All posts by vsteadmin

April is ISTE Advocacy Month

April is ISTE Advocacy Month and this year your support in advancing our advocacy efforts is more important than ever.

ISTE’s advocacy work over the last several years is under attack. Our work on E-Rate, the Lifeline program and educational technology funding via the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is at stake with the new Congress and Presidential Administration.

Despite the challenges ahead, there’s also good news. ISTE has an outstanding set of tools to help you develop your ownadvocacy efforts at the state level.

Sign up for the ISTE Advocacy Network, a one-stop source for information about edtech policy.

Participate in the ISTE advocacy campaign by following #Act4Edtech on Twitter and retweeting @isteconnects updates.

Watch and share this video from ISTE Board President Mila Fuller to learn more about ISTE’s advocacy priorities and how you can help advance our efforts.

Your support and participation is critical! Speak up. Share out. Help us protect edtech funding and advance smart policy.

The Word Change (Quick, Find the Exit!)

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board Member Josh Long  provides ideas for implementing personalized learning. 

Changing the way we teach is a difficult task. Asking anyone to change something they have been doing for a long period of time creates tension and stress. I think of a quote I saw from Woodrow Wilson; "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Nothing can be truer than the changing environments of our classroom. I am currently in a district that is going through this change as we speak. It's a great change as we shift and dive our focus onto a focus of student learning. It is a philosophy that I embrace, it's good teaching, and it hits on everything that one of our previous bloggers touched on, which is personalized learning and personal learning. It is difficult trying not to be that person on the stage anymore giving all of the answers and all of the clues out to scholars. So how do you begin to let your scholars begin their journey on personalized learning and personal learning?

Here are my thoughts, take them with a grain of salt, as I am not an Orator… I am just a teacher of 16 years who believes that if you change the way you teach, it will benefit the scholars and practitioners around you.

  1. Know that personalized learning when it comes down to it is just good teaching practice…it is not something new; it is a change from the norm.
  2. Trust yourself to take on this change. You are good at what you do or you would not be in this position.
  3. Go in knowing that it is going to take time to change, it isn't something that is going to happen overnight, just like we can't expect scholars to change their way of learning overnight
  4. It is no secret that we are no longer teaching students for factory-based jobs. We are in the time of tailoring scholars for jobs that require global communication and understanding of different cultures. In most classrooms I observe, students are in rows, talking is done by the leader in the front, and time for discussion is held to a minimum... (If it's not broke don't fix it right?) The problem with that I believe is that we don't see the problems yet, but we will in the future.
  5. Understand that personalized learning isn't chaos in the is just another way of students learning, in the manner that is best suited for them. This gives the practitioner a great vantage point of seeing and knowing how all of our scholars use to learn. In fact it most likely will be less chaotic in the room as students will be doing something that is meaningful to them which means they will be engaged in their own learning and not their neighbors.
  6. Personalized learning to me also doesn’t mean putting them in front of a device and expecting them to learn everything from the computer or a piece of software. Communication is the key, I believe, to good personalized learning. That may occur with a Skype call to an expert in the field, or seeing a scientist working with animals in their respective field.
  7. Lean on your peers for help. Working together to come up with lessons that will inspire your scholars to dive deeper into their learning will make it shine on how much they have actually gained and learned through their unit of inquiry.
  8. Lesson plans are a one way street sometimes. Through personalized learning there are many ways to get to the end of the road, with frequent stops along the way to help gain further and deeper understanding of a topic or thought (Understand though that I’m not saying a lesson plan can’t do that…many times in my class we would wander off the beaten path to discuss something related to the topic at hand.)

I hope that you too can find the way to change the way you reach out to your scholars, and know that yes, it really does look a lot different now than when we were sitting in those chairs those many years ago.

Josh Long is the Supervisor of Technology for Fredericksburg City Schools.

Michael Speidel, M.Ed.

