Friday, December 29, 2017

Reflection 2017 & Goals 2018

Goodbye, 2017!
As 2017 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on what 2017 was and what I want 2018 to be.  I wrote a post on January 2, 2017, that outlined three goals, not resolutions, that I wanted to meet by the end of the year.  If I am going to be honest, I did not do a good job of achieving my goals, for various reasons.  However, excuses aside and not accepted, I vow to achieve new goals for 2018 and make myself more accountable in attaining them. 

One of my goals was to lose 50 pounds during 2017.  I had vowed to attend weekly Weight Watchers meetings and begin to exercise more often.  I did not achieve this goal; in fact, I actually gained weight.  The biggest reason for my failure was that I set too lofty of a goal.  I set an end goal, without steps for progress throughout the year.  I also set myself up for failure by stating that I would attend my weekly meeting on Saturday mornings, a day where it is easy to skip the meeting because of work obligations (such as presenting at professional development, something that I did a lot of in 2017), wanting the extra sleep after a long, hard week, or using the excuse that there was too much hockey, baseball, and football on early on Saturday morning.

This year, it's going to be different!  I still am going to set a goal of losing 50 pounds by the end of 2018.  However, this time, I have made some significant changes to my goal.  To start, after quitting my Weight Watchers meetings early on in 2017, I have already signed up to go back to them, this time on Wednesday evenings.  It's a lot harder to skip a Wednesday night meeting or make up some excuse to "just go another time this week".  I decided to go back prior to the Christmas holiday so I could start getting into healthier habits sooner and to minimize the damage during the holidays.  After my first week, I lost 4.4 pounds, which included Christmas!  That weight loss is not sustainable every week, but in order to get to my 50 pounds in 2018 goal, I want to lose five pounds per month until the goal is achieved.  Technically, if I am able to do that for every month, I will lose 60 pounds or more next year, but they may be months where I don't meet the five-pound goal.  For now, I intend to lose the weight without going crazy at the gym, but as I begin to lose and feel better, I will start to incorporate more activity into my routine (I started to lift with my students at school, but with the time off, I haven't been lifting).

The Duffer Brother, creators, writers, directors, and producers of the hit
Netflix series Stranger Things have stated in several interviews how they
have written episodes of the series using Google Docs.

Image courtesy of
I also had set a goal of starting to write a book.  While I did not get the start on my book as I intended to, I did start to think of some ideas on what I want to go into the book and the format of how I want to write it.  Essentially, my book is going to be a memoir of my life and experiences and a tribute to those that I have shaped my life as a man, husband, father, educator, and coach.  When I think about writing a book, I think about the great authors before that toiled over a typewriter, pecking out their pages before binding them up and sending them off to a publisher.  When I think about how I am going to write it, I'm going to take a page out of the Duffer Brothers' book (see what I did there?  Expect a lot of puns and corny jokes in any book I eventually write!) and complete it using Google Docs!

My third goal that I had set for 2017 was to obtain a position as a dean or assistant principal.  This was a goal that I had achieved... sort of.  I will spare the details of everything, but in late February, I was appointed as a dean at a middle school and finished out the last 3 months of the school year.  About a month and a half into the new school year, I realized that becoming an administrator at this juncture of my career was not the right choice and I requested to return back to the classroom, becoming a physical education teacher for the first time in my career.  Hindsight is most definitely 20/20, but would I change the decision that I made if I could?  I don't think so.  I gained some valuable experience working as an administrator and learned to appreciate my profession even more than I had before.  The timing just wasn't right but someday, I'll give it another shot.

For more information on the above, please see my previous posts titled Priorities and Changes (For The Better)

So, besides weight loss and getting that start on my book, what else do I have planned to meet this year?  I have two other goals, one of which is practically already met, and another that I cannot 100% reveal just yet.

I had a conversation with my wife one afternoon about the dozens of presentations I have made to educators over the past few years.  I told her, much to her surprise, that of all of those presentations, none of them have been outside of the Las Vegas Valley.  That being said, I told her that I wanted to expand my horizons a bit and start presenting in locales outside of my home city.  As of today, I am lined up to present at the Tulare County Tech Rodeo in Visalia, CA on January 13, where I will be presenting Google Keep and Pear Deck, and the Inland Area CUE Tech Fair in Perris, CA on January 20 where I will be presenting the same.  The following weekend, I will be presenting each at the EdTech Team Google Summit in Las Vegas, an event that I will be presenting at for the fourth year in a row.  I also applied for the San Gabriel Valley Google Summit in Duarte, CA on February 10-11, but I have yet to hear about that event.  I want to apply to present at Fall CUE 2018, but my next goal may be a hindrance to that.

Unfortunately, at this time, I cannot go into great detail regarding my next goal.  There are many factors that will play into that goal that, at this time, are relatively confidential.  I may be able to speak about it as early as next week, but as a superstitious (to an extent) person, I don't want to jinx anything by saying something.  What I can say is that if the pieces fall into place, it will be a significant change to what I am doing now and an advancement in my career.

Here's to what was hopefully a prosperous 2017 and to an even more prosperous and successful 2018!  Until next time...

Friday, December 22, 2017

Our Civic Duty

As Americans, we are granted numerous rights and privileges based on the Constitution.  The Founding Fathers made sure that these rights were protected when drafting the Constitution because of the numerous violations and denials of rights by the British government during their colonial rule.  It took a war with the British to preserve those rights and the Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that our government couldn't/wouldn't do the same (and we were able to mend our relationship with the British, I like to compare it to a family quarrel, you still love each other but you have your differences and sometimes you have to move away in order to preserve that relationship).

Some of the rights and privileges granted by the Constitution are often times referred to as "civic duties."  What comes to my mind when I hear this are things like voting and jury duty.  Voting is a right that too few exercise on Election Day and much more are not informed voters when heading to the polls, which can be just as dangerous as not voting (I vow to not make this political, you can read into the previous line however you wish).  Jury duty, on the other hand, is something that many people have never done, and most people dread the thought of having to report for jury duty.  Recently, I had the opportunity to serve on a jury and the experience was something that I definitely learned a lot from.

I had my preconceived notions about jury duty and the court system, in general, going into duty; after all, I did teach social studies for a long time and watch a lot of Law & Order: SVU.  I knew that Hollywood embellished court proceedings, but how, I wasn't 100% sure.  I had been selected for jury duty twice before:  once in college, but I got out of it because I lived almost 5 hours from home, and once about 7-8 years ago, but I reported to the courthouse and was released a few hours later when they already had enough jurors.  One of the biggest questions I had was, "How do you get selected for a jury?"

I reported early on a Monday morning, checked in, and was instructed to listen for my "juror number" on my badge.  Hundreds of other people were there as well, most of them complaining about having to be there and how they were missing work, had to be somewhere else, etc.  After sitting for a couple of hours, my number was called and I was told, along with about 60 other people, that we would be going to a courtroom to being the jury selection process.  At this point, this is farther than I had ever made it in potentially serving on a jury.

