July 17, 2014

Do you think better barefoot?

Filed under: about me,creativity,deep thoughts,iste14,musing,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:30 am

There is a moment during July when the teaching idea valve reopens. To me it seems to be barefeettriggered by something totally innocent: the feel of cool tile on bare feet, the rush beneath the surface of the water as I push off the pool wall, the sound of a favorite song playing as I sing along in a convertible, the lightning bugs after the fireworks end. At first the valve seems a bit creaky, crying out for WD40 on the brain, but soon enough it lets ideas flow freely again.

As the school year drew to a close, the valve had pretty much seized up. Stuck. I was stuck. Even eight years after leaving the annual school year cycle and moving to a year-round, continuous job, my brain still thinks like a teacher. I talk and “live” among teachers every day, and I need the annual renewal of July. It isn’t so much taking a “vacation.” It is allowing myself to go barefoot in my brain. It is letting myself play with ideas instead of packaging them.

No amount of effort I make can force that moment to come. A fabulous experience like the ISTE conference is so manic it overwhelms. I have learned to “save up” everything I gather at ISTE like pretty shells from the beach. I know I must wait to sort them all out and organize them later… and THEN decide what to DO with them.

I note the feel of cool tile under my bare feet as I write this, and I wonder whether we ever give students a chance to notice what makes their ideas flow. Sadly, many of us don’t figure it out until we are decades beyond school age. I wonder what would happen if each if us spent just one class  period per year talking with our kids about things like the Creative Routines of accomplished writers, artists, and thinkers. What if we asked them to pay attention to what makes their ideas flow… and to ask questions like, “Do I think better barefoot?”



July 3, 2014

Flashes Foretell the ISTE Cloudburst

Filed under: deep thoughts,gifted,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 2:10 pm

ISTE bagMost of us who went to ISTE 2014 in Atlanta have already blogged or sent copious clever tweets about it. We have collected, shared, and digitally packed our ISTE takeaways into a turquoise-tinted ISTE Cloud. Already precipitating from that cloud are favorite gems, sprinkling or pouring down on constituents back home. A long holiday weekend (in the U.S.) may pose a temporary interruption to the ISTE precipitation cycle,  but the ISTE Cloud remains pregnant and ready to burst open again upon the next inservice, staff meeting, or chat.

Since my home ground is everywhere that Thinking Teachers live and work, my ISTE Cloud will rain down over the next few months in many digital spaces from TeachersFirst. But for now I must share a few impressions that struck me at ISTE. These are not the downpour of thoughts and skills, tools and tasks, entire new angles and approaches to learning that are incubating in my ISTE Cloud. These are flash impressions, the lightning that foreshadows a coming storm. I saw each lightning bolt flash before me only briefly, but knew each had more power than anything I could produce on my own — and I can only attempt to explain.

A school board president and tech director from a rural Idaho school district stand outside the Bloggers’ Cafe as I hear the board president ask his tech director, ” So how could I use a blog?” The conversation that ensues (as I pipe in) spans from a 60-something business owner into a world he begins to envision: sharing his business, seeing his grandkids’ pictures and writing about school board issues so the community can understand and converse. Then he asks, ” And how do teachers and kids use blogs?” From the world he knows to the world of school to the world beyond as he SEES it for the first time. He came to ISTE, and he will go home a different leader.  My flash: Not every leader or every school or every teacher has the tech or PD we at ISTE assume they do. I wonder: How can we each turn our ISTE Cloud into PD and learning philanthropy? 

Six twenty-something teachers from a Georgia high school stand in a clump in the GWCC lobby on the first day of ISTE, teachers representing their departments at the same high school: math, science, history, English, etc. They stop me because I have badge ribbons, so surely I know where to go and how to get started. They have the ISTE app, but their eyes are those of a new ninth grader on the first day of school: giddy,  laughing, a little terrified, ready to rock and roll, but already lost without the schedule they know they have here somewhere. My flash: A first ISTE is like first year teaching. Everyone needs a mentor!

