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The State of ISTE

State of ISTE

ISTE18 in Chicago was certainly an experience. I was lucky to attend again this year as media and so I looked through a different lens. My one and only goal was to amplify the work happening in the field by educators and those who support teachers through the use of technology.

On June 24th, Mr. Culatta (ISTE’s CEO) addressed the media group and gave an overview of the new ISTE Standards for Education Leaders (formerly the ISTE Standards for Administrators). Feedback and input was provided by 1300 educators and leaders from all 50 states and 36 countries.  These standards are intended to equip leaders to support teachers in how they implement technology in their classrooms. We all understand that if the head doesn’t model the expectations then its value can truly be lost as it trickles down. Equity, digital citizenship and professional growth were among some of the topics which the standards are based. There was a session offered at ISTE for those that wanted a deeper dive with their colleagues and peers. Download the complete list of those standards here.

TED LogoA new Ted Masterclass will be offered, free of charge, to ISTE members. This new partnership was also announced at ISTE. 3 out of 40 finalists were selected to feature their TedTalk during ISTE. I am proud to include Patricia Brown’s ( @msedtechie) talk here (notice the red carpet exclusive for TedTalk speakers). What a way to be empowered to tell those stories happening in the field and having a way for them to be amplified. You could be on the big stage at ISTE19 in Philadelphia next year.


General Motors

General Motors (GM) is also in on partnering with ISTE to help support teachers and students in their exploration and discovery with Artificial Intelligence (AI). 25 school districts from AZ, GA, CA, IL, MI, NJ, OR, VA, and WY have been piloting the work since late September 2017 and showcased their results in Chicago. The idea is that students can become creators of AI content that will help to solve some of the world’s social challenges.


On June 25th, ISTE U was launched in conjunction with education experts to offer a wealth of learning and knowledge in an online format centered around some hot topics in education today that may not have always been accessible. D2L has forged this partnership with ISTE using its Bright Space LMS to offer these services and launch approximately 12 courses ranging from Open Educational Resources (OER) and Digital Citizenship. Forward momentum is already happening to create additional courses  that can be developed and added to the platform to promote growth. For a complete listing of current courses and their start dates, click here.

ISTE CertificationFinally, think about putting all of this learning to good use by being recognized for the knowledge you have gained and the time you have spent. You can do this by becoming ISTE Certified. The program will happen in 2 phases which will include a 2 day face to face training with certified professionals and a 5 week online component. The total time invested is approximately 30 hours.  See the syllabus here. This program is open to teachers, educators, media specialists and leaders based on the ISTE standards and transformative pedagogy. Upon completion of the course, six months will be granted to gather and compile artifacts and reflections as evidence of learning to earn the certification. To learn more and stay in the know about this certification, put your name on the list.

These are some exciting initiatives and steps ahead for the organization and its members. Continue to remain connected onto the platform and communities and register for additional learning opportunities as they arise to transform your classroom and teaching and learning.

Scratching Below the Surface of GPS the Series

When attending conferences, especially large ones like ISTE, you have your plan of attack laid out (for the most part). You know the people you want to see, hangout with or the keynotes that will be featured. You have downloaded the conference app or schedule and tallied out the daily sessions you’ll attend. You even hope to make your way to the vendors’ or exhibitors’ hall in hopes of some highlighters, sharpies, pens, buttons, stickers, post-its, swag or cool giveaways. The thing you hate most is the salesman trying to sell you a presentation or product knowing good and well you have no purchasing power. When in buildings and conferences with teachers then….think like a teacher.

Before arriving in Chicago, I was made aware of a launch that would take place and was hired by World Changing along with some other educators to assist with the launch and have dynamic discourse with educators alike. We were never asked to market or sell a product, collect teacher’s names but simply have a conversation about how to help younger learners develop some life skills that ultimately would impact the greater community.

Now an influencer, could be described as someone that has the ability to lead others and convince them to follow. Although, I do not claim to be an influencer, I do recognize my strength on being able to huddle a crowd together and get them to listen and follow. This skill allowed me to formulate a team that could assist Cisco CSR (a subdivision of the larger corporate organization) with the launch of GPS the Series .