The next step in the process of jury selection was questions and answers from the judge, the prosecution, and the defense.  The judge had a specific set of questions to ask, things like how long we had lived in Clark County, what we did for work, highest level of education, whether or not we could be impartial to testimony and evidence, and whether we would give more or less credence to testimony from officers simply because they were an officer.  The attorneys from both sides went into greater detail in their questions, often times based on answers that were given to questions from the judge.  One of the defense attorneys asked me if I wanted to be there and to not be afraid to say no, but I stated that I was intrigued by the process as a former social studies teacher and was interested in taking a real-life experience back to my students.

The process ended up taking nearly two full days.  Fourteen of us were selected to sit on the jury to hear a case involving armed robbery and illegal use of credit and debit cards and sworn in by the courts' clerk.  We heard the opening statements from the State of Nevada and the defense regarding the case and the first witness was called prior to our release from the first day.  At each break and when the case rested for the day, we were given strict instructions not to speak about the trial, not to do any research on the case or any of the parties, and to avoid any news or websites that may address the case.  We were instructed not to even tell our spouses.

Over the course of nearly two weeks, we heard from 25 witnesses, ranging from victims in the case to arresting officers, to expert witnesses in DNA, fingerprints, the "dumping of phone records", and many more.  Over 200 exhibits were introduced as evidence as well.  It was interesting to see how the prosecution and defense both approached witnesses, evidence, and questioning.  If you didn't know any better, you would have thought the two sides were on the same team; it is not like on TV where the prosecution and defense seem to be at each others' throats.

After closing statements, we were given instructions on jury deliberation and sent to a room where we would be "locked up" until we came out with a decision.  Because the trial ended late in the day, we did not begin to deliberate immediately.  We were asked to select a foreperson for the jury before we left; to my surprise, three of my peers on the jury stated that I should be the foreperson, which I found to be quite the honor.

When we reconvened the next morning over a breakfast of eggs and bacon provided by the court, we began the, what we thought was going to be, long process of picking through the evidence and our notes.  However, it didn't turn out to be nearly as long as we expected.  The State had put together a very solid case against the defendants and the evidence was very strong against them.  After only about 4 hours of deliberation, we summoned the bailiff and told him that we had a verdict.  We returned to the courtroom where the judge asked me if we had reached a verdict.  I turned it over to the bailiff and after the judge read it, the courts' clerk read to the defendants that we had found them guilty of all 25 counts in which they had been accused.  At this point, the judge thanked us for our service but stated that there were additional charges that could not be presented during the trial and that our services were needed further.  He assured us that it would be brief and that we would return to hear the charges and make our decision after lunch, which the court provided.

After lunch, we returned to the courtroom to hear that the additional charges involved illegal possession/ownership of firearms.  Because of the potential toxicity of those charges, they could not present them to us during the trial, hence why we had to spend about 10 minutes hearing the State's arguments; the defense declined to make a statement.  We returned back to the jury deliberation room and emerged less than 10 minutes later with verdicts of guilty on those two additional charges.

Once we were finished, the judge joined us in the deliberation room for a debrief and question and answer session.  He shared his thoughts on the trial, thanked us for our service and answered some of our questions about the process and the trial.  One of the burning questions that we all had was, "Why didn't these guys take a plea deal?"  The judge told us that he was surprised that the trial went through because the case against them was so solid, but that the State had offered a deal to both defendants.  The deal hinged on both taking it.  One of the defendants wanted the deal, but the other defendant counteroffered.  Apparently, this went on, back and forth, between the one defendant and the State.  Finally, the State offered one final deal that the defendant refused, so the case went trial.  The judge also invited us to come see other trials in progress and to come visit to see how the court works behind the scenes; I may take the court up on that offer!

When I am selected for jury duty again, I will be excited to serve again.  It was an amazing experience!  I knew the courts did not work like you see on TV, and it was cool to see the differences.  The experience also makes you be very objective and impartial in your analysis.  I have always felt that I am objective and impartial, but sometimes, even the more impartial can look at something or hear something and make their mind up.  And I think this is something that can be applied to my career as an educator, helping me to better understand my students and colleagues situations.

In closing, whatever you celebrate, or don't celebrate, during this time of year, I wish for the best to you.   2017 is coming to a close, as is the first semester for many of us, and I look forward to further success in the coming year and semester.

Until next time...

Monday, December 4, 2017

Apples for Teachers? How About a Pear (Deck)?

This past Tuesday, I got an email from Risa Fadenrecht, the director of the Pear Deck Certified Coaches program.  In her message, she gave me some feedback on a Pear Deck presentation that I had submitted as part of the Certified Coaches cohort in which I was accepted a few weeks prior.  She also slipped in there, "Don't tell anybody because the official announcement will come later in the week, but you are officially accepted as a Pear Deck Certified Coach!"  The next day, I got the official announcement of my acceptance.  It came after a few weeks of online discussions with educators from all over the United States an Canada, "testing" my knowledge and skills of the ins and outs of Pear Deck, and building a presentation that exhibited the features of Pear Deck and demonstrated an engaging experience of students. The acceptance was a recognition of not just my knowledge and skills in using Pear Deck, but more for my love of the program and sharing its awesomeness with other people.

So, you haven't heard of Pear Deck, have a little knowledge, or maybe you want to build on what you know already?  If you fit one of there criteria, please continue to read on.  If not, no hard feelings, but I hope that you continue to read anyway!

At first glance, Pear Deck is a presentation tool that is similar to PowerPoint or Google Slides.  However, to describe Pear Deck as simply a presentation tool is doing it a great injustice.  Pear Deck is also a student engagement tool through its ability to embed images, video, questions, websites, and works really well with some of your favorite educational tools, like Google apps, Flipgrid, Kahoot!, Edpuzzle, and so many more.  Instead of simply projecting a presentation on a screen in front of your class, students become actively engaged in the lesson when they have the presentation on their own device, and you have the choice of controlling the presentation yourself or by opening it up in student-paced mode. 

As educators, we all strive to see where our students are through various forms of formative assessment.  However, even the best-intentioned teachers can get bogged down sifting through exit tickets, spreadsheet data from a Google Form of Kahoot!, etc.  Pear Deck helps through its live formative assessment tools.  Want to see how the class feels about a concept after spending a few minutes on it?  Use the quick "thumbs up/thumbs down" slide.  Feel more like a multiple choice slide?  How about a short answer, or even a long answer?  Maybe you are a math teacher and want students to give you a number answer.  Or how about getting to those students that tend to be more artistic by using a drawing slide?  All of this is possible with the question slides in Pear Deck!

Some (most) of the time, a slide with a few words isn't enough.  Pump up your slides using images, either by using Pear Deck's search tool or embed your own.  Found a great YouTube video?  Embed it, play it, let the discussion fly!  Have an outside website that putting in a link to doesn't do justice?  Have that website pop up right on students' screens!  Need students to contribute to a classroom activity as a whole?  Embed a Google Doc with editing rights or have students record a response using Flipgrid!  The possibilities are endless!

All subject areas and grade levels have specific vocabulary that needs to be mastered in order to be successful.  Get your students involved by using the Flashcard Factory! Assign students to groups and task them with creating the definitions.  The Flashcard Factory gives students the opportunity to not only create definitions and sentences using their terms, but they can add illustrations to the cards as well!  Best of all, sets of flashcards can be exported to Quizlet to give students the opportunity to review and compete with themselves and their peers. 

