Friday, January 29, 2021

Simple Leap Might Lead to An Amazing Experience


I took a big leap last night. A few of Southeast PAECT's members have been conversing with a local celebrity, Second Lady of Pennsylvania, Gisele Fetterman. For those of you that don't know who she is (it's okay), I will admit that prior to a news article about her, I had no idea who she was either. Honestly, until Covid, I hadn't even paid that much attention to our Lt. Governor John Fetterman. Now I follow them both on Twitter because their back and forth banter is funny and a welcome relief from many political posts. 

Twitter Feed
Besides their adorable teasing of each other, Gisele Fetterman also tweets about her many charities. One of these charities is what lead to our recent back and forth and my leap of sending an email. Fetterman recently shared her excitement for being assigned an adopted family to cook dinner for through lasagnalove.org. This started the discussion for me when I responded that I wish I knew how to make a lasagna and she responded we could learn together.

Flash forward to the next exchange with myself and one of our regional board members when I tweeted about doing a virtual cooking class for #TeacherSelfCare and she responded "Please invite me ❤️❤️❤️❤️". Seriously fangirling at this point. So I reached out to the rest of our regional board and then with them agreeing that it would be a great event, I sent an email to the Lt. Governor's office. 

Now I'm waiting for a response, but I'm just proud at my professional growth to be brave enough to even reach out for something like this. The old me would have been afraid of rejection. Now I'm taking more risks because the worst that can happen is she says no and we'll be exactly where we are now.

Can we still host a virtual cooking class without Gisele Fetterman? Sure. Will it still be fun without her? Of course. So whether she can join us or not will not really change the event. However, if she can join us, her presence will be exciting for all our members who are currently working really hard to help students.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Today's Fiction Leads to Tomorrow's Reality

Screenshots of Christopher Gorham as Auggie in Covert Affairs on USA
Image screenshots from
Covert Affairs, USA Network
Think hard of things that didn't exist five, ten, even one year ago. My friend Ari posted an article, This startup wants to replace the white cane for blind people, on Linkedin that immediately reminded me of a show I enjoyed a few years ago. In the show, Covert Affairs, the character of Auggie was blinded while serving in the military and became a CIA operative. In the show, Auggie would walk around the CIA offices with a small laser device in this hand but would use a traditional walking stick when out in public.

While this example immediately came to mind from the article shared by Ari I thought back to a meme that was circulating a few years ago featuring Star Trek gadgets. Examples included the tricorder which can be compared to a modern smart phone, hand-held screens that can be compared to tablets, and more.

Image Source:
Emerging EdTech
Looking a little more student friendly, we can explore the Jetsons. Yes I know most of our students are too young to know the Jetsons (I feel old) but a short clip of the show can be used to inspire students. Perhaps George on a video call with his boss, or Rosie the sarcastic robot maid. The Jetsons also originated in the 1960s but displayed so many concepts that now exist. 

We are at an amazing time where if there's an idea, there's a way. This is why the concept of problem-based learning is so important for students. Give them a problem and tell them to solve it. Don't give them a pre-designed solution. Let them explore. Prototype. Fail. Try again.

It doesn't take long to find examples of amazing innovations being completed by students around the world. During an international science fair hosted by Google in 2019, the winning student projects were unbelievable.

  • Fionn Ferreira (Ireland) - Removing microplastics from water.
  • Celestine Wenardy (Indonesia) - Low-cost, non-invasive glucose meter
  • Tuan Dolmen (Turkey) - Harness energy from tree vibrations.

In a different competition from 2012, Jack Andraka, discovered a method to test for cancer that was less invasive and more affordable than traditional testing.

If your students have great ideas but you don't have a way to help them expand the ideas, reach out to your network. Use Twitter and Linkedin to find an expert in that field. Mentoring young minds is a rewarding adventure and many businesses will encourage this type of outreach. If it's something you want to keep in school but don't have the funds to help the students continue the project then help them learn about fundraising and grants. Talk to their parents about the possibility of crowd-sourcing. Obviously for safety reasons you don't want a student to create a Go Fund Me page, but their parent can. 

Another easy way to help them get started is to do digital prototyping. They might not be able to build and test their idea, but start with the design. Teach them about presentation skills and create 30-second commercials for their idea's potential investors. Many major companies have grants for educational institutions. I can't be positive since I've never been on the judging side of these grant applications but I would think that involving students in the application and demonstrating community buy-in can only help make your applications stand out among the rest.

Image Source: Picuki
Keep inspiring your students. Challenge them to try new things. Yes it might be scary, but encourage and support them.

To leave you with an inspirational quote, in 1962 John F. Kennedy made a decision to fund the space program and gave one of the most inspirational speeches of the generation. A speech which has been viewed, heard, and quoted for generations since. Most people only remember the line about because it's hard, not easy. However I think the entire speech is inspirational and powerful motivation for students that are trying to explore and create with a goal of bettering tomorrow.





Monday, December 14, 2020

Google Went Down... Now What?


