Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Time is Now!

In the description of my blog, I describe it as a place where I will share tips, tricks, rants, and wisecracks about life, education, politics, and everything in between.  Typically, I stick to the educational aspect of that description.  However, there have been a few occasions in which I have strayed from education to address something else that I am passionate about.  This post will be one of the latter.  If you are expecting a post dealing strictly with education, you may stop reading now, but I encourage you to keep going, as I believe that this is something that is of the utmost importance and can have a very strong impact on our lives as professional educators and for our students, colleagues, families, and communities.  

 On September 22, 1981, my mother, after hours of excruciating pain and suffering, gave birth to me (I've never asked her what her labor for me was like, so that may be a stretch, but after watching my wife give birth to our two children, I think I have a pretty good idea).  I was born in the 1980s, so technically I could be referred to as an 80s baby, but I definitely identify more as a 90s kid.  The 1990s is when I completed the bulk of my schooling, grew to my current height of 6'2" by the age of 14, and eventually graduated from high school in 2000.  Some of my biggest influences during this time came from the music of the era.  My mother has always listened to country, my father turned me on to classic rock.  To this day, I still listen to classic rock, much preferring it to most of the "music" of today.  I still appreciate a lot of the older country and what I grew up listening to with my mom (Garth Brooks, John Michael Montgomery, and Alan Jackson are still some of my favorites), but most of what is considered country music today does not appeal to me. By the time I had reached about 5th grade, I began to explore other types of music and really was turned on to harder rock and metal, especially the "Seattle sound", the grunge movement.  

Grunge had everything that I wanted as a preadolescent and teenager: it was loud, it was aggressive, it was something that my mom hated.  Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Soundgarden kicked out album after album of tunes that I still listen to almost daily (Lithium on SiriusXM plays all of the 90s grunge and alternative, without commercials, and my car radio rarely strays).  Many songs spoke to me musically, others spoke to me lyrically ("You, my friend, I will defend, and if we change, I'll love you anyway."  -No Excuses by Alice in Chains).  Because of my love for the music that I grew up with, you can only imagine the shock when, as driving to work, I learned of the death of Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell's death.  

Chris Cornell's final tweet, just hours before his death
Upon learning of Cornell's death, instantly I was overcome with shock, grief, and disbelief.  How can a man so young, after playing a show before a sold-out crowd at the Fox Theater in Detroit, only hours before tweeting out how excited he was to be back in Detroit for a show, have passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly?  Unfortunately, after a few seconds of letting the news settle in, I had some ideas of what could have happened.  My first thought was a drug overdose.  It wasn't a secret that Chris Cornell had struggled with addiction throughout most of his life.  And sadly, way too many artists, musicians, and others that live their life in the limelight have their lives snuffed out way before their time because of addiction.  My second thought was that it was suicide.  Cornell also struggled with depression, which probably was partially why he had also struggled with drug addiction.  My thoughts were confirmed later in the day when multiple sources had confirmed that medical examiners had indeed ruled his death a suicide.  

I cannot even begin to pretend I know what had happened, why it happened, etc.  What I do know is that too many people struggle with addiction and depression in our world, and there aren't nearly enough resources to help people.  There is also the stigma of addiction and depression.  I recall listening to a recent episode of the Eagle Nation Podcast (the podcast for Team RWB, an amazing veterans' organization that seeks to bring veterans and their communities together through physical and social activity) where the guest on the episode talked about the difference between physical illness/injury and mental illness.  If you broke your arm, there would be no question whatsoever that you would visit a doctor, get your arm set and cast, be prescribed medication to prevent pain and infection, and you would follow up with a doctor to make sure that your arm healed properly.  Mental illness is different; those with mental illness were treated like criminals, housed in horrific prisons, for hundreds of years.  The stigma of mental illness still exists today where people are judged, people are afraid to talk about it, and most won't seek help, hoping they can "deal with it."  

Again, I can't say I know anything about Chris Cornell's circumstances.  Maybe he was seeking help, maybe he wasn't.  Maybe he was sober, fighting his addiction, maybe he had fallen off of the wagon.  As someone that deals with depression (see my previous post, Highs & Lows), I can definitely identify with bouts of sadness, feelings of worthlessness, and other symptoms that are common with depression.  With the help of a therapist and people that I love and care about, I have been doing much better. 

The whole idea of writing this post was to outline how important it is to do these three things:
  • Tell the people that you care about that you care.  Make an effort every day to tell somebody that you appreciate them and that you are glad to have them in your life.  
  • Encourage those people to never be afraid to talk to you if something is bothering them or they are struggling (I struggle sharing my own feelings at times, it's a work in progress).  This is especially important as educators to show our students that we care about them.  
  • Celebrate the accomplishments of those in your life and encourage during times of struggle.  
The time to remove the stigma of addiction and mental illness was a long time ago, but since we cannot jump into a Delorean with Doc and Marty to change things then, the time for change is now!  And while we are at it, we can celebrate the contributions that Chris Cornell made to society through his music and philanthropy.  And I know that for all of us, he took the moment to "say hello to heaven."  Until next time... 

  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Things I've Learned: Admin Edition

I was a classroom teacher for 11 years, then spent six months as a technology coach before I was appointed to my current position as dean of students.  I always knew that administrators had an unforgiving, time-consuming, and demanding schedule.  However, you never really know what a person goes through until you walk in their shoes.  In the two and a half months that I have worked in this job, I have learned so much about what I thought I knew about before.  As I write this, I am enjoying one of the most low-key days that I have had thus far and watching the Detroit Tigers take on the Arizona D-Backs, pondering the things that I have learned and experienced over the past couple of months.  

I'd be a liar if I told you that this
has never been me... 
Every day, I walk into my office and plan out my day.  Usually, that consists of looking at the behavior management and prepping the paperwork on students that need to be addressed for disciplinary reasons, meet with the other two deans, the assistant principal, and the principal to address any pressing concerns, and supervising the common areas of the school as students start trickling in, all while down a bit of coffee, mostly because I enjoy coffee, not because I need it to wake up.  But all plans, even with the best of intentions and preparation, can be blown right out the window as soon as the curveball comes spinning toward the plate.  Parents and/or students will be waiting when you walk into the office, an incident will occur on a bus or on the way to school that will need to be addressed, or you spill your coffee all over your desk (I've only done that once).  Regardless, you have to learn to roll with things and prioritize, especially when you have to start throwing in other responsibilities, such as observing teachers, presiding over committee meetings, and/or shifting responsibilities when your admin team is shorthanded.  

Prior to my appointment, the thing that made me think the most and caused the most anxiety was the thought of having to make numerous phone calls, most of which were going to be of the negative persuasion.  As a person that really does not like talking on the phone, I had to, and still have to at times, psych myself out to make those calls.  I had to learn quickly to have thick skin and to not take things personally when speaking with an upset parent.  While I still dread making calls to certain parents and/or about certain things, I have learned to be a better communicator and not to dwell on those negative calls that are inevitable.  

