Friendly Disruption 15 — Josh Allen and Open Educational Resources

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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!

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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

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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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Staff MacBook Update for Summer 2018


It’s time to start planning for new certified staff MacBooks!  As I said in my previous post, we plan to update about 25% of the staff fleet each year.  When we started this back in 2014, all staff had computers that were all the same age.  So, as a starting point, we choose CCSD seniority as the fairest way we could think of to get the process rolling.  This is the last year of the model.  Next year, we’ll be looking at computer age, not your age with the district to determine who gets an update.

Here’s the list for this summer.  Please note, if you scroll down beyond the current year, the value in the “SenDate” column (column E) may not be correct.  This is because we are in the last year of looking at this from a seniority perspective.  We do have you ordered correctly, by computer age — so while the date in that column may not be correct, your placement in the replacement cohort is.  Next year’s Sheet will show only computer age, but we can’t have two values in the same column.  It will look better next year!  I know this a little confusing, but again, don’t worry about the date, just know your place in the cohort is where it should be.

If you are on the list to get an update this summer, Angela will be emailing you to setup a time this summer to get this done.  The email will share the dates and the process for this to happen.  Again, if you are on the list, please take some time to read and complete the Form in that email from Angela.  I would strongly suggest backing up everything you wish to transfer to Google Drive.  If you do that and use Chrome, this makes the process go a lot faster.  In fact, by doing these two things, we can usually just setup Chrome for and that’s all it takes.  As always, let me know if you have questions or comments.


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Technology Department Summer Plans — What are we buying this summer?

WeVideo ScreenshotWhile there are still some questions marks, I can share some of the technology team’s plans for the summer.  We intend to stick to the device plan we started back in 2014.  This means around 60 Chromebooks for each elementary building — intended for 3rd grade.  We’ll update 25% of our student MacBook fleet as well as 25% of our staff MacBook fleet (more on that in another upcoming post).

One piece of feedback I’ve gotten quite often is that we don’t have great tools for kids that use Chromebooks to edit video.  So, I’m excited to announce we’ll be adding a district subscription to WeVideo this summer!  WeVideo is an easy to use web-based video editing tool.  I’ll share more detail and learning opportunities for it as we move into next summer and fall.  But, this will give all kids at Prairie a common tool they can use to create and edit video content.


Of course, one of the other main projects we’ll be working on is the ongoing update to Prairie High School, too.  We’ll be installing new network gear in all of the areas slated to open in the fall.  With our standard summer work, this projects to be a very productive summer season for the team.  As always, drop me a line or leave a comment here if you have questions.



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Friendly Disruption Episode 13 — Ruth Ziolkowski

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For those of you who enjoy podcasts (If you’ve not listened before this might be a good weekend to do so!), there’s a new episode of Friendly Disruption. In this episode, Maggie, Patrick, and I visit with Ruth Ziolkowski, president of Don Johnston Software.  The conversation focused on how digital tools can provide greater student agency and advocacy.


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