Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Podcast on a Budget Part II

About a year ago, my friend Ben Dickson and I launched The BeerEDU Podcast.  We didn't know whether it was going to something that was going to take off,  if anybody was going to listen, or frankly, if we were going to enjoy doing the show.  Fast forward to now and our show has far exceeded our expectations!  While not on the same level as Serial or The Joe Rogan Podcast in terms of listenership, we feel that we reach a decent-sized audience and we have a lot of fun recording it and meeting people from all over the nation (and even the world, we have had guests from Canada) and listening to their stories and passions. 

When we first began recording, our setup was simple: we used a laptop (sometimes my Windows PC, sometimes my Chromebook), a Blue Ice Snowball microphone, and Soundtrap.  In fact, not long after our show went live, I published a blog post titled Podcast on a Budget to highlight the tools that we were using to produce our show.  Some things have changed since those early episodes, such as the length of the show, we have incorporated guests to join the conversation, and have implemented some more advanced tools into the mix to improve our show.  Let's take a look at some of the tools that we use that may cost a little more money but are still feasible for those looking to podcast on a budget.  

Before, it did not matter what device Ben and I would record from, as Soundtrap was accessible on any device.  However, what we discovered when we tried to record remotely for the first time was that while live recording when we were miles apart was possible in Soundtrap, it was very hard to get everything in sync and we struggled.  We decided that if we were to record remotely, we had to try a different program.  This is where a program that I had received as a presenter gift from a Google Summit a few years ago came into play:  Camtasia.  

I understand that the creator said it's a soft G,
but I'm not going to argue with the Jedi Master! 
As a thank you for presenting at a summit, I was given a license to TechSmith's SnagIt and Camtasia.  SnagIt is a program in which you can take screenshots, record short videos and create GIFs (with a hard G 😛😀😁).  Camtasia is a video creation program that is similar to iMovie, but accessible on PCs and, in my opinion, more robust and easier to use.  SnagIt is something that I used on a regular basis when creating content for my classes, presentations for conferences, and much more.  However, Camtasia was something that I only had dabbled with a few times, creating a few short videos for class.  I was more familiar with WeVideo, but when looking at that, I didn't see how I would be able to record remotely with Ben.  Camtasia looked like a great way to record my screen while Ben and I (and eventually guests) chatted via video.  If any edits needed to be made, Camtasia allowed tons of way to edit the recordings.  After everything was done, I would be able to extract the audio from the video and save it to upload into Anchor, the program we decided to use to publish the podcast.

Since that day that Soundtrap "failed" us (Soundtrap is a great program, it simply wasn't right for what we were trying to do; the music for our podcast was created in Soundtrap and it's great for a lot of other things), Google Hangouts and Camtasia have been our method of recording madness.  Ben and I and our guest will arrange our time to meet, join the Hangout link and I record the session through Camtasia, making any edits and adding in our music before exporting the audio.  When we were using Soundtrap, it was a free program, and my license of Camtasia was also free, but I was given the license.  If you want to buy Camtasia, it is $249 for a license, plus an extra $49 to guarantee the next release.  However, an educator can buy it for $169 plus $42.25 for the next release.  You aren't required to buy the release, but it is nice when TechSmith releases new updates.    While the price may seem a bit steep, I cannot say enough good things about the things you can do with Camtasia and the ease of use.  While I don't record a lot of videos, it does a fantastic job of video creation (I created my Google Certified Trainer video in Camtasia).

The Blue Yeti in midnight blue
I have also since upgraded my microphone for recording.  When we began the podcast, I would use a Blue Ice Snowball microphone, a very good and very affordable microphone that did the job very well.  But as great as recordings sounded through the Snowball, I kept hearing from numerous individuals that Blue's Yeti microphone was even better.  So I invested!  And I was not disappointed! The Yeti has four different recording settings:

  1. Stereo: records sounds from the front and the sides
  2. Cardioid: records sounds from the front of the microphone only (this is the setting that I use when recording on my own)
  3. Omnidirectional: records sounds from all directions (great for recording with multiple people around a table)
  4. Bidirectional: records sounds from the front and the back of the microphone (great for one-on-one speaking with another person sitting across from you)
In addition to the various settings (the Snowball only offers stereo recording), there are many other features of the Yeti.  It has a headphone jack so you can hear yourself when you speak and you can run the computer's sound through your headphones as well (great when recording via video chat!).  The gain knob allows you to sit further away from the mic and still have it pick up your voice clearly and record your voice at a higher volume.  There is also a volume knob for the headphones.  But perhaps my favorite feature it the mute button.  This comes in handy if you need to cough, if there is a lot of background noise, or if any other unexpected sounds are present in your recording environment.  You simply press the button and the microphone stops picking up sound.  The microphone is a little bulky, but not so much that you can't take it with you.  Plus, you can remove the mic from the stand if you have a microphone boom. 

If you are a beginning podcaster or you are trying to podcast in your classroom with students, this may be too much of an investment.  There are definitely great products available for recording and editing that are much cheaper.  In fact, especially when recording with students, built-in microphones on Chromebooks, iPads, and other devices will do the trick.  Someday, I would love to have a room dedicated to podcasting in my home with a professional mixing board, microphone, etc., but for now, both The BeerEDU Podcast and The Podcast by Sons of Technology sound good (in my opinion) with the equipment that we have been using.  Someday when Stitcher or NPR calls us to produce our shows, perhaps we will upgrade!  

Podcasting is a great way for you and your students to share your voice and it is becoming easier each day.  Share your recordings to the world!  Exchange ideas with other podcasters on recording!  And expose your students to the wonderful world of podcasting, both as producers and as consumers!  

Until next time...

Jake Miller, the #edugif guy, host of the EduDuctTape Podcast,
host of, and overall cool dude knows what's up...
(Sorry, I had to take one more swipe!)  

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Rainbows & Unicorns It Is Not!

Two things: this is exactly my opinion of social media at times
lately and I love! You can find ANYTHING there!
Social media has been a life-changing phenomenon for me as a professional.  Without (mainly) Twitter, Facebook, and more recently, Instagram, I am not sure where I would be at this point in my career.  I have learned so much from so many people, many of whom have become great friends, and have found an outlet of positivity for educators when traditional media, internet trolls, and people in our communities have bashed education and educators for far too long.  However, over the past few weeks, I have begun to notice something: social media has morphed into something else and I do not like the direction that it has taken.  

Internet trolls thrive on anonymity.  By sitting behind a screen, trolls believe they can say whatever they want without consequence, oftentimes things that they would never say to somebody's face.  And many trolls doing only to get a rise out of people, trying to bait people into a conversation so they can continue to humiliate and antagonize people.  I don't engage trolls, and most of the time I block them if I see them, even when I am not their intended target (come to think of it, I can't think of a time in recent memory where I was the target of a troll, thankfully).  I also do not engage online in political, religious, or debate on current events, even with those that I know because it is not worth the hassle when (not if) it turns ugly.  I would rather focus my energies on the positives and scroll onward in my feed.  

While my Twitter account is normally a positive place, as my list of those I follow is all educators save for about 10 sports teams and a comedy podcast that I listen to, lately, my feed has not been immune to troll-like behavior and belittlement by others.  What I have noticed in recent months is that civil discussion about topics in education is becoming more of a virtual shouting match, or even a group of people "ganging up" on somebody when they express an opinion.  For example's sake, let's say that somebody tweets an idea about taking steps to reduce homework in their classes this year.  Rather than encouraging the person, sharing ideas on how to do so, etc., individuals will often attack the person, pointing out that reducing homework is not enough, that anything but zero homework is unacceptable.  Now, instead of motivated by their goal of reducing homework, now this person feels deflated because of the vicious attacks by the social media saviors of education and humanity. 

Another thing I am noticing is the number of accounts that have abandoned sharing ideas and interacting with other educators in favor of trying to post "viral" quotes and stances on various issues, especially what I have always referred to as "chair throwing issues".  These are the ones that are controversial and if you watch long enough, eventually, the debate will become so heated that somebody will throw a chair (in our political climate, gun control is definitely one of those, and right to life versus pro-choice is another that has its moments in the spotlight).  Those behind these accounts will post their position or quote and sit back waiting for the likes and shares.  After a while, somebody will comment with their position, sometimes agreeing, sometimes respectfully disagreeing.  At this point, the original poster jumps in and attacks those that are not 100% behind their tweet.  Homework is another great example of this.  

In one such exchange I saw recently on a post regarding a zero homework policy, an AP teacher commented that they assign some reading homework for their class because there is so much material to cover.  Right away, the author of the post and their following ripped this poor teacher for "destroying these students" self-esteem, family time, etc.  I honestly felt terrible for this teacher that simply shared their thoughts and reasons why they assign reading for homework.  I don't know how much reading this teacher assigned, what subject it was, I just saw this person destroyed by strangers when these strangers easily could have sparked a discussion on how to cover material without having to assign students reading to complete at home.  Instead, many people have an all or nothing mentality, where one must agree with 100% of a thought without question, or they are 100% against them.  And unfortunately, many of those guilty of these attacks, whether blatant or passive-aggressively, are the "educelebrities" of social media, those that have a ton of followers and significant influence through their contributions to education, their expertise, and their opinions. 

And while there has been more negativity lately, it doesn't stop there.  There is also an overabundance of the "perfect" classrooms, lessons, etc.  Very rarely do I see people posting about their struggles with something, it's always the polished and beautiful result.  Pinterest inspired classrooms, sketchnotes that no average person would ever be able to create, and handpicked student projects that make one look better flood the streams.  And while I could be sharing more of my failures and struggles, it's rather discouraging when I see things like this because it's something that the average educator now feels that they need to "live up to", myself included.  I have never done much with sketchnoting because of this, even after hearing multiple people say, "it's whatever you make of it, don't worry about how it looks".  But even then, encouraging people to draw their thinking instead of writing it while displaying borderline Da Vincis to the world isn't a great way to inspire others to try sketchnoting. 

And I have to give Ryan O'Donnell a shout out for this next thought: when replying to a message in which several people have been tagged, if it is something that enriches the conversation and moves it forward, by all means, reply to everybody.  However, too often messages are sent to everybody that pertain to only one in the thread (think email reply all).  This can often lead to a series of notifications that are meaningless to many, as they do not apply to anything regarding the original message. 

I get especially irritated by some of the "Follow Friday" or other random tags of people in messages that eventually result in a lot of "irrelevant to my mission of social media" notifications.  I have turned more and more to muting conversations or even individuals as a result of these types of messages overrunning my feed and notifications.  I wholeheartedly agree that we should follow other educators and that we are better when working and communicating together, but must we announce that to every person that we follow, follows us, or we happen to meet at a conference?  A lot of times, I feel like many of these types of posts are simply ploys to gain likes and followers rather than an authentic method of connecting educators to one another. 

And I don't want to come across as some ungrateful jerk, but there are many reasons why I am not on social media. I'm not on social media to be force-fed opinions masqueraded as fact.  I'm not on social media to be attacked or witness others being attacked, especially if trying to participate in civilized discussion.  I'm not on social media to earn followers, likes, retweets, and saccharine-laced messages of how my mere presence or the presence of others somehow makes the world go round.   I appreciate civil discourse, words of encouragement, and opinions so long as they are supported by fact and presented respectfully. 

There is enough negativity on social media, especially outside of the educators that have embraced social media.  I understand that toxicity is like cancer and can spread quickly and easily, that is why it is important for educators to stay positive in the face of negativity.  But at the same time, positivity needs to be authentic and needs to celebrate the struggles as much as the successes.  I know that many are going to have issues with my thoughts here and I welcome you to disagree, respectfully. 

Until next time... 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Access for All

Ben & I with Maggie Cox, president-elect of
NACTE prior to our podcasting session
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in two great professional development opportunities, the Nevada Association for Career & Technical Education (NACTE) Conference, and the CUE Leadership Development Institute (LDI).  While my role at NACTE was that of a presenter and as an attendee at CUE LDI, a common theme came about from each event that resonated with me, the idea of equity and access to all that are affected by each organization.  

Months ago, my BeerEDU Podcast partner-in-crime, Ben Dickson, and I submitted a proposal for the NACTE Conference, a session on beginning podcasting, using our show as an example of why podcast, the equipment and software involved, and how educators and students can use podcasting as a way to demonstrate learning, connect with authentic audiences, and have fun at the same time.  After our session was accepted, I was also approached by the coordinator of the conference, Craig Statucki, and asked if I would be willing to participate in a panel session during lunch on one of the days of the conference.  Craig is somebody that I have been connected with and have looked up to for a long time, so without question, not even as to what the topic was going to be for the panel, I agreed. 

One question that came up in our presentation: were we going
to provide beer for the session?  
In our presentation, our attendees asked a lot of great questions on the why, how, and what of podcasting.  While our session was an hour long and mostly informational in format, I wish we could have had longer, perhaps even a three-hour session to help our audience to begin building the beginnings of their podcasts.  And I must give Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott of the TOSAs Talking Tech Podcast a lot of credit, as many items Ben and I presented in our session was provided from episodes of their show.  We even directed attendees to check out Tom and Mike's four-part series on how to start a podcast.  But one of the main points that Ben and I tried to convey and what many attendees asked about was related to access to content for students and choice in assessment, catering to student strengths, as well as a more modern way of communicating with families and the community through podcasting.  While I feel that it was a great session, there are definitely some things to improve upon for later, and Ben and I have already been asked to bring the session back to the regional ACTE conference to be held in Lake Tahoe in the spring of 2020. 

