog with your students as well.

To visit Destination Information, their blog, visit https://destinformation.blogspot.com/ .

Friday, May 4, 2018

Vanguard Teams: Thank you for adjusting the sails

When the inspiration for Waukesha One was first born in our district over five years ago, one reality was certain: the shift to learning that utilized digital tools was not going to take shape without sincere belief in the idea, and day-to-day changes in the practice of educators.

Early on, the concept of teacher leadership teams around technology use at each building came to life. In searching for an appropriate name for these teams, the suggestion was made to call them Vanguard Teams. "Vanguard" is the term used to define the group of people leading the way on new developments and ideas. It is also used to identify the foremost advancing or leading group of any army. It was the perfect suggestion.

Vanguard logo designed by
Waukesha South student Zoe McCarthy
So, what is a Vanguard Team in our system? It is a committed group of individuals in each building that are working to find ways to give students and teachers experiences and opportunities that utilize the digital tools that are (and will continue to be) pervasive in all of our lives. It is a team that is trying to make all of us more efficient, while also deepening the learning experiences for students.

Vanguard Team members are the torch bearers of new practices and ideas across the School District of Waukesha.

We know their roles have evolved over time. Initially they led the way on simply navigating our new devices. Do you remember the time when you didn't know how to scroll through a web page on your Mac the first few times you tried it? Do you remember trying to set up that Apple ID and get signed into the App Store on your iPad? It was members of the Vanguard Team helping to lead us through that.

Today they serve a different role than device rollout -- a far more important role. Vanguard Team members from across our district are trying to reshape instruction in their classrooms to best utilize the tools the students have available. While they may be running learning opportunities and support sessions in some places, they are doing the daily work of integrating the tools into their daily practice with students. And then they are sharing. They share at formal events, like The One Conference in January. But they also share daily, in their PLCs, in their co-teaching and co-planning, and in their one-on-one moments with colleagues.

In the upcoming week, the Tech Coordinator team will have an opportunity to say thank you personally to some of the Vanguard Team members that we will interact with at one of our first cross-district Vanguard meet-ups. This is the team that is going to continually help us to adjust our sails as we face the reality of getting our students ready for a life driven by technology, innovation, and change. For this reason, we are making a commitment to finding ways to unite members of these teams and to create a space for their growth and collaboration. We want to thank them for their work thus far and we hope to continually support their work moving forward.

Have you taken a moment lately to thank the Vanguard Team member in your professional life? 
These are the teachers that try new ideas first, invest time in learning, invest time in troubleshooting, and then invest time in teaching and supporting other staff members when questions arise. 

Take a moment to just say thank you to your colleague for their ongoing enthusiasm and commitment to students, to staff members, and to improving the School District of Waukesha.



VG Connections logo designed by
Waukesha South student Alli Geiger

Friday, April 27, 2018

Your iPad is your doc camera

In a classroom where we need to make things visible for all of our students, or when we want to model a process for students, nothing beats a document camera.  They give us a live video feed that we can quickly and easily project to the class.

And the great news -- you already have a document camera available to you. It's your iPad.

Paired with an Apple TV and Airplay (for a wireless experience), or even hard wired into a projector, the camera app on the iPad gives us a live video feed that can be easily shared with the class.

The process is easy. Find, make, or buy a stand that will allow you to be hands-free with your iPad with whatever is below (or in front of) the camera. Then simply connect it to the projector and open the camera app.

The trick is finding a great stand at a great (or no) price. You can buy iPad doc camera stands, but if you look around you'll probably find exactly what you need in your classroom or around the house/apartment.

The stand at right meets all of the requirements.


  • The stand must be sturdy. iPads are expensive, and setting them on a wobbly stand where they may fall is not a great idea!



  • It has openings at the top to safely set your iPad on while allowing the camera to peer through.



  • It lifts the iPad up from the "stage" below so you can fit objects of various sizes underneath.



  • There is a clear working area underneath to fit the demonstrator's hands. This is especially important when annotating text or "modeling" for students.


So go ahead. Look around. What clever ideas have you had for making your own useful iPad document stand?


By the way, this is a GREAT design challenge for students. Set forth the design parameters (something similar to what we outlined above) and let students start thinking creatively.



Start thinking smaller with technology

Nobody likes to use technology when it slows us down. In fact, one goal for meaningful tech use is enhancing a learning experience while keeping the technology seemingly invisible. When technology does that for teachers and learners, it is worth its weight in gold.
However, when we reflect on the ways we most often use technology, the tools are often utilized as a capstone to learning -- a final end product. And that, while a really great way to use technology, well that can be cumbersome, heavy, and can ultimately slow us down.

While summative assessment is certainly an appropriate use of the tools students have, it doesn't take full advantage of what the tools offer us. In these cases, technology use becomes an event, not a way of doing our daily business.

The challenge is to find ways to use the efficiency and mobility of the iPad, along with its built-in tools, to get students interacting with and sharing their thinking daily. The goal is to make sure every student participates, every student engages, every student does the hard work of thinking, all while making a teacher's work in the process more efficient and timely.

Here are ideas you could use to think "small" with technology use in order to incorporate it into your daily learning plan. And the best news -- these tools are on your iPads already. No download needed!


Prior Knowledge & Post Reflections with Camera
In order to activate prior knowledge, educators often use a call and response with the class or group. This only gives some of the students an opportunity to engage their brain and show what they know.

Instead, have every student turn on the video camera on their iPad. Speaking in a six inch voice (direct students to talk into the microphone of the iPad for better audio), have every student record 30 seconds of video explaining what they know about the topic.

At the end of the lesson on the topic, have students listen to their original recording. Ask them to reflect on two key questions: 1) What do I know now that I didn't know earlier? and 2) What questions do I still have about this topic?

They could now share with a partner for a quick turn and talk session.

Finally, have the small group film one final 20 second video using the camera app. They will record the answers to these questions: 1) "One really important thing we learned today about this topic was..." and 2) "One question we still have about this topic is...".

Students can now AirDrop the video to their teacher as an exit ticket, and the teacher can quickly review the student's thinking and questions.

Low Tech to High Tech Reflection with Markup
In most classrooms some amount of work is done on paper. Paper is a wonderful tool for learning. Of course, like anything, it has limitations.

In this technique we start from paper. We have students doing work and showing their learning on paper (this should feel fairly familiar).

Next we organize a quick museum walk or have students find a partner. The goal here is to have students look at each other's work in order to challenge their own understanding of the skill/topic, and to offer feedback to each other.  Using their iPad, they will take photos of at least one other student's written work (you may need to teach them how to focus and take a good picture).

Then, using the Markup tool in Photos (the place where your photos go on your iPad after you take them), have the students annotate their thinking over the top of the photo to determine key points about the work. This would be more efficient and meaningful if the teacher could provide some guiding questions for the feedback.

Finally, students can meet to share their thinking with the student who they are offering feedback to. They can AirDrop their annotated image to each other to serve as guidance as the student goes back to make changes to their work on paper.

Capturing the Learning Process
If the focus on the learning process is the key to the work students are doing, then let's use technology to help capture the process over time. This technique works whether you are working with non-digital tools (paper, construction materials, art materials, etc)  or working digitally.

The teacher starts by outlining the rules. Over the next period of time, students will hear a timer go off sporadically. This timer will be set by the teacher. When the timer goes off, the students simply need to snap a photo of their work at that time. Stop what they are doing momentarily, take a picture, and then get back to work.

Using the timer on the teacher's iPad (and AirPlay if an Apple TV is available in your room), the teacher will set the timer (you will have to determine the appropriate interval -- not so often that it interrupts thinking, but not so far apart that student progress will not be measured). As the teacher moves around the room and students work, the timer will keep pace. 

When the timer goes off, instruct students to capture their work using the camera, and then get back to work. The teacher will then reset the timer for a new interval (not all intervals have to be exactly the same).

Repeat this until the work period has completed.

Next, ask students to open the Photos app on the iPad. Have them start on their first photo of their work, and then scroll through. With each photo, ask the students to reflect on the process and what changes from photo to photo.  Maybe they will watch their drawing or artwork come to life. Maybe they will see their writing process unfold. Maybe they will identify their note taking or annotation process.

They could share this reflection with a partner. They could use the Markup tool to annotate the changes. They could video record their reflections of the process. For more advanced users, you could use either full iMovie or iMovie trailers to document the learning process as well.

