What I did on my Summer Vacation.

With summer is officially over I feel it’s about time for that recap every person has asked to write at some point in their lives… What I did on my Summer Vacation.

While this isn’t necessarily going to be about what I did on my “vacation”, it is explore what ended up being a very busy but productive summer and three themes: engagement, productivity and giving back.

Let’s start with the truly fun stuff…

The European Adventure, the MLB stadium tour and time on the beach.

The summer began with the trip of a lifetime for me, my wife, our two boys, my mothers, my sister, her husband and three daughter. We flew to Barcelona, Spain, boarded the Norwegian Epic for a weeklong cruise to Naples, Rome, Pisa, Cannes and Marseille. We then took and overnight train from Barcelona to Paris for three more day.

This trip was followed by multiple days at the beach in both Ogunquit, Maine and at the Jersey Shore in Margate.

Between all of this we started what will be a multi-year project to visit every MLB park.  This year we managed to get to: Citi Field (Mets), Fenway Park (Red Sox) and Citizens bank Park (Phillies).

It was truly amazing.

During each part of these adventures I had my iPhone in hand, taking pictures, checking-in and posting updates on Facebook.  My adventures were for all to see. Many of my friends and colleagues would “Like” or comment on my various posts and when I got back to see many of them we would instantly have something to talk about.

We were engaged in conversation from all that I shared.

Tech Institute, the Lausanne Laptop Institute, the edSocialMedia bootcamp at Derby Academy and the Evernote Trunk Conference.

The real start of the Summer came at the end of the school year the annual “Tech Institute”.  The name is misleading as it is more about teaching and learning and technology infused as a tool. Since we are school the a 1:1 Learning Initiative, as opposed to a 1:1 Laptop/iPad – insert hardware type here – Program, may of the things we talk about is how teaching and learning is effected by technology and the 24/7 availability of information and interactions.

This years goals were to look at “Opportunities for Engaging Learners” and at “Learning in a Participatory Culture”.

When you have a program like ours and there in ubiquitous access to technology, the Internet and all that these bring, you need to focus explicitly on engagement and have student and teacher working together and making good use of the tools at their disposal.

The biggest roadblock to this is distraction.  This comes about when people (students & teachers) become disengaged.  Disengagement has been going on in classrooms since there were classrooms.  The problem is not new.  However, if we are still dealing with it in the same ways we have before we won’t move forward. We need to look at the tools at our disposal, what could be seen as the tools of distraction and leverage them to make more engaged in our productivity.

The one area that seems to get the most attention when you look at distraction is social media and this is an area where I spend a lot of my time both in and out of school.

I had two opportunities to talk about the social media this summer and give back.  The first was at the at the Lausanne Laptop Institute where my school was this years spotlight and the second was at the edSocialMedia (ESM) bootcamp at Derby Academy

We took a large cohort to the conference where we present on a wide range of topics.  I had the opportunity to speak about: Planning and Deploying a 1:1, Evernote in Education, a Practitioners Panel, Best Practices for Deployment and Management and Social Media in the Classroom.

Dr. David Korfhage (@drkorfhage) and I spoke about how you can leverage social tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging (WordPress) to promote students as true authors.  By providing them with the ability to leverage these tools they would be able to reach and audience like never before possible in traditional brick and mortar classrooms.

This theme carried over to the keynote, discussing and work that went on at the ESM bootcamp at Derby Academy.

Here we spent time talking about how teachers and schools can use social media in their classroom and as institution to engage and with their various constituencies.

If you’ve spent anytime reading this blog you know that I spent a great deal of time talking about Evernote.  In August, Reshan Richards (@reshanrichards) and I had the opportunity to speak at the Evernote Trunk Conference and a pre-conference session on the use of this tool in teaching and learning.

It was a great way to give back to educators in both a small (30 people) and large groups (300+ people) on how we’ve been able to use this amazing tool to help students and teachers share and collaborate, keep themselves organized and synthesize their work, provide for assessment and make for more productivity.

The Laptop Institute, ESM bootcamp and Evernote Trunk Conference provided real opportunities to give back to those people who were in my position only a few years ago. This is one of the things I feel very strongly about and think that any good educator needs to do in whatever way they can.

Down and dirty… Data, copiers and becoming EverTrue

While everything thing is as fun as you make it there are certain things that require to roll up you sleeves and really dig into things… it also helps when you’ve got good people to help.

I have been working on getting control of data at our school.  This has been no small task and much like Evernote is something that I have spent some time writing about.

We have the good fortune of working with people who really get what it means to use school data effectively, efficiently so that we can increase productivity. Spending a couple of days with Ernest Koe (@ernestkoe) and Corn Walker (@cornwalker) from the Proof Group (@proofgroup) really paid off.

We are on a quest for the Holy Grail… a centralize core of people were they then have a role in each of the related system.  Manage a person once and have that information flow to each system.  This may sound easy, but requires a very well-coordinated effort and the time we spent this summer is getting us closer to completing that journey.

With all of the focus on data there are the eventual outputs.  To this point those have been on paper and while it seems counterintuitive we have put a new focus on copiers to actually reduce the amount of paper we produce.

By bringing in units that allow more scanning options and placing putting a new print management system in place so we can focus on  productivity while reducing the amount of paper we are using as part of our sustainability efforts.

Getting down and dirty doesn’t always have to be difficult.  One of the ways in which we are looking to build engagement and give back is through a new mobile based application we are developing for our alumni with EverTrue.

We will be able to use this app to allow alums to connect with one another and the school, to comment on and update various social media platforms and stay better informed.

For the rest of the year…

Now, unlike how most of these type of writing assignments might have gone while you were in school, this is going to partly a guide to the types of things I plan on exploring throughout the course of the year.

Engagement, productivity and giving back where three of the themes that ran through my summer. I will be taking time to look at data more closely, the idea of simplicity throughout school and the systems that drive them as well as the things were are doing as we look to refresh the technology as part of out 1:1 Initiative.

Think about what you’re going to be doing this year and how you intent to share that with your team, you school and those that can gain from your knowledge.

How are you going to give back?



About William Stites

Currently the Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy, "Blogger in Chief" for edSocialMedia.com, husband and father to two crazy kids who make me smile everyday.
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