As for the panel, as I had mentioned, I did not know what I would be addressing, so I tracked down Craig after my session to inquire.  He informed me that I would be on the panel with Snehal Bhakta, a friend of mine from my years in Las Vegas and a coordinator of career & technical in the school district, and Dr. Summer Stephens, the superintendent of the Churchill County School District in Northern Nevada.  The topic of the panel would be equity and access to career & technical education for all students.  While I am not an expert on career & technical education, I did work at a CTE school for many years and along with my (limited) experience in special education, I do have strong feelings about access to CTE curriculum for students and schools, so I was very excited to serve on the panel, especially with two people like Snehal and Dr. Stephens that have a lot of experience in CTE and leadership. 

I had never served on a panel prior to this.  It was a bit intimidating to think that I would be put on the spot with questions that I hadn't been presented with prior to the panel, but the topic was something that I was knowledgeable of, passionate about, and I had two other people that I would consider experts along with me to take some of the pressure off.  Once we got going, I had nothing to worry about; in fact, the first question that was presented by the moderator was something that I wanted to answer right away. 

It was an honor to serve with Snehal Bhakta and Dr. Summer Stephens on this
panel.  I look forward to serving on another panel someday! 
The question related to the importance of offering CTE courses to students.  Right away, I thought about a student that I had nearly 10 years ago that came to me on the first day of school to tell me that while he was going to work very hard, he struggled with reading and writing and English was not his first language.  Ultimately, this student improved his reading and writing skills and passed his proficiency tests (something required for graduation at the time) and graduated with his peers.  His hard work had a lot to do with his achievements, but he was also in a school that offered him courses that he was interested in and would help him to prepare for a career or further education after high school and gave him the motivation to succeed, something that many students that struggle do not have the luxury of having and often times end up giving up and struggling to graduate, or even drop out of school because of their lack of motivation.  The point I tried to convey in the first part of the panel was that if more schools offer a variety of CTE courses, more students could find something that they are passionate about. 

As the panel progressed, my colleagues on the panel brought up some great points about bringing access to CTE for all students.  Topics covered ranged from the funding of CTE programs, encouraging female students to enroll in male-dominated courses like auto mechanics, welding, and computer science, to one of the most intriguing topics, how schools build their schedules around academic and CTE courses to provide access to all students.  I had never thought much about this before, but it made me realize that many schools struggle with this.  Often times, in order to give students a schedule that meets the required courses in which they must enroll, students are excluded from enrolling in their first choice elective courses, which include CTE courses.  Schools must work harder to ensure that students have access to their preferred electives and work to build schedules that allow students to explore their interests.  To piggyback this, I also believe that schools need to work harder at building relationships with "non-traditional" education programs, such as with companies and unions in the community.  Colleges and military branches are always represented at career days, why can't something like a local carpenters union also be represented and come to schools to give presentations?  Perhaps this is the case where you teach, but it is something that I have not seen much of in my career and the schools in which I have taught. 

Prior to the event, Ben and I got on our bikes
along the beach near Asilomar, taking in the sights!
From Lake Tahoe, after a quick stop to run some errands and take care of some things at home, I drove from Reno to Salinas, CA for a night with my friend Ben Cogswell before heading to Pacific Grove for the CUE Leadership Development Institute at the Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds.  LDI is an event I had attended twice previously, missing the 2018 installment, as I was moving to Reno the same weekend of the event.  The purpose of LDI is to bring together members of the various CUE affiliates in California and Nevada to brainstorm ideas on how to make CUE a better organization and give affiliates the opportunity to learn from each other to improve events and connections for those that the organization and affiliates represent.  Like the NACTE Conference session and panel, the theme that I took from LDI was access:  How do we as an organization, and in my case, a leader within CUE-NV, provide access to educators within the State of Nevada and make CUE membership worthwhile?  Between the leaders of CUE as a whole and each individual affiliate, 22 affiliates in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to network with people and share ideas about how to make our affiliates better and offer teachers in our areas high-quality professional development and opportunities to connect with one another. 

Ultimately, whether talking about access to career & technical education curriculum for all students or providing a way to provide professional development to all educators, the takeaway from either is that we must work together to provide students with the best possible education and opportunities to explore their interests.  Choices in electives for students and providing training for educators to be better at their craft is a great start.   I encourage you to ask the tough questions about what we can do to be better for our students. 

Until next time...

Saturday, July 13, 2019

What Team Are You On?

Desmond Howard showing Ohio who is the best in the 1991 meeting in this
storied rivalry.  While the Maize & Blue have had a tough go of it in recent
years, I have a feeling things are about to change! Image courtesy of
Competition is something that has dictated human nature since the beginning of time.  In the beginning, it was about mere survival.  Humans competed with one another for food, for shelter, for protection.  As time went on, competition dictated the successes and failures of nations, of empires.  Today, competition drives so much of the world, as nations compete economically, individuals compete for better jobs, and on a more recreational level, various games, sports, and the rivalries that arise as a result, like the Yankees and Red Sox, Maple Leafs and Canadians, Packers and Bears, and Michigan and Ohio (State, but Michigan fans don't add the rest of the name when referring to the school from the state to the south).

Recently, Pear Deck announced that it was partnering with Microsoft Education to offer its platform for use with PowerPoint Online, something that has been available with Google Slides for some time.  You can check out my post on this announcement, Pear Deck for #MicrosoftEDU, here.  This announcement gave me the opportunity to explore Office365, OneDrive, and other Microsoft apps a little bit further, as I haven't used Microsoft much over the past few years since I started using GSuite for Education apps exclusively.  It also sparked a conversation between me and a handful of others on a recent episode of Sons of Technology: The Podcast about competition between educators and the camps that teachers tend to put themselves into.  Listen to the episode (and subscribe) below or find Sons of Technology wherever you listen to podcasts to check out this conversation and many more.

We all know those people, in fact, we may be those people.  "Forget Microsoft Office365, I'm a Google teacher!"  "Why do you use Nearpod?  Pear Deck is so much better!"  "You're still using Kahoot!?  You know that Quizizz is better, right?"  "I can't believe somebody would buy a phone other than an iPhone, it's light years ahead of anything Android."  You get the picture.  In fact, I have been this guy before, criticizing somebody's preferences over my own.

Over the past couple of years, I have shied away from such criticism.  Who am I to judge somebody based on their personal preferences?  And who am I to judge what a school district provides to its teachers and students?  While I certainly prefer GSuite for Education, it's mostly because it is what I know after the districts I have worked for adopted Google as their platform of choice.  If somebody works in an Office365 district and doesn't have access to Google, I have no place to judge and criticize them.

Why create a divide when we should unite in the name of student
achievement, empowerment, and connectivity! Image courtesy of
While my shift to a more accepting attitude toward others' preferences was more out of respect for others, it brings about another important point: if something works for you and it is beneficial to student learning, what difference does it make?  We don't need to put ourselves into teams that try to compete against one another when we all have the same goal:  student achievement!