I have also learned to never make plans to do anything on a weeknight and most Fridays.  Because the hours are not set, the time in which I leave varies greatly.  I have left as early as 4 PM, but I have also stayed as late as almost 10 PM.  Days that are jam-packed with incidents can turn into long days of making phone calls, inputting notes into behavior management, writing emails to set up observations or meetings, meeting as an admin team, and so much more.  Then there are the days where there is an event on campus, such as clubs and sports or school plays.  You can plan to leave by a certain time, but there is no such thing as certainty.  As a teacher, I could almost always leave at a time that allowed me to pick up the kids, go to the gym, etc.  I am a lucky guy to have such an understanding, flexible, and loving wife because otherwise, she would have left me by now.  Even weekends are sometimes filled with school-related events or work to do.  

As unforgiving, time-consuming, and demanding the job has been, I wouldn't trade it for the world; I am thoroughly enjoying my position and look forward to waking up each day to get to "work."  I think back to the administrators in which I have worked with in the past and have gained a greater appreciation for the work that they did.  I appreciate the amazing admin team that I get to work with on a daily basis.  And on a more personal level, the busy lifestyle has helped my depression issues that I addressed in a previous post tremendously; my episodes of shutting down have been minimal, and I credit it to staying busy and keeping my mind off of things that would sometimes cause my bouts of depression.  

Because of how busy I have been, my time to write, tweet, participate in Twitter chats, Voxer chats, etc. has been compromised.  As I am adjusting, I am hoping to carve out more time to be more than a social media lurker and to write more regularly, like the once a week that I was doing for quite a while.  Some very exciting things are coming down the pike, and I can't wait to share my experiences and learning in future posts.  

Until next time... 



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tools for School Administrators

My love for learning about educational technology tools did not end when I was appointed to my dean position in February.  While the time to read blogs, sift through my Twitter feed and participate in Twitter chats, chime in on Voxer, and meet with colleagues on an individual basis has certainly been compromised, it doesn't mean that I haven't been a lurker.  My morning commute is 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic lights, which is a great time to listen to podcasts and catch up on Voxer.  I can still pop onto Twitter here and there and see some great things.  And while I don't get the chance to go into incredible detail, it's always nice to chat with a teacher while on supervision duty or have them pop into my office to answer a couple of quick questions about various tech tools.  Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how I can apply my expertise of tech tools to the school administrator position.  While the list I came up with is not exhaustive, these tools are ones that can definitely make the everyday tasks of administrators easier, and make communication with teachers easier and more effective.  

Most administrators are responsible for observing and evaluating the effectiveness of classroom teachers.  I can remember sitting in classes in junior high and high school and seeing administrators in my classroom, clipboard in hand, scrawling notes down over the course of a few minutes, then leaving, I presume, to eventually review the handwritten notes with my teacher and write an evaluation.  That was 20+ years ago, but some administrators are still doing the same thing.  Other administrators have moved forward by using a word processing document or a .pdf file to write their notes on a laptop or tablet.  Regardless, the teacher in which the administrator is evaluating has to wait before they can see what the administrator saw during their observation.  This is where a Google Doc or Google Sheet can come into play.  The administrator makes their observation notes in the Doc or Sheet and shares the file directly to the teacher as a "view only" file.  As soon as the observation is completed, the teacher can see the notes that the administrator made during the session.  

In Nevada, teachers are evaluated based on the Nevada Educator Performance Framework, or NEPF.   Teachers are evaluated based on a series of instructional and professional standards.  I created a Google Sheet that includes all of the standards and indicators, along with several columns labeled "date".  I make a copy of the file and rename it "Teacher's Name - Observation Notes" and share it with the teacher.  During an observation, I write my evidence statements in the row with the standard and indicator under the date in which I am observing.  I have provided an example of the instructional standards here, as well as a sample for the professional standards; if you are a Nevada administrator, feel free to make a copy and use it! 

Communication between administrators and teachers, families and the community is key.  Often times, the easiest way to communicate with groups is via email, but those emails often get lost in the shuffle.  An easy way to make those emails stand out more is to make them more visual.  For example, if you are emailing your staff to announce that there will be a staff meeting, you can use several different visual tools to create an email that will more likely stick in your recipients' heads and get your point across more effectively.   Some great tools to use to make those visuals, which can include video (!!!) are Adobe Spark, Canva, and a meme generator of your choice (a quick search online will turn up several meme generators).  

A sample meme you could send to your staff! 
Some schools send home a newsletter to update families and community on happenings around the school.  Why not make it more fun by making it a video or a podcast?  There are lots of tools that are simple to use to help administrators get their message out in a more interactive fashion.  Adobe Spark has a video function that allows users to make quick videos, with tons of features to make the videos look and sound great.  Want to make a quick and easy podcast?  Soundtrap is essentially Garageband for the web, so it's accessible on any device and allows the user to create sound clips and record voices and sounds, allowing users to record simple podcasts.  Whether you create a video or a podcast, the traditional newsletter can be improved and reach your audience more easily.   

As I continue to settle into my role as an administrator, I am going to figure out other ways to incorporate amazing tech tools into the position.  When that happens, I will share my thoughts on how administrators can make their life easier and be more effective to the schools, families, and communities in which they serve.  Until next time... 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Crazy That Is #CUE17

The past few weeks have been absolute insanity with the new job.  I am learning a ton, basically via trial by fire.  However, I am thoroughly enjoying my new role as a dean of students, and middle school kids are a lot of fun.  The craziness continued in a different fashion through the CUE Conference in Palm Springs.  Three days of keynotes, sessions, meeting new people and seeing friends are a great way to spend a weekend! 

The insanity started off on the wrong foot on Wednesday night.  Before I could leave town, I had a function at school that required me to stick around for a little while before I could hit the road.  The drive from Las Vegas to Palm Springs is only about 4 hours, so I wasn't too worried about the drive getting me to the hotel late (that's what 5 Hour Energy is for!).  The problem was arriving at my hotel to find out that they had canceled my reservation without telling me!  I had booked my room at the Motel 6 in Palm Springs several months ago, using a credit card that in the time since had expired.  The front desk attendant informed me that they had tried to run my card a few hours prior and it had declined (naturally, it had expired), so they released my room and did not have any left.  No phone call, no email notification, nothing to tune me into the problem.  I was too dumbfounded to be angry at the time.  The chances of a room at nearly midnight in Palm Springs the week of CUE and a major tennis tournament were slim to none.  Luckily, my good friend and CUE-NV partner in crime, Heidi Carr, was awake when I called her to vent my frustrations and offered the extra bed in her room for the next few nights.  All was good, but Motel 6 will be getting a stern telephone call from me after this weekend.