Oh boy! I know you are saying here comes another product but GPS the Series is a supplement to the curriculum not a replacement for it.

What I really liked about this series was what I could see at face value: multicultural teenage characters, the emphasis of real life talent and skills amplified as super powers, and real impact made by the youngest of citizens. As I took a deeper dive, my mind began to think about the Season 1 Trailer and its episodes on the Water Wells in Malawi (Africa) and how this could pair up nicely with a Biology, Chemistry or Engineering lesson units. In Season 2: The Problem, the issue of natural disasters has unfortunately become an all too common theme in the United States over the past several years. Lessons centered around population, habitats and ecosystems, economics, electricity and power, transportation, safety and survival plans, community and collaboration came to mind. What types of dialogue do you believe your students could engage in and how might you assess their understanding? Perhaps through academic language, the ability to apply it across subjects,  or through reading, listening and speaking.

GPS Navigation Bar

When navigating the site, you’ll see that Season 1 and 2 are each broken down into 7 episodes that run under 4 minutes each.  You can access it from the navigation icon on the top right of your screen (see image above). This is quick and easy because it allows you to integrate into class time as a bell ringer , dedicated station or even in a flipped model from home, if a device and internet are accessible. The episodes are followed by 2 sets of questions connected to the real world to help facilitate the dialogue in class or through another medium like FlipGrid.

Each episode is broken down in steps, almost similar to how you would facilitate students through their thinking.

Step 1: The Problem

Step 2 : Ideate Solutions

Step 3: Integrate Technology

Step 4: Think of a Business Plan (so it’s viable and sustainable)

Step 5: Test it out in an authentic way to measure and assess results and impact

Step 6: Celebrate wins ( both great or small)

A downloadable Teacher’s Guide (about 35 pages total) accompanies the full season. You can print specifically the pages you need for the episode you are watching. These are filled with additional resources you could use, questions, objectives, and a wealth of connections that are authentic and meaningful to the learner.

There are also storyboards and scripts that can be downloaded for those students that are great at visual storytelling or own artistic skills. Think of how to engage them better but also how you can help improve some literacy skills simultaneously.

All of these resources can be found in English directly on the site at but you can also use Google Translate to place the pdf into a language you and your students can understand.

Here is a quick video tutorial to show you how to translate documents into another language.

Think how you can transform your classroom and teaching this fall for the SY 2018-19 and impact students to problem solve, think critically and impact communities on a local, national or global scale. This program doesn’t cost you a thing to try and you know we all love FREE!

The Day Before ISTE18 : Badge Summit, Unconferences, and Teach Meets Hold it Down

The excitement and the buzz of ISTE18 is feverish, ironically the weather is cool.  The Blue Line Train is rolling, ride shares are moving, and people are teeming from square buildings, corners and walkways. This Saturday is perfect and it so happens to be the eve of ISTE in Chicago!

Claudio Zavala and I have both landed at O’Hare airport ( he from TX and I from Atlanta) and are filled with the excitement of the learning, sharing the stories of the goodness in education and connecting face to face with our PLN in the days ahead.

On this day, Columbia College was host site to Badge Summit where Noah Giesel is the organizer. The event space shoulders multiple floors and certainly embodies the spirit of innovation and collaboration. When you walked into the large assembly, you noticed a balance between men and women as well as varied shades of people—it was a beautiful mix! This event was so informative and planned out well.

The conversations and sessions centered around emblems and micro-credentialing used to signify a level of distinction in education and other industries.  Business and educational thought leaders alike are thinking of ways in which young people, building staff and employees can demonstrate mastery and it mean something across multiple spaces.

The conference keynote was Samuel Dyson, Deputy Director of the Chicago Learning Exchange. Learn more about him here  and watch briefly here.

The day was followed by many great 2018 Conference Schedule   .

