Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Sharing is Caring!

If you have ever met me IRL (in real life), I am very well known as somebody that will talk to anybody about just about anything, cracks jokes, and I am genuinely interested in what others are doing in their classrooms, careers, and professional and personal lives.  Believe it or not, there was a time that I was not as extroverted as I am now.  I didn't want to get in front of groups to talk.  I wasn't as willing to put my ideas on the table; I was legitimately concerned with how people would judge me or my ideas/work.  But something switched in me sometime in the waning days of high school and into college.  

I became more open and willing to put myself out there.  Sure, I have fallen on my face plenty of times, and done more things that were plenty embarrassing, professionally, educationally, and personally.  I stopped worrying about how others would judge me or my work.  

I can attribute this to my brother, who would have been 34 on December 11.  My brother had a can-do spirit and a don't care attitude about lots of things.  One of his favorite things to say about how people judged him was "DILLIGAF", which stands for "does it look like I give a..." (you can fill in the blank).  After his death on January 14, 2010, I really embraced the idea of what others thought and how not to care about it, simply putting myself and my work out there.  

Now, don't get me wrong, there are lots of things that you should care about in regards to what others think.  If your wife tells you that she hates mustaches and you have one, maybe you should shave it.  If your supervisor wants to you do something a certain way, such as your lesson plans, you should care what they think and say and adjust to their standards.  But overall, you should take a risk to put your work out there for others to see, take constructive criticism, and dismiss the negative words.  

I am not an expert by any means on much of anything, but I feel that I have something of value to share.  That is why I write this blog.  I feel that my knowledge, my skills, and sometimes, my opinions, are something that is worth sharing and that somebody, even if it is only one person, can relate to and learn from.  This is why I started The BeerEDU Podcast with my friend, Ben Dickson.  This is why another podcast is on it's way (more on this in a future post, I have a feeling that you'll really dig the idea behind the new podcast and the person that I have the absolute honor or working with on it!).  This is why I am active on social media, mostly Twitter, but a little bit of Facebook, and participate in several Twitter chats (some of my favorites are #nvedchat, #teachnvchat, #ditchbook, #cuechat, #peardeckchat, and #tosachat, and recently jumped into #CreateEDU and a one time chat, #CoTeachSpecEdChat, which I hope becomes a regular chat, because it was AWESOME!).  This is why I travel around to conferences to present.  This is why I am thinking about starting a video blog on YouTube, even if it's more of just sharing what's going on in my life all around, not simply sharing ideas on new tools and ways to teach.

Bottom line, like a frequently used saying states, "The smartest person in the room is the room."  Share what you know.  Get it out on as many platforms as you can.  Does that mean you have to start a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, etc.?  By no means, but the more ways that you can share with our community of educators, the better we all are, because like another saying, "We are all #BetterTogether".

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I wrote a post about disconnecting and the benefits of doing so.  I plan to do the same, for the most part, over the winter holiday.  Granted, there are some things that I need to do, such as work on some assignments for my master's program, submit my Google Certified Trainer application (I was rejected a few months ago because I did not provide any feedback from sessions, I went out of my way to collect feedback over the last few months!), record and publish a year in review episode of The BeerEDU Podcast with my friend, Ben Dickson (subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!) and as I mentioned previously, there is a second podcast on the horizon and my partner and I will be planning, recording, and publishing.   But overall, I will be relatively silent on Twitter and Facebook, I will not be writing a new blog post, and will instead get out on my new bike as much as I can, teach my children how to ride bikes (Santa is bringing them bikes!), and catch up on some reading, all while spending time with family and friends. 

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday, and until next time...

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Meeting the Emotional & Academic Needs of Students Through Technology

A couple of weeks ago, my co-teacher and I were in the midst of teaching a unit in world history on the Industrial Revolution.  Part of the standards for the unit required that we address the rise of capitalism and socialism as a result of the Industrial Revolution.  While I have taught social studies for most of my career, I had never taught world history until this year.  I probably spend more time than the average world history teacher on content while prepping lessons or helping my co-teacher prep lessons because of my lack of experience in world history.  Full disclosure, I have only taken one world history course in my life, a Western Civilization course as a freshman in college.  My focus in social studies was more on American history, economics, and government.  But while I have been learning a ton in my research to prepare better world history lessons, something else occurred to me after my lesson on capitalism and socialism.  

After teaching the lesson on capitalism and socialism to one of my classes through Pear Deck, one of my students approached me with a very concerned look on their face.  I have gotten to know this student very well over the course of the last few months, not just because this student is in my class, but because this student is also on my special education caseload and I have already written their IEP for this school year.  The student asked if they could talk to me in the hallway, which now had me concerned.  

Once in the hallway, the student asked what they could do regarding the lesson we had just finished because they did not get it at all.  I offered to sit with the student and review the materials that would be sent to them via Pear Deck's Takeaway function and help with the video enrichment lesson that the rest of the class had started in Edpuzzle.  While appreciative, the student was more concerned with how fast the lesson had gone and that they could not keep up, so they asked if I could slow down the lesson the next time we did something similar.  

It dawned on me perhaps I had gone too fast.  While no other student had shared that concern with me, it didn't mean that others in the class had also missed some or most of the lesson because they could not keep up.  Over the course of about 3 seconds, after the student had asked me to slow down my lesson, I came up with a potential solution.  It wouldn't be something that I could do immediately, but it was something that would not only catch that student up but in the future, the option would be there again for clear any confusion and review material.  

My thought was, "Could I take the Pear Deck presentation, pare out the interactive questions slides, open it in a standard Google Slides presentation format, and use Screencastify to record my screen and my voice going over the material of the lesson to share with that student and the rest of the class?"  (By the way, did you catch my hilarious pun back there?  HA!)  The answer to my question was similar to what it always is: you won't know unless you give it a shot!

I pulled my co-teaching partner aside and gave him the lowdown of the conversation that I had in the hallway and my idea.  As I have mentioned in the past, my partner is not very techie, so his response was somewhere along the lines of "You know how to do that?"  I asked him if I could step aside into a quiet room for a few minutes where I could record the screencast, do some quick editing, post it to YouTube or download a compatible file, and share it out to the students.  He said he would cover our class and to get it done because he was excited to see what I would come up within such a short amount of time.  

I got settled in, cut the presentation down to the bare essentials and opened up the Screencastify extension to begin recording.  Then another thing dawned on me:  would the new closed captioning function in Google Slides show up in a screen recording?  Before I went any further, I conducted a test run recording my screen with the closed caption function turned on.  I spoke a few words and recorded it for a few seconds.  Upon opening the file, I was ecstatic that it did show up in the recording! Now, not only would I be able to record my presentation and share it with my students so they could watch, pause, rewind, etc. at any time, my handful of deaf and hard of hearing students could benefit from reading what I was saying as well!  

Disclaimer: the closed captioning function in Google Slides is by no means perfect.  However, I did not notice any glaring discrepancies in what I was saying and what was showing up on the screen.  I highly recommend a quiet place if you want to use the function and do not want any other voice to potentially show up in your recording.  If you want to read more about this function, please check out my post titled Google Slides Extensions & Add-Ons.  

Any technology tool that you use needs to have a connection to improving student learning and solid pedagogy, not just making your classroom paperless or giving you less to do (however, those are nice perks, they just shouldn't be the main reason why they are used).  But so many of the tools available at educators' disposal now also can address students' emotional well being.  In the case of the screencast I created, my student's anxiety was lessened because now they had the opportunity to review the material at their own pace. Programs like Flipgrid and speech to text allows for students that are self-conscious about their writing to still be able to share their thoughts.  Students that are petrified of presenting in front of a crowd can create a video to show the class or a multitude of other alternatives.  Students frustrated with their reading skills can use text to speech functions to follow along with reading while they listen to it.  Then there are the numerous accessibility features in devices that can do things like enlarge the print on the screen and highlight the mouse cursor.  While these tools are designed to assist students academically, the byproduct of their use is also less stress and anxiety about struggles and concerns that students may have.

I am always interested in how others address students emotional well being, through tech or without tech.  If you have a nugget to share, please share on Twitter with #AndersonEdTech!

Until next time... 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Power of Disconnecting

This may seem strange coming from a blog titled Anderson Edtech.  It may seem strange coming from a man that embraces, encourages, and does his best to implement technology into lessons and life.  However, I am a firm supporter of the power of disconnecting every now and then.  

