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  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Binder Planning Model 


    I’m stepping into a new role this year and I’ve already found myself getting pulled into the Binder Planning Model. You know the one, where the entire year is laid out in the binder, and you’re just turning the pages.

    To me, it’s a metaphor for school planning in general. In schools, we like to organize our thinking around binders. A sequential entry of to-dos, dates, events and directions for everything that happens throughout the year, from day 1 to day 185, in one place. A binder, sitting on a shelf, within arm’s reach at a moment’s notice. It’s a practice that has perpetuated for generations.

    One which reminds me of that old teaching adage, “Teach 25 years, not one year 25 times”. When I was new to teaching, I was handed a binder for the year and told, “here you go”. I dutifully took one look at it, realized it was mostly out of date and set about rebuilding the content from the ground up. The one thing I took from the binder was the general course outline. I put that outline into an online learning management system (Moodle at the time, I pre-date Google Classroom) and proceeded to pull in a ton of relevant content from many different sources, which I continuously updated, modified and adjusted every year.

    Just as I didn’t want to fall into the same routine in the classroom year after year, I don’t want to fall into the same administrative routines year after year now.

    Yes, new standards come along and new regulations are passed, and we dutifully update pages in the binder to keep current (we all do that, right?). But the binder format itself is limiting. It’s hard to adapt and update multiple copies with fidelity. It promotes sequential thinking and “sticking to the plan” even in the face of obvious need for adaptation. The binder models a “gate keeper” mode of information sharing that doesn’t apply in the connected world we now live and work. Granting access to multiple people requires lots of manual intervention (copy and send the green pages, replace page 20 with green 20, etc…). The content remains locked away on a shelf, unsearchable, and only referenced by a few. It’s a planning tool from the 20th (19th?) Century. We need a new planning model for the 21st Century.

    What if we threw away the binder and every year we had a conversation about what we should do, how we should do it and why we should do it. What if instead of a binder, we had a live planning document, a shared google doc accessible to the entire staff. A scrolling sea of infinite planning possibilities. What could we accomplish if every year there was a blank slate with a running history of the years before. Not a pre-set script to be repeated, but a knowledge base on which to build and transform for they year ahead?

    I think it’s time to move the annual department plan from a binder to a collaborative planning doc. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Rachel Medeiros 8:30 am on September 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I love these thoughts. It’s so easy to get sucked in to the binder. However, I’d also say this same mentality can easily happen with a Google Doc of lesson planning. Our Google Docs die sometimes instead of staying up to date. I wonder what would happen if we began every year with time to build lessons from scratch, thinking about our goals for each unit. We might still carry things over, but we’d probably get rid of a lot of things too. I’m excited to be doing a Fall CUE session on this. :)

      • Erica 4:34 pm on December 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        I can’t even imagine what it would be to start the year with time to build lessons from scratch – It would be so nice to have a little time to evaluate what to keep and what to get rid of.

    • Joel 4:21 pm on October 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Wow!! I absolutely love this idea!! I use Google Docs, and Google Forms in my classroom with my students. My teaching partners and myself have a google doc that we share and it is a wonderful way to collaborate and share ideas!! I was even thinking more along the lines of creating a Google folder teachers across the nation could add to for their specific grade level or subject. Think about all the amazing ideas that would be posted from people all over the globe. Love your post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    STEAM Program Goals for Students 


    I’ve been thinking a lot about programs lately (new occupational hazard I guess). After edCamp last weekend, STEAM has been front of mind. I tend to think of programs from the perspective of what do we want to see students doing. For a 1:1 program, it basically comes down to accessing information, collaborating, creating and presenting using modern tools. For a STEAM program, maybe it would look something like this:

    • Problem Solving
    • Explaining
    • Problem Finding
    • Designing
    • Creating
    • Building
    • Presenting
    • And having fun

    What do you think a STEAM program should look like for kids?

    • rebecca girard 7:31 am on September 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This is an excellent list! One more thing I would add…student directed. Engaging STEAM programs allow students to explore what fascinates them most about a certain topic. I have experienced this every time I give students the opportunity to direct their learning. Currently, my students are working on providing a solution to the IDEO Challenge to reduce food waste. Students are developing the 4Cs as they explore, innovate, design and iterate. Their path of learning is determined by what has sparked their curiosity. It’s also a blast to teach this way since I learn throughout the process. I am always curious to see what students will create.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Data Trap 

    There was a trap we found ourselves falling into back in the STAR testing days with data. We spent the majority of our time and energy focused on the kids just below the line. The ones close to being proficient. The ones that theoretically should be easy to move. That was how we (and many others) moved district wide performance and attempted to avoid the dreaded PI (program improvement). Targeted intervention with a subset of kids. The bubble kids. For many districts it worked. But the unintended consequence was that it left lots of kids behind.

