Monday, November 28, 2016

The Homestretch of 2016

Hard to believe, but 2016 is almost finished.  Thanksgiving has come and gone, which, unfortunately, was the least memorable and lamest Thanksgiving that I have ever had.  It started with what I thought was a cold the week before, turning into what I think was probably the flu with the aches, fever, chills, cough, the whole nine.  As the week of Thanksgiving started, I started to feel better, only to turn again on Thanksgiving and sleeping about 15 hours straight through dinner.  As much as I love the leftovers, I barely ate any of those because my desire to eat was nonexistent.  

Excitement abound! 
The year has been a crazy one (aren't they all, though?) in my personal and professional life, not to mention the economic, social, and political fabric of the United States and the world changing drastically with a great deal of uncertainty for 2017 ahead of us.  But, as one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Garth Algar from Wayne's World, once said, "LIVE IN THE NOW!" After spending most of Thanksgiving week under the weather, I am finally feeling better (just in time to give whatever sickness I had to my 5-year-old daughter, 19-month-old son, and wife), I got plenty of sleep (because I was sick), and SiriusXM hosted a week and a half of Mandatory Metallica to celebrate the release of their new album, which is absolutely amazing (Brian Briggs, did you pick it up yet?).  I am recharged and ready to rock the next three weeks of school to finish off the calendar year.  The beard is growing in, with a lot more grey than in years past, my hair is longer than it has been in, well, a year, since last No Shave November, and the last few weeks of 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting time, personally and professionally, for yours truly.

Bill Murray, aka, Pvt. Winger salutes you!
Recently, my school's Air Force ROTC program purchased 60 Chromebooks for use in their classes.  I spent some time with my tech partner and a couple of students enrolling the Chromebooks and building carts for the classes.  Now comes the million dollar question:  what do we do with these things?  I admire the ROTC department for their willingness to commit money to the technology and their curiosity in how they can best use their new devices.  Some teachers would get them and let them collect dust or use them as glorified worksheet machines.  The teachers from the ROTC department have already booked appointments to work with me on how to best utilize the tools that they now have.  And it also goes without saying that I admire the fine men and women of our ROTC department that have made military service their career and are now molding the next generation of leaders at our school.

Over the past few weeks, many teachers of my school have been working hard preparing for the Google Certified Educator, Level 1 exam.  I organized a three-hour training, with an additional three-hour block of time for the exam on Saturday, December 10 at my school.  Not only have teachers been incorporating more Google tools into their daily lessons and reviewing the modules provided by the Google for Education Training Center, they are going to be giving up a 6-hour block of one of their Saturdays to complete the training and testing.  To convince somebody to put in those kinds of hours, cough up $10 to pay for the exam and give up their Saturday takes quite a bit of convincing on the part of the organizer.  However, 25 teachers and staff are signed up, and I look forward to seeing each and every one of them receive their certification certificates.

One of the best things about working at a school that is trying to become more technologically savvy and innovative is helping teachers that already have great lessons and projects and how to flip them into something that is more digital in nature (SAMR, anyone?).  One such teacher wanted to take a small project that involves researching historical figures from providing a brief presentation of simple facts with a graphic to something much more exciting and visually appealing.  I provided her with a few ideas on how to achieve this, such as creating a hyperdoc or short videos.  In ten minutes, she turned her project into a video project using Adobe Spark where student groups would demonstrate their learning on a historical figure through graphics and short text, rather than long sentences/paragraphs, with voiceovers and music to accommodate the information.  The videos could then be posted by students to Google Classroom to share with their peers for learning and evaluative purposes.

We took our kids to Disneyland at the beginning of break;
 this is what it's like waiting in line at times! And waiting to
hear back on other things too... 
The next few days and weeks are full of potentially good news for me as a professional.  I am awaiting word on approval on several fronts.  I applied to be a presenter at CUE in Palm Springs in March.  My presentation will be non-traditional in nature in regards to your typical conference session in that it will be more of a roundtable discussion on how to bring tech laggers and tech resistors on board with a vision of expanding technology in a school.  I also applied to present several sessions at the EdTech Team's Carson City, NV GAFE Summit (is it still going to be called a GAFE Summit now that it is GSuite?).  And the one that I am most anticipating is my application for Google Certified Trainer that I submitted a few weeks back.  It's tough playing the whole "hurry up and wait" game, but the rewards are great if I can only be patient.  But it's so hard!

