ISTE 2016. The First Installment.

I just spent the past 3.5 days at the most populated ed. tech. conference in the world.  I walked past dozens of people with allergies, colds, weird quirks in their walking patterns, loud talkers, interesting smells, accents, alternative interpretations of common slang. 

ISTE 2016.

I don't know why I just told you all of that.  People are people.  We smell, we talk, we sneeze.  At the end of the day, however, we all BELIEVE in something.  I common goal, which happens to be the learning and empowerment of students.  Whoops, I forgot the hashtag!

#ISTE 2016.

Many minds coming together to talk about digital integration and purposeful design in the use of technology in the classroom.  

#ISTE 2016. #manymindschangelives 

Last night, I facilitated a workshop on managing the technology setup in your classroom and seriously feeling empowered to learn and reach for better solutions, stronger setups and resilient relationships with those that support you.  It was really fun and interesting to learn how technology fits into your daily process (as teachers and admin) and the opportunities we all have to make the technology integration process even SMOOTHER.

#ISTE 2016. #owntyourtech #ifeelempowered #smooooth 

Ther is so much HEART here.  So many people working incredibly hard to support, enrich and empower their students in every way possible.  Technology has become such an essential part of this learning experience.  AND, it has been great exploring DENVER, CO.  The food, drinks and laughs have been incredible.  Thank you to everyone supporting this conference, and I know that I have grown so much from this experience!

#ISTE2016 #hugethanks #highfive #seriously

The Intersection of Old and New.

    Modern technology is a new species of insect.  To older generations, it may seem like an aggressive attack on comfortable living.  To the young, it is a new idea that is yet to be obtained, just within reach.  How can we, as a culture of modern citizens, create an environment where ALL can feel comfortable around a new "species" of technology?
     Can we bring a greater sense of discovery to those that consistently feel anxious, stressed and/or scared of new technology?  It spreads beyond just recent innovations.  Think of something as ingrained in our culture as a toaster.  Young people will be required to understand the goal behind the design of the toaster, and may even need to use it on a regular basis the rest of their lives.  To them, it will be "new," and to those in previous generations that grew up when the toaster was first invented, it is still just a regular part of life.
    Now, what happens when an "old" invention intersects with "new" innovation?  Today's technology!  (Don't forget about yesterday's technology, or tomorrow's technology either!)  If it is new to you, it's a new tech tool.  No matter how you look at it, both the young and old are discovering the inner-workings and meaning behind a tool.  Right now.  Today.
    "What exactly is happening within different generations," you ask?  The young bring some serious gusto in adding enhancements (based on learned theory and observation in today's culture), while the old carry incredible insight into why this "thing" came into play to begin with.  Naturally, a push and pull system arises.  The younger generations are constantly seeking ways to make things better, brighter and bolder (bless their hearts), while the older generations (bless their hearts, too) are constantly asking "Why?  Is this really necessary?"
    One more thought: What happens when a "comfortable" mindset intersects with a "curious" mindset?  My answer would be relevant innovation.  Ideas that work for that individual and make sense to him or her.  Today.  Right now.  Every time a relevant tool is discovered, explored and fully implemented by an individual, a new bar is set for creativity and innovation in that person's life, whether they are aware of it or not.
    No matter when or where we grew up, we have been exposed to a culture with a very specific set of tools and a certain path of growth and welfare.  Change and "new-ness" can be frightening to any of us.  But, what pushes us through this initial fear is the sense that, "Hey, this could actually be pretty cool.  What else can it do?"  That flicker, flare and flame of discovery can drive someone of any age onto a path of innovation, all their own.   

Wheelbarrows and Music

What do blue jeans, scarves, found objects and wheelbarrows have in common?  At Hillbrook, they are all "tools" used in discovering the connection between soul, mind and body through the creation of music.

Yes, this is intended to be a blog about educational technology, and that is exactly why I am writing this post.  One definition of technology, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "a capability given by the practical application of knowledge." (mwd 2016)  Through a process of scientific discovery, students at Hillbrook are creating new ideas and processes using "analog" tools, leading to a much larger scope of ideas, connections and creations.  Students are creating new concepts and experiences for themselves, preparing for a life of learning and innovation.


