Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My First Podcast

If you are like me, your daily listening on your drive, during a workout, or relaxing after a long day includes music and/or podcasts.  A few months ago, I wrote a post about some of my favorite podcasts.  While I still listen to those podcasts, I have added many other fine podcasts to my listening rotation (I may be due for another post on my favorites, that will come at a later time!).  In the past few months, I have also started looking into podcasting myself, learning from some of the greats in the podcasting world, fine educators like Tom Covington, Michael Jephcott, Brian Briggs, and Ryan O'Donnell, all of whom host some great podcasts (TOSAs Talking Tech with Tom & Mike, Check This Out with Brian & Ryan, and Ryan's new venture, Talking Social Studies).  While I have not yet got off the ground with my own podcast, I was approached by two teachers at my school about producing a podcast for them.  Without further ado, I present to you... the Ridge Life Podcast!

The idea behind the Ridge Life Podcast is to provide a fun outlet for things that are happening around my school.  In this inaugural episode, the hosts, Jamie and Jimmy, placed boxes in random locations around campus for students to place questions they had for them.  They randomly drew questions and answered them in one segment.  Another segment featured the advisor for the school's Varsity Quiz team that recently won the county championship.  Lastly, Jamie, Jimmy, and I participated in a hot sauce challenge (tune in to find out the winner!).  I also provided the introduction and outro for the episode.  As a participant, I was much more involved in this episode than I had planned and intend to in the future, but for now, I am very proud of the work that these teachers put into the planning and execution of this first episode.  We are going to start recording the next episode later this week.  

Advertisement of the first episode of the Ridge Life Podcast

The planning for a podcast of my own is in the infant stages.  I have spoken with a friend of mine in Las Vegas, as well as two friends in Reno, on collaborating on a monthly podcast on education in Nevada.  I have a nice podcasting microphone, I'm getting good with using Soundtrap, now the four of us need to figure out what the scope of the podcast will be and figure out times to record. Because Ridge Life is the first podcast that I have ever produced and the first podcast that either of the hosts has ever recorded, any feedback that you may have is greatly appreciated.  Please feel free to comment on the video link, tweet me (@AndersonEdTech) or the Ridge Life Podcast (@RidgeLifePdcast), using the hashtag #RidgeLifePodcast, send me an email, or send a message via carrier pigeon.  You can also contact me through my website, www.andersonedtech.net.  Thank you, and until next time... keep living... the Ridge Life!

Please visit my website, you can find contact
  information on the "Contact" page. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Are You Connected?

I wasn't always a connected teacher.  Early in my career, I did not have access to technology in my classroom like I have had in the past few years.  If you really want to dive into, while 2005 doesn't sound that long ago, the world of educational technology has come a long way since then.  We are talking about days before smartphones, iPads and other tablets, Chromebooks, and a lot of the great apps and programs that we all like to use today.  In fact, I remember having an overhead projector in my classroom with binders of transparencies that were provided by textbook (textbooks! See below for my explanation) companies, given to me by other teachers, or ones that I had made.  Whiteboard markers and cleaner were a hot commodity.  If I could get all of my classes together from the first couple years of my teaching career, I would apologize to them for how terrible of a teacher that I probably was at the time (I have come across some of those kids in recent years, they are pushing 30 now, and some of them have thanked me for being a good teacher, so at least I made a difference in a few lives).  Since then, as my skills and technology have advanced, I like to think that I am a much better teacher.  

Disclaimer: I am not 100% anti-textbook.  I believe that they can still serve a SMALL purpose.  If you are doing your job as an educator, you should be able to build lessons centered around things that are not from a textbook.  Reading is an important task, and using a textbook for small readings is fine, but working with a book with the goal of covering the entire thing is unrealistic and out of date.  My AP US History students were expected to read from their text, in addition to other items, but my other classes were assigned a book as a supplement.  If I was to start my own school, I would save hundreds of thousands of dollars by not purchasing books and instead use that money to purchase devices and train my staff on those devices and how to build lessons that are innovative from sources other than a textbook.  

My first dive into really becoming technologically savvy came in about 2010.  I had just moved to a new school where more technology was available to teachers and students were expected to graduate with technology, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.  Coupled with the technology was an emphasis on project-based learning.  I had to adjust to those expectations as a teacher to be better for my students.  To help in integrating more, with parental permission, I had students set up Gmail accounts that I could use to push out assignments and activities, send general announcements, and have students collaborate digitally.  Just as I was getting used to the system, my school was selected as a pilot to roll out Google Apps for Education, which gave each student an account.  The rollout was cumbersome at first, but eventually, I became the tech savvy person that I am today, simply by toying around with the Google tools and other things that I discovered along the way.  I love telling people that I am self-taught when they ask me where I got my technology degree from; I got it from the University of Me.  

