News from the VSTE Board

Board Blog

I Still Have A Lot to Learn

Posted by [email protected] on 03/25 at 12:02 PM

This year I have been given the distinction of being one of NSBA’s 20 to Watch.  For those of you who are not familia, each year the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Technology Leadership Network (TLN) recognizes distinctive education leaders from across the country for their ability to inspire colleagues to incorporate innovative technology solutions that contribute to high-quality learning environments and more efficient school district operations. It is a recognition that I am humbled to receive and after I met some of the other 19, I reflected on something that has always driven me professionally, “I still have a lot to learn.” 

I had the pleasure of meeting most of this group (who I am now proud to call my peers) at the CoSN conference.  I would like to pass along some of the takeaways that I left with after just spending a few hours with these exceptional leaders.  For those who were unable to attend the ceremony, your leadership and innovative thinking provided inspiration to me and I hope to meet you in person sometime in the upcoming year.

John Andrews - You proved that you don’t have to be an educator to impact the classroom.  Even those with an “accent” can transform education.  I can’t wait to see iPAL.

Barry Bachenheimer @drbachenheimer   I think more schools will be following your lead with Virtual Days after the winter we have had.  More importantly, you reinforced the need for student choice.

Joli Barker @Joli_Barker Passion is inspiring and you are Fearless when it comes to your Classroom. Your global emphasis and game-based approach are creating our future transformers.

Luvelle Brown @luvelleb You have shown that the learning space is just as important as the pedagogical shift.  You need technology to build 21st Century learners.  I promise to say, “Hi” to @BeckyFisher73 next time I see her.

John Connolly @johneconnolly Wonderful ideas for establishing and supporting collaboration and communication in a ubiquitous environment!

Roger Cook You’ve proven that in an environment where students are empowered they always succeed, but… that environment also needs to be funded appropriately to work effectively. 

Rob Dickson @showmerob Rob please show us the way to a top notch digital district that floats in the cloud.  You have provided us with a rainbow of options to find that instructional pot of gold.

Timonious Downing @Techmonious You demonstrate that making learning a “game” is an effective instructional practice and builds those collaborative skills that so many employers want.  FYI, I have a 10 year old for your Minecraft club. 

Tracey Dunn @MrsTraceyDunn Your experiences with blended-learning dispel all of those stereotypes about what should be happening in the kindergarten classroom.  Your students are incredibly lucky to spend each day with you.

Laura Fleming @NMHS_lms I feel a “virtual” connection with your passion for Makey Makeys and creating an environment where students can make things happen. 

Brad Hagg You’re a fellow CETL (another group I am lucky to be a part of) that knows the value data have on teaching and learning when presented in a way that supports instruction.

Beth Hudson All learning and professional development should be built around authentic learning experiences.  Isn’t that what adult learning theory tells us?

Rich Kiker ‏@rkiker I want to be like you!  For now I will be satisfied with just being a Google Certified Teacher.  But you have given me and others a target to shoot for. 

Jennifer Maddux @jamaddux You reinforce my belief in the power of a school administrator to facilitate change in the learning environment.

Matt Meyers ‏@SlateAndTablets I can’t wait to learn more about your mobile app and I will be in touch as my district is exploring a coding class for middle school.  When I’m around you I feel like even “old” dogs can learn new tricks.   

Elaine Plybon @eplybon Empowering girls to get into and stay in the STEM fields starts early.  Elaine meet @ADrobnis, you share a kindred spirit.

Kecia Ray @keciaray Transforming the role of librarians into the instructional designers of our 21st Century Classroom.  I love the movement from curation to creation!

Brad Waid @Techbradwaid You take the term selfie to a new level, however it is your use of augmented reality that really caught my attention.

Bradley Wilson @mrwilson142 First and foremost your vision for flipped learning is a wonderful plan to create more student-centered instruction.  Secondly and almost as important… Go Steelers.

Thank you for allowing me to count myself as a member of this phenomenal community of learners. 

