Using the Tools Around Us

I enjoy tinkering with systems.  I enjoy building a computer from the ground up.  I enjoy exploring and asking the question of “What If…”.  I enjoy making a system or systems do something that it wasn’t originally intended to do.  That is where this blog post starts.  It starts with taking a system (Illuminate Data and Assessment) and using it to fit a need we had at work.  It starts with asking that age old question of “What If…”.
Illuminate Data and Assessment is a powerful application that allows schools to track data and assessment results about their students.  You are able to tie standards to questions within a quiz and subsequently you can design instruction around the areas which need improvement and more.  The preceding two sentences does not do the system the justice it deserves.  I really enjoy this product and when I enjoy a product, I get overly excited about it and wordy trying to explain just how awesome it is!  We have supported the application and it’s implementation in 19 charter schools in Ohio over the last three years with close to 5,500 students.  The work we are doing was submitted as part of a Straight A Innovation Grant and was awarded almost $2 Million dollars as we work to bring 17 charter schools together to collaborate and use the system.
Illuminate has a feature within the Data and Assessment application called OnTrack.  The idea behind OnTrack is to combine multiple areas that you measure into a single report and set boundaries to determine if a student is on track to meet the desired goal.  The idea for using On Track outside of the box came via a conversation we had with a school leader who had a desire for the students to own their data and work.  As I was reading books on rubrics for a presentation I am giving in June, the idea to use OnTrack came together so we could assess how the 19 schools we work with in Illuminate are progressing in their implementation of Illuminate other items.  We want the schools to become owners of the implementation process and become owners of the system.  We have tracked this data previously using a simple Google Spreadsheet but we had two major flaws with this approach.  The first flaw was that our scoring of these areas was subjective.  The second flaw was that we allowed our selves to starting awarding half points.
In response to these identified flaws, I built two OnTrack configurations after discussion with my team.  We identified that in the first semester of the year, we evaluate different items than we do in the second semester which was our driving factor in creating two configurations.  We also developed a rubric so our scores could become objective instead of subjective. Our rubric goes from 0 – 4 which are then translated within On Track to a point value.  We set the On Track scale for each of the configurations to be a total of 1,000 points possible.  One of the metrics within our grant was that we would have 80% or higher of teachers at the school using Illuminate on a monthly basis.  We assigned this 300 (30%) of the 1,000 points.  The idea behind this thought process was that if the teachers are using the system, the other 700 points would come together.  We also assigned lesser point values to other areas that we deemed were important but not necessarily 100 points important.
1st Semester:
  1. Illuminate Site Setup/SFTP
  2. ITC/SIS Configuration
  3. Data Cleanup
  4. Nightly Data Loads
  5. Implementation Meeting
  6. Illuminate Training
  7. Data Team Schedule
  8. Data Teams Training
  9. Communication
  10. Admin Check-In Schedule
  11. Logins
2nd Semester:
  1. Data Cleanup
  2. Training
  3. Data Teams Schedule
  4. Admin Checkin
  5. Next Year
  6. Communication
  7. Data Binders
  8. Logins
  9. Online Testing
As we developed the summary assessments and reports that would become our OnTrack configuration, we started asking the question of how powerful of a resource would this be if we had our schools evaluate themselves on the same rubric that we evaluate them on?  Illuminate has a feature that allows you to compare two or more OnTrack configurations next to each other in a single report thus the school response configuration was born.
We selected three schools as part of the pilot for this idea.  On May 13th 2015 one of the schools provided their scores to me and the values were thrown into the reports and the configurations ran.  In quickly observing the data, we found that the school awarded themselves 775 total points out of 1,000 while we had awarded the school 725 total points out of 1,000.  The difference in 50 points though came in different areas which is interesting to us.  The score though while different places the school into the same performance band.  I personally can’t wait until next week when we have our check-in meeting with the school leader so we can really get down to the details and talk about the differences in scoring.  At this point the school hasn’t seen yet how we have ranked them so I am sure there will be discussion.
We hope to generate discussion between us and the school leader after they assess themselves on the same rubric we use.  When you start out with a project, goals and ideas which were not thought of previously come about through the work.  This is what happened in this project with adding the school assessment piece but we also had another goal that we hadn’t thought of it when we started this project.  We are now able to take this OnTrack system and show it off to a school leader which is a starting point for discussion with the school leader on how they could possibly use the OnTrack system within their school.
We plan to submit this work as a presentation topic at the Illuminate Users Conference in 2015/2016.