For the most part, I went to a ton of great sessions over the course of the three days.  As a newly appointed administrator, I wanted/needed to get to more administrator-geared sessions, but at the same time, I still wanted to get to some sessions that focused on teaching still.  One such session that I wanted to get to was one on hyperdocs.  I have tried to go to hyperdocs sessions in the past at various functions, but the sessions have not been very good, or in one case, I had to leave in the middle of the session and missed just about everything.  The fifth time was the charm; I got some great ideas and examples on hyperdocs that I am able to use and share.  My friend Heidi Carr and I put together a document of resources from the various sessions that we went to during our time, you can view and peruse what we saw here.

It was pure coincidence that I wore a Rush shirt '
on a day that I met a Canadian legend, I promise!
I also got to see the man, the myth, and the legend George Couros, author of The Innovator's Mindset, keynote day two of the event.  George's keynote hit a lot of the items that he covers in his book, shared his story of growing up in Canada to Greek immigrants, and how what you do makes you what you are.  I also got the chance to meet him after the keynote and speak with him for a brief moment.  However, the highlight was when he came to the CUE Karaoke session on Friday night and I got to talk to him for more of an extended period of time.  Our conversation was more about hockey than it was education, and at one point he even told me that I sounded like I knew more about Canada than he did (I grew up a couple of hours from the border, had CBC in my channel lineup for many years, and pay close attention to hockey, so I do have a bit of knowledge on Canadian culture, history, etc.).  I mentioned to him that I would love to have him come to Las Vegas to do an event with CUE-NV, so I am REALLY hoping that CUE-NV can pull that off!

Hans took this amazing photo of me scurrying up some boulders
as the sun came up!  
One of the greatest highlights of the weekend that was not related to the conference itself was getting to hang out with great people, some of whom I had met before, others I was meeting for the first time.  On Friday morning of the conference, a group of about 25 people met to hike up one of the mountains near the convention center.  Hans Tullman, a great dude that works out of Bakersfield, CA, led the organization and execution of #CUEHike17.  We hiked a total of about 2 miles roundtrip and climbed an elevation of over 600 feet over the course of the hike.  Before it was even finished, we started talking about the hike at CUE in 2018.


By Saturday morning, the brain drain (the good kind) had definitely set in.  I enjoyed a nice breakfast at a place called Pinnochio's (check it out if you're ever in Palm Springs) and went to the convention center to see some of the student projects that were on display and attend one last session.  After the session, I decided that I would hit the road rather than going to the closing keynote (from what I have heard, that was a bad choice; the final keynote was quite amazing, or so I'm told).  I knew the drive home was going to be tedious from the lack of sleep, the pile of messages that piled up on Voxer, the podcasts that updated, and the sheer amount of new things that I learned.  After catching up on Voxer and listening to a podcast, I decided to listen to a couple albums that I hadn't listened to in a while, Stonesour's House of Gold & Bones Part 1 and Audio Secrecy (with the song Zzyzx Road by Stonesour thrown in for good measure) and take in the scenery of the beautiful Mojave Preserve.  A good choice, because the view area between Amboy (on historic Route 66) and Kelso Depot was a great stop off to stretch the legs and snap a few photos.  Had I not been so excited to get home to see my family and it wasn't 90 degrees, I may have gone for a bit of a hike!  Just up the road are the Kelso Dunes; I didn't stop for photos there, but that's another stop I need to do in the near future!

This pano turned out very nicely, showing the amazing rock formations in the middle of the desert. 




I was really tired at this point, don't judge the
look on my face, I really was enjoying the view!

I look forward to the next CUE event, whether that be a Rock Star, Fall CUE, or if I can't go to another until next springs CUE National in Palm Springs.  In the meantime, I hope to share everything that I learned and learn from others that were there as well and apply it to my role as a dean of students.  Until next time...




Saturday, March 4, 2017

Highs & Lows

Life is full of highs, but there are plenty of low points that each person must also deal with throughout their time on this planet.  In the past few days and weeks, I have addressed some pretty amazing highs, but I have also coped with some horrific lows as well.  As excited as I am to reveal a tremendous new chapter in my life, I also feel that it important to address something that carries enough weight that it could potentially save somebody's life.

This is, by far, the hardest thing that I have ever written.  It is also, quite possibly, one of the most honest and revealing things that I have ever written or said.  In writing this, I am not looking for sympathy.  I am hoping that by revealing my personal struggles, I can help others to realize that it is alright to admit that they are struggling and to seek help in those struggles.  If one person reads this and does something to make a positive difference in their life or in the life of others, then I have accomplished what I am setting out to do.  

If you have ever read my blog or met me in person, I exude an appearance of someone that is happy, positive, and looking to make a difference in others' lives.  For the most part, this is an accurate description.  However, there is a darker side of me that I don't let out very often, even to those that are closest to me.  Some things have happened in the past few days that have made me finally realize that I can no longer continue to bottle up my struggles and try to deal with them and hope that I can resolve them on my own. 

I struggle with depression.  Most of the time, I am positive and happy, but I have moments on many days, or even for days at a time, where I do not feel right and I have nothing in the form of reasoning behind why I feel that way.  Triggers for these feelings vary, from times I think about my brother (more on that momentarily) to watching something sad or horrific on the news.  Sometimes, the feelings aren't triggered at all; they just happen.  In the past few days, I realized that I can't continue to go on this way and that I need to seek some help.  

I don't think that this is something that I have always dealt with.  Throughout my life, there have been things that have triggered depression that would happen to anyone.  Breaking up with a girlfriend, getting into a fight with a friend or loved one, losing a loved one, and so many other things have contributed to times of natural depression.  My earliest memory of continuous, unexplained bouts of depression came about around the time my brother passed away in 2010.  Cody had been enlisted in the Army since the fall of 2004, surviving 15 months in Iraq from 2006-2007, then 12 months in Afghanistan in 2008-2009, returning from his tour in December 2009.  During his tour in Afghanistan, he survived an IED attack that left him about 60% deaf in his right ear.   On January 14, 2010, Cody did not report for his morning duty and was found dead in his apartment.  After an autopsy, it was determined that my brother had contracted pneumonia and while sleeping, his lungs filled up with fluid, causing him to stop breathing and eventually succumb to the lack of oxygen.  After his death, I went into a spiral of drinking and eating that was certainly not healthy.  At its worst, I was consuming several beers and whiskey on a near nightly basis.  I was also gaining weight like I never had before.  After about 9 months, I decided it was time for a change.  

I had realized that I had to do something about my weight, so I started attending Weight Watchers meetings.  My leader there not only helped me to start thinking about my food intake and the triggers that cause me to eat, but he also saved me from having to start attending other meetings.  I dramatically cut back on my food intake and drinking nearly ceased.  It eventually led to losing over 60 pounds. However, in the years since, I have gained the weight back, much of which I had attributed to terrible excuses.  I had started to feel better, but I was still having moments here and there of depression, something that I had chalked up to dealing with my brother's death.  