    I will never forget a principal at a school in a district I won’t name who told a group of parents that only kids that scored just below the line were eligible for their after school support programs, because there was no point in providing services to kids that were so far below the line they wouldn’t be able to move enough to count. Straight up. Seriously?

    I’m writing this in part to remind myself not to fall into the same trap. All kids deserve our very best. Not just the one’s closest to a line on a test.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Titles, Schmitles. 

    I have a new title. It’s a mouth full and when people ask what it is, it actually takes my brain a few seconds to spin up to say it.

    Associate Superintendent, Learning & Innovation

    On more than one occasion, once I get it out, people have commented that it’s kind of cool or that it’s different. I tell them it’s totally made up and that basically I’m now responsible for Tech and EdServices. People generally get it from there but I find the initial pause interesting.

    Learning & Innovation seems to throw people for a loop. As opposed to a more traditional title with Educational Services or Curriculum & Instruction in there, both of which carry a pre-existing set of expectations. Learning and Innovation are both in there for a reason. They both have purpose. Because while I don’t personally think titles make much of a difference, they do carry a message. The words in Titles can remind us of what’s important and where our focus should be.

    Learning because as a school district we should be about Learning. Student Learning. Teacher Learning. Principal Learning. Staff Learning. Parent and Community Learning. School should represent a hub of life long learning in practice.

    Innovation because thanks to the Internet, the world we live in is smaller than it’s ever been and as a consequence, it’s changing must faster than it ever has. Innovation because in our part of the world (Silicon Valley), Innovation is in our community’s DNA. Innovation because it promotes outside the box thinking, reflection and analysis of process and goals and practice. Innovation because learning isn’t about standing still, it’s about moving.

    So I’ve got a new title and more responsibility, but really, it’s just put a label to what I’ve been all about for a while now, Learning and Innovation.

  • Andrew T Schwab 7:05 am on August 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    My #edCampSFBay 2016 Reflection 


    I was reminded this weekend why I love edcamps so much.

    After a challenging few weeks in a new role, I was very much looking forward to a relaxing weekend of sleeping in and tinkering around the house when a calendar pop up reminded me that edCampSFBay was less than 12 hours away.

    I took one look at the 8am start time, quickly backwards mapped the 40 minute drive up to Notre Dame High School and figured I’d have to wake up around 6:30 to get their in time for coffee and bagels. On a Saturday. After a long week of back to school.

    I started coming up with excuses not to go but seeing how I’d missed the last few edCampSFBays, I set the alarm, woke up early on Saturday and headed out for an edCamp, SFBay style.

    I’m glad I did. From 8-3 (and for about an hour more at the after party), I was reminded why edCamps are awesome. I had a chance to catch up with some #eduawesome folks in the morning, sat in on a session about flexible learning environments and makerspaces in one of Notre Dame’s pilot furniture classrooms, caught another session about using Video academically with the one and only @rushtonh and then was in a great session about learning support for ELL, SPED and GATE students. All this before lunch!

    Over lunch I had a chance to connect with two educators about their makerspace programs, who I will be connecting our STEAM folks with immediately. After lunch, I sat in on a fascinating session about teaching reading and differentiation for literacy. I also bumped into a couple teachers from my district and may have said yes to a few requests…


    Rather than being tired at the end of the day, I was refreshed. A day of sharing and learning was just what I needed to reflect and recharge for the days ahead. Far from being an exercise in effort (although getting there took some), edcamp was a welcome state of mind.

    If you are an educator and you’ve never been to an edCamp before, go. If you’re like me and it’s been a while, go. CUE Rockstar Camps and big conferences like ISTE are cool, but there’s just something about sitting in a room having a conversation and sharing ideas that’s so darn powerful.

    • rebecca girard 12:24 pm on August 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Andrew, I’m so glad you could come. This was one of the most valuable EdCamps experiences I have had. The educators were all so dedicated and passionate about teaching and learning. I spent 8+ hours making connections, learning tips and tricks, and forming new ideas. I would love to stay connected as your district and my school continue to change our learning spaces with different furniture!