Late afternoon in a windowless room of tables nearly full.  About 150 ed tech coaches — with at least 40 different job titles — gulp down collaboration with peers from all over the U.S. and a few other countries. They exchange problems/solutions, Twitter handles, “kryptonite,” and verbal/Google Drawing pictures of what their coaching looks like. The sound of the room is beyond hum or buzz. It is a the sound of water tumbling powerfully at the base of the waterfall, ready to rush forward. My flash: The Ed Tech Coaches Network has all the energy we could ever need. Let it spill forth! We’ll just manage the flood control.

Mid-morning in the subdued light beneath a busy escalator, eight stations of Superhero Ed Tech Coaches are doing far more than “Saving the Day.” At the newbie coaches demo area, there isn’t even standing room left. The other stations are 3-4 rows deep. My flash: The ed tech coaching waters are deep, and the superheroes will allow no one to drown. 

Two hundred teachers look up at us from perfect rows of convention-center-latched chairs. They lean into their devices or hold them up to scan QR codes on the screen as they listen, chat back, and multitask with our enthusiastic endorsement. I glance beside me at my colleague and once-mentoree as she explains about dozens of ways to differentiate and meet the needs of gifted kiddos using great, free tools. Heads nod, and occasional Ooos escape. I chime in with my portion of the presentation as she chats back to the questions and comments on Todaysmeet. My flash: Not everyone has forgotten about the gifted kids in today’s test-driven world after all, but we have a whole new generation of teachers who may never have been given permission to think about them.  

May your July 4th bring you both independence and incubation time so you can share in the outpourings from ISTE 2014 over the months to come, whether you were there or not!

I will be posting a bit less often during July as I ease my schedule a bit to enjoy summer fun. Weekly madness resumes in August.

June 12, 2014

ISTE: To plan or not to plan, that is the question.

Filed under: edtech,iste14,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 2:35 pm

will-ISTEISTE fair, so overwhelmed am I
And wond’ring as Atlanta draws us nigh…

To plan or not to plan, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the ISTE world to suffer
The slings and elbows of filled BYOD’s and Spotlights
Or to link arms against a sea on escalators
And by ignoring, defy them. To wander, to plan
No more–and thus by wand’ring seek ideas
Anew, and feel the thousand techie sparks
That ISTE’s known to light. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To learn, to steep–
To tweet–perchance to blog: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that steeping, plan-less blog what loss may be?
Could I have shuffled off and thus erased
My purpose in this techie learned place?
So I must pause. There’s the respect
That makes me yearn for sages of edtech.
For who would snap the fears and thorns of few,
As well as ISTE’s gurus — perhaps you?
The pangs of program app I must delay,
For insolence of tasks yet due TODAY.
That patient merit of unplanned bliss,
Shall en route to ISTE overwhelm
This mere munchkin in face of such uncertainty.
To grunt and sweat and plan again,
For that the dread of something I could miss,
The session skipped, and by whose words
This traveller returns, erased by will,
And makes me rather bear those things I plan
Than fly to others that I know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Wins o’er the lure of serendipity.
I’ll plan and fav’ with iPad armed with app
And Evernote the sessions all the days
And steer the course of action. — Soft you now,
Oh fair edtechers! — in thy Twitter catchers
May all our ISTE be remember-ed.

For now, the plan is void, the app eschewed.
But in Atlanta, I will be prepared!

If you didn’t figure it out, this is adapted from the text at http://www.monologuearchive.com/s/shakespeare_001.html#2SjhFeODwUMci76R.99.

My apologies, Will.


Photo Credit: tonynetone via Compfight cc

June 6, 2014

Ed Tech? Choose your superpower

Filed under: edtech,edtech coaching,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:05 am

superpowerOK, superheroes and superhero wannabes, now is the time to choose or renew your superpowers. It is summer, time for professional development and personal improvement among educators. The fortunate among us will be traveling to ISTE later this month, but most teachers and ed tech coaches must find their own PD to sharpen our powers. Ed tech coaches, in particular, have quite a challenge finding meaningful formal PD, and most of us turn to Twitter, edcamps, unconferences, and online collaboration/sharing to hone our superpowers. Now is the time to ask yourself:

If I could carry just ONE superpower into next school year to rescue LEARNING for my teachers and students, what would it be?