Michael Speidel, M.Ed.
Instructional Designer
Loudoun County Public Schools



Educational Leadership Experience

As a leader and manager I am seen as an innovator. I establish 21st Century vision of the classroom and determine where teachers and instruction need to be and establish practices to facilitate the change process. This is not a passive process. Rather, I focus on actions that make desired outcomes come to fruition. As an educational leader I am always looking for opportunities to make quality improvements that benefit student learning. My leadership style is results-driven where all of my actions are centered on improving teaching and learning in the classroom.

Vision for VSTE

Educational technology is in a very exciting position. With the addition of Virtual Reality, Makerspaces and Personalized Learning I think VSTE is in a unique position. My ideal vision for VSTE is to be a leader in promoting educational innovation and supporting the integration of 21st century skills that educators and students need to succeed in a media-centric, global society. My long term goal of VSTE is to provide the entire educational community professional development and support the integration of existing and emerging technologies and facilitate global collaboration.

Biographical Sketch

I have been working in Loudoun County Public Schools since 1999 serving as a SPED Teacher, Technology Resource Teacher, Staff Development Trainer, and now Instructional Designer. As an Instructional Designer for Loudoun County Public Schools my primary responsibilities are to design online learning experiences that support our online high school, professionally develop and create supportive structures for teachers to create and implement technology rich lessons and engage their students in authentic learning experiences. In addition to supporting the online high school, I am also the system admin for multiple services such as Loudoun’s Learning Management System and Google Apps for Education.

Terry Partlow Lowry

Terry Partlow Lowry
Director of Technology & Curriculum
Wakefield School



Educational Leadership Experience

My experience in education spans almost three decades and includes the roles of classroom teacher, instructional technology coach, and school administrator. I am currently the Director of Technology and Curriculum for Wakefield School, an Independent School in The Plains, VA. A current member of the VSTE Board, I have chaired the Awards Committee and also served on the Education and Outreach and Advocacy Committees. Throughout my career, I have presented at local and state conferences on innovative practices, resources and instructional strategies and best practices.

Vision for VSTE

The strength of VSTE lies in its membership. VSTE needs to build on its strong history of bringing together some of the best and brightest educators, administrators, and technicians, and continue to expand and create opportunities for these constituencies to share ideas and resources. VSTE must also continue to serve as a vocal advocate for our members, at both the state and national level, strongly articulating their views on instructional issues related to the use of technology for learning.

Biographical Sketch

An educator with 20+ years of experience, I have undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia and have taught in both Virginia and California. In addition to my experience in education, I have also worked as an IT consultant overseeing system implementations and training. Previously an Instructional Technology Coach for Prince William County Schools, in 2015 I accepted the position of Director of Technology and Curriculum at Wakefield School. I currently live in Haymarket with my husband, son, and our 17 year old dog, Jesse.

Heather Hurley

Heather Hurley
Personalized Learning Supervisor
Arlington Public Schools



Educational Leadership Experience

I currently serve as a Supervisor in the Department of Instruction where I oversee the district’s personalized learning program. I was an elementary Assistant Principal at an Apple distinguished school, where I assisted in the management of an instructional program that included the successful integration of a 1:1 iPad and STEAM program. As an Instructional Technology Coordinator and Staff Development Director, I collaborated with various stakeholders on the integration of instructional technology. Additionally, I was the VSTE Conference Presentations Chair and I’ve been a board member for Learning Forward Virginia and Massachusetts ASCD organizations.

Vision for VSTE

The new Profile of a Virginia Graduate has been developed to describe the knowledge, skills, competencies, and experiences students should have in order to align with the expectations of higher education and businesses. Areas of focus include: emphasizing critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship. I believe these skills are improved when a students’ learning environment becomes more personalized. There are many Virginia districts who are beginning the journey towards personalized learning. I would love for VSTE to begin looking at how technology supports the new Profile of a Virginia Graduate through the lens of personalized learning environments.

Biographical Sketch

I began my career as a classroom teacher in first and third grades, where my passion was to encourage every one of my students to love the process of learning. I am a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s program in Educational Supervision and Administration; earned a M.Ed. in educational technology from Lesley University in Massachusetts, and a B.S. in education from Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. I am a SMART Exemplary Educator, a STAR Discovery Educator, a member of the Discovery Educator Network Leadership Council, a Google Certified Innovator and a BrainPop Educator. In my free time, I enjoy photography, all things Marvel, cooking, wine and BACON!