Pear Deck is limited in its design template, with a white background as the only choice.  Love what you are reading about Pear Deck, but want the choice in designing the template?  Fear not!  Pear Deck allows you to create a presentation in Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, or .pdf and upload it to Pear Deck!  From there, incorporate question slides, embed videos and websites, and take your presentation to the next level while keeping your eye-catching design!  Even better, the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides allows you to create a Pear Deck presentation directly in Google Slides (at this time, it does not have the same full functionality of creating a presentation in Pear Deck, but a recent update to the add-on added more options for question slides)! 

Prior to the Pear Deck Certified Coaching cohort, I already had extensive knowledge of Pear Deck, its features, its uses, etc.  Since the Slides add-on and Flashcard Factory are relatively new, there was some work that went into learning more about each of those tools.  However, one of the best parts of the cohort was lessons in Pear Deck's "Peardagogy".  During the cohort, we learned about what makes a slide deck go from "meh", to good, to great.  One thing that I realized was that I was certainly guilty in the past of making some of my slides "too busy" with words, images, etc.  I realized that it is okay to break down one slide into five slides if need be, spending less time on each individual slide, but still covering what needs to be addressed and keeping my audience better engaged.  I can guarantee that future presentions by yours truly may be "longer", but they will be more visually pleasing and more engaging as a result. 

I cannot say enough good about Pear Deck.  In the edtech world, free is always good, but sometimes there are those tools that are well worth the price of admission, and Pear Deck definitely fits the bill.  At $99 a year for the premium features, you can create visually appealing, engaging, and fun presentations and FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS.  If you have any questions about Pear Deck, please do not hesitate to contact me, I am always happy to "plug the Pear"!

Until next time... 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Big Switch

Like most people, I rely very heavily on my smartphone.  I use my phone for the obvious things, like phone calls and text messages and I ditched a landline in my house probably 7-8 years ago.  I use my phone for email, tracking food intake and exercise, news and sports updates, social media, work, and so much more.  I also use my phone for music, loading over 11,000 songs onto it so I have my entire collection at my fingertips at any given time (basically, every CD I have ever purchased is loaded onto iTunes, plus anything I have bought from iTunes or Amazon, and the vinyl albums that come with digital download codes, it works out to over 80GB of music), plus the dozen or so podcasts that I subscribe and listen to on a regular basis.  While I don't consider myself to be addicted to my phone, I can go hours at a time without messing with it and I am at peace in places where there isn't any cell coverage, a substantial part of my daily life is tied to my phone.  Clearly, choosing a quality phone is a priority when one will be using it so much.

My first smartphone many years ago was an HTC Evo Shift.  That was the one that had a full keyboard tucked into the back that you slid out.  I clearly remember "needing" to have that keyboard.  My previous phone prior the Evo Shift was a Kyocera that had that full keyboard and I wasn't ready yet to make the transition to the digital keyboard.  My wife also had the Evo, but she made the jump to the digital keyboard before me.  After a couple of years with the Evo Shift and the Android platform, I made the transition to the iPhone 4.  Over the past 6 years, I have gone from the iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and iPhone 6, thinking that I was going to be an iPhone guy for life.

Over the course of the past few months, I started considering switching over to the Google Pixel.  I had heard a lot of great things about it, plus since my life is so incredibly centered around Google apps, I figured it would make a lot of sense to use a device built by the same company whose products dictate my day to day business.  My hesitation came from my several years' relationship with Apple and the App Store, my iTunes account that is chock full of music (plus my apps, podcasts, videos, etc.), and my general familiarity and expertise in the iOS platform; learning the Android platform all over again did not sound too appealing.  Then the iPhone 8 and iPhone X came out, further twisting my thoughts further regarding a new phone.  Ultimately, my decision was to wait since my iPhone 6 was still in good shape and paid off.

Things change when capitalism takes over in late November.  Every company and corporation tries to lure people in to buy their stuff during the holiday season and cell phone companies are no different.  On Thanksgiving Day between the food and family, I perused the different stores deals on phones, finding that the Pixel 2 was going to be 50% off on Black Friday!  iPhones were also going to have deals, but more to the "buy it for full price, get an iPad for $99," which is still a great deal, but I wasn't interested in a $1000+ phone (I wanted at least the 128GB, if not the 256GB), plus dropping another $99 for the iPad, not to mention all of the accessories that you need to get when you buy a new device, such as car chargers, screen protectors, cases, and the like.  So it was back to the "what are the advantages and disadvantages of switching to the Pixel 2 and the Android platform?"  Ultimately, I decided that the pros outweighed the cons and the deal on the Pixel 2 was too good to let pass, so Friday afternoon, I sauntered into the Verizon store and made the switch from iPhone to Google.

My impression thus far is that I couldn't be happier!  There isn't anything about the iPhone that I am missing thus far, but there are many things regarding the Pixel 2 that I am loving in comparison to the iPhone.

I have to have my music! 
One of my biggest hangups was in regards to iTunes, something that is not available on the Android system.  I read several articles on how to transfer iTunes to Google Play, some of them sounding very easy, some of them sounding complicated.  When it was all said and done, I was able to download the Google Play Music Manager to my computer, let the manager search my computer, find everything in iTunes, and transfer it to Google Play.  As of this posting, the manager was still working on it.  I originally started the process on Saturday morning, leting it go for about 24 hours before a 12-hour stoppage on Sunday as I was traveling from Reno back home to Las Vegas. Overall, it's going to take about 3 full days before the process to be finished.  I expected it to take a long time, so I am not upset at all.  As Google Play is uploading from iTunes, the songs that have been uploaded are available on my phone.  On top of that, iTunes charged me $25 a year for iTunes match, essentially Apple's music cloud service for my library; Google Play is 100% free from what I have found thus far!  As for the Google Play app for podcasts, there are a lot of podcasts that I listen to that were not available on Google Play.  However, thanks to a suggestion by Ryan O'Donnell (another happy Pixel user), I downloaded Pocket Casts, a podcast manager that not only had everything that I listen to, but you can share podcasts easily with others, even up to a specific minute!  It did cost $3.99, but well worth the cost to not have to use the Google Play app, Stitcher, NPR One, or all of them.

Nice shot of the Wolf Pack rolling out the
Fremont Cannon after their 23-17 victory
over UNLV!
Photos and photo quality are alsor bright spspotsf the Pixel 2.  I used Google Photos on my iPhone, so every picture I took was backed up to Photos, but it was also in the Apple Photos app, taking up space on the phone's hard drive.  No such problem with the Pixel 2, as photos go directly to Google Photos and are not stored on the phone's hard drive.  On top of that, the photos that the Pixel 2 takes are stunning!  I always thought that the iPhone took great pictures, which it does, but the Pixel 2 takes phone photography to the next level!  Too often when taking photos in low light or taking action photos, the pictures come out blurry or in other ways not as good as what one would hope.  Every photo that I have taken with the Pixel 2 thus far has been crystal clear without any blur, even on the action shots.  I don't take a lot of photos, but with photos this good, I may start taking more!  And bonus features:  you can open the camera app with two clicks of the power button, switch to selfie mode by shaking the phone when the camera app is open, and because the photos go straight to Google Photos, that app will create some stylized, motion, and other cool pics on its own, or you can go into the app and create some amazing images yourself.

