July 2, 2015

#ETTchat: Get to Know Avra Robinson

Here at EdTechTeacher, we take pride in the fact that all of our Instructors have been classroom teachers, and many of our instructors have come to us because of long relationships that began either at one of our events, online, or during a workshop. This summer, we want to introduce you to some of our EdTechTeacher staff in a new series called #ETTchat.

This week we feature Avra Robinson from Sycamore, IL. Avra is the newest member to join the EdTechTeacher staff and just completed her first week leading two Google Summer Workshops in Menlo Park, California.

Q: First off, Avra, how did the first week of Summer Workshops go?!

Avra: It was amazing! I had such a good time! My participants were such fun. They seemed to just absorb everything I tossed at them. I loved having a chance to get to know them on a more personal basis. The opportunity to do 2 or 3 days with them was probably my favorite part. That way, I was really able to get to know who they were as people and educators so we could discover together the best tools for their classroom.

Q: What did you do before joining EdTechTeacher this Spring?

Avra: I began my career in education as an elementary classroom teacher – teaching 3rd grade and Kindergarten, but I spent the bulk of my career as a technology coordinator and teacher in a small district outside of DeKalb, Illinois. There, I worked with teachers and students to find ways to integrate technology into classrooms. During my 13th & 14th year there, we started planning and implementing 1:1 with a combination of Chromebooks, Windows PC’s, and iPads. With our adoption of Google Apps for Education, we were able to start doing some really incredible things in our classrooms, and it was a super exciting time!

EdTechTeacher, AvraQ: How did you learn about EdTechTeacher?

Avra: One of my colleagues, Stacy O’Sadnick, approached me about EdTechTeacher. She discovered information about the 2014 ETTSummit at Navy Pier in Chicago in her Twitter feed and urged me to submit a proposal. Stacy knew that it was my dream to present at workshops and eventually teach teachers. Anyone who is close to me knows that this has truly been my dream for about a decade! We discussed submitting a proposal to co-present, but in the end, she convinced me to do it on my own. I’ll never forget getting the email saying I’d been invited to present. First, I ran into my beloved principal’s office to tell him. He was so excited for me and joked that he was going to call ETT and act like my agent…to tell them how great I am! Next, I called my dad who is the president of my fan club. Then, I ran around and told all of my friends and colleagues. This was the first time I’d ever submitted a proposal to present at a conference – even though I’d been doing local PD for teachers for years. I was out of my mind excited. The day that I presented at Navy Pier changed my life! It was such a rush to be part of such a well-planned, exciting, dynamic event.

Q: What has been your favorite part about leading workshops?

Avra: I love the connection with people! I’ve been told that I’m really enthusiastic when I teach, and I guess that’s because it’s just so fun to share my excitement about these tools. It’s hard to believe how many amazing tools are free… I bore my family and friends to death talking about them all the time. It’s amazing when I get in a workshop with a bunch of teachers who can start to envision how the ideas and tools that we’re exploring might help their students to learn and grow. It’s just that teachers are such amazing people… so dedicated to helping their students succeed. The teachers who choose to attend workshops are especially amazing, and I feel so honored to get to spend my time with them!


Q: What is the #1 piece of advice you have for teachers looking to integrate technology into their classroom?

Avra: I really want teachers to accept themselves where they are and not feel less-than for not doing more. I tell teachers, “Start where you are. That’s all you can do. Where you are is where you are…and where you are is OK!”

I don’t want anyone to feel like they aren’t doing a good job. Even just beginning the journey of trying to find ways to integrate technology into the classroom is an awesome first step! When a teacher comes to one of my workshops and starts out by saying that he or she isn’t good at this or is really behind, I stop him immediately. In the same way they won’t allow their kids to feel negatively or get down on themselves, I don’t allow that in my workshops either! I want people to celebrate themselves, feel success, and be positive. I really think that’s one of the first steps to more success and self-confidence with technology!


Q: What is your favorite tech tool or app today?

Avra: Oh my…that’s a tough one! I think that, overall, Google Drive must be my absolute favorite tech tool. It may sound silly, but, honestly, the way that Drive acts as a centralized hub – regardless of device – to allow for the saving and sharing of files… it’s just such a powerful tool. I wish all apps could coordinate with Drive like Techsmith’s Snagit does for example. I adore being able to find all of my files in one location. The unlimited storage for GAFE users is an added bonus of course! I feel like Drive has been the perfect bridge between the iPad and Chromebook worlds, too.


Q: What are you up to for the rest of the Summer?

Avra: Well, next week, I’m heading to Boston to assist Beth Holland as she teaches iPads in the Elementary Classroom. I’m also working with some schools in Chicagoland in August. But mainly, I’m so excited to be spending time on the discussion boards of our T21 Program, working with teachers across the country as they work through our online learning modules. It’s a blast to be able to chat with them about how they think they’ll integrate different tools or concepts into the classroom. My favorite part is when they have an idea, and we explore it. Then, they go try it and report back! Celebrating their success is the best part!


Q: How could someone get in touch to learn more from or with you?

I can always be reached online on twitter (@AvraRachel) or on Google+ (+AvraRobinsonETT). This fall I will also be presenting and leading workshops at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston.