Change can be difficult and change can be exciting. With change, there can be feelings of loss and also feelings of joy. As many of you have heard, I am going through some professional changes right now. As of July 2, I will be serving College Community Schools as Director of Technology. The decision to move into this role was not an easy one. I’ve loved my time as Principal of Prairie Creek and serving the students, families, and staff there. I’ve been a building administrator for eight years and a teacher for nine years before that. Moving into a role away from students was not an easy decision.

When I looked at the job description for this new role, I was drawn back to my younger years. I double majored at Wartburg College in Computer Science and Math Education. Moving into a role that challenged my thinking around networking and device management really excited me. This role also provides me with the ability to continue to plan and provide high quality professional learning for educators, this time more focused on technology integration.

As I stated above, the decision was not easy. Prairie Creek has a tremendous staff that cares for kids. Leaving them was not easy. We’ve grown together, learned together, and celebrated together. I will miss the people at Creek and miss getting to know our students and families.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions around technology here at College Community. I’m planning to keep as our home for all things tech at Prairie, so look for more posts in the future. We’ve been progressive in our work and we will continue to be progressive!

Eric Townsley

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Google TakeOut

Google Apps logo

I posted on this last year as well, but it’s worth a re-post.  Google TakeOut is a great tool if you are looking to move your Google content from one account to another.  This is particularly useful if wish to transfer content from your professional account ( to your personal account (  This is a really good idea if you’ve ever mixed your personal life with your professional life (received personal email in your account or created Google Docs with personal information in them).  I would recommend considering this tool for that purpose as it’s a great way to keep your professional account strictly professional and avoid any potential embarrassment or liability if there would ever happen to be a Freedom of Information Act request for your content.

Since they released TakeOut last year, they’ve updated and improved it.  It’s really easy to use.  and now allows not only allows the transfer of Gmail, Contacts, Drive, etc… but it also allows you to download this content in industry-standard formats.  So, you don’t have to move it to another Google account — you can download it and use it with other programs and systems.  So, if you are looking for a fast, simple way to clean up your Google content of personal content or you are exiting the district, this is a great tool to use.

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More on New Gmail Features

Gmail Logo

I’m sure many of you have already been working with the new look in Gmail.  Here’s a breakdown from Google on all the new features.  I’ve been using it for the past few weeks and I’m finding that I really enjoy the new look, feel, and features.  I would encourage everyone to give it a try.  Let me or one of the technology team members know if you have questions.

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Friendly Disruption 15 — Josh Allen and Open Educational Resources

Friendly Disruption Podcast Logo

There’s a new episode of Friendly Disruption posted.  This month we talk with Josh Allen from Lewis Central Schools about his experiences with Open Educational Resources (OERs).  All of the resources we discussed will be linked on the Friendly Disruption blog.  Great conversations about how OERs can be used as free curriculum supplements (a great, inexpensive alternative to Teachers Pay Teachers) or even to fully replace current curriculum.  If you enjoy podcasts, please give this a listen.

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New Adventures….

I’ve always said that the Prairie campus is a bit like a small town unto itself.  It’s one of the many things I love about CCSD. Like most small towns, people know and care about each other and because of that word can travel quickly.  I’m guessing many of you will already know by the time you read this, but I really do value everyone here so I would like everyone to hear the news from me.  On Monday, I interviewed with Cedar Rapids Schools for a new position in their system, the executive director of digital literacy. I was offered and accepted the position on Tuesday evening.

This was not an easy decision.  As I have already said, I really do love Prairie.  When I began my ed tech masters program at UNI in the fall of 1997, my dream job was to become the technology director for College Community Schools.  I felt (and still do) that for this particular job title, CCSD was the best in the state of Iowa. It was a vibrant, growing community with a really strong tax base for funding, and most importantly to me — an incredible culture of student at the center progressiveness and innovation made up of an unbelievable group of hard-working, purpose-driven, and talented professionals.  In my estimation, the best of all possible worlds. The actual experience of working here has surpassed all of my lofty expectations. It was even better than I had imagined it. I’m not saying working here was always easy or fun all the time, but it was always meaningful — work that really mattered. I can’t speak for other people, but it strikes me as pretty rare when one of your biggest dreams is surpassed in reality.  

When I looked at the Cedar Rapids job description and noticed how well it fit my skill set and experiences, it piqued my curiosity.  At this point in my career (I plan to work for another ten years or so…), the temptation to take on a big, new set of challenges was just too tantalizing to pass up.  I’m honored, humbled, and a bit bewildered that they ended up selecting me. What drove me to accept the Cedar Rapids offer was the passion to climb a new mountain, solve complex problems, and tackle different challenges (and there will be many…).  I don’t mean to suggest there’s not important work to do going forward at Prairie. But, in my nineteen years, we’ve come a long way and made a lot of progress. And while I’ve very proud of the role I’ve played, I don’t want to suggest that I’m solely responsible for Prairie’s journey forward.  I could not have made any of these contributions without the powerful collaborative relationships from talented principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, and district administrators. I am so thankful and grateful I’ve had the opportunity to work with such a dedicated, caring, and smart group of people.

Of course, the real secret to any success I’ve had here is the insanely good people who make up the CCSD Technology Department.  Nothing digital happens in this district without the efforts of this team. They are second to none. Charlie Braun, Chris Ketchum, Sam Ketchum, Mary Corrigan, Bill Paarmann, and Angela Sleeper (the straw that stirs the drink…) are all rockstars in their own right.  The great news for Prairie (and for the person who ends up filling the Director role) is that this team is staying intact. I’m not certain of many things in this world, but as long as this team works here, I am certain Prairie will continue to do great things with digital tools and technology.