One of these sessions was led by Jennifer Williams of Participate and friends on alternatives to Top Down PD. A design thinking challenge was presented around teacher led professional development for groups that are usually left out. Hear the teacher share outs here .

The big takeaways for me were that there are individuals within industries that want to be recognized in a certain capacity by their skills but also that want to know that this recognition has some reciprocity across the board, regions, and countries. Catch Sarah Thomas’ scope of a local community Chicago youth who spoke about understanding the value of badging here and here.

There were many ideas in the room on how to get started and scaled up to more complex thinking from a panelist of Moon Shot Thinkers. See that conversation here. Gamifying badging and personalizing them were popular sessions as well. Catch those scopes on Claudio’s Twitter feed or periscope channel.

Finally, bridging communities and organizations with young people will be vital to this growing community. To learn more about organizations supporting Chicago’s Youth, visit The Hive Chicago Network and individuals like Sana Jafri (@jafs31) .

We look forward to Badge Summit 2019 in Philadelphia but be sure to connect with Noah Giesel online to learn more about this awesome space and community of educators and those that support education.

Scoping it Out

Where it All Began

So, who has time to sit around and chit chat when it [time] holds us hostage? People make time for the things they want and find a way to fit them into their schedules —No Matter What. This includes spending time with the family, must-have meetings that take priority, reading a book for professional growth or leisure, and right down to scheduling in a nap. No matter what tickles your fancy, I can say that teachers are usually passionate about teaching and assisting students in their learning journey. The love of it all feels like a marriage and certainly an investment. it is challenging not to lose sight of oneself in the chaos of it all but I am so glad that I did not take this vow alone.


In April 2016, 5 educators:  Sarah Thomas, Valerie Lewis, Knikole Taylor, Toutoule Ntoya, and Derek Larson (connected through the our EduMatch voxer group) sat around trying to convince ourselves that we had a life outside of school and were “normal” humans, despite what society thought. Our love of photography, culinary, music, sewing, the outdoors and great lyricists in the hip hop world affirmed that we were more than educators–we were HUMAN! We were so LIT on the idea that the world needed to see us in a different light. Indeed, teachers were cool and how awesome it would be to share those stories with the world.

Where and when will we show them (as though it was a special request)?

We all lived in different parts of the country so being on screen together from multiple devices would prove to be quite a challenge. BUT if we could “pass the scope”to one another then we had a shot. Periscope would be our stage and this is how it grew publicly.

This smack talking grew into a community of 80+ members of which about 1/4 hold it down religiously every 3rd Thursday of every month. This community is close knit and encouraging especially to those in education but welcomes other professional industries to join us in amplify goodness despite their level of expertise in streaming.

Where We Are Now

Two years later, we must confess that we truly are married to education.  Our scopes are not a showcase of our talents or passions but a lens on our love for teaching. We are the experts in the room that lend our voice, truth, network partnerships, best instructional practices, and experiences to a broader audience. These stories often turn out to be unique or very shockingly relatable to our viewers. We share our pass-ion one scope at a time in a monthly 5-15 minute window of time. Makisha Rogers mentioned that we are a sort of pop-up PD on screen that can be viewed live in real time or whenever you can find the best moment to watch. We are a community that unselfishly seeks to amplify the goodness of the whole! Today, we are still on screen every 3rd Thursday across the country and globe.

beginnings 3


Where We Are Going

In Summer 2017, we offered a unique perspective at one of the largest edtech conferences —ISTE Conference in host city San Antonio, TX.  The outpouring of thanks from tens of hundreds of viewers pushed us into the realm of offering this service to conferences more frequently. The power of the many feet on the ground with a strategic plan has helped us realize our mission which is to amplify the stories of those that may often feel muted within their own buildings. We are also able to magnify the idea that the power of conferences is in the connection of the attendees.

Therefore, this year—we are back for ISTE18 and will cover Badge Summit, EduMatch Meetup, keynote/featured speakers, EdTech Karaoke, workshops, poster sessions, playgrounds, the famed Ignite sessions, exhibitor hall vendors, those who seek refuge in the blogger’s cafe, social gatherings, Coffee Edu, participant take aways and more.