I Tweet, Therefore I Am

Posted by [email protected] on 01/30 at 05:51 PM

I tweet. Yes I’ll admit it. And now I’m going to blog about it (please don’t tell anyone).  I wasn’t always like this.  In fact, 31 days ago I had never gone beyond logging into two Twitter accounts I set up over a year ago.  I had good intentions. I made my 2012 New Year’s resolution to become part of the Twitterverse.  I was systematic in my approach, creating a Hootsuite account which was going to make it easy to manage all of my social networks and meeting with Chris Bugaj a prolific blogger and tweeter (@attipscast) to outline strategies and best practices.  I was prepared to start my year off strong. 

As with my other resolution to regularly visit the gym, appearances tell all.  Both resolutions went where all failed resolutions go, along with forgotten promises.  I still posted personal messages to Facebook but kept my professional posts to a private group with my TRTs.  I guess I just wasn’t ready.  Trust me I felt bad about it.  I’m a technology leader in my district, serve as an officer in a state technology organization, have a PhD, and am one of the first to hold the CETL certification offered by CoSN, yet I failed at tweeting and the world of social networking.  Don’t even get me started about blogging and pinterest.

Fast forward to December 2012 and the VSTE annual conference; I wanted badly to feel like I was actively contributing to the discussions about technology going on in the cloud.  That guilt was weighing heavily on me, so I put Twitter and a more professional approach to social networking back on my resolution list for 2013.  I posted it publicly, thinking that once it is out there I would have to live up to that expectation.  Others (@timmmmyboy) had commented about how motivating it can be when they were supported publicly.  I thank you @haguepa, @MikeHenrickson, and @adinapopa for prompting my re-engagement with this media.

I revisited and revised my structured approach; the science teacher in me likes lists.  I planned themes for each month.  January was Jumpstarting gaming, February is Flipping the classroom, March is Making Spaces, April is Assessments and I will wait for the themes for the remaining months to reveal themselves.  Did you notice my pattern? 

The process was easy; I sat at my desk and in 1-2 hours had scheduled a month’s worth of tweets, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn posts in Hootsuite.  I was quite proud of myself.  People would see regular posts from me and they would have no idea that I had scheduled them days or weeks in advance.  I told myself that one post a day would be a nice professional presence.  There were some bumps along the road.  My first few tweets left off the URL because I had exceeded the 140 character limit and it took a little more thought to decide what hashtags I would use.  After a week I felt that I had mastered the art of social networking.  Then some things happened.  @Hendron and @ADrobnis your ruined everything.  They re-tweeted and commented on what I had posted, and then people started to follow me!  What had started out as an act to “share” professional resources suddenly became a conversation, albeit a brief one.

I get it now.  It isn’t just about sharing the resources.  It is about sharing in the conversation.  One post a day doesn’t begin to cover it.  If I can do it, trust me anyone can do it.

My advice to you:  Instead of filling up your colleagues’ email inboxes with resource after resource that are automatically sent to the Trash, contribute to the amazing conversations that are going on out there that don’t require a paragraph to hold value.  I highly recommend using the hashtags #edchat and #vste and following some of the other VSTE board and organization members.


You can find me at @bgruber10 and @lctechresource.  If you still don’t Tweet, I’m also on Facebook at LCPS Technology Resource Services and VSTE’s facebook page is  Perhaps next I’ll comment on my intense dislike of blogs and how useless it is to write about my experiences.

The Importance of Recognition

Posted by Katie Knapp on 10/07 at 10:53 PM

Do you know an outstanding leader in educational technology? Is your teaching partner an outstanding educational technology teacher? If so, it is time to tell the state of Virginia about them!

In 2010, I was honored as the VSTE Leader of the Year. I could not begin to convey what an exciting time this was for me. A month before the VSTE conference, I was called to my principal’s office where I was met by my principal, Mike Maloney, and VSTE Board Chair, Janene Gorham. I was overjoyed when the announcement was made that I had been selected as the 2010 VSTE Leader of the Year. Receiving this award has really had a positive impact on my professional career. After accepting the award, I decided to run for the VSTE Board of Directors and am currently serving the second year of my three year term. I am grateful that being named the VSTE Leader of the Year has led me to become more involved in this awesome organization.

Nominations for VSTE’s Leader of the Year and VSTE’s Teacher of the Year awards are being accepted through October 15, 2012. Get your nomination submitted today!
The 2012 award recipients will be announced by November 1 and honored at the 2012 VSTE Conference, being held December 2-4, 2012, in Virginia Beach.

