Monday, December 28, 2015

The Joys of Turning a Vacation into a Learning Experience!

As a United States History teacher, anywhere that I go, whether I am just passing through or I stop for a few days, business or pleasure, is an opportunity for learning something that can enhance my knowledge of history and make me a better teacher.  It is one thing to read about something (which don't get me wrong, I love to read, currently working on Vietname by Stanley Karnow), but it is something completely different to experience something firsthand and see it with your own eyes.  The best vacation of my lifetime thus far, Oahu, has turned into an amazing opportunity to learn for so many (obvious) historical reasons.

While planning my trip to Hawai'i, the first thing that I said was "I am not going all the way to Hawai'i and missing out on the Pearl Harbor memorial and exhibits."  On Saturday, December 26, my lifelong wish to see this amazing memorial was brought to fruition.  My father and I got up early and left our vacation home at 5:50 AM to drive 40 minutes to Pearl Harbor to stand in line in the pouring rain for the opportunity to get tickets to see the USS Arizona Memorial.  There was no guarantee that we would be able to go.  Luckily, we got there early enough to snag tickets for the trip over to the memorial where so many brave men are entombed in the hull of the Battleship Arizona.  There were so many people there, but amazingly, it was nearly dead silent, a fitting tribute to those men.  To top it off, the rain kept coming off and on, and at one point, a rainbow appeared to come out of the memorial.  And upon my return from the Memorial, I met a gentleman that survived the attack on December 7, 1941.  While confined to a wheelchair and in declining health, this gentleman is 98 and a half years old (!!!) and loves to meet people and talk of his experiences.  I couldn't thank him enough for his service to our country!

After the visit to the Arizona, we decided to check out some of the other museums at Pearl Harbor.  Our choices were to see the USS Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, or the Pacific Aviation Museum.  With the limited time available for that day, we decided the the Missour was the way to go.  If you are unaware, the USS Missouri was the ship that docked in Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.  Not only was there a display of the documents and the location of the surrender on the ship, but you could also tour nearly the entire ship to see what it was like as a sailor on a battleship.   While we could have spent the entire day there, unfortunately, the time was short.  However, we got to see a great deal of the ship.  Just another thing that makes me proud to be an American.

I will be going back before I leave in a few days to see the Pearl Harbor Memorial in more detail (probably won't go over the the Arizona again, just need to see the museum on site).  I definitely need to see the Aviation Museum, and if there is time, the Bowfin.  I also have seen the Dole Plantation (funny how they didn't say much about the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy that allowed for the establishment of the plantation) and will be going to the Polynesian Cultural Center.   I knew this trip would be more than just relaxing on the beach, I just wish I had more time to see more of what this amazing place has to offer.  Oh, and the food has been ridiculous!  I could get used to rice for breakfast!

Until next time... may your day be as relaxing as my new friend's day!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tech Savviness Pays Off!

Think back to when you were in school, regardless of how long ago it was.  Think about the technology that you had available to you at the time.  Think about how well you knew how to use the tech as it came out.  Also, think about how well your parents, your friends, your teachers, so on and so forth, think about how well they knew how to use the technology.

I graduated high school in 2000.  At the time, the Internet, at least in widespread use, had only been around for a couple of years.  I can remember going to my neighbor Jessica's house to hang out and she had dial-up Internet.  She and I would spend hours looking up music and song lyrics and sports related stuff.  While hours sounds like we were productive or at least got to see a lot of stuff, for those of you that remember dial-up, there was more "hurry up and wait" than there was anything.  It took FOREVER to download the simplest of pictures or documents, things that today are almost instantaneous.  My school had a really slow network as well that would take 20 minutes to load up one webpage, and filters were really hit and miss (anyone else ever make the mistake of going to when researching presidents?).  Eventually, cable Internet and wireless made its way into our world, and now very few of us go anywhere without an Internet capable device like a smartphone or tablet.

One of my frustrations at the time was that I felt that I was learning the technology quite well as it came out, but I wasn't an expert.  That's when I turned to my teachers for help.  However, very few of my teachers could give me the help that I needed when it came to the tech stuff.  It is still an issue today.  Too many educators are not tech savvy, for a variety of reasons, ranging from lack of training, lack of funding, or flat out not caring to learn the tech (which is the most frustrating to me).  However, the events of the past few days make me feel accomplished and ahead of my peers in this department.

Earlier this week, my school's librarian came to me with a laptop cart.  The laptops are probably 10 years old.  They still have switches on the side to toggle on the WiFi.  She informed me that the operating systems of laptops and all data had been wiped from them and replaced with Chrome OS.  Now, these computers that look like they are on their last legs are lightning-quick and get the job done for what I use them for in my classroom.  I couldn't be happier that FINALLY, I am almost 1:1 in my classroom with technology.  I survived before, but this makes things SOOOOOO much easier.  But what really makes me feel good is that as students have been coming to me with various questions, I can actually answer them and help them to address the issues that they are having with the tech.  Some of it is as simple as setting up the proxy settings on the laptops, others are helping them find shortcuts to be more productive.  Regardless, I am able to help them, something so many of my teachers growing up and my peers today cannot do.

We live in a digital world, and that is not going to go away.  You can get on the train, find your seat, and order a drink, or you can oversleep and miss it and be left behind.  If you are reading this, you most likely are on the train with me.  If not, I encourage you to stop hitting the snooze button and come to the station.  People like I will help you to find your seat on the train and get your to your destination as worry free as possible.  I hope you are ready!

And speaking of ready, be safe on your winter breaks, enjoy your time off with your family and enjoy The Force Awakens.

Until next time...

Monday, December 14, 2015

21st Century Learning Conference

A couple of months ago, I was approached by a couple of colleagues that have become great friends of mine regarding an open board position for CUE of Nevada.  CUE (Computer Using Educators) is a wonderful organization that promotes the use of technology in education and seeks to help educators become more experienced with technology and how to implement it into curriculum.  When asked if I would serve on the board, I gladly jumped at the opportunity.

Going in to my first board meeting, I didn't know what to expect.  I was the new guy, even though I knew several members, followed them on Twitter, or at least had heard of them.  The focus of the meeting was to start figuring out the planning of the organization's state conference in January.  The conference would be called the 21st Century Learning Conference with a theme of "May the OS Be With You!"  Instantly, I geeked out; educational technology with a Star Wars theme?  How can it get any better?  However, my excitement was cut a little short when the next question came that a coordinator to plan the whole conference was needed.  When no one volunteered (again, new guy, who was I to say anything, let alone volunteer for something that I had no idea about until 5 minutes prior), my stomach dropped when the board president asked me to coordinate.  I couldn't say no.  Apprehension is the best word I can come up with, but doesn't begin to describe my feeling.

However, what I began to realize is what a great team I work with.  Over the past few weeks, we have recruited vendors, attendees, giveaway items, and so much more in preparation for the conference in January.  It has been a bit overwhelming at times, but in the end, it's going to be AMAZING!  To make my work and the work of my team worthwhile, do us a favor and come check us out.  If you are in Nevada, it'll be a short trip to Las Vegas on January 22-23 to see some great presentations on ed tech, hear an amazing speaker in Brian Briggs, and network with some like minded folk.  If you are an out of stater, what is stopping you?  Come to Las Vegas for a long weekend and learn something and have some fun!  Find the information here!  My team and I hope to see you there!

Until next time...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I might regret this!

I am not sure what it is, but so far, the holiday season has yet to affect my classes.  Usually, this time of year is a mass of chaos that involves procrastination, mass quantities of food brought to my room by means of tempting me to get off task, the relentless questions of "Are we going to have a party?", and the general listlessness of the impending two-week break.

I know I probably just completely jinxed myself by saying that this isn't happening.  We have another week to get through before that break begins, and next week is the holiday spirit week at my school, which means candy canes, Santa hats, ugly sweaters, fudge, popcorn balls, and the exchange of gifts during class (which I do not sanction, but it still happens).  I'll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of the holiday season.  I honestly don't really know why, but "the most wonderful time of the year" applies more to late September and early October for me, because that's when the weather cools off and it is football and hockey season.  Because of the distractions of the season, and my general indifference to the holidays, I tend to struggle this time of the year as much as those that love the season.

So far, I have been focused, and so have my classes.  But I know that I have ruined everything now by opening my mouth.  I'm sure when I check back in a few days, my attitude will be much different.  However, it is going to be fine and dandy when I am walking on a beach in Oahu for a week come time for the extended break.  My biggest concern when is how often I will swim and what days am I going fishing.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It's been awhile...

Back in 2001, the Boston-based rock band Staind released their second major label album "Break the Cycle", which included the track "It's Been Awhile".  While I may seem as if I titled this post with that song in mind, this has nothing to do with great music, unfortunately.

Back in the days of (apparently that is still a thing?), I used to blog quite extensively, mostly about the high school football team that I coached at the time.  Every Friday night after our games, win or lose, I would get on my trusty MySpace account and write a post game synopsis of the game, my thoughts on the game, and other tidbits of (what I thought) was awesomeness.  Then I realized how incredibly lame MySpace was and deleted my account.  Which brings me to my Staind reference...

Since I deleted my MySpace account in 2009, I have been out of the blogging game.  Do I have a Facebook account?  Of course!  Do I have a Twitter account?  It took me a while, but I have fully embraced the insanity and awesomeness that Twitter is to an educator like myself (for the record, if you are a teacher and do not have a Twitter account, this is a requirement!  Do it right now!  Don't even finish reading this, just go to Twitter and register right now!).  While I share my thoughts, rants, pictures, videos, etc. of everything from my family, my sports teams, music, my career, tips, and whatever so on and so forth, I have been out of the blogging game for a minute or two.  It's high time I get back into the game and join the rest of the cool kids out there!

So, a little bit about me.  My name is Kyle.  I teach social studies at East Career & Technical Academy in Las Vegas, NV.  This is my 11th year of teaching.  I have a bachelor's in secondary education social studies, a master's in education, and an educational specialist in school administration.  I am also a Google Certified Educator, a Remind Connected Educator, and a member of the state board for CUE of Nevada.  My wife, Mary, and I have two children, Elsa (4) and Reed (7 months).  I run, play hockey, fish, camp, and enjoy music on top of geeking out on history and tech tools for my classroom.

Now that I have spent a little time getting my feet wet again, I hope to make this a more regular thing.  Until next time...

Image result for dumber and dumber g'day mate meme