Now, this does not mean that we should support absolutely everything and try to implement every single tool that's available into our classrooms, far from it!  If you like a tool, use it, tell people about it, brag about what it can do for you and your students.  Have constructive debates not about what tool is better, but how each tool can be beneficial.  Try to see all sides and make informed decisions about tools to you, don't just use a tool because a colleague or a company told you to do so.

As for sports though, keep it civil, but keep running your mouths and keep rivalries alive!  I am sorry Randall (Sampson), I love you, but you are a Buckeye fan, so I may be a little bit slower in getting to you if a group of Wolverines has you surrounded.

In closing, one team that I hope you will join will be my book team!  I have been relatively quiet about it, with a few tweets here and there and some mentions occasionally about a book that I have been working on.  As of July 9, 2019, I signed a contract with a publisher on the book that I have been working on for the past few months.  More details will be released as we get closer to a finished product, but I cannot wait to reveal to you what I have been pouring myself into, with the hopes to inspire those that will read my work.

Until next time... 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pear Deck for #MicrosoftEDU

Pear Deck for Microsoft: another great pear!
Image courtesy of
For several years now, I have been hawking the awesomeness of Pear Deck, first from its origins as a stand-alone application, then to its partnership with Google with the Pear Deck for Google Slides add-on.  This week, Pear Deck announced the news that it was now also going to partner with Microsoft to allow for Pear Deck to be used with PowerPoint much like you can do with Google Slides!

Before getting too much deeper, you've always been able to use PowerPoint in creating Pear Deck presentations.  In the early days of Pear Deck, the editor allowed you to create a presentation within the app, but it was very limited in its design, with only a white background, a few options for inserting text and images, and the ability to insert YouTube videos in addition to the interactive questions.  If you wanted to make a presentation more personalized and visually appealing, you could upload a .pdf file, Google Slides, or PowerPoint.  However, each of these file types had to be uploaded into the app, then you inserted the interactive questions as their own slides, not as a conversion of a slide that you made.  While Pear Deck was limiting in the early days of using it, I obviously continued to use it because it was way better than the standard PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation and it did not give me a headache like Prezi (if you don't know Prezi, ask around, someone is bound to tell you the horror stories of the animations that people overused in that program).

Tons of templates at your disposal!
After using Pear Deck for a couple of years, it was announced that an add-on for Google Slides would be the primary method of creating and presenting with Pear Deck.  Now instead of needing to upload files into Pear Deck and making the necessary edits and additions of interactive slides, you could create right in Google Drive and keep your file as a Google Slides file instead of converting it while using the Pear Deck for Google Slides add-on.

Want to create your own interactive
slide? Use one of the options in the
add-on and make it your own!
The add-on also introduced the template slides.  In the template slides, you could insert (and edit) slides for the beginning of the lesson, during the lesson, and the end of the lesson.  Critical thinking slides were eventually introduced, and most recently, social-emotional learning (SEL) template slides were introduced.  All one had to do was click on the template in the add-on and insert it in the presentation.  The add-on also allowed for interactive questions to be added to regular slides as well, so teachers could use their own images and slide designs to create interactive slides.

You could still upload a Microsoft PowerPoint file into Drive and convert it to Slides, but while the original editor was still available for a short time, eventually, the ability for one to present a PowerPoint file disappeared.  In addition, to log into a session, you were required to have a Google account.  This prevented schools that had Microsoft for Education accounts from basking in the sunshine of Pear Deck.  A few of my friends like Tom Covington, Michael Jephcott, and Ben Dickson all work in Microsoft districts, so trying to preach the Pear Deck gospel to them didn't necessarily fall on deaf ears, but it certainly was not something that I'm sure they got too deep into whenever I would start to rave.  On top of that, I work in a district where we have Google accounts, but our email is through Outlook, giving us access to both Google and Office365 platforms.  For those in my district that were using Microsoft, they either had to learn how to use Google Slides in order to use Pear Deck or not use it at all, as it was not available for PowerPoint.

A peek at the Pear Deck for Microsoft add-in. 
But now, Microsoft users rejoice!  Pear Deck is available for PowerPoint! Since this announcement, I have spent some time getting to know how Pear Deck works with Microsoft, refreshing my knowledge of Office365 that I haven't touched in a long time and learning a lot of other aspects of Office that I did not know existed.

It is very similar to how it works for Google Slides.  From PowerPoint Online, download the Pear Deck for Microsoft add-in (not an add-on, as it is referred to in the Googlesphere).  At this time, it is only available for use in PowerPoint Online, but it will be available in the desktop version of PowerPoint soon.  Because the desktop version does have features that the online version does not, you could do the bulk of your design in the desktop version, save it to OneDrive, then open it from OneDrive online and use the Pear Deck add-in.

Here is the major difference between the Google and the Microsoft versions of Pear Deck.  While Google allows you to simply click on a template and add a slide into a presentation, Microsoft requires a little bit more background work first.  In the add-in, the templates are available, but when you click on the link, it directs you to PowerPoint files of the slides.  In order to use them, you need to download copies of the template files (I recommend downloading to OneDrive, but you could save them to your hard drive, desktop, etc.) then copy the specific slide and paste it into your presentation.  It's a little bit of extra work in comparison to the Google version, but it gets the job done.  As for creating your own interactive slides, the process is the same: choose the type of slide in the add-in and go!

Another aspect of the Pear Deck for Google Slides add-on that makes presenting easy is the Google Classroom integration where a presentation can be posted in Classroom rather than giving students a code to log into a presentation.  The Microsoft equivalent, Teams, does not have this integration at this time, but Microsoft has announced that the integration will be available for Teams very soon!  And as more people begin to use the Pear Deck for Microsoft add-in, people will voice their suggestions and improvements will be made.

So, if you are a Microsoft user and are excited about this new partnership, I have created a couple of items to assist you in exploring Pear Deck more.  Please check out my Pear Deck for Microsoft Sway presentation or a sample Pear Deck presentation in PowerPoint below.  And if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to hit me up.  If I don't have an answer for you, I will learn along with you as I need to increase my Office365 knowledge and skills anyway.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Reflection & Planning for the Fall

A good start to the summer with a
live recording of The BeerEDU
Podcast!  Thank you to Shoe Tree
Brewing Company in Carson City, NV
for being such gracious hosts!
The end of the 2018-2019 school year is upon us.  As I sit down and write this, I have been off for almost a week.  My kids finished up their school years (we are in different districts) and have since gone to California to stay with my parents for a few days, giving my wife and I some time to ourselves before she started her summer classes for her grad program. 

While I had the greatest of intentions to get some things done, I must admit that I have fully taken advantage of the time to recuperate a little bit after what was perhaps the busiest school year that I have had in my 14-year career in education.   I have enjoyed catching up on some shows on Hulu and Netflix, episodes of various podcasts, and been able to put almost 20 miles on my bike in the last two days alone.  I even was able to record a podcast on location at Shoe Tree Brewing Company with my partner in crime, Ben Dickson, meeting with our guest, Rob Williams, to have some beers and have an amazing conversation about the great things happening in Rob's district in Southern & Central Nevada (watch for this to drop on Saturday, June 29, 2019, if you are reading this prior to then).  The past few days has given me the opportunity to reflect on this past year and think about some things that I want to do in the upcoming school year, a little over two months away!