I Built a Desk

I recently graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Master’s of Education in Classroom Technology along with a K-12 Online Teaching and Learning Certificate.  There will be a post later summarizing this experience as I did it all online.  As a graduation gift for myself, it was decided I needed a desk and would turn my spare bedroom into a home office.  I didn’t want the regular run of the mill desk and went out searching for a standing desk.  The price points for entry into a standing desk were a bit high until I found a site that gave directions and a kit for building a standing desk that was under $200.
The materials were bought and I started building the desk.  The desk was from Ikea built with directions found via  The directions from IKEA are similar to the directions you would find in a Lego kit.  The directions are all in pictures with no words.  This style of learning is great for those who can process a visual but for the rest of us it is a challenge.  I am the type of learner who needs words and pictures.  I cobbled my learning style together for this project by utilizing the Internet and finding others who had done this project.  It was a reminder for me as an educator to create projects that utilize aspects of both styles.
While I enjoyed the design from, I wasn’t satisfied with my desk at that point.  While browsing the Internet I found the site  The site is a great resource and led me to the hardware store so I could purchase a piece of white tile board.  I had the tile board cut so it fit the desk surface and then was left over with two additional pieces.  The white tile board has allowed for me to create a desk with a writable surface!  I can scribble down notes, ideas and more on the desk and then take a picture of the creation.  I can then take the picture and throw it into Evernote and it will become searchable.  The two pieces of white tile board that were left over after cutting the desk surface have also been put in use.  One piece is hung just off to my left and can be another surface for writing or anything else that comes to mind.  The other piece has been divided into five sections, one for each day of the week.  It is hanging on the wall across from my desk and will be used to track major projects or milestones that are do that week.
The white tile board cost a whopping $14.00 and comes in 96″ x 32″.  If I was in the classroom or had influence in a school over the design of a classroom, I would strongly recommend that the white tile board be adhered to the desk surface and a pack of dry erase markers be required.  You will also want multiple bottles of expo white board care cleaner on hand.  The ability to quickly take a note, draw an idea or diagram and capture it with a phone or camera is beyond valuable.  I quickly drew the water cycle on my desk and threw it into Evernote.
Pictures of the setup are below:

Education 3.0 – @teskeci and @halleykimberly

Edcamp for Kids –  Two staffs came together to build the board.  Created the course catalog for students based on the board.
Why can’t we do this everyday?  The vision is for Fall 15 would be a 6 week offering of these sessions.
Liberty Benton has a program called STRIDES which is 100% student led.  Seniors are the team leaders but the groups are random.
The teams organize around doing academic things but also charity things within the community.  Students are driven by competition to become leaders of the group each year.
GPA’s are factored into this competition and pushes the students to help each other academically.
In another situation, the students were tired because they weren’t being told what to do and they had to think without direction.
Science Learning Academy said it takes 6-8 weeks to get the students settled into this new mindset.
Garth Holman is another example of where it takes time to build trust with students but then they can be self directed learners.
Parent of a Hilliard student said that her daughter likes the 20% time that the students are given to explore ideas that interest them.  The thought and process that the student goes through is an example of the student teaching themselves.
We teach the process of point A to point B but forget to teach the fun within a topic.
Many of the buildings in Hilliard and Dublin do 20% time.
<a href=””> The non designer handbook</a>
The actual experience of learning is what the student will remember.  If we can get them to engage in that experience and make it meaniful…that is when we win.
Jobs didn’t patient the hardware but he patented the user experience.

