Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Power of Positive

Right before winter break, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at my school about positive behavioral intervention and supports, also known as PBIS.  This wasn't the first time that I had attended a training on PBIS, as my previous school when I was an administrator was a PBIS school.  However, while the concept of PBIS is good for all schools, it is something that is especially useful at the alternative school environment, similar to what I am doing at the current time.  While much of the training was something that I was already aware of, I got some great things out of the training to try out with my students over the course of the past few weeks.  

The textbook that we used
in my Principles of
Coaching class back in 2004.   
It is no secret that positive interactions with people are going to bear more fruit than negative interactions.  You can look at the old saying, "You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar" and apply it to education.  I also think back to a class that I took in college that was part of my minor program, a class called Principles of Coaching (my minor in college was Physical Education with a coaching emphasis, I coached various sports, mostly football, for 9 years before taking a hiatus that has now lasted almost 5 years; I miss coaching, but there is also a lot about it I don't miss, namely being able to spend more time with my family).  One of my coaches, Herb Greinke, was the instructor and the focus of the class was coaching and teaching through positive interactions, rather than the "old school" way of the screaming, chair throwing coach reminiscent of Bobby Knight.  I still remember that class very well, the textbook that we used, and the feedback that Coach Greinke gave me throughout that class. 

Fast forward to my current position teaching PE at a behavior school.  Most days can be very tough.  You have students that come from broken homes and often times have struggled with adult authority throughout their lives.  However, my bad days with students are very few and far between, and I credit that strictly to my ability to remain positive with students.  I make sure that I am interacting with students on a regular basis, asking students how their day is going, what kinds of plans they have for weekends, how they are doing in their classes, etc.  It is also essential to praise students for a job well done.  However, what the PBIS training got me thinking about was making that praise more substantial.  It's easy to be positive by telling a student, "Good job!", but it goes a lot farther if you can be more specific with the praise, such as,"I appreciate that you came to class today on time and participated in our activity!"  It is also helpful that rather than reprimanding a student for infractions, redirecting a student will be more effective.  Many of my students are used to using foul language on a regular basis, so rather than taking points away from a student's point sheet or writing a referral for language, I remind students of the school's expectations regarding language and often times, a student will self-correct.  

I get that this isn't my most groundbreaking post of all time.  If you are reading this, it's probably glaringly obvious that positive will go a lot further than negative.  However, if you are like me, you may have gotten into a mode where your positive feedback is too impersonal.  By harnessing the power of positive, tailoring it to your students in a personal manner, and making positive a part of every moment in your classroom, you will make a lasting impact on even the more difficult students.  

Until next time... 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Google Summit Goodness

Life for me as of late!  But I wouldn't have it any other way!
It is conference season for the educational technology enthusiast.  A couple of weeks ago, it was the Tulare County Tech Rodeo.  Last week, it was supposed to be the IACUE Tech Fair, but some things came up and I was not able to attend.  In the coming weeks, it will be CUE-NV's Silver State Tech Innovator Symposium, and the mother of all events that I attend, the spring CUE National Conference in Palm Springs.  This weekend, I attended and presented at the EdTech Team's Las Vegas Google Summit, and as always, it did not disappoint.  

This event has been coming to Las Vegas for several years now.  I attended my first summit in January 2015.  EdTech Team held a second summit in Las Vegas later that year, but it has been one summit every year since, so this is the fifth time that I have attended the summit and the fourth time that I have presented at the summit.   I also attended and presented at a one-day Apple Summit hosted by EdTech Team in 2016.  Over the years of attending, I have gotten to know many of the attendees and presenters and it is always great to see everyone, often times for the only time that I get to see them in the year.  It is also a great opportunity to meet new people and continue to grow that PLN that is so important in our profession.  

This year, my approach to the summit was a little bit different than in the past.  Previously, I would meticulously plan out my two days by going onto the schedule and reading through the sessions, marking down in the app where I am going to be.  I decided to wing it a little bit more this year for a couple of reasons.  One, sometimes you just want to decide at the last second what you want to do; this gave me the freedom to do so.  Two, the sessions selection this time around, for me, was not as strong.  This is not to say that they were not great sessions with great presenters, by no means whatsoever!  At this point in my professional development, I am very strong in many areas of Google apps and tools, and many of the sessions were geared toward beginners.  I mentioned this to George Barcenas, one of the presenters from the summit and somebody that I have interacted with in a Voxer group in the past.  He suggested that next time, I present more sessions, something that would not be terrible!

My absolute favorite session of the summit was on FormMule, an email merge program, presented by Kim Pollishuke.  In the past, I used a program called Yet Another Mail Merge to create email templates, pull information from spreadsheets to build emails that are more personalized, and schedule emails to be sent.  YAMM is a great tool, but to get the full versatility of YAMM, it costs $30 for a yearly subscription.  It's not a lot of money, but one of the best perks of FormMule is that it does all of the things that I want to do for FREE!  FormMule allows you to take information like names, email addresses, answers to questions, and so much more from a Google Sheet (this is especially great when it is a sheet that is linked to a Google Form!), create multiple templates that can be linked to that spreadsheet, send emails immediately upon receipt of a response, manually, or you can set a timer to send.  You can also customize filters based on responses in the sheet or to specific people.  The possibilities with it are endless!  Want to learn more about FormMule?  Check out Kim's session information and email away! 

I presented two sessions over the course of the weekend, one on Google Keep and one on Pear Deck.  Both sessions were well attended, with about 45 for Google Keep and about 35 for Pear Deck.  Overall, I felt that both sessions went very well, for the most part.  I hit a couple of snags during my Google Keep session.  The first snag was how an embedded Google Slides activity showed up in Pear Deck, cutting off the Tools menu, which was key to participants completing the activity.  We figured out a quick workaround and was able to complete the activity.  The second snag came when I was trying to show participants the geotagging feature on the Keep app.  The option in the app that has the geotagging feature wasn't showing up on anybody's devices!  Or so I thought... it turns out that it was located in a different location than when I saw if a few days prior, something that Google is well known for doing when updating apps at times.  A couple of the attendees that stayed after to ask questions really wanted to figure it out, so after a couple of minutes of working together, we were able to find the geotagging function and all was well once again.  Throughout the two days, many people came up to me and told me that they really enjoyed my sessions, so that made me feel better.  Even though the snags that I had were minor, I am my own worst critic and strive for perfection.  

Even novice hockey fans can appreciate just how nasty this goal is!
#GoKnightsGo #VegasBorn #GoldenKnights
Over the course of the two days, I heard some very inspiring stories, caught up with some people that I don't get to see that often, especially Joanne Schmutz, Heather Nail, Donnie Piercey, Jeff Heil, Michelle Armstrong, Susan Stewart, Robert Speciale, Rosalinda Jaimes, Michele Osinski and Nick Park.  I also met some great people like Jen Giffen, George Barcenas, Kim Pollishuke, Laura Hamelink, and Austin Houp. I had some great conversations with tons of people from near and far, especially a gentleman from Vancouver, BC that I helped with Google Forms and talked hockey, and a pair of women from Calgary that I also got to talk hockey with (I never tire of talking hockey with anyone, but especially people that appreciated and love the game as much as most Canadians do).  The learning at conferences is always great, but the networking is even better.  

So conference season is upon us, I hope that the conferences that you attend are amazing, what you learn will be applied to your craft, and above all, I hope that you share with your fellow educators the great stuff that you bring home.  

Until next time...