Monday, October 16, 2017

Getting My Mojo Back with #SGVCUE

Last week, I talked extensively about how in recent months I was starting to have doubts about whether or not to continue in education.  However, my motivation had been sparked recently by getting back to my roots, exchanging ideas and learning with like-minded educators.  That motivation was further along this past weekend during the SGVCUE Innovation Celebration at Bassett High School in La Puente, CA.  I was graciously invited to attend by Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott, two members of SGVCUE and educators from Bassett Union School District.  I was one of over 700 educators that took time out of their weekend to learn about new technology that can change the classroom, network, and make new friends.  When asked what I thought of the conference, my response was, "It was definitely worth the four-hour drive from Las Vegas!"  

You know it's probably time to go when people
dressed up as a fox show up to the pub!  
The weekend started with the four-hour drive to the Greater Los Angeles area.  I stopped to get gas in Primm, NV, which lies on the border of Nevada and California and learned never to do that again, as Primm is one of the few stops for gas between Las Vegas and Barstow, the price was nearly $4.00 a gallon (had I got gas in Las Vegas, it would have been about $2.50 a gallon), so my advice to you, make sure you have gas so you don't have to stop in Primm (or Baker, about 50 miles later, they gouge you on gas prices there as well).  Because I was going toward LA, and not toward Las Vegas, traffic was very good.  I cannot say the same for the northbound lanes of I-15, as the typical excursions to Las Vegas of thousands of Southern Californians were well underway as I passed through Barstow, Victorville, and then eventually the Inland Empire.  I checked into my hotel and met up with Michael Jephcott, Jose Balvanera, and April Buege for dinner and conversation, learning how incredible a pizza with sauce, cheese, pastrami, pickles, and mustard can be (Innovation Brew Works in Pomona if you are intrigued!).

Ann does bear a striking resemblance to Melissa McCarthy...
Saturday morning started with a phenomenal keynote speech from Ann Kozma, a brilliant educator from Fullerton, CA.  The theme of her keynote was "diamond time."  Diamond time was explained as something that is where one is at their best, whether it is professional, socially, mentally, etc.  Ann explained her diamond time as some of the sights that she saw on an Alaska cruise, but also interacting and learning with people all over the country, either in person or through social media.  She also explained that in the wake of so many terrible things that have happened lately, from the Mexican earthquake, the shooting in Las Vegas, and the California wildfires, it even more important to find that diamond time and find that positive light in one's life.  Ann created a Flipgrid that solicited people's responses to what their "diamond time" is, you can submit your own response by going to and using the code "diamondtime".

While working with WeVideo during the session, I came across this deal that
extends a pretty sweet deal until Halloween.  
For my first session, I chose to go to a presentation on WeVideo.  I had heard of WeVideo before and had even toyed around with it some, but I really wanted to take a deep dive into the program.  If you haven't heard of it, WeVideo is a web-based video editing and creation program that has a lot of the same functions as Apple's iMovie.  What is great about WeVideo is that it is not exclusive to Apple like iMovie is; you can use WeVideo on just about any device that can connect to the Internet, including Chromebooks and Apple devices!  The kicker, however, is that it is a premium service.  There is a free version, but you are limited in what you can do using the free version (only 5 minutes of video per month, a large WeVideo watermark on videos, and limited editing abilities).  Premium versions include the Power account, which extends to 30 minutes a month, no watermark, and premium editing functions.  The Unlimited plan gives you unlimited video and even more premium features.  The presenter gave each attendee a "dummy" account with some preloaded items to toy around with.  What I learned is not only was I able to use my Chromebook and my iPad with WeVideo, I found it easier to use than iMovie, especially when it came to uploading video clips, audio tracks, images, etc.

I decided that for the next session, I finally had to figure out the hype behind Flipgrid.  I had used it before in responding to others' grids, but I hadn't created an account and really looked at the features extensively.  I must say, I completely understand why everybody is so excited about it and has caught the #FlipgridFever.  Lucretia Anton was the presenter, somebody that I have followed on Twitter for a while, and she recognized me as I walked in the door, which totally took me by surprise (this is one of those "diamond time" moments, by the way, when you meet some of your Twitter friends IRL, or in real life).  Lucretia showed several ways that it can be used in the classroom, how to customize a grid and topic, and even shared a promo code that let you try out the premium version for free for 45 days.  If you are interested, go to and create your account, or if you already have an account, go into your account settings and use LUCRETIA as a promo code to redeem.  The session inspired me to create my first Flipgrid topic, so I created one asking the attendees of #SGVCUE what they learned over the weekend and what they could take back to their classroom.  If you would like to view responses or create a response of your own, please check it out below.

After a lunch of visiting with David Platt and checking out Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott's "dog pound at the BIC" (listen to their podcast, TOSAs Talking Tech, you'll get the reference then...), I decided to go to a session on Coding Across the Curriculum.  Unfortunately, the session was not what I expected.  The presenter had a wealth of information on coding, why it is important for students to code, and showed attendees how to dabble into coding with Scratch, I did not get anything on how to incorporate coding into my curriculum.  As a former social studies teacher and one hoping to get back into social studies in the near future, I have never been able to jump onto the coding bandwagon because I don't know how I can apply it.  While the Scratch program had some different things that you could do in the program to create games, mazes, and other neat things, I still am struggling to figure out how I can apply coding to, for example, United States History.  If you are a social studies teacher that is using coding in your classroom, please, by all means, share your awesomeness with me, I am completely stuck at this point!  