Our craft is continuously improving through the use of OBS, Periscope Producer, and quality equipment. We are taking this thing seriously. We are organizing regional teams that can cover EdCamps, unconferences and other educational and tech events happening across the country in order to control the narrative of education through the sponsorship of leading companies and organizations. If you are interested in being part of this team then please reach out to us on Twitter or visit our site. We continue to aim to deliver authentic and meaningful scopes fashioned around creative topic themes monthly. O what a celebration it will be when we can fill every 15 minute interval timeslot from sun up to sundown!

Since our initial founding members, the community has gained some truly talented and committed members like Brian Smith, Claudio Zavala, Stacy Lovdahl, Amy Storer, Jacqueline Rose, and Dan Kreiness that make this community run through graphic design, learning opportunities, and planning ahead. There are so many more individuals to shout out individually because they scope when they can and support the community by amplifying its work. We do not take any of their contributions or support for granted. Thank you for your belief in this work and being part of our PLN!

This is a powerful community and we appreciate the encouragement to learn beyond the walls of the classroom.

And to you, the many viewers that tune in, like, and retweet our scopes–we THANK YOU for helping us to reach new heights. Take a step further and scope this thing out with us!

You can find out more about our community by visiting (site built by Brian Smith) and share your passion for learning.

Dear HUMANS of America….?!?!

Dear Humans of America,

This past year and even down to the last few months or so have ultimately made me numb. The senseless and unexplainable acts of violence and shoddy behavior have become all too commonplace. This is not a norm that I am willing to embrace and it is certainly not one that I am inclined to make “normal” for my family.


It baffles me that  as a country we maintain to stand united but then we cast stones at athletes that refuse to “stand” with hand over heart in allegiance to our bad behavior.

Do not misconstrue my remarks and take away from the idea that I applaud and am grateful for those that have made great sacrifices on battlefields and battlegrounds protecting the freedom of all.  Families across this nation, including my own, can rest easy on most days from outside attacks (though internal ones may arise and prove a great threat as well). On the other hand, I do not forget those that also stood in sacrifice but somehow never had their names recorded or etched into a wall that we could forever remember.

It baffles me that you want me to play along in this parody of greatness.

It baffles me that our quilt of many colors has faded—not to black—but instead to the absence of color.

It baffles me that we have gained so much ground over time and are now backsliding into ways and behavior that once were considered to bring shame. That is troublesome!

As an educator, what message of hope do I offer my students? Who am I supposed to pretend to be? What lesson do I teach that includes their many voices and that of their ancestors?

I am remiss because you have found the foolish, naive, guileless and innocent parts of me!  I  thought that the educated side of me with a decent career and earnest and honest way of living would give me a seat at the table. Ahhh–Pardon me! I do hear and see very clearly now that you aren’t even hiding your hand or muting your lips on how you really feel about your “fellow man”!



When one of our fellow humans is affected, we should not shun them but instead stand with them. Let me not be the chronometer of your moral compass but instead do allow me the right to simply speak from my perspective and experiences. A few years back, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke of the Danger of a Single Story in her Ted Talk  and it resonated with me because I am mindful of the feelings of my students, colleagues and those I engage with daily. My only mission is that WE all can honestly and openly acknowledge that WE have all contributed to helping this nation RISE! If that makes you uncomfortable or you find it to be untrue then please do a fact check on the many people that made America great. In this podcast episode of This American Life, the talks of fear, lies, and accusations are explored even more. It is amazing how when individuals become fearful they begin to create lies and sell it to the point where it resonates as true. The sad part is the throng of people that blindly follow without any substantial proof or evidence.

Nonetheless, I do not want to get into finger pointing and blaming because there is not a sum of a single group of people that are altogether good nor altogether bad. I cannot find a justifiable reason to cast any person aside because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual preference.  I know what it feels like to be cast aside because of someone else’s insecurities. In a previous workplace, I was demoted from a lead position not because I couldn’t get the job done but because someone else was able to craft a set of lies and sell them to a group of “followers.” Well, like the old saying goes “one monkey don’t stop no show.” I’ll save the details of that story for another post!