Any way it is achieved, the goal is to have the students reflect on their process, to think about what they did and how it impacted their final product, and to ultimately change their process (or understand their process) so they know themselves as learners.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Technology is not optional: Students NEED help to develop technical skills

The skills students have traditionally needed to be employable and successful at work are as important as ever. These are often referred to as soft skills, and as reported in this LinkedIn article, for entry level positions they were recently ranked in importance by potential employers in the following order: 1) Communication, 2) Organization, 3) Teamwork, 4) Social Skills, and 5) Punctuality.

However, with the changing shift in the business landscape spurred by technology, two keys shifts are happening in what employers are looking for in potential employees.  One key shift is that more technical knowledge and skills are being required in ALL aspects of work.

By technical, we mean highly technical. Potential employees are increasingly being overlooked if they do not have skills such as an ability to collect and analyze data, write computer code, strategize how to best reach an audience digitally, and to quickly adapt to new digital tools and skills related to a rapidly changing job description. Many organizations have studied and reported what employers are most looking for, and regardless of who is reporting the findings, these seem to be pretty consistent themes. For further exploration, check out these articles from Forbes and Monster

Further emphasis on how important these very technical skills are to employers can be found from a statement published on Fortune.com, in a 2016 article former General Electric CEO, Jeff Immelt said: "If you are joining the company in your 20's, unlike when I joined, you are going to learn to code. It doesn't matter if you are in sales, finance, or operations. You may not end up being a programmer, but you will know how to code.

It is clear that there is strong trend in employment; there is wash between the always necessary soft skills employers have long valued and the technical skills that employees need to do their job in a highly technical society.  Even for employees in roles that are outward facing and customer focused, these people are far more likely to be communicating digitally, meeting via web conference software, and building digital training platforms for clients and customers. A blog post from LinkedIn identifies that these skill sets no longer independently exist, but instead merge together into the skills that employers most need from their future employees (our students). 

And the reality is that these are skills our students do not inherently, natively have by being born in an era of cell phones and social networks.

Our System is Ready to Support This Change

The School District of Waukesha has been preparing for this shift in needs over the past seven years. We are ready and able to support the need of all teachers and students as they prepare for a future that requires each of us to have both personal and technical skills.

Hardware Facts:
Waukesha is a 1:1 iPad district. Students and educators K-12 in our system have access to iPads, and most of them have the ability to take these tools home nightly. This has been the environment within our system for all of our schools at least three years, and in some of our schools for five years.


Software and Apps Facts:
We have a core set of high quality apps available to every student and every teacher. Apps like Notability, Explain Everything, Book Creator, iMovie, GarageBand, and others. We regularly assess these tools, select and add new tools as needed, and offer students and teachers software that will allow them do the work they need to do to adapt teaching practice and learning outcomes. Additionally, we are a Google Apps district K-12 and almost all of the Google Apps work seamlessly on the iPad. 

Network Facts:
Waukesha's network and infrastructure is incredibly fast and robust. Our up time on technology to the district is above 99% for internet connectivity. We have deployed a wide ranging wireless internet that serves the farthest reaches of most of our buildings, from hidden back corner classrooms, to gymnasiums and athletic fields, to  outdoor environmental education spaces and the planetarium, to our Waukesha Public Library. We have one of the most wide-reaching and robust networks for a K-12 system in the state.

We Must Make Shifts in Practice to Embrace New Reality

We no longer live in a world where adopting technology as a part of our daily educational practice is optional. Students need to learn academic content, develop soft skills, and develop technical skills that will prepare them for their lives ahead. With the systemic changes made in our district to set the table for meaningful technology use, most barriers to adoption have been removed. The only barrier that still stands largely in the way of adoption, then, is our own decision to shift our teaching practice.

For educators, it is no longer acceptable to simply opt-out of technology use in the classroom. The stakes are too high for students if we choose not to give them these experiences.

And assuming that students simply have the technical skills they need because they were born with technology -- well, that can debunked within a few minutes simply by asking students to do certain learning tasks with technology that focus on productivity, creation, and collaboration. They need support, encouragement, and advice on how to use technology purposefully and meaningfully, even if they are confident they know how to actually use the software and push the buttons.