The beautiful Sierra Nevada while rolling down US 395, somewhere south of Mammoth Lakes

When I turned on the phone for the first time, I dreaded the thought of having to go through my old iPhone and find all of my apps in Google Play and download them individually.  Once again, I was blown away when all I had to do is plug my Pixel 2 into the iPhone, run a scan of it, and Google Play downloaded and installed the apps that I had on my iPhone as long as they were available in Google Play!  So far, out of well over 100 apps that my phone found, I have only had to download two apps that didn't make it through the scan.  Maybe it is because my iPhone was a couple of years old, but I find the apps to run more smoothly and download more quickly on the Pixel 2.  I also like that on my apps' notifications, you can perform actions a lot quicker without having to open the app.  Many apps like Twitter allow you to do so on the iPhone, but I don't recall seeing that option on Voxer, for example.  And then one of the greatest things I have discovered, and maybe it's available on iPhone and I didn't figure it out, but the split screen on the Pixel 2 that allows you to open two apps and VIEW THEM BOTH at the SAME TIME!  No more bouncing between apps when trying to work with multiple apps!

If you are considering a new phone, I cannot say enough good things about the Google Pixel 2.  I cannot knock iPhone, especially the iPhone 7, 8, X, and variations of each model; they are all high-quality devices.  But for the money, ease of use, and cool little tricks that the Pixel 2 can do, I am very happy with my decision to switch.

Until next time...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Inspire & Be Inspired

Years ago while still in high school, I made my decision that I wanted to go into education.  I was inspired by a lot of great teachers, from Mr. Pintar, my US History teacher and basketball coach, Mr. Caderette, my school's athletic director and my baseball coach, Mr. Linton, my government teacher and football coach, Mr. Bell, my biology teacher, Ms. Wojt, my earth science teacher, Mrs. Dewitt, my chemistry teacher, Mr. Meek, my Latin teacher (yes, Latin!), and Mr. Bennett, my PE teacher and football coach, just to name a few.  While I didn't end up pursuing biology and chemistry as my degree program as I had originally planned, my mind was made up by my sophomore year that education was going to be my career path.  I always told myself that as long as I was in the game, I wanted to be that inspiration to my students.  Over 12 years and thousands of students later, it is always comforting running into former students and hearing their stories and the kinds words that so many of them have in regards to their time with me.

Really, Chipotle?  
At my school, we have periodic releases of students to go back to a comprehensive school.  Students are assigned to my school for various infractions and as long as they take care of business by attending school, performing in the classroom, and staying out of trouble, their assignment to my school comes to an end.  Last Friday was one of the release days, so several of my students will be at a different school when we return from the Thanksgiving holiday break.  As the day progressed, I said goodbye and good luck to several students that will not be returning, with many of them thanking me for their time with me.  One such student shook my hand, thanked me and told me that he was going to miss me.  Another young lady stopped by my room between classes a couple of different times to see me, thank me, and tell me that she was going to miss me. I will definitely miss many of these students, but as I told them throughout the day, "No offense, but I don't want to see you ever again, unless it is randomly at Chipotle or something" (Why I chose Chipotle, I don't know, I like Chipotle, but it is far from my favorite place").

Clearly, throughout my career, I have had some form of inspiration on my students.  But my students have inspired me throughout my career as well.  When students in my classes have struggled, they have inspired me to better my craft so I can better serve them.  In a previous post, I talked about how I was not the innovative, technologically savvy educator that I like to think that I am today; my students were partly the reason as to why I am who I am professionally today.  When I have learned about some of the struggles that so many of my students have had to deal with, socially, economically, psychologically, and physically, it has inspired me to be a more empathetic and compassionate person, not so much of the "tough love" kind of person that I was, and still am to  an extent, early in my career.  More recently, I had a different form of inspiration from my students that has changed my approach some.

As a PE teacher, I get to work with students each day in some form of physical activity.  In my class, I give students a great deal of choice in what activities that they would like to do during class.  Basketball is popular, as is table tennis, and so is weightlifting.  One day a few weeks ago, some of my students were working on the bench press and asked if I could lift what they were working on, which was 135 pounds.  I told them that during my college football days and a couple of years ago when I was heavy into weightlifting (see what I did there?), I was bench pressing well over 300 pounds.  One of the boys challenged me to see if I still had it.  They set the bar up with 225 pounds and I told them that I hoped I could still get it at least 5 times.  When it was all said and done, I pressed the weight 10 times, something that I fully did not expect.  Word started getting around school that I had lifted that weight and kids were asking me in the hallway if I really did.  Since that day, I have been regularly lifting weights 2-3 times a week.  I am still working on motivating myself to start getting up early to get a cardio workout in, something that I have gotten away from since I hurt my knee a year or so ago.

Bottomline, my students inspired me to do something that I wasn't doing before.  Had it not been for those boys challenging me on the bench press, I probably would not be pursuing a regular weight training schedule.  My goal for the Thanksgiving holiday is to start getting back into the habit of not only weight training, but cardio training as well.  While I will most likely never be jacked like I was during my football days, it would be nice to cut weight, get stronger and more fit, and be a piece of eye candy for Mrs. Anderson.

Strive every day to be an inspiration to your students, your colleagues, your family, and your community.  At the same time, take inspiration from them as well and we will all work together to make our world a better place.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Expanding Horizons

Image courtesy of
If you are reading this, first of all, thank a teacher.  Also, you must think that my post has something meaningful to say or something that you can learn about, whether it is from past experience in reading my posts or somebody has recommended my blog to you.  If the latter is the case, please pass along my thanks to your colleague for the recommendation.  Maybe you are a first time reader that happened to stumble upon my blog.  I hope that you can glean something useful from this post or others that I have written and will return for future posts.  The bottom line is that I write this blog for several reasons, including my love for writing, my love of sharing my knowledge and skills, and to contribute to the many professional learning networks in which I am proud to be a member.  

This love of sharing isn't limited to just my blog, tweeting ideas (and my blog), and participating in chats on various Voxer groups.  I also love to share at trainings and conferences, which is also one of the main reasons why I choose to volunteer so much of my times working with CUE-NV.  Over the course of my first few years of teaching, I didn't do a lot of presenting to staff and I certainly never had presented at a district level professional development day or at a regional or national conference.  I was too wrapped up in coaching football and working on my master's to sacrifice any more time and, regrettably, I didn't think that my voice was worth hearing at the time.  

Finally, a few years ago (the exact year is lost on me at this point), I started to come out of that shell.  I started to become more involved at my school on various committees and I was tasked with presenting to staff on various things on professional development days and during our "house meetings" after school once a month.  Then the million dollar question was asked of me:  "Would you be willing to present to educators during a Google Mini-Conference offered by the district?"  I was definitely stunned by the question, but without hesitation, I agreed to do so.  

At one of my previous schools, we were a pilot for the rollout for Google Apps for Education accounts.  Each teacher and student was given a GAFE account, along with everything that comes with that account.  While I already had been relatively tech-savvy and had incorporated a great deal of technology into my curriculum, I really took off with the account.  My classroom was incorporating aspects of the flipped classroom and I was nearly paperless, with a few exceptions.  When Google Classroom came out, the transition to paperless was complete.  Did I have access to one-to-one devices in my classroom?  By no means, but I was lucky enough to work at a school where students could and would bring their own devices, even if it was a simple flip phone that had access to the Internet (I am still amazed by the resiliency of a student that did not have any access to a device outside of her flip phone and wrote all of her assignments and even papers on that phone for me and her other classes).  Over the course of a couple of years, I became very savvy using the various Google tools, as well as other tools that I had delved into and had started making a name for myself.  My supervisor at the time had mentioned my name to some district-level educators, hence why I was asked.  

Fast forward a few years, and I cannot even begin to think about how many presentations I have made at various district conference, EdTech Team Google and Apple Summits, and CUE-NV events.  It occurred to me a few days ago that while I have presented dozens of times, I have never presented outside of Las Vegas.  I mentioned this to my wife, and she was surprised as well (she has this really unique "Really?"  when something confuses or surprises her, this was one of those moments).  I decided that it was high time to start looking into presenting in other areas to a new audience.  

Have you tried Pear Deck yet?  If not, you should...
Image courtesy of
One of the requirements of the Pear Deck Certified Coaches cohort is that you present sessions on Pear Deck at a Google Summit.  This is easy; we have a Google Summit in Las Vegas every year, one that I have attended and/or presented at for several years now.  However, as much fun as I have had presenting at the Summit in Las Vegas, and submitted my presentations on Pear Deck and Google Keep for it, this was a great opportunity to present somewhere else.  I also submitted presentations for a Google Summit near Los Angeles in February.  Then a couple of days later, I noticed that there was going to be an event in January in Visalia that was organized by some of my virtual colleagues, Adam Juarez and Katherine Goyette.  I asked if they were looking for presentations, to which they said yes, so I submitted some presentations for their Tech Rodeo.  Now, just because I submitted doesn't mean that any of them will be accepted; however, if accepted, I look forward to expanding my reach a little bit more.  

My next step: completing my Google Certified Trainer requirements and application again (my last submission was rejected, but I know why and haven't had the time to go back to correct it).  I will need to recertify my Google Certified Educator Level 2 first, as well as redo the requirements for the trainer application, but I am not worried about that. I also need to consider submitting proposals for future events like Fall CUE and CUE National.  I think I am ready for that kind of an audience, something that I would have never said as early as 5 years ago.  

Until next time... 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What Scares Me

I love this time of year.  The weather is getting cooler, the (limited number of) leaves are changing, football and hockey seasons are in full swing, and Halloween (need I say more?).  While I don't get into the Halloween spirit of dressing up, going to parties, and watching marathons of scary movies as much as I would like to anymore, I still enjoy the occasional movie that I can squeeze in (I watched Hellraiser last week, and how about Stranger Things?), getting my kids fired up for the holiday, crushing a bunch of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and carving pumpkins, like my tribute to the Vegas Golden Knights to the right.  When it is all said and done, the only things that truly scare me are snakes and clowns, or worse, a clown with snakes for fingers.  Zombies, ghosts, ghouls, and gore may startle me in the moment, but I get over it, and frankly, I enjoy the quick scare!  However, in the spirit of Halloween, I want to highlight a few things in the world of education that scare me.  Not just scare me for a moment and I am over it, no, I'm talking about things that scare me to the core and if not addressed, will ruin many a student and education as a whole.

At risk of beating a dead horse here, but funding is the number one thing that scares me.  I get that government budgets are tight.  However, what I don't get is how education takes such a low priority when said budgets are negotiated.  The State of Nevada is one of the lowest funded states in the nation when it comes to education.  But miraculously, when the Oakland Raiders expressed interested in pulling up stakes in Oakland to move the team to Las Vegas, the governor called an EMERGENCY session of the state legislature to negotiate and ultimately approve a $750 million incentive package that would not only help bring the team to Las Vegas, but it would help pay for a stadium.  Sure, the legislature and governor worked together to increase education funding in the last session, but not to the tune of $750 million.  And has that money trickled down to districts throughout Nevada?  Hard to say, and in the case of my district, who is facing a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, teacher pay has been frozen (again), positions are being cut, and schools' individual budgets that could buy supplies, provide professional development, and fund programs to help underachieving students are being slashed significantly.  And it is not just Nevada; education budgets are being cut everywhere at the federal, state, and district levels, with a few exceptions.

Closemindedness is another thing that scares me.  All around me, there are educators that are doing some amazing things.  Teachers are trying new things without fear of failure, going out of their way during weekends, after school, summer vacations to attend trainings and conferences to expand their toolbox, and overall, going to work every day with a positive attitude.  However, it only takes one person to ruin a lot of positive.  Too often, I see or hear about educators that refuse to grow, insist that "it won't work in my classroom" or "we have always done it this way, why should we change?", are comfortable with teaching how they were taught years ago, or the worst, "my students can't do this".  When educators are closeminded, it can wear on others around that are trying their best to improve. 

The next thing that scares me is a closemindedness version 2.0 of sorts.  It relates to the political and social fabric that the United States and many parts of the world have embraced in recent months and years.  As a former history teacher, I struggled mightily each year to present the history of slavery, racism, segregation, apartheid, persecution, etc. to my students.  It is a very uncomfortable subject to address, but a necessary one.  Over the course of hundreds of years, numerous atrocities were committed in the name of superiority and empire building.  What I am seeing, and what I am sure many are seeing, is a return to "comfortable racism" and a lack of empathy and compassion.  Prior to a few months ago, our world was far from perfect, with plenty of problems regarding race and equality that still needed to be addressed.  However, our nation has been set back decades as a result of numerous events, including the white supremacist rallies, allegations of sexual abuse by people of influence and power, and so much more.  What scares me most is how this is going to affect our students.  We as educators need to be even more diligent in embracing and promoting diversity and equality; let's flood our schools with positivity! 

I have so much to be happy and hopeful about in our schools.  If we all continue to fight the good fight and do it with a smile on our faces, we as educators will be the difference makers.  We will overcome the negativity, the hatred, and the violence in our world.  We will be the positive influence in our students' lives. 

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Keep" Your Sanity With #GoogleKeep

In the coming days, I have a couple of things to square away regarding some presentations.  First, I have to submit a presentation to Pear Deck to fulfill my requirements for the Pear Deck Certified Coach cohort, one that exhibits solid "peardagogy" (their pun, not mine, I wish I could take credit!) and displays my knowledge and skill in using the different types of formative assessment and presentation slide types in Pear Deck.  I also am in the midst of working with my CUE-NV team to put together a one-day symposium that highlights various Google and digital tools that can be used to enhance instruction and student learning.  I decided, "Why not knock out both with one fell swoop?"  