I have never been somebody to talk about my issues.  I am not good about communicating emotions and I also don't like the idea of thrusting emotions and issues on others, not even those that are closest to me, including my wife.  It is a fault for sure.  As much it pains me to admit and will be a shock, I have contemplated taking my life at times.  I have not attempted to, ultimately because I care for my family and friends enough to the point that I couldn't bear to think how it may affect them.  There isn't any excuse for why I have let things build up.  There isn't any excuse for things that I have done or said, or sometimes worse, things that I have not done or said.  I am taking full responsibility for my words and actions and I am seeking professional help.  This week, I went to a therapist and discuss with her many different things that can get to the bottom of why I feel the way that I do at times and to get better.

Now that I have gotten that off of my chest, on to the good news!  Over the past several weeks, I have applied for several administrative positions at schools throughout my district.  Most of them were at high schools, but a couple was at middle schools, and one was an elementary position.  On Wednesday, February 22, I learned that I had been appointed to a new school, where I would serve as one of the deans of students.  I had about 36 hours between learning of my appointment and starting my new position, so it was a hectic 36 hours.  I am very grateful for the past few months at my previous school and I look forward to the new opportunity.  Since my appointment, I have jumped off of the board into the deep end of a pool of lava, learned a ton, met some great people, and I am starting to get to know middle school kids for the first time in my career.

Because the new position will be very demanding, my frequency of posting may suffer for a bit.  Once I get into a routine, I will be sure to continue to share my learning and experiences.

Until next time, please share my story, not to sympathize, but to help somebody come to the realization that it is okay to seek help if you need it.  Thank you.  


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My First Podcast

If you are like me, your daily listening on your drive, during a workout, or relaxing after a long day includes music and/or podcasts.  A few months ago, I wrote a post about some of my favorite podcasts.  While I still listen to those podcasts, I have added many other fine podcasts to my listening rotation (I may be due for another post on my favorites, that will come at a later time!).  In the past few months, I have also started looking into podcasting myself, learning from some of the greats in the podcasting world, fine educators like Tom Covington, Michael Jephcott, Brian Briggs, and Ryan O'Donnell, all of whom host some great podcasts (TOSAs Talking Tech with Tom & Mike, Check This Out with Brian & Ryan, and Ryan's new venture, Talking Social Studies).  While I have not yet got off the ground with my own podcast, I was approached by two teachers at my school about producing a podcast for them.  Without further ado, I present to you... the Ridge Life Podcast!



The idea behind the Ridge Life Podcast is to provide a fun outlet for things that are happening around my school.  In this inaugural episode, the hosts, Jamie and Jimmy, placed boxes in random locations around campus for students to place questions they had for them.  They randomly drew questions and answered them in one segment.  Another segment featured the advisor for the school's Varsity Quiz team that recently won the county championship.  Lastly, Jamie, Jimmy, and I participated in a hot sauce challenge (tune in to find out the winner!).  I also provided the introduction and outro for the episode.  As a participant, I was much more involved in this episode than I had planned and intend to in the future, but for now, I am very proud of the work that these teachers put into the planning and execution of this first episode.  We are going to start recording the next episode later this week.  


Advertisement of the first episode of the Ridge Life Podcast

The planning for a podcast of my own is in the infant stages.  I have spoken with a friend of mine in Las Vegas, as well as two friends in Reno, on collaborating on a monthly podcast on education in Nevada.  I have a nice podcasting microphone, I'm getting good with using Soundtrap, now the four of us need to figure out what the scope of the podcast will be and figure out times to record. Because Ridge Life is the first podcast that I have ever produced and the first podcast that either of the hosts has ever recorded, any feedback that you may have is greatly appreciated.  Please feel free to comment on the video link, tweet me (@AndersonEdTech) or the Ridge Life Podcast (@RidgeLifePdcast), using the hashtag #RidgeLifePodcast, send me an email, or send a message via carrier pigeon.  You can also contact me through my website, www.andersonedtech.net.  Thank you, and until next time... keep living... the Ridge Life!

Please visit my website, you can find contact
  information on the "Contact" page. 


Friday, February 10, 2017

Are You Connected?

I wasn't always a connected teacher.  Early in my career, I did not have access to technology in my classroom like I have had in the past few years.  If you really want to dive into, while 2005 doesn't sound that long ago, the world of educational technology has come a long way since then.  We are talking about days before smartphones, iPads and other tablets, Chromebooks, and a lot of the great apps and programs that we all like to use today.  In fact, I remember having an overhead projector in my classroom with binders of transparencies that were provided by textbook (textbooks! See below for my explanation) companies, given to me by other teachers, or ones that I had made.  Whiteboard markers and cleaner were a hot commodity.  If I could get all of my classes together from the first couple years of my teaching career, I would apologize to them for how terrible of a teacher that I probably was at the time (I have come across some of those kids in recent years, they are pushing 30 now, and some of them have thanked me for being a good teacher, so at least I made a difference in a few lives).  Since then, as my skills and technology have advanced, I like to think that I am a much better teacher.  

Disclaimer: I am not 100% anti-textbook.  I believe that they can still serve a SMALL purpose.  If you are doing your job as an educator, you should be able to build lessons centered around things that are not from a textbook.  Reading is an important task, and using a textbook for small readings is fine, but working with a book with the goal of covering the entire thing is unrealistic and out of date.  My AP US History students were expected to read from their text, in addition to other items, but my other classes were assigned a book as a supplement.  If I was to start my own school, I would save hundreds of thousands of dollars by not purchasing books and instead use that money to purchase devices and train my staff on those devices and how to build lessons that are innovative from sources other than a textbook.  

My first dive into really becoming technologically savvy came in about 2010.  I had just moved to a new school where more technology was available to teachers and students were expected to graduate with technology, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.  Coupled with the technology was an emphasis on project-based learning.  I had to adjust to those expectations as a teacher to be better for my students.  To help in integrating more, with parental permission, I had students set up Gmail accounts that I could use to push out assignments and activities, send general announcements, and have students collaborate digitally.  Just as I was getting used to the system, my school was selected as a pilot to roll out Google Apps for Education, which gave each student an account.  The rollout was cumbersome at first, but eventually, I became the tech savvy person that I am today, simply by toying around with the Google tools and other things that I discovered along the way.  I love telling people that I am self-taught when they ask me where I got my technology degree from; I got it from the University of Me.  

However, one thing that I could not settle on was the best way to demonstrate my skills through the Internet and communicate with my student digitally.  My first foray into a website was a Weebly site that I had a for a few weeks several years ago.  I did not love it and felt that the time I was putting into it was not worth it.  Then I used a website that was provided by my school district where I could put some basic information and push out assignments, but it too was not something of which I was a big fan.  My next venture was using Google Calendar.  I created a Calendar for each of my classes and shared it with my students.  I was able to post assignments, announcements, and other items to it, but it still required students to email or print any work.  It worked, it was better than my previous sites, but it still wasn't quite what I wanted.  So going into the fall of 2014, I was in limbo again.  