Educators are at a point of decision: will we make the productive, meaningful use of technology in our classrooms a priority? Will we prepare our students for college and careers by challenging them to develop the soft skills needed while using the technology that will shape their future lives? The only thing stopping us from doing this today are the personal barriers that we have put up for ourselves. And the good news: when you are ready to take the next step and give kids these experiences, there is a team here to support you!

And the very best news: every day professionals across our system ARE making the decision to give our students these kinds of experiences. And kids are responding, developing the skills and gaining knowledge they need for the future, and becoming more ready for whatever futures are in front of them.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Simple tools, deep impact

Mental "ruts" are tough to escape!

Sometimes we get into a rut (a pattern of thinking/behavior that has become dull, unproductive, and difficult to change), and it takes a little push to help us get out.

When it comes to thinking about how to use technology in our classrooms, we can get into some common ruts as well.  Here are some common ones.
  • We may get in the rut of always searching for a new app to do something we could easily do with other apps we already have. 
  • We may get stuck thinking about only using technology as a culminating, end-of-unit, large project.
  • We may get stuck in the rut of making student demonstrations of learning more complicated than they need to be.
If you are stuck in any of these ruts, here are some tips to help nudge you out. 
Stop looking for new tools and apps. Use what you already know and have available.
As an example here, we will just use the camera that is already built into the iPad.

  • The "Time Lapse" mode on the iPad camera is a powerful way of seeing change over long periods of time. Any kind of change that can be viewed.  Have the students turn on their time lapse feature on the camera, hit record and start seeing the world in a very different way (a way we often do not get to see).
    • Brainstorming and mind mapping
      • Want to see the thinking process? A whiteboard, markers, an iPad camera in time lapse mode will give you a full (and quick) run down of the thinking a student or group does.








  • Using the photo mode on the iPad camera is a great way to capture snapshots that students can later reflect upon.
    • Capturing and annotating over printed materials and written work
      • We do not advocate a paperless work environment. Paper is a tool in our learning process. But using the camera to snap photos of our work gives us the ability to "archive" teachable moments. And with the newest updates to photos, students can now "annotate" or draw right over the top of these photos. Using the Markup tool in iPad's photos app (learn how to markup photos), students can synthesize their thinking around that photo today, or in the future!

  • Using the slow motion mode on the iPad camera allows us to slow down time (the opposite of time lapse). If you are something that happens very quickly, using slow motion will give your students a chance to see what happens when we can slow things WAY down. And you will definitely get a laugh at it!
    • Inquiry, anybody? 
      • Instead of a list of ideas, I'll let your imagination run wild on this one. Just watch the video (above), think about your students, and know that they can create videos of this type with their iPad. What questions would they ask? What answers would they find if they created these kinds of videos in slow motion?


Do not wait until the end of a unit to find ways to utilize technology. Use technology throughout the process of learning.
iPads are great for culminating projects. But they can be great for daily use, for capturing the process of learning, and to prepare for a culminating project as well.


  • Using the iPad to record and then later review thinking can be  a powerful way to help students get ideas flowing. Using the video camera on the iPad (even if the student's face isn't in the shot) is one way to just get kids talking about their thinking or ideas while maintaining a record for their later review.
    • Pre-writing: Just hit record
      • Flip to your camera app and select the Video mode. In this case, what is on the screen isn't important. It's the audio we are using here. Have students talk to a partner about their research, their ideas, their questions for an upcoming non-fiction topic they are just beginning to explore. What is the storyline of their fiction piece? Be sure to have an iPad nearby, listening intently, recording their every thought.  And when we get to the next phase of the writing process, have them go back and listen. Now they can synthesize their initial thoughts. We know that this metacognitive task of thinking about our thinking is at the core of meaningful learning. We are just employing our iPad's camera and microphone to record, hold, and replay those thoughts for our students.

Aim for simplicity. Too many expectations, too many rules/details, and too many limits will only allow students to give you what you asked for, but not what they are capable of doing.
 This one does not tie to a specific tool or idea. In fact, just the opposite. Often we spend so much time outlining the "must do" and "must use" of anything we ask students to do that we actually end up limiting our students' potential. Instead, let them know what they must show us they know or are able to do, and then make them choose HOW they will show us. Sometimes you will be underwhelmed. Sometimes you will be amazed. And in both scenarios there is something to be learned by our students!