Heidi, Anita and I are a long day of learning, and if you look closely,
Jon Corippo was there in spirit!
The weekend was a resounding success, I learned a lot of things that I can apply to my teaching practice, and as a board member for CUE-NV, Heidi Carr, Anita Thompson and I were able to glean some ideas from SGVCUE's event that we can apply to our events.  I had a great time debriefing afterward with many of SGVCUE's board members, then headed over to Santa Clarita to meet a friend from high school that I hadn't seen in five years.  What originally had been planned to be dinner and a drive home turned into dinner and crashing on his couch to head home on Sunday.  I look forward to seeing events by other affiliates in the near future and continue to motivate myself through learning.  

Until next time... 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Refreshed & Rejuvenated

I have a confession to make.  With the tornado that has become my career in the past year and a half or so, my desire to continue in education has been tested.  When I first decided to leave the classroom to become a technology coach, my desire was strong, but with the ups and downs of having that job cut out from under me on the last day of school, to finding a tech coaching position at one school, rather than several, to making the leap into administration, to deciding that now was not the time for administration, to now in my position as a PE teacher, my mind has been churning.  On top of all of that, there are some other family developments that may potentially dictate where I will be living in 6-9 months time.  However, what I can say with the utmost confidence is that over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been able to determine that I am in a good place for many reasons.  

My first thought was, "What would I do outside of education?"  Education is all I have known, outside of cooking in various restaurants in high school and college.  I knew as a sophomore in high school that teaching is what I wanted to do.  I walked into college declaring biology as my major and chemistry as my minor.  Granted, that changed a few months later when I decided that I wanted to do social studies and PE/health.  Either way, I was set to go into education from the time that I was 16 years old.  Where can you find work with a teaching degree and years of experience, but no longer want to do it?  In my short time researching, I wasn't able to find much.  

My next thought was, "So, I am able to find a job.  What if we have to pack up and move in a few months?"  It would be hard enough to start over knowing that you'll be living in the same area.  Multiply that with a potential cross-state, or even cross-country move.  The stress of having to pay bills, provide a roof over my family's heads and food on the table, etc. is something that definitely crossed my mind.  

Then comes the mental part, the question of, "Why can't you just suck it up and be happy with what you have and realize that some people don't have it as good as you do,  you selfish jerk?"  My answer to that is twofold.  First, the question answers itself, maybe I do need to appreciate what I have, a good job, a good salary, a good schedule, benefits, the list goes on and on and on.  However, I am also a firm believer that nobody should do anything that they do not like and do not want to continue.  I think about a lot of people, especially in earlier generations, that worked a job that they hated for 30 years just to provide for their family, rather than trying to find something that they enjoyed and could provide for their family.  

However, my faith in what I am doing has been renewed in the past couple of weeks.  All it took was to get back to my roots and my passion, plus a bit of tragedy mixed in.  The CUE-NV Silver State Technology Conference surrounded me with over 125 like-minded educators, passionate about learning what they could about educational technology and pedagogy.  While my current position severely limits what I can do with edtech (PE in a behavior school that does not allow for students to use devices), I want to keep up on all of the latest and greatest, especially since I am pretty sure that I will not be in this position for the next 25 years.

Quick disclaimer:  this does not mean that I do not like PE, teaching at a behavior school, etc.  It simply means that I taught social studies for 11 and a half years and sprinkled in almost a year of tech coaching.  I miss social studies, I miss sharing my knowledge of social studies with students, and I miss being able to use technology in exciting and engaging ways and sharing my love for technology with my peers.  Teaching PE at a behavior school is an interesting challenge every day and for the time being, it is something that I am enjoying; I miss my previous career path too much to want to continue down this road for a few decades.

This coming weekend, I will be going to the San Gabriel Valley CUE Innovation Celebration to learn with nearly 700 educators.  So many people that I now call friends will be attending, presenting, and even keynoting this event and I am very excited to see them socially and professionally.

The tragedy in Las Vegas, my home for the past 12+ years, hit me hard as well.  It put into perspective a lot of things, namely how brave so many people were on that night, the outpouring of support that so many were willing to offer in the days following, and how there is still a lot of good in this world in the face of so much that is evil, including, but not limited to gun violence, racism, homophobia, terrorism, and more.  It also put into perspective how many lives that I have had an impact on over the course of my career.  Even if only one former student comes to me and tells me what a positive impact that I have had on them, that is enough to continue to impact more lives.

Image result for jump start car in the cold
Too many memories of this... photo courtesy of
Growing up in Michigan and its cold winters, the occasional jump start was needed on the car to fire it up in the morning.  However, once the car got a jump, it would run fine, without issues, until maybe another frigid morning where you needed another jump.  Eventually, you would need a new battery, but you never had to pay thousands to get a new car because the cold destroyed your battery.  My career at this point was simply in need of a jump.  I look forward to the remainder of the school year and, wherever the road may take me in a few months, I look forward to the next step.

Until next time...