Here is a starter list from which to choose:

Filter Flummoxing: This fantastic flummoxing capability allows the superhero to perplex arbitrary or obtrusive web filters so they defer to the superhero’s wisdom, thereby allowing the powers of web-based learning into any classroom. The superhero can instantly fend off the filter without filling out forms, attending administrative meetings, or enduring tedious time delays. Note: If the superhero abuses this power, it will fade away, so use it wisely.

Parent Persuasion: This power permits the superhero to cast a spell over the most skeptical parent, instilling a glow of understanding that signs off on GOOD uses of technology and eschews frivolous or glitzy projects. As with all superpowers, the superhero should think carefully before using (or abusing) it.

Administrative Awe and Buy in: Imagine an administration that looks in awe upon student-directed learning, technology-infused projects, and collaborations that connect classrooms via Twitter and other “scary” tools. Imagine an administration in awe of the positive powers of technology and willing to learn it themselves as a model for their teachers, parents, and students, all within a framework of good digital citizenship that charges students (and teachers) to use resources ethically and demonstrate positive online behavior. If you choose this as your superpower, you will have administrative support at the wave of your cape.

Super Spider-webbed PD: As a superhero, you can swoop in only where professional development parameters allow you to go. By casting a spider-web onto all PD, you can incorporate technology as a logical pat of ALL teacher PD instead of separating it out. This superpower lets you tie technology into its logical place in support of any learning. Superpower spider webs never let go!

Time Control: Just as it sounds, this power allows the superhero to stop the sands of time long enough for a teacher to take a breather and make a few mistakes along the way to infusing technology  in support of learning. Think of Superman holding back the hands of the gigantic clock over Gotham City Hall (or the one on the school hall).  Wouldn’t that come in hand-y?

Envisioning Glasses: Give these high-powered glasses to any teacher, and he/she will see what you can see. Teachers will be able to focus on what technology does, not the work it takes. Think of these envisioning glasses as the heads-up display teachers can wear as they guide their craft wisely into the sky.

Gumby mental flexibility: Superheroes must be able to bend their plans, reshape their thinking (and that of others), and adapt to limitations at a moment’s notice, never straining a mental muscle. Stretch yourself as far as you need to go and around corners with this superpower. Amazingly, you will be able to shrink back to normal dimensions after the stress abates.

Access Prowess: The ability to provide access to functioning technology anywhere and anytime it is needed. Use this Prowess to enable any teacher or student to have a fully-functioning, web-connected device whenever learning demands it. This Prowess extends outside the school walls to home access for learning and inside school facilities, demolishing barriers from scheduling debacles, drill-and-kill test prep, or online testing monopolies.

Tech Invisibility Cloak: Most superheroes secretly enjoy flaunting their powers, but making technology invisible will ultimately win more battles over ignorance. If you had this power, you could make technology a seamless and appropriate part of learning, and no one would notice it as technology. They would see only the learning.

Glitch force field: Fend off the forces of Glitch with this amazing force field. Need the Internet? It will work on ALL machines. Need Google docs/drive/apps? No problem. Just deploy the force field, and things magically WORK! Of course, you have to recharge it periodically by actually maintaining equipment and network, but the time you save fixing weird glitches will provide plenty for prevention.

Can’t find your superpower of choice?  Please share it in a comment or at the Coaching Playground at ISTE later this month. We’ll be there, caped and ready!