Lastly, while I enjoy many aspects of the December holiday season, it's not my favorite time of the year, for several reasons.  I don't enjoy how it becomes earlier and earlier every year (can we get through Halloween, Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving please?).  I don't enjoy how materialistic and corporate it has become.  I'm not religious, but in my opinion, it's gotten away from the religious, cultural, and family-oriented holiday that it once was.   And I also don't enjoy remembering spending a Christmas in the hospital when my grandmother was sick years ago.  I cherish the memories of her, just don't like being reminded of that one.  This year, for the first time since I moved to Nevada in 2005, I will actually be home.  Because I have always traveled during my time off in December, I have never bothered to decorate a tree or anything.  This year, we will buy a tree, decorate it, hang stockings, and the whole thing for the kids.  And of course, I will enjoy the things that I do like about the holiday, like watching Bad Santa, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, and Charlie Brown and hanging out with friends and family.  And of course, hockey is always on and college bowl season begins and barring the (probable) collapse of the Detroit Lions, playoff football in the Motor City.

The next few weeks will be a great ride, hopefully, your ride will be just as fun and jam-packed as mine.  Until next time...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

How we all felt as the campaign dragged
on, and on, and on!
Now that the dust has settled (slightly) on the 2016 election cycle, I feel that it is important to address what it means for educators and our students.  I am not putting this out as a platform for debate, mudslinging, and hatred that too much of the past year and a half has been about, this is more of a simple observation and hope for the future.  And I also write this as unbiased as I can be.  I enjoy politics (that are civil, based on facts, etc.) and I feel that our nation has the best system of government in the world.  Throughout the past few months, I have stayed on the sidelines for several reasons, mainly because I was very well set in my thoughts on the candidates and their views and I am not a fan of confrontation, especially when so much of the confrontation in this cycle was so negative and downright violent at times.  I normally do not share who I voted for, but for the sake of this post, I will open a door that is rarely opened.

I grew up in a family that was very Republican.  My political views through high school and early college were very much aligned with the Republican platform as a result.  However, those views began to soften during college, starting with the mess that the Election of 2000 was at the time.  Through my early to mid-20s, my views became more center of the road, to even liberal in nature.  I would classify myself today as a moderate liberal, but I always like to vote for who I believe is best for the job, regardless of their party affiliation or their placement on the political spectrum.  That being said, I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, Reforms, and Libertarians, far to the left, far to the right, and everywhere in between.  In the beginning of this cycle, I narrowed down candidates from both of the major parties that I could get behind.  However, as the campaign progressed, my choices were eliminated by either personal preference or by the lack of votes in the primary.

How I am sure many around the nation and world
felt when they saw the results.
As the campaigns developed and the candidates were narrowed down to Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, I could not get behind either one.  I felt that Hilary had too much baggage coming from too many places regarding the various scandals in her career and Donald lacked experience and was way too controversial.  I am not a believer in the "lesser of two evils" mantra, so I ended up throwing my vote behind Gary Johnson.  Many will call it a wasted vote, but if more people voted third party when they do not like either of the two major party candidates, a third party would have a realistic change.  I was absolutely glued to the TV from about 3 PM Pacific on Tuesday, all the way until 1:30 AM on Wednesday morning, and was, like many people around the country and world, very surprised by the result.  But enough of my rambling, let me get to the point of the whole piece...

The debate is only beginning between all sides as to what a Trump presidency means for the United States.  Supporters are "ready to make America great again", while detractors are protesting, threatening to leave for Canada, and doomsday prepping.  So what does it really mean for us as educators?  It means that we still need to do our jobs to the best of our abilities and work our butts off educating the future leaders of the nation, which is no different than if Hilary Clinton would have been elected.  We still need to get up in the morning, go to work, prepare our lessons, find creative and innovative ways to present said lessons, be there for kids that are having a rough day, congratulate those that are doing amazing things, guide those that need help getting there, keeping a look out for those that are vulnerable because of an abusive household, bullying by their peers, continue to learn to better ourselves as educators, and go home only to wake up and do it all over again.  Politicians can say they are going to do a lot of things.  The bottom line is that those things will only happen through hard work and compromise of hundreds of people within our government.  No one person is too powerful to enact even the simplest of ideas, let alone one as horrific, deplorable, and vile as some campaign promises that were made by the president-elect regarding Muslims, immigrants, and women that choose to end a pregnancy (DISCLAIMER: this is my personal viewpoint on some of the ideas that were touted during the campaign; I do not judge you for your opinions if yours are the opposite of mine, what makes the country great is that we can disagree and still live our lives).  It is going to take hard work from the president-elect, his advisors and cabinet, Congress, and citizens like you and me to make the next few years great.

While I disagree with many of Mr. Trump's policy stances and things that he has done and/or said in the past, I wish him all the best.  Hoping that our president fails is hoping that our nation fails.  I know I will keep an open mind about his presidency, and I hope that more decide to do the same.  If you disagree, you have the right to do so, the right to protest, the right express your anger.  In four years, we will do this all over again and if his presidency is not what he has promised, we will change him out for somebody else.

With that being said, I will bid you "au revoir!" Until next time...