When I was in 1st and 2nd grade, I went to school at a magical place called, "Go Like the Wind Montessori," located in Ann Arbor, MI.  Part of the Montessori philosophy is that "students need activities that help them to understand themselves and to find their place in the world." (amshq 2016) If you are not familiar with the Montessori philosophy, the American Montessori Society describes it as "an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive."  (amshq 2016)

Montessori rocked.  Individual attention, independent hands-on exploration, creativity, real perfect place.  Looking back, I'm so glad I had a taste of it for two years, since the rest of my education would have much less freedom of choice and individualized learning.

Our primary teacher, Ms. Shields, would often play her guitar and sing with us in a circle in the classroom (In Montessori, it is common practice for music teachers to came into the classroom, where pretty much everything takes place, aside from physical education and some special events).
Twice a year, there was a large choir production, and in first grade, we did a mini operetta, called "The Mice of Mozart."  I auditioned for a solo, which was pretty ballsy for a first-grader.  I got a cool part, and had to wear a vintage dress and spray paint my hair a sweet sweet silver.  The 30-second solo was mesmerizing in the moment.  My parents had the best video-taping intentions, but alas, the camcorder battery died right before my solo (face palm).  Great experience, though!

After second grade, my family moved to a neighboring city with a kick-ass public education system (rare).  I loved my teachers and felt supported throughout elementary school, minus the troubling third grade year of math (shudder).  Let's talk music education again.  At Houghton Elementary, we followed an Orff approach with a few twists.  We used kneel and strike technique (floor marimbas) and also sang many songs in one or two parts.  We learned basic song structure, rounds, rhythm sticks, recorder.  We learned square dancing and took a field trip to Green Field Village near Detroit, MI, where we placed ourselves in the shoes of Pioneers.  We could also sing an impressive rendition of "From a Distance" by the entire fifth grade that brought our parents to tears.  We got dance parties on the occasional Friday, where we drew songs from a bucket and got to dance to "Thriller" and Twisted Sister.  

Let's jump ahead a few years: in college at University of Michigan, I majored in Percussion Performance and felt very rhythmically secure.  I felt proficient in piano as well (5 years of Suzuki piano lessons sure helped).  I had so many amazing and humbling opportunities: performing in Carnegie Hall, playing the original score of Star Wars, playing in many world premier performances, learning how to compose and teach percussion methods.  I'm fairly certain my motivation to pursue creativity through music would never have happened if it were not for an education rooted in discovery and hands-on learning.  

Here is a video from my Senior Recital at UofM.
Jump ahead again: I currently work at an independent school in CA called Hillbrook, focusing on educational technology and tech support.  I had received a Masters in Digital Media and Learning from the University of San Francisco, which led me to this awesome school.  Hillbrook's 3rd grade music curriculum includes a new and pretty ground-breaking annual project: the "Hillbrook Sound Project."  Through this project, co-teachers Kristin Engineer and Jenny Jones (lower school music teacher and lower school science teacher respectively) choose a primary object to use as the theme.  Last year it was bicycles, and this year, wheelbarrows.  

Sound Projects from 2014, based on wooden chairs.
This year's Sound Project in the process of creation, using wheelbarrows and found objects.
The main goal for students is this: using a wheelbarrow as a base, design a musical instrument as a small group, with found implements, that can be used in a performance incorporating the sentiments of emotion, art and music (in so many words).  

Leading up to this project, Ms. Jones guides students through the discovery of natural sound and how sound is essentially created, exploring sound waves and how a pitch is created using wine glasses.  Simultaneously, students are learning to use blue jeans as an instrument, adding a performance element of self-expression and creating their own musical forms.  Through working with these concepts of sound source, interaction with materials, and the emotions involved in music-making, students are, in a sense, creating their own technologies.

Exploring the creation of pitch using wine glasses.

