Monday, April 16, 2018

The Definition of Home

Home sweet home.  Home is where the heart is.  There's no place like home.  A house is not home without family.  There are so many ways to define what is home.  However one wants to put it, I can define it in one word for the last 13 years:  Nevada.

I will spare the details, but I made the move to Las Vegas in 2005 after graduating from college.  My girlfriend (now wife) and I were done with school and looking for jobs, jobs that just weren't available in Michigan at the time, and since we both grew up there, we were looking to try something new.  So we loaded up everything we owned (except my mountain bike, that didn't fit in the truck, so a buddy got a nice parting gift from me) and drove 2000 miles to start our post-college lives.  We had no idea if we would like it, how long we would be here (we thought it may only be a couple of years before we moved on to other things), etc.

Fast forward 13 years and many things have changed.  We are both a little bit older, closer to 40 than 30, we have two amazing kids that are "Battle Born", we are accustomed to the dry heat (humidity is BRUTAL now) and the lack of a winter, and we have made some fantastic friends that are like family to us, which made the thought of leaving Las Vegas (not the Nicholas Cage movie) utterly impossible.

Over the course of the past few years, my wife has been trying to get into graduate school to earn her master's in speech pathology.  SLP grad programs are very competitive and much to her frustration, she has been rejected by several schools.  However, my wife is a trooper and while she has been frustrated, she hasn't quit in her attempt to get into school.  This past fall, she began the familiar process of completing applications, gathering letters or recommendations, and writing essays on why she would be a great graduate student.  This time, she chose to apply to three schools:  the University of Nevada, Reno, Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI, and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI.

After all of the work she put into the application process for each school, it was then time for the "hurry up and wait" game.  Each school had their deadlines to submit, then a tentative date in which applicants would be notified.  Of course, those dates are tentative; each school extended their deadlines for applications, pushing the notification dates back.  I assured my wife that all that it meant was that a lower number of people applied, but she was dreading that it meant she was going to be rejected again.

In mid-February, she got an invite to go to Grand Rapids to interview for one of the openings at GVSU.  The interviews took place on her birthday, which threw a wrench into our plans to go to a Golden Knights game, but this was a much better gift.  A few days later, she was notified that she had been accepted to Grand Valley's program and had until April 15 to accept or decline.

Meanwhile, there were two other schools that had yet to make their decisions.  She hadn't heard much from Western Michigan, so they became an afterthought.  However, UNR was still deciding and we were hoping that she would be accepted to give us options in the decision-making process.  Until that decision was made, I began the process of looking for jobs in Michigan and Northern Nevada.

By the time spring break rolled around the last week of March, UNR still had not made their decisions.  At this point, it was looking like a move to Michigan was on the horizon.  My wife and I started looking at housing, I applied for several jobs, and friends of ours that we went to high school and college that live in the Grand Rapids area began helping us and getting excited that we may be moving back to Michigan.  However, on April 3, the Tuesday after spring break ended, the email that my wife was hoping to get came through.

On that Tuesday, I received an email from Washoe County School District informing me that my application had been accepted and that they wanted to schedule an interview and to contact them.  I called my wife to tell her about it and asked if I should schedule it.  In the course of the conversation, I got the answer when she got an email from UNR to notify her that she had been accepted to their program.  Since the deadlines to accept were closing in fast, a serious conversation had to happen to decide where the Anderson family would be heading for the next couple of years.

After careful consideration of many factors, my wife and I decided that the best fit for her program and our family's move would be to Reno, Nevada.  As of this writing, I have some leads on some jobs, we have signed a lease for an apartment (which is going to be an adjustment, going from a house back to an apartment), and with the help of my friend Ben Dickson, we have found a great school for our kids to attend next fall.  While I couldn't be prouder of my wife and the opportunity ahead of her, it is going to be bittersweet pulling up our roots and settling somewhere else.  The next few months will be crazy but come July, we will be settling down in Reno, ready to start the next chapter of our lives. 

Until next time...

