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 flipgrid.com 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 flipgrid.com 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!