Passing the Torch

6th grade teachers pass the Chromebook torch by helping 7th grade teachers get prepared.

6th grade teachers pass the Chromebook torch by helping 7th grade teachers get prepared.

When Rocky Top Middle School decided to go 1:1 with Chromebooks at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, it was determined that the best way to roll out the program would be to start in 6th grade and have the Chromebooks follow that class onto the next consecutive grade level.

This plan was decided on because:

  1. One grade level to start would help in determining any infrastructure pitfalls (wireless availability/reliability).
  2. Having the kids come into a new school with the device would help strengthen classroom management.
  3. Coaches and support teams could focus all of their attention on to one grade level to determine need in the future.

As the year went on and the above reasons were vindicated, something else became clear: when the 6th graders started this year, they were on par with their teachers’ abilities, but as they moved up to 7th grade, they would be more advanced than their 7th grade teachers.  Professional development in Chromebooks and Google Apps was held throughout the year for all staff members of the school, but as 6th grade teachers could attest, there is nothing quite like jumping in at full speed with a classroom full of Chromebooks.

Seventh grade teachers started to feel pressured by the fact that this upcoming class of students would be at a much higher skill level.  Sixth grade teachers had the fortune of building and learning new skills alongside their students.  As the students move up to 7th grade, they will be much more adept at navigating the web, utilizing Google apps and other programs, and knowing how to break the rules.  So, to alleviate anxieties and prepare the 7th grade teachers for next year, we came up with the following plan on passing the torch:

  1. Seeing as how the end of the year is always the craziest part of the year with testing, finishing curriculum, etc., a group meeting for PD was just not going to be effective.  7th grade teachers were encouraged to set up a time to meet with the Digital Literacy Coach one on one for some personalized, in-depth, PD so that they could become familiar with the functionality and capabilities of the Chromebooks and cloud-based computing.
  2. An informal “chat” session by subject area was set-up where 7th grade teachers could ask questions to 6th grade teachers.  This session was a great chance for 7th grade teachers to confront some of their anxieties and ask how 6th grade teachers dealt with it (see top photo).  This session also allowed for teachers to share resources and discuss what worked and what didn’t work throughout the year.
  3. 7th grade teachers would each be given a Chromebook to take home over the summer.  This would allow for teachers to become familiar with the Chromebook and allow them to look for specific resources for planning for next year.
  4. A comprehensive PD session would be held at the beginning of the next school year (similar to what the 6th grade teachers had the prior year) where 7th grade teachers would be allowed to learn the full functionality of Google Apps, play around with structures that worked for 6th grade teachers, and learn about other resources that would best support their curriculum.  Then they would be allowed time to plan around the resources they just learned about with support from the Digital Literacy Coach.

So as the first ever year of 1:1 at Rocky Top comes to a close, we are all filled with excitement and a bit of anxiety as we look forward to next year.  We applaud the bravery of those pioneer teachers who were willing to take on such a massive change in their delivery of instruction and we reflect on our successes and our failures as we look to improve the program next year.

Stay tuned for more updates over the summer and at the beginning of the next school year and follow us on our journey to transform our students into resourceful, well-rounded digital citizens ready to take on the world!



Rocky Top’s Chromebook Program: 6 Months Later

Six months ago, Rocky Top embarked on a new adventure; a first for the district.  Each student was asked to purchase only one item on their school supply list: a Chromebook.  Students and teachers worked hard at setting up for success.  And now, six months later, the results have been phenomenal!  The infographic below tells our Chromebook story.  Every day we learn more.  Every day we change the face of education.  Our story continues, but the impact has been revolutionary so far…

Rocky Top Chromebook Story Copy (1)


The Digital Footprint

All of us have done it.  We have all, at one time or another, sat down in front of a computer, gone to and typed our own name in the search bar; in effect, “Googling” ourselves.  So what did you find?  Your work profile, your Facebook profile, your publications, pictures?  Well, whatever you found about yourself is called your digital footprint: the tracks you have made on the internet.  And honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Your digital footprint is the aggregation of your online self.  Most people don’t think about their digital footprint, but they should.  Odds are that your digital footprint will have a large impact on your future successes, especially for the younger generations.  The following video sums it up perfectly.  The video calls it your digital dossier, but that’s just a fancier way of saying footprint 🙂