So Google had a major outage this morning that lasted about a half hour. Luckily it came back up, but within that half hour I realized just how much I rely on Google.

  1. When my alarm went off, I said "Okay Google, please turn the lights on" but Google responded that it had a problem and to try again.
  2. After manually turning my lights on thinking I'd have to reset my plug I said "Hey Google, what's today's weather?" and got a response to try again later.
  3. I picked up my phone and went to check some things only to see login errors on a few apps.
Now I was getting mad and thinking my wifi was out or something so I switched my phone to data only to see the same issues. By the time I left for work Google was restored but this morning was an interesting wakeup call. Think about it. How many of us subconsciously (at this point) use Google for daily tasks? Any application, including Zoom, that I normally click "login with Google" didn't want to let me login this morning. 

Screenshot of Google Workbench App Status Page
Google Workbench Dashboard
Now imagine our students. Many schools use Google Apps for Education on a daily basis. During this outage, students couldn't access Google Classroom, Google Meet, Gmail, and more. Schools couldn't send out emails regarding the outage because Gmail was down too. So these students would see the site not working and that would be it. 

So we as educators need to start making some changes to the ways we do things. Perhaps relying exclusively on a single platform is part of the problem. You wouldn't invest your lifesavings in a single stock so perhaps we shouldn't invest out entire educational process on a single suite of softwares. Diversify. Maybe use a few products from Google, a few from Microsoft, and then a few smaller umbrellas such as Nearpod. This way if one goes down, everything doesn't just stop.

What do you think? Leave a comment on this post and let's start a discussion. Collaboration has always been important in education, so let's collaborate on troubleshooting a "one time crazy situation" that can and probably will eventually happen again. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

ISTE2020: A Week in Review

Just like everything else, ISTE looked a little different this year. Instead of taking place in an expo hall/convention center, ISTE moved virtual for 2020 and stretched a few extra days.

Error message seen multiple times on ISTE website during the conference.
Unfortunately for a virtual experience there were also virtual hic-ups. Many times throughout the week I had error messages when clicking on session links. It seems that while they knew how many people registered for the conference, they hadn't taken into account the strain on their servers to handle the traffic. There was also an issue of sessions being "full" but I know that web conferencing software has limits and even the in-person ISTE sometimes has to close off sessions for safety when they are full.

I think the hardest thing was that ISTE was based on Pacific Time Zone which meant things started later in the afternoon and went into the evening here on the East Coast. Even so, I was able to attend a bunch of sessions and meet some awesome people. Even more interesting, after talking in the chat box of one session, I got a DM from someone I had worked with six years ago asking if I was that same Cori. It was nice to reconnect and we're now connected on Linkedin so we can stay in touch moving forward.

Screenshot from Best of Both Worlds session.
On the first day of ISTE, I had the privilege of presenting a condensed panel The Best of Both Worlds: O365 and G Suite Can Co-Exist with some of my fellow Microsoft Innovative Education Experts and Google for Education Certified Innovators. One of the biggest takeaways I had from my own presentation was that when organizing such an endeavor, communication becomes more important than ever. Also, proof-read online forms before hitting submit or you too will end up with a condensed timeslot instead of a full hour (oops). The panel went well and we've already discussed perhaps hosting an encore on social media using StreamYard.

I attended many sessions during the week on coaching/mentoring, esports, future-ready learning, and more. I think the biggest takeaway I had was from a session on the science of audiology. The session talked about proper mic placement, speaker volume, and in class sound amplification vs web conferencing audio issues. I thought it was really interesting because as a naturally loud person I always say "can you hear me in the back without a microphone" but I learned that hearing and understanding are not always the same thing. The audio setup is not to amplify a voice but to evenly distribute it because when you naturally raise your voice, you're also changing the tone which can make it harder to understand even for people without hearing difficulties. Using your teacher voice is no longer an excuse for poor classroom audio.

The virtual expo hall was truly lacking from the experience of walking up and down rows of vendors. While I did stop to "chat" with a few vendors, it was much harder to explore products when watching YouTube videos or reading PDFs compared to physically holding something. Yes, I also missed the swag, but most of the time I only keep a few key items anyway.

Overall, I missed the in-person experience and I truly hope that 2021 in Texas takes place. However, I understand that the entire world has shifted right now and ISTE did the best they could given the circumstances.


Disclaimer: As a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert (MIEE), I was fortunate to have my registration covered by Microsoft as a presenter using Microsoft tools. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Microsoft Office Specialist: Associate


Microsoft Office Specialist: Word
This week, I had the opportunity to sit for the Microsoft Office Specialist exams from home. Normally, these tests require you to make an appointment with a physical testing center. Due to social distancing requirements, they have modified the exams to allow virtual tests. The tests were completed on a virtual computer with a live proctor on the other side of the account.
Microsoft Office Specialist: Associate 
Microsoft Office Specialist: Powerpoint
Thanks to an amazing organization out of Australia, I was able to sign-up and participate in these virtual exams from my home in Pennsylvania. Even better, the normal price tag was removed and the exams were free during the conference. I registered and took three exams: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Powerpoint, and Microsoft Excel. By passing all three exams, I also received a fourth recognition: Associate.
Microsoft Office Specialist: Excel

When you teach computers, these industry certifications are something that you often speak about with your students. Rather than just write "I'm proficient with Microsoft" passing these exams give you verifiable proof that you are indeed proficient with the software. The company that runs the exams on behalf of Microsoft works with many schools to become verified testing locations and offer site licenses rather than individual test fees. This allows schools to offer the exams and certifications to their students during computer courses throughout the curriculum. 