Please visit for more details.

Innovation in Our Backyard

Posted by John Hendron on 09/17 at 08:33 PM

“Innovation” is often thought of as something new or exciting. It’s also often used in the same company as words like “creative,” “bold,” or “successful.” Despite all of these connotations, innovation really is the application of creative ideas. While gadgets and new technologies may be described as “innovative,” what’s an innovative educator?

VSTE once again is looking for an innovative educator among our ranks! As chair of the innovations committee, I’m pleased to open, once again, the call for nominations for the 2012 VSTE Innovative Educator of the Year. You can nominate a leader, you can nominate your colleague, or you can nominate yourself. Whomever does the nomination,  what we’re looking for is an educator that makes waves by pushing the envelope of creativity - with either the most innovative tools or the most innovative pedagogy.

Or just maybe both.

Virginia is home to many innovative educators. Help us recognize one this year that has gone above and beyond towards improving the opportunities of students in Virginia with technology!

A Most Successful Year for VSTE

Posted by Laura Briggs on 06/30 at 10:50 PM

As VSTE completes another very successful year, we have the opportunity to reflect on the many successes that we achieved together over the course of the year.  I am extremely proud of VSTE’s achievements in so many areas:  from our continued emphasis on actively engaging our members, to the successful creation of VSTE’s first special interest group.  Over the past year VSTE was able to continue fulfilling its mission in many ways, and all of these are accomplishments that each and every person in our leadership should be incredibly proud of.

During this past year, we undertook and strengthened a number of initiatives to help keep VSTE at the forefront of EdTech, through both the entire organization, and through its committees:

- Board members planned and participated in monthly webinars.
- Board members participated in ongoing development of partnership opportunities.
- Board members helped plan and participated in regional PD one-day conferences throughout Virginia.
- Board members created and approved SIG guidelines for SIG creation and participation, as well as participated in webinar training so there could be additional hosts for monthly or SIG events.
- Board members participated in creating a Board weblog on the main VSTE website.
- Board members successfully created Committee Charters for setting yearly goals, missions and purposes, committee responsibilities, plans for webpage presence, and timelines for activities throughout the year.
- Board members participated as judges for the first Student Technology Integration Challenge (STIC) before the December Conference.
- Board members planned, presented, and participated at the first Digital Sandbox before and during the December Conference.
- Board members were highly visible and thoroughly involved at the December 2011 Conference, including presenting concurrent sessions and volunteering in many areas.

Under the leadership of James Maxlow, the VSTE Elections Committee solicited board candidates, chose a potential slate and had it adopted by the Board, and oversaw the election. We would like to welcome our new Board members.

With the leadership of John Hendron, VSTE’s Innovations Committee Chairperson, the Innovations Committee conducted research for white papers, held a webinar in May, 2012, recognized an outstanding innovative educator, Matt Dunleavy, from Radford University, and formed first VSTE SIG focused on mobile learning.

The VSTE Awards Committee, with the leadership of Janene Gorham, coordinated selection of the VSTE Teacher (Kristina Peck, Spotsylvania County Schools) and Leader Award (Tom Woodward, Henrico County Schools) by the Board, and submitted nominations for ISTE Teacher and Leader Awards, coordinated the selection of VSTE awards , VSTE Hero Award (Tim Stahmer, Fairfax County Schools) and ISTE’s Making it Happen Award (Janene Gorham,  Virginia Beach City Schools). The Awards Committee also refined the Board Policy and Procedures regarding VSTE Awards.

Under the leadership of Vicki Fawcett-Adams, Education Committee Chairperson, the Education Committee created very successful professional development opportunities throughout the year, including creating the monthly webinar schedule, facilitating webinars, and assisting with other events throughout the year.

VSTE’s Membership Committee, lead by Tim Owens, surveyed Membership from May - November and used survey responses to change ongoing operations as well as to make changes the survey to drive improved feedback from the VSTE membership. The committee used social networking which has resulted in our getting new followers daily on FaceBook, Twitter and the VSTE Ning.

Under the leadership of Heather Blanton, the VSTE Advocacy Committee held advocacy sessions at the December 2011 Conference and continued to encourage VSTE members to join the EdTech Action Network to support educational technology.