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Sense of Community

In 2015, the rumor mill around Las Vegas and the National Hockey League started to buzz.  Bill Foley, a billionaire businessman, was interested in bringing an NHL franchise to Las Vegas.  Over the course of several months, Foley worked with a dedicated team to convince Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL that hockey in the desert would work if given the chance.  On June 22, 2016, his hard work putting together a season ticket drive and paying a $500 million expansion fee came to reality when the NHL granted Las Vegas it's first professional sports franchise (Las Vegas has had plenty of minor league teams, but never a major level team).

I grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan, and while I will always love them,
I am a Golden Knight now! Image courtesy of
From that moment, the city began to buzz.  Once the team was officially called the Vegas Golden Knights and logos were unveiled, merchandise began to fly off the shelves in the form of t-shirts, car decals, magnets, and sweaters (jerseys for the layman hockey fan).  The expansion draft built a team from scratch, and the players came to Las Vegas to find a home, not just a quick vacation during the offseason.  Everything was set for an exciting beginning for a brand new franchise in September 2017, with training camp and preseason games at T-Mobile Arena.  Then the unthinkable, the horrific, the gut-wrenching, the saddening happened: 1 October.

Image result for golden knights vegas strong
T-shirt logo featuring the Las Vegas Strip,
the Knights shoulder patch logo, and Vegas
Strong, two words that united a city and a
team during tragedy Image courtesy
1 October is a moment for Las Vegans and many beyond that will always remember.  Various events throughout history have had the same effect.  If one was alive for these events, they can most likely remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned of or witnessed an event like this.  Events like Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Challenger explosion, September 11 all come to mind.  For those that live in Las Vegas, 1 October is very similar.  I'll never forget waking up for work shortly after 5:30 am, making a cup of coffee and turning on the news to see the events that had happened hours earlier after I had gone to bed.  I'll never forget calling into work to make sure that my friends were alright and to do whatever what was needed of me to help.  I'll never forget the 8-hour wait in a hotel conference room to donate blood and the dozens of others that had done the same.  

The Golden Knights home opener was a few days later on Tuesday, October 10, against the Arizona Coyotes.  Anticipation for the day was already strong because of the sheer excitement of having a professional team.  An afterthought to 1 October, but the Knights had also won their first two regular-season games over the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes.  Because the Knights had already done so much to weave into the community, everybody was wondering how they would address the events and aftermath of 1 October.  From the introduction of each player accompanied by a first responder, to the 58 seconds of silence to honor the 58 that lost their lives on 1 October, to Derek Engelland's powerful pregame speech to the world prior to the puck drop, the Golden Knights couldn't have done a better job of honoring the departed, the first responders, the city, and helping to bring a community closer in the wake of tragedy.  You have to see it to fully understand the significance.

As the Golden Knights have embarked on their unbelievable first season (NOBODY predicted this!), they have taken this city by storm.  Everywhere you go, you see people wearing Knights gear, cars are adorned with decals and stickers, bars and restaurants all over the city have viewing parties for every game, and my personal favorite, a hearty "Go Knights Go" and a fist bump or high five whenever you see a fellow fan.

Clayton Stoner, a Golden Knights defenseman,
assisting at the training for PE teachers
So if you are still reading and have read previous posts, you're probably wondering, "How does this apply to the usual topic of education?"  The Vegas Golden Knights have done a fantastic job of getting involved with the community, especially with the schools of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson.  In order to grow the game of hockey in Southern Nevada, the Golden Knights partnered with several businesses and the Clark County School District to donate street hockey equipment to middle schools and provide opportunities at learn to skate and learn to play hockey programs at the city's three public skating rinks (5 sheets of ice total).  As a PE teacher, I was invited to participate in the donation program by simply attending a training hosted by the Knights public relations team.  In return for my time, my students are going to receive brand new sticks, nets, balls, and other hockey equipment.  In addition, students will also get Hockey 101 handbooks to explain the rules and play of hockey, coupled with lesson plans provided to me to help introduce hockey to my students.

