Friday, October 23, 2015

Going Paperless Isn't About the (Lack of) Paper

There is both excitement and criticism around the paperless classroom movement. Both camps have good intentions, but neither is focused on the right thing. It isn't about paper, or the lack of paper. It is about what the tech makes possible when learners push themselves to get creative.

For my students and I, "paperless" was not a hard and fast rule. It didn't mean that anyone was forbidden from using paper. It just meant that we explored all possibilities, including paper, when determining the best route. Most of the time, we found the best learning experiences occurred when we were collaborating, producing, and sharing using paperless means.

What Does "Paperless" Really Mean?

Paperless means better questions (Grant Wiggins style).

Paperless means less textbook and more open education resources (OER).

Paperless means learning activities (not lessons).

At the MassCUE 2015 conference this week I had the opportunity to share this model with a room full of energetic educators. My session opened with an explanation of the three steps above and then brought participants through a few examples, including the student product examples.

The last 15 minutes of the session were an opportunity for participants to dive into this learning model themselves. In this case, they took on the task of my 9th grade history class and use blackout poetry to determine if the majority of American colonists agreed with Thomas Paine's viewpoint in Common Sense on the eve of the Revolutionary War. Here are the results.

Click here to see Dan's tweet.

Click here to see the Instagram post.

It was thrilling to see educators respond to this lesson with as much intrigue and curiosity as my 14 and 15 year old students. Many were frustrated with the time constraints and wanted to finish their blackout poems despite our session coming to an end. When learners want to keep learning on their own, good stuff is happening.

What it Feels Like in the Classroom

As part of some work I have done with Smarter Schools Project, a video was released the same day as the MassCUE session. In the video I describe the look and feel of my paperless classroom for my students and I. It's short (I promise) and really conveys why I believe in this approach to learning.

Describing the way learning happens in my classroom as "paperless" makes it sound clean.
It is loud and messy.

"Paperless" makes it sound prohibitive.
It is liberating.

"Paperless" is an accurate description, but it is only the beginning.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Digital Citizenship Week is a Call to Action

Click here to see the DigCitSummit website.
I had the opportunity to present and participate in the first Digital Citizenship Summit on October 3. As a teacher who believes in the power of technology for teaching and learning, I know that students, schools, parents and policy-makers need to work together so that we are using the tools to make positive change. If you haven't yet, this week is the time to take action.

Reflecting on the Past and Planning the Future

At the Summit I was able to learn from other speakers who included impressive digital citizenship thought-leaders from multiple perspectives: students, parents, industry leaders, psychologists, educators, and more. They are already taking action in their areas of expertise, but the summit brought us all together.  The founders, Marialice Curran and David Ryan Polgar are already taking action themselves and are promising another summit next year that will be bigger and include more student voice.

Click here to read my article on ConnectSafely's website.
After reflecting on the entire day and talking more with Marialice and David about their own debrief and plans for the future, I was able to write an article for ConnectSafely about digital citizenship best practices for schools. Since this week is #DigCitWeek and this month is both Cyber Security Awareness Month and Bullying Prevention Month, I urge educators to read the article and think about how the many important topics that make up digital citizenship can be addressed in our communities, schools, and classrooms.

Bringing the Message to More Education Leadership Events

My own contribution was a presentation -- with a few audience activities -- showing how my school has rolled out a fully integrated digital citizenship curriculum in all classes, no matter the grade level or content area. My colleague Julie Cremin is sharing our school community's work at the Northeast Professional Educator's Network Conference in early November. A couple of weeks later we are co-presenting about our program again at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston. And I'll have the opportunity to share it again in December at the 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Conference. No doubt, at all venues we'll have even more examples of student work and teacher excellence to share since our school year marches on and digital citizenship continues to be a priority.

You Can Join Us

If you'd like to be a part of the digital citizenship movement from the comfort of your couch, you can join us on Twitter. Marialice co-founded the #DigCit chat, which happens Wednesdays at 7pm. Last week's chat was about preparing for Digital Citizenship week and the Storify is inspiring. Moderators included digital citizenship thought leaders Jason Ohler and Mike Ribble who have literally written the industry standard books on the topic, and Frank Gallagher. Follow the #DigCit hashtag every day of the week to find articles, lesson resources, and excellent examples of student work. Share the work you are doing and join the #digcitPLN.

Some Twitter chats are turning to the digital citizenship topic this week. Marialice is moderating #pisdedchat on Tuesday, October 20 at 9pm EST. The questions are previewed in the graphic here.

No matter how you take action as part of the digital citizenship movement, share your work! Blog, tweet, share with your school community and with the world. Students, parents, teachers, and industry are starting to work together so that all of us can benefit from the power of the technology while making sure our work is positive and focused.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Refresh Your Personal Learning Network

Educators who are already connected via social media and open education resources (OER) know how empowering it can be to have a network of peers, experts, and high quality resources available to them and their students. Some teachers want to experience the same benefit, but either aren't sure where to get started, or have been overwhelmed by social media before and are hesitant to go back.

Getting Started

But getting started on social media can be intimidating. Too often I have heard fellow educators say, "I joined Twitter, but I didn't really get it right away so I haven't used it."

Coming Back

Sometimes, educators dive right into social media for professional networking. But soon they are overwhelmed by the people and resources and aren't sure how to curate it all in a way that is helpful for their teaching and their students' learning.

Some Solutions

The Massachusetts PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators came together last week for a webinar with our best practices on Twitter, blogging, and curating.

  • How to get started with Twitter.
  • Finding a "tribe" through Twitter chats.
  • Curating resources using tools like Diigo, Flipboard, and Feedly.

We also shared our favorite PBS LearningMedia resources. To watch the video of the webinar and follow along with the busy live streamed chat window filled with participants questions and tips, click here or the image below.

October is Connected Educator Month and it was a appropriate that WGBH teamed up with four connected educators from all around Massachusetts to kick off the month with the webinar on October 7. It was a pleasure to work with Carolyn Jacobs at WGBH, along with fellow educators Jenn JudkinsKara Wilkins, and Charlotte Corbett to plan the event.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Are students' data safe?

On Friday, The Hill again published one of my op-eds on the role of technology and the importance balance with student data privacy that continues to be discussed by policy-makers, parents, students, and educators.

In this article, I encourage interested parties to engage teachers and school and district administrators in the discussion. They will find out how students' privacy is being safeguarded, while students are still benefiting from utilizing powerful technologies in the classroom.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Role of Technology in Today's Classrooms

In June I had the opportunity to be on a panel at the U.S. Capitol. Not only was the setting impressive, I was there with some seriously high caliber educators to talk about how mobile devices and technology have changed the way our students are learning. Daisy Dyer Duerr shared how bringing a BYOD initiative to her rural Arkansas school increased both student engagement and attendance. Milt Bryant described his classroom where students are always working collaboratively, hands-on, and at a pace that personalizes their learning.

I wrote and posted about it back in June. The first post was a reflection on my paperless classroom. The second was a reflection on what I learned from fellow panelists. I'm still learning from them thanks to the power of my personal learning network.

Today, Smarter Schools Project released a video highlighting some of the insights from that day. I'm honored to be a part of it! Looking for inspiration? It is worth two and half minutes of your time.

Get to What Really Matters

Click here to see my guest post for Voxer.

When it comes down to it, we humans crave real relationships. This is true within our families, with friendships, and with professional networking. When building a professional network far beyond the workplace, social media can be a powerful tool.

The past few months I've been involved in a few projects meant to get the word out to teachers that social media can get them connected to like-minded positive colleagues near and far. Educators can find inspiration for innovative teaching practices, technology integration, and can even reach out to experts and authors on their students' behalf.

The summer Larry Magid and I co-authored The Educator's Guide to Social Media, which was published by ConnectSafely, to help teachers and administrators understand how to navigate online communication using these powerful tools.

One of the services mentioned in the guide is Voxer. This is how they describe themselves:

After speaking with the folks at Voxer more about their tool, I had the opportunity to write a guest post for their blog about how Voxer has been an important part of how I network and build relationships with other education thought leaders from around the country. I even wrote about how my students in Massachusetts connected with students in Texas last year thanks to Voxer. If you'd like to read more in the post, and learn how you could be using Voxer to expand your learning network, click here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Schools Can Create Positive Classrooms with BYOD or 1:1

Author's Note: This post was co-authored with my dear friend Dr. Will Deyamport. We brought our shared experiences in 1:1 and BYOD environments together in this article. Our hope is to share best practices for transforming teaching, learning and the overall mindset in schools that have gone digital.