  • Andrew T Schwab 6:49 pm on August 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Goals for Kid1 

    This question was on a back to school parent form from one of Kid1’s teachers. My wife asked me to fill it out…

    Goals for Kid1

  • Andrew T Schwab 9:56 am on August 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Inbox Zero Update 

    It’s been almost two months since I wrote about my Inbox Zero experiment and I am happy to share that I’m consistently hitting Inbox Zero every day. It does take some work but as an added benefit, I’ve been limiting my “email processing” to 2-3 times during the day so I am not constantly stuck in email all day (I do respond in real time from my phone, however). The system held up during a conference, which is usually when I get buried, keeps the weekend email manageable and survived a flood of back to school emails. I cleared out all my backlogged Stars and now use them for those high profile action items. I’ve also added a few To Do labels for my team so I can follow up on assigned tasks (team task management is the next big thing to crack). My “Needs Action” label has been working great. It’s the first place I go in the morning to see what I can knock out and it’s the last place I go in the evening to see what’s on the plate for the next day.

    Of course, just as I figure out all this Inbox management stuff, Google goes ahead and finally announces Inbox for GAFE accounts, classic…

    I like the system I’m using now. It’s simple and it works. If the Gmail app for Android supported Send+Archive, I think it might be perfect. I’m in no hurry to jump into Inbox right away. Maybe I’ll enable it on my personal Gmail account (cause it’s still a mess) and give it a go there.


  • Andrew T Schwab 7:15 am on June 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Finding Inbox Zero 

    My personal gmail account is unusable. I wade through the sludge occasionally, but mostly, it’s a lost cause. I really want to try Inbox, but since it’s not available for GAFE accounts, I’m not ready to make the change only to have to go back and forth between old and new.

    Google Inbox

    Needless to say, I have been searching for an Inbox Zero solution almost since I started using gmail. To date, I’ve tried filters and labels, I’ve tried different apps, Sortd being the latest but I’ve never found a solution that worked across desktop and mobile with a simple workflow that didn’t require a lot of effort. Many solutions try to make the Inbox more than email and while the allure of a task list or file cabinet in gmail is strong, at the end of the day, what I really need is a way to make sure I’m staying on top of the demands of my email. I was tired of “losing” email requests for technology, new furniture, help and the like. I even went to far as to switch from iOS to Android to get the native gmail app experience on my phone. It got better, but despite a more native gmail experience, the wall of email continued to threaten to bury me.

    Enter Principal Todd (who almost certainly gets more email than me and never has a concern in the world about his Inbox) and his “duh, you moron” suggestion to use “Send & Archive” and Stars to manage the deluge. First, per Todd’s instructions, I enabled the “Send & Archive” button in gmail settings. A magical thing this. It means I can archive an email, or conversation, as soon as I’ve replied. If someone replies back, it pops back into the Inbox, but it doesn’t live there, clogging up the pipes (I wish it worked on mobile).

    Send & Archive

    Then I went off the reservation a bit and deleted all of the filters and labels I had originally put in place to “manage” the flow of email into my Inbox. I kept the ones that diverted the listerv emails,  obviously, but the rest are now toast. I did keep one label, my Needs Action throwback. I use it as a place holder for when I have to take information out of gmail and put it somewhere else. This is one of the places I still struggle a bit.

    As for stars, I’m still cleaning up from a starring binge period where I starred every email I needed to follow up on (which was like almost all of them). Once I get them cleared out, I think I’m going to use Stars for “send info somewhere else” and I might be able to lose the Needs Action label altogether. For now, they’re the legacy part of this equation.

    I’m also using a combination of Google Sheets and Docs to track different request. Information that comes in via email and needs a place to go ends up there. Thanks to Joe Ayala, we’ve also started using Slack with the team, and I now find myself relegating ToDo’s for my team which require action to Slack rather than email, because the message is visible to all and can be “checked off” when completed. It took me a bit of time to figure out the relationship between email, slack and google docs, but it’s starting to coalesce nicely.