This is Corey, you'll see him at Knights games 
as part of the pep squad dressed as a Knight,
the mustache abides!
I cannot thank the Vegas Golden Knights enough for what they have done for our city and the programs that they are putting together to help the students of Southern Nevada.  And in another stroke of pure class by the organization that deserves thanks, the team honored the victims of 1 October even further prior to their final regular season home game by retiring the number 58 and hoisting a banner with not just the number 58, but the names of each victim.  I also cannot emphasize enough the importance of community with schools.  A school that does not have relationships with the families, businesses, etc. surrounding them is not going to be nearly as successful as they could be.  Building those relationships will only guide students toward success long after graduation.

If you are reading this blog, you are most likely an educator like me.  I hope that you work in a community that has strong ties between the schools and all stakeholders.  Continue to work each day doing what is best for kids and build those community relationships that will pay dividends for the future of our students.

Until next time...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Man & His Thoughts on Route 66: A #CUE18 Reflection

A painted reminder of what road you are on, painted
at intervals throughout the stretch of Route 66 near Goffs, CA
The road stretched before me looked like any other road in the Mojave Desert:  a ribbon of faded blacktop through a landscape of mesquite, Joshua trees, boulders, and sand with small rocky cliffs and mountains jutting out on either side of the road.  However, there was nothing ordinary about this road and the reason behind the drive.  This road was Route 66, the iconic federal highway that stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles, bringing thousands of migrants not so affectionately referred to as "Okies" to California during the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression.  John Steinbeck referenced this road as the Joad family worked their way west looking for a better life in The Grapes of Wrath (my favorite book of all time, for the record).  

Through many towns in America where Route 66 ran its course, you can see the diners, souvenir shops and antique stores that try to pull you in with their Route 66 nostalgia, but not on this stretch of road near Goffs, CA.  According to Wikipedia, Goffs is "a nearly empty one-time railroad town at the route's high point in the Mojave Desert."  This section of Route 66, save for the Union Pacific railway that runs alongside of it, most likely looks almost exactly as it did over 80 years ago when the road was at its heyday and 25 years before President Eisenhower signed the Highway Act of 1956, authorizing the building of the modern interstate highway system, with I-40 eventually bypassing much of Route 66 through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.  In fact, according to the same Wikipedia article, this section of Route 66 was bypassed by a newer section between Needles and Essex, CA after 1931.  

Some of the beautiful views of the road and the train passing by.
I was on my way to Palm Springs for the 2018 CUE National Conference.  There had been word that some of the roads through the Mojave Preserve may have been washed out and detoured due to recent rains, so I decided to take an alternate route that added about 40 miles to the trek to avoid any potential road issues.  Little did I know that my route would take me along a 25 mile stretch of Route 66.  After driving for a couple of hours, I decided to stop along the side of the road to stretch my legs a bit and ended up spending about 20 minutes taking in the views and appreciating the historical significance of the road.  I took a few pictures and recorded a short video during my stop, only seeing two cars pass by, then a train when I got back in the car to continue the journey.  The silence was something that I don't get to hear much these days living in the concrete jungle of Las Vegas.  The air smelled so fresh and clean, with no exhaust, smoke, or anything else that you normally get from the city air.  It was peaceful, yet invigorating at the same time. 

A short video clip of my stop along Route 66

Eventually, I made it to Palm Springs to start what would be a whirlwind of nearly four days of learning, networking, sharing, laughing and reconnecting.  I went into the conference with several goals: 

  • Attend sessions on topics that I was unfamiliar with, such as hyperdocs, sketchnoting, Microsoft Office365, and coding:  goal met, except for the coding sessions, I didn't end up making it to one
  • Meet the authors of Ditch That Textbook and Ditch That Homework, Matt Miller & Alice Keeler:  goal met, great conversation with both and personalized signings of my copies of the books
  • Reconnect with countless people that I have come to know over the years to talk shop, share a few laughs, and after hours, have a beverage or two:  goal met many times over! 
  • "Interview" a few people to include their reflections in the blog along with mine:  goal not met, but I accomplished an alternative to this that I will address momentarily
Based on the numerous sessions I attended, conversations that I had, and new things that I tried over the course of the four days in Palm Springs, this is what I concluded:

