Thursday, March 31, 2016


Over the past few days, everything and anything has piled up on me.  I have spent more time in my classroom after hours trying to catch up on all of the things that need to get done that I would like to admit, and it still seems like I haven't made a dent in the pile of stuff.  While thinking this morning about how swamped I have been in the past few days, it put a song in my head, titled "Swamped" by Lacuna Coil.  The lyrics really have nothing to do with my situation, but it is a solid tune by an Italian goth-metal band.  I have include the music video below for your viewing and listening pleasure!

So what exactly has been the issue over the past few days?  Spring break, that's what.  "But spring break was last week!"  Yes, it was, and while I had good intentions to get stuff done, it didn't really happen.  Sleeping in until 8 (!!!), watching Netflix, and hanging out with my kids sounded like a better time than catching up on school work.  Finally, when I decided to write lesson plans, Curriculum Engine, the program that my district uses to post lesson plans, standards, etc., was undergoing maintenance.  So when I returned back to work earlier this week, it finally hit me as to what exactly I had to get done and it has been catch up ever since.  

Because I have been so swamped and need to catch up on other items, I will be cutting this one short today.  However, in case you did not know, Google has now rolled out add-ons for the new Google Forms!  There are numerous add-ons now available, such as Choice Eliminator, All Questions Required, and Form Ranger.  Now you don't need to toggle back to old forms to use your favorite add-ons!  

Until next time...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Processing #cue16: One Day Later

What a weekend!  After two days of sessions, keynotes, networking, and little to no sleep, processing everything that happened in Palm Springs can begin.  When I finally woke up this morning, my FibBit told me that I slept 12 hours, 37 minutes, with very little restlessness during that time.  I cannot tell you the last time that I slept that long.  However, I really must have needed it!  Now to digest what came my way this weekend...

The last session that I attended yesterday was one on podcasting, hosted by the great Brian Briggs and the ever entertaining, knowledgeable and hilarious Ryan O'Donnell.  I have listened to their podcast, Check This Out before (you need to check it out!), and it is informative and entertaining.  Their session talked a little about their podcast and how and why podcasts can be used in the classroom and how you can begin your own podcast.  While I sat in the front row, about 6 feet in front of them, I was struggling from the lack of sleep, food, and water, but I powered through and learned a ton about podcasting.  More on this momentarily...

When I drove down Thursday night, I came down to Palm Springs alone.  Two of my colleagues and friends, Mike Lillo (a first time tech conference attendee, he was absolutely blown away, claiming that if he would have been asked to leave after the first hour on Thursday, he would have been satisfied with what he learned, he was thoroughly impressed) and Steve New (an old hat in the tech conference game, but learning tons nonetheless, follow him on Twitter @StevenNew1) had driven down Wednesday night, got checked into our hotel room and attended all of the Thursday sessions.  To save Mike an extra half hour of driving across town from where he lives and the fact that Steve lives about 2 miles from me, Steve rode back to Las Vegas with me.  My initial thought was, "Good, someone that can help keep me awake!"  Keeping me awake is an understatement.  The drive from Palm Springs to Las Vegas, according to the ever faithful Google maps, was 4 hours and 10 minutes.  I don't think there was more than 10 seconds of silence at any point.  The entire ride back was a reflection of what we learned at the various sessions, our experiences, and how was are going to start implementing these new ideas.

One of the first things we talked about was podcasting.  I mentioned to Steve as we were getting into the car to leave the conference that he and I should do a podcast together.  As it turns out, I beat him to his thought; he proceeded to tell me that he thought of that during the session and was going to save it for the drive back.  Stay tuned, in the next few weeks, you are most likely going to experience a podcast from the two of us, logistics are going to be worked out in the coming days.

We also talked about how to implement podcasting with students.  Brian and Ryan made a point that you can turn a writing assignment into an audio assignment through podcasting.  My instant thought was how we must have students make deeper connections with material by explaining, assessing, synthesizing, etc. information and not just regurgitating facts.  Why not take a reading passage or info set in social studies and have students make podcasts of the what, how, and why of that information?  You could expand on it by having students pair up for their podcast to debate material.  The possibilities are endless!