Anita Harris

Photo of smiling woman with curly hair and a flowered dressAnita Harris
Instructional Technology Specialist
Cumberland County Public Schools

Educational Leadership Experience

As a classroom teacher, I was chosen to participate on the school leadership team, provide professional development and also be a technology lead teacher. I moved into the ITRT role and has been providing leadership, support and professional development to teachers, students and administrators. I also volunteer for several organizations including VSTE and ISTE, teach online courses for PBS TeacherLine and WHRO, present at conferences and currently serve as a VSTE Board Director, Secretary and Outreach Committee Chair.

Vision for VSTE

My vision for VSTE is for this organization to reach into every Virginia region seeking education advocates who are innovators and leaders in their districts that will also volunteer their time to help VSTE continue to provide professional development opportunities for educators, leaders and students so that all will seek to become more Future Ready. Also, as education continues to evolve, new challenges arise. VSTE leaders and members will need to continue to be flexible, adapt to new changes, collaborate and always seek ways to best support all stakeholders from every school and district across our state through helping to change the mindsets of community, school, and state leaders who are the final decision makers. Finally, my vision for VSTE is also to continue to move beyond borders to partner with other state and national organizations in advocating for educational technology access, tools, funding and support for all learners.

Biographical Sketch

I have been in education for over 20 years. I left the traditional classroom in 2006 to move into the Instructional Technology arena. I am an avid Social Media "Butterfly" who uses Twitter as my own Personal Learning Network where I learns and share anything and everything about education and especially educational technology. I have made it my life goal of being an “EdTech advocate who always seeks, always learns and always shares”.  My favorite quote is: "Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers. Or, you can grow weeds." ~ Jason Mraz ~

David French

Smiling man with red tie and beardDavid French
Principal and Digital Learning Leader
Virginia Beach City Public Schools



Educational Leadership Experience

I am in my 29th year in education. The past 15 years have been as an elementary school principal. All of my experience has been in the Virginia Beach Schools. The past 7 years have been very exciting and rewarding to have been a leader in digital learning transformation.

Vision for VSTE

Schools are now more than ever challenged with how to meet the needs of today's learner- a different kind of learner. Teachers, administrators and leaders must be provided with leadership to encourage and assist with their growth and transformation as digital educators. The role of the educator in our world is quickly evolving from a traditional instructor to a digital, personalized facilitator of learning. Our schools need leadership to help with the transformational learning process and challenge we face.

Biographical Sketch

I have been in public education for 29 years as a teacher, Assistant Principal, and Principal. I was presented with the 2012 Region II VDOE/VSTE Instructional Technology Leadership Award. For the past 3 years, I have been a presenter on digital learning and transformation at local, state and national conferences including VSTE, FETC, ISTE. I am also currently a co-presenter with Amazon Education on digital instruction.

Big Deal Book, April 3, 2017

VSTE partners with Big Deal Media to bring you the best in online resources for digital learning and professional development plus grant and competition opportunities and more. In this edition, you can Combine Learning with Playing, Collaborate Across Cultures & More.

Here are a few of our favorites from this sure to check the full Big Deal Book for more great resources!

Mobile Poetry Library

With The Poetry Foundation’s POETRY mobile app for iOS and Android, students can take hundreds of poems by classic and contemporary poets with them wherever they go.

Activities in Celebration of Reading

“Drop Everything and Read” (D.E.A.R.) is a national month-long celebration designed to remind people of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives.

Weekly STEM Podcasts

Covering the outer reaches of space to the tiniest microbes in our bodies, Science Friday is the source for entertaining and educational stories about science, technology, and other cool stuff.

Big Deal Book, April 3, 2017

Not everything in the Book is time sensitive so be sure to check out the archives.

Spring 2017 CETL Study Groups Scheduled

The VSTE CoSN Council has scheduled two sets of CETL® study groups in Northern Virginia. It will be led by Dr. Barbara Gruber from Loudoun County, a CETL certified educator.

Northern Virginia:
This study group will be held at the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center, 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151 and led by Barbara Gruber.

April 29, 2017, 10 AM - 1 PM
May 13, 2017, 10 AM - 1 PM
June 10, 2017, 10 AM - 1 PM
July 15, 2017, 10 AM  - 1 PM

Central Virginia:
Update: We have had to cancel this face to face study group. We are working to find an alternative, possibly online.

April 22, 2017, 10 AM - 1 PM
May 20, 2017, 10 AM - 1 PM
June 17, 2017, 10 AM - 1 PM
July 8, 2017, 10 AM - 1 PM

If you wish to attend the Northern Virginia study group, you must register by April 14, 2017.

Register now. 

The exam will be administered on Friday, July 28, from 8 AM to 12 PM, in Colonial Heights, Virginia.

Change Is Hard: Tips for a New Tech Coach

Image of post it note with the word change written on it.Change is hard. Resistance to change is hard. Staffing changes at schools are hard. Being a new teacher, or a new student at a school is hard. Being a new ITC (Instructional Technology Coordinator in Arlington Public Schools, similar to ITRTs. ) at a new school is equally hard, but recognizing some of the challenges, expectations, and possible limitations that may await you at your new school can help ease your transition.

Every school has its own climate and culture that has been built and modified based on the current administration. It’s always a good rule of thumb to have open communication with your administration, understand the climate, culture, and goals of the school prior to jumping in. This will help you navigate the landscape to figure out if you should you dive head first into the deep end or slowly roll out different processes and procedures. Whenever you take over someone else’s role, or come in behind someone you typically hear, “Well this is how it was done before”, or “This is how so and so did it.” That type of talk is not always helpful. It’s helpful to know what was done in the past but you are now the new person navigating the tech course for your building and you have to remain steady and stand your ground. Recognize this will not always be easy for you or your new co-workers.

Simultaneous to learning about the culture of the school, learning about the people in the school and building relationships is critical. Relationships have the biggest impact on the success of starting over at a new school. Who are the tech leaders? Who is willing to help? Who is good to avoid? Who are the reluctant learners? How best to interact with individuals and the various school groups? What does the Administrative team expect of the ITC? The list is long with items a new ITC needs to figure out and the connections that need to be made. Spending time just walking the halls, stopping in and talking to teachers during Back to School week is important. Being available to answer questions, provide guidance, and support any time is critical. Being open and willing to just listen is essential.

Job purpose misconception ---- Often the misconception is that if tech is in the job title then the person only deals with the cables and cords. The reality is that an ITC is a teacher at heart whose job is to help other teachers learn how to better support instruction and learning with technology. The learning has to come first, not the technology. This mind-set can be a hurdle to quality conversations and support. It’s important that you sell yourself as an educator, and that you are all on the same team.

As a new ITC in an elementary school, here a few tips to help you navigate change:

Observe: Do a lot of observing for the first few months. Sit in on grade level PLC meetings, observe student/teacher interactions. See how the school operates and how the humans in the building function.

Be open minded: Be open minded to change. It may be tempting to jump right in and put into practice the procedures, or PD established at your former school, but every staff and school is unique. Stay open minded to try new things.

Patience is a virtue: You won’t be able to get every single thing on your To-Do list checked off as fast as you always want to. Getting to know the staff and understanding how the school runs takes time.

Get to know everyone: The front office staff and the custodians run the school so get to know them. They will be your biggest allies. Having a candy jar in your office space is a great way to get people to stop by and chat.

Have good sense of humor: Smile, laugh, and have fun with staff and students.

Photo of woman with reddish hair, smiling
Meredith Allen
Photo of woman with short brown hair and glasses, smiling
Marie Hone

Meredith Allen and Marie Hone  are Instructional Technology  Coordinators from Arlington County Schools. They are also members of the VSTE Conference Committee.