Check out these videos:
  • Wine Glasses and Pitch: "Wine glass pitch explorations in D major and D minor scales (this was in science but they had to create a composition with the pitches) It was magical and meditative!" --K. Engineer, LS Music Teacher
  • Blue Jean Jive: (Blue Jeans compositions, based on Andrew Huang and his "Music with 1000 Pairs of Jeans" video)
  • Music, Emotion and Art: "Vasilly Kandinsky art project (collaboration with the art teachers), creating abstract art to jazz of the 1920's in order to express their emotion...through color." --K. Engineer
Wow!  Even through a Montessori-hybrid-public-elementary-school education, my teachers would have never introduced this.  Self expression through found objects bolted together and painted, fusing art, science and music?  Mind blown!     
There is so much to be said for freedom of expression, let alone the ability to fuse together several implements and sounds, fostering the growth of the power of listening, tuning the ear inwards toward emotional response, playing as a group, feeling the feels that can only come from playing and striking something that is a non-traditional classroom instrument.  Something that could break and it would be ok.  Let educational freedom RING!
I'm writing this to show that there is nothing wrong with what has been done in the past, since educational methods have varied widely and transformed in many ways over time.  Isn't there a similar history with technology?  Knowledge and tools are built upon by others, creating stronger innovation, but that BASE never goes away.  Those that think independent schools are only for the wealthy, this is a PRIME example of a RICH music education whose cost is that of what is provided in the home, nothing more, nothing less.  
At an elementary age, let's allow students to embrace these found objects of rhythm, space and emotional equity, leaving behind the notions of delegated instruments and parts.  Although structure leads to healthy discipline, a good wheelbarrow can lead to a MOUND of possibilities. 


Social Networking.

What is the alternative to social networking? It's like trying to find something other than bread with which to make a sandwich. Sometimes you just don't want the starch. You leave it for another day and have a salad instead. Nothing wrong with ignoring bread- until the lack of grains makes you feel incomplete. Social networking isn't life, but without it we feel depleted. And yet, when things are too defined/refined, we crave something wholesome. With a chaos of "friends" comes the need to filter, to redefine, to classify, to reach out and touch somebody. Don't think of these networking platforms as beasts of burden, but as a means to clarify what is already there. We are not the same without the friends that are there to support us. Be aware of who you are. The rest will "follow."

Finding Relevance in the Jungle of Code.

When you are introduced to a new thing, what initially crosses your mind?  We are constantly surrounded by objects and objectives.  Other peoples' things (ideas, guidelines and parameters) thrown into our basket while we are trying to learn and teach our OWN things.  As adult learners, we often need to find the relevance of these "things" in our own lives, otherwise we will push it aside and go back to using the status quo.

We (as adults) also bring a pretty heavy backpack of life experience that is often not addressed when someone else tries to "sell" their thing to us.

Take coding for example.  

So many companies rely on some form of programming to store massive amounts of data, distribute content, streamline shopping and manage communication with their target audience.  These companies (and their higher ups) did not always incorporate programming into their infrastructure, but realized that they need to create these new systems in order to keep up with our crazy, beautiful world of past-paced innovation.

Because of this, companies (new and old) are not just looking for strong tech skills in its future employees, but the ability to create a big, beautiful idea that happens to incorporate these entrepreneurial tech-spectations.  Programming requires learning a new language, a new form of communication.  The wheel must keep spinning!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as adults (and teachers specifically), we are probably struggling with answering these questions when it comes to incorporating coding in your classroom:

1. What does it DO?
2. How can I USE it?
3. How will I explain its VALUE?  

For those teaching a non-"STEM-y" subject, it can be difficult to find that relevance for teaching coding in the classroom.

Here is some truth.  It's going to be a challenge to figure out how coding fits into YOUR own life (you didn't grow up around so much digital technology!)  But, think about how you can facilitate new discovery with your students.  Their backpacks of life experience are much LIGHTER, and are yearning for life's curiosities to manifest in the connection of thought to physical process.

Help your STUDENTS answer these three questions, and I'm pretty sure you will pick up on this new language without even realizing it (or any new, weird, intimidating thing).  Discover these new "objects" along with your students, and that wheel will keep on spinning as you pull away in your newly built hydraulic unicycle.


Push the button.
No, push THAT button.
Yes, that's the one.

Now, push these three buttons at the same time.
Hold for 5 seconds.

Did you get your Doritos?  Did the PRAM reset?  How about the WiFi...does it work now?

What combination of buttons does it take to regain control?