Steve and I also talked at length about peer rubrics for assignments.  Both he and I have used them in the past on project-based learning activities.  However, why can't we use them on more everyday assignments and activities?  Sure, it's going to take some time to set up, to implement with students, etc., but another NEPF standard for Nevada teachers is to have students take responsibility for their own learning (Standard 4).  Student rubrics would be a great way to give students the opportunity to be responsible to their own learning.  It's one thing to take feedback from a teacher, but when your friends and peers are providing the feedback, it may mean more to a student.

Even after so much sleep, I am still absolutely exhausted!  It is going to take a couple of days to process everything.  Luckily, it is spring break! However, I have a lot of other things on my plate as well, so this week will be packed with tons of things to catch up on and complete.  Oh well, I didn't choose this career for the glamor and the money.

Until next time...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

CUE National Conference Day 3

Day 3, the last day of the CUE National Conference.  Even though I did not have the best of days yesterday in regards to the sessions I attended, I still got a great deal of info, networking, and mingling done.  I thought that I was going to be back to the hotel early considering my lack of sleep from the night before, but that all changed when a great group of people "forced" me to stay out later and eventually close down one of the fine establishments in downtown Palm Springs.  Copious amounts of beer, cornhole, shooting the breeze with new and old friends, and plenty of remarks of disbelief that acknowledged how old we were in comparison to the rest of the crowd at the bar was had by all!  Needless to say, it was a short night of sleep again, but well worth it!

The key to learning is to get out of your comfort zone.  There is a fine line, you don't want to be so far out of your comfort zone that you get overwhelmed and/or quit, but you cannot learn anything new if you don't make yourself somewhat uncomfortable.  This morning, I decided to attend a session on a subject that I have absolutely no knowledge of:  coding.  Coding is probably the hottest buzzword in education and technology these days.  Part of the reason why I have no clue when it comes to coding is because I couldn't see how it fit into my history classes and the importance of coding.  I can safely and honestly say that after the session and the keynotes on Friday that I can understand the importance.  So many jobs in today's world are based on computer science and most of those jobs are going unfilled because students are not prepared.  By incorporating coding and computer science across the curriculum starting in kindergarten, the next generation of students will be better prepared for those computer science jobs that are out there.

However, even though I realize the importance of coding, I still am at a loss as to how I can implement coding into a United States History class.  While my classroom is nearly 100% paperless and my entire curriculum is based on technology, I don't have devices in my classroom, I rely on my students to BYOD.  That said, it would make it a little tough to implement coding fully into my classroom.  Also, because of my inexperience with coding, I simply do not know how to apply it in history.  I need extensive training on coding before I can start seeing the connection.  The first step to solving  a problem is admitting you have one, right?

Part of me feels ridiculous.  I am a good teacher.  Why am I struggling with this connection?  I have adjusted lesson plans on the fly to meet the needs of my classes on nearly a daily basis for over 10 years, but for the life of me, I cannot think of anything that would be remotely close to something that I can use with my classes.  However, the other part of me realizes that I just need to learn about this concept.  Once I have a better idea of everything, the ideas and connections will start to come.  There is going to be frustrations, but like I mentioned earlier, stepping out of that comfort zone is eventually going to produce genuine learning.

There is more to the day; more sessions, more networking, more learning.  Afterward, there is the four hour drive home (with a pit stop at The Mad Greek in Baker, CA; if you have never, do yourself a favor and make a stop in Baker if you are ever on 1-15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles... oh and you'll also see the greatest road name in the history of highway signs, Zzyzx Road, about 5 miles south of Baker) and a great deal of reflection with my colleague and friend Steve New.  I cannot thank my friends, new and old, that made this weekend one for the ages.  I look forward to continuing the conversations with everybody through blogs, Twitter, and face to face meetings (now that we have made that F2F connection!).

Until next time...

Friday, March 18, 2016

CUE National Day 2

Today is Day 2 of CUE National.  Well, actually, it is Day 1 for me.  Unfortunately, I was unable to make it down for the Wednesday opening events and the Thursday sessions because of my leadership academy class.  However, after powering down a grande dark roast, finding the Peter Frampton acoustic live set on SiriusXM Classic Vinyl and driving 4 hours through a beautiful (what I assume to be beautiful, I'm not sure, it was dark and there was only a half moon) stretch of road through the Mojave National Preserve, I made it to Palm Springs this morning around 1:30 AM.  Of course, I woke up at 5:30 wide awake after about 4 hours of sleep (4 hours and 20 minutes according to the FitBit, I can't get away from technology even when I sleep!) ready to rumble.  Another grande dark roast and a fully charged battery in all of my devices and I was ready to go.

The morning keynote was absolutely amazing.  The founder of, Hadi Partovi, gave an amazing speech about the importance of computer science education for all students, but especially young girls and minority students.  It amazes me what an impact that his organization has done in such a short period of time since the organization's inception, and it is important!  Today's world is ever changing, computer science is one of the best way to prepare for those changes.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when attending a conference is to vote with your feet; if you do not like a session, get up and leave and find a session that better suits you.  I walked into a session this morning that I thought was going to be awesome, but after about 10 minutes, I just was not feeling it.  Maybe the session got better, maybe it got worse, I don't know.  Ultimately, I spent some time talking to some vendors about their products and giving them information regarding CUE-NV's state conference in October (more on this in a later post once the conference is finalized).  I spent an hour and a half schmoozing vendors, and I only got to about a third of the vendors there.  I have a lot of work ahead of me yet.

I began to write this before a session on ed tech legislation that I thought would be interesting.  The presentation started well, objectives of the session stated that we would cover a lot of pertinent laws at the federal, state, and local level.  However, much of it was not going to apply to me, because as a resident of Nevada, we are not California...

Needless to say, I had to walk out of a second session, partly because of the content, partly for other reasons. I'm not sure if it the severe lack of sleep that is knocking me off my game a bit, or if the sessions just aren't my cup of joe today, but I haven't done a great job of picking my sessions.

I do need to acknowledge some awesome folk that I have had the pleasure of either hanging out with today or meeting for the first time.  If I miss your name, it's not because I don't care, it's because there are just so many of you awesome folk out there!

Ryan O'Donnell, Brian Briggs, Sara Boucher, Steve New, Michelle Osinski, RosaLinda Jaimes, Kaitlin Morgan, Doug Robertson, Seth Martin, Kelly Martin, Anita Thompson, and so many more.  You are all gladiators in the coliseum of education! And Brian, this one is for you!

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Finally, after registering what seems like months ago (it was about a month and a half), the CUE National Conference is finally upon me!  I have been inundated with various emails for the past week or so from the various vendors that are going to be there and other bits and pieces about the conference.  I can hardly contain my excitement, however, there is a problem...

When I signed up for the conference, I did not know my schedule for my leadership preparatory academy.  When I went to my first academy session, I learned that my classes would meet on Thursday evenings from 5 to 8 PM.  Right off the bat, my Thursday night hockey league was going to need to be put on hold.  I miss playing on my league night, but this academy is a step in countless directions to further my career.  Missing 13 weeks of hockey is hardly a big deal.  Besides, I'm not sure how much I would be playing right now anyway since my knee has been bothering me a bunch lately (enough to the point that I am contemplating skipping the half marathon that I have planned for next Saturday).  But outside of my hockey schedule conflict, the academy also conflicts with the conference.

The conference officially kicks off tonight with various activities before really taking off tomorrow morning.  Two of my colleagues are already in Palm Springs and have graciously warned me of the road traveled down from Las Vegas.  Obviously, I wish I was with them, but my academy class tomorrow night prevents me from doing so.  "But Kyle, I'm sure you could have used your charm and looks to talk your instructors into letting you out, after all, this is an EDUCATION conference!"  Yes, I tried that, but no dice, no avail, insert other way of saying no, I'm sorry here.  Unfortunately, it's a no go (there's another one!).  I have to settle for heading down after my class is done Thursday night to make the four-hour drive to Palm Springs to get there in time for Friday's sessions.

I have been to numerous conferences before, but never a national conference.  I took one look at the schedule and I about lost my mind.  There is so much to choose from in regards to sessions that I am about overwhelmed.  I really have no idea where to start.  What I need to do is sit down and really hammer something out though because it will be that much worse if I wait until I get there to go over the full program.

Bottomline, this weekend is going to be absolutely amazing!  I cannot wait to overload my brain with new knowledge, meet new friends, finally meet some of my Twitter PLN face to face, and maybe partake in a bit of Southern California beer sampling (I'm sure a place like Palm Springs has to have snobby craft beer bars that I fit right into, right?).  If you are going to #CUE16, please take a moment to search me out so we can connect!  Maybe over a little bit of that craft beer that I previously mentioned...

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Take Time for Yourself

For the past couple of weeks, I have been participating in a daily Twitter challenge run by a good PLN friend, Ben Dickson of Reno, NV.  Each day has a different idea, ranging from sharing ideas on activities that are done in the classroom, sharing student work, and people that you network with over Twitter or other means.  One of the most striking to me thus far was the following question:

At the time in which I responded to the question, my instant thought was how I was going to go home after work and watch Monday night's episode of Better Call Saul (which is starting to get really intense by the way) and catch up on a couple of last week's episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  When I got home, I realized that the Red Wings were playing, so I decided to watch that instead.  I still watched Better Call Saul, but I never got around to watching any Colbert.  I also spent some time with my wife and our two young kids.  Overall, it was several hours of relaxation (for the most part, a 4 year old that thinks she is 17 and a 10 month old getting ready to walk is far from relaxation at times).  Bottomline, I didn't think about work from the time I got home around 4 and when I went to bed around 9.

If you are an educator, regardless of the position in which you hold, it is a stressful job.  If you do not take time for yourself and purposely fit it into your life, you will be more stressed and ultimately lose your mind.  It is imperative that you find something in order to get away!  Yesterday was all about TV for me, which was fine.  However, there are other things I do to get away from work.  While I haven't been able to play as much lately, I like to get out on a sheet of ice and play hockey.  Thursday nights are my league night (which is also my leadership academy night, so I am on league hiatus until early May) and there are pick-up games on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays that I like to jump into at least once a week.  I will be running another half marathon at the end of the month, so I have been getting out and pounding the sneakers in training for that (been a few days, resting a sore knee, no use in hurting myself before the race!).  I love to hike, and on Sunday, my wife and a group of my Team Red, White & Blue friends hiked up most of Frenchman Mountain, a significant peak on the east side of the Las Vegas Valley, starting at around 2000 feet and climbing up about 1300 feet over 1.5 miles before we turned around.  We didn't make it all the way to the top (another 1000 feet up over another mile or so), but we are going to tackle that later.  Then there is my family, hanging out with my wife and kids.  Fishing and camping are another go to for me, but those take a little more planning and time, as fishing isn't exactly a hotbed in Las Vegas; it requires a bit of driving to find the good fishing spots.

What do you do relieve stress and get away from it all, even if only for a few minutes?  If you aren't making time for yourself, why not?  Become a better educator; spend some time on yourself!

Until next time...

Friday, March 4, 2016

Black History Month

I meant to have this posted on Monday, the last day of Black History Month, but unforeseen circumstances prevented my classes from viewing the videos until Thursday.

In celebration of Black History Month, my US History students were tasked with creating short videos highlighting the achievements of African Americans throughout our nation's history.  What my students came up with is nothing short of amazing!  The videos that the groups (or in the case of AP US History students, individuals) came up is thoroughly impressive!  Please take a moment to view some, if not all, of the videos (they are all less than 3 and a half minutes long), learn something about some great Americans, and provide some feedback if you would like.  Since they are YouTube links, provide my students with direct comments of feedback as well.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the videos and if next year's batch are half as good, they will still be amazing!

Until next time...