Overall, individuals or groups of people can move their agenda forwards based on lies. I love how HONY weaves a common thread and highlights an important fact —We are Humans! If we do not see the value in connecting the dots and uniting our stories from state to state, country to country,and beyond then I shake my head in disappointment but raise my voice because my silence would not otherwise change or call out the behavior.

I try not to get involved in politics, it is just not my passion or area of strength but this  election has taught me that I truly care about my country and the progression of mankind. It is not solely about the money but of course it is important for us to stabilize our economy. More importantly,  I value the idea of people feeling dignified, appreciated and part of a global community. I cannot ignore the feelings of division that seem to be growing greater. I think I have pinpointed the root of the problem as The FEAR! But why?

This theme plays out in works like Tell-Tale Heart, Monkey’s Paw, and Twilight Zone’s Monster’s on Maple Street. It is also evident in many historical events that magnify some of the darkest moments in our nation.

Most recently, Sara Bareilles and Leslie Odom collaborated on this piece. I had my students annotate the meaning of this song.  They will get the opportunity to answer questions with some educators in my professional learning network (PLN) through Voxer and then ask some questions of their own while blogging from their personal sites.

The opening line of Seriously begins with “Let’s start with hope..” and honestly, that is where I want to keep my focus. That hope and dream isn’t dead to me because I see evidence of the goodness of my fellow Americans when I watch shows like UnderCover Boss. I weep like a baby at the end of each episode. When I see many videos that go viral with the goodness and longing in the hearts of Americans for something greater and better–then I am left to hold onto HOPE! We cannot allow lies and fear to control us as a nation. We cannot tear ourselves or each other down  and be stripped down to the bare bones. We cannot resurrect the spirit of McCarthyism from the 1950s which influenced Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. This cannot become the Salem Witch Trials all over again. Let us not do this again to each other while other countries sit back and watch us tear ourselves apart!


This country represents the hope that may dream of and we cannot wear this shame and regret for eternity. There is time to fix it and that time is NOW! Follow your heart and take all that is at stake but most importantly be selfless and think of one another my dear fellow Humans!

Just Do It: EdObstacles Launched


Over a year ago, an idea had been brewing and stirring in the hearts and minds of a few educators across the nation. The excitement of working together was shared amongst all of them but most importantly, a plan was set in place to launch this concept. This would ultimately transform teaching and learning. The team split into subteams to work on differentiated and leveled activities for grades K-6 but had to ensure they were married to national content standards. The creativity and excitement that came from these sessions were so exhilarating. As the magnitude of this project set in and we became engrossed in the process, summer also came to a close. The reality of getting back to the start of the year brought us to the agreement that we needed more time–perhaps another year would be sufficient for us to reveal our plan.

Where Preparedness Meets Opportunity

As fate would have it,  the idea of pushing EdObstacles to the side for another year was short-lived! Tanya Hyman, founder of MakEDU and president of Atlanta Maker Faire emailed an invitation for me to bring EdObstacles to Atlanta Maker Faire as they sought out something more exciting for children and families. My heart began to panic because we were less than 8 weeks away from this mega event. I had no team members in Atlanta nor materials or funding to make this happen. It would have been easy to say “well I am not ready and maybe next time” but Tanya said “start small and do a  mini-version but just start somewhere.” Her words assured me that it was okay to take a risk and give it a try. Wasn’t this the same message I told my students often? I knew  it was time to put a plan in place and execute but I truly wanted students at the core of this project!

Immediately, I spoke to my administrators , Dr.Gene Taylor and Dr. Stephen Black, and they agreed that whatever was necessary to support our students– we could rest assure they would support. I reached out to Tommy Nguyen, lead Math Teacher and of STEM Academy and he knew his 9th graders could use this as a Project Based Learning (PBL) task. From there, Mrs. Nicole Meade-Franklin wanted her Engineering students to be part of it as well.  Once I pitched the concept to students, they were onboard and almost immediately formed teams to create activities and design a course to  bring EdObstacles to life.