  • Sketchnoting is not as ridiculous as I had thought prior and had mentioned in my CUE18 Preview post.  One of my biggest complaints about sketchnoting before was how all of the notes that I saw people posting looked super professional and as if they had spent hours creating it, which is not realistic.  I had a conversation with the presenters about my concerns beforehand and told them that I wanted to have an open mind but I was going to need to be convinced because of this.  They both agreed that there was no wrong way to sketchnote and to do what I feel comfortable with.  I am more open to it, but for now, I am still more comfortable taking standard notes.  
  • I finally feel comfortable in my ability to construct a hyperdoc.  I had attended sessions before on hyperdocs, but unfortunately, most of the presentations did not go into the process much, only provided some templates and did not go into the pedagogy behind using them.  When you go to one of the sources, one of the creators, Lisa Highfill, you know you're going to get great information, and Ms. Highfill did not disappoint.  
  • Microsoft Sway and OneNote are tools that I wish I had in my life sooner!  I had used similar tools in the past, such as Adobe Spark Page as an alternative to Sway.  While I had at least heard of OneNote and was familiar with some basics of it, I had never heard of Sway and was blown away by its capabilities.  On top of that, I got to test it out during an "Iron Chef" style activity during the Microsoft session.  The Iron Chef activity was designed by Jon Corippo, the Executive Director of CUE, Inc.  I was lucky enough to have lunch with Jon and he told me more about the activity and instructed me to contact him at a later time to get full details so I can have the activity at my disposal! 
  • If you can't go to a session, find somebody to talk to because it will most likely be even better than a session.  I don't want to take anything away from the amazing presenters and the hard work that they put it, but sometimes, a great conversation with a like-minded educator, or a debate with a not so like-minded educator, can go so much further than sitting in a session, taking notes, and trying out a new tool.  
  • There are so many teachers trying to make a difference in our world.  I don't know any exact figures, but I would venture to guess that there were over 7,000 that attended CUE.  On top of that, you had many of them that presented sessions or tips, or one of my favorites of the conference, the Leroy's Big Idea finalists that submitted proposals for money to fund stunning projects to better their classrooms and outcomes for their students.  I am proud to call one of the finalists, Rebekah Remkiewicz, a friend and while her proposal did not win, she still had a great project and was awarded $1000 to further her idea.  
Something that happened very spontaneously and organically over the course of the past few days was the seeds of a podcast.  Ben Dickson and I, an amazing educator and friend from Reno, have been talking for quite a while about starting a podcast, but haven't gotten anything off the ground just yet.  A couple of weeks ago, I pitched an idea to him about starting one where we start episodes riffing about what kind of beers we are drinking, then get into an education topic, possibly with a guest.  It dawned on me that I could get some practice podcasting by recording some segments with people asking them about who they are, where they are from, what they do, their favorite moments of the conference, and what they were drinking, as I decided to record the segments at social functions after the conference was done for the day.  You can listen to the reflections at the following links or by following me on the Anchor app.  

The drive home is always tough after four days of learning, connecting, some beers, and a lack of sleep.  However, it also grants the ability to listen to some podcasts and music and reflect.  For those that were unable to make it to CUE, I highly recommend that you make it there someday, it's an experience that you'll never forget.  For those that I was lucky enough to see and interact with over the course of the conference, I cannot thank you enough for making me a better educator and person and all of the great things that you are doing for your students, schools, districts, and communities.  I look forward to seeing you and learning again in the near future.  And it wouldn't have been a complete trip if I didn't stop on Route 66 one more time on the ride home to take in the sound of silence and record one more short video:

Until next time... 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

#CUE18 Preview

Once again, it is that time, time for my favorite professional development opportunity of the year, the one and only Spring CUE National Conference in Palm Springs!  This year will be third time attending the event and I couldn't be more excited for the next week to be over with so I can get there! 