It’s The End of the World

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This is a song released by R.E.M. almost a year after I was born on November 16, 1987 but the title fits well into what I am talking about today.  The first line of the song is “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake.”  That is exactly what Sling a service from Dish Networks did when it announced this product at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2015.  The concept behind Sling is they will offer a base package of channels at an affordable price that can be streamed over the Internet.  Their market for this new product was people like me who cut the cable cord.  While this announcement was an earthquake, the aftershock of realizing that I could have access to ESPN as part of the base package was certainly not a small aftershock.
Sling had just done something that previously was unheard of in the television industry.  They offered an attractive package of channels (at least for me with ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, TNT, Food Network and Adult Swim) at an affordable price.  This is exactly what we as cable/cord cutters had been craving for years.  It is not truly the end all goal of having an al a carte channel selection but there was enough there for me to justify the $20 a month expense.
I always try to bring my posts on this blog back to education.  As I thought more and more about the disruption Dish Networks had just caused with this new service it got me thinking about education.  If we have now reached a point where we can have our television streaming over the Internet, at an affordable price with channels that we actually watch…how can we do this in education?
Could we create a curriculum where the students get to choose a field or multiple fields of study?  Could we incorporate into the curriculum and the field of study the same skills that we are teaching today?  Could we disrupt education in a way that doesn’t look like any thing we know today?
I think the answer is yes but it will take time but more importantly it will take people to stand up and demand that we look for new ways to educate our children that may look drastically different from the way we learned as students.  We recognize that for some the current system is an acceptable means of education but we are not addressing the students who are dropping out of school, why they are dropping out of school, those that may be bored with the curriculum or those that may be different from what we determine as the “standard”.  We all learn differently and have different interests so why do we insist on teaching everyone in the same manner?
Food for thought.

The School and The Community

These are random thoughts that I am trying to organize into a bigger idea.  I apologize if they appear disorganized but the idea behind this post is to get the ideas down and try to figure out what this process and project could look like.
This post came out of a discussion one evening at the 2015 Ohio Education Technology Conference.  I had heard Sean Wheeler ( discuss previously how the school should be seen as the center of the town.  The success of the school translates into the success of the community and vice versa.  I think Bobby Dodd when he was at New Lexington schools had done something similiar to this but the program was dependent upon the business providing the wireless access point and any resources that were exclusive on the network were not accessible.  I don’t remember for sure though if this was the case.  Schools are exploring the adoption of 1:1 programs of various forms (school supplied devices or a bring your own device) but these create challenges.  Once we have the devices though how do we take full advantage of these devices when the students are not in the school?
Could these devices be used by parents to create a resume?  Could these devices be used by parents to search for jobs?  Could these devices be used by the parents to further their education?  Could these devices be used to enhance health offerings in the community or track a users health?
The one item that I don’t see being addressed in 1:1 programs is access to the Internet when the devices are not in the school.  The thought is that there is Internet in the home but many of the schools I work with have a high povery population where the reality is the Internet may be seen as a luxury item and not on the same level of importance as say heat, electric or water.  How do we address this issue?
My thought process here is to involve the community in a partnership with the school to provide access.  The idea would be a partnership where the cost of a wireless access point and license would be split amongst the school and business.  The school would be able to extend their network and resources to the students outside of the school walls.  The business would benefit by providing a place in which the student and family can come to access the Internet where it may not be accessible in the home.  It would bring customers into the business while creating a relationship amongst those in the community.
I am attending Edcamp Columbus ( on March 14th and Edcamp Cleveland ( on March 21st 2015 where I hope to add this topic to the board and discuss it further.