So how can your digital footprint affect you?  First, the digital footprint is increasingly being considered in the hiring process at certain companies.  Think about it, if you were the hiring manager would you want to hire someone who is going to be an obvious liability based on all of the pictures of partying and debauchery you saw when you googled their name?  Secondly, your digital footprint can affect your scholarship potential.  Colleges/academic organizations now look at all aspects of a future student, including their digital footprint.  The less liability the candidate has, the better.  Lastly, you can make your digital footprint work FOR you, not against you.  Think of your digital footprint as an ever evolving resume.  If your digital footprint includes your real life charity work, your projects, your publications, etc, then you will look a lot better to a hiring manager/adviser than someone who only exists on paper.

The students here at Rocky Top have learned all about their digital footprint.  They know that you must use your common sense when it comes to your digital footprint.  They know that you can have a lot of fun online learning and sharing with others but make sure you think about what you are posting before you post it.  They also know to remember to review your privacy settings for your social networks.  And they know that the best way to keep your digital footprint working FOR you is to perform a search on yourself every so often to see what pops up.  But most importantly, they can tell you that you don’t need to cover your tracks, just make sure that their clean because they will always follow you where ever you go.

Want to know how Rocky Top students know all of this?  Check out this presentation on Digital Citizenship and ask your student to explain the importance of being a good digital citizen!

Blogging about bloggers blogging!

Recently, a 6th grade creative writing class here at Rocky Top took the blogging challenge!  The students were asked to create a blog about something they were passionate about and to publish it to the web.  Their challenge was to see who could get the most amount of page views by the end of the hexter.  The students were excited to create their blogs, post quality content, and increase their “discoverability” and they did a great job!  Check out how they did it and some of the best blogs they created!

Digital Writing: Creating a BlogBefore the students created their blogs, the class discussed how the future of writing and journalism will be so different from the past and how anyone with determination and hard-work can become a successful blogger, journalist, or entrepreneur.  The students discussed the importance of digital writing and how to create an appealing design, a solid theme, and meaningful/useful posts.  Then, the students went forth and blogged!  Check out just a few of the great blogs they created:

Bows and Arrows Blog1. Bows and Arrows  This blog, created by Amanda Mace is all about archery.  She does a great job of giving tips, showing videos, and offering very useful information!

Love Fashion Blog2.Love Fashion  This blog by Litzy Chavez and Elizabeth Nielsen is a great showcase for the latest fashion trends.  These girls have done a great job of creating a visually appealing blog with lots of great info that you want to read! Check it out:

Big Bows and Nike Pros Blog3. Big Bows and Nike Pros  Not only is this an entertaining blog, but it doubles as base for a true business!  The creators of this blog, Kennedy Lay, Morgyn Kostelecky, and Madison Mitchell offer a great look at fashion accessories and will make them for you for a low price too!

Sports Around the World Blog4. Sports Around the World  With an awesome URL like this you can’t go wrong!  The guys behind this blog are Austin Lingle and Marcus Rodriguez.  They offer a variety of sports news, upcoming games, and opinion pieces!

TA New Games5.TANewGames  This blog by Tomas Alires offers short, succinct posts that offer great info, thoughtful questions, and great visuals! Check it out:

Honorable Mentions: 

All Around the World Gymnastics  Created by McKenzie Louder and Danielle Philman

Wilderness Life Created by Matthew Brunmeier and Riley Jenkins

Will your student become a good digital citizen?

Taken from CyberCompass

Johnny was born 13 years ago and has grown up knowing nothing else but a world filled with technology.  A world of cell phones, MP3 players, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and the piece that connects them all: the internet.  Johnny will not need to spend an entire day in the library researching a topic for a paper or know what it feels like to sling the numbers on a rotary phone.  Numbers that actually had to be memorized.  Johnny has grown up in a world where the evolution of technology has been so fast that a drastically new version of the same phone is revealed every year.  The world is fast-paced, connected, and so much smaller for Johnny.  So, when Johnny walks down the aisle to receive his high school diploma, where will he go from there?  What world will he be ready to join then?  But more importantly, will his teachers and his parents have given him the tools he needs to be a successful piece of the global economy?