I mentioned that this past year was busy; that is certainly an understatement!  I began the school year in a new school in a new city, working in a role that I had never done before while working on a degree program to become certified to work in my role as a special education teacher.  As the sole breadwinner of the family while my wife is in school, I had to pick up some extra duties to make a little extra cash, so I worked a couple of hours a week as an after-school technology coach and taught two nights of adult education, teaching American government.  I couldn't neglect my duties as Vice President of CUE-NV, so I carved out time to work with my board to put on several events throughout the school year.  I attended and presented at several events, including the CapCUE Tech Fest, FallCUE, a couple of Google Summits, the Tulare County Tech Rodeo, and SpringCUE.  And in between all of that, I submitted and earned my Google Certified Trainer endorsement, completed my Master's in Special Education, and have started working on a book (more on this momentarily), all while balancing my life at home with my wife and two kids and co-hosting two podcasts.  While many will think that I am crazy, I thrive on a busy lifestyle and wouldn't have it any other way! But enough about how busy I've been, let's get to the reflection!

I would be lying if I told you I wasn't apprehensive going into the school year and teaching special education.  While I wasn't nervous about working with students and meeting my new colleagues, I was nervous about the paperwork and other duties of the job.  What I learned very quickly, however: I would rather write IEPs and check in with students than writing lesson plans, grade, and everything else that comes with general education!  I feel that I got to connect with students on a more personal level, learning about their lives, their strengths, and their dreams, which was a lot harder to do as a general education teacher.  Now don't get me wrong, special education is not all rainbows and unicorns, there were certainly frustrating days and students that were very hard to work with at times, and parents that were even harder to work with, but in the end, I am confident that I am making a difference in students' lives and look forward to improving as a special education teacher and continuing to inspire kids and their futures. 

One of my favorite views of Reno a few months back.  I can't believe that
something so beautiful is only a short drive or hike away!
I would also be lying if I said that on a personal level that this past year has been easy.  As the only one bringing in a paycheck, there have certainly been some changes in our lifestyle.  Stress levels have been higher at times as a result.  Because of my full days at school, plus the extra time I have been putting in to make a little extra, I haven't been at home as much, taking a toll on my wife and children.  On top of that, Mary's school schedule has her working all day, then several hours a night on her classes.  Because of how busy we have both been, we haven't been able to enjoy our new home as much as we would like to, to the point that Mary isn't incredibly happy here.  But the good news:  the kids have settled in nicely to their schools and have made friends, Mary is over halfway done with her program, and as a speech pathologist, she will not have a problem getting a job anywhere that she wishes.  At that point, we can start to experience the beauty of where we live (if we decide to stay, I hope so, I personally love it here!) and as I jokingly told a co-worker before school ended when he asked what we would do with two incomes, "We can buy name brand food at the grocery store again!" 

Every little bit helps, and Mary and I cannot be more grateful to you for your help!
And speaking of a change of lifestyle and the struggle to make ends meet at times, I owe it to my wife, Mary, to help her in reaching her goals while she completes her grad program.  The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, will be having their annual convention in Orlando, FL in November.  It is a wonderful opportunity to further herself professionally and she deserves to go.  However, between the conference registration, flight, hotel, etc., it is something that will be very tough for us to pull off financially.  This is why Mary has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover some of her expenses.  If you would consider making a small donation to her to help her get to Orlando, we would be forever in your debt.  Please visit to make a donation!  And please share this link out so that others may be able to help as well! 

The last few days have also given me a chance to think about some things that I want to do this fall.  While I will continue to co-teach World History with the same teacher this year, I am also going to be co-teaching Economics with him and another teacher.  Economics was my favorite subject throughout college and I was really hoping to teach it when I got my first teaching job.  However, it just wasn't in the cards and I have never had the opportunity to teach economics, until now!  I will certainly need to brush up on the content to get up to speed, but I am already starting to think about some activities that will help make economics more interesting and applicable to students' real-life experiences, including a budget simulation using Google Sheets.  But something that I really want to do with both classes is to create a "menu" of the different tools that we will use throughout the year.  The menu will include the tool, a sample activity for students to complete, and examples of how we will use the tools throughout the year.  To take it even further, I want to design the menu in a hyperdoc format and post it in Google Classroom as a material that students can refer back to if needed.  Some of the tools that I intend to include, but not limited to, are Pear Deck, Quizizz, Quizlet, the GSuite tools, and Adobe Spark, just to name a few. 

As the summer progresses, more reflection and recuperation is certainly on the docket, but so are a few other things.  Ben and I will continue to record a few episodes of The BeerEDU Podcast, and we have some great guests lined up.  We would love to have some more guests, so if you are interested, please visit and fill out our guest form!  My other podcast, Sons of Technology: The Podcast, is also going to continue to record and publish episodes, so be on the lookout for both of those.  I also plan to write posts for this blog, perhaps not as frequently as I do during the school year, but I will write nonetheless.  But I also plan to continue working on the book that I have started.  Without going into extreme detail and giving away the entire premise of my book, it is essentially a memoir of the times I have taken risks in my life as a person and a professional and the impact that it has had on me as an educator.  My goal is to inspire others to take risks in their lives and embrace the successes and failures that come with said risks.  I hope to have a completed draft by the end of the summer and hope to have a publisher accept my proposal. 

Excited to start this one!
And of course, summertime is learning time!  Podcasts, scrolling through the Twitter feed, and a couple of events are on my agenda, as is doing some reading that is so hard to fit in during the summer.  I have already completed Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess & Beth Houf, and I am nearly finished with Make Learning Magical by Tisha Richmond.  My next book will be Be Real by Tara Martin, and I will definitely need to pick up a copy of the next in the #Ditchbook line, Don't Ditch That Tech by Matt Miller, Nate Ridgway, and Angelia Ridgway. 

Hopefully, your summer, if it has started, has been relaxing and has given you time to reflect and you have started to think about some things that you want to do in the next school year. 

Until next time...

Thursday, May 16, 2019

2019 Goals Revisited!

In late December and early January, I decided on my goals for 2019.  I outlined some professional goals and a personal goal for the year with steps on how I wanted to achieve those goals.  As we are already in the middle of May and approaching the halfway point of 2019 (already!), I wanted to revisit those to update myself on my progress, make modifications to my goals if needed and set some new goals for the remainder of the year.  Here is a link to my original 2019 goals blog post if you would like to read it in its entirety rather than getting the CliffsNotes version of it in this post.  

Really proud of this badge, I worked so hard for it!
One of my goals for 2019 was to earn the Google Certified Trainer endorsement.  I have been providing training to various groups and individuals on Google tools and pedagogy for several years, and I have applied to the program in the past.  I was rejected once in 2016, then again in the summer of 2018.  I had ideas as to why I was rejected and I wanted to make sure that this time around, I was going to submit an application that went above and beyond the criteria required.  My goal was to complete the application in stages, that way I could pay attention to all of the details and have everything in order when I was finally ready.  

