Thursday, December 6, 2012

We're In!!

Wow!  It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post.  I apologize for my long absence.

Many exciting things have happened for our students and staff!  We have completed the full roll over to Google Apps for Education and have almost all of our 3,200 students collaborating online in some manner.  The summer trainings went well and we are in the midst of offering mini-lessons in each school to continue showing teachers to power of using Google Apps.

Staff has been amazing through this process!!  I get so many emails that say how happy they are with the change and that even though change is hard, they are pushing though and learning as much as they can to make a positive impact on their students.  I am so proud of our staff and students.  I do find myself bragging about them often as I travel to conferences or get questions from teachers in other school districts.  I can't help it!

I have much more to write, but wanted to post a brief update on our progress and will add to this in the very near future...stay tuned...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

And We're Off! Oh, and More Chrome Fun!

Tomorrow begins the marathon of Google training with having 20 teachers in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon. We repeat the process all day Tuesday all day. By Tuesday our entire Second Early Adopter group will be using South Milwaukee Apps and we will be well on our way to having students groups in and testing the sites. To say the excitement is ramping up would be an understatement! I will post later this week with an update on the training dates. After these trainings, we will all have a chance to catch up a bit before we begin final roll out to staff in summer.

And now to Chrome....

I listed my top three extensions of this week in my previous post. Today I list my top three Apps--remember, this can change at any time since there are so many awesome things out there!!

I can't wait to use this with kids! As a former Assistive Technology team member, I remember the days of spending hour after hour trying to evaluate new speech to text programs--and might I also add spending dollar after dollar as those programs were very expensive. This is a FREE speech to text app! Think a browser version of Dragon Dictate. Wow...

So, this is not a super flashy App nor is it super techy. This app gives an outside view of the current weather-as if you are looking out a window. Why would you want that? Well, in the elementary level we try very hard to help kids understand that weather where we live can be different from weather in other places around the world. This app takes looking at local weather around the world another step and actually shows them the weather. It's a great discussion starter. We currently have South Milwaukee, San Francisco and Anchorage, Alaska loaded to look at.

Yep, it's Google Earth inside the Chrome browser. We found this while we were trying to decide if we could get away with Chromebooks at the elementary level. It lacks the bells and whistles of the Google Earth program, but it is a great start!

Next time we will look at some Gmail Labs that can come in very handy. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quick Update + Some Google Chrome Love

We continue moving in a positive direction with our Google Apps roll out...

On March 15th we began the trainings for our Early Adopter Second wave. The training went great! We began by working with our Math Leadership team. These teachers are relatively tech savvy so they were able to help us refine our training materials before we work with the rest of this wave. By this time next week, we will have approximately 120 staff members moved over to our domain and using Mail, Calendar, and Docs as their primary productivity tools.

This is the part of our roll out plan where we begin to introduce students into our domain. While this is incredibly exciting, it is also a little scary as we want to make sure that we teach students how to communicate appropriately online and begin to "put them out there" so that they can collaborate with others. I am so excited to see where this goes from now until the end of the year.

Ok--and now a little Google love...

Wow! We are experimenting with so many different Chrome Apps and Extensions. This has been really fun to do with staff that is already into our domain and using Chrome as their primary browser. Our goal is to test as many as we possibly can to create a district-wide "best of" list by Fall.

Here are three extensions that I use everyday:

Why do I use this? Well, previous to this extension in order to shorten Urls to share, I would have to copy them, navigate to, paste and then copy the new Url and paste that where I need it. With this extension, I navigate to the page, click the extension and BAM! It shortens for me and provides the new link in the same window. Saves too many clicks to count!

If you are a Diigo user, this is very similar to the toolbar or Diigolet. We have many teachers using Diigo so I like to share this as a quick way to annotate or highlight on a page and then share it out.

AWESOME!! This extension dims the rest of the screen when showing any video. Nice to use in the classroom to eliminate distractions. You literally turn off the lights around the video and when you are done, they turn back on. What's not to love?

That's it for now. We are compiling a huge list of extensions and Apps. I will share out our top three Apps in the next post.

Stay tuned...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Moving Along in Google Apps

I know that I said I would provide updates on our progress and I've been doing that through emails and social media sites, but have neglected my blog....

