Thanksgiving Weekend...

Have been enjoying some down time with my family. My mom, brother, and brother in-law are out for their annual Thanksgiving visit. Daughter home from college, and other family close by. Has been a very nice few days. Got me thinking a bit of Thanksgiving weekends over the years. The two photos below show my son and youngest daughter but are six years apart.

A friend, via Instagram, noted how quickly time goes by. In a blink of an eye she said...

Yes, in the blink of an eye.

Happy Thanksgiving...



iBeacons and Classroom Visits...

I was recently asked by the editors of EdWeek to write an article on a topic of interest. I wrote about my use of iBeacon technology to help me keep track of my classroom visits. Below is a link to the article. Also below you will find the text to the article. 

Tech Solutions to Principals' Overloaded Schedules - Education Week

Tech Solutions to Principal's Overloaded Schedules
by Tim Lauer

Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, where I work, is a neighborhood K-5 school located in the Woodstock section of Portland, Ore. We serve 385 students in 16 classrooms, including a special-needs communication classroom. A majority of our students live within walking or biking distance of the school, and close to 40 percent qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Our approach to learning includes opportunities for expression in music, art, gardening, and a 1-to-1 technology approach in grades 2-5.

As the principal of Lewis Elementary, I try to visit each of my classrooms every morning to check in and say hello to students and staff members. I also attempt throughout the day to spend more-extended time visiting classrooms, talking with teachers and students and gaining a better understanding of the work taking place, as well as looking for ways that I can provide helpful feedback and support. From my first year as principal at Lewis, it became apparent to me that building leaders need to be seen and need to see what is happening in classrooms—and not just during formal observations.

One of the benefits of ubiquitous wireless access in a school, and lightweight laptop computers and smartphones, is that it gives administrators the ability to get out of their offices and spend more time in classrooms. Not being tied to a desktop computer to deal with school business allows an administrator the opportunity to keep up with that work while out and about in the school.

Spending time in classrooms enables a building administrator to be closer to students and staff members, and to develop a better perspective on the work being done. Keeping track of those visits, and making sure I'm visiting all classrooms on an equal basis, is a challenge I have been working on for a few years.

Over the years, I have developed various methods for logging informal classroom visits. These have included simple paper checklists and charts and, more recently, Web-based reporting tools that allow me to enter information in a smartphone or laptop and place it into a spreadsheet for later analysis.

I want to make sure I am spending an appropriate amount of time in all of my classrooms. While these tools have been helpful, I found myself recently looking for a way to track and chart my movements throughout the school in a more ambient manner. I've been searching for a method to record my movements almost automatically. While checklists and charts were useful for informal observations, I found that when I was not specifically recording data, I was not always charting my visits with fidelity.

In my search for a solution to this challenge, I have become interested in a technology called beacons, more specifically iBeacons, and how it can be used to help me keep track of my movements around my school, and provide me with ambient logging of my classroom visits.
The small (an inch and a half in diameter) battery-powered Bluetooth devices called iBeacons emit a low-power radio signal. (Originally introduced by Apple, the broadcast technology is now being produced by other vendors.) Smartphones, equipped with various apps, can connect with these beacons, and as a result, things can happen based on proximity to the beacons. For example, beacons and apps on your smartphone can be used together to initiate alerts or notices based on proximity to the beacons. There is much discussion now about how these beacons can be used in retail settings to alert customers to products and services based on proximity. I have been thinking about a school setting and how the technology can be used in interesting ways in our classrooms.

Recently, I placed an iBeacon in my office. Using an iOS app called Proximity Log, I started having Proximity Log track my time spent in my office based on proximity to the beacon. Whenever I enter my office, Proximity Log connects with the beacon, and notes the time I am near that beacon, and thus in my office. Proximity Log keeps track of the number of visits and the duration of each of those visits. The data are exportable and can be used in programs such as Excel or Google Sheets.

While this one beacon gave me a good understanding of the amount of time I was spending in my office, it did not tell me where I was when I wasn't in my office. So, after my experimentation with the iBeacon in my office, I decided to place others in classrooms. Subsequently, I have placed iBeacons in all of my classrooms and set up the Proximity Log app to interact with these specific classroom beacons. Now, as I move in and out of classrooms, Proximity Log notes when I enter the room, and how long I stay. I have been able to analyze this ambient logging to make sure I am visiting all classrooms on a regular basis.

One of my chief professional goals is to spend extended periods of time in classrooms, providing feedback and support. With the use of iBeacons to track my movements in the school building, I am able to do a better job keeping track of these visits and make sure I am not shortchanging any classroom.

Bike Safety Classes at Lewis

Again this year, our 5th grade students are involved in bike safety classes that are supported and sponsored by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the City of Portland. These classes provide our 5th grade students with a good foundation in bike safety, and for those few students not yet proficient bike riders, an opportunity to learn to ride a bike. 

We would like to acknowledge the work of the BTA and our teachers and para-educators for their support of our students. 

