Category Archives: News Updates

ISTE 2017 Program Available Now

Educator-tested strategies. Extraordinary resources for transforming learning and teaching. Renowned presenters. And an enormous, interactive expo hall.

That’s what you’ll find at ISTE 2017.

Check out the full program, now live, then begin personalizing your learning by choosing from more than 1,000 sessions! Learn the way you like by selecting from lectures, BYODs and hands-on learning environments.

Not yet registered? Sign up now to connect with like-minded teachers at ISTE 2017 June 25-28 in San Antonio.

Super Early Bird Pricing Ends March 1, 2017.

Extraordinary educators. Extraordinary professional development. ISTE 2017.

2017 THINK

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 Treasurer Rod Carnill encourages us all to share our ideas, being careful to do so in respectful ways, demonstrating digital leadership in all our online interactions. 

Reflecting on 2016 brings me many fond memories among some difficult challenges. For me and for many the year was in many respects four seasons of unprecedented events. Even among the milestones we achieved, we may have walked away wanting. Wanting clarity among confusion, wanting constancy among uncertainty, wanting hope during times of trial. Perhaps like me you sense that there is more to come in each of those areas that cause us concern and cost us sleep.

Yet, I hope that you will join me in welcoming the new year with optimism, determination and a want to give your best to make good things happen for those we face each day, for those we walk beside each week, for those we will occasionally encounter through the coming year as well as those a world away who we may never meet.

As is the custom of many, the new year is greeted with resolutions, goals, intentions, resolve, aim, a plan. We make a decision to change a habit, to make better use of our time, talents and treasures. There is a desire to move along a different path, breathe more deeply freshness into our lungs and extend a helping hand to make a contribution.

And so it is that I challenge myself and in turn challenge you to engage, design, construct, collaborate, communicate, and most importantly THINK. Yes, THINK! Do all of these as often as possible, but be certain to take time and THINK. Challenge yourself to then reflect, share, and inspire. Choose your thoughts carefully as they will lead you to action and your actions will ripple through your circles of influence and your communities of practice. Some say actions speak louder than words, regardless of the channel, first measure your resolve and your intention against this simple acrostic...THINK.

Is  it  True?
Is  it  Helpful?
is  it   Inspiring?
is  it  Necessary?
Is  it  Kind?

Then, tell the world about it. As you plant your mustard seeds throughout the year post your reflections and inspirations with #VSTE so that we can applaud the good works across the changing seasons and celebrate our collective accomplishments @VSTE in Roanoke next December.

Rod Carnill is the Supervisor of ITRTs in Frederick County, Virginia. He serves as the Treasurer and Advocacy Chair of the Board of Directors. 

VSTE Board Chair Discusses Website Accessiblity

Keith Reeves, Chair of the Board of the Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education, spoke with The News & Advance, Lynchburg's newspaper, about Section 508 compliance, the section of the Americans With Disabilities Act that deals with eliminating barriers to information technologies.

Many school divisions have received official notification that their sites are not compliant and must create a plan for how they will bring them into compliance.

In addition to his work with VSTE, Reeves is a senior instructional technology coordinator for Arlington Public Schools. He speaks regularly about Section 508 issues. He will be a guest speaker at Making Connections: Southwest Regional Ed Tech Summit, on March 22, 2017, in Roanoke, Virginia.  Registration for this event is open now. Reeves led a webinar about accessibility for VSTE in October 2016. You can view the archive of the webinar here.

VE PLN, Monday, February 6, 2017: Survive the Summer

The VE PLN will meet Monday, February 6, 2017, 8 PM, at VSTE Place, our Minecraft server, to discuss running  survival world professional development experience this summer. Visitors from the Minecraft MOOC hosted by the Electronic Village Online  will be coming by Monday night to give us advice and tell us about their experiences.
We know many teachers and ITRTs are interested in exploring Minecraft in the classroom. Come to this meeting and let us know how this professional development could best serve you.
For server information and more go to the flyer here
We will use Discord for voice to communicate. Download it ahead of time if you don't have it and set up an account. It's free. The link to join VSTE VE PLN Minecraft Monday is

Position Statement Regarding the Nomination of Secretary of Education

a blue apple with a green leaf and brown stemThe Board of Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education has issued a statement regarding the nomination of Secretary of Education. The statement includes the Board's beliefs regarding the essential qualifications of any Secretary of Education.

Position Statement Regarding the Nomination of Secretary of Education
Virginia Society for Technology in Education
Board of Directors

We, the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education, explicitly thank Senator Tim Kaine (D) and Senator Mark Warner (D) for their statements of January 25, 2017 and January 31, 2017, respectively, in which they addressed the appropriate and necessary qualifications for a United States Secretary of Education.

As Senator Kaine said in his statement, three qualifications are essential in any Secretary of Education.

Firstly, an appropriate candidate for Secretary of Education must have a strong track record of being “pro-public schools.” Such a candidate should ideally have been a public school teacher and a public school administrator, and must have demonstrated instructional leadership, educational leadership efficacy, and a consistent and unquestionable support of the importance of quality public schools in every community in America.

Secondly, an appropriate candidate for Secretary of Education must have a strong track record of being “pro-accountability.” Such a candidate should have strong data analysis skills, a robust understanding of assessment philosophy and practices, and be well-versed in current issues facing the education profession regarding curriculum, standards, and the evaluation and reporting of individual student skill mastery.

Thirdly, an appropriate candidate for Secretary of Education must have a clear, abiding commitment to civil rights. Every single student in the United States of America is innately deserving of dignity, personal identity, and equal protection under law. An appropriate Secretary of Education must have special concern, and ideally a strong track record, when it comes to protecting and empowering students with disabilities, students in at-risk categories such as those based on socioeconomic status, and students facing mistreatment.

Our Secretary of Education must be a strong advocate for every child in America, must have a track records as a “champion” for public schools, and must demonstrate an unflagging ability to conceive, articulate, and implement policies that will support both children and public schools without undue private or ideological influence.

As the elected leaders of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s chief educational technology advocacy organization, and as experts in the field of education, the Virginia Society for Technology in Education believes it critical that educational leaders have clearly-expressed, consistently-held commitments to all students in all schools, most especially public schools, and who do not advocate for the wholesale privatization of public education.

We applaud Senators Kaine and Warner for their positions on the post of Secretary of Education, and support their advocating for an appropriate candidate in this and any nominee confirmation process.

On behalf of the Board of Directors,



Board of Directors
Virginia Society for Technology in Education

PDF Version of Full Statement: VSTE Statement on Secretary of Education Nomination.

Board Nominations Open Now

Nominations for the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education are open now and will be open until  Friday, March 3, 2017.

You are invited to nominate yourself or a colleague to be considered for election to the Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) Board of Directors, for the 2017-2020 Board term (three years).  This is an opportunity to become involved in the key decision-making group for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education.

Learn more about becoming part of the VSTE leadership here.

Gear Up for Advocacy

Keith David Reeves

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 Chair Keith Reeves challenges us to become advocates for quality public education, especially in the area of virtual education.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you, my friends and colleagues in education here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thank you for helping to make our annual conference this year a marvelous success. About 1,200 of you joined me, Dr. Richardson, the Board of Directors, and our exceptionally-talented Conference Committee in Virginia Beach to raise our voices, our awareness, and our skill levels.

As we gear up for the second half of the year, I’d like us to re-spark our interest in paying attention not only to our kids and families in our respective schools, but to the “thirty thousand foot view” of Virginia education. I’d like you to take a moment, in your drive or workout or stroll to the store, to think of what you’d say if you had just a quick opportunity to say something to your local elected officials about educational technology.

If you stepped onto an elevator with your Delegate, what would you say about ed tech?

I think I’d play the role of the “Ghost of House Bills Past” and mention HB8, the failed legislation effort of the past two years that sought to back-door privatization in Virginia’s schools by putting K12, Inc. in control of a mandatory virtual school option in every school system in the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe clearly understood this privatization effort, and vetoed the bill in early April 2016. (You may recall that VSTE was ardently against this bill, as we articulated in our February 2016 statement, and I made sure as Chairperson of the Board to be significantly vocal on the subject.)

Why mention it? Because it’s coming back.

Many people hear “K-12” and think we’re only ever referring to “kindergarten through twelfth grade,” but K-12, Incorporated is a for-profit corporation, not an age range. This perilous conflation may lead many to misunderstand the intent of legislation, and we have a role to play in raising our voices in clarity.

The reason VSTE and I stood against HB8 was simple: It put a state-level mandate on schools that put the power in a single corporation’s pocket, siphoning local funding away to fuel the fires of this new private engine.

