Sunday, January 31, 2016

Las Vegas #GAFESummit Day 2

The time of this writing is 2:26 PM on Sunday afternoon.  I first showed up at Southwest Career & Technical Academy at about 7:30 on Saturday morning, leaving around 5:45 PM last night.  I was back at SWCTA this morning around 7:45.  In that time, I have heard two amazing keynote speeches, presented two hour long sessions on Google Chrome apps, extensions, and add-ons, attended six other sessions on things like Pear Deck, Chromecast, Google Drawings, and so much more, meeting dozens of awesome new people, seeing dozens more that I have known for months/years, and still have one more absolutely amazing keynote by Michelle Armstrong to go.  By the time that I leave here today, it is going to be about 4:15 or so.  I think that it is safe to say that I am on brain overload and that I am going to sleep very well tonight!  Would I have traded it for anything?  Maybe if I could have spent more time with my wife and kids this weekend, but outside of that, this weekend was worth every second!

One of the greatest things about conferences is the networking.  If you have been to conferences, you know this is the case.  You almost wish that there was more time between sessions and more time in the day to squeeze in more of those professional relationships that you develop over the time in between, even if its only for 5 minutes.  As a presenter for the weekend, I was invited to an after-summit happy hour with other presenters where we could network further, whether it is about the things that we are passionate about, our classrooms/jobs, or, in my case and the abundance of Canadian presenters at the conference, the love of hockey.

One of these connections resulted in a conversation with an amazing ed tech ninja named Michelle Armstrong.  Michelle works for EdTech Team, the company that puts on the GAFE Summits, and is based out of Calgary, AB.  Part of our conversation centered around how Las Vegas is a fun city for presenters to come to, especially presenters from the Midwest and Canada during January when it is cold and snowy at home (growing up in Michigan, I know this feeling all too well, and as much as Michigan will always be my home, I live in Nevada now for many reasons, and winter is one of them).  The conversation turned to how the American summit conferences have a lot of Canadian presenters, but the Canadian summits often do not have many American presenters.  Long story short, Michelle suggested to Snehal Bhakta and me that we come to Calgary in August to present at the Summit there.  To be sure that it wasn't any booze talking, Michelle and I spoke about it again this morning, and it appears that I may be planning a Canadian road trip this summer!  I have never been to Alberta, let alone Calgary, and I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity.

I cannot even begin to recognize and thank everybody that I interacted with this weekend.  If you are reading this and we made a connection in some way this weekend, know that you have made and impact on me as a person and a professional, and I hope that I have done the same for you.  I look forward to the next summit in Las Vegas in August, and hopefully, a summit in Calgary (Stampeders game I hope as well!).

Until next time... may we admire one another from afar!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Las Vegas #GAFESummit Day One

I am honored to have been selected by EdTech Team to present at the Las Vegas GAFE Summit this weekend.  This is the third GAFE Summit that I have attended, and the second in which I have presented.  It always amazes me to see the numbers of people that give up their weekends to spend to FULL days listening to amazing speakers (this is you James Sanders), watching amazing presentations on various Googley things, and networking with people from not just the district, but from all over the nation and Canada.

My first presentation time slot was right after Mr. Sanders' keynote this morning at 10 AM.  Usually, I present on Google Classroom, but I decided to shift things up a bit by presenting on Google apps, extensions, and add-ons.  Google Chrome is life changing as is, but by personalizing it, you can make it your own.  I have over 40 come in to see my presentation, and it was absolutely amazing.  One of the activities included having the attendees provide some of their own ideas on a shareable Google Sheet.  I will be sure to send this out for the world to see after my presentation tomorrow.

There is so much more to the rest of the day and tomorrow.  I cannot wait to see what the remaining speakers, presenters, and this afternoon's demo slam have to offer!  

