Friday, February 27, 2015

"Failure to Signal..."

Our blogger today is Eric Sieferman, Principal at Cascade Middle School in the Mill Creek Community School Corporation.

Find out how Google Sites MAY get you out of a citation for a traffic violation!


I have experienced countless sleepless nights in my administrative career when I inexplicably awoke in the middle of the night and began to ponder all that was required for me to do in order to prepare for the day, plan for the next big school event, or organize myself to facilitate professional development with our teachers.  The more I thought about these issues at some ungodly hour the faster my brain would shift gears into a rate and pace that would make Usain Bolt take notice.  Because everything I needed to sort out my work-related thoughts was on my work computer, the only solution when these thoughts limited my visit with the Sandman was to crawl out of bed, prepare myself for my day, and head into the office.

One of these sleepless nights was on a cold evening in November of 2009.  I awoke around 2:00 a.m. and was headed toward my office around 2:45 a.m. wearing a shirt and tie with my lunch riding next to me in the passenger seat.  On my 25 minute commute to work I travel through a very small town with one main intersection where the liquor store, bank, local mechanic, and the "F-O-O store" (the "D" fell off years ago) are all located.  I stopped at the 4-way stop sign and proceeded one block south where I connect with a county road that takes me to my school.  At approximately 3:00 a.m. I apparently failed to turn on my turn signal as I merged on to that county road.  I became aware of my oversight when a Sheriff's Deputy who was hidden from my immediate view noticed and informed me when he pulled me over a mile after I completed my turn.

There I was at 3:00 a.m., in professional dress during a driving rain storm on my way to work and pulled over for "failure to signal.”  It took some serious negotiating skill on my behalf to convince the officer that I was the principal at the local middle school, and I was heading in to work at that hour. I'm positive that he did not believe my story initially.  After running my license and checking my plates and after a few minutes of rain-drenched conversation, he let me go with a verbal warning.

With Google Drive you no longer have to worry about how to access files that may be on your work machine or stored within your local intranet when you are not on campus.  With Google Sites, those creative thoughts and ideas that awaken you at 2:30 in the morning are just a Chrome click away and available to you from the comfort of your own living room!  Google Sites has become my "go to" tool in order to present information, collect work/ideas, curate content, facilitate professional development, share resources, and organize projects.  When your work is complete all you have to do is share a single link or URL address with your audience, and they have access to view or edit the content. 

The purpose of this blog entry is to share with you how Google Sites have helped frame much of the professional development my teachers and I have experienced on our journey to becoming digital leaders.  Perhaps more importantly, Google Sites will help you avoid getting pulled over by law enforcement officials at 3:00 a.m. for "failure to signal" while you are on your way to work!  Here is how…

  • Google Sites has significantly decreased the need to meet with staff or send all of those "reminder" e-mails.  The teachers at my school know that MOST things they want or need to know are going to be displayed on our Staff Site. They check it daily as they check their e-mail.

  • One of the best examples illustrating the collaborative power of Google Sites is in our collection of digital and flipped lessons. The intent of these exercises (repeated in February of 2014, in May of 2014, in September of 2014, again in January of 2015) were to encourage teachers to try new tech tools and explore how technology could be used to engage and enhance the teaching and learning process. Teachers created, implemented, and facilitated digital lessons and documented their experiences in these sites.