May 30, 2014

Morphing a critic into a superhero sidekick at ISTE

Filed under: edtech coaching,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:39 am

Any ed tech coach superhero loves suggestions, and Dawn Wilson’s tweet in response to my recent post offers a great idea for morphing the ed tech coach’s nemesis into a sidekick. Her tweet says it all: Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.36.30 AM

Since every superhero needs a sidekick, I propose that we each adopt a reluctant teacher as our new sidekick. Here is a list of possible casting qualifications for the role of critic-turned-sidekick:

  • General attitude of skepticism
  • Profound dedication to education, though somewhat entrenched in doing it “the way I have always done it”
  • Communicatio skills: Vocal, strong communicator and dissenter
  • Leadership: Able to draw in other teachers, most often with biting remarks or loud questions in staff meetings
  •  Critical thinking skills: able to detect an unsupported or incomplete argument, such as vague explanations of new initiatives
  • Hidden flexibility: Can come around to a new point of view (well supported, of course) and make it sound like his/her own idea

We can each name teachers we work with who display these qualifications to be a great sidekick. I have true tales of nemeses turned sidekick, and I am sure most coaches do. Mine was a second grade teacher who griped so loudly in the faculty room about “having” to make a teacher web page that she sucked the entire primary hallway into the depths of disgruntlement. I asked her to be the teacher-trainer for the building. After a bit of convincing, she agreed. (Time passes. Workshops happen.) After six months, she was more proud of “her” teachers and their web pages than any other teacher-trainer in the district.  Such SUPERPOWERS!

The kryptonite lies in the transformation process from critic to sidekick. The solution: ISTE!Slide1

Imagine if we could submit a Sidekick Transformation application together with a nemesis teacher-leader to attend ISTE two-for-one. We might even get a corporate sponsor or two to pick up the tab on expenses (much more productive than giveaway doo-dads and exhibit hall junk that we give to our kids and grandkids). ISTE should be willing to waive the conference fees for Superhero Sidekicks who submit compelling applications. Imagine what that new sidekick might do to draw in others back at school after the ISTE experience. We could even have badge ribbons: “Sidekick in Training”? Or maybe “Superhero Sidekick”?

ISTE should really think about supporting the sidekicks. It would make a great superhero story for ISTE to tell.

May 23, 2014

ISTE and the cape: An edtech coach nemesis?

Filed under: edtech coaching,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:37 am

True superheroes know the evil forces they face, and they can name their most powerful nemesis. The mania of preparing for ISTE 2014 is nothing to an Ed Tech Coach or tech-evangelist educator. We replenish our powers via the rush of seeing learning happen, especially if the technology supporting that learning makes good sense.  ISTE is a megajolt on the superhero power grid. Our most powerful Nemesis League will not be there to sap any of that energy. Dangerously, ISTEphoria often makes us forget that we will return to face the Nemesis League of the Reluctant, the Skeptical,  the Exhausted, and the Fearful. They will be there, lurking in our schools when we get back. And if we are not cautiously aware of the dangers, we will leave ISTE unprepared to face them. Although they do not attend ISTE, the Nemesis League has power there. It is the force of Them-and-Us, the prideful temptation to join other ISTE-attending superheroes in maligning the Reluctant, the Skeptical,  the Exhausted, and the Fearful:

“My teachers would never try this.”

They would want us to do it for them.”

“My xx teacher won’t even…”

“Some of mine will try it, but I’ll never get xx to yy.”

Our superhero capes can be dangerous. At ISTE, everyone we talk to “gets it.” We are the points on the pencil, the early adopters, the willing, the connectors, the movers and shakers of  learning (with technology). We LOVE the stuff. No Reluctants, Skepticals, Exhausteds, or Fearfuls would spend time or money on ISTE. So it is very easy to fall into talking about them. ISTE is edtech segregation — and can be a true danger to the powers of superhero edtech evangelists. Beware the pride of our own capes as a superheroes. We must vow to remind each other:

Fear is real.

Skepticism is a parasite that thrives on a perception of personal threat.

Time saps ALL teachers.

We are on their side, not fighting against them.

capeWe must know our nemesis but vow not to malign him/her behind his back. If we do, we have lost to the Nemesis League’s insidious plot of pride. If we spend our time maligning our nemesis, we will never know them or win them over. Please help me in this vow, and I will help you. Let us don our capes wisely so they do not fall away to pride.

May 16, 2014

Who is your superhero?