Humans be humans.  Things be tings.
Metal be metal.  Diamonds be bling.


Create Your Own Learning.

Behind every innovation lies three "actions" of design: THINK, BUILD, COMMUNICATE.  No successful product has ever been presented to the world without these three components.  Whether it be a new type of blender, waterproof binoculars or a micro-chip clip, there exists a process of thought, craftsmanship and instruction leading to successful integration and acceptance in our society.  One of these components cannot exist alone.  Even with a near-perfect design, prototype and distribution model, who will be the end user?  How will they find relevancy with the product?  Will they have resources, or an avenue of communication when assistance is needed?

Right now, imagine this "product" is LEARNING.  Forget about the latest watch or a new form of transportation.  Let's get non-tangible.

As humans, we are constantly curious and easily stimulated by the outside world.  Children's minds are like sponges, but they lack the life experience to navigate life's hairpin turns.  Adults often forget the playfulness of discovery, lingering instead on immediate goals and the cause/effect of quick decisions.  If you were the creator of your own learning (as a product of sorts), how might these three components integrate to a personalized and unique innovation?  Consider the following questions:

Think: What inspires you? (How can you best collect and retain information?)
Build: How will you strengthen your understanding? (Can you draw, listen, watch, present?)
Communicate: How will you empower others with this discovery? (How can you explain your ideas with passion?)

When you were a young student, how would you have responded to these questions?
How would you respond TODAY?

No matter what "hat" you wear on a daily basis, we are all students, teachers and participants in life.  Learning is something we should be thinking about, building and expressing constantly.  Isn't that the goal for most of us, to feel so deeply engaged with the world that we can't help but live life to the fullest?

We all have the ability to create our own learning.  Let's ACT on it.

How To Ask a PC to Retire (Nicely)

This year at our school, we have rather successfully transitioned from about 75% Macs to about 95% Macs for faculty/student laptops (sweet!).  Not that all Windows computers are bogus, but since we are a 1:1 iPad JK-8 school, management and workflows between Apple devices is MUCH easier without additional OS's and UI's.


    since we do not have a full-time IT/Networking director on campus, our Director of Technology and myself (Tech Support Specialist with heavy Apple teaching background) will often need to troubleshoot/fix this minority breed of PC (among other heavier IT "let's figure this out on the fly" tasks):

I will start to post these "hack" WINS on this blog on occasion...mainly to show how YES, no matter your previous training or age, you CAN learn new skills and APPLY them!  #highfive

TODAY's HACK (Emily):

Device: Lenovo T61P Laptop
Issue: Won't power on


Set up laptop, plugged in to power.  Press Power button (No action).  

*Apple Brain: Reset PRAM?  Do PC's have a PRAM?

How do I reset PRAM on a PC?  Err...I'll just Google "Lenovo T61p won't turn on..."

This article was deemed most helpful.  Ajkula66 was my guide.

Winning Solution:

Pulled out battery, unplugged power, pressed the Power button 10.  TIMES.  Plugged back in to power...IGNITION!  I'm pretty sure this won't be an easy guarantee for much longer.  How do you ask a nice PC with decent manners to think about retiring?  Thoughts in the comments please!

Now, to figure out Windows Backup...(hehe)

Betas Aren't So Fun Sometimes.

Today I was set out to "clean up" my bookmarks in Google Chrome.  Not a huge deal.

However, there was a previous user logged in to Chrome on a previous laptop, and I was not aware until I had already imported ALL bookmarks into Chrome on my newer laptop.

Now, a crazy folder called "Other Bookmarks" thought it could just chill on the Bookmarks Bar and hang on to oodles of random duplicated bookmarks that I did not save.  Naturally, I went to the "Bookmarks Manager" to try and investigate.  No such luck, since that crazy folder did not appear in the newer Chrome Beta Bookmarks Manager.

After a little Gigging (Google digging), I came upon this awesome article.

After disabling the Beta version of Bookmarks Manager (and doing a little fancy dancy), I was able to view a more comprehensive and complete list of everything.  The "Other Bookmarks" folder was present and available.  I deleted ALL bookmarks inside of it and WHHHHOOOOSH!  It disappeared.