Throughout our world, we see the impact of technology and connectedness, the good and the bad.  I have almost always focused on the power of good with technology, but I want to take a brief look at the negative impacts of technology.  

You've seen it, probably so much now that you may not even notice it.  You are at the grocery store, a restaurant, a place of worship, and to keep a child occupied, the parent gives them a tablet or their phone.  I have been guilty of this at times.  However, I hate being "that parent".  I find that with my own children, the more I let them use their devices, the more they become attached to them and the more of a struggle it is to take them away and it becomes a fight.  That is why I try to limit my kids' screen time as much as I can. 

For me personally, I am also guilty of too much screen time.  I find myself at times mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, occasionally scrolling through Facebook, and reading the news.  And what do I get from this?  About 5% actual learning opportunities or things that make me smile, and about 95% of scrolling through garbage or becoming angry reading the news. 

For these reasons, I believe that I need to disconnect more often.  My kids need a model of seeing their father not constantly on a device and for my own mental stability, I need to get away from my devices.  Disconnecting gives me more time with my kids, gets me away from the negativity on social media and the news, and I feel more energetic from not staring at a screen.  So what do I do, and what can you do, to disconnect more often? 

Set Your Phone to Airplane Mode:  Most of us always have our phones on our person, whether it is in a bag or purse or in our pockets.  And most of us constantly jump at the slightest sound or vibration coming from our phone to see what we are missing.  To get away from the distraction, I set my phone to airplane mode for most of my workday.  My phone is still on, so it is a quick switch from airplane mode if I need to use it for a quick call or text, rather than powering it down completely and having to wait to power it back up if I need to use it.  Not only do I find myself turning to my phone less, but it saves on my battery, only using about 5% over the course of several hours, versus up to 50% if I leave it on standard mode. 

Turn Off App Notifications:  For every app we download, there is usually some kind of notification that you can receive from the app, ranging from banners, notification dots/numbers, sounds, vibrations, etc.  While many of the apps you download ask to allow notifications, you most likely won't get anything from the app.  However, the biggest culprits of your attention because of notifications are your social media apps, news apps, and messages.  To get away from them, turn off some, or all, or the notifications.  I have turned off all notifications for Facebook and Voxer, all of my news apps, and I have turned off some of the notifications for Twitter.  Sometimes, I end up missing some things that are time sensitive because I don't think to check the app without a notification, such as a message from Ryan O'Donnell a while back in Voxer that asked if I was going to the Nevada football game; the message had a picture from the parking lot of Mackay Stadium as he was preparing for the game and I didn't get the message until about 12 hours later.  However, I find myself doing less mindless scrolling, reading, and listening, especially on Facebook, because I have turned off many of the notifications. 

Log Out of Your Social Media Accounts:  When is the last time you had to type in your login credentials for your Facebook or Twitter account?  I honestly can't remember, my phone saves it so whenever I open my app, it's open and available.  If you have to type in your credentials, would you if you knew you were doing it simply because you were bored?  Logging out of a social media account, or deleting the app temporarily, will cut down on the time you spend on the app.  Facebook as a deactivate function where you can turn off your account for up to a week.  Whenever I have done that, I have found that I haven't gone back to Facebook for nearly two weeks.  I like to deactivate every now and then, especially when something happening in the world makes Facebook extra toxic (think election season or the debate of guns shortly after yet another mass shooting, which is another issue that I won't address here).  While I have never done it, you can also deactivate a Twitter account, however, if you don't log back in within 30 days, your account will be deleted permanently (at least according to a quick search of Twitter's help page). 

Set Up Do Not Disturb Mode:  Most phones have a setting called Do Not Disturb.  Using this setting, you can set up hours in which no notifications, including phone calls and text messages, will come through.  I have mine set up from 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM.  However, maybe you are concerned that you will miss an important call or text.  You can do a couple of things.  If you are expecting a call or text, you can temporarily turn off the setting; on my Pixel 2, it's a quick swipe down from the top to the Do Not Disturb symbol and pressing it.  Once I want to turn it back on, I simply swipe down and press Do Not Disturb again.  You can also set up exemptions for specific numbers.  For me, I have a handful of contacts that are exempt from Do Not Disturb that I have identified in the settings.  You can also set an exemption where if the same number calls twice within 15 minutes, the call will come through. 

