Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Dr. Will Show: Exploring Student Helpdesk Teams

I was honored to be have a chat with Dr. Will Deyamport, III last night about my students' growing pilot program, Rockets Help Desk.  We talked about the benefits of implementing student tech teams, both for students and for the broader school community.  Click here to see the full post on his blog and watch the video interview below.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Everyone Wins: Kids & Pros in the Cloud

As part of the student-driven pilot program we've been building this year, Rockets Help Desk, I've worked to connect my students with technology professionals from all over the country.  Up until now this was done primarily via video chats. Little did I know, we had a technology leader right in our back yard.

Thanks to some connections I made at the Blue Ribbon National Conference in December 2014, I found out that NaviSite's flagship facility is only two towns away from our school.  Thanks to people from both Blue Ribbon and NaviSite, 17 of my tech-enthusiast students were able to get an insider's look at cloud storage, security, and strategy from the pros.  Here's a peek at the Andover, Massachusetts facility we visited.  Click to watch.

Inside NaviSite's Andover, MA Data Center from NaviSite on Vimeo.

First, the students were brought to a professional board room with professional presentation technology. They felt special and respected by leaders in the industry.

A photo posted by Kerry Gallagher (@kerryhawk02) on

Thanks to Jeffrey Dorey's thorough and thoughtful talk on cyber threats and data security, the students now have a better understanding of who is accessing, or could access, the information they look for, save, and create on any device.  He even explained the breakthrough of VMware and how data packets can be transferred and stored better now because of this genius idea.  Here is the data packet simulation the kids experienced... with oranges!

A video posted by Kerry Gallagher (@kerryhawk02) on

Soon after, we were treated to tours of the power and data-storage sides of the facility. One of the most common comments from the kids involved surprise that "the cloud" was actually a row of black cabinets filled with servers.  As Mr. Dorey warned them on the slide below from his presentation.

The kids were buzzing with excitement as we debriefed in our own conference room back at our high school.  But I truly knew it had been a worthwhile experience when I received this email from Parker 2 days later, one of the students in attendance. He wrote:

Mrs. Gallagher,

I would like to thank you and the generous people from NaviSite for allowing us to come visit them for the intriguing learning experience on Friday. I am very thankful that you chose me as one of the students to accompany you on this excursion. In my opinion that field trip was the most interesting, informative, and most pertinent to my life so far in my schooling career. History museums are great, but learning about technology that influences my life every day is an unparalleled experience. Not only was the facility itself, in its operation and state of the art technology interesting, but the people who worked there were also incredibly informing, and had great personal experiences to share with us. The presentation at the beginning of the field trip was incredibly interesting, I do not think I have ever been as entranced by an over hour and a half presentation as I was on Friday. Again, thank you, and the people of NaviSite very much for presenting me with this opportunity to learn about aspects of my life that I utilize every day.

Sincerely, Parker Webb

P.S. If you could pass this along to someone at NaviSite to express my thanks to them, I would appreciate it. Thank You.

Of course, I did pass it along.

The most important thing I learned from this experience is that my efforts to make school a bridge to the professional world are valid. School is definitely meant to prepare kids for what will face them when they start their careers, but giving them real world experiences must be a vital part of this preparation.  The world awaits beyond school walls. Our students should have access to that world as much as possible.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Video Chats Break Down Classroom Walls

One of my favorite ways to connect my students with the experts and resources outside of our school is the live video chat. Read my post with Beyond Pencils, the Smarter Schools Project blog, about Google Hangouts they've had with leaders in edtech, museum historians, and teachers and students from other schools.

Click this screenshot to read the post.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kids as Tour Guides: Integrating Student-Created Video into History Class

I'm so proud of the hard work of my 9th grade 18th century history class on this most recent project.  EdSurge thought it was great too! Read about it and see some examples of student work by clicking the cover shot below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Black History Month with Tech

I was honored to work with two other great history teachers, Ken Halla and Kevin Zahner, from across the country to author this article on how we use technology in the classroom to intensify our students' learning experience.  We all work with the Smarter Schools Project and were published in an article from SmartBrief.  Click the screenshot below to check it out.

Click this screenshot to read the full article.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The 'Fifty States Project' Book Has Arrived

Snowed in? Looking for some inspiration of the edtech variety?

Click this book cover to buy this awesome book!

EdSurge Associate Editor Mary Jo Madda has been leading an incredible project over the past year.  Her goal was to get educator contributors from all 50 states to write about their inspirational examples of tech integration in schools.  The result is this impressive guide on the EdSurge site.  The list of writers is impressive and includes people I admire quite a bit like Tom Murray and Pam Moran.
The many faces of the 'Fifty States Project'
I'm honored to be one of the faces in the flag and that my article about my students' infographic project last spring is a part of the guide.

If you sometimes like to read real tangible books, EdSurge has brought you one!  Get your copy of From School to Shining School: 52 Stories from Educators Across the U.S. in a full color paperback book.  I ordered mine today.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Give the Words a Face & the Face a Personality

Crafting study of the American system of slavery for my 15 year old sophomores is always daunting.  Slavery is an affront to human dignity.  Teenagers feel little connection to this level of depravity.  I wanted them to experience an emotional reaction to the antebellum slavery debate, rather than to just learn about it as an obligatory part of their studies.

To that end, today we did a document study of three different primary source opinions on the morality of slavery thanks to excerpts compiled by The DBQ Project.

The Sources

We looked at excerpts from:

The Task

  1. I divided the class into small groups of 3-4 students and each group was assigned one of the 3 documents. But they were told they could not read the documents yet.  We have been working all year on analyzing sources using the methodology recommended by the Stanford History Education Group.  Naturally the first step is sourcing so they looked at reliable websites like and for information about their figure's opinion on slavery and any actions they took to spread their beliefs prior to the Civil War.  As small groups they drafted a one paragraph summary.
  2. Next step was to find a portrait of their figure.  It is important for students to see the face of the historical figures they study.  Often it makes events and ideas more personal.  They saved a digital copy of these portraits for later use (see step 4 below).
  3. Finally, they got to read the document.
    • They read it once through.
    • They identified and looked up definitions of unfamiliar words and phrases.
    • They chose the thesis statement from the document and then rewrote it in their own words to show understanding.
  4. Lastly, I asked them to choose key words and phrases that really capture the mood, intent, and message of the document. They used Skitch to annotate the portrait with the words that were either spoken by their figure or were used to describe their figure. 

The Results

That last step really made the words and the people behind them come alive for my students.  One remarked about how Frederick Douglass's eyes in his portrait now looked as if they were accusing his audience of being hypocrites.

A student frustrated with George Fitzhugh's opinion said he looked like an oblivious wealthy blowhard, rather than simply a well-dressed gentleman.

And finally, they suggested that John Brown looked like a slightly deranged but determined man ready to do anything for his principles.

The portraits gave the documents identity, but the words from the documents transformed the portraits into real people.  They interacted with the men responsible for the words on the page and developed a relationship with them.  My hope is that my students did not merely learn history, they experienced history.