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Posted by on in Education Leadership

How do you normally feel after attending an all day conference or summit? Exhausted both mentally and physically? Sluggish? Overwhelmed? Funny thing happened to myself and two of my colleagues after attending a recent all day summit at Google in Pittsburgh called "Be Internet Awesome." We weren't exhausted mentally or physically. We weren't sluggish. And we weren't overwhelmed. In fact, it was the quite the opposite. We felt refreshed, energized, and full of thought and discussion. 

So how did Google do this? How did they create an all day summit that was just right and left the attendees leaving refreshed, energized, full of thought and discussion? I have been wondering this since the summit and how to take Google's format back to future faculty meetings, in-services, and other conferences/summits. 

Here are my thoughts about how the Google Summit on Digital Safety & Citizenship left those in attendance feeling anything but exhausted:

Comfort

Right from the start, our hosts were concerned with our comfort. This sent a clear message right away that they cared about us. Our Google hosts also invited us to get up and move around any time we needed to. We were told we could sit in back on couches or on floor against wall if we wanted. The choice was ours. Food was in the back we were welcome to any time we wanted, as well. In addition to food, they had music playing in the background that provided an upbeat feel. Finally, everyone, including our Google hosts were dressed comfortably. 

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Posted by on in Education Technology

instant pot

The Instant Pot I received for Christmas this past year sat for a few months before I even thought about using it. My wife would remind me frequently we had it and that I should try it (I do all the cooking in the house. She does all the laundry. Fair trade-off). When she would encourage me to use our new cooking gadget, I looked at her and our Instant Pot with a little disdain. I felt my cooking was pretty good, and besides I already had my go to Pioneer Woman dinners that couldn't be beat. So I was always a bit insulted when the Instant Pot was referenced in my house, as I felt not only was my cooking being insulted but so was the Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond.

Then one night in late January it all started to change. I came home late from work to find my wife using the Instant Pot! I have to admit, the meal she cooked was pretty good, but secretively I was a little upset. I was not about to let her one-up me with the use of the Instant Pot, so I began searching for and trying out some recipes for it. I tried some baby back ribs, some roasts, some chicken and all were a complete disaster. I ruined the dinners and meat altogether and was disgusted with the Instant Pot, my dinners, and more than anything, myself. So I went back to my Pioneer Woman dinners.

Yet there was still that part of me that would not let me be one-upped by my wife and the Instant Pot itself. So I started reading the instruction manual more carefully and watching a few YouTube videos to find out where I was going wrong. It turned out that I was not letting the Instant Pot preheat enough for its timer to begin properly. I was using my own, separate timer. I didn't understand the preheating process enough or at all really, which lead to instant failures for my dinners. But once I figured out why I was failing, I started making some pretty terrific Instant Pot meals. My favorite so far has been the gumbo. Not too spicy, not too dull. And in the words of Mr. Food, "It's umm so good."

I look at my learning experiences/failures with the Instant Pot in a very similar way of being faced with something new in the classroom. At first, I might feel a little insulted, then when others begin and start to have some success, I feel some pressure not to be one-upped. So I try the new tool or technique out and it's pretty rough. Lessons don't go so well. So I go back to what has worked all along. But when I am honest with myself, I know those I'm "serving" want something new, even though they like my old stuff, they also want a little taste of something new. So because of them and my own desire to master that new tool or technique, I start to learn more about it and try it again until I have success.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Since January 23, 2017 up until now, I have been busier than I ever have before. New job beginning on January 23, 2017 (interim elementary principal), my wife and I celebrating the birth of our third child on January 24, 2017, back to my old job on March 13, 2017 (6th grade teacher), back to my old-new job on June 2, 2017 (being an interim elementary principal), becoming a Google for Education Certified Trainer in July 2017, starting my new-new job on January 22, 2018 (instructional technology coach), and becoming an Instant Pot believer after many failed attempts in February 2018. 

Along the way I did try to keep up on my blogging, as I had several different drafts going, but I never made time to finish a lot of them. So below are my unfinished drafts, starting with the oldest to the most recent, that I feel I just need to "post" so I can start fresh and keep moving forward. At the end of each, I have added what I was trying to get across in the post. 

"You're not the teacher you were before."

"You are not the same teacher you were before." How would you feel if you were told that? Would you feel upset, or would feel proud? Would you consider it disrepctful or a compliment?

A few weeks ago, my principal told me that statement, and that statement has been ringing in my head ever since. The more I have thought about that statement, the more and more a consider it one of the highest compliments a teacher can receive. Why? Because that means one is a teacher that is actively seeking out change to improve one's practice and learning experience for one's students. It means one is not opening up last year's lesson planner, erasing, and changing the dates. If a teacher is not willing to change to from year to year, then how can a teacher expect their students to be engaged in their learning if there is little thought to lesson design with the students' personalities in mind?

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

royals

This summer, I intend to go to Disney World and other parts of Florida, the Outer Banks, Ocean City, New York City, a Kansas City Royals baseball game, the Grand Canyon, the White House, a NHL Finals game, a cruise, and I plan to go to all of those places without leaving my house. How? With the Cardboard Camera app, Google Cardboard, and Google Classroom.

I have given my sixth grade students one last assignment, and this assignment will run all summer long. Their assignment is to bring along their classmates on their summer vacation trips using the Cardboard Camera app, by uploading their images to Google Classroom for their classmates and myself to view on our Google Cardboards (we had a Google Cardboard make and take night in early May, so the students are really into VR now), and finally collaborating on a Google Slide (Take Us With You On Vacation).

Benefits to this assignment:

1. Let's start with the obvious. It is really cool. Who doesn't want to try out VR? The students absolutely love it, and because they do, the assignment is relevant and meaningful to them. They will end up exploring and learning so much because they just want to. No grades given. No doing this assignment to collect points. No due date to meet. Just learning in its purest form. 

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

pirate

I had been sailing on a clear course for about 13 years before I decided to drastically change course for blended learning. I've been on this blended learning course for about two and a half years now. I thought I had prepared well for my change in course, but there were many times early on in my change of course, I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I hit some pretty rough water and I had some real heart-to-heart conversations with myself. But the more I kept sailing, the more treasures I kept finding. This year's travel was full of so many treasures like Breakout EDU's, Mystery Skypes, 3D printing, G Suite tools for students and teachers, and engaged learners like never before. I realized that with all of these treasures I have collected, I have become a PIRATE. 

Blend like a PIRATE:

Purpose 

  • My first year of running a blended learning classroom was frustrating to say the least. Just when I was thinking I was making progress, something always seemed to come up to derail the progress I thought I had made. And while that year was full of frustration and uncertainty, it was also full of learning and adventure. (Read about my mistakes and my corrections from an early post Surf's Up: First Year Blended Learning Mistakes and Ways to Correct Them) Through all of the learning and adventures, the biggest thing I learned was understanding my purpose of running a blended learning classroom. I knew prior to starting a blended learning classroom, I needed to try something new and different for my students, but I was unclear of the purpose. My purpose for blended learning, which I discovered as a result of all the frustrations and hardships, is that blended learning is a way for students to find meaning, relevance, and themselves in their education during their time in education. So as I went through my second year of a blended learning classroom, I kept that purpose in mind all year long. By having understanding that purpose this year, I was able to focus more and piece together the puzzle pieces to create an effective and engaging blended learning environment for my students.

Imagination

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