When a school, or even a district, decides to roll out a BYOD or 1:1 program there are many complicated factors to consider. The job of an Instructional Technologist, as in Dr. Will Deyamport, or a Digital Learning Specialist, as in Kerry Gallagher, is to prepare teachers for the implications these powerful devices will have on their classrooms, lesson plans, and their students’ learning experiences. It takes more than rewriting a few lesson plans. It is a mindset shift. Based on our own experiences in our own schools, from Mississippi to Massachusetts, here are our best practices for professional development in a BYOD or 1:1 school.

Digital Citizenship Integration - Kerry

Simply putting devices in the hands of students and teachers will not revolutionize what is happening in classrooms. But it can. In preparation for the access to content and instant communication that every person in your school will have, it is essential to dedicate significant time to training teachers on digital citizenship. Digital citizenship encompasses the norms of effective responsible use of technology including etiquette, communication, consuming and creating media, security, privacy, and more. Without making digital citizenship education a priority, schools often resort to policing student devices. Not only is this an impossible task, it does not allow for the development of healthy young digital citizens. 

Instead, schools and teachers must give students the tools to help them manage their own behavior, and to help them know what to do when they make a mistake. The Nine Elements of digital citizenship from Mike Ribble are a great place to educate yourself. Then, look to resources like ISTE, Common Sense Media and iKeepSafe for lesson ideas to use in classrooms with students. 

Pro Tip: A best practice is to fully integrate digital citizenship in all subject areas at all levels. If students know it is a one day or one week lesson they just have to “get through”, they will never see how the concepts apply to every engagement they have with their device, in and out of the classroom.

How to Navigate Foundational Apps - Will

To go BYOD or 1:1 educators need some way to facilitate digital instruction and to warehouse resources to share with students. Some teachers use Google Classroom and Drive, Office 365 and OneNote, or one of several Learning Management Systems such as Schoology or Haiku Learning. 

In our case, we needed a platform that allowed teachers to differentiate, individualize, and personalize instruction. As a district we also wanted a space where they could easily design, develop, collaborate, and share resources across grade levels and subject-areas. Upon selecting Schoology, our next step was organizing a two-week technology boot camp.

Screenshot 2015-10-06 at 6.25.32 AM.png
Dr. Will makes teacher learning materials available online
for his teachers so they can reference it when they need it.
We didn’t want to drop a cart of Chromebooks in each teacher’s classroom and then see them feel bewilderment at what happens next. The boot camp consisted of sessions on the Chromebook, GAFE, Schoology, and several other sessions aimed at preparing teachers for the upcoming school year. These sessions were not the traditional “sit and get” or “drill and kill”. Teachers need a hands-on experience with opportunities to collaborate and discuss how they can successfully implement the tools. For example, a teacher may be concerned that the login process for a program may be too complicated for their students. These are the moments when Instructional Technologists can see the implementation through the eyes and experiences of the teachers.

Pro Tip: Flip professional development by offering learning modules via the LMS you have chosen to implement. Then you can focus on how teachers can use the tools to reimagine the learning experiences of their students during that precious professional development time.

Classroom Management Coaching - Kerry

Once teachers are familiar with the tools, they will be excited to try them in their classrooms. But pause with them and ask them how their classroom environment will look different. As part of the planning for complete integration, teachers need to be prepared for a classroom design that looks different. 

For instance, if teachers want to have eyes on student work, they can teach from the back of the classroom instead of the front. It is the best way to peek at screens while students are engaging with content in the classroom. If students are taking an assessment on their devices, have them line the classroom walls with their desks facing away from the center.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 9.11.27 PM.png
Kerry and her digital learning team created classroom designs
to help teachers strategize and plan for their lesson activities.
What about the configuration pictured here? When students work in groups, have them make little semi-circles facing the outer wall with their desks. Then the teacher can walk between the groups to check in, or stand in the middle of the room to scan all groups simultaneously. There are many other classroom configuration tips that can be crowdsourced when teachers and technology coaches put their heads together in a cooperative training session. 