I went to a training on the Canvas LMS.  This was more like what I was looking for!  However, in my time toying with it, I found it to be something that would be very complicated for my students and I would spend more time training them on the program than I would be teaching my curriculum.  But a couple of weeks before school was to start, my dilemma was solved when Google introduced Google Classroom.  Looking back at it now, it was very "feature deficient" at the time, but it did everything that I wanted it to do.  From that moment on, I was about 95% paperless until last year, when I was able to go fully paperless.  I had also built a Google site, but I didn't put a great deal of work into it because Classroom provided everything my site would have.  I recently created a tutorial on starting with Google Classroom and some of the basic and intermediate functions of the program.  You can see the video above.  

The badge/logo that I created for my "brand" and website.
Now that I am out of the classroom, I felt that it was time to build a site again, a place where I could share that things that I am passionate about, the presentations that I have delivered, and of course, this blog.  After some comparison shopping between Wix, Weebly, and the new Google Sites, I settled on building a site through Weebly.  I even went out and bought a domain from Go Daddy and produced a graphic to promote my "brand".  After a couple of days work (really, only a few hours over that time, Weebly is very user-friendly), I had a functional site that looked good.  However, as happy as I was, I still felt that something was missing, even though I couldn't figure out what it could be.  My answer came after listening to an episode of the Google Teacher Tribe podcast.  So much of what I have to share is in my Google Drive, is Google related, and my blog is through Google's Blogger platform.  Why not build a site through the new Google Sites?  Sure, there are a few things that Weebly could do that Sites wouldn't, but Sites would allow me to embed my Drive files, the site itself would be saved in my Drive, and I could still use my domain.  Rebuilding my site would not be too tedious; I had started to build a sample site when the new Sites came out.  Essentially, I was able to transfer the info from my Weebly site over to the Google site.  The finished product can be seen at www.andersonedtech.net.  

The new website provides many different things.  Obviously, this blog is featured and you'll be able to access my posts from the site.  I also have included some screencasts and videos that I have made, including the Google Classroom video I embedded earlier in this post.  I have linked some presentations that I have given at workshops and conferences; feel free to bookmark them and use them with your colleagues.  There is also a little bit about my background story and a contact page.  While I am not expecting to become the next educelebrity, I hope that what I share here and on my site will help somebody in some way.  Please take a moment to have a look at my site; your feedback on how I can make it better is 100% welcome! 

In closing, I am still waiting on word on the administrative positions that I interviewed for in the past few weeks.  I am very excited to think about what the future has in store for me, but if it doesn't happen right now, I really enjoy that position that I have now.  So for now, it's the "hurry up and wait" game.  Until next time... 




Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Buffering: A Recap of the Weekend Google Summit

Over this past weekend of January 28-29, I attended the EdTechTeam's Las Vegas Google Summit. This was the third consecutive year that I have attended the summit, and overall, the sixth EdTechTeam event.  Every time I attend one of these events, I am amazed at the number of people that take time out of their weekend to learn and grow, the knowledge of the presenters sharing the great tools that they use in their classrooms, and at this point, seeing people that I consider friends, even though they live sometimes thousands of miles away and the only time we see one another is during one of these events.   Not only was I able to attend and learn about some fabulous edtech tools, but I was able to share my expertise in two separate presentations.  It has taken me a couple of days to decompress, but here are some of my favorite moments and new discoveries from this past weekend.  

Me when I realized that my presentation was in danger!
The summits always start with a rousing keynote, and this was no different. Donnie Piercey got everybody fired up and motivated by emphasizing how teachers should have fun with the students and classes.  My first session after the keynote was focused on hyperdocs.  The instructor provided some fine examples of hyperdocs, but unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the entire session.  Partway through, I realized that my new Chromebook has a micro-HDMI input, not the HDMI input that my old Chromebook had.  Since I was presenting not long after the session, I had to find an adapter for my VGA to HDMI dongle.  A quick run to Best Buy down the street from the school got me my adapter and crisis was averted.  I was able to save the presentation materials so I can go back to look at them and start playing around with hyperdocs more.  

I am very active with my blog, but I am always looking for more ideas on how to help teachers incorporate blogging into their classes with their students.  The presenter for the blogging session was Charity Helman, a wonderful teacher from Calgary, AB.  She showed some great examples of students' blogs from her classroom and shared ideas on how teachers could incorporate blogging further.  There was also time for teachers that did not have a blog to set one up to dive into with their classes on Monday.  Charity also shared her blog, one that she said she hopes to contribute to more often.  

If I only inspired one kid in my career, it's
moments like this that make it worth it!
My first presentation of the summit was on screenshot and screencasting programs.  My session was quite packed with lots of eager educators with plenty of questions and insights on how they use screenshots and screencasts.  However, my absolute favorite moment of the entire weekend came just before I was about to get my session started.  As I was greeting people and assisting them with logging into my presentation on Pear Deck, one woman that had sat down looked very familiar, so I asked her if we had met before.  Her response was along the lines of "Yes, I can definitely say we have".  It turns out that this woman, Tiffany Orton, was a student of mine 9 years ago and had me for US Government.  She is now married so the last name threw me off, but as soon as she told me who she was, I remembered her.  In my defense, I had her in the 2007-2008 school year, so it had been a long time since I had seen her.  I was excited to see a former student, now a teacher, coming to learn from me once again.  On top of that, she sent me a very nice direct message on Twitter, thanking me for the session and everything that I had done to inspire her many years before.  And speaking of Twitter, she needs more educational followers; take a moment to follow Tiffany and share your expertise with her!  

My second favorite part of the weekend came learning about Soundtrap.  The presenter, Meredith Allen, described the product as "the result of Garage Band and Google Docs having a child".  Garage Band is an amazing music and recording program, but it is limited to Apple products.  You don't have that issue with Soundtrap, as it is available across all platforms as a web-based program.  You can also download apps for Android and iOS.  Once you have created your account, you can share a song or a recording for editing purposes with others, much like you would a Google Doc, Slides, Sheets, or other.  I received an email in the days leading up to the summit that explained what Soundtrap was and that they would be at the summit as a vendor and presenter.  I created an account and toyed around with it a bit before Saturday, but I was definitely looking forward to the presentation.  I enjoyed the presentation and the potential for the program with students so much that I went to the same presentation again on Sunday to make sure that I didn't miss anything and to play around with it as well.  During the sessions, in the course of about 10 minutes, I was able to create a sample jingle for a podcast, which you check out here.  To top it off, I won a 6-month account for me and up to 50 students, which normally would cost $250/year!  I will be using the program to record and produce a podcast that a couple of teachers at my school are planning.  Stay tuned for the Ridge Life Podcast!

My presentation on Sunday morning was on a topic and in a format that I had never done before.  I organized my presentation as a roundtable discussion amongst teacher leaders and administrators on how to bring tech-newbies and tech-resisters into the fold at our schools and districts.  I created a document that allowed for attendees to add ideas of things that has worked for them and things that could potentially work.  It was a shame that the session was only an hour; we had to cut off in the middle of a great conversation.  There are a lot of great things going on in schools throughout my district and in the districts that were represented by attendees.  You can check out some of their ideas on the shared document from the session.

