Posted in Uncategorized

Personal Ed Tech Adventure

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Hanging out with Andy Love at the KC GAFE Summit

It has been a whirlwind year both personally and professionally.  It started in July of 2015 by attending a Google Apps Conference in Kansas City put on by EdTechTeam.  While at the Google Apps Conference in KC, I got the opportunity to attend a Pre-Summit Google Apps Trainer Bootcamp put on by Jay Atwood.  I was in awe at all the possibilities that Google Apps had to offer a teacher (even though I had dabbled in GAFE the previous school year, I did not realize it’s full potential till the conference).  From there, I was encouraged to get my Google Educator Certification level 1 & 2 (Which had just been released the week before).

Once I had passed those two exams, I set my eyes on the Google Certified Trainer Program (Which is about to be updated FYI).  After failing at some of the tests a couple times, and feeling the pressure of the December deadline, I was afraid my goal of getting Trainer Certified was slipping through my fingers.  With only a day to go, I passed the last exam necessary and began working on my Trainer application.  In December, much to my surprise, I received an email informing me that I had earned the Trainer Certification!

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Through this adventure, I had slowly built up my Professional Learning Network (PLN) via Twitter and was constantly amazed at the awesome stuff teachers around the world were doing in their classrooms.  I also received the opportunity to present at the Kansas City Google Apps Conference held in February of 2016 (Random Fact: presented that Saturday morning/afternoon in KC, then drove to Bolivar to coach a basketball game at 8:30 PM, then drove back that evening – Getting to the hotel at 1:30 AM – only to present that next morning.  #Exhausted).

One person whom I am constantly challenged by is Patrick Dempsey (also the best man in my wedding), who is a middle school science teacher at Webster Grove School District outside of St. Louis (He recently received the Allen Distinguished Educators Award).  One of the things that he said that really ignited many of his ideas and collaborations was the Google Innovator Academy he attended a couple years prior.  With that in mind (and so I could be as cool as “PDemps”) I decided to apply for the Google Innovator Program in Mountain View, California.

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With only a couple weeks to put my application together (as the application was due in January), I struggled to put a good application together.  Not only was it tough because of it being in the middle of the school year, it was also in the middle of Girls Basketball Season (for which I am the Head Coach), and my wife was 6+ Months pregnant with our second child.  Despite those hurdles, I still applied… and was rejected.

The rejection email was tough to take, as I really looked forward to the opportunity to collaborate with other great educators, but it was obvious that God had even better plans for me.  The rejection allowed me to refocus on what was important at the time, being a husband/father, devoted teacher, and hard-working coach.  Plus, it helped me to reevaluate my goals as a teacher and how I could best help my school district.  With the help of a couple teachers in my district, we decided to put on a tech conference (much like we had the year before) but this time offer it to other school districts as well.  I also worked with the my principal (Chris Thompson) to offer a student help desk class for the next school year (It’s goals are to make them Google Apps Experts to help other teachers, and to provide some maintenance on the chromebooks).  Ultimately I decided, as Tom Mullaney discussed in his blog “Rejected For Google Certified Innovator? Don’t Freak Out!” that I was going to impact education whether I was a Google Innovator or not.

When the new window opened for Google Innovators Applications, I decided to apply again but this time decided on a tool that I had previous experience with in the classroom but that I wished could be better (Google For Education Certified Innovator – My Application if you want to check it out).  On May 20th (While I was home sick on the last day of school), amazingly I was accepted for the Boulder, Colorado Google Innovators Academy (#COL16) for June 2016.

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After my acceptance, I received a call from my boy Patrick Dempsey and he had some words of wisdom.  He said essentially that the Academy is awesome, but it is the face to face collaboration that truly makes the program wonderful.  Fellow #COL16 Peeps, how are you going to use this academy to better your students’ lives?  How will your teaching, and the teaching around the world, make this world a better place?

So as this school year ends and the preparation for the new school year begins, I stand thankful for all those who have helped me in my career thus far.  I am blessed to work in a school district that supports me and is willing to challenge themselves in their educational approaches.  Ultimately I am thankful for a wife (Amanda Houp) who loves and supports me and is willing to join me in these adventures!