In the past, I haven't been able to make it down to Palm Springs until late on Wednesday or Thursday night.  Last year was the infamous get to the hotel and "I'm sorry we don't have a reservation for you, sorry about that, good luck finding a room tonight" incident when the hotel that I had booked kicked my reservation and I didn't learn of it until midnight.  This year, I made sure that I took Wednesday off from work as well so I could take my time getting there and attend some sessions on Wednesday afternoon and evening.  I am really looking forward to a great project-based learning session with Bucks Institute, led by Rich Dixon (also a bonus that Rich has become a friend over the years and I'm looking forward to seeing him).  After that, the opening keynote is Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook fame, which is going to be phenomenal! 
Over the course of the past few days, I have taken a look at the schedule for the event, planning it out meticulously with the goal of maximizing learning. When choosing sessions, I made sure to pick sessions that address topics in which I have little to no experience.  Some of the sessions that I chose include Microsoft Office 365 (my district is a Google district, but it doesn't hurt to become more versed in another platform), coding, hyperdocs, and sketchnoting.  

Quick disclaimer:  I am will be ruffling some feathers with this one, but please continue reading.  At a glance, in my personal opinion and preferences, I think sketchnoting is ridiculous.  Too many of the sketchnotes that I have seen are not something that somebody would probably be doing while sitting in a session and scurrying to get information down, they are much more professional looking than that.  However, I do know that some people are more visual learners and sketching it is effective for them.  I am trying to attend a session or two on sketchnoting in order to learn more about it, learn how I can implement it with visual learners, and maybe, just maybe, change my perspective on it. 

Another great aspect of attending an event like CUE is seeing the people that you have become friends with over the years.  Many of them are presenting sessions, so I get to see them in action.  The hallways and vendor hall between sessions is always a great time to say hello to people and catch up.  Then there are the after hours of the event where you get to let loose a little, share what you have learned over the day, and talk shop with some like-minded folk.  Then there is the shenanigans of things like CUE Karaoke where hundreds of people get to hang out and get ridiculous for a couple of hours on the Friday night.  Back before kids, I was a karaoke fiend, I may have to get up and knock out a song or two this year (I need a female voice for Love Shack by the B-52s, in anybody is interested...). 

Of course I will be posting a blog about my experiences at CUE in the days after getting home.  However, this year, I am going to do it a little differently.  Rather than just focusing on my experience, I am going to include some other voices as well in some informal "interviews" with some other attendees.  I may even spread them out over the course of a few blog posts. 

For now, I am going to enjoy the weekend and get through Monday and Tuesday at work before I hit the road for the 4+ hour drive to Palm Springs and four days of intense learning, sharing, and fun! 

Until next time... 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How Young is Too Young for Technology?

This past weekend, I got a text message from my mother that I was a little surprised by.  The message asked if my 6-year-old daughter, Elsa, knew how to text.  My immediate response was, "I think so."  While I have never seen my daughter text anybody, I was certain that she knew how.  I gave my phone to her, telling her that her Mimi wanted to talk to her by text.  Over the course of the next 15 minutes, I watched in utter awe as my "little girl" got to talk to her Mimi in a way that she never had before.

Look at that sweet little girl, who's not so
little anymore... 
I'm going to take a moment to brag about Elsa here.  My little girl is absolutely brilliant.  She was speaking full sentences at a year and a half.  She knew her ABCs, reciting them and recognizing them before she was 3.  Now, she is identifying 5th-grade sight words and reading chapter books that are considered 4th-grade level AS A KINDERGARTNER.  On top of that, her math skills are excellent, she has taken an interest in science, and she does a decent job with her coding board game that she got for Christmas.

