Author Archives: Matt Vaudrey

Year-End Christmas Activities

Younger Students

For elementary teachers, students can email Santa and he’ll write back! (He might have a grumpy Elf or a silly Reindeer answer if he gets too busy).

Visit bit.ly/emailtosanta and check it out.

Older Students

You know those moments when you’re excited for something, and you share that thing with somebody, and they look at you like you just suggested skinning a puppy to make a wallet?

My director gave me that look when I showed her the below slideshow. It’s not going to my district staff, but it’s just too fun to keep to myself.

For older students, this is a good way to pass the time on the last day before break:

In case you can’t see the embedded slideshow, here’s a link to full-screen.

 

~Matt “If you don’t celebrate Christmas… I got nothing” Vaudrey

Google Teacher Academy

or

How the Most Exalted Conference in EdTech Was Exactly What I Expected, But Not In The Way That You Think

Fifty-two of us from all over the continent converged on Austin for two days of … something. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect; the agenda (initially public) had been locked from view sometime that weekend, so we hoped that was a good thing.

My own district treated my acceptance to the academy (a month ago) with more excitement and reverence than I expected. My director, Kris, is likely to thank for that; there’s a very good chance she had conversations with cabinet members explaining why it’s a big deal.

Thanks, Kris.

Here’s why I went:

Screenshot 2014-12-04 at 10.33.15 AM

Thanks to Twitter and blogging, I know of a lot of outstanding teachers. Most of them–the ones equipping students with 21st-century skills–have a little badge on their website that says,

GCT badge

My role models (click here for a list) have this qualification, so I wanted it, too.

The application process (documented here) was stringent, but definitely worth it. I knew my cohort had worked as hard as I to apply.

Near and Far

GTAATX Location

You probably noticed what I did, so check this out:

GTAATX CA v TX v Everywhere else

This academy was in Texas, which likely contributes to the spike. Regardless, California was well-represented.

With one Canadian subbing.

With one Canadian subbing.

What Types of People

As you can see below, the average age of attendees was 37, and we stretched from 26 to 49.

GTAATX Age

Within a few hours of arriving, I was grouped with two teachers who were… veteran enough to have me as a student 20 years ago. Both showed and/or taught me something cool.

It was a fresh reminder that–as I often insist to my teachers–age does not necessarily correlate to tech ability.

GTAATX Roles

Stevens pointed out that it’s likely people were reluctant to select “Stooge” as their job title.

GTAATX drinks

Stuck on a desert island with one beverage. One member wrote, “Choose between wine and coffee? This is the hardest decision all week.”

GTAATX Relationship status

The next question asked, “How stoked were you/your employer for GTAATX and these parts of it?”

GTAATX Stoked

What a bummer that 5.02/10 was the average excitement for districts and schools. Doesn’t match the group’s excitement at all.

I can’t relate; my district gave me the time off, covered expenses, and drafted a press release and an article in the paper. It’s a great place to work.

Fun Data

And, in the spirit of silly math, here are some interesting data:

Exactly What I Expected

Two attendees (separately) pulled me aside and asked if I was underwhelmed. As a lifelong optimist, my expectations rarely match reality, with its rough edges and imperfections. The last 30 years have seasoned me to adjust idealism (Twitter’s perception of GTA) with reality (52 game-changers from across the continent in one room).

I had some fantastic conversations, drank some great local beer, and bowled a 79. Teachers from Ontario to Missouri to Mexico challenged me to rethink my mindset, brainstormed solutions to my Moonshot problem, and encouraged me;  I hope some were encouraged by me, as well.

And some I’ll probably never contact again. That’s the thing about getting big personalities in one room; we’re gonna disagree.

In high school, I never studied. I showed up, napped, and got a B.

When I went to college, I had to work harder to keep my place in the upper quartile of academics.

Here.

Upper Quartile is not a defensive formation for the Steelers.