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Austin, Amanda, Eli, and Ezra Houp
Posted in Uncategorized

The Year of Tech

At the end of every school year, it is natural to reflect on what transpired.  Was it what you had expected?  Pleasant and unpleasant surprises?

As a school district, we had one of the most transformational years that I have ever haAcer-Chromebook-11-C740-nontouch-zoom-big.pngd the joy to be a part of.  As detailed in August, we have been slowing transitioning to technology in the classroom, starting with iPads nearly 4 years ago.  This fall, we bought a few classroom sets of chromebooks (Acer C740 specifically) for all the buildings in our district.  We also implemented the Google Apps for Education district-wide, from the Superintendent’s office to the lunch lady.

Something that we did as a district that seemed to go over extremely well was the implementation of two different professional development days:  A summer Google Apps Conference (held and administered in house) and a Google Play Date on one of our PD days during the school year.  These two PD events not only exposed teachers to Google Apps, but gave them the resource of local teachers to be a sounding board for their tech adventures.  It was amazing to see how various staff members developed their own uses for Google Apps, including: School Calendar by the Central Office, Spreadsheets by coaches for practice plans, Google Classroom as a Learning Management System (LMS), just to name a few.Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 4.11.56 PM.png

Also as a district, we set a goal of all the staff getting Google Educator Level 1 Certified by the end of the year and ultimately about 80% of our staff got the level 1 certification (Two other staff members beside myself got level 2 certification – Kelly Blankenship and Lindsey Buckley)!  Despite some of the aforementioned successes, we did have our share of failures.  We implemented many of the tech advancements without first updating our infrastructure.  Our wifi was spotty and awful which discouraged and frustrated staff and students (That was fixed though by 2nd semester due to E-Rate Funding and wifi upgrades by the district).  Also, we didn’t have an easy way to monitor student use of the chromebooks, but once we discovered GoGuardian that problem was alleviated.

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With all these successes and failures, we are now looking ahead to next year and the possibility of being in a 1:1 environment for the coming school year.  Not only that, but we are putting on a technology conference on August 3rd, 2016 TechCampAG.  This is a free tech conference for schools of all sizes or stages of tech implementation are welcomed.  Also any and all to are encouraged to attend or present.  If you are interested in presenting, feel free to fill out the following Presenter Form.

What has been your school’s adventure?  How can we work together to impact this world as fellow educators and schools?  We’d love to hear your story and ultimately let’s collaborate!

Posted in Professional Deveoplment

Twitter – Just A Nudge

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As the school year rolls along, I thought it was a good time to encourage you to be involved in Twitter.com for professional development purposes.  For those who have never tried it before, feel free to go to https://twitter.com/search-home and start seeing what is available to learn today!

Some of the basics include:

1.  Twitter handle is your identifying name (similar to email address).  For example, my Twitter handle is @coachhoup24 .  If someone wants to “tweet at me” (again similar to sending a message on email), they just compose a message with “@coachhoup24 …” and I will receive it.
2.  There is nothing wrong with being a fly on the wall with Twitter and just following people.  Nothing says that you need to ever personally tweet.
3.  Hashtags (#) on Twitter can be used in one of two ways.  First to demonstrate your nonverbal communication.  For example, a tweet could say, “Today’s lesson plan involved puppets and singing! #TheKidsLovedIt #ProudTeacher”
4.  Tweets can use no more than 140 characters, including anyone that you mentioned.
5.  If you don’t like what people are tweeting, then simply unfollow them (They will never know!).

Join Us!

If you are considering joining Twitter, here is a resource to help guide you in developing a professional Twitter account:  New 2 Twitter Resource .  This resource provides ideas on how to set your own account up as a educator and what to do once you are active.  When we as a district did a survey a couple months ago, some teachers already involved with Twitter provided some of their “top people to follow.”
They suggested:
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but none-the-less a good place to start.
The final benefit one gets from Twitter is the opportunity to participate in events called, “Hashtag Chats.”  One great one to follow is #MoEdChat, which takes place every Thursday at 9 PM CST.  It’s a great event to just jump on and see what other educators throughout Missouri doing.  One final chat that is great to follow is #GAFESummit, which is used by +EdTechTeam for their Google Summits held throughout the world.  It is a “slow chat,” meaning it is happening throughout the day, and most active when they have summits on various weekends.