Filed under: about me,edtech coaching,iste14,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:05 am

As the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network prepares for the conclave of superheroes at the Ed Tech Coaching Playground: Coaches save the day!  event at ISTE next month, I have been thinking about all the people who “save the day” for teachers and students.  May is a time to reflect back on the school year and say thanks to those who ward off evil on our behalf, supporting our students’ success. These are the unsung superheroes who selflessly strike out to fend off the evil forces of pernicious policies, traumatizing technophobia, ferocious web filters, glitch goonies, or logistical lunacy. Their capes are invisible and their superpowers oft unrecognized. Your superhero may be colleague, student, supervisor, principal, parent, best friend, custodian, tech guy, or even a complete stranger.


For most teachers — and for me– there are many superheroes who save the day:

The parent who takes care of the rest of the kids during a field trip emergency.

The colleague who volunteers to plan the team day events.

The kid who crawls under the table and finds the unplugged projector cable adapter amid the spaghetti.

Slide2The supervisor with a sense of humor about your crazy ideas.

The principal who allows you try a whole new way of teaching.

The kid who shows you how the tool works.



The stranger at ISTE who offers up a power strip for your dying device.

The other stranger at ISTE who pops out a hotspot when the wifi drops to tortoise pace.

The colleague who gives up her laptop cart days so your kids can finish their projects.

The MySciLife teacher-ambassadors who collaborate and problem solve their way through two years using a mismatched platform (another story…).

The very-much-veteran teacher who comes to a school board meeting to tell her superhero impact story, a tale of how her entire view of technology AND teaching changed because of an ed tech coach (thereby preserving the coaching program!).

Slide4The teacher who writes into the TeachersFirst webmaster account simply to wish the TeachersFirst team a Happy Mother’s Day!

The stranger in the Walmart checkout line who asks a question about the school stuff in your cart… and sparks a whole new idea in your head for Monday’s class!


We each have our superheroes. Don’t let them go unrecognized.

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc



May 9, 2014

Ideas for Gifted: A handful for the handful

Filed under: creativity,gifted,iste14,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:31 am

Consider this post part of the “think out loud” planning phase of our ISTE presentation. Melissa Henning and I are presenting at ISTE Atlanta next month on Nourishing gifted through technology in any classroom. We have collected scores of our “favorite” resources to share with teachers, but time will limit us to sharing a number roughly proportionate to the number of gifted among the general population (< 2%). Well, maybe we’ll do a little better than that.

One of the things I learned from teaching gifted kiddos is that given choices, they’ll take forever to decide.  They LOVE choice, but they can generate more criteria to weigh their decision than the President of the U.S. in deciding whether to ask Congress for a declaration of war. But maybe this… and what about that… and this could happen, etc. Choice can sometimes mean paralysis for a gifted kid. They do need to learn HOW to select the best tool for the task, but the best we can do is offer them both limited choices and limited time to decide. So one strategy I will suggest in my part of the presentation is to offer a handful to the handful…then let them decide hands-on during the time at hand.hand

Here is an example for teachers of elementary gifted kiddos. Since most web tools (and U.S. law) say kids must be 13 to set up memberships without parent permission, the path of least resistance is either no-membership-required or teacher-controlled accounts. No membership is the quickest. So you want the kiddos to work on a gifted level challenge about plants on their own while you are reteaching the basics to students who are struggling or having most of the class do a reinforcement activity. Here is a sample handful for your handful of munchkin (gr 1-5) gifted ones. Note that with very young ones (K-2) or those with no technology experience, you might want to limit the choices to the topics and just TWO options from the “show what you know” group.

1. Choose a project topic: (You have five minutes to think or search online and decide. You MAY suggest another topic of your own choice.)

  • A year in the life of a specific plant
  • Life without bees (is this going to happen soon?)
  • The weird and the wild (strange plants and how they live)
  • People who work with plants
  • Incredible edibles:  the plants we eat and how they make us grow

2. Choose a way that you will SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW after you research and learn: You must decide before  you come to class tomorrow.