I've proved that I know the tools, my
video needs to better demonstrate it!
The last session that I attended was on the various Google certification program.  While the session was geared more for people that were interested in becoming Level 1 certified, I was interested in learning more about the Trainer, Innovator, and Administrator program, as I already have my Level 1 & 2 certifications.  I had applied for the Google Certified Trainer program, but learned last week that I had been rejected (which very closely relates to Charity's closing keynote speech on failure).  From information provided by Michelle Armstrong, I have a good idea of what I need to do to tweak my trainer video and be accepted.  I also have a good idea of something that I would like to do for the Google Certified Innovator program, but there is going to be a great deal of groundwork to do before I submit an application.  The session ended before information on the Google Certified Administrator program could be shared, but I have looked at some of the modules and have an idea of what is needed.  If you are interested in any of the Google certification programs, take a look at the Google for Education Training Center.

The closing for the event was a keynote from Charity Helman (her first, I believe!) on failure.  She highlighted how throughout her life, she has endured what most people would refer to as failures, only to rise to where she is today as a wife, a mother, an educator, Google Certified Educator Level 1 & 2, Google Certified Trainer, and a presenter for EdTechTeam Summits.  She emphasized that if you allow a failure to dictate, then you will indeed be a failure.  But if you can analyze the failure, learn from it, and make changes, you too can do amazing things.

It was so great to learn from great people, see good friends that I don't get to see often enough and make plans to see each other again.  I am going to apologize now if I miss a name, but some of those great people are Jeff Heil, Emily Fitzpatrick, Joanne Schmutz, Craig Statucki, Tina Statucki, Snehal Bhakta, Lucas Leavitt, Nick Park, Dennis Jarrell, Donnie, Michelle, Charity, Pear Deck, Soundtrap, and the EdTechTeam.  I look forward to the next time we meet!

Until next time...


Saturday, January 28, 2017

The More You Know

You, me, we all do, and always will!
As an educator and as a human being, I am always looking to learn new things.  Whether it is learning how to shoot a better slapshot (this is a never-ending endeavor), tie a funky knot in my tie, or a new program or piece of technology, my quest for knowledge and trying new things is something I strive for on a daily basis.  One of the things that are very tough for many people is to admit when they don't know about something.  Sometimes it's because they are trying to fit in with the crowd around them.  Sometimes it's because they do know a little something about a particular topic or skill, but they purposefully or inadvertently inflate their knowledge and experience.  Sometimes, people just flat out lie about their particular skills to gain a competitive advantage.  Regardless, it has happened to us all, but if you can admit to yourself and others that you do not know much, or anything, about a subject, skill, etc., the better off you will be to learn more.  

In the past few days, I have come across several things that I knew nothing about or had very limited experience with in the past.  Many of these came about when teachers requested help in said skill.  When I started my position in August 2016, from the very beginning, I informed people that I was not an expert on all things techy and that there may be times that I would learn from them and/or learn with them.  So when I was approached regarding pivot tables, spreadsheet queries, and submitting images and files as responses in a Google Form, I was doing as much learning as the teacher who requested my help.  There are also several new apps and programs that I have learned about in the past few days.  Some came from attending a conference, some from listening to a podcast, come just by luck while doing a search for something else.  Regardless of where I found out about these new tech tools, I am excited to share them!

Understatement... 
The pivot table is an amazing way to pull spreadsheet data and sort into new ways.  The teacher that requested the help was looking to create a rubric for a choral festival that he is helping to judge.  He would be one of 6 judges evaluating over 400 students from throughout the State of Nevada in several different areas of critique during their singing auditions.  Using the rubric, each judge would input the students' names, region, school, scores, and other items.  The pivot table would allow him to pull scores for each student, each judge, each region, each school, so on and so forth.  In the past, he had to compile everything from handwritten rubrics and it was a process that took hours.  Now, in mere minutes, he will have all of the information he needs, sorted neatly, and disseminated quickly.  I did not have any experience with pivot tables prior to this, and while I am still not an expert, I was amazed at the potential using pivot tables.

Spreadsheet queries are a bit more complicated.  I still do not fully understand them in all honesty.  They can do a lot of the same functions that a pivot table can do, but they can take it a step further by requesting only specific data from a spreadsheet.  It involves a query function that can get very long and very complicated.  The function pulls data from the data set and organizes neat and clean.  One of the ROTC teachers at my school created a rubric to assess cadets attendance, dress, grooming, and other items in their evaluation.  The query that he created then pulls students by class, date, whether they were present, and overall scores.  He set up the parameters in the function of what exactly he wanted to have pulled.  He was having trouble with the function showing an error that we were eventually able to figure out.  However, this is something that I am definitely going to need to do my research on further.

The greatest surprise of the past couple of weeks was the discovery of the response with file option in Google Forms.  I understand that has been around for a bit now, but sometimes you miss things.  Obviously, I missed this one!  Forms give you several different types of questions to choose from, like long text, multiple choice, and dropdown menu.  Forms now give an option of inserting a file for a response!  You can upload images, Google Drive files, audio, video, and pdf files.  When the form is submitted, it creates a Drive link to the file in the response sheet, while also creating a new folder in your Drive that is named after the question.  There is one kicker: the form can only be shared with others within your domain to use this option.  I discovered this tool by accident when our student council advisor was looking for a way to have students send proof that they had attended a school event when she was not there to verify.  Her students are going to complete the form and upload a picture of themselves at the event (ex. basketball game).

Some of the other tools that I have discovered in the past few days include Sock Puppets and Chatterpix, two iOS apps.  Sock Puppets is a digital storytelling app that allows users to create sock puppet shows and record their voice to tell a story.  Chatterpix takes a picture, allows you to draw a line over the mouth of the character in the image, record your voice, and make the picture talk.  My 5-year-old daughter and I had a lot of fun with both of the apps!  I also discovered Soundtrap, a web-based music and podcasting service that is similar to Apple's Garage Band.  It is compatible across all devices and the free version is very robust.  It also has a collaboration piece where users can video conference on the site to create songs together! The paid version allows unlimited songs and more choices in instruments and whatnot, but there are tons of options in the free version as well.

This weekend, I am attending and presenting at the Las Vegas Google Summit.  I will be providing a post on some of the great things that I learn there.

Until next time...






Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gone AWOL

Because over the last few days, I have drunk any coffee in sight!  
I normally like to kick out a post about once a week.  Not only does it get my itch for writing out of the way, but it also gives me an opportunity to share out some great things that I have discovered or done since the previous post, provide some motivation to myself and others, and make a snarky comment or two, which is always a good time!  However, in the past couple of weeks, things have certainly piled up on me, limiting my time to be able to knock out a new post.  I have learned about many new programs, participated in some professional development, led professional development both at school and at a conference, and worked on some things that can/will have a profound effect on my life and career.  Without boring you too much, here is a synopsis of the previous couple of weeks and what I have on tap in the coming day...