Like I mentioned, I had never seen Elsa text before.  I had a good feeling that she would be able to, she can handle an iPad better than many adults that I have met, and coupled with her reading skills, I figured it wouldn't be hard for her to fire off a few texts to my mother.  Outside of asking me how to spell a couple of the things she was trying to say (when asked what she had been doing all day, my daughter wanted to reply, "just lounging around"), she did a very good job, even throwing in a couple of emojis, something that I don't even do.  Then Elsa asked me if I could help her make a Bitmoji.  I decided that I would, but I would set it up on one of my email addresses, so after a few minutes of hammering out the details, my little girl now has her own Bitmoji to share with the world!  I'm not sure how often she will use it when texting with family, as using the Bitmoji on the Apple keyboard tends to be more difficult than using standard emojis.
My 6-year-old's Bitmoji! And she has great taste in an outfit!

So over the course of the past couple of days, it got me thinking:  is there an age where it is too young to get kids going on technology?  In my opinion, the short answer is absolutely not.  This is the world that our kids live in, why not get them going on things as early as possible to better prepare them.  However, this does not come without its downfalls, some of which I can attest to from experience.

Then there is this handsome devil...
Kids in my children's generation are practically born with a device in their hands.  My daughter has been doing different things on an iPad for several years, as is my nearly 3-year-old son.  In fact, my son, Reed, is convinced at times that all screens are touchscreen and can be swiped so you can see him trying to swipe the television.  Another great one is when he takes the Amazon Fire remote and tries to tell it to turn on Peppa Pig or Hulk (his absolute favorite Marvel hero right now).  He also can operate an iPad, watching videos on YouTube Kids and playing some simple games.  He, like his sister, has also learned his ABCs very quickly, can identify the letters, spell his name, and other things that I couldn't imagine a 2-year-old being able to do.

However, while this is great and I am glad that my children are becoming technologically enthusiastic and literate, I also don't want them to become dependant on such devices.  My wife and I very rarely allow them to use devices while we are in public.  They do not get an iPad while we are grocery shopping or sitting at a restaurant.  The only exception is if we are at a restaurant with a group of people trying to watch a Golden Knights game and we are sitting for a long period of time.  Then, and only then, will be let the kids watch some videos on YouTube or play games, for the sake of keeping their busy little selves occupied contently for a bit instead of asking young children to behave for several hours on end.  Even though we limit their screen time, they still exhibit signs at times of screen addiction.  Both kids will get upset and sometimes throw fits if they are told that they cannot have their devices or if they are taken away after a set amount of time.

While discussing this post's idea with a professional colleague, she and I were on the same wavelength.  However, she also pointed out that there can be too much mindless use of technology that a child can be too young for.  Examples that she provided were video viewing/consuming versus creation, communicating versus "mindless button pushing" (the adult equivalent: an hour an a half of Facebook).  She stated that she is 100% behind getting young ones on board with tech, but to remember the difference between active screentime and passive screen time. 

The bottom line is this: It is important that we teach kids about using technology at early ages, there is no "too young" for tech.  But there is more to teaching tech than just putting a device in their hands.  Digital citizenship is more important than showing them how to navigate the device.  Modeling solid digital citizenship and outlining the consequences of actions on the Internet is core to teaching digital citizenship.  Once a foundation is set and the device is in a kid's hands, reiterating good digital citizenship, as well as showing kids how to use technology for learning, will set kids out on the right path to a bright future.

Are you stuck on some ideas on how to teach young students using technology?  I highly recommend checking out #gafe4littles and #k2cantoo on Twitter, as well as Christine Pinto and Susan Stewart, two great educators at the heart of those hashtags.  Don't be afraid of getting the young ones going, in fact, embrace it!

Until next time...

Friday, February 23, 2018

My #OneWord for 2018

If you have a social media presence, you probably saw the #oneword campaign a couple of months ago, people choosing one word to describe a change or a goal for the upcoming year.  Like many people, I settled on one word for myself, but beyond a Twitter chat in January, I didn't get too wild and crazy with it on social media, no reason in particular.  I focused more my goals for 2018, which I outlined in a previous blog post.  However, it's not like my one word isn't related to my goals for 2018; in fact, my one word, which is actually two words, fully and completely, will guide the steps I need to achieve my goals.  