Set a Reminder to Wrap Up Your Work:  We are all guilty of it: working on something, saying we are going to wrap up by a certain time, but go way over the time.  While I don't do this routinely, I have set up alarms using my Google Home to alert me when I should be done with whatever I am doing.  I especially will use my Home when I am playing my mini Nintendo (if you don't have one, it's preloaded with 30 games, I hacked it and added 25 more, and I also have the Super Nintendo version).  I will get lost playing Super Mario Bros., Blades of Steel, Contra, or whatever it may be; next thing I know, I have wasted almost 2 hours!  When I know that I may be on the games for a while, I will simply say to my Google Home across the room, "Hey Google, set a timer for 30 minutes."  When that timer goes off, I finish the level where I am at, save my progress, and turn it off.  Don't have a Google Home?  Use Siri on your iOS device, use Alexa on your Amazon device, set an alarm on your phone, or a calendar reminder.  There are a variety of ways you can alert yourself, use whatever you feel most comfortable with. 

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, I am looking forward to disconnecting even further.  I will be traveling to my parents' place to enjoy the holiday with my parents, sister, brother-in-law to be, a cousin and her husband and kids, and of course, my wife and kids.  While I will be taking my laptop to work on a presentation for an upcoming conference, I fully intend to set timers to limit my work so I can enjoy my time.  I may even turn my phone off and stash it for a day or two because the people I would normally need to contact will be there in the flesh.  Either way, it is my intention to enjoy my family, lots of food, some beers (I'll be sure to share anything awesome on The BeerEDU Podcast), and getting away from my technology for a few days.  I hope that you do the same!

Until next time... Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Google Slides Extensions & Add-Ons

In the words of Kasey Bell and Matt Miller of The Google Teacher Podcast, Google Slides is the Swiss Army Knife of educational technology tools, a tool that goes way beyond simple presentations.  That being said, there is a bevy of extensions and add-ons that pair with Google Slides to make it work even better for you.  While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, here are a few of my favorites that I use on a regular basis when building presentations, visuals, and activities in Google Slides.  

A sample of what you get with the
Pear Deck for Slides add-on!
If you have ever met me or read previous posts in my blog history, it is not a secret that I am a big fan of Pear Deck.  However, for the uninitiated, Pear Deck is a program that turns ordinary presentations into interactive ones that incorporate live questions and other formative assessments, designed for 100% student engagement.  Pear Deck has teamed up with Google and released a couple of great add-ons and extensions in recent months that make Pear Deck even better!

Pear Deck for Google Slides:  This is an add-on that is accessible via the add-ons menu in Google Slides.  Rather than creating presentations on peardeck.com, Pear Deck is now fully functional with Google Slides.  The add-on includes numerous slide templates for the beginning of class, during class, end of class, and critical thinking.  Want to make your own interactive slides?  The Pear Deck add-on allows for that as well, giving you numerous options, such as multiple choice, text response, and if you have a premium account, Draggable and drawing slides!  And while I am certainly biased as a Pear Deck Certified Coach, I firmly believe that the premium account is 100% worth the results of 100% student engagement.  Download the Pear Deck for Google Slides add-on through Google Slides, and learn more about Pear Deck at www.peardeck.com.

Sometimes, you need a random, unrelated gif in your
presentation.  Thanks, Giphy for being awesome!
Pear Deck Power Up:  If you are like me when building presentations, you love to put in animated gifs to emphasize a concept or bring a little humor to the content.  In the past, if trying to put a gif in a Pear deck presentation, it either would not upload into the presentation or it would freeze and turn into a static image file.  With the Pear Deck Power Up extension for Google Chrome, now you can place your animated gifs into a Pear Deck presentation!  But wait, there's more!  Not only do your gifs work, but animations you have built into Google Slides and any videos that are embedded that you want to autoplay will also work exactly as they are intended to!  To use the extension, you simply add it to Chrome and whenever you present a Pear Deck presentation, the extension will automatically go to work for you!  Get this great extension here!