The plan was to have the application requirements ready by the end of February and the video requirement ready by the end of April, then submitting the entire application (the application window is now year-round; from what I have seen, there is a monthly deadline for review of applications).  I actually got everything in order and submitted in time for the February 28th deadline,  a full two months earlier than I had planned.  However, just submitting it was not my goal; my goal was to have the application accepted and earn the endorsement.  After submitting, the confirmation stated that a decision would be made in 4-6 weeks.  On April 7th, I received the notification that my application was accepted and that I was a newly minted Google Certified Trainer! While part of the requirement of the program is to provide training to others, I think the best part about it is the learning that I have already benefitted from as a result of the interactions with others in the #GoogleET community, and I look forward to continued learning and relationship and PLN building.  

Good feeling when this was displayed on the university's app!  
Over the course of the past year, I have been working on the credits required to earn a Master's in Special Education.  While I could have spread out the program over a maximum of two years, my philosophy was to complete it in as little time as possible to save money, as Western Governors University charges the same amount for tuition regardless of how many credits are completed in a term.  In my first term that ended in December, I had completed 23 of the 31 credits.  Technically, I had all of the requirements for two more credits done, but I would not have received my financial aid if I completed those credits before the end of the term, as it would have made me only part-time with the remaining six credits.  So I held onto my final paper for that class and waited until the first day of the new term, submitted it, and received notification later on that first day that I had completed that class.  Then it was on to complete my practicum hours and Praxis tests.  I completed all of the requirements and submitted my graduation paperwork on April 19, a month and a half before the end of the second term.  

While I thought I was done, it turns out that I had overlooked one more Praxis test that I had to take as a requirement of the university.  I had to scramble to find an available slot in which to register, pay the fee (don't get me started on fees for Praxis tests, the ACT, SAT, or any other test that is provided by some educational testing company, that's a rant for another day, in fact, possibly my next blog post), and take it.  Luckily, I was able to get into a testing center a few days later and complete the exam.  As of this writing, I am still waiting on the results, but I am confident that I did fine, I already passed three other Praxis tests for special education.  But any day now, I should be officially completed with my M.S. in Special Education and I can submit the endorsement for my teaching license.  

As for my personal goal of riding my bike more, while it has not been a complete failure, I certainly have not been keeping up on my goal of riding 100 miles or more a month.  I underestimated the impact of my schedule, the winter weather and its wrath, and my kids' desire to ride with me.  My work schedule is very hectic, often keeping me at school for 12-14 hours a day.  Most days, I want to sleep until I absolutely have to get up and when I get home, it's time for a bit of food, then sleep.  Weekends often mean that I want to relax.  The winter weather was certainly a roadblock for several months, as the cold, the wind, and the rain and snow was often a convenient explanation as to why I wasn't able to get out on the bike (or was it an excuse to stay in and play Nintendo?).  And because my kids got bikes as well, it has been hard to go out on long rides, as they are still young and using training wheels.  

However, I haven't completely ignored my bike.  I like to ride to the post office to get the mail, I've ridden the bike to the local breweries a few times, and I love getting the kids out on theirs with me to ride around the neighborhood a bit.  The 100 miles a month is more like 10 miles a month currently, but with the end of the school approaching soon, I should be able to get more miles under those tires.  And speaking of tires, I even learned how to fix a flat tire after getting a pinch flat on the rear wheel a couple of weeks ago.  I went and bought the tube and tools needed and after a quick YouTube video and 15 minutes, I had fixed it myself.  All of the years riding bikes as a kid and into college, I never had to replace a tube or tire, I only ever had to fill a tire when it got low, so this was a new experience.  I have even explored how to convert my tires to tubeless! A coworker told me about a method where you line the rim with duct tape and it creates a seal that is sufficient enough so that the tire will no longer require a tube.  If you are a biker, here's a quick video on how to do it!  

The Truckee River in Downtown Reno on May 16, 2019, screenshot from a
webcam hosted by the City of Reno.  It is predicted to look like this for
several more weeks as the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada was well above
average for the 2018-2019 winter season.
So at this point, I have met two of my three goals.  So my next step?  Set some new goals and modify my bike goal.  With better weather and more time, I am modifying my riding goal to 30 miles a month, essentially a mile a day.  This will take into account that I cannot do long rides with the kids yet and if I can't get out every day, I can do a longer ride on my own a few days of the month.  Another personal goal: take the kids fishing! My son got a fishing pole for his birthday, so he's been asking almost every day when we can go.  The rivers in our area are raging from the melting mountain snow (with tons of snow still to melt) and the lakes and ponds are high as well, but I look forward to getting the kids out to pull in some trout very soon (I lived on the water when I was kid, fishing was something I didn't get do as much as I would have liked living in Las Vegas, Northern Nevada has many more options to get out on the water more often).  Professionally, I am going to start exploring the Google Certified Innovator program further.  I don't believe that would be able to afford the travel in the next few months, but I would love to explore the application and prepare it for when I am ready to submit, as well as think of a base idea or two that could turn into a project.  I also am setting a goal of helping educators in my district to become excited about the Google Certified Educator level 1 exam.  I would love to help at least 10 educators earn that certification by the end of the year. 

Have you revisited your goals for 2019?  Where are you at in your journey in achieving your goals?  Let's hold one another accountable!

Until next time... 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Certifications & Advanced Degrees

In the past few days on both of the podcasts in which I co-host, The BeerEDU Podcast with Ben Dickson and Sons of Technology: The Podcast with Joe Marquez and a rotating set of amazing educators, we focused on the importance of certifications and advanced degrees and education.  It was not planned to have both of these episodes focus on this topic, it just happened to fall into place in this manner.  Both episodes even had three people in common: me, Katherine Goyette, and Adam Juarez.  We also had Corey Coble join the Sons of Technology episode to share his opinions and expertise.  You can check out both episodes through the links below or search (and subscribe) on your favorite podcasting app.  

The Google Certified Educator, Level 1
badge that is earned after completion of
the Level 1 exam.  
The focal point of both conversations was based on why: why should educators seek out certifications?  What does an educator get out of becoming (insert edtech tool) certified?  Why should educators endorse various tools and act as ambassadors for products and their functions?  And what the conversations really boiled down to was as educators, it's about learning, a growth mindset, and a desire to do what we feel is best for our students.  While there was certainly talk about what tools and what certifications are worthy of pursuing, it all came back to the why.  A great point that was brought up is how much one can and will learn simply by going through the certification process.  