OETC Keynote 2/12/15

These are my notes from the keynote session:
are you trying to invent a new education system or adding new features to a system that doesn’t work
what kind of problems would disappear with a driverless car that we face on an everyday base?
when one problem disappears new problems appear
change creates a chain of reaction that solves one problem but can create new problems
what kind of new jobs would arise out of change while others would be replaced?
what can we imagine the implications would be for education when we embrace change?
technology redfines the value of knowledge and talents.
Out of basement readiness instead of college and career ready
A good education no matter what it is should help keep children out of their parents basement.
Boomerrang generation
53% of college graduates in recent years are either under employed or not employed at all
Youth unemployment is a global issue
We have a talent mismatch.  Students may have been educated for the wrong economy.
We have students accquiring skills and knoweldge that have lost value in our society and economy today.  Our schools are following something that is outdated.
Traditional education is a sausage making process
We use the standards to prescribe what is valuable in our students.
If you are good at something you would be bad at something else.  No one can be talented in everything and no one can be bad at everything.
Time is a constant.  If you want to be good at something you still need to spend time practicing that skill.  This requires you to take time away from something else so you can become good at that something.
The education system was designed to make sure that our students were not different from the description we wanted.
The test scores in this system reflect how well we measure compared to the prescribed system.
The Second Machine Age by Brynjolksson and McAfee – Book.
Cogntive skills are being replaced by machines in todays society.
How many tax accountants have been replaced by software such as TurboTax or Tax Act?
The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman

Managing Wifi Deployment

These are my notes from the Managing HiStakes WiFi session.  This was a 3 hr workshop on the first day of #oetc15 – Slides
#oetc15 #HiStWiFi
J. Marc Hopkins – [email protected]
OETC 15 High Stakes Wifi.pptx
SWOCA Mnaaged Wireless Standards
Bluetooth and Wifi White Paper
Twitter: @jmarchopkins
High Stakes WiFi because of 1:1, BYOD, Blended Learning and Online Testing are now mission critical services in the education community.
3 Different models above require 3 different approaches to Wifi Management.  One size fits all DOES NOT FIT!
Review the SWOCA Wireless Standards document.  Looks at Traditional Classrooms, BYOD/Blended and Other Areas and the number of Access Points for each situation.
About 30 nodes per Access Point is idea.
Switches alleviated collissions (smarter than hubs)
###CD on Wifi###
802.11 is Half duplex with Tx and Rx using the same space
A radio can not transmit and receive at the same time.
This results in collission detechtion not being an option.
In Wifi we have Collission Avoidance where we wait for each frame to be ACKd.  No ACKd then collission assumed.
Simply put:  More devices > More Collisions > More Wait Time reducing throughput on the network
###RF Engineering###
LSM is unlicensed band and is the Wild West of RF.  Agreeing to accept any and all interference from any one in this band.
RF does not know any boundaries (i.e. Wall)
Distance Sensitive – Law of Inverse Square
It is regulated differently in each country
You are working in 3D space.  Review Power Output Levels Slide
The farther you move from the source…the same energy is now being spread further across a greater distance and assuming that you are loosing no energy in the air (interference etc.)
2.4 Ghz has lots of interference.  Various devices running in this range (microwave, bluetooth etc.).  Only 11 channels in the US for 2.4 GHz.
Channels overlap in use on the 2.4 Ghz spectrum.  No overlap between channels 1,6 and 11.
INSSIDER – Wifi Band Anaylzer
We are steeping over each other when using Wifi even on different networks because the spectrum is there for everyone.
Viusalwave, Air Magnet – Heat Mapping program.
5 Ghz is relatively unused currently and has less interference with more channels available for use.
Shorter wave length in 5 Ghz means there is about 1/2 the theoretical coverage.
5 Ghz bounces but does not go through things as well as 2.4 Ghz.
5 Ghz has 24 channels in the United States compared to 3 in the 2.4 Ghz band.
2.4 Ghz is absorbed by water, reflected by metal and refracted by glass.
5 Ghz is reflected by water, metal and glass. – It will bounce off of almost any thing.
Overlap can be 50% because of channel spearation but the minimum should be 15%
The most common mistake in Wifi deisgn:  Floors stack on top of each other and Wifi Doesn’t Care.
VisualWave Sight Survey Software.  Heatmapper.
5 Ghz allows us the ability to do channel bonding.  Instead of using 20 Mhz channel…you could combine two channels to make 40 Mhz.  You could do a 80 and 160 Mhz bond but you start running out of channels.  We reach the N standard by bonding multiple channels together to get 300 MB.
5 Ghz allows for more bandwidth, more channels, less interference and bonded channels.
The downside is that we have less coverage area and lower penetration.  These drawbacks though actually help K-12.
Check to see if you can replace the WiFi card in a device to take advantage of dual band or 5 Ghz versus using a device with a single band card.
802.11 Modes use different frequency hopping to pack more of the RF space.
The faster the network the more “attack surface” for interference it has.  The faster you go the more likely you are to have issues.
802.11a up to 54 Mbps in 5 Ghz Band
802.11b up to 11 Mbps in 2.4 Ghz Band
802.11g up to 54 Mbps in 2.4 Ghz Band – Gold Standard of Wifi Today.  Half of bandwidth at B and G gone to overhead.
802.11n up to 600 Mbps via MIMO
802.11ac up to MultiGbps via MU-MIMO supported in 5 Ghz Band
MIMO takes advantage of spatial multiplexing – Plays with time and space.
Multi0user MIMO – Multiple downlink Tx at same time.  More done in the same amount of time with 802.11 AC.
The sender/receiver currently must both be 802.11 AC devices.
*20 Mhz Channels x 3 Streams = 300 MB
*40 Mhz Channels x 3 Streams = 300 MB
*80 Mhz Channels x 3 Streams = 1.3 GB
160 Mhz Channels x 8 Streams = 6.9 GB
The numbers above are all theoretical bandwidth amounts.
600 MB is probably going to be the ceiling in the current version of AC.
A standard coming fom California has schools saying 2 AP per classroom.  Watch this.
Would it be cheaper to put in 2 AP then 1 higher grade AP?  Run the numbers!
Any where a physical cable is feasable we should be using a hardwired connection.
Disable lower association rates which forces the client to pick the stronger AP.  Increase roaming aggressiveness on clients.
Strive fro uniform device radio types whenever possible.
In Wifi it is the clients decesion which AP ito select.
Bluetooth is the rudest of the rude house guests.  Can cause issues every where!
***Design Consideration in Wireless***
*Interference – What is already there?
*Building Construction – Brick Walls?
*Area to Cover
*Type of Service (VOIP/WIFI)
*Number of potential clients
*Total bandwidth required
District Supplied 1:1 is a good idea because it allows the techs to control the items we talked about.
In BYOD state preferred devices with abgn support.  Encourage ac standard.
Cacti for Management.