One exciting thing that has happened since my last post is that I finished the 6th and final exam of the Google Apps for Education Certification process! Hooray!! I am officially Qualified and now I move onto the application part of the process and have been working on gathering together materials that I have used to teach Google Apps to groups both in my school district and around the state. The application is quite intense so I hope to have that submitted in the next few weeks. Once it is submitted the waiting game begins on acceptance of the application--or not. I am fearful of the "or not" part, but am moving forward anyways.

We are making great progress in our whole district roll out of South Milwaukee Apps Powered by Google! Our first Early Adopter Team is still working in GAFE and has been making incredible progress in learning the ins and outs of features of Apps. They are working with other staff members on getting ready to "make the move" and have been the loudest, most positive voice through all of this.

On March 15th, we start our second Early Adopter Group with a half day training on Mail, Calendar, Chrome, and Docs. This is where we get into the groups that are not necessarily "tech comfortable". This second group was put together by asking for volunteers and then extending an invitation if we were missing any grade level, content area, or school. The fun part about this second group is that we had originally thought it would be hard to get up to 40 interested in being trained and into our GAFE domain. By the end of this school year we will have close to 100 staff members using South Milwaukee Apps!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I really do believe that we have a very supportive, challenging roll out plan. On February 8th I updated the school board on how that process was going and provided our roll out letter to them in case they had questions.

In addition to our Second Early Adopter group starting on the 15th, we have begun to get our students in and will have small pockets of kids using Docs later this month. I am excited about this opportunity! Our students will have access to the greatest collaboration tools available today. I can't wait!

Stay Tuned....

Monday, January 30, 2012

So Much to Learn!

We are full steam ahead with the plan to roll out Google Apps to our entire district!
My new tech director and I have created what I believe to be a very rock solid roll out plan with lots of supports built in for both staff and students--also allowing our small IT staff time to "stay ahead of the curve". It has gone very well so far. We made the formal announcement of "Going Google" to every part of the staff in various ways.

The way that we announced to one staff has really caused me to reflect on change and those of us that are comfortable with change, those that can be comfortable with the right support, and those that do not enjoy change and struggle even with supports built in. It is this last group that I think we may have missed in the announcement that we made to our biggest staff.

We (my director and I) were invited to a staff meeting and given 15 minutes to talk with the whole group. Prior to the meeting, we had lots of conversations on whether to give many details to staff even though for 6 months it really wouldn't have any impact or should we just provide a very basic explanation and give more details when we are closer to the actual change. We went with the latter and found that in a large group, this may not be the best way to go about a district-changing announcement. We thought we were helping those that might be scared of tech changes by not overwhelming them with details. Unfortunately, we overwhelmed them with not enough information and there was fear of the unknown--rumors were rampant and in most cases, wrong.

Well, in order to make that right, my director and I met with small groups on that staff and calmed many, many fears and cleared up many misconceptions. The small group discussions were so powerful as we got into the idea of how moving to Google Apps would impact not only our staff, but our kids. The conversations went so well that we had a huge response to our request for volunteers on our second test group! We both are very new to being in a leadership position during entire district changes and we learned so much about not only how colleagues handle uncertainty, but also about ourselves and how we respond to that in a supportive, patient way.

With that small bump in the road taken care of we are well into our first 4K-12 Early Adopter group. They are pounding away on Gmail, Docs, Calendar, and Sites. They have been asked to "break it" so that when we roll out to more people we have a lot of the kinks out and many questions answered.

The super exciting part of this is that we had a large group of administrators willing to be in the first test group. How cool is that? Talk about leading by example! I am so impressed with their willingness to get in and "get their hands dirty" so that when their staff members are trained and entered into our domain, they will be ready to support and to answer questions. They knew going into this first group that there may be issues that we will have to work through, yet were brave enough to get in and get started. At this point we have about 30 people that have made the change over from Exchange to Gmail and are getting used Docs, Sites and Calendar in Google.

That's it for now. Our second Early Adopter group--scheduled for a March 20th training will have our entire guidance staff, all Library aides, two members of the maintenance staff and 40 additional teachers trained.

By the end of the school year we will have approximately a third of our staff completely rolled over to South Milwaukee Apps Powered By Google....stay tuned.