A tool that I cannot get enough of is Google Keep.  In the absolute, most basic laymen's terms, Google Keep is a digital version of a pack of Post-It notes.  However, there is so much more that you can do with Keep beyond jotting down a quick note, reminder, or checklist.  And recently, Google added the ability to seamlessly add notes from Keep into Google Docs and Slides, and images you create in Google Drawings can be saved as notes as well! 

If you have never opened Keep, this infographic will give you an idea of what you are looking at.  Feel free to share! 
On the desktop version of Keep, you have multiple options in which to create and customize notes.  You can create basic notes, checklists, and color coordinate them.  However, you can go further by adding images, drawings, collaborators, and reminders to notes.  You can even go as far as adding a location for a note so it will automatically pop up on your device when you arrive in said location.  For example, you can create a list of items to get at Costco.  If you put in the address for Costco, you won't even have to open the app because it will recognize when you arrive and pull up your list for you (this is one of those "creepy cool" things that are becoming so common in our society).  

When creating a note, this will help to guide you in the different options available on the desktop version.  Feel free to share!
If you are a Chrome user, you are most likely aware of the extensions that you can add to the browser to make some task way easier.  At last count, I have about 30 extensions that I use on a relatively regular basis.  Google Keep has a Chrome extension that allows you to create a note of a website link.  Perhaps you are browsing articles to prep for the lunchtime debate on sports or politics, or throwing together an amazing hyperdoc, but you simply do not have the time at the moment to go through everything.  Simply click on the Keep extension and it will create a note that saves the hyperlink; add your own title and notes to the link to customize it further.  The next time you open Keep, your link and notes will be there for you to pick up where you left off.  If you haven't added the Google Keep extension, make sure you are logged into Chrome and click here to add it.  

Google Keep also has apps for iOS and Android systems.  The apps allow for users to do things that cannot be done on the desktop version.  In both apps, Google Keep allows for you to create notes using voice memos.  You can record your voice (I have heard of people using this to record where they parked in a parking garage) and the app will save your recording AND create a text note of what you said.  You can also use the app to take a picture, then grab the text from the picture in order to edit it.  Think about those papers that you have but do not have a digital copy of it and scanning it isn't an option because you cannot edit a .PDF with ease.  You can also grab text from images that you add to a note in the desktop app, but taking a photo with a laptop can be cumbersome.  

Once you have all of your notes, you may want to add them to presentations or documents.  Google Keep makes it simple with the Keep notepad function in Slides and Docs.  Under the Tools menu at the top of Slides or Docs, find the Keep notepad function and click on it.  A menu will open to the right of the presentation or document, showing the notes that were created in Google Keep.  Adding the notes into the presentation or document is a simple as clicking and dragging the note over into your file, or you can use the "three-dots" menu to add the note to your file.  From there, edit your note, move it around to the desired location, etc. however you see fit.  No more having to open Keep and copy/paste your notes, save yourself time by using this quick and easy tool.  Created images in Google Drawings?  Create a note from the Tools menu in Drawings to save your creation as a note.  You can also, just like in Slides and Docs, add notes to a drawing by using the Keep notepad in Drawings.  The ultimate time saver:  create a drawing, add note using the Keep notepad option in Drawings, save the drawing as a new note, then paste it into Slides or Docs!  

If you haven't used Keep before, I highly suggest giving it a try.  It will revolutionize how you lesson plan, create presentations, and even how you grocery shop!  And again, feel free to share my infographics, the more that can harness the power of Google Keep, the more time we will all have on our hands!  

Until next time... 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Getting My Mojo Back with #SGVCUE

Last week, I talked extensively about how in recent months I was starting to have doubts about whether or not to continue in education.  However, my motivation had been sparked recently by getting back to my roots, exchanging ideas and learning with like-minded educators.  That motivation was further along this past weekend during the SGVCUE Innovation Celebration at Bassett High School in La Puente, CA.  I was graciously invited to attend by Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott, two members of SGVCUE and educators from Bassett Union School District.  I was one of over 700 educators that took time out of their weekend to learn about new technology that can change the classroom, network, and make new friends.  When asked what I thought of the conference, my response was, "It was definitely worth the four-hour drive from Las Vegas!"  

You know it's probably time to go when people
dressed up as a fox show up to the pub!  
The weekend started with the four-hour drive to the Greater Los Angeles area.  I stopped to get gas in Primm, NV, which lies on the border of Nevada and California and learned never to do that again, as Primm is one of the few stops for gas between Las Vegas and Barstow, the price was nearly $4.00 a gallon (had I got gas in Las Vegas, it would have been about $2.50 a gallon), so my advice to you, make sure you have gas so you don't have to stop in Primm (or Baker, about 50 miles later, they gouge you on gas prices there as well).  Because I was going toward LA, and not toward Las Vegas, traffic was very good.  I cannot say the same for the northbound lanes of I-15, as the typical excursions to Las Vegas of thousands of Southern Californians were well underway as I passed through Barstow, Victorville, and then eventually the Inland Empire.  I checked into my hotel and met up with Michael Jephcott, Jose Balvanera, and April Buege for dinner and conversation, learning how incredible a pizza with sauce, cheese, pastrami, pickles, and mustard can be (Innovation Brew Works in Pomona if you are intrigued!).

Ann does bear a striking resemblance to Melissa McCarthy...
Saturday morning started with a phenomenal keynote speech from Ann Kozma, a brilliant educator from Fullerton, CA.  The theme of her keynote was "diamond time."  Diamond time was explained as something that is where one is at their best, whether it is professional, socially, mentally, etc.  Ann explained her diamond time as some of the sights that she saw on an Alaska cruise, but also interacting and learning with people all over the country, either in person or through social media.  She also explained that in the wake of so many terrible things that have happened lately, from the Mexican earthquake, the shooting in Las Vegas, and the California wildfires, it even more important to find that diamond time and find that positive light in one's life.  Ann created a Flipgrid that solicited people's responses to what their "diamond time" is, you can submit your own response by going to and using the code "diamondtime".

While working with WeVideo during the session, I came across this deal that
extends a pretty sweet deal until Halloween.  
For my first session, I chose to go to a presentation on WeVideo.  I had heard of WeVideo before and had even toyed around with it some, but I really wanted to take a deep dive into the program.  If you haven't heard of it, WeVideo is a web-based video editing and creation program that has a lot of the same functions as Apple's iMovie.  What is great about WeVideo is that it is not exclusive to Apple like iMovie is; you can use WeVideo on just about any device that can connect to the Internet, including Chromebooks and Apple devices!  The kicker, however, is that it is a premium service.  There is a free version, but you are limited in what you can do using the free version (only 5 minutes of video per month, a large WeVideo watermark on videos, and limited editing abilities).  Premium versions include the Power account, which extends to 30 minutes a month, no watermark, and premium editing functions.  The Unlimited plan gives you unlimited video and even more premium features.  The presenter gave each attendee a "dummy" account with some preloaded items to toy around with.  What I learned is not only was I able to use my Chromebook and my iPad with WeVideo, I found it easier to use than iMovie, especially when it came to uploading video clips, audio tracks, images, etc.