Hillbrook iPad App Distribution (2015)

Last spring, I started working at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos in a newly-created "Technology Support Specialist Role." Hillbrook is a JK-8 private school in Los Gatos, CA, with about 320 students. It is a 1:1 iPad school (Grade K-8).  

One primary responsibility as part of my role is to manage the MDM (mobile device management) system and process at the school. This system includes tracking device inventory and distributing apps to appropriate student/faculty "groups." The system we use is JAMF, along with Apple's DEP enrollment program. This year, the system was very complex, since about one third of our iPads did not qualify for the DEP program (iPad 2's), and therefore could not be automatically enrolled in JAMF. Also, I made the decision to change the way we purchased apps for the school, choosing Managed App Distribution via Apple's VPP.

Below are some comments and observations (written in early fall 2015) that may give insight to those that are managing a mixed iPad + MDM + DEP + VPP (Managed) solution:

Hillbrook iPad App Distribution

With a combination of iPads within the Apple DEP guidelines (cut-off March, 2011/Institutional purchase requirement), and those outside of the guidelines (all iPad 2’s- purchased prior to March, 2011, some non-institutional), the Hillbrook Technology Department is using a custom distribution method in order to create a more streamlined user experience.  

Required for Device Management and App Distribution:

Device Configuration (specific settings/restrictions) + Enrollment in a MDM

Apple DEP (Device Enrollment Program): New June 2014

  • Linked to MDM system (JAMF)
  • Enrolls qualified devices in the MDM automatically and installs configuration profiles through a “Pre-stage Enrollment.”
  • Prior to this, it was necessary to use Apple Configurator to manually install configuration profiles, etc. Then, devices were manually enrolled in the MDM.

MDM (Mobile Device Management) System: JAMF, v. 9.4

  • Database was updated and re-generated for this year.  
  • Devices were enrolled and User accounts were created manually for each individual, including lower school iPads.
  • LDAP will help alleviate this manual process in the future!

iPad Deployment:

Pre-stage Enrollment (DEP devices only)
Configuration Profiles (Distributed after a device is enrolled)
Smart/Static Groups (for distribution)

Hillbrook’s App Distribution Process:


  1. iPad should already be enrolled by tech department
    1. Some iPads may have been missed
    2. If profile set is deleted, enrollment is deleted (for that device)
  2. Linked to device, not end user
  3. Allows for inventory collection
    1. Device Type/Model
    2. Serial Number
    3. Asset Tag (manually entered)
    4. Software Version/IP Address
    5. Find My iPhone is Enabled/Disabled
    6. Existing Apps (as well as if they are managed apps or not)
    7. Battery Level
    8. Available/Used Storage Space
  4. Supervised vs. Unsupervised (Supervision provides more control over restrictions and the user experience.)


  1. Email or Pop-up message (depending on invitation scope settings)
  2. Links the USER to app distribution
    1. Based on the Apple I.D., not device serial number
    2. User needs to exist in the database (manually/auto-entered via LDAP), with username, first/last name, email address.  Additional characteristics can be added for purposes of scoping/searching, but are not required.
  3. Apple I.D. Linking
    1. After opening invitation link, user logs in to the App Store with Apple I.D./password
    2. Apps (assuming they are scoped appropriately) will appear for that user in the “Purchased” section of the App Store.  
    3. If auto-app downloads is turned on in the iTunes Store Settings, apps will begin to appear on the home screen.
    4. Apps not installed on the iPad will appear in the “Not on This iPad” section of “Purchased.”

App Distribution

  1. Apps are pushed to certain Users depending on the scope
    1. Smart/Static User Groups
      1. Used for scoping apps to students/teachers based on characteristics/key words in their User profile.  
    2. Smart/Static Mobile Device Groups
      1. Used for scoping configuration profiles (separate from enrollment profiles) to devices based on characteristics/key words about the device.
  2. Apps can be taken away after a 30 day grace period, depending on needs for the school.

App Management User Experience

  1. Apps can still be moved around/deleted by User
    1. If app is deleted, it is still accessible in the Purchased section of the App Store, as long as their Apple I.D. is logged in on that device.
  2. User experience does not change, only distribution changes