Students worked collaboratively with each other but also sought counsel from community advisory members to beat the clock towards our October 1-2, 2016. There were great ideas pitched and those that needed lots more work. There were edits, revisions, materials checklists, budget spreadsheets, rules for each activity, and project design plans.

Ian Bryan played a large part in helping us get logistics in place. He is like that voice of reason that helps you think through things you had no idea you needed to think through. He was a checks and balance guy but also a jack of many trades, including creator of our website

Two of my good friends at School Supply Giant sponsored our EdObstacles logo and Fiducia Financial donated monetarily to help towards the cost of materials but our administration took the bulk of the expenses to ensure we executed! The process wasn’t easy but the learning that happened along the way–was priceless.


The morning of Oct.1st, we arrived at Discovery excited yet quiet because we were about to face 30,000-40,000 people to test our concept. We were uncertain about the results we would get or just how we would be received but I am proud to say WE ROCKED IT  (produced by our student Audio/Visual Department)!

The opportunity fell in our lap and we rose up to the challenge and delivered. This lesson was meaningful and authentic for us all. The raving testimonials received from young participants, their parents, fellow educators, administrators, other Maker organizers, and makers themselves taught us that we had something magical and had a green light to move forward with EdObstacles 2.0 in Spring 2017 for grades 7th-12th.

All gratitude goes to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) and advisory board on Voxer, administrators, the students, community advisory council members and teachers involved that came together and seized this opportunity. I sign off by saying “ The Discovery Titans came, saw and conquered! We Did It!”


val-bio-picValerie Lewis is a GA educator of 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Her passion is to empower students but recognizes that One Size Fits One and that students learn best in authentic ways. Her mission is  to transform teaching and learning for the modern student and disrupt the norms that somehow have seemed to disengage students. Find her on Twitter and on Instagram as @iamvlewis

Classroom Deals


As much as we despise the thought of thinking that in a few weeks summer will come to an end–I must say that thoughts of new adventures for the school year have me quite excited!

Elementary and middle school teachers are already raiding the aisles at Target and Dollar Tree with $1 deals and steals as seen in her tweet. Everything from clipboards, bulletin board borders, Crayola crayons and markers, sharpies, expo markers

Jen William’s Tweet on Target Dollar Spot deals or Rachel from her  blogpost giving 3 quick tips to make your bulletin board standout. I even remember blogging about Piktochart as an easy way to cover classroom wall space for cheap at the start of last school year.

As some school systems are well underway and others getting ready to start in another week, I wanted to talk about classroom supplies. New teachers usually struggle with this the most because they are fresh out of college and are limited in their budget. Unfortunately for most, they may have spent money on moving expenses to be closer to their jobs and away from their families. For others, they are waiting on that first paycheck to come at the end of the month.

While you can make friends with the clerical staff to gain access to the secret stash closets and scour the GoodWill for those great bargains, there is one company making their mark in the area of teaching and school supplies.

School Supply Giant was created by a teacher but that isn’t even it. This website offers a discounted price on items purchased and then gives back 5% of those purchases to the classroom teacher to use as needed. That has never been seen or done before. Not only do you get money back for purchases you have made but the 5% back applies to purchases your parents make when you create a classroom registry or wishlist. The items will be shipped directly to your school for your use.

More deals and steals will be offered throughout the year to help teachers with professional development and scholarship possibilities. I was privileged to have a full ride to ISTE2016 in Denver, CO because of School Supply Giant. I love that they are willing to open this up to more teachers in the years to come.

Scholarship on School Supply

So avoid the long lines at Walmart, expensive supply lists that come through the catalog mail or hoping to find someone’s leftovers or garage sale finds and get money back while spending money to help your school year be a success for you and your students!

Visit them on their  website and on Twitter and put the money back in your pocket that we so deserve.