Other Resources:

Continue reading “Twitter – Just A Nudge”

Posted in Alice Keeler, Kyle Pace, Patrick Dempsey

Google Educator Presentation

This Friday I get the joy of presenting to various teachers within our Conference.  My presentation will be focused on the Google Educator Certification Process and everything needed to do well on the exam.  I have included the Presentation on this Blog, so give me any other suggestions you have concerning the exam and it’s process!

Thanks to various individuals who helped me along the way: 
+Patrick Dempsey 
+Alice Keeler 
+Jay Atwood 
+Kyle Pace 



Posted in GAFE, Patrick Dempsey

Google Apps Principal Resources

“Beginning of the Year”

We are one week away from our “Beginning of the Year” meetings and professional development.  As we prepare for this new year, our first as a Google Apps For Education (GAFE) school, I looked back to what I have learned over the last month or so.  I attended the Google Apps Summit in Kansas City and was inspired by +Melinda Miller‘s presentation on tools for Administrators.  So I scheduled a meeting with the four Principal’s in our school district (HS/JH, Athletic Director, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary) to demonstrate some of the possibilities of Google Apps.  In preparation for this meeting, I enlisted the help of +Patrick Dempsey (Google Apps Certified and has his Masters in Administration).

“Gobs of Possibilities”

As I looked over all of +Melinda Miller+Patrick Dempsey, and various other resources suggestions, I was amazed at all the free possibilities with Google Apps for Principals (Or teachers for the matter).  I found myself struggling to truly demonstrate all the possibilities and ultimately decided to keep the suggestions brief.  At our school (probably similar to many of yours) our Principals carry many hats/jobs/responsibilities.  While I know they would love to do all these (and more), their available time to work on them is minimal.
Here is the slide I will present to the principals:

“Advise”

Realize that I am simply a teacher and I have never been an administrator.  If you have any other suggestions to provide to the principals at our school district, please feel free to pass those suggestions on to me!

Posted in Patrick Dempsey

Winds of Change

It Begins…

So as July begins to wind down, the excitement for a new school year starts to build.  At Ash Grove, the new year presents itself with some exciting new developments for our students and staff.  We as a school district are beginning two new adventures:  Google Apps For Education (GAFE) district-wide and the beginning of a 1:1 technology movement.  Before we prepare for this new future, let’s reflect on where we have been before.

Abridged History

These new adventures were born out of the work of teachers across the school district over the last couple of years.  About 4 years ago, multiple teachers at both the High School and Elementary level began to desire more access to technology for their classes.  I am a social studies teacher at the High School (teaching Junior level American Government, and various other electives) and I was one of those teachers.  So when I found out that it was my turn for the purchase of new textbooks, I asked my principal if it was possible for me to get a classroom set of technology in-lieu of textbooks.  Luckily for me, the principal was trusting enough to pursue this adventure.

So why did I want technology as opposed to textbooks?  

Simply, I wanted to provide my students with all my resources and the internet seemed the easiest means to do so (especially considering how quickly things can change in the political world I was teaching about).  Also, I wanted to better prepare my students for college, where technology was playing an even greater role.

What kind of technology did we buy and why?

My principal and I constantly discussed the advantages and disadvantages of various different technology options 5 years ago.  By the end of that school year (2011), we had decided that Apple’s iPads were the best fit for us due to a couple different reasons:

1.  Their batteries would last an entire day. (We only have two outlets in the room so extension cords for students to plug-in were not an option)
2.  They were a stable platform to work with on a daily basis.

At that time, iPads were the only tool to meet those two criteria.

What resources was I using with the iPads?

Once I got the new iPads into my classroom, I set out to make my class as paperless (and accessible) as possible for my students.  During the summer, before I got my iPads, I was blessed to have an Ash Grove alum (Chris Beeson) who graciously installed Moodle onto our server domain.  Moodle is basically an online tool similar to Blackboard or Angel used by many colleges.  It allows you to do Blogs, provide links, give/grade tests, etc.  With that resource available, I wanted to also provide parent/guardians the opportunity to see the notes/assignments that would be assigned to their children.  Therefore, I setup a Google Site which housed all my notes (which were still Powerpoints) and assignments (which were turned into PDF’s). https://sites.google.com/site/coachhoup/
In a nutshell, those are the two resources primarily used in my class that first year with iPads.