All of our Board members should be very proud of their work for VSTE this year. Their collaboration, involvement, and dedication have helped VSTE continue to grow and be at the forefront of educational technology leadership in the Commonwealth. I would like to thank them for all that they do and continue to do for the organization and its members.

I would also like to thank the VSTE Conference Committee. We are very excited about the upcoming conference in Virginia Beach in December 2012. The Conference Committee works passionately all year round to bring the best learning and networking opportunities to our members and community.

I would like to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to our members, staff, partners, and sponsors for all the contributions in keeping VSTE at the forefront of EdTech.  It is the people who make the difference, and through collaboration and support of each other, VSTE will continue to promote excellence and always be an influence in technological innovation in education.

Laura Briggs
Chairperson, VSTE Board of Directors

Innovations Committee Needs Your Help

Posted by John Hendron on 04/06 at 08:13 AM

The VSTE Innovations Committee is looking for input from teachers and professors from across the Commonwealth on the use of Interactive White Boards. We’re interested in defining what innovative teaching and learning looks like with interactive boards, like the ones from vendors Smart and Promethean, prevalent in schools today. No matter the brand or software used, help us by contributing to our short survey. We plan to release a white paper with findings within the month.

We appreciate your support through your input! Thank you!

Lend Your Voice, Shape Your Leadership

Posted by James on 04/01 at 08:00 AM

It’s the time of year that the VSTE membership elects new members to the VSTE Board of Directors… and therefore it’s a time when you can exercise a powerful and critical voice over the direction VSTE is heading. Directors represent a cross-section of interests, professions, institutions, and geographies throughout the organization. Such representation is essential to ensuring that the many diverse voices of society members are not only heard but acted upon.

The Board of Directors steers VSTE’s efforts in the areas of advocacy, education and professional development, recruiting and retaining members, fiscal management, and more. Each candidate has shown a passion for promoting the use of educational technology, an initiative to take on leadership roles, and a drive to move the organization into new and exciting areas of focus. However, those qualities would be for naught without the individual society members casting their votes.

Voting for the 2012-2015 Director seats will open in mid-April and close in mid-May. Be sure to cast your vote on the VSTE website and spread the word among your VSTE colleagues and VSTE friends. Voting is the most direct and most powerful way in which you can influence the organization now and into the future.

The Best Earth, Ever

Posted by [email protected] on 03/01 at 10:52 AM

    Nothing should be more open to skepticism than the claims of producers of educational software who promise incredible student outcomes with only the click of a mouse.  I like to think I come by this skepticism honestly, having now witnessed implementation of oodles of supporting software titles that have promised much, and delivered little in the way of positive student outcomes.  I’ll be the first to admit that my perceived shortcomings have nothing to do with the efficacy of the software, and often resides with a particular organization’s ability to implement the product in the intended manner.  After all, anyone can purchase groceries, but it’s a different matter to turn them into a delicious meal. It’s often in the metaphorical cooking that educational software falls short of it’s delicious promise.

    I start this way just to say that I’ve been around the block with educational software.  It takes a lot for me to get excited about new products because the legacy of the old ones tend to be such a graveyard of good intentions.  I have however, never, ever,  felt that way about Google Earth.  From the first time the blue globe of earth popped into the darkness of space and I zoomed in with the mouse wheel, I was totally hooked.  The wheels of possibility immediately started catching rubber in my head.  Well, almost immediately, because anyone who suddenly finds they have bird’s eye perspective on the world is going too spend some time experimenting with this new found ability by flying from place to place.  Ironically, to my knowledge, Google Earth was never touted by it’s inventors as a miracle cure for the apparent shortcomings in our collective knowledge of geographic awareness.  Rather, it just kind of popped into existence during a time when “gee whiz” applications were quickly populating a Web that was growing faster than seemed possible, but if you’ve ever been responsible for teaching geographic awareness, the possibilities are both immediate and profound.