Dean's Interviews:  One of my goals for 2017 was to secure a position as a school administrator.  Over the past month, I have done my research and applied for a handful of positions in my district.  Total, I have applied for seven middle/high school dean positions, and one elementary assistant principal position.  I have received a callback and interview on five of those positions.  Last week, I interviewed for two of the dean's positions, with a third school's interview today (as of this writing on 1/25).  I have been notified that I am a finalist for the two positions in which I interviewed for last week.  This means that I have a second interview at one school tomorrow and another at the second school on Monday, 1/30.  The preparation and interviewing process can be very stressful and time-consuming, but I am confident in my abilities.

Las Vegas Conference featuring Apple Teacher:  I had the opportunity to attend and present at the inaugural EdTechTeam Apple Teacher Conference this past weekend.  Heather Dowd was the opening keynote, focusing on teaching and learning as a "choose your own adventure" style book.  I presented a session on Adobe Spark at the event and learned a great deal on Keynote, Garage Band, and iMovie during other sessions.  I must give Mark Hammons and Snehal Bhakta a ton of credit for putting on a great conference and I look forward to the Apple Teacher conference making its return to Las Vegas and/or attending at another location.
Happy folk enjoying my session on Adobe Spark!

Got to meet Kelly Baker and Lauren Goodner, two #TOSAchat peeps!

Love this quote!
Tech Tuesday & Education Meet-Up: This week, I started up a Tech Tuesday program for the staff of my school.  I have planned four Tuesday sessions on various tech tools, with the hopes of expanding it after this trial four sessions.  This week, I focused on Adobe Spark (you can view my session notes here).  Next week's focus will be website building programs like Wix, Weebly, and the new Google Sites.  I also presented at an Education Meet-Up for teachers new to the district, showing teachers how they can use Google Forms to create rubrics for various class activities.  Over the past few days, I had to prepare the presentations for each of those.

Pear Deck Training: Earlier in the fall, I purchased a site license of Pear Deck for my staff.  Working with my sales rep, I helped other schools in my district to purchase a license as well.  My sales rep, Nick Park, is going to be hosting a training for district employees on Thursday and Friday of this week.  While I am not required to be there, I plan on attending at least one of the sessions to learn some tricks with Pear Deck that I may not know of and to meet my rep that helped get my school and so many others a great deal on a great program.

Las Vegas Summit featuring Google:  This coming weekend, the EdTechTeam will be back with their annual Google Summit.  I have attended the summit each of the last three years, and presented at a couple of them, in addition to presenting at other events that EdTechTeam has hosted.  I will be presenting two sessions at this event, one on screenshots and screencasts, and another roundtable discussion on integrating tech newbies and tech resisters into the mold of innovative digital teaching and learning.  On top of presenting, I will be attending various sessions throughout the two-day event.  
Life does not stop when you get busy.  I still have my family, housework, getting my daughter from school and to her dance classes, cooking meals, getting to the gym (I have consistently been waking up at 4 am to get to the gym by 5 and work out before work), and so much more.  On top of that, CUE-NV is hosting Tech Fest in Minden this weekend (still time to register), and while I am not going, I have been doing a lot of different things to help those that are going to be ready, like creating a schedule, promotional materials, prize certificates, and the like.  I have been lucky to get 5-6 hours of sleep a night as of late, but I wouldn't change any of it!  I like to be busy, and it keeps me out of trouble!

However, on a more serious front, I did receive word that my Google Certified Trainer application was rejected.  Since it is a rolling application now, I can reapply after I look at my materials and revamp some things.  Google did not inform me of why my application was rejected, but I know I can improve my application and get in next time.

I also got a devastating phone call from my best friend, John VanDusen, last Saturday, informing me that his mother passed away unexpectedly.  Throughout my college years and beyond, John's parents were like a second set of parents to me.  It hasn't quite set in, most likely because I live 2000 miles away.

After the dust settles on these couple of weeks, I will hopefully be able to get back to a more stable writing schedule and share out some of the great things I have discovered and rediscovered in the past few days and weeks.  Until next time...



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Learning by Creating

Try demonstrating how to do this by writing an essay!
A few months ago, I submitted applications to present at various conferences, and now I am only a few days away from those presentations.  I will be presenting at the Las Vegas Conference featuring Apple Teacher on Adobe Spark (there are still tickets available for the conference, join us, it is sure to be a great event!). The following weekend, I will be presenting at the Las Vegas Summit featuring Google on screenshot and screencasting apps and programs.  I am also hosting a roundtable presentation/discussion on how administrators and teacher leaders can help to bring tech newbies and tech resisters into the fold and advance the cause of using technology in education.  This event is already sold out.  This week, I participated in a Twitter chat that focused on the debate of whether schools and teachers need textbooks and arguments for ditching the textbook, and the conversation has continued in the #ConnectedTL Voxer group.  So what do all of these things have in common?  To me, it relates to the fact that the best way to prove that you have learned something is to demonstrate it through creation.  If you learned how to bake a loaf of bread, you don't take a test or answer worksheet questions, you mix the ingredients and bake the loaf of bread (ok, I admit, that is a really simplistic way of putting it; the point is that you create the bread, you don't answer multiple choice questions and get a loaf of bread on your counter ready to be filled with pastrami and swiss).  

As a classroom teacher, did I use the textbook?  Absolutely!  Did I give assignments and assessments that were not of the creation persuasion?  Yep, sure did!  Was the textbook the basis of everything that I did with my students and did I assess their learning at all times by a standard summative assessment?  By no means whatsoever!  My students did plenty of creating in my class, from historical memes to short videos, from planning an historical dinner party to creating news media stories on events in the nation's history.  Yes, there were assignments consisting of vocabulary words, questions, essay topics, and textbook and other source reading.  I would like to think of myself as a "hybrid textbook ditcher" because while I still used the book (there are a time and a place for textbooks, worksheets, etc.), I created a great deal of content and my students created a ton as well.

I don't believe that textbooks are, in my words in the Twitter chat, "the spawn of Satan".  I think that using the textbook as THE curriculum is problematic, however.   Textbooks are and should be on the decline in our digital world.  Online textbooks are cheaper and more readily available.  When I was still in the classroom, if a principal told me that my textbooks would be taken away, I would have been able to survive.  There are tons of resources, free and paid, available to educators.  I love creating my own content and activities.  It takes time and can be frustrating at times, but in the end, it is so much better for students when you can tailor activities for them, rather than relying on a teacher's edition or a workbook that came with the text.

Here is a short list of some of my (current) favorite programs for creating and getting away from the textbook and worksheet.

Adobe Spark:  When I was in the classroom, this program was known as Adobe Voice (for the video side of the program).  In the spring of 2016, Adobe revamped Voice, renaming it Video, and incorporated two other programs, Page and Post, under the Adobe Spark brand.  This is currently my most favorite program.  If I want to make a short video quickly, Video allows me to incorporate text, pictures, short video clips, art, sound, and voiceovers to make a high-quality video.  Each year, I honor men's health during No Shave November; this year, I documented my beard growth and created a video using Adobe Spark Video.  You can see my video here.