However, one thing that I could not settle on was the best way to demonstrate my skills through the Internet and communicate with my student digitally.  My first foray into a website was a Weebly site that I had a for a few weeks several years ago.  I did not love it and felt that the time I was putting into it was not worth it.  Then I used a website that was provided by my school district where I could put some basic information and push out assignments, but it too was not something of which I was a big fan.  My next venture was using Google Calendar.  I created a Calendar for each of my classes and shared it with my students.  I was able to post assignments, announcements, and other items to it, but it still required students to email or print any work.  It worked, it was better than my previous sites, but it still wasn't quite what I wanted.  So going into the fall of 2014, I was in limbo again.  

I went to a training on the Canvas LMS.  This was more like what I was looking for!  However, in my time toying with it, I found it to be something that would be very complicated for my students and I would spend more time training them on the program than I would be teaching my curriculum.  But a couple of weeks before school was to start, my dilemma was solved when Google introduced Google Classroom.  Looking back at it now, it was very "feature deficient" at the time, but it did everything that I wanted it to do.  From that moment on, I was about 95% paperless until last year, when I was able to go fully paperless.  I had also built a Google site, but I didn't put a great deal of work into it because Classroom provided everything my site would have.  I recently created a tutorial on starting with Google Classroom and some of the basic and intermediate functions of the program.  You can see the video above.  

The badge/logo that I created for my "brand" and website.
Now that I am out of the classroom, I felt that it was time to build a site again, a place where I could share that things that I am passionate about, the presentations that I have delivered, and of course, this blog.  After some comparison shopping between Wix, Weebly, and the new Google Sites, I settled on building a site through Weebly.  I even went out and bought a domain from Go Daddy and produced a graphic to promote my "brand".  After a couple of days work (really, only a few hours over that time, Weebly is very user-friendly), I had a functional site that looked good.  However, as happy as I was, I still felt that something was missing, even though I couldn't figure out what it could be.  My answer came after listening to an episode of the Google Teacher Tribe podcast.  So much of what I have to share is in my Google Drive, is Google related, and my blog is through Google's Blogger platform.  Why not build a site through the new Google Sites?  Sure, there are a few things that Weebly could do that Sites wouldn't, but Sites would allow me to embed my Drive files, the site itself would be saved in my Drive, and I could still use my domain.  Rebuilding my site would not be too tedious; I had started to build a sample site when the new Sites came out.  Essentially, I was able to transfer the info from my Weebly site over to the Google site.  The finished product can be seen at www.andersonedtech.net.  

The new website provides many different things.  Obviously, this blog is featured and you'll be able to access my posts from the site.  I also have included some screencasts and videos that I have made, including the Google Classroom video I embedded earlier in this post.  I have linked some presentations that I have given at workshops and conferences; feel free to bookmark them and use them with your colleagues.  There is also a little bit about my background story and a contact page.  While I am not expecting to become the next educelebrity, I hope that what I share here and on my site will help somebody in some way.  Please take a moment to have a look at my site; your feedback on how I can make it better is 100% welcome! 

In closing, I am still waiting on word on the administrative positions that I interviewed for in the past few weeks.  I am very excited to think about what the future has in store for me, but if it doesn't happen right now, I really enjoy that position that I have now.  So for now, it's the "hurry up and wait" game.  Until next time... 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Buffering: A Recap of the Weekend Google Summit

Over this past weekend of January 28-29, I attended the EdTechTeam's Las Vegas Google Summit. This was the third consecutive year that I have attended the summit, and overall, the sixth EdTechTeam event.  Every time I attend one of these events, I am amazed at the number of people that take time out of their weekend to learn and grow, the knowledge of the presenters sharing the great tools that they use in their classrooms, and at this point, seeing people that I consider friends, even though they live sometimes thousands of miles away and the only time we see one another is during one of these events.   Not only was I able to attend and learn about some fabulous edtech tools, but I was able to share my expertise in two separate presentations.  It has taken me a couple of days to decompress, but here are some of my favorite moments and new discoveries from this past weekend.  

Me when I realized that my presentation was in danger!
The summits always start with a rousing keynote, and this was no different. Donnie Piercey got everybody fired up and motivated by emphasizing how teachers should have fun with the students and classes.  My first session after the keynote was focused on hyperdocs.  The instructor provided some fine examples of hyperdocs, but unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the entire session.  Partway through, I realized that my new Chromebook has a micro-HDMI input, not the HDMI input that my old Chromebook had.  Since I was presenting not long after the session, I had to find an adapter for my VGA to HDMI dongle.  A quick run to Best Buy down the street from the school got me my adapter and crisis was averted.  I was able to save the presentation materials so I can go back to look at them and start playing around with hyperdocs more.  