The Google Certified Educator, Level 2
badge that is earned after completion of
the Level 2 exam.
The best example was the process of becoming a Google Certified Educator, either Level 1 or Level 2.  If you have never taken either of the exams, it isn't simply about completing a form, answering a few short questions, and "earning" your badge.  Not to knock any tools out there and not to mention any names of tools, but there are certainly some tools that offer certification or a badge simply by asking for one.  Google's certification program must more rigorous, and the best part about it, it makes one prove that they are knowledgeable of Google's tools AND can APPLY those tools to an educational setting and scenario.  I certainly recall learning a lot of different things each time I completed the Level 1 and Level 2 exams (I have taken each one twice).  If you would like to learn more about the exams, you can check out the Google for Education Teacher Center for more information. 

There also some other certification exams that while I don't believe are as rigorous, I still learned a great deal and earned the certifications.  Two prime examples of these are the Microsoft Innovative Educator and the Apple Teacher Certifications.  Both programs are free (the Google exams are $10 for Level 1, $25 for Level 2) and do not require the process of taking a long exam and demonstration of the use of tools like the Google exams.  However, the certifications weren't simply a "create your account, provide us with some information and we will send you your badge."  Both Microsoft and Apple required knowledge and application of each platforms tools.  

Not a rigorous as the Google exams, in my opinion, but
I am still very proud of earning this certification!
I earned my Apple Teacher certification a few years ago.  With all of this talk about certifications, I think I need to go back and do it again just because it has been over 2 years since I completed the tests.  The Apple certification breaks it down into two segments: iPad and Mac.  There are several topics within each test, such as skills and application of tools like Keynote, Numbers, Garage Band, iMovie, and others.  I don't own a Mac but used one for several years as it was my teacher workstation at a previous school, but I do have several iPads at home.  While I haven't used Numbers, Pages, and Keynote extensively, if much at all, they are very similar to Docs, Sheets, Slides, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so I was able to get through those exams with a little bit of digging and toying around.  I did struggle some with some of the accessibility tools of each platform, but eventually, I was able to earn both the iPad and Mac certifications.  I don't use Apple products much outside of my personal iPad, but I certainly know more about both systems because of the Apple Teacher program.  And they have a wonderful Twitter chat, the #appleteacher chat on Tuesdays (I haven't participated in a while, I'm sure it's still great) and post great things on the Apple Education Twitter account.  And if you want to do a deeper dive in Apple tools and prove your expertise, there is also the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  You can learn more about all of these on the Apple Education page.  

I earned half of the points at CUE 2018, the other half?
I completed some tutorials while watching the 2018
World Cup one morning in June 2018. 
The Microsoft Innovative Educator came about as a perceived necessity.  When it was determined that I would be moving from Las Vegas to Northern Nevada, I knew that Washoe County School District (Reno/Sparks) was a Microsoft district, not a Google district like most other districts in Nevada.  So when I went to Spring CUE 2018, I made sure to seek out session on some Microsoft tools to become more familiar with the ins and outs of Office365.  I hit the jackpot when I went to a three-hour long CUE Rockstar session that was hosted by Tammy Dunbar.  She went over some common tools like PowerPoint and OneDrive but introduced others that I had never used like OneNote and Sway.  After the session, we were presented with a promo code for points to be used toward the Microsoft Innovative Educator certification, which added up to about half of the points needed.  See, Microsoft gives you a lot of different options in getting their certification.  You can pick and choose from different topics, complete the tutorials and exams, and earn points that will get the certification once you earn 1000 points.  There are a variety of badges that you can earn with Microsoft that demonstrate knowledge of tools, evidence of training teachers in Microsoft tools, and many more.  Like the Apple Teacher program, I learned a great deal about a lot of the Microsoft tools, and while I ended up getting a job in another Google district and don't necessarily use the Microsoft skills often, it's another perspective that I was able to learn about.  If you would like to learn more about the Microsoft Education program, check out their resources, there are a ton of them, plus the Microsoft Education Twitter feed.  

I have a few other certifications and badges to my name as well.  I am a Pear Deck Certified Coach, a distinction in which I had to be nominated for.  Nick Park, an employee of Pear Deck, and I struck up a relationship at first professionally when I worked with him to purchase a site license of Pear Deck for a school.  While we don't see each other much, we do keep in contact and chat every now and then, but he nominated me for the program where I had to complete some webinars and live chats, submit a Pear Deck presentation for review, and now that I am a certified coach, I am part of a group that can share ideas, learn of updates, and "Share the Pear" at conferences.  It's been a lot of fun being a part of the group and promoting such a great product, in my opinion.  I also sport a Flipgrid Certified Educator badge for demonstrating my use and knowledge of Flipgrid.  

My proudest achievement in the certification world!
My favorite certification, by far, is my newest one, Google Certified Trainer.  The process of becoming a trainer is lengthy and rigorous.  You must be a Google Certified Educator, Level 1 and Level 2, complete a trainer assessment exam, complete an application that demonstrates your abilities to train people in Google tools, as well as provide feedback attendees of sessions have given you, and complete a video (here is mine if you'd like to see an example) that tells the world why you should be a trainer and a screencast demonstrating a Google tool.  I applied to be a Trainer in 2016 and was rejected.  I tried again in 2018 and was rejected again.  Finally, in 2019, I applied and was accepted into the program.  Now I am part of a group of educators that can share ideas about how to use Google in the classroom, learn about updates ahead of the general public, and I am listed in a directory of Trainers where people and schools may contact me to inquire about training.  While I love the fact that I can share my expertise, the best part is the opportunity to learn from others and build my professional network further so I can learn even more!  

Further oneself professional is so much more than certification in various tools.  Educators often need to obtain an advanced degree in order to keep up on advances in our field, and if one wants to earn more, districts often require advanced degrees to move along the pay scale.  I earned my first master's degree in 2010, completing a Master's in Education from Southern Utah University.  In 2014, I earned my educational specialist in school administration from Nova Southeastern University.  And now, as of May 2019, I have completed my Master's in Special Education from Western Governors University, a degree that was more out of necessity to get a job when I moved to Northern Nevada.  However, it was a blessing in disguise because it made me realize how much I love special education.  I like to joke with people that I am now one of the most educated people in my school without a doctorate.  All jokes aside, I learned a ton about pedagogy, leadership, and technology going through each of these programs.  I am also very marketable, so if I ever need to move again, I am certified in social studies, physical education, health, special education, and school administration.  Will I pursue a doctorate?  Perhaps, but definitely down the road more.  

What are your thoughts on certifications?  What lessons and knowledge have you learned from your certifications and advanced degrees?  I would love to hear more from you on Twitter, and as a shameless plug, if you have anything that you would like to share on my podcasts, please let me know as we are always looking for great guests.  

Until next time... 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What is Your Philosophy of Teaching & Learning?

About a year ago, my wife, Mary, was accepted into the graduate program at the University of Nevada to continue her studies of speech and language pathology.  What that meant was uprooting from the place that we had known for the previous 13 years and move north from Las Vegas to Reno.  In that year, while there is so much I miss about Las Vegas, including my friends and "family" and the city as a whole, there is also so much I love about Reno and the surrounding area.  I feel like my family and I have settled in nicely and I have no desire to leave; I have even gone as far as saying that I love my school and community so much that I want to retire from there.  Only 16 more years to go!  