GTA was like EdTech College; many of us came from schools and districts (even counties) where we were the smartest kid in class. For two days, the big fish left their small ponds and dropped into a wading pool…

No, that’s not the analogy I want…

Tasty appetizers from several menus are spread on one table…

Eh, that’s closer…

A bunch of CEOs start a business. Working together and sharing ideas with each other, two days would be woefully insufficient to drink up all the great stories and experiences and knowledge in one room.

GTAATX Everybody

Drew addresses the temptation to coast after completing a big project, Rachel expresses thankfulness, and I make dopey charts by cramming math into inappropriate places.

… that sounds about right.

Here’s a list of all the books recommended by the GTAATX cohort. It seems selfish to keep that list to myself.

~Matt “Google Certified Teacher” Vaudrey

I Lost My Chops

Read all the way to the end. This is a short post.

Demo Day

Mr.  Guiles is a fantastic teacher at Lone Hill Middle School. While he and I are fairly matched on our interest in EdTech, we each have our own strongholds of knowledge.

So it’s simultaneously relaxing and intimidating to do a demo in his computer lab.

“Good morning, class! On the wall, you’ll see our agenda for the day.” I point toward the screen opposite the teacher computer, where I’ll be walking them through peer editing on Google Drive. There are three bullet points:

  • Log in

  • Share Documents & Edit

  • Google Form

In a class of 36, all but 5 had no trouble logging in and finding the correct link. Mr. Guiles (in the back of the room) hovered and helped three students who were stuck.

That left two.

“If you’ve already typed up your paper in a Word document, you can upload it by clicking and dragging,” I call as I walk by Karl, who is playing a racing game online. “Hey, um… what’s your name? … Close that, please. We’re … um… we’re working on your papers right now.”

He complies.

Next to the teacher computer, Frankie is looking at racy pictures of women in swimsuits.

Right. by. my. desk.

“Hey, come on, man!” I whine. “Seriously? You have to do that right now?”

“I don’t have internet at home,” Frankie replies, zooming in.

I look over at Guiles, who raises his eyebrows. “Come sit over here.” I point to a single desk with no computer. Frankie rolls his eyes and moves.

“What do we do once we’re logged in?” asks Jacqueline, a short 8th grader with glasses.

“Hang on,” I reply. “Let’s get everybody logged in first.” She sighs.

“Is everybody… um… is everybody logged in?” I pull on my collar and wonder, What’s with me today? I don’t feel confident at all, and I did this with adults last week. I’m sweating and nervous. Did I eat breakfast? Dammit, I skipped breakfast.

A suppressed giggle turns my attention toward the door. Karl is texting and giggling.

“Karl, come sit over here.” I point him toward Frankie’s now-empty seat next to my desk.

“No,” says Karl, without looking up.

I take a deep breath, about to put on my sour teacher face, when I hear from the door, “Hey! Are you my kid’s teacher?”

Standing in the door is a dad wearing a blue “Lone Hill Lions” T-shirt. He’s obviously never met Guiles, who has a huge beard and glasses, but I’m thankful for the break from Karl, so I engage him.

“What can I do for you?” I move past him into the hallway and he follows.

“You gave her a C and she’s an A student. I’m getting you fired right now, and I thought you should know about it.” He pokes me in the chest.

I break eye contact and take a step back. “Sir…” I begin, but I can’t find the words. 
I’m only a tech coach, this isn’t my clsasroom.
My main job is to help teachers use technology in the classroom, but today, it’s not going so well.

Teaching is much easier when I have my own classroom with my own kids. I miss my own classroom. 

The Dad pokes me in the chest again and I lean against the wall behind me, feeling 10 years old again. What’s wrong with me today?

bully-boy

My eyes snap open. I turn over in bed and see the clock. 4:51 AM.

WAKE UP! You've had a BAD DREAM! by Marta Moraschi

That was a terrible dream.

~Matt “Gotta stay sharp” Vaudrey

What’s Missing?