Image result for tragically hip
Promotional photo of The Tragically Hip, with Gord Downie
on the far right.  Photo courtesy of
My one word came about months before the new year began.  It started with the death of Gord Downie on October 17, 2017.  Gord was the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, a band that never got much traction or attention in the United States, but is the unofficial band of Canada.  While not a lifelong fan of The Hip as they are more often referred to as I really started to get into them over the past few years.  Gord lost his battle with brain cancer in October, devastating a nation and a fanbase.  Even though he had announced his battle months prior, it didn't make the news of his death any easier, to the point that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke down in tears during a press conference announcing that Gord had passed.  

In the months since I have been listening to a lot of The Hip.  Gord as a songwriter had a beautifully cryptic style of writing that was wide open to interpretation often times.  Other times, the lyrics were dead set on something specific, such as the song 38 Years Old, a song about a prison break in Kingston, ON back in the 1970s (some of the lines are true to detail, other aspects are fabricated to make a great song).  One of the songs that really stood out to me over these months was Fully Completely.  Now, I am not the greatest at interpretations of art, poetry, songs, so on and so on.  When I listen to Fully Completely, my interpretation of the song is that it is the ending of a relationship, especially lines like, "Lover, she simply slammed the door" and "You're gonna miss me, wait and you'll see, fully and completely."  I could also see an interpretation of somebody trying to kick a drug habit as well.  Again, I'm not great at interpretations, but often times, things are purposely ambiguous for multiple interpretations and only the artist can explain the true meaning(s) intended.  

So, how do I take a song about the ending of a relationship and relate that what I want to achieve as a person in 2018?  To me, Fully Completely is a perfect description of how one should approach everything that they do in their life.  One should fully and completely approach relationships, work, play, etc. with a sense of purpose, an idea of an endgame, and take the steps necessary to achieve.  One should never "take a day off" when it comes to achieving their goals, all things should go toward a goal.  That doesn't mean work all day every day and never play, quite the contrary.  You NEED to get away from work stuff and do things that you enjoy, in fact, I believe that play and leisure will help one achieve a goal more effectively.

I want to take a moment to thank Ben Dickson and Sara Holm for my blog idea this week.  Ben and Sara moderate the #teachnvchat on Thursdays at 7:30 PM Pacific and originally focused on #oneword2018 a few weeks ago.  This past Thursday, we revisited our one words and had one of the best #teachnvchat sessions that we have had in a while (nothing against previous chats by any means, this one was just energetic and inspiring beyond belief).  Without their idea to revisit, I would not have been inspired to write this particular post.

What is your #oneword2018?  Think about it and share it with the world!

Until next time... 

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... 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Learning with the TCOE #TechRodeo

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Tulare County Office of Education's Tech Rodeo.  I was extended an invitation to present by two people that I am honored to call friends of mine in Katherine Goyette and Adam Juarez.  It was great to see so many educators that took time out of their Saturday to hear an amazing keynote speech by John Spencer and AJ Juliani, choose from dozens of presentations from a who's who of educators from Central California and beyond and to top it off, enjoy a lunch of a California classic, barbequed tri-tip.

I had a lot of time to reflect on this weekend over the past few days.  My reflection was clouded somewhat on Sunday's nearly 7-hour drive home, as I drove further north to meet a cousin and her family in Oakhurst before turning around to head home.  Sunday also marked the eighth anniversary of my brother's death, so my mind was tied up for most of that drive.  I started to not feel very well on Monday, then waking up on Tuesday with a pounding headache, sore throat, and body aches.  I missed most of this past week of work and as I finish this up on Saturday, I finally feel relatively close to 100% again. 

This was similar to my first cell phone.  Don't really call
myself a digital native using tech like this!
Image courtesy of
The keynote presentation was very inspiring.  One of the things that stood out to me most during the presentation referred to our students being "digital natives."  Digital native refers to students that don't know a life outside the technology that is available today, such as cell phones, tablets, and on-demand just about anything digital.  While based on my age I can be lumped in with digital natives, I tend to think of myself as a digital immigrant - one that had to learn the new technology as it was developed.  Sure, I remember using computers throughout my schooling, but I did not have reliable Internet until I was in college, using dial-up most often.  I didn't have my first cell phone until college, and while it wasn't a "Zach Morris phone", it was analog only, was quite bulky, and did not have much for capabilities besides making calls and playing "Snake" (oh, the roaming fees!).