Status Board... Status Update

In our main hallway at Lewis Elementary we have a large HDTV monitor that we have used to display photos of school actives and art work. Over the years we have used an AppleTV with a Flickr slide show to share these images, but have been looking for a way to include more information, including upcoming calendar events, and other types of information in addition to photos. Earlier in the year, I shared that Panic upgraded their Status Board app with a few new features and we had started using it with an iPad connected to the HDTV to share this information. Below is a bit of an update, and a feature request.

Our Status Board consists of the following items:

  • The school calendar in list view,
  • Tri-Met bus arrivals, (The #75 stops right in front of the school, this tools if from @sayo), 
  • Weather information,
  • The local time,
  • Our school Twitter feed,
  • A Twitter feed from our staff Twitter list,
  • Screen shots of resent staff tweets with photos.  
  • This main screen alternates with a second status board page that included larger school event photos. 

The Status Board iPad is logged into an Apple ID that was created specifically for the use with Status Board. I have shared via Apple’s Photos app a picture stream from my personal iPad that is connected to the Status Board Apple ID. To update the status board images, I simply update the shared photo stream and the images are automatically updated.

While Status Board will include Twitter feeds. It currently only provides a text list. Tweets that include images only display links to the images, but not the image. To get around this limitation, I pick out specific Tweets with images and screen capture them and include them in the photo feed. While this works, it is a bit labor intensive. I hope Panic adds the ability display Tweets with photos in a future upgrade. 

All in all I am very happy with Status Board.

Working for the weekend...

Just a typical Saturday for our Lewis staff. Ms. Rotwein and Mr Hansen drove to Seattle to attend and present at the The 8th Annual Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice. Our PE teacher, Ms. Layman attended several student soccer games, and our music teacher, Mr. Jamesbarry took part in a workshop at Columbia Valley Grade School. Others were home working, getting ready for parent teacher conferences that take place this week. 

When folks mention the workload of teachers and question their commitment, I just have to shake my head. I work with a tremendously committed group of people.

Cardboard Challenge at Lewis

A few years back I shared with my staff the story of Caine's Arcade. Caine's Arcade is a short film that tells the story of a boy named Caine and how he built a cardboard arcade in the front of his dad's auto parts store in Los Angeles. It is a very uplifting little film that celebrates creativity and the human spirit.

The film led to the annual Global Cardboard Challenge Day and this has inspired several of my teachers to take part in this annual celebration by having a Cardboard Challenge day of our own. This week students from Mr. Hansen, Ms. Elissa, and Ms. Kennedy's classrooms spent time planning cardboard arcade games, and then on Wednesday afternoon the classrooms came together in the cafeteria to create their games. 

With the help of parent volunteers, the students created their games and then spent time doing a gallery walk and then actually getting an opportunity to play the games. 

You can see more of their handy work on Twitter.

Mr. Hansen @lewisroom24
Ms. Elissa Dingus @epdingus
Ms. Kennedy @pamelakennedy17










A Donation

On Wednesday, one of our students wanted to meet with me after school. Turns out that he had some of his art work on display at a local coffee shop and he sold most of it. He made $100 from the sale of the art work and wanted to meet with me to donate the money to the school. His generosity inspired the coffee shop owner, and the coffee shop matched his donation. We now have $200 that will be used to purchase additional art supplies for our school. A big thank you to all involved.

Using Flipboard to Curate Tweets From my Staff

I am very pleased with the number of my teachers who are sharing their classrooms via Twitter. I am happy to see the various ways they share the work of their students and provide a window into the work taking place in their classrooms.

To facilitate following these tweets we have created a Twitter list ( that contains all of our staff posts on Twitter. The list provides a flow of tweets and is a great way to keep track of what is going on at Lewis Elementary.

While you can follow Twitter lists via the Twitter web site and also through various Twitter applications, I enjoy following ours via the Flipboard application. Flipboard is a social-network aggregation app that presents posts in a magazine style format. It presents various forms of information, including Twitter feeds, blog posts, and media articles, in a magazine type format. It is visually appealing and presents the media associated with a tweet.

Cover from our weekly Flipboard Magazine of staff member posts...

Cover from our weekly Flipboard Magazine of staff member posts...

Another feature of Flipboard is the ability to create what they call magazines. Magazines are curated collections of items. I utilize Magazines on Flipboard to organize articles related to teaching that might be of interest to my staff. I then can share the magazine with my staff via a link, or if they utilize Flipboard, they can subscribe to the magazine through the app.

Another way that I utilize magazines on Flipboard is by curating selected Twitter posts from my staff. Each Saturday morning I review the previous week's tweets in Flipboard and select several that help tell the story of the previous week at my school. Again, users of Flipboard can subscribe to the magazine, and I can also share a link to the magazine via Twitter.

Flipboard is a great tool for reading articles and social media posts, and also a great way to organize content for sharing with others. 

And we are off...

This past Thursday marked our first day of the new school year. I am very excited to see what the year brings.

On the technology front, we are pretty much 1:1 with Chromebooks in grades 3-5. It has been nice to see our grade level teams begin to collaborate and discuss instructional strategies for use of the technology, and to share and learn from one another.

Also several more classrooms and staff members have created Twitter accounts to share and document their work. Am looking forward to following those posts. To help with that we have created a Twitter list composed of all the Lewis Twitter accounts. You can follow along at the link below.