    Perhaps the most important aspect of this application as a teaching tool is that it represents the most advanced “model” of the earth yet.  I recall a certain definition of the word map as a “geographic representation of the earth drawn to scale.”  Unfortunately,  the media we frequently choose to show children the geometric constraints of our world are among the most inaccurate models provided. I’m thinking of you, ancient, xeroxed copied, flat,  coloring book page of the world.  You can bet the somewhere, right now, a student is putting a box of Crayola 64’s to use by coloring such a map and arbitrarily labeling selected regions of it.  This is the “model”  to which children are introduced as a representation of the world in which we live.  For a long time, it was the most common model we presented to students.  If they were lucky, they might also have a globe, which is a better in representing the sphere, but not something we typically allowed students to customize or manipulate.  Consider how Google Earth as a model differs:

It is a virtual three dimensional model. It provides a more accurate model of the earth compared to two dimensional representations.

It is dynamic.  When events change the earth, Google Earth changes in real time with them.  New borders, new countries, no problem.

It’s interactive. Students can color, annotate, measure and embed a variety of engaging and meaningful resources on it.

It is free.

It shows features of the earth in different perspectives.

If we start with the assumption that accurate models of processes or concepts naturally lead to better understanding of them, then it makes sense that Google Earth has the potential to provide a more complete concept of the globe. ( Duh!)

  Of course the bread and butter or Google is always about advertising, and that is the default purpose of the globe.  If you want to find a McDonald’s in Shanghai, it, and every other McDonald’s , all it’s fast food burger competitors, and nearly every obscure restaurant in the world is on it as well.  Which brings us to the most important factor in the effective use of the resource: training.  Face it,  xeroxing a page on a coloring book is way easier than spending a couple days learning how to customize a sophisticated interactive map.  It’s not rocket science, but it does require a real and significant effort on the part of the teacher to first understand how to customize the interface and to design thoughtful and engaging activities that make constructive use of it.  It follows then, that any school that wants to make serious use of this tool needs to also take seriously the professional development of their staff to use it well.

  But what if you did have the training, the infrastructure and leadership to effectively integrate Google Earth into instruction?  What would that look like?  In my Utopian world, even very young elementary school children would have the opportunity to explore virtual globes.  I see an engaging, and thoughtfully scaffolded use of Google Earth that integrates seemingly separate components of curriculum and that provides learners opportunities to become familiar with it’s features, tools and capabilities.  As their general abilities increase, so should the sophistication of the tasks we ask them to complete.  Ultimately,  I would love to see elaborate projects that allow students to embed all manner of content on the map, perhaps as convenient and useful focal point for digital stories.  In my mind, the Holy Grail of the experience would be a World Geography class in which the students are well prepared to use Google Earth as portfolio based course in which students submit a series of projects in which they added content to the globe and shared it with their teacher or the world through the use of KML files.

  Somewhere, I hope this is happening right now, but I have yet to see much of it in my neighborhood.  As an instructional technologist, I do what I can to share these ideas and to provide students the opportunity to use tools like Google Earth.  Such efforts represent but a modest start, and even my colleagues who see me direct engaging and well constructed lessons with their classes are reluctant to undertake instruction with Google Earth, despite giving uniformly positive feedback and witnessing how engaged their students are when they are using it.  Alas, it still remains easier to open a box of crayons and send a job to a printer, and that seems to be the primary consideration in the pedagogy of elementary geography instruction.  While the current state of affairs in this regard has been slow to progress,  I am optimistic that it will change.  It just makes too much sense, and I have to believe that even stubbornly entrenched practices will yield ground as Google Earth easily accessible through countless devices that fit easily into a shirt pocket. 

Time for Virginia to Shine! (ISTE Awards Program)

Posted by Katie Knapp on 01/24 at 09:29 AM

VSTE knows that Virginia has the most AWESOME educators…and now is the time to show the rest of the world! The ISTE awards program recognizes the best of the best in educational technology. These awards honor exceptional educators who “advance the field, demonstrate vision and innovation, and expand student horizons.” We invite you to consider nominating yourself or a colleague for one of these 2012 awards.

ISTE Outstanding Young Educator
Are you a young educator who incorporates cutting-edge technology into the classroom? This award is presented to an outstanding young educator (under the age of 35) who demonstrates vision, innovation, action, and transformation using technology to improve teaching and learning.

Kay L. Bitter Vision Award For Excellence In Technology-Based PK-2 Education
Do you know a PK-2 teacher who shares a passion for educational technology with students? This award, given in honor of a career early education educator who brought cutting-edge technology into her classroom, recognizes a primary (PK-2) educator whose work has had a significant positive impact on technology use in education.