Even though our students are digital natives, that doesn't mean that students know how to effectively and responsibly use technology, something that was a key point to the presentation.  It was emphasized that it is our job as teachers to bridge that divide, teaching students solid digital citizenship and creating engaging lessons incorporating today's technology to better prepare students for higher education, careers, military, etc.  Mr. Spencer and Mr. Juliani emphasized that rather than referring to our students as digital natives, we should refer to them as digital consumers, since everything that our students are viewing, reading, etc. is in a digital format, not the books, magazines, cassettes/CDs/records, and VHS tapes of previous generations.  I liken this all to driving a car:  just because I grew up around cars and saw them everywhere did not mean I didn't know how to drive one and drive one responsibly; it was up to a teacher and my parents to teach me how.  This makes it even more important that we as teachers stay up on the latest technology and know how to effectively integrate it in order to better serve our students.

I was able to attend a session prior to presenting my sessions.  I went to a session hosted by Christine Monge on hyperdocs, but to be honest, my mind was not in the session.  I was more concerned with making sure that my sessions were in order and that all of the links and videos worked than I was with learning how to build a hyperdoc and integrating tools like Flipgrid, sketchnotes, YouTube, and others into a hyperdoc.  I was able to get a load of hyperdoc templates and a handful of ideas on building some of my own, I just need to sit down and toy with it some.

My first presentation of the day was titled Formative Assessment + Engagement = Pear Deck.  I was honored to have 15 educators come to my session to learn why Pear Deck is such a great tool to engage students and to assess in real time.  It was also my first presentation as a Pear Deck coach, and my first presentation to an audience outside of Las Vegas (one of my goals of the year was to present outside of my home city, goal achieved!).  The attendees were thoroughly impressed with the different tools that are available in Pear Deck, such as the various question slides, the Flashcard Factory, and the new Google Slides Pear Deck add-on that allows one to create and present Pear Deck directly in Google Slides.  As a thank you, I was also able to share some trial premium accounts with attendees, so I'm hoping that a bunch of students got to experience Pear Deck over the past few days!

My second presentation was titled "Keep" Your Ideas and Sanity with Google Keep.  This session was not attended as well as my Pear Deck session, with only five attendees.  However, each person in the session was able to get a much more "one on one" experience and I was able to address questions much easier and more thoroughly.  I was reassured after the fact that Google Keep is an underrated and underutilized tool that many people simply do not know about.  I am hoping that over the course of the next few weeks, I can further promote the awesomeness that is Google Keep. 

I attended one last session titled Google's Secret Menu, hosted by Joe Marquez.  I had interacted with him on Twitter, but never had met him, so meeting him for the first time was quite the honor.  His presentation covered a variety of little-known things that Google can do.  The most striking to me was the Google - My Activity.  When you access this feature of Google, it will show you absolutely EVERYTHING that you have ever done with your Google account.  This includes your searches, your YouTube viewing, the websites you visit, and the apps you access on your phone that are connected to your account.  I could go on and on as to what else Google tracks.  Google uses the information to gear ads and content toward you, make searches and map directions better, etc. Ultimately, while it could scare you, it should be more of a lesson for you and something you could pass on to your students.  Mr. Marquez presented many other cool little features as well, take a look at his resources at and his website, 

Today, I was supposed to be in Perris, CA attending and presenting at the IACUE Tech Fair, but unfortunately, I had some things come up that prevented me from going.  However, there is no shortage of professional development on my plate, as the next couple of weeks will be the Ed Tech Team Google Summit in Las Vegas, CUE-NV's Silver State Tech Innovator Symposium on February 3, then the big one, CUE National, in March.  I look forward to continuing to grow and to seeing so many people that have become friends. 

Until next time...