  • In May of 2014 about 90% of my staff were not Twitter users. I wanted them to set up an account and explore how powerful Twitter can be as a personalized professional learning community.  I just knew that if I could get them to see the value that they would become as hooked on Twitter as I was.  We only conducted our "Two Tweets to Share" activity a couple of times because follow up conversation with my staff demonstrated to me that they "got it" and were well on their way to becoming regular Twitter users.
  • The Google Chrome Store is one of my favorite sites.  There are thousands of tips and tools that will enhance your productivity or they way you teach and the way your students learn.  Visiting the Chrome Store is like shopping at your favorite retail store with a huge gift card in hand!  In order to acquaint our teachers with the resources available in the Chrome Store, we created this site entitled "Chrome Store Shopping" which corresponded with a PD experience in March of 2014.  We decided to repeat the activity in February of 2015 with an updated collection of our favorite discoveries.
  • Google Sites can also be used as a way to curate content.  A handful of our teachers read Flipping Your Classroom by Johathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams in the winter of 2014.  This book served as a guide for our teachers who conducted several PD sessions with our staff in the spring and fall of 2015.  Here is a collection of flipped classroom resources that was used as part of one of those PD sessions.
  • We have used Google Sites too as a reflective experience to collect our emerging philosophies of technology integration in August of 2014.  The idea behind this activity was to challenge teachers to begin thinking about who they are as digital leaders and instructors.
  • We participate in an experience once per month we call "Instructional Rounds.”  The idea is to get teachers to visit their colleagues' classrooms and provide their colleague with some constructive and positive feedback relating to some specific component of the RISE Rubric. Here is a Google Site that was used to facilitate our Instructional Rounds in January of 2015.
  • My building became a 1:1 Chromebook building in October of 2014.  Prior to that date, the decision to "go" 1:1 was made in September of 2013 and a committee selected the Chromebook as the device in January of 2014.  Here is a site we produced in order to introduce the Chromebook to our school community.
  • Because our students all now have their own devices, we decided to use that to our advantage and eliminate reading the daily announcements over the school's public address system as part of our daily routine.  Students have all bookmarked the Daily Announcements and check it frequently each week.  This student site contains a few other student oriented tools such as a collection of Chromebook Resources to help them learn about their devices.  
  • Google Sites can be used as a presentation tool.  The advantage provided by Sites is that you can provide attendees with the URL in a follow up e-mail or on a business card, and they have access the content in your presentation long after the presentation concludes.  Here is a presentation that a colleague and I provided to a group of Butler University aspiring principals in the fall of 2014, and here is a presentation a team and I distributed at an Indiana e-Learning conference in the summer of 2014.
  • Google Sites could almost be used as a Learning Management System (LMS) to facilitate learning.  I took an online class offered from Five Star Technology Solutions in the fall of 2014 that was just fantastic!   I was afraid that I would not have access to the course content and resources once I completed the course.  So, I began collecting all of the content presented in the course that was available online for my future reference.  The layout of this site resembles chapters in a book which corresponded with the modules in the course which was entitled, "The Leadership Mindset" (this link will illustrate my meaning).
  • A second example of Google Sites as an LMS is presented in this middle school language arts site.  The site was created to guide students through reading the novel The Giver including resources, videos, audio readings, and related assignments.
  • My final example is a work in progress and will continue through the spring of 2015. Chromebooks were introduced to students in grades 5-8 in October of 2014.  Students in grades 9-12 will be issued Chromebooks in August of 2015.  We decided that it would be beneficial to essentially begin vertically aligning technology skills students had from grade level to grade level.  For example, we wanted to help the 9th grade teachers prepare for their Chromebook student launch by illustrating what it was exactly that our 8th grade students knew.  If 8th grade students were all proficient in a web tool like Socrative, we wanted the 9th grade teachers to be aware.  Likewise, our 6th grade teachers wanted to know what their incoming students were exposed to as 5th graders.  This site is a collaborative effort to identify which tech skills were introduced, are emerging, and have been mastered by our students from one grade to the next.

I hope this entry has provided you with some insight on the versatility of  Google Sites and how it can be used for professional development.  If you are a Google Sites enthusiast like me and have additional ideas on how the tool can be used, I'd love to hear about them!  

Until then, don't forget those turn signals!


Creating a Google Site is not much more challenging than typing a document.  Google Sites is free within your Google Apps for Education suite and requires no HTML programming knowledge or skill.  It comes with similar collaborative options as most other Google products do.  And, it is easy to insert any GAFE created artifact (such as Docs, Slides, Calendars, Sheets, Forms, etc.) or any image stored in your Google Drive directly into the Google Site.

If you'd like to learn more about Google Sites and how to get started with making your own site, check out some of these resources:

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