#why765 – NKP 765

This post is in response to a campaign being ran by the Fort Wayne RailRoad Historical Society (FWRHS).
I was born and raised in Lima, Ohio in 1986 just a few blocks away from the birthplace of the engine that would later be numbered 765 and serve the Nickel Plate Road from 1944-1958.  This is a train that has now had an impact on four generations of our family.  My great grandpa who is now 90 years old did grunt work around the locomotive shop as a teenager and that is where the connection with 765 started.  My first experience with 765 came in 1991 as she and her sister Pere Maqueete 1225 came through Lima, just feet from their birth place as a double headed position as they travelled South to Cincinnati and then on to Huntington, West Virginia for the National RailRoad Convention.  At the time I would have been four years old and don’t remember much from that trip.  We gathered at the train yard in Lima, Ohio with my grandpa and then proceeded to chase the train over to Huntington.
After that experience my interest in trains declined but with the advent of the Internet, an interest in trains was reborn.  It was that finding of the interest again that led me to the pictures I have included in this post.  It was in August 2013 that my dad and I travelled to New Haven, IN for the FWRHS open house.  It was there at the open house that a picture of me sitting in the cab of 765 with a smile a mile wide was captured (below).
A few weeks later, my dad and I made the trek up from Columbus to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for Steam in the Valley.  It would be the first time in many years that I had rode on a steam train.  It is also something that no matter how old you are, you can’t help but have a smile as you see the engine come into focus as it approaches the station.  Once in the station you hear the brakes being set and then the sound of the whistle as the engine communicates with those around it.  It was also during this time that I was able to capture a picture with my camera that for me is one of my favorite shots of all time.
When I got home and started sorting through my pictures, I realized I had captured something unique.  I had this picture printed up in a 20 x 30 format and took it to my great grandpa.  He was amazed at the clarity of the picture and the detail surrounding it.  I offered him one of the prints and he selected a black and white copy but not before taking it around the nursing home and showing it off to people.  As any great grandpa does he also told a story of how he worked in the shop doing grunt work and how the trains used to travel the tracks not far from the house he grew up in as a kid.  He has trouble remembering the present but he is as sharp as a tack when it comes to the past.  This was evident when he heard a video being played on my iPhone which contained the sound of the train and the whistle.  Right off the bat he asked is that a Berkshire and it sounds like a Nickel Plate whistle.
In July 2014, my grandpa who took us to the train yard in Lima in 1991 was home from California for a visit.  As my grandpa and his brother along with their sisters husband was sitting around I brought out the picture.  I told them that I had something to show them that I thought they would enjoy.  As I took the picture out of the protective cover and turned it around, they became quiet and just stared at the picture.  They were impressed with the picture and proclaimed that it was a great shot taken by a professional.  It was then that I revealed to them that I took the picture.  They each now have a copy of the picture hanging in their houses.  My grandpa took the picture and had it framed but also has taken it around, showing it off to people.  He is sharing the history of Lima, the Lima Locomotive Works, the Nickel Plate Road, 765 and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society
My dad and I made the trip to Owosso, MI for Train Expo 2014 where we saw 765 along with her sister 1225.  My mom joined us in Cuyahoga Valley in Sept. 2014 for another edition of Steam in the Valley.  My dad and I jumped off the train to take pictures as they did a photo runby but my mom stayed on.  During this time, she called her dad (my grandpa) in California and he heard the whistle of 765 just a mere 2,457 miles away.