Fundamentally, we have all been taught that those who are good citizens will lead successful lives.  Good citizens make lasting relationships, build fruitful connections, and ultimately garner a strong respect from their community.  But the days of the suburban, upstanding citizen have transformed.  The nostalgic notions of a small community of Smiths and Jones’ coming together for neighborhood watches and volunteering for the county fair have changed.  While those communities do still exist, the vast majority of us live in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century world.  Where our community has grown exponentially.  So how does one remain a good citizen in this 21st century community?  Now that we are all plugged in, our digital citizenship will become fundamental to our success in life.

digital-citizenship-infographicDigital Citizenship is the manner in which we carry ourselves in the digital world.   Much like citizenship in the physical world, it is the way that we interact with people, it the truth behind our words, it is the kindness we impart, it is the responsibility we show, it is the nobility of our actions.  But with the rapid speed in which the digital world has evolved, what tools can we as teachers and parents give to teacher our students to become upstanding digital citizens?

1.  The digital footprint:  just like any good citizen, a student shouldn’t live with regrets.  Remind students that all things that you publish are public… hence the word publish.  What you put on the internet is there forever.  Don’t regret it.

2.  Digital safety: it is important that our children understand that we must be as cautious on the web as we are in real life.  We must teach them that just like in the real world we must lock our doors, be wary of where and how we get things, and always have a backup plan.

3. Digital rights and responsibilities: CyberCompass puts it best, “Just as in the American Constitution where there is a Bill of Rights, there is a basic set of rights extended to every digital citizen. Digital citizens have the right to privacy, free speech, etc. Basic digital rights must be addressed, discussed, and understood in the digital world.”

4. Digital health and wellness: it is imperative that we temper the use of technology with outdoor activity, rests from looking at a screen, and a connection to nature.  It is important to give as much attention to the body as we do the mind.

5. Informational literacy: our children should understand how and where to access information.  They need to know how to decipher fact from fiction, credibility, and  helpfulness of a source.

6. Generate, don’t just consume:  this generation of students loves to consume information.  But they need to generate ideas as well.  They need to contribute to society as much as they take from it.  And in a world of instant publication, nothing is stopping them.

7. Get the ball rolling: Common Sense Media has incredible resources for getting your children on the path to upstanding digital citizenship.  Start your way down the path by signing a Family Media Agreement with your child, courtesy of Common Sense Media.

By understanding these concepts and adapting to the digital world as it evolves, Johnny will have a real leg-up in the world when he graduates.  As  he transitions into the global economy, he will have a strong and true digital footprint.  He will have the connections he needs to land a job.  And an understanding of the digital world that will allow him to create new niches, new opportunities, and new wealth.

We are truly at the forefront of a new world.  A true digital citizen will have opportunities that we cannot yet imagine.  Johnny’s teachers and parents helped  him to become an upstanding digital citizen and ultimately successful in life.  Will your child have the same?

Utilizing Google Drive to Organize our Students

We have all had to carry a binder around at one time or another.  Some of us are great at organizing our binders and making sure that everything has its place neatly secured.  Then there are those of us that aren’t so organized, shoving papers in at all angles in a folded up, crumpled mess.  Then, when it’s time to find something, it takes forever because it seems like an archaeological dig through the layers of time.

drive2Here at Rocky Top, our teachers are utilizing Google Drive to help keep our students on track with organization.  Essentially, the heavy, awkward binder has been transformed into the online binder where organization is literally a click away.   Students use their Google Drive to keep track of work in progress, resources, etc.  When it comes time to turn the assignment in, the student merely drags the completed assignment into a folder that he or she has shared with the teacher and it appears in the teacher’s Drive, ready to be graded.


Setting up the Google Drive binder was a simple process that the students did within the first couple of days of school.drive3  Students were asked to create a folder in their Drive for each subject.  Beforehand, the teachers came together as a grade level to universally decide which colors would apply to each subject.   For instance, Science folders are always green, while Math folders are always red.   Inside each subject folder, students were asked to create subfolders such as WIP (Work in Progress) folders, To Do folders, and Turned In folders.  The teachers then had the students share the Turned In folders with them.  In order for the teachers to keep track of all of these shared folders, the students were required to rename the Turned In folders to “Last name, First name Pd. # Turned In.”  Then, the teachers organized these shared folders into class folders in their Drive and the turn in process was set and ready!