This tweet caught my eye last week.

 

Three things on that.

1.) I’d be a way better coach

All four people tagged in that tweet can testify that credibility is the most precious commodity for an educational trainer.

Skeptics can smell  a desk jockey the minute they walk into the conference room wearing dress shoes or heels.

redshoe

THIS is what teachers wear.

 

I’m guilty of this skepticism, too.  For the last eight years, I’ve attended CMC-South every fall, and some of the presenters are…

well….

professors.

Good... uh.... good afternoon. We... um... we received a grant in 2006...

Good… uh…. good afternoon. We… um… we received a grant in 2006…

I’d scoff silently and see if any other–more interesting–sessions were taking place in that time slot. I’m a teacher, I told myself. I’m not going to waste 90 minutes listening to this district stooge talk about “rigor”.

Now I’m the district stooge.

Teaching one period a day would allow me 55 minutes to try out those ideas that Twitter and Voxer find for me: those ideas that sound awesome and I want to immediately try in the classroom.

Teaching, however, is a lot like making fudge.

Photo credit in the link.

Photo credit in the link.

Every fall, I make fudge for my students before Winter Break. I buy the ingredients, set up my double boiler, line the cooling tray with wax paper, and chop almonds and walnuts.

When I had 200 students, I made 5 batches of fudge.
When I had 80 students, I made 3 batches of fudge.
This year, I’ll probably make two batches of fudge.1

All the prep is the same, it’s just repeating the steps.

While I daydream about doing both roles, in reality…

2.) I’d be a way worse coach.

If I taught one period of students, I’m still prepping the lesson, entering grades, hanging student work on the wall, developing seating charts, and cutting out colored paper for a class set of congruent triangle cards.

All for only one batch of fudge.
Seems like an awful waste of energy.

As a one-period-per-day teacher, I have department meetings, IEPs, back-to-school night, and a heavenly host of other duties that keep me from meeting teachers as a coach.

Many would re-schedule.
Most would just give up.

"Never mind. I'll make my own overhead transparencies."

“Never mind. I’ll make my own overhead transparencies.”

It wouldn’t be just 55 minutes that I’m a teacher, it’d be closer to half the workday. That’s hours each week that I’m not researching 1st grade math apps for the iPads, prepping workshops for getting departments on Google Drive, or giving demo lessons to seniors on QR codes.

A part-time teacher and part-time coach is significantly less profitable for my district than a full-time teacher or full-time coach.

What’s most likely in this scenario is…

3.) I’d do a mediocre job of both

“Sorry, students. Mr. Vaudrey unavailable for math tutoring after school, during lunch, before school, or during prep period, and he also leans heavily on his department and grade-level teams to pull his weight on parent-conferences, student discipline, and late work.”

“Sorry, teachers. Vaudrey understands how busy your schedule is; he’s a teacher, too! His mornings are swamped scrambling through a lesson that he delivers once. But he can’t improve it for second period; there is no second period! After a 40-minute lunch at his desk answering Tech emails, he eventually settles on supporting a teacher at his school site instead of driving across town. His teammates at the middle school get most of his Ed Tech coaching, while other schools rarely see him.”

frazzled

For the time being, I must be content to be just a coach, and mooch classrooms for demo lessons whenever I can. Those students will never be my students, but it’ll keep my chops sharp for the next time I present a grant summary at CMC.

While I miss the day-to-day routine of classroom teaching, I’m also thrilled to be building Google Presentations on a Chromebook while listening to SciShow and sitting on an exercise ball.

I wore costumes most of the day on Saturday.

Although… I did silly stuff in the classroom, too.
Silly is kinda tough to switch off.

All of these three coach teachers. Only one has a mouthful of food.

Everyone in this picture coaches teachers while in costume. Only one has a mouthful of food.

~Matt “I still miss my running shoes” Vaudrey

P.S. It’s also notable that John Stevens wrote a response to Tim’s tweet also.

1. It’s not a linear relationship. The 200 students got much smaller pieces than the 80, but here’s a quick model that I’m quite sure can be improved.

2>1

One of the many benefits of my new position is the exposure to tons of new perspectives. There are 460+ teachers in Bonita USD, and I follow roughly 160 on Twitter from around the world.

(The overlap is about seven people. I’m working on that.)

Conferences and trainings expose me to people from other districts I would never have met otherwise.

But there is no substitute for teachers.

Except... a substitute teacher.

Except… a substitute teacher.

At some point on October 20th, I had a conversation with a teacher in my district that led to this:

That appeared to resonate with some other teachers.

Screenshot 2014-10-29 at 7.47.46 AM

Here’s a theory:

When students are paired up on devices, they’re engaging the material, the technology, and each other. The few occasions where a grabby student bowls over a shy student and hogs the device are rare.

This is probably due because–in a 1:1 environment–the grabby student would be playing Angry Birds in the back row and the shy student wouldn’t have anyone to answer his/her question when s/he got stuck.

Further, a 1:1 class where students are silently working on their device is relationally no different from a class where are diligently working on a packet of worksheets.

As teachers, we’re reaching a tipping point where we must create relational experiences for our students to discuss and wrestle with the material and other perspectives.

If we don’t, then free apps in the app store will replace what we do.

~Matt “2>1, and Cheaper, Too” Vaudrey

Good Ideas

Here’s what’s happening.

Music Cues

A teacher, previously averse to new tech tools, installed iTunes and added my collection of Music Cues to it. She’s planning on using a few to start up, then adding more as she gets more comfortable.

That exact story has happened at least 8 times this month and I’m thrilled about it.

triumphant-facial-expression-2_medium

EdTech Tip

EdTech Tip Graphic9.001

This video, I’ll be honest, took most of a workday to shoot and edit, but that included Googling color schemes and building a graphic in Keynote (thanks to @jcorippo for that idea).

I sent that to every teacher in the district and got no less than 40 replies (Ten percent of the staff); they all began with “Oh, you’re the new Tech Coach! Can you…”

  • Show me how to use SubText?
  • Install iTunes on my computer?
  • Fix my printer?
  • Put the email icon on my desktop?
  • Demo a lesson on effective research strategies for my seniors?

Attacking all those questions with the same earnest optimistic kindness is vital for my credibility as a teacher coach.

Sure, I have to differentiate my role from a Computer Technician at least once a day, but every time, the conversation leads to a firmer understanding of what I can do for that teacher.

Subtext and NewsELA Can Hold Hands

A teacher wants to have students use NewsELA articles in the Subtext reader for iPad, but she has a full-time classload and wants somebody to figure it out for her.

ThisGuy

Little did she know, that’s exactly the kind of thing that I do.

Here’s what I told her:

  1. Save the NewsELA article as a PDF and put it in your Google Drive. (There’s a Chrome Extension that I use for that.)
  2. On the iPad, open Google Drive and open that PDF (like you’re reading it).
  3. In the top right, tap the three dots and select OPEN IN…
  4. Choose Subtext.

In case any of y’all are interested.

Google Drive Training

Google Drive Logo

After describing cloud storage to one teacher, she insisted I come back and get her whole department on a shared folder. That meeting was helpful for three reasons:

  1. I can talk about Google Drive all day, speaking faster and faster with increasingly frantic hand gestures until I’m standing on the desk and shouting, “Real-time collaboration!”
  2. They were simultaneously discussing RTI plans, parent conferences, and the upcoming staff meeting, all while I walked them through how stuff works.
    It reminded me that not all teachers will sit quietly and follow along like we’re at a CUE conference.
    I’m on their prep period on their turf; I’ll be thankful for the time I get.
  3. One of my goals for the year is to make “disciples” at each campus; teachers who are willing to try/see new stuff and would be down for me to hijack their class for a period and do a demo. This posse definitely fits that description.

If I’m honest, I do miss the classroom. I chalk that up to the discomfort that one feels in any new position, especially one like this. I’ve essentially changed fields, but I can still daily look through the window at a job I loved and at which, I performed… better than average.

La Cucina Matematica

lacucina

John Stevens and I do some Math/Tech consulting on weekends and holidays, and recently launched a website to that end.

We both share a fear of becoming shameless self-promoters who take schools’ tax dollars and don’t actually help students directly. So we’re both careful about how often we self-promote.

Check out the site. If your district has some leftover Title I money that expires this month (as ours does), we’d love to come visit and talk shop with your math teachers about how to build student creativity and problem-solving.

The “Move It!” Chrome Extension

I’m not frantically pacing a classroom anymore, I’m at a desk around 30% of the time. And I don’t wanna get fat.

moveit

This pops up every n minutes and won’t go away until I click DONE.

My office-mates needed little convincing that I was an odd duck, but declaring “Ten large arm circles! Let’s go, Cheryl!” sealed my fate.

I'll be the most ripped Tech Coach in the biz... though there isn't much competition.

I’ll be the most ripped Tech Coach in the biz… though there isn’t much competition.

~Matt “Wall Squat! Twenty Seconds!” Vaudrey

#GTAATX Application

Together with John Stevens and Karl Lindgren-Streicher, I’ve been brainstorming an interesting way to apply for the Google Teacher Academy for months.

As of August, our plan was a rap with a beat we composed, referencing each other in our videos and starring in quick cameos.

We quickly realized three things as the deadline for Austin was announced.

  1. The beat that we (okay… the beat that I) composed was not very good. Making it good enough would take longer than I wanted to spend, plus there are tons of Creative Commons-licensed songs for free download if you’re a teacher.
  2. The rap would limit our creativity, and we’d have three nearly identical videos instead of three that showcased our unique classrooms and educational philosophy.
  3. One minute is not very much time at all.

So we made a Voxer channel, made a shared folder in Google Drive and gave each other editing rights, and asked for feedback.

sharing page

This is from Karl’s doc. He brought some other Edu-ringers in as well.

Let me stress; this is a microcosm of the same attitude that has grown all three of us into the educators that we are today. We ask peers for help and drink it up when we get it.

Between Voxer (where we dropped any and all inspiration we had and bounced ideas off each other) and the shared Docs (which I won’t share with you, so stop asking), we each took the general concepts that the three of us shared and fine-tuned them to be specific to ourselves.

We encouraged and trimmed ideas in equal measure, and at the end, we had three very different videos that showcase three very similar mindsets.

In short, we actually modeled the collaboration that we promote to our teachers while we made a video about collaboration with teachers.

keanu whoa

Here’s mine:

When I showed my video to Karl and John, they both said, “Yep. That’s Vaudrey.”

Here are their videos, too:

The best part? I just wore the fairy costume and went about my regular day as EdTech Coach.

I trained students on Google Forms and URL shorteners.

I trained students on Google Forms and URL shorteners.

I met with a teacher to help her utilize web resources for 3rd grade Social Studies

I met with a teacher to help her utilize web resources for 3rd grade Social Studies.

The only real weird part of the shoot was that I’m still new to the district;

many of these teachers hadn’t met me in person before I was putting on glitter wings in the teacher’s lounge.

"Hi, are you Wendy? I'm Matt; did you email me about iPads?"

“Hi, are you Wendy? I’m Matt; did you email me about iPads? Also, can you zip me?”

Also priceless were the student responses to the Google Fairy walking through campus.

Elementary School: “It’s a fairy man! Hi, Fairy Man!”

Middle School: “Oh! It’s… uh… he’s the Google Fairy. Aren’t you hot?”

High School: “I love your costume! [Takes picture]
High School: “What the f***?”

~Matt “Google Fairy” Vaudrey