    Every day this week I hit Inbox Zero and as of now, I spent about 5 minutes clearing the 10 Needs Action emails out which were just waiting for me to put their information elsewhere (down to only two!). This whole process has been a lot of work and I definitely over did it with trying to keep up (I felt like I was in email constantly). With school out now, the flow should go down and I’ll have some time to tweak things. I’m considering setting up a few daily “desktop” email times where I go through the batch, rather than constantly trying to react in real time. I’m still able to reply to the important stuff on Mobile and archive where needed, but it’s not as efficient as via the web.

    I’d really like the “Send & Archive” option on the mobile gmail app. That would make the circle complete but for now, I found Inbox Zero without third party add ons are apps. Yay!


    • cyanoticblue 9:02 am on June 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Ever thought of using Googles Multiple Inboxes in Labs? Worth a Google search – Doesnt help with mobile device workflow I am afraid. Defo set desktop time, worked for me, make email work for you, not the otherway round!

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on June 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    My New Favorite Thing 

    Apple Pencil

    The 9.7″ iPad Pro arrived this week and I think the picture says it all. The ink experience on this thing is amazing. I’m an old college rule notebook note taker, and in the modern laptop era, I never really made the switch to typing notes because I like to doodle. Enter the iPad Pro 12.9 and a glimmer of hope, but at 1.5lbs, not the feather weight daily carry I was hoping for. At just under 1lbs, the 9.7″ iPad Pro has solved that particular issue.

    The 9.7″ iPad Pro is fast and when paired with the Pencil, it’s a doodling note takers dream. It’s also an amazing tablet for art, as my kids have quickly discovered. When I bring it home, they instantly grab it and intuitively start being creative. Finger, shminger, we’re made to use tools and the Apple Pencil is so responsive, it might as well be laying down graphite on the screen.

    That’s not to say everything is perfect. I’ve noticed little things that show how Apple isn’t quite putting the same thoughtfulness into end user experience that it used to. The way you’re supposed to charge the Pencil by plugging it into the iPad is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, it looks lame sticking out the bottom of the iPad and you can’t really use the iPad while the Pencil is charging like that. Alternatively, their is the little adapter that comes with the Pencil that you can use to charge it from a regular lightning cable but can you say, going to lose it in the first 5 minutes? The cap on the Pencil’s lightening port rattles ever so slightly, as if someone left a few too many decimal places on the tolerances for the slot. But the biggest issue with the Pencil is storing it with the iPad. Absent a case with a loop option or a magnetic attraction docking scenario, the Pencil feels like an add on to the iPad as an experience. I’m also looking for a case with a hand loop that will make the iPad comfortable to hold one handed while using the Pencil. Pressing down with the Pencil and holding it one handed is a bit awkward on a naked iPad.

    Having said that, the Pencil/iPad Pro technology is a home run. Now if only Apple would make an iPad/Pencil combo for $350 and convince SBAC to develop a tablet friendly version of their online assessments, they’d have a real shot at taking on the Chromebook in the classroom. For now, the iPad Pro is going to be relegated to piloting with our Teacher Leaders and in specific graphic intensive programs (STEAM!). As a general purpose learning platform, it’s too expensive and the parts just aren’t integrated together well enough to survive the classroom.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on June 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Setup Chromebooks For Testing And Learning 

    Just the other day I was talking with a district about SBAC (CAASPP) testing on Chromebooks. They were commenting that it was such a pain having to switch Chromebooks from single-app kiosk mode back to regular login mode so the kids could use them for learning. To which I paused and said, “You do know you can just push the app to the login screen and then the kids can use them for testing or learning whenever they want, right?”


    With Chromebooks, SBAC testing and learning go together like peanut butter and chocolate

    Using this configuration, we leave the AirTest app available all year round. That means we typically only have to worry about managing the OS version upgrades during testing. This is a great, low impact option for us because it means our Chromebooks aren’t bricks sitting in carts when testing isn’t taking place in the classroom during the testing window and we don’t have to move Chromebooks in and out of OUs to enable public sessions or kiosk modes to “prepare” for testing. We can spend our time making sure the Chromebooks are updated to the right OS version, hold a charge and don’t have broken parts so we’re good to go on the first day of testing.

    If this sounds like the route you’d like to take, read up on Scenario 1 from this Google Support page. It’s pretty straight forward. When students power on the Chromebook, they will be prompted with the option to login to their GAFE account and get to work or they can open the app launcher (which needs some management features please, but that’s a topic for another post) and select the AirSecure Browser, which will magically launch as a Kiosk App, no login required.

    Best of both worlds, just like a peanut butter cup.

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