I decided that for the next session, I finally had to figure out the hype behind Flipgrid.  I had used it before in responding to others' grids, but I hadn't created an account and really looked at the features extensively.  I must say, I completely understand why everybody is so excited about it and has caught the #FlipgridFever.  Lucretia Anton was the presenter, somebody that I have followed on Twitter for a while, and she recognized me as I walked in the door, which totally took me by surprise (this is one of those "diamond time" moments, by the way, when you meet some of your Twitter friends IRL, or in real life).  Lucretia showed several ways that it can be used in the classroom, how to customize a grid and topic, and even shared a promo code that let you try out the premium version for free for 45 days.  If you are interested, go to and create your account, or if you already have an account, go into your account settings and use LUCRETIA as a promo code to redeem.  The session inspired me to create my first Flipgrid topic, so I created one asking the attendees of #SGVCUE what they learned over the weekend and what they could take back to their classroom.  If you would like to view responses or create a response of your own, please check it out below.

After a lunch of visiting with David Platt and checking out Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott's "dog pound at the BIC" (listen to their podcast, TOSAs Talking Tech, you'll get the reference then...), I decided to go to a session on Coding Across the Curriculum.  Unfortunately, the session was not what I expected.  The presenter had a wealth of information on coding, why it is important for students to code, and showed attendees how to dabble into coding with Scratch, I did not get anything on how to incorporate coding into my curriculum.  As a former social studies teacher and one hoping to get back into social studies in the near future, I have never been able to jump onto the coding bandwagon because I don't know how I can apply it.  While the Scratch program had some different things that you could do in the program to create games, mazes, and other neat things, I still am struggling to figure out how I can apply coding to, for example, United States History.  If you are a social studies teacher that is using coding in your classroom, please, by all means, share your awesomeness with me, I am completely stuck at this point!  

Heidi, Anita and I are a long day of learning, and if you look closely,
Jon Corippo was there in spirit!
The weekend was a resounding success, I learned a lot of things that I can apply to my teaching practice, and as a board member for CUE-NV, Heidi Carr, Anita Thompson and I were able to glean some ideas from SGVCUE's event that we can apply to our events.  I had a great time debriefing afterward with many of SGVCUE's board members, then headed over to Santa Clarita to meet a friend from high school that I hadn't seen in five years.  What originally had been planned to be dinner and a drive home turned into dinner and crashing on his couch to head home on Sunday.  I look forward to seeing events by other affiliates in the near future and continue to motivate myself through learning.  

Until next time... 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Refreshed & Rejuvenated

I have a confession to make.  With the tornado that has become my career in the past year and a half or so, my desire to continue in education has been tested.  When I first decided to leave the classroom to become a technology coach, my desire was strong, but with the ups and downs of having that job cut out from under me on the last day of school, to finding a tech coaching position at one school, rather than several, to making the leap into administration, to deciding that now was not the time for administration, to now in my position as a PE teacher, my mind has been churning.  On top of all of that, there are some other family developments that may potentially dictate where I will be living in 6-9 months time.  However, what I can say with the utmost confidence is that over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been able to determine that I am in a good place for many reasons.  

My first thought was, "What would I do outside of education?"  Education is all I have known, outside of cooking in various restaurants in high school and college.  I knew as a sophomore in high school that teaching is what I wanted to do.  I walked into college declaring biology as my major and chemistry as my minor.  Granted, that changed a few months later when I decided that I wanted to do social studies and PE/health.  Either way, I was set to go into education from the time that I was 16 years old.  Where can you find work with a teaching degree and years of experience, but no longer want to do it?  In my short time researching, I wasn't able to find much.  

My next thought was, "So, I am able to find a job.  What if we have to pack up and move in a few months?"  It would be hard enough to start over knowing that you'll be living in the same area.  Multiply that with a potential cross-state, or even cross-country move.  The stress of having to pay bills, provide a roof over my family's heads and food on the table, etc. is something that definitely crossed my mind.  

Then comes the mental part, the question of, "Why can't you just suck it up and be happy with what you have and realize that some people don't have it as good as you do,  you selfish jerk?"  My answer to that is twofold.  First, the question answers itself, maybe I do need to appreciate what I have, a good job, a good salary, a good schedule, benefits, the list goes on and on and on.  However, I am also a firm believer that nobody should do anything that they do not like and do not want to continue.  I think about a lot of people, especially in earlier generations, that worked a job that they hated for 30 years just to provide for their family, rather than trying to find something that they enjoyed and could provide for their family.  

However, my faith in what I am doing has been renewed in the past couple of weeks.  All it took was to get back to my roots and my passion, plus a bit of tragedy mixed in.  The CUE-NV Silver State Technology Conference surrounded me with over 125 like-minded educators, passionate about learning what they could about educational technology and pedagogy.  While my current position severely limits what I can do with edtech (PE in a behavior school that does not allow for students to use devices), I want to keep up on all of the latest and greatest, especially since I am pretty sure that I will not be in this position for the next 25 years.

Quick disclaimer:  this does not mean that I do not like PE, teaching at a behavior school, etc.  It simply means that I taught social studies for 11 and a half years and sprinkled in almost a year of tech coaching.  I miss social studies, I miss sharing my knowledge of social studies with students, and I miss being able to use technology in exciting and engaging ways and sharing my love for technology with my peers.  Teaching PE at a behavior school is an interesting challenge every day and for the time being, it is something that I am enjoying; I miss my previous career path too much to want to continue down this road for a few decades.

This coming weekend, I will be going to the San Gabriel Valley CUE Innovation Celebration to learn with nearly 700 educators.  So many people that I now call friends will be attending, presenting, and even keynoting this event and I am very excited to see them socially and professionally.

The tragedy in Las Vegas, my home for the past 12+ years, hit me hard as well.  It put into perspective a lot of things, namely how brave so many people were on that night, the outpouring of support that so many were willing to offer in the days following, and how there is still a lot of good in this world in the face of so much that is evil, including, but not limited to gun violence, racism, homophobia, terrorism, and more.  It also put into perspective how many lives that I have had an impact on over the course of my career.  Even if only one former student comes to me and tells me what a positive impact that I have had on them, that is enough to continue to impact more lives.

Image result for jump start car in the cold
Too many memories of this... photo courtesy of
Growing up in Michigan and its cold winters, the occasional jump start was needed on the car to fire it up in the morning.  However, once the car got a jump, it would run fine, without issues, until maybe another frigid morning where you needed another jump.  Eventually, you would need a new battery, but you never had to pay thousands to get a new car because the cold destroyed your battery.  My career at this point was simply in need of a jump.  I look forward to the remainder of the school year and, wherever the road may take me in a few months, I look forward to the next step.

Until next time... 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Weekend with #CUENV17

This weekend, CUE-NV hosted the Silver State Technolgy Conference at Western High School in Las Vegas.  Nearly 150 people took time out of their weekend on Friday night and Saturday to attend dozens of sessions, keynote presentations, a student panel, and attendees to meet educators from all over the country (and Canada, right Jennifer?).  As a board member of CUE-NV, my team and I spent months planning the event and could not be happier with the outcome.  