It’s a jump to the left…and a step to the right

Full Disclosure:  I am currently employed by The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools which is the organization which hosted the conference I presented at in October 2014.  As part of our job each year, we are each asked to give a presentation at the conference.
Each year the organization I work for holds a conference that brings charter school teachers, administrators, sponsors and management companies together for two days of collaboration.  As part of the conference, I have a slot reserved for a presentation.  The original idea I had for my presentation didn’t materialize due to various conflicts so I took a jump to the left and came up with a presentation, that for me was not radical but would be a change of pace for the conference and it’s attendees.  As with most conferences, the standard procedure called for presentations to be submitted months in advanced, reviewed and approved for the conference.  A good number of these presentations follow the popular format of sit and get.  This is the same format that we see employed in classrooms where the teacher is seen as the gatekeeper of knowledge.
It was just over two years ago that I got my first taste of an unconference at the annual Ohio Educational Technology Conference and my first Edcamp experience.  These formats exemplified everything that I liked about conferences.  As I had become a veteran of conferences, I started making friends and building my professional learning network and I found that the most interesting parts of the conference were the conversations that happened in the walk between sessions or the late night sessions at local establishments where we would get beyond the sit and get stuff that was the conference.  We were talking philosophy and a different approach to learning.  It excited me!
The Edcamp setup is where the people attending come together at the start of the day to build the board which will be the sessions for that day.  It is also a model where you vote with your feet and find a session that excites you.  None of the ten attendees in my session had ever heard of Edcamp or had been a part of a session of this nature.  I provided them with a crash course of how Edcamp functions and advised them to check out the Edcamp website for an event near them.  I recall basically telling them that Edcamp was everything this conference was not and that the conference format we put on drove me nuts because of the structure.
As our conference guide had went to print, I didn’t have a chance to change my session description and I showed up hoping for the best.  I should also note here that I had been sick the previous week and had lost my voice the night before so my presentation was going to be quite the adventure.  As the ten attendees entered the room and the session started, it was time for me to take them on the same jump to the left that I had taken and move them from their comfort zone (Hey…Stacy…I borrowed the comfort zone analogy!).  This jump was the idea that they would be active participants in this session, there would be no slide presentation, this was not going to be a sit and get session.  I boldly stated to them that I was going to suggest things that I may not necessarily agree with but the whole idea is to start a discussion and see where it leads.
The next part though was a step to the right that brought them back sort of to their comfort zone.  I told them that I know this presentation was not going to be as described in the conference guide and they can leave now or at any time throughout but they all stayed.  This is where I broke from the Edcamp format in my opinion as I had created questions ahead of time.  I did this because I didn’t know how many people would be in attendance, who my audience would be or if they would be comfortable with the idea of being an active participant in the session.  The questions were complied with the help of Stacy Hawthorne (@stacyhaw).  The questions were as follows:
1.  What, in your opinion, is impeding the integration of core content in technology?
2.  What factors or fears are keeping people from becoming “tech people”?  How might we overcome these fears?
3.  Describe some of the technology integrations that you have seen.  What caused them to succeed or fail?
4.  How might teacher education programs better prepare pre-service teachers to be effective technology integrators during their first year of teaching?
5.  How might a student show mastery instead of a traditional paper or exam? What are the benefits/downfalls of allowing alternative forms of mastery?
6.  How might we better prepare a student to enter a world where the expectation is the use of technology to conduct problem solving, communicate and collaborate across not only departments within a company but with a global community using technology?
We were able to get through all the questions above and diverted into other questions as a result of the discussions.  I also shared with them in relation to question 5 the work of Sean Wheeler (@mrwheeler) and Ken Kozar of because I think these two are onto something.  If you ever get the chance to sit down with Sean or Ken…take it!  The conversation with these two is amazing and my brain is always left trying to process what is discussed!  In summarizing the comments from the participants it was a bit disappointing for me to hear the same old argument being used.  The words money, mandates and lack of staff were the themes that kept creeping up in discussions.  I was hoping that we could come to something else (which I am not sure exactly what that is yet) where we didn’t beat the same dead horse.  We did make progress in other areas such as bringing the parents and students together for a class on resume writing for example or bringing the parents in to give real life examples of how they use the skills they learned in school in their everyday lives.  One item we arrived at was ensuring the students saw the light at the end of the tunnel and the importance of education.
There were two attendees who didn’t say a word the whole session but listened and took notes.  Were they engaged?  I’m not sure.  The session was the second to last session on a Friday and I felt that the attendees left the session not tired but excited and that was a major accomplishment for being the second to last session and a Friday.  As we ended the session I asked for feedback regarding the format and it was positive.  They enjoyed being an active participant, being part of the discussion.  I asked is this something you would take back and try in your school and the answer was yes.  The most satisfying part of the entire session and the conference for me was a question that came from the audience which was “How do we get you to come out to our school?”.
As I take a step to the right and rejoin the reality that is the real world I came to a few realizations.  The work I am doing now is work that I enjoy but is not the work that I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I find myself longing to be back in a school setting surrounded by teachers and students.  I had a conversation with a student at a school the other day who was building his own computer because he wanted to build a computer.  That conversation not only made my day but made my week and made me further realize that I miss being in that environment.  While I feel the work I am doing now is having an impact on student learning, I miss having those personal connections with students and teachers.  Helping them solve problems or letting them build something in an independent study class that is centered around technology.  It is not a question of if I will return to a school setting but when and when I do return to a school setting, I hope that I can bring the best of what I have learned over the last 3 years and what I will continue to learn to the environment and help move the school, administrators, teachers, students, parents and the community along the path.