Page allows you to make simple, yet beautiful, web graphics.  You can create pages with images, text, captions, "glideshows", and buttons to outside sites.  For my 5-year-old's 5th birthday in November, we went to Disneyland.  I created a simple, quick, but still stunning, Spark Page documenting our trip to Disneyland.  Check out my creation here.

Lastly, Adobe Spark Post helps you create beautiful graphics for social media posts.  Images, text, and themes can help you to make high-quality graphics reminiscent of the graphic cards, memes, motivational quotes, and other images that make their rounds on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media platforms.  To promote CUE-NV's Tech Fest on January 28th in Minden, NV (about 45 or so south of Reno, register here!), I created this announcement using Post.

Canva: Canva is similar to Adobe Spark Post in its functions, but it has many more templates and editing features.  Some examples of the templates available in Canva include social media posts, cards, posters, magazine covers, and resumes, so it's not just limited to strictly graphics.  I used Canva to design my business cards.  The process was very easy and I was able to save the files as .pdf to upload to Staples' website for my order.  Check out my designs for the front and back of my business card.
Another graphic I created in Canva.  This song lyric really spoke to me earlier this week,
 essentially telling me that you are going to have struggles, but in the end, you'll be fine
if you just push on through.  

Google Slides
:  If you are reading this, I'm sure that you are a user of Google Slides, if not, Microsoft PowerPoint or Keynote.  Slides is not just a program for putting together a set of slides for a presentation.  So many other things can be done with Google Slides!  You can create storyboards, magazines, social media type posts, and so much more by tweaking the standard settings of Google Slides, such as customizing the page setup, setting backgrounds for slides (either individual or by setting a master slide), and using the insert functions on blank slides to make it completely your own for whatever you may want to do.  My buddy Ryan O'Donnell has graciously shared tons of ideas and templates for creative ways to use Google Slides.  Head over to his website, www.creativeedtech.com, and click on the Templates button to get inspired!

Taking a page out of Jon Corippo and Susan Stewart's book (check out their list of great tools here), I want to compile a list of great resources that teachers use.  Please take a moment to complete the form below and add the amazing tools that you use with your students, staff, families, and community.

I will share the results of the form in a later post.  I cannot wait to see what everybody has to share! Until next time... 



Monday, January 2, 2017

Why Make Resolutions When You Can Make Goals?

If you consistently do not hold yourself to a resolution or
a set of resolutions, why continue to do so? 
Another year down, another new year is upon us.  With that comes a slew of New Year's resolutions, little things (or big things) that people say they are going to do in the new year.  However, when looking back at the end of a year, how many people can say they have actually accomplished what they set out to do with their resolutions 12 months prior?  I am just as guilty as everybody else when I used to set resolutions each year.  In 2010, I set a resolution to run a marathon.  I started a training program on January 1st and worked at it for about a week and a half.  On January 14, my brother passed away unexpectedly.  Rather than using a training program to ease my pain, I turned to food and alcohol.  Nine months later, I snapped out of it, scaling back on alcohol significantly and joining Weight Watchers to get my eating and weight under control.  I never have gone back to attempting a full marathon, but I do have a few half marathons under my belt now.  Since then, I haven't made any New Year's resolutions.

Set yourself up to score!
I'm not sure where I saw it, but in the days leading up to New Year's Day, I saw something that really struck a chord with me regarding resolutions.  Essentially, what I saw pointed out that resolutions are mostly empty words.  If you don't meet the resolution, there isn't anything to hold you accountable.  However, by changing it from a New Year's resolution to a New Year's goal, now you have something that can hold up more easily.  With a goal, you will take steps to meet that goal.  If you don't meet your goal in the time in which you planned, you can modify your goal or modify the steps needed to meet it.  A resolution usually ends up as abandoned with a simple, "Meh?!?!".  Why set yourself up for failure with simple words when you can set a goal, identify the steps needed to achieve that goal, and execute the plan? 

I have narrowed down three goals that I have for the coming months and year.  It would be unfair to call them New Year's goals, as I have been working at them for a few weeks already.  However, they are goals for 2017, so I'm going to count them.  

Goal #1: Lose 50 lbs by the end of the year
After my brother died and I went on a 9-month binge of eating, drinking, and depression, I eventually lost 65 pounds on the Weight Watchers program.  I made it down to a weight that I hadn't seen prior to my first season playing football in college.  However, in the past few years of having children, taking on my responsibilities in my life, and sheer love of food and the occasional beers, I have gained a great deal of that weight back and I am not necessarily happy with myself.  Around Thanksgiving, I returned to Weight Watchers and began to get my eating habits back in order again.  My goal is to get back to about 230 lbs by the end of 2017.  What is it going to take?  Tracking my food intake, exercising (I need to get back into running again, I haven't done much since my knee tendonitis of the early part of 2016), and attending a weekly Weight Watchers meeting.  If I am diligent with those steps, my goal should be knocked out!

Goal #2: Gain a position in administration as a dean or elementary assistant principal
In 2014, I graduated with an educational specialist degree in school administration.  Nearly three years later, I am actively pursuing positions in administration in my district.  It isn't because I don't like my current position; I absolutely love my job as a learning strategist and technology coordinator. However, I feel that I have a lot to offer as an educational leader and can make a great impact on student learning, teacher professional development, and family and community engagement.  What I have done to achieve this goal?  I put together a portfolio consisting of my resume, evaluations, letters of interest, letters of recommendations, and achievements such as my Google Certified Educator certificates.  I have applied for four positions in the past few weeks (an elementary assistant principal opening, a middle school dean opening, and two high school dean positions).  I have spent time with one of my school's assistant principals going through mock interviews.  For two of the positions, I was contacted for interviews over the winter break.  I am now playing the waiting game to hear back on those positions.  If I don't get one of them, I will continue to research open positions and conduct myself to the best of my ability in an interview.  

Goal #3: Turn my (relatively) weekly blog into the beginnings of a book
If you are reading this, you have figured out (probably) that I enjoy writing.  I am pretty consistent in getting a blog post out on a regular basis.  I feel that my blog allows me to share things that I have learned, ease stress, and connect with people in ways that I wouldn't be able to otherwise.  The more I have thought about my love of writing, the more I have thought about writing a book.  I am by no means close to starting, let alone finishing, a book at the present time.  However, I would like to get a start on a book and have some of it written by the end of 2017.  At this point, I want it to be a memoir of how I got into education, where I am now, where I want to be, and how I want to make an impact on students, teachers, families, communities, and education as a whole.  I'm not necessarily looking to write a New York Times bestseller, but if one person reads it and is inspired, then any work I put into it will be completely worth it! 

Here's to an amazing 2017!  Set goals, follow up, achieve, share, and celebrate!  You can do it and you won't be disappointed! 

Until next time...