Public Policy Advocate of the Year
Do you work tirelessly to advocate for educational technology policy in Virginia? This award recognizes an individual who is an outstanding and enthusiastic leader and mentor in advocating for educational technology policy at the local, state, regional, national, and/or international level during the 2011 year. VSTE’s own Becky Fisher was honored with this award at the 2011 ISTE conference!

SIGMS Technology Innovation Award
Are you a classroom teacher who works collaboratively with an outstanding librarian? This award is presented to two teams of a school librarian and collaborating teacher who have conducted an exemplary technology program extending beyond the library to meet the needs of classroom students and teachers. The purpose of this award is to identify, promote, and sustain excellence in collaborative and innovative technology-based projects driven by the school library media center in support of curricular and instructional needs in elementary, middle, and high schools.

SIGOL Online Learning Award
Do you know an educator who effectively shares a passion for technology in the online learning format? This award recognizes innovative educators worldwide, for their leadership and creativity in providing e-learning opportunities for elementary through university aged students.

SIGTE Research Paper Award
Is researching educational technology your forte? This award recognizes excellence in research in the area of technology and teacher education. All research papers accepted for presentation at ISTE’s Annual Conference and Exposition, including those selected for both the research paper and round table categories are eligible for the SIGTE Research Paper Award.

Sylvia Charp Award for District Innovation in Technology
Does your school division offer an innovative approach to educational technology and ensure equity in technology use for all students? Presented by T.H.E. Journal and ISTE, this award for district innovation in technology recognizes a school district that has shown effectiveness and innovation in the application of technology district-wide.

All award winners will receive:
    •  Registration for ISTE 2012 in San Diego
    •  A one-year standard ISTE membership
    •  Various prizes and cash awards

The ISTE awards program is receiving nominations through March 1, 2012 for these prestigious awards.

Further information on each of the awards, including nomination packets and scoring rubrics, can be found here.

Let’s show the rest of world the educational technology talent we have in Virginia!

NEW! Model School Copyright Policy for Using Copyrighted Materials in Digital Media Production

Posted by Michael George on 11/22 at 08:29 PM


The purpose of copyright law is to promote creativity, innovation and the spread of knowledge. The law does this by balancing the rights of both authors (copyright holders) and users.


Under some circumstances, users can use copyrighted works as part of their own creative work. The doctrine of fair use (Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976) states that people can use copyrighted works without payment or permission when the social benefit of the use outweighs the harms to the copyright holder. To make a fair use determination, users consider all the factors involved in the context and situation of their use of the copyrighted material. Fair use is especially helpful when people want to use small amounts of a copyrighted work for socially beneficial purposes, like news reporting, teaching, comment and criticism, research and scholarship. In the context of copyright law, the doctrine of fair use is one of the main guarantees of free expression. News reporters depend on fair use because of its obvious importance in disseminating information. Broadcasting professionals routinely claim fair use when they make use of short clips from popular films, classic TV programs, archival images, and popular songs without payment or permission.

Special Exemptions for Teachers and Librarians.  Copyright law includes provisions that enable educators to use copyrighted material for teaching and learning. Section 110 allows educators to make performances and displays of all types of works in a classroom. Students and teachers can show videos, read plays, project slides or use copyrighted materials in other ways for educational purposes. When materials are used for online distribution, the law allows posting of materials to servers under some conditions. When teachers want to use materials for online learning, they may also rely on the doctrine of fair use or seek permission.


Critical thinking is required to make a fair use determination. Ask yourself two questions:

1.    Transformativeness. Is my use of a copyrighted work transformative? Am I using the material for a different purpose than that of the original? Or am I just repeating the work for the same intent and value as the original?

2.    Amount. Am I using only the amount I need to accomplish my purpose, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and my use of it?

The law empowers users to make a fair use determination for themselves. Thinking about the issue from the perspective of both the copyright holder and your own point of view is important.

Want to know more?

Visit my site:

Or come to my presentation at the 2011 conference:

Temple Univ. Media Education Lab:

This blog is an official voice of the VSTE Board of Directors. In March, 2011, the Board decided it wanted a blog to share news with the education community and VSTE members. Learn more about the VSTE Board on our VSTE leadership page.

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