In return, the teacher shared folders with the students so that students could access assignment sheets and resources.  To quickly share documents and folders with all of their students throughout the year, teachers first set up Groups and added all of their students to the group.  The Group allows the teacher to simply type the Group name into the Share field and the document or folder is shared with all students at once.


turninJust to make sure that students were successful and honest in turning in assignments, some teachers took an extra, double-check step when assignments were handed in.  In order to truly insure that the assignment would get in, some teachers created Hand-In forms that the students are required to complete each time an assignment is due.  These forms are simple with usually just a spot for name, date, period, assignment name (usually to be chosen from a drop down menu) and a spot to paste the URL of the document that the student just put into the shared folder.  A Hand-In form can also be advantageous in terms of grading.  When a form is submitted, the info is sent to a spreadsheet.  A teacher can then organize the spreadsheet so that he or she can quickly click on the links to the documents that the students pasted in the form instead of having to open each folder and find the assignment.

Each teacher has his or her own teaching style so each teacher has a slightly different process for binder organization and turn in procedure.  However, the fact that all teachers are utilizing the Drive will offer consistency to the students and will help keep them organized throughout the year.  It is also important to note that teachers helped students to create an online binder, but just as with a real binder, a teacher cannot be expected help keep that binder organized throughout the whole year.  That will be up to the student.  So, just like the traditional binder, if a student chooses to shove things in, the online binder will become disorganized and sloppy.  But, hopefully, the new medium of the Google Drive will help keep the student motivated for organization and ultimately more successful throughout the year!

Sailing on into the 21st Century

IMG_20130830_105744_307The first 2 weeks of the Chromebook initiative will have passed at the end of the day today, 9/6/2013.  We have traveled a very long way since we first started this journey.  Teacher confidence is stronger, student confidence is stronger, problems are dealt with quickly and efficiently, and worry rolls off the back much easier now.  Learning has surged forward and engagement is at an all-time high.

Teachers have found their footing and are striding ahead in the curriculum with the help of some amazing tools.  Mrs.IMG_20130829_123734_275 Bishop started using the app, Quizlet, from the Chrome Web Store.  Quizlet allows students to study information that they will need throughout a unit by creating flashcards and quizzing themselves.  The quizzes keep the student engaged by presenting information in a variety of ways that seem like games.  Such games include clicking on the right answer as it flies across the screen or finding the right answer before time runs out.  The student earns points throughout the quiz and is encouraged to beat their previous score through achievements earned.

 Now that confidence is higher and problems are dwindling, the teachers have begun to reflect on how the Chromebooks are going to move them into a different realm of education.  The next step is to push themselves and the students to achieve at a higher level with the Chromebook.  The most widely accepted model for doing so is the SAMR model.  Teachers must begin integration of technology in the classroom by substituting technology in for traditional methods.  However, the integration cannot end there.  Otherwise the tool becomes the end rather than the learning.  Therefore, the tool must begin to change how students learn, collaborate, grow.  This is called augmentation.  Our teachers are now beginning to realize that their classes are becoming augmented by utilizing the tool and therefore their planning must change.  Eventually, augmentation will turn to modification when most aspects of the teaching/learning cycle have been changed to achieve more with the tool of the Chromebook.  From there the education of the student will become redefined to achieve maximum potential.  The substitution and augmentation aspects of this model can be thought of as enhancement of education, while the modification and redefinition will be the transformation of education.

The SAMR model shows how our students' education will evolve this year.

The SAMR model shows how our students’ education will evolve this year.

The teachers here at Rocky Top are ready to move to the next level with the Chromebooks.  There will be no hesitation or questioning.  Just a logical step in the right direction as we realize that this is the evolution of education.  And we will do it with a smile because it feels good to be on the leading edge of it. 🙂

Want to learn more about SAMR?  Check out this video of SAMR in simple words: