Friday, June 3, 2016

Las Vegas #iossummit

Today was the first day of summer vacation.  The school year is long and grueling, which is enough to want/need a few weeks off.  This past week with all of the twists and turns of the proverbial roller coaster, from having a job, to not having a job, to having a job that has the potential for being even better than what I had lined up before provided even more reason to be ready for some time off.  However, there ain't no rest for the wicked, money don't grow on trees (sorry, couldn't resist throwing in the Cage the Elephant reference, see clip below).

Today, I attended and presented at the first ever Las Vegas iPadEDU Summit, hosted by EdTech Team.  The summit, which was geared toward educational tools used specifically on iPads, featured a keynote speaker (Tanya Avrith) and numerous sessions on various tools.  To say it was a great day is an understatement.  Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from today's sessions.

First of all, I was absolutely amazed by the number of people that came to the summit.  Based on rough numbers that I heard throughout the day, there were over 200 people that paid a large chunk of change to come to a conference the day after school let out for the summer.  One such person that attended didn't get their ticket until after 11 PM the night before.  That to me is one of the greatest displays of dedication that I have ever seen.  I wonder how many people in other professions would take the first day of their vacation to attend professional development...

My absolute favorite app of the day is something that I had vaguely heard of prior to the summit.  Canva is an amazing visual design app.  There are tons of different formats, from invitations, posters, magazine covers, and business cards with text, photo, drawing, shape, and other tools to modify images.  It is a free app that is also available through a web browser on devices other than an iPad.  During the session, we were given time to start playing around with its features, so naturally, with my new job, I started to design a business card.  I got a rough one together during the session and finished it up when I got home later after the US' loss to Columbia (tough first match in the Copa America).  This is what I came up with:

Another tool that I found quite rad is Seesaw.  Seesaw is a tool that allows for classes to share different forms of work on a "public" platform.  The format of the tool looks a lot like social media, even allowing for others to like and comment on work that is posted.  You can post text, pictures, video, audio, drawings, and so much more.  You can also sort the work that is posted by who posted it and assign work to folders that are aligned with people in the class.  Ben Friesen, the summit host, encouraged people to use Seesaw in addition to Twitter throughout the day to encourage collaboration, learning, and displaying said collaboration and learning.  This is definitely a tool that I can see being very effective in all grades levels and subjects.  

My last takeaway from today is something that I didn't necessarily see in action today, but I learned something about in passing.  There are tons of video creation apps out there, some of which are paid, some of which are free, some of which are better than others.  One of the better free video production apps available in the past was Adobe Voice.  Voice allows you to create short videos using pictures, audio, text, and animation effects.  Since I got a new iPad Mini 4 this week, I have been trying to download all sorts of apps to play around with (especially because it is 128 GB).  When looking for all of the Adobe apps that are available, such as Fill & Sign, Photoshop, Clip, and others, I could not find Adobe Voice.  The closest that I could find in the App Store was Adobe Spark.  After talking to an Adobe Educator, I was informed that Adobe Voice became Adobe Spark a couple of weeks ago.  I have yet to play around with it, but I assume that it is just as great, if not better than Voice was before (why would they change the name of it if they weren't planning on making it better, right?).  

The iPadEDU Summit was one of the best training days that I have been to in a long time.  It was very well organized, the keynote speech highlighted some very important points on digital citizenship, there were several different session in which to choose from, and of course, there was the networking aspect.  I always love seeing my professional friends acquaintances and meeting new people in which to inspire and to draw inspiration.  I sincerely hope that EdTech Team comes back to Las Vegas with another iPad Summit in the future.  

In the meantime, I am looking forward to several things.  I will be making the transition to my new job in the next few days by meeting with various people from my new school.  I am still in the process of planning out various steps of the conference set for September 30 and October 1.  I will be making my way to Long Beach at the end of July for CUE's leadership conference.  I am hoping to attend a GAFE Summit in Southern California (I applied for the Pear Deck Certified Coach program and if I get in, I need to present Pear Deck at a summit; I selected Orange County and San Bernardino as my top choices for the presentation).  I am also going to be presenting at the GAFE Summit in Las Vegas on September 3 & 4.  All that will be preceded by my cross-country camping trip from Nevada to Michigan, from Michigan to California, and back to Nevada.  

If you were at the iPad Summit, what were some of your favorite takeaways?  

Until next time... 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Whirlwind Week

Everybody is going to face adversity in life on a regular basis.  What makes you as a person is how you react to said adversity.  If given a turd sandwich, are you going to throw it away and go hungry, or are you going to toast the bread, slather on some mustard and make it the best sandwich that you can out of what you are given?  This week, I was tested with a great deal of adversity, a situation that I would have sulked about or one where I could have made the best of out it.  I chose the latter...

A while back, I applied for a position with the Clark County School District as a digital learning coach, working with teachers at several schools integrating technology into their curriculum.  The position was to start in August, allowing me to finish out the school year at my current school.  Since I accepted the position in the beginning of April, I have cleaned out my classroom, donating almost all of my materials that I deemed that would not need anymore, including my beautiful monstrosity of a podium that I have decorated over the past ten years.

As the school year is winding down, I have started to prepare for my new job.  I have signed up to attend and present at several conferences this summer.  I got a new iPad Mini 4 with a 128 GB hard drive to download every app that I could potentially think of to familiarize myself with anything that a teacher could throw my way.  However, that was all to change on Tuesday, May 31st.

I received an email around 10:30 on Tuesday morning stating that I had to attend a mandatory meeting regarding my job at 2:30.  The email did not give any indication of what the meeting would be about.  In my mind, I was under the impression that I would be finding out what schools I would be assigned to and getting my Macbook that was assigned to me for the job.  However, when the meeting started, it quickly turned from excitement to disbelief, as we were notified, current and new coaches, that our jobs had been eliminated due to a lack of funding.  A representative from the HR department was at the meeting to tell us about the next step.  We were to look at the list of openings in the district (which wasn't a problem, CCSD has over 800 openings, so if you are looking for a job and are interested in moving to Las Vegas, check out and select our top three choices from the list.  HR would then do their best to place people in one of their choices.

I was a mess on the inside.  I was sick to my stomach not knowing where I was going to be.  This is an insanely first world problem, and even beyond that because there are teachers everywhere that get pink slipped every year, so the last thing that I want to do is come across as a privileged little whiner.  I am grateful that I was still going to have a job, but was extremely disappointed that I lost the job that I wanted so badly, gave away all of my classroom materials, and had no idea where I was going to end up.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning.  I had narrowed down my choices to three high school social studies positions and was starting to play the whole "hurry up and wait" game.  I get a text message from my good friend Lucas Leavitt (@LucasLeavitt on Twitter) telling me to talk to him before I commit to any position.  I call him right away to see what he is talking about.  He proceeds to tell me that he is in the office of a principal that has a dilemma in regards to a position that is open at his school.  For the past year, his school had a technology coordinator that performed essentially the same duties as a digital learning coach.  The difference was that the position was expected to collaborate extensively with the administrative team and to coordinate professional development on a much higher level than what was possible for a digital learning coach.  Lucas put this principal on the line to talk to me more about the position.  After a five minute conversation, we set up a meeting to speak further later in the day.

I drove out to the school after I finished up with final exams.  I met with the principal for about 30 minutes, discussing the position, our educational philosophies and expectations, and the things that we would do together if we could make this happen.  Because the placement process was something brand new that had been created the day before, we didn't know the next step.  He thanked me for coming and told me to keep in touch, telling me that as soon as he knew more that he would pass it along to me.  I didn't have to wait long; 20 minutes later, as I was sitting down to a lunch of kalua pig and cabbage (if you're ever in North Las Vegas, hit up 808 Hawaii Mixed Plate, you will not be disappointed!), I get a text from the principal telling me to download a district transfer form, fill it out, sign it, and email it back to him and HR.  A few hours later after I had submitted the form, I got confirmation from HR that I would be working as the learning strategist/technology coordinator at Shadow Ridge High School.

In less than 24 hours, I went from having an amazing job starting in August, to not having that job and not knowing where I was going to be, to having a job that I think is going to be even better than what I had anticipated before!  I cannot thank Lucas enough for bringing my attention to the job.  To say that I am excited is an understatement.  But at the same time, today is also a sad day.  After six years of working at East Career & Technical Academy, I will be walking out the door for the last time as a teacher at this school.  I have made so many friends and became such a better educator at this school.  I am going to miss the staff, the students, the neighborhood, all of it.  It has been a huge part of my life and while today is the last day, it hasn't quite hit me.  I'm sure it will about the first week of August or so.

I may be sporadic in my musings over the next few weeks.  My wife and I bought a pop-up camper and will be taking our two little ones out on the road across this great nation for the next six weeks.  I cannot wait for them to see all of what our nation has to offer and to see where their mommy and daddy grew up in Michigan.

Until next time...