I am very active with my blog, but I am always looking for more ideas on how to help teachers incorporate blogging into their classes with their students.  The presenter for the blogging session was Charity Helman, a wonderful teacher from Calgary, AB.  She showed some great examples of students' blogs from her classroom and shared ideas on how teachers could incorporate blogging further.  There was also time for teachers that did not have a blog to set one up to dive into with their classes on Monday.  Charity also shared her blog, one that she said she hopes to contribute to more often.  

If I only inspired one kid in my career, it's
moments like this that make it worth it!
My first presentation of the summit was on screenshot and screencasting programs.  My session was quite packed with lots of eager educators with plenty of questions and insights on how they use screenshots and screencasts.  However, my absolute favorite moment of the entire weekend came just before I was about to get my session started.  As I was greeting people and assisting them with logging into my presentation on Pear Deck, one woman that had sat down looked very familiar, so I asked her if we had met before.  Her response was along the lines of "Yes, I can definitely say we have".  It turns out that this woman, Tiffany Orton, was a student of mine 9 years ago and had me for US Government.  She is now married so the last name threw me off, but as soon as she told me who she was, I remembered her.  In my defense, I had her in the 2007-2008 school year, so it had been a long time since I had seen her.  I was excited to see a former student, now a teacher, coming to learn from me once again.  On top of that, she sent me a very nice direct message on Twitter, thanking me for the session and everything that I had done to inspire her many years before.  And speaking of Twitter, she needs more educational followers; take a moment to follow Tiffany and share your expertise with her!  

My second favorite part of the weekend came learning about Soundtrap.  The presenter, Meredith Allen, described the product as "the result of Garage Band and Google Docs having a child".  Garage Band is an amazing music and recording program, but it is limited to Apple products.  You don't have that issue with Soundtrap, as it is available across all platforms as a web-based program.  You can also download apps for Android and iOS.  Once you have created your account, you can share a song or a recording for editing purposes with others, much like you would a Google Doc, Slides, Sheets, or other.  I received an email in the days leading up to the summit that explained what Soundtrap was and that they would be at the summit as a vendor and presenter.  I created an account and toyed around with it a bit before Saturday, but I was definitely looking forward to the presentation.  I enjoyed the presentation and the potential for the program with students so much that I went to the same presentation again on Sunday to make sure that I didn't miss anything and to play around with it as well.  During the sessions, in the course of about 10 minutes, I was able to create a sample jingle for a podcast, which you check out here.  To top it off, I won a 6-month account for me and up to 50 students, which normally would cost $250/year!  I will be using the program to record and produce a podcast that a couple of teachers at my school are planning.  Stay tuned for the Ridge Life Podcast!

My presentation on Sunday morning was on a topic and in a format that I had never done before.  I organized my presentation as a roundtable discussion amongst teacher leaders and administrators on how to bring tech-newbies and tech-resisters into the fold at our schools and districts.  I created a document that allowed for attendees to add ideas of things that has worked for them and things that could potentially work.  It was a shame that the session was only an hour; we had to cut off in the middle of a great conversation.  There are a lot of great things going on in schools throughout my district and in the districts that were represented by attendees.  You can check out some of their ideas on the shared document from the session.

I've proved that I know the tools, my
video needs to better demonstrate it!
The last session that I attended was on the various Google certification program.  While the session was geared more for people that were interested in becoming Level 1 certified, I was interested in learning more about the Trainer, Innovator, and Administrator program, as I already have my Level 1 & 2 certifications.  I had applied for the Google Certified Trainer program, but learned last week that I had been rejected (which very closely relates to Charity's closing keynote speech on failure).  From information provided by Michelle Armstrong, I have a good idea of what I need to do to tweak my trainer video and be accepted.  I also have a good idea of something that I would like to do for the Google Certified Innovator program, but there is going to be a great deal of groundwork to do before I submit an application.  The session ended before information on the Google Certified Administrator program could be shared, but I have looked at some of the modules and have an idea of what is needed.  If you are interested in any of the Google certification programs, take a look at the Google for Education Training Center.

The closing for the event was a keynote from Charity Helman (her first, I believe!) on failure.  She highlighted how throughout her life, she has endured what most people would refer to as failures, only to rise to where she is today as a wife, a mother, an educator, Google Certified Educator Level 1 & 2, Google Certified Trainer, and a presenter for EdTechTeam Summits.  She emphasized that if you allow a failure to dictate, then you will indeed be a failure.  But if you can analyze the failure, learn from it, and make changes, you too can do amazing things.

It was so great to learn from great people, see good friends that I don't get to see often enough and make plans to see each other again.  I am going to apologize now if I miss a name, but some of those great people are Jeff Heil, Emily Fitzpatrick, Joanne Schmutz, Craig Statucki, Tina Statucki, Snehal Bhakta, Lucas Leavitt, Nick Park, Dennis Jarrell, Donnie, Michelle, Charity, Pear Deck, Soundtrap, and the EdTechTeam.  I look forward to the next time we meet!

Until next time...