Will this be me on retirement day?  Perhaps, but hopefully, I age better
than Ric Flair did!
All kidding aside, I will only be 53 when I am eligible to retire with a full 30-year pension from the State of Nevada.  While our pension system is very good, I would be taking a significant pay cut upon retirement while having to pay for health insurance, and I would not be able to access my retirement savings for another 7 years afterward.  Needless to say, I will not be retiring at 53.  Whether I continue to work in Nevada or pick up and move to another district, that remains to be seen; after all, that is 16 years down the road!

Part of making the move to Northern Nevada required me to be flexible in obtaining a job.  Positions in my subject area were thin to non-existent, so districts informed me that I could teach special education so long as I took the required classes to become certified.  I enrolled in a master's program through Western Governors University and between the program and working as a special education teacher for the last 7 months or so, I have learned how much I love working in special education and I am very happy with my career shift.  

As I am getting close to completing my degree, I am working on the final portfolio for the program.  Part of the portfolio requires a philosophy of teaching and learning.  I have written these for previous degree programs, including my bachelor's and my first master's degree.  It is something that I think about on a regular basis as well.  That being said, I wanted to share my philosophy as part of this blog post.  

From about the time of my sophomore year in high school, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher.  So many of my teachers throughout my years of public school were a tremendous influence on my desire to become a teacher.  Over the course of obtaining my bachelor’s degree in education, a Master’s of Education, an Educational Specialist in school administration, and now, a Master’s of Science in Special Education, plus nearly 14 years as a teacher in a multitude of roles, I have developed a strong philosophy of what it means to be a teacher and what my role and influence on student learning is and should be.

Teaching is one of the most important aspects of my life.  Teaching gives me the opportunity to make a positive influence on students that may not have much positivity in their life because of economic conditions, lack of parental figures, or physical or emotional abuse.  Teaching gives me the opportunity to share things that I am passionate about, such as my love of history, trying new lessons and technology tools, and interacting with young people. Teaching also gives me the opportunity to impact the future of my community and my nation.  The students I work with today are going to be tomorrow’s leaders, auto mechanics, lawyers, farmers, soldiers and sailors, and so much more, and I am honored to be a part of each and every one of their journeys.

As an educator, I have many beliefs regarding teaching and student learning, including that students’ education should be focused on college and career readiness and teaching and learning should be focused on active learning strategies.  Every teacher and school in the United States should strive for 100% high school graduation rates, however, the focus should not simply be getting students to the finish line. Students should finish high school, with their diploma, prepared for further education in college, a vocational trade school, or other educational endeavors or a long-term career that does not require further education.  The major difference between completing high school and college and career readiness is that college and career readiness focuses on more than achievement in academic core subject areas, but focuses on skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, and critical thinking, and exposure to other skills such as computer science and trade skills such as welding and mechanics (Morningstar, Lombardi, & Test, 2018).  It is my belief that not all students are going to college and that many students are pressured to go to college instead of pursuing a career that does not require a college degree, careers that even pay much more than many jobs that require a degree. Schools need to put more of an emphasis on college and career readiness skills and expose students to careers and educational opportunities that do not require college.  In order to achieve these goals, it is my belief that active learning strategies and technology must be the focus of teaching in our schools. Active learning includes many different styles of learning, including collaborative learning, cooperative learning, and problem-based learning, all designed to build students’ college and career readiness skills and help students become actively involved in content, not simply consumers of content; active learning has also been shown to improve students’ retention and understanding of content, as well as students’ satisfaction with classes that incorporate active learning (Hyun, Ediger, & Lee, 2017).  

As a teacher, I want my students to actively work toward building their college and career readiness skills.  I want to instill a culture of problem-solving and collaboration amongst my students. I believe that one of the best ways to instill these skills in my students is through project-based learning (PBL).  Project-based learning presents students with a question, a problem in which to solve. Through research and collaboration, students create a product to demonstrate their learning and their solutions to the problem presented.  It requires students to think outside the box and to work together to solve the problem instead of relying on the teacher to give students the solution. Because of the structure of project-based learning, it will help students build those college and career readiness skills that are so important to their post-secondary success.  And rather than assessment relying on how students respond to a series of multiple-choice questions or other methods of lower depth of knowledge response questions, assessment relies on students’ critical thinking skills in which teachers assess using objective rubrics. This does not mean I do not believe in assessing students’ knowledge through lower depth of knowledge questions; if students are to be assessed in such a manner, I believe that knowledge should be presented in a repetitive manner, with multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning, such as presenting students with an assessment multiple times throughout a unit of study.  

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of an effective classroom, however, is the positive relationships that must be built between the teacher, students, and families.  A positive relationship between the teacher, students, and families consists of open and respectful communication, mutual respect for and toward one another, trust in one another, and an environment that promotes emotional and physical safety for all stakeholders.  To build these relationships, one must be open in communication and communicate in a multitude of ways, such as phone, email, websites and social media. I also have used apps such as Remind to communicate with students and their families. Communication needs to be frequent and students and families should be informed of positive events, not just negative events, in the classroom.  By sharing positive news with students and families, it will make the times in which negative news must be shared easier and support from families will be more likely to occur.

I also believe that a positive relationship with students, families, and colleagues requires one to get to know individuals on an individual basis, not simply an academic or professional basis.  By making a personal connection with students and their families and letting others get to know oneself on a personal level, it shows a human side and builds respect and trust between the teacher, students, and families.  I like to talk to students about their interests in music, sports, and other hobbies, as well as learn about their culture, their ancestry, and other aspects of their family’s roots. Students that feel safe in revealing themselves as people and see their teacher as more than simply a teacher will be more likely to invest in their education and families will be more likely to support the teacher.  

As a professional educator, I live by this philosophy on a daily basis.  I strive to instill my philosophy in every decision I make that has an effect on student learning because ultimately, everything that I do as an educator should have student learning outcomes as its focus.  I strive to build positive relationships with my students, their families, and my colleagues so meeting student success goals are better within reach. And whether I continue to teach for five more years or 30 more years, this philosophy will continue to drive my instruction and adjust as I become a better and more experienced educator.  

Hyun, J., Ediger, R., & Lee, D. (2017). Students’ Satisfaction on Their Learning Process in Active Learning and Traditional Classrooms. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29(1), 108–118. Retrieved from

Morningstar, M. E., Lombardi, A., & Test, D. (2018). Including College and Career Readiness within a Multitiered Systems of Support Framework. AERA Open, 4(1). Retrieved from

While you may not need to write a philosophy formally, it is something that one should think about on a regular basis.  I also believe that one should share their philosophy to create a dialogue that can spark fundamental change in our educational system.  I encourage you to do so through whatever means in which you are comfortable.  Through conversation and establishing our personal belief systems, we can all be #BetterTogether!  

Until next time...