Until next time... 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Success & Relief

If you have read my posts before or follow me on Twitter (@SocStuEdTech if you don't follow me, please do so, let us learn from each other!), you will know that over the past couple of months, I have written a great deal about the 21st Century Learning Conference, put on by CUE-Nevada (@CUE-NV on Twitter).  Finally, after months of planning, stress, anticipation, and excitement, the conference commenced this past weekend.  And while there was a lot of work, stress, and potential issues that could have made the conference a flaming dumpster, I couldn't be happier with the results.

First of all, I need to throw some thank yous out there.  None of the successes of the conferences would have been possible without the support of the CUE board.  A great deal of tips, suggestions, and volunteering to knock out various aspects of the planning and execution of the conference goes straight to Margie Zamora, Sara Boucher, Jody Myers, Snehal Bhakta, Karl Gustafson, Anita Thompson, Heidi Carr, Susan Neal, Steve New, Verena Bryan, and the great staff of Canyon Springs High School.  I also need to thank Mike Lawrence, CEO of CUE (@techmaverick) for his time and efforts at the conference, and providing a grand prize of entry to the CUE National Conference in Palm Springs in March.  Brian Briggs deserves a massive thank you, for he was our keynote speaker and did an amazing job of encouraging educators to step out of their comfort zone and #bebraveEdu.  We had two amazing vendors in Moore Educational Resources and Infobase Learning that provided some wonderful information and opportunities to our attendees.  And lastly, I need to thank anybody that attended #CUENV16.  Over 200 teachers, administrators, and others took time out of their Friday and Saturday over this weekend to make themselves better in the name of improving their students and schools.  I cannot commend and thank our attendees enough!

The format of the conference on Friday night was the "unconference". Some attendees went to sessions on coding and "taking back the teacher's lounge", but for the most part, it was up to the attendees to decide what the sessions were about.  After gathering ideas from the attendees, my team and I came up with four different sessions that ran an hour apiece, two sessions in a row.  Unfortunately, in making sure that everything was running smoothly, I was unable to stick around in any of the sessions, but it appears that most participants were very happy with our format, especially the "Social Media and the Classroom" session.  Ultimately, Friday, even though it was only about 4 hours long, was the longest day because the conference didn't start until 4 PM after everybody had worked a full day.

Saturday was more of a standard conference format, with the keynote address first thing in the morning, followed by 4 hour long sessions split by a lunch period.  There were tons of great presentations from Google tools to coding, from TedTalks to STEAMPunk, from gadgets to technology customization.  Again, I couldn't sit in on sessions much, but everything that I saw was absolutely amazing.  The verbal feedback I got throughout the day was also very positive, with many people saying that they learned a lot that they could take back to their classrooms.  We couldn't have been happier!

The board and I are already in the process of planning the next conference, with a projection of sometime in the fall of 2016.  I have also suggested that as a state organization we work to put on more frequent sessions, such as day-long workshops and staff development training.  As successful as I feel this conference was, there are so many things that we can do to make it better and make the next one the best conference that you have ever been to.  In the meantime, there are so many great conferences and workshops that are available.  Look in your local area for EdTech Team GAFE Summits, CUE Conferences, CUE Rockstar events, EdCamps, ISTE, and so, so, so many more!  Regardless of the price, you can never go wrong, as long as you take at least one thing from the event and meet one person in which to network.

Until next time... I will be trying to catch up on some sleep, quite possibly on the job (no not really!!!)!

Friday, January 15, 2016

First Semester Down!

Today marks that last day of the first semester for my students and I.  The midterms exams will be wrapped up in a few hours and students and teacher alike will be off to enjoy a long weekend (please take a moment to remember the great man we are honoring with a day off on Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).  I will be enjoying my long weekend in Lake Tahoe with seven of my ski & snowboard club students and my co-advisor.  Most of my students have never been snowboarding and I am really excited to see their faces when they get out on the slopes.  I am also excited that Lake Tahoe (and the West in general) has snow for the first time in years.  For the resorts sake, but more importantly, for the lack of water's sake, keep that snow coming until May or June!

So many great things happened in my classroom and in my professional life during the last half of 2015 and into the first weeks of 2016.  First of all, my classroom has become about 95% digital.  The only thing that is happening on paper in my classroom now is the bellringer, and I am in the process of figuring out how to make the bellringer digital.  My classroom has been mostly digital for many years now, but I finally feel as if paper has become a thing of the past for me.  Youtube has become my best friend, between sharing clips with students about various subjects of United States History to the creation of short videos for projects with students (see some of my previous blog posts for some samples of student Youtube work).  I have furthered my professional skills as an educator, completing my Google Certified Educator Level 2 test and earning acceptance to my district's leadership preparatory academy.  I look to take things even further in the coming weeks and months through coordinating next week's 21st Century Learning Conference (click on the link for tickets, I know it's short notice, but a weekend in Las Vegas to relax, learn, and expand your PLN is never a bad thing!), presenting at the EdTechTeam's Las Vegas GAFE Summit at the end of January  and attending the CUE National Conference in March and the ISTE Conference in Denver in June.  Those are just the planned events, who knows what else will come up!

I look back to when I first starting teaching 11 years ago (which already makes me wonder where the time has gone when I say that I have been in this game for 11 years now) and remember what I did as a teacher then.  I almost feel as if I did a disservice to those students.  Naturally, experience was only going to make me better, but when I think of the activities that I did as a first-year teacher, I was an absolute joke!  I would love to talk to some of my students from that first year (who are all pushing 30 now and have careers, families, and who knows what else on their plate) and ask their thoughts on my abilities, if they remember.  All I know is that I am a completely different teacher now and my students are that much better for it.

Think about your abilities, your accomplishments in the past few months, and what you are planning to do to improve yourself!

Until next time...

Ok, I won't complete your training, but together, through our mutual love for improvement, we will help each other to improve.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Gilded Age Student Videos

Much like my previous post, this is set of videos that my AP US History students made about the Gilded Age.  Enjoy!

Until next time...

Boom & Bust: US History Student Videos

The playlist above is videos that my US History classes made on the 1920s and 1930s.  Overall, I was very impressed with what the students did.  Some of the videos are not as good as the others, but the good definitely outweighs the needs improvement.  Please enjoy and provide any comments that you'd like!

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy New Year!

Another year is in the books.  In many ways, 2015 was a very successful year!  I continue to expand my repertoire of technology in the classroom, I have set up a website (and this blog) to share to the world, and I have become more involved in presenting my expertise on various topics to the masses.  2016 also looks to be a promising year!

In a couple of weeks, after months of planning, the 21st Century Learning Conference will take place in Las Vegas.  My team and I have worked very hard recruiting presenters, vendors, and attendees to put together a top-notch educational technology conference.  If you aren't booked for January 22-23, you should strongly consider coming to check it out.  Learn more about the conference here.

The following weekend, EdTech Team will be hosting the Las Vegas GAFE Summit at Southwest Career & Technical Academy in Las Vegas.  Numerous presentations and speakers will highlight the overall awesomeness of Google Apps for Education.  This is another one that I highly suggest you attend if your time and money allow for it.  Learn more about the summit here.

I also plan to hit up two other absolutely massive conferences in the following months.  The CUE National Conference will be in Palm Springs, CA in March.  ISTE will be held in Denver in June.  Luckily for me, I have a principal that is also a sucker for technology for me and she is going to be paying to send me to at least one of these conferences.

This is just the beginning of the big plans I have for myself for 2016.  Who knows what else will arise throughout the rest of the year.  Whatever happens, I know that in January 2017, I will be a better educator thanks to everything that I will do to improve myself.  What will you do this year to become a better educator/leader?

Until next time...

If life hands you an entire bag of lemons (which I picked from the tree in my backyard)... well, you know what to do!