Friday night kicked off with three featured speakers, Dr. Jesse Welsh, Mr. Pat Skorkowsky, and Mr. Jon Corippo.  Dr. Welsh and Mr. Skorkowsky addressed the importance of incorporating technology and professional learning into the craft of teaching, citing how the world will leave students if teachers do not prepare them.  Mr. Corippo spent his time demonstrating how teachers could be more innovative and engaging with students, showing attendees tools like Socrative and Quizizz and how they could be used on a daily basis to promote student learning.  

Jon Corippo congratulating the student panel on a job well done!
Mr. Corippo followed up his rousing session with a student panel.  Six students took to the stage to share their thoughts on education, such as what their teachers are doing well and what they could do to improve their practice.  The students were as young as 4th grade, up to senior in high school, but the theme for each of them as similar:  too many teachers do not engage students as effectively as they could, and technology could go a long way to engage students better.  After each student was given the opportunity to speak, the panel was asked questions by the audience.  The students did an amazing job speaking to over 100 adults and answering questions that they were not prepared for prior to taking the stage.  I look forward to this session at future CUE-NV events! 

After the student panel was completed, attendees had the choice of various sessions to attend or vendors to visit.  Some of the sessions, such as Dr. Welsh's technology tools, were an hour, while most of the sessions were quick-fire 25-minute sessions offered twice for the final hour of the Friday night schedule.  Because my district is fully integrating G Suite for Education in 2018, I presented a session titled "What Do I Do With This Google Account?" that outlined how to log into the district account, introduced Google Drive, and highlighted the various tools offered by Google with the account, such as Docs, Slides, Gmail, Calendar, and Keep.  I had never presented a session so short, and even though I had practiced ahead of time, 25 minutes goes by very quickly!  However, I was able to complete the session and feel that it went very well.  

The conference wrapped up on Friday evening at 9, so it was going to be a quick turnaround to Saturday morning, as the doors were to open for attendees at 7:15 AM.  Ben Cogswell, Saturday's afternoon keynote speaker, stayed with me, so we decided to meet up with two other friends from the edtech world, Michael Jephcott and Tom Covington, for a beer and catching up.  Over the course of an hour or so, the four of us watched football, at pizza, talked about education, and "shot the bull" over a beer at Tenaya Creek Brewery.  Over that hour or so, we solved the world's problems and planned how to execute the plans while looking forward to what the conference would bring on Saturday.  After leaving, Ben and I retired to my house where we reviewed his keynote presentation and finally got to sleep around 1:30 AM.  

Ari Flewelling explaining her thoughts on #TechEsteem
Saturday morning kicked off on a tremendous note with an inspiring keynote speech from Ari Flewelling.  The theme of Ari's keynote was the concept of #TechEsteem.  What is #TechEsteem you ask?  This is the idea that in today's world, technology is all around us and it is not going to go away, so we need to catch up to the times.  However, that can be very tough, especially if you are a tech newbie.  At the same time, if you are a math teacher, would you allow a student to tell you that they just aren't good at math or that they are a math newbie?  #TechEsteem is about taking the initiative to learn something new, incorporate it into our teaching, and have the confidence to work with it.  What if the technology fails us?  Do we get frustrated and give up?  No, because we would not expect our students to give up if they are struggling or "failing" at something.  #TechEsteem is also, in my opinion, about having a sense of humor and a sense of adventure to try things, no matter what may happen.  You wouldn't have known it because she did such a phenomenal job, but the keynote was Ari's first ever keynote, and she absolutely killed it!

After Ari's keynote, attendees were treated to dozens of sessions of varying educational technology, from hyperdocs to Google tools, social media to blogging, makerspaces to coding, and digital citizenship to podcasting.  Many presenters, such as Joanne Schmutz, Heather Nail, and Keith Thomsen, hail from Las Vegas, but many others like Amanda Haughs, Tom Covington, Michael Jephcott, Randall Sampson, and Jennifer Casa-Todd hailed from California, Ohio, and even Ontario, Canada!  Each session ended with a 15-minute break to network and move on to the next session, and the looks on the faces of attendees were of pure amazement, as you could see in their faces how they would begin to implement what they learned.

Ben even dressed for an after party!
To close out the day, Ben Cogswell held his keynote... er... AFTER PARTY!  Ben was very adamant in communicating that it wasn't going to be a keynote but an after party to a weekend full of fun and learning.  The theme of the after party was thanking teachers and recognizing what teachers are going to be recognized for long after their students have moved on.  What was also interesting about the after party was that in closing out a technology conference, Ben had attendees color a bookmark that he created with a crayon!  The focus behind that was how a stained glass window is made of tons of small parts (in this case, the teachers that made a difference) and Ben had attendees color part of their bookmark a different color to represent a masterpiece.  It was a very fitting end to two days of learning prior to the raffles, in which numerous people walked away with great prizes, like admission to future CUE-NV events, signed copies of various books, and Chromebooks.

When I started my reflection piece on Sunday, my mind was buzzing from the weekend and I was trying very hard to be quick and concise so the post didn't get too long.  About halfway through writing, I decided to think a little more about everything and pick up where I left off on Monday afternoon.  However, everything changed when I woke up on Monday at 5:30 AM.  I woke up to a text message from my brother/best friend/roommate from college Brandon, asking if I was okay and that he needed to hear from me ASAP.  Confused and still half asleep, I groggily text back, "I'm fine."  I realized what he meant when I ambled out to the living room to turn on the TV news while I got the coffee going.  After I had gone to bed on Sunday night, a crazed gunman changed my city of Las Vegas forever when he rained terror down from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay on over 22,000 country music fans at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.  As of this writing, 530 people were injured, with 59 people killed in this cowardly, senseless, heinous, gut-wrenching, disgusting, and horrific act of violence.

If you are able, blood is in short supply,
please  consider a trip to your local blood
bank to help the victims of the Las Vegas
Upon learning of the events the prior evening, I immediately was sick to my stomach.  My second thought was that there was no way that I was going to work, not until I knew that people that I know and love were safe.  On top of that, I knew that help was going to be needed in numerous ways, including blood donations.  I woke up my wife and told her what happened, and we sat glued to the TV for two hours.  When our five-year-old daughter woke up, we explained to her what happened, because as a kindergartener, she was going to hear about it; best she heard it from her parents.  My wife got ready for work, intending to join me later to help, but things are her school were chaotic, so she couldn't leave once she arrived.  I got to a blood donation center around 10:30; so many people came out to donate that I did not get through the line until after 6:30, eight hours later.  It was the least that I could do to help, I only wish I could give more of my blood.

While so many lessons were learned this weekend with the #CUENV17 Silver State Technology Conference, so much of it pales in comparison to the lesson that I already knew, but was reiterated with the events on the Las Vegas Strip: don't ever take any moment for granted, hug your kids and spouse, tell people you love them, and in general, be a great person that is willing to help.  If we can all live our lives this way, the world will overcome hatred, bigotry, and violence.

Until next time...

The CUE-NV Board and friends look forward to seeing you at future events!