A couple other things that were used for note taking purposes were a SmartBoard and an Apple TV.  The SmartBoard is a very valuable tool, but I didn’t really use it’s full capability.  It’s main use was moving my powerpoints forward.  The Apple TV provided me the chance to have students send their iPad screens up to the projector when they had completed activities.

Google Apps for Education Changed the Game

Then two years ago Google Apps for Education began to make headways into the Educational sphere.  I had begun to use tools on my own (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.) for my Masters Classes that I was taking at the time.  Then a good buddy of mine (Patrick Dempsey-Middle School Science Teacher) began to show me the cool uses of Google Apps in his classroom.

With his prodding, I began to see how I could use those tools in my classroom as well.  So we began to take notes and collaborate on research via Google Docs.  It obviously was not a smooth transition because I had to use my personal Gmail Account and encourage students to create their own Gmail Accounts as well.  It was awesome to be able to provide instant feedback to students (as well to no longer have the, “I left it at home” excuse).  This also encouraged the English teachers (one of them being my wife) to use Google Docs as well in their classroom.  Thus began the desire of getting Google Apps at our High School.

At the beginning of this last school year (2014-2015), I was finally able to establish the high school as a Google Apps school.  Even though I had no experience working with the Google Apps Admin, we at the high school pressed on to implement the tool.  Four to Five teachers decided that they were going to use Google Apps extensively.  The tools we all decided to use included:  Blogger, Sheets, Docs, Slides, Sites, and Calendar.  All of us used them to varying degrees, but all of us used them at the basic level (meaning no add-ons, etc.).

(In terms of security as a school district, it was nice to move to a school owned Google Apps domain.  By using it, instead of our own personal Google Accounts, we could provide and maintain archive student/teacher communication/work.)

Winds of Change?

As January of 2015 began to roll around, the school district began discussing a broader use of technology in the district as a whole (not just High School).  The administration developed a technology committee to discuss our goals and action steps to achieve those goals.  Basically we decided to implement Google Apps district-wide and begin moving to a 1:1 initiative.  The Google Apps (at least to those of us who used it in the classroom on a regular basis) seemed like a no-brainer and a great step forward for our school district.

The difficulty we had with the 1:1 was the decision of what technology would be best for the initiative (if any).  So we sent feelers out to multiple schools who had already implemented that initiative in their districts.  We wanted to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experiences.  Overwhelmingly, the other districts found great success with their programs, specifically with their Chromebooks.

By now, Chromebooks had become powerful tools for the classroom.  The committee developed their basic goals (similar to my own goals four years prior) for technology:

1.  Their batteries would last an entire day. (We only have two outlets in the room so extension cords for students to plug-in were not an option)
2.  They were a stable platform to work with on a daily basis.

3.  Able to effectively use Google Apps. (The new goal the committee added)

So we ordered a couple of Chromebooks (A Dell 11 and an Acer C740) to test out their capabilities.  Since I had already began using many of the Google Apps programs in my classroom, I would give these Chromebooks to my students to see how they would do during the school day.   Not only did they last through the entire day (with heavy use), but the students overwhelming preferred it over the iPads.  I also gave the Chromebooks to various teachers for them to explore, both personally and in the classroom.

Therefore as a committee, we decided upon getting Acer C740’s for the upcoming school year.  While we do not have the funds for complete 1:1, we decided to get a couple classroom sets each year until we achieve the 1:1 numbers.

Preparing the Staff

Since we were going district-wide, we decided that our staff needed some PD on the possibilities of Google Apps in their classrooms.  So the 4 High School teachers who had used Google Apps during the school year organized a district-wide “Google Apps Conference.”  It was a little scary but fun experience to demonstrate the capabilities to our fellow staff members.  Realize that none of us were Google Certified at this point, but were willing people.  Certification is not necessary to be a catalyst for your school district.  (I have since passed the Google Educator Level 1 Certification Test)

New School Year (2015-2016)

So this new school year provides us as a district with multiple new/exciting opportunities.  We are providing two classroom sets of Chromebooks to the two elementary schools (four total) and 3 classroom sets for the High School/Junior High.

While the implementation of technology is an exciting new venture, it is bound to have some challenges.  I am looking forward to exploring these challenges, finding solutions, and sharing them with you.