Pro Tip: Facilitate this professional learning opportunity in a classroom at your school, so teachers can physically move the furniture in the space and act out classroom situations to find out what works.

Leading Digital Change - Will

It took me a few weeks into the school year to understand that my job as an Instructional Technologist no longer means just teaching teachers how to use technology to meet specific learning goals or outcomes for students. In leading the 1:1 at the high school, I am, in fact, responsible for leading digital change. What I do has evolved to coaching teachers through the shifting in their mindset and professional practice from “paper and pencil” to “going digital”. 

Going digital is about more than just putting devices into students’ hands. It is about changing the learning culture and giving students ownership of their own learning. This is a paradigm shift. Instead of the teacher being the sole repository of information and the student being a passive participate, the teacher now becomes a facilitator or guide and the student becomes the driver and producer of their own learning paths.  

Leading digital change is simply about building teacher capacity. Some teachers will take to digital (blended learning) like a fish to water; some will feel uncomfortable and need help getting started; and some will worry that it is an attempt replace the classroom teacher. 

In order to make a successful transition to digital, teachers and the learning culture at the school must be transformed. As with the students, teachers should take ownership of their own professional learning and have the room and support to make the shift. The key is to get teachers talking. Listen to  their concerns and goals, and work with them to develop a digital learning plan that leverages the talents and experiences they already have. Teachers need this shift to be a conversation and not a mandate.


All four of these elements of teacher development -- digital citizenship, foundational apps, classroom management, and leading digital change -- are essential for a successful BYOD or 1:1 program in any school. Education technology coaches come with lots of titles, but in the end our role is to be there to train and then support teachers day-in and day-out. With these four elements and the time needed to facilitate growth, the mindset shift can happen school-wide.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Joining the ConnectSafely Team

I'm thrilled to share that, as of October 1, 2015 I have officially joined the ConnectSafely team, led by  CEO Larry Magid, as Director of K-12 Education. After working closely with Larry and his team to write, edit, and publish The Educator's Guide to Social Media this summer, I continue to be impressed with how current ConnectSafely stays when it comes to the latest developments in technology, policy, and social media in order to keep parents and communities informed. I hope to help the team grow in the K-12 space and am looking forward to being a part of Safer Internet Day in February 2016 in Los Angeles. The official announcement was made on the ConnectSafely website and the press release follows.
Palo Alto, CA, (October 1, 2015) – ConnectSafely is pleased to announce the appointment of Kerry Gallagher as Director of K-12 Education. This is a part-time position for Kerry, who continues to serve as Technology Integration Specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass., a 1:1 iPad school serving 1500 students grades 6-12.

Kerry taught middle and high school history in public schools for 13 years. During that time, Kerry was best known for her paperless collaborative classroom model which thrived on project-based learning. She also helped her students create a far-reaching student-driven technology integration program in her previous school district. Kerry is the 2014 recipient of the Yale-Lynn Hall Teacher Action Research Prize for her submission “Mobile Devices and Student Innovators: BYOD and the Paperless Classroom Model.” She is also a 2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator. Kerry earned her B.A. in politics from Saint Anselm College and her J.D. from Massachusetts School of Law. Kerry is co-author of ConnectSafely’s latest booklet, The Educator’s Guide to Social Media.

“We are very excited to have Kerry on our team,” said ConnectSafely CEO Larry Magid. “In her work as an educator, she has not only been innovative, but has shown enormous respect for her students. She is a role model for 21st century education.”

“After working with Larry and the ConnectSafely team on The Educator’s Guide to Social Media, I continue to be impressed by the message of balancing safety and privacy with innovation and creativity,” said Kerry. “I’m honored and excited to officially be a part of this mission.”

Kerry will assist ConnectSafely in its outreach to K-12 schools for Safer Internet Day and other ConnectSafely projects. She will also blog for and assist with education-related guides and tipsheets. An important part of her work will be to help bridge the gap between educational technology companies and schools and help ConnectSafely in its advocacy for rational and pro-student empowerment policies around student data privacy, bullying prevention and other issues related to technology and education. Click here for Kerry’s bio. is a Silicon Valley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security with research-based safety tips, parents’ guidebooks, advice, news and commentary on all aspects of tech use and policy.