  • A sticky note board with images, links, and your own written information, tips, questions, and more. Your board could be an activity for people to do or an organized online “display.” Use a tool called Lino.
  • One to three online drawings or whiteboards with words included. Use Draw It Live, but be SURE you copy the urls for your boards or mark them in Favorites so we can find them again!
  • A blog post using Loose Leaves (written as if the author were you or someone/something else). Note that this tool is for WORDS only!
  • A talking exhibit with recorded sound downloaded from Online Voice Recorder to go with an actual display of drawings or models you make.
  • An image (up to 3 images) with speech bubbles and more . Use a tool called PhraseIt and images you find with help using Compfight.

3. Make a  Strike To-do list of the steps for your project, mark it in Favorites, and have it approved before you start. You may play with any of the tools listed (or suggest your own alternative), but you must commit to your tool/project choice in the To-do list.

That should give the handful a headful of possibilities AND a plan to dig in. Having a clock or timer around to remind them of real world time couldn’t hurt, either. Unfortunately, gifted or creative people do not deal well with being creative in 40 minute increments!

Wondering how to evaluate what they do ? We will talk about rubrics in our presentation, too. For now, I am still collecting and curating FAVORITE ideas and tools. Stay tuned.

Oh, and about the post title… yes, I know that gifted kids can also BE a handful. But isn’t that the joy of teaching them?

March 14, 2014

A playground moment: How to eliminate teacher meetings

Filed under: about me,edtech coaching,education,iste14,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 12:05 pm

What role do you play when you meet with other teachers (or ed tech coaches)? Do you chime in with ideas but pray they don’t ask you to take on too much responsibility? As busy teachers, we all know that temptation. This week I had the pleasure to witness the positive power of educators to move the boulder forward — and quickly — simply by leveraging a little tech.

I am part of a dynamic duo(?)  leading a powerpack of ed tech coaching superheroes. Together we are planning a “playground” event* at ISTE 2014. About eight of us met on a conference call, preceded by an email with a link to a shared Google doc. Before the call, the doc was pretty much an empty shell. No more than 3 minutes into the call, I watched a little flag typing across the doc, adding the ideas as they began to flow from our conversation. Kim McMonagle was keeping a running record of our ideas as they flew by.  She didn’t say anything. She just did it.  We ended our call with a bunch of work DONE, not just planned-to-be-done. 

How often do you simply take up a tool to help the cause during a meeting? Imagine the power of such simple modeling in front of your teacher-colleagues, especially the hesitant ones who always say they don’t have time for tech. It isn’t hard. It’s not a big deal. You don’t even need to say anything. Just give them the link to use it when the meeting ends.

Of course, a hesitant teacher will say he/she does not know how to do Google docs or prefers to use paper or prefers to just sit and listen, but (s)he really cannot ignore the leverage of one Google doc against the boulders we teachers must move. Maybe if (s)he noticed the power of one doc without being threatened or “taught,” and the doc were perceived as useful, (s)he’d try it in the secrecy of his/her classroom.

This nearly invisible moment made me stop — and wonder that would happen if teachers took up a tool to move the boulders forward during every meeting we had (or had to attend).  No “we’ll write this up and send it out” or “we will be sending you a form,” or “will” anything. It gets done while you are there, in front of your eyes. We can all take the next steps without waiting for a report, an email, or some other “afterward.” It’s a “duh” thing that too many teachers neither notice nor initiate.

We’d probably have far fewer meetings. Wouldn’t that be a shame?

 *The Ed Tech Coaching “Playground” will be held June 30, 9:30- 1:00 at ISTE Atlanta. Playgrounds offer a couple of small group demonstration areas with casual seating and multiple walk-up stations for smaller demos/conversations, all in an open area that screams, “Come on in!” Conference attendees happen by or make deliberate plans to see big-name presenters in this up-close-and-personal opportunity, all focused on a common theme, in this case Ed Tech Coaching. My experience with playgrounds is that the presenters are approachable, and the learning is immediate. In these venues, there is no doubt that learning is play and play is learning. If you’re coming to ISTE, I hope you will join us.