By finally taking the exams for myself, I learned a lot about the certification process and requirements. I also realized that I wither know more than I thought about Excel, or the expert test which I didn't take is what I really think about when I say "I'm not good at Excel." Next time I find an organization offering the exams for free, I may try the expert level. For now, I'm happy to be able to officially say I'm a Microsoft Office Specialist Associate. 


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Confessions of a Green Screen Newb

 I have a confession to make. I love green screen effects when done correctly, but I cannot do them correctly (yet). Today I making a video to introduce myself to the Education Exchange. Since the conference in Australia got postponed in February and turned digital this month, everyone is introducing themselves online. I thought it would be fun to make a short video of myself "traveling" to my home office/computer.

I took my green screen out to the car and started to record my plan. I knew the glass would have a reflection, so I rolled down all the windows. Sadly, the glass wasn't the issue. The lighting was. Since the lighting caused many shades of green to show in the green screen, the chromacast couldn't remove them all. After many tries, I gave up and instead created an outtake video.



I assume the issue was the lighting, but there are other factors that could had caused this issue as well.

  1. My green screen is wrinkled and therefore the fold makes cause the variation in greens.
  2. My green screen is thin and therefore the light can get through it easily. If I was using a thicker "black out" curtain type material, it would probably work better for controlling the light.
  3. I was outdoors so I couldn't control all the external factors.
  4. I should probably have added multiple layers in my editing software to remove the shades of green. Will that work? It's how I sometimes fix the same issue in still shots. Note to self: try re-editing the video with additional layers.

Green Screen Before and After
I also notice when I do pictures, I often have a green halo around my subject. Around the hair is the worst offender. Although it doesn't look wrong around the hair in this example, here is a before and after that shows the shadows I was referring to before. You can see that between my arm and body the shadows make the screen darker. In a still shot, it's easy to remove the multiple shades of green. Now to just figure it out for the video.



Friday, October 16, 2020

Don't Be Brand Loyal, Be Student Loyal

People know that I wear many hats:
  • Google for Education Certified Innovator
  • Microsoft Innovative Education Expert
  • Apple Teacher
  • SMART Educator
  • and more coming soon...
So it really bothers me when people say "we can't do that because our district uses [fill in the blank]." No tool is all powerful. Each has its own purpose, pros, and cons. On top of that, most of the major companies are now playing nice and its easier than ever to switch between products. For example, SMART now connects to Google Drive and Microsoft Teams. Do not force your teachers or students to use a product because it's your favorite.

It reminds me of an analogy I heard a few years ago from a keynote speaker. He compared learning Ed Tech tools to cars. When you're learning how to drive, you are not learning how to drive a Ford or a Toyota, you are learning how to drive a car. The skill of driving should be relatively the same no matter what car. I know I personally feel a little awkward when I drive my sister's sedan after being in my SUV, but I can still drive it. "But Cori, what about a manual vs automatic transition? See this analogy proves you can't switch back and forth." Yes there are differences. We can play devils advocate all day, but that's not going to help our students.

Technology tools are like the cars in that analogy. If you teach a student how to type, they can type in Word or Google Docs. Same for copy and paste, formatting paragraphs, etc. The skill isn't different. There just might be small changes such as shortcuts or where a menu is located. Some programs are missing features, others add features, and still others claim to do the same thing but are completely different.

In Fast Company, an article was recently published about Google Classroom which led me to writing this post. 
Google has aggressively positioned itself as edtech’s leading player, and fashioned its “Google Certified” credential as a signifier of digital know-how. Unfortunately, that strategy has created a generation of teachers loyal to the tools in its product suite, rather than a generation of teachers capable of flexibly using technology to navigate the biggest disruption to education in over a century. (full article)
This article touched on my main point. When a school tells me they can't do something because they're using a specific suite of tools, I remind them that different tools serve different purposes and not all area created equal. I have been a long believer in using what works for the specific project, not being brand loyal. I also feel that students need to train/learn on multiple platforms so they can be ready for the ever changing technology that will be in the real world. If students only know how to use Google Docs but walks into a company that uses Microsoft then we as teachers have not probably prepared them. 

Interested in learning more? Come join us in November at ISTE for a virtual panel "Best of Both Worlds: Google and Microsoft can Co-Exist" where we will have a group of educators with both Google for Education Certified Innovator and Microsoft Innovative Education Expert titles sharing how they utilize both suites.