Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Virtual Vikings — tech learning made convenient!

One of my hats at school is .2 (one class period) as a Blended Learning Specialist. I work with teachers to do purposeful integration of technology into our classroom. As I try to encourage my colleagues beyond simple substitution with our 1:1 iPads, I’ve found that we’re all sort of stuck in the swamp of so much to do, and not enough time to implement everything.
Virtual Vikings Newsletter
Virtual Vikings Newsletter
I had to really sit down and consider what will work best for my teachers. They don’t need more PD or expansion of Tech Tuesday lunches. I post resources and ideas on Google Classroom, initiate discussions, and try to be present in classrooms as much as possible. We attend local conferences, such as Edcamp619 and the San Diego CUE Tech Fair. However, they didn’t need more of any of that.
It took me the better part of a year analyzing this challenge, talking with colleagues and mentors, and observing how our teachers go about learning.
When I visited Google Boulder for the Innovator Academy in June 2016 and the Googleplex in Mountain View in August 2016, I noticed they had newsletters in all the restroom stalls. This made for some very interesting and technical reading. (Sorry, didn’t take any pictures. Google’s rules!) And, it reminded me of freshman year of college when our RAs would post the weekly newsletter in the bathrooms–it was impossible to ignore.
Text from my friend!
A lightbulb went off, and Virtual Vikings was born.
I used Google Slides to create the monthly newsletter template (see template & example here), then added in new content for each month. When I see cool tech tips, ideas, or lesson spotlights, I add them to a list on Google Keep. My featured sections include: Tech Tip, Classroom Highlight, Spotlight, Monthly Challenge, Viking Tech Crew, and Upcoming Events.
The hardest part is getting classroom spotlights, since I can’t be in every classroom every day. I’ve recruited my Viking Tech Crew (tech club) students to share what they’re learning, and take pictures of lessons and activities they’d like to share.
I’m thankful my dear friend Deb, guardian of the color printer, happily prints me 12 copies each month.
In each staff bathroom plus the copy room, I used 3M Command Strips to hang up plastic sheet protectors on the wall or back of the stall door. Each month, I do a Tour De Bathroom and slip a new newsletter into the sheet protector.
I’ve intentionally chosen not to also email out a copy. I want to preserve the magic and excitement of the physical newsletter. In the future, I’m not opposed to posting a digital archive of past newsletters.
Missing...where did my Virtual Vikings go?
Missing newsletter!
Since starting this in March 2017, I have received extremely positive feedback on the Virtual Vikings newsletter! Each time a new one goes up, friends text me, email me, or stop me in the halls to share what they learned. They like that it’s short, colorful, visual, and convenient.
In fact, a few people love Virtual Vikings SO much that newsletters occasionally disappear from the sheet protectors!
I can’t wait to post our next Virtual Vikings newsletter when we go back to school in July!
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2016-2017 School Year Goals

In March, I learned about #onenewthing from Lisa Thumann at the LA County GAFE Summit. I love her message of trying just one new thing, especially when surrounded by so many good ideas. My #onenewthing in March was to try vlogging with students–I took a class to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, I gave students vlogging prompts, and we all vlogged about our experience. It was new to most students, although once they figured out I was basically asking them to create a Snapchat story, they felt much better. This has prompted me to use #onenewthing as a goal-setting technique for myself.


In my summer adventures at different conferences and learning opportunities, including CUE Rockstar Vista, ISTE 2016, Google Innovator Academy (#COL16!), and reading many EduBooks, my head is swimming with ideas and things to try. Really, I want to do all the things. I know that’s not practical, and I’ll drive myself insane trying to do everything, all the time. So, where do I start?

My schedule for next year is: 3 periods of 7th grade science, 1 period of 8th grade AVID, 1 period of “Blended Learning Specialist” or technology resource.

I’m picking a #onenewthing for each different aspect of my teaching day. I’m hoping these goals will keep me focused throughout the school year. I’m expecting my goals will change, evolve, or completely flip over time, and I’m ready and willing to reevaluate as often as necessary.

7th grade science & 8th grade AVIDMany teachers at my school attended the Restorative Justice training last school year. I didn’t sign up because I had been out of the classroom for other trainings way to much, and I knew it wouldn’t be wise to add yet another thing into my brain. From what I’ve heard, there will be more trainings and focus on restorative justice at our school this year. Instead, I bought The Restorative Practices Handbook and Restorative Circles in Schools and read them over summer break. After reading through both books, I realize I do some of the ideas of restorative practices, but there is also a lot I can work on in individual and small group conversations with students. I am going to use restorative circles in my classroom as needed, and also implement Friday Family Time.

Restorative Practices Books

Friday Family Time is my middle school spin on the elementary school “morning meeting” that many of my friends use in their classrooms. I always saw it as something I wish I could do, if only I had the time. I do have the time, because the benefits will far outweigh giving up my 30 minute period each Friday–time that is usually not well-spent anyway! I have no set plans for Friday Family Time, except we’ll all sit in a circle together, and I’ll either put out a question for each to answer (using some sort of talking marker, I’m thinking my mini stuffed penguin) or discuss things that happened in the past week or what is coming up. I’m hoping that once I put the structure in place, students will help me grow and mold it to our needs.

Blended Learning Specialist
Ok, so I actually have #twonewthings here, but they are distinctly different. In my BLS period, my goal is to spend less time in my own classroom, and more time working with teachers in their classroom. I have no idea how to go about implementing this with teachers, so I will be relying on the #TOSAchat community to guide me through this. I did it a little bit last year when teachers requested, but I don’t feel like I maximized my time for the benefit of the entire school. I’ll continue with our Tech Tuesday lunch club, and use that as my launching point for more specific one-on-one interactions.

My second goal is to grow our Viking Tech Crew (previously called Genius Bar) student club. I have a new leadership team who are excited to take on projects and help out students and teachers. I am working with a few TOSA/teacher friends to develop a more comprehensive student badge-based training for technology-related skills. I’d love to see my VTC students continue to develop their leadership skills and take ownership of their club.

In science and AVID, there are plenty of things I’m planning to try, test, and experiment with. This includes more regular use of social media in class, working more with scientific phenomena, improving on flipped learning, digital badges, and blogging with my AVID students. I had a blast in the 2015-2016 school year, with so many new opportunities. I’m beginning this school year with the same excitement!

I’m back to work on Monday, July 18th, and students return on Wednesday, July 20th! 

If you have experience or expertise with any of my goals for this school year, I’d love to hear your advice and wisdom 🙂