Again, it’s been an amazing ride for me at Prairie.  I feel so blessed and grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know and work with all of the people who make CCSD such a special place.  I wish everyone the best! Have a great end of the school year and best of luck in all of your future endeavors! Take care!



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Spring IPI Data

Spring IPI DataIPI (Instructional Practices Inventory) is part of the CCSD Strategic Plan under Focus 3.  The goal is that 30% of our IPI observations will reflect higher order, deeper thinking.  In the IPI model, a code 6 or 5 indicates higher order thinking.  One of the big concepts of IPI is that even though the observations are very short (5 minutes or less) the sheer number of observations will reveal a clear trend of what kids are experiencing.  Just a couple of important reminders regarding IPI:

  1. IPI is NOT evaluative of individual teachers in any way.  All the data is aggregated. No one looks at individual classrooms or teachers.  We don’t care which classrooms or teachers were revealed with specific codes.  It’s all about looking at the overall trend of the big picture.
  2. IPI is not a hierarchy.  With the exceptions of codes 1 and code 2 — which we should do our best eliminate: disengaged students and teachers —  the rest of the codes are all valuable and good practice.  We don’t want to see an elimination of codes 3 or 4 — the lower order thinking codes.  Kids need these types of experiences to fully and deeply learn.  The big question is what proportion of codes 3, 4, 5, and 6 do we think is optimal…?

Here are some of the highlights when I look our data:

  • We came very close to our goal of 30% of observations at levels 5 and 6 this spring — 29.2%!
  • We continue to have low numbers of levels 1 and 2 — each less than 1%.  Again, it’s really positive to have both of these values come in very low.
  • When looking at data across the year — (fall, winter, and spring) we come out to 25.6% of the observations being at level 5 or 6.
  • We improved across the year as well:  fall total percentage of 5s and 6s was 22.7%, in winter it was 25.5%, and in the spring we were at 29.2%.  We conducted a total of 2969 total observations across all buildings this year.

There’s a lot to celebrate in these numbers!  We almost reached our targeted goal in the spring observation cycle.  I suspect this means that the conversations about this data that happened within staff meetings and PLCs over the course of the year played a part in this increase.  We continue to have very low values for student and teacher disengagement which is great to see as well.


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New Features Coming to Gmail!

Gmail Logo

I recently got word that Google is planning some changes to Gmail in the near future.  While I’m not sure of the timeline, some of the new features sound pretty cool!  In addition to giving the interface an update, it sounds like they will be adding in Smart Reply to the web client.  Those of you who use the Gmail phone app may have seen this already.  I find it very helpful.  They will also be adding in a “snooze” feature allowing users to temporarily suspend incoming email to their inboxes.  I know that many principals already use 3rd party add-ons for this functionality.  I will send out word when I get more concrete information on when these features will be fully released.  As always, drop me a line with any questions.

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Friendly Disruption — Episode 14: Daniel McNulty and Kelli Suding

Friendly Disruption Podcast Logo

There’s a new Friendly Disruption podcast available.  In this episode, we talked to Daniel McNulty and Kelli Suding from Indiana’s Patins Project.  There was great conversation about what it means to be a reader.  Patrick shared some Chrome extension to help distracted readers.  And, we were joined by special guest, CCSD’s own Lindsay Spears!  Please consider giving us a listen.

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17-18 Staff Survey Results

17-18 Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who took the time to give the technology team feedback this year.  This type of input is really critical to helping our team improve.  When looking at the charts, here’s our methodology: we count “4s” and “5s” in the “agree” category.  We don’t count “3s” at all.  Along the same lines, we group “1s” and “2s” for disagree.  Here are a couple of highlights from my perspective.


Not that this is our main goal for giving the survey, but I’m frankly not sure if it’s realistically possible for the results to get any higher.

  • All seven questions showed an improvement.
  • There were only two “2s” scored on the entire survey and no “1s”.
  • Even more amazing, the first question regarding technician courtesy came back as 100% agree!

The comments about what the team is doing well were really affirming, too.  The Wordle shows what we like to see for this — big words for “communication”, “help”, “students”, “quick” etc…

glows wordle


Not a lot to grow on for the seven questions.  We’ll do our very best to maintain the high level of performance on all of these fronts.  We did get a lot of great feedback from the –“what can we improve” comment section.  Looking at Wordle for this, again much of the terms are what we like to see:  “none” was a big word as was “more” and “tech”.

Grow Wordle

Message received!  We talk about all of these comments as a team.  Here are some improvement trends we’ll work on for next year:

  • We’ll be working on plans to improve our communication around technician rotation.
  • We’ll also try to get more disciplined with our on-site protocols — letting people know when we are in and leaving buildings.
  • Projector issues lead the way in equipment complaints — so we’ll need to work on methods to better repair or replace problematic units.  T
  • here were several calls for student management systems for one to one devices.

We are always open to feedback at any time of year.  So, if you have ideas, questions, or concerns, don’t hesitate to let me or any member of the team know.

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Iowa 1:1 Resources from GWAEA

GWEA 1:1 Presentations

I just ran across this awesome selection of curated resources that the Grant Wood team presented at the Iowa 1:1 conference yesterday.  There is a ton of great stuff here for all grades and contents.  I would strongly encourage you to spend some time browsing these presentations.  I guarantee you’ll find many good tools and ideas.

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