According to sources who say they have spoken with him, Representative Dickie Bell (R) apparently intends to reintroduce a version of HB8 this year, as a competing measure against Governor Terry McAuliffe’s (D) intended legislation, which would put a local-level mandate on schools and give them choice in how they implement virtual learning. Students who attend such programs have been shown in recent data analysis to underperform students who have the fuller advantages of the ever-more-personalized learning opportunities you, the talented and skilled educators of Virginia, provide in your local schools. While there are places where the Virtual Virginia pilot has been going well, we believe it most appropriate to allow local schools to evaluate programs and to mount pilots consistent with their needs and priorities, rather than create a law that all but guarantees sole-source contracting as the defeated HB8 did.

Let’s be clear about this: It is one thing to say “we want students to have the opportunity to learn online.” It is entirely another thing to say “And a sole-source corporate provider will be that option.” It is important for local school divisions to be able to select innovative, meaningful, and most importantly not-for-profit educational methods to ensure student learning is not commodified. The introduction of market principles into educational policy craft is a mistake, as I write about in my work, and we must take extraordinary care to ensure that we don’t see another back-door attempt to privatize Virginia’s public schools pass muster in the guise of providing good online learning.

Virtual education can do remarkable things for students when done right, such as the extension of supplemental counselor-assisted asynchronous high school instruction in Loudoun County, and the schools of Virginia need such professional educators making pedagogical decisions, not imposed structures of corporate influence.

It is my hope that we educational technology leaders can raise our collective voices to make the clear distinction to our legislators, whenever and wherever we can: Yes to innovative learning opportunities. No to corporatizing public education.

In the coming months, I issue to you the same charge then-Vice Chairperson Karen Streeter offered to you from the dais at the 2016 Conference in December: Find time to engage with your elected officials. Encourage them to scrutinize any bill that says “virtual” on it, and offer to engage with them on the subject. Lend your voice. Lend your ideas. Lend your assistance, so that our students are well-represented and have the opportunity to learn from excellent local professional teachers using locally-selected online materials that best serve the needs of your community. A state-level one-size-fits-all mandate that hands the reins of curricular and implementation powers to for-profit enterprises would jeopardize the state of education in the Commonwealth, and that is a misstep we simply cannot afford.

On behalf of your Board of Directors, thank you for your continued support of quality educational opportunities for our students, and of the mission of your Virginia Society for Technology in Education.

Digital Learning Day, February 23, 2017

VSTE will be partnering with the Virginia Department of Education to provide a full day of virtual events for Digital Learning Day 2017, February 23, 2017.


Throughout the day, VSTE will be featuring students from the Richmond area  talking about how they learn, how they use technology to learn and showing some of the innovative projects they are working on in their classrooms. VSTE is partnering with GRAETC to provide these classroom visits.

The VDOE will host two live webinars to provide updates on current and proposed technology-related initiatives. Join Mark Saunders, Director, Office of Technology & Virtual Learning and Bobby Keener, Chief Technology Innovations Officer for these updates. Specific times will be announced soon.

VSTE will host an evening webinar beginning at 7:30 PM that will highlight the VSTE 2016 award winners talking about educational technology past, present and future.


9:00 AM: Scrum in the Classroom

6th grade students in Mr. Frago's class in Goochland County will talk about their experiences using Scrum, a framework designed to help people work in teams. Jim Frago, Joe Beasley, and Bea Leiderman have adapted the Scrum framework from its original form in the business world to help students learn to work in teams, taking ownership of their own learning. While the school provides an iPad for every child, learning activities are more meaningful when they are collaborative. Scrum teaches students to work together effectively and seamlessly, removing many perceived barriers to project based approaches. Students will share how they have learned to use digital tools for collaboration and media creation.

Watch Live (YouTube Live)

9:30 Coding with Ozobots

4th grade Hanover County students in Mrs. Yarbrough's class will discuss how they used Ozobots to code with markers on "playgrounds" in order to make the Ozobot travel over mazes and complete various challenges.  The goal of this activity was for students to work in collaborative teams to create a course the Ozobot could complete in a specified time range.  Join the students as they discuss what they learned and how they used perseverance in this innovative lesson.

Watch Live (Adobe Connect)

10:15 AM Makerspaces

Hear AP Computer Science students from Powhatan High School discuss their leadership roles in division-wide outreach programs that focus on STEM activities (STEM Fair, CS Roadshow, STEM Sisters & Brothers).  The students will showcase the different technologies they have used through computer science courses, STEM outreach activities, and the newly created high school makerspace.  Technology tools include App Inventor,, 3D printers, digital cutters, and green screen technology.  These students have a strong support system with computer science teachers, Blythe Samuels and Sharon Shadrach, along with the division's Science & STEM specialist, Libbey Kitten.

Watch Live (YouTube Live)

10:45 AM It's a Blue Bot World
4th grade Hanover County students in Mrs. Gemmill's class read the novel The Gollywopper Games, and then worked to complete a cooperative challenge. The story is all about teamwork and problem solving.  As an extension activity, students were asked to work in teams to create a world for a Blue Bot which included an innovative theme.  Students used measurement to create their own grid on the mat and wrote a story that included four destinations and an obstacle in their bot world.  They then programmed their bot to travel to the four destinations avoiding the obstacle.  The bots visited museums, a picnic, the inside of a computer, and even the Virginia Watershed.   But could someone new read the story and accurately program the bot?  Join the students as they talk about their project and how they introduced the ozobots to younger students.

Watch Live (Adobe Connect)

11:30 AM Mark Saunders, Director, Office of Technology and Virtual Learning

Mark will provide updates of digital learning projects in the areas of:

  • Computer Science – Standards development work and teacher training
  • Instructional Technology – Update to state technology plan, TSIPs, and digital content
  • Virtual Learning – New MOP applications and courses received

Watch Live (YouTube Live)

1:00 PM Using Spheros for Content Learning

Wilder Middle School students in Henrico County are using the Sphero robots to drive to different calendar dates to practice complex movements and time frames and mark points on a coordinate plane.

Watch Live (YouTube Live)

2:00 PM Bobby Keener, Chief Technology Innovations Officer, VDOE

Bobby will discuss VDOE initiatives including Open Education Resources (OER) and broadband.

Watch Live (YouTube Live)

7:30 PM VSTE Award Winners: Ed Tech Initiatives

Join our 2016 award winners to learn more about the work they are doing in their school divisions and communities:

  • Matt Caratachea, Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, Henrico County Public Schools, Innovative Educator of the Year
  • Dr. Amy Cashwell, Chief Academic Officer, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Outstanding Leader of the Year
  • Ann Nash, Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, Henrico County Public Schools, Outstanding Teacher of the Year

Watch Live (YouTube Live)

Brainstorm 2017: Future Ready Students

A partnership of JMU M. Ed. in Educational Technology, SVTC and VSTE

Reaching out to educators in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond

April 7, 2017


Wild Imaginations, Curious Children, and Stories from Student-Ready Educators
Stephanie Passman & Eric Bredder, Albemarle County Public Schools

Our goal everyday is to make school awesome for students and teachers alike. We will share ways to provide each student with the necessary resources to learn, take meaningful risks, and create physical and digital representations of their original ideas. We will share anecdotes that provide strong evidence of the student learning that occurs while building meaningful relationships, and fostering creativity and collaboration. Student-ready educators are prepared for all students, so they can be prepared for their future.

We are excited to welcome Stephanie Passman and Eric Bredder as keynote speakers. These educators from Albemarle County will talk with us about creating innovative learning environments where students collaborate and create as a natural part of the learning process. Thanks for EN Computers for their support of the keynote.

Mark your calendars for this annual event. We're working on the schedule right now...we'll be sending more information in the new year. Want to stay up to date? Join VSTE (it's free!) and you'll be on the cutting edge. Join Now!

Registration is open now. 

Memorial Hall,James Madison University, 395 South High Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Brainstorm 2017 is held in a public space, therefore we do not prohibit participants, exhibitors, sponsors, or news organizations from photographing conference activities. VSTE, SVTC and James Madison University reserve the right to use images taken at the Conference with your photograph and/or likeness on social media and/or in future marketing materials. We are NOT responsible for individual attendee’s use of your image or likeness.

Parking will be available on campus but it is limited. Consider car pooling.

VE PLN in Minecraft, November 21, 2016, 8 PM

VSTE Virtual Environments PLN will meet in Minecraft on November 21, 2016, at 8 PM. We have a server on Beastnode. All you need is to get a regular Minecraft account and join our multiuser server at Send Kim Harrison ( with your Minecraft user name and she will whitelist you. Please don't want until the last minute.

Let's decorate the server for the holidays. Bring an idea for holiday pixel art.

We are using the 1.10.2 version.

We get on discord for voice chat simultaneously. Download it on your computer or mobile device. We can talk about the conference, what we are doing with students in Minecraft, what the new Minecraft Education Edition is like, or whatever you are interested in. We will post the URL to connect in Minecraft.

Let's build community! All educators are welcome.

See you Monday, November 21st at 8 PM<