Screencastify for Google Slides:  If you are into screencasting, you are most likely familiar with Screencastify.  If not, Screencastify is a free extension that you can add to Chrome that allows you to record your screen with voiceovers.  For a yearly fee of about $25, you can get the premium version that allows you to record longer videos, make edits to your screencasts, and a host of other options.  One of the best things about Screencastify is that your videos automatically save to a folder in Google Drive when you are done.  If you aren't using Screencastify yet, go ahead and add it to Chrome here.  Once you have done that, you are ready for the add-on for Slides!

The add-on is the definition of convenience and time-saving!  Once you add it from the add-ons menu in Slides and open it, it brings all of the screencasts that you have created into a side menu.  From there, with a single click, you can add your videos to a Google Slide!  While this is possible without the add-on, it takes a few more clicks to get your videos to your slide.  And who amongst us doesn't want to save time? 

Closed Captioning for Google Slides:  This is a relatively new feature that I have only used in testing trials; I have not used this in class or in a presentation to teachers yet.  However, from what I have seen using the tool thus far is amazing: when you switch a Google Slides file into presentation mode, your options for advancing slides, notes, pointer, and now, closed captioning!  When you turn on closed captioning, Slides will display what you are saying during your presentation on the screen.  Now, this isn't perfect, it makes its fair share of mistake.  It also cannot distinguish between two people talking, and if you have students near your computer microphone that are speaking, it will pick them up as well.  However, for those that may be able to see you and your presentation but not necessarily hear you and for students that are deaf or hard of hearing, this is a great new feature to accommodate your students! 

Look for this icon!
Explore Button:  This isn't an extension or an add-on, but it is something that I rely on almost daily in Google Slides.  In the bottom right corner of Slides, there is a button that looks like a speech bubble with a star in it.  When you click on this button, it opens up all sorts of greatness!  It will show you what your slide will look like in a different slide layout for starters.  Then by using the search function, you can search for articles and websites on your search criteria, images, and even your Google Drive.  With the click of a button, you can add links of the websites, images, and open files in your Drive where you grab items to put in your Slides file. 

Look for this too!
Calendar, Keep, & Tasks:  Again, another feature that isn't an extension or add-on, but a useful tool nonetheless.  Along the right side of the screen when you open Slides will give you small icons that link to Google Calendar, Keep, and Tasks.  Calendar and Tasks, when you click on them, open up your Calendar and your Tasks.  This is useful if you have put reminders or events in your calendar that you may want to put into your presentation.  As for Tasks, it is very similar to Calendar.  There isn't a way to drag anything you have in Calendar or Tasks into Slides, but if you need to see items there, you don't have to open another tab to open Calendar and Tasks.  However, the Keep function is very useful.  In Google Keep, you can save notes, images, links, and so much more.  When clicking on the Keep link in Slides, it opens your Keep notepad up along the right side.  From there, you can drag items directly into Slides without copying and pasting.  This is especially useful for those moments when you are out and about and think of something great to put in a presentation but you are unable to at the moment.  You simply make a note, then drag it into Slides at a later time!

Photos to Slides:  When doing a little research for this post, I stumbled upon an add-on called Photos to Slides.  It had the Google Photos logo, so I clicked on it to see what it was.  When installing this add-on, it allows users to upload albums from Google Photos into Google Slides, where Slides automatically creates a slide for each photo in the album.  I did a test run with it, and in about 2 minutes, it created a presentation of about 50 slides, one photo per slide!  I can see a running photo gallery by using the publish to the web function in Google Slides, I can see a teacher uploading photos of historical sites, geometric shapes in nature, and so many more possibilities using this add-on!  My experience with it is very short, but I'm definitely going to try this add-on more!

Hopefully, you gained something new about Google Slides out of this post.  Feel free to share other add-ons, extensions, or creative ways that you use Google Slides in your life by a quick comment, a tweet, or an email!

Until next time... sorry, I couldn't resist another relatively unrelated gif (with a hard G)! 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

2018 #FallCUE: Now I Can Sleep!

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Fall CUE Conference in American Canyon, CA.  For those uninitiated, Fall CUE is a smaller version of CUE's Spring Conference hosted every year at the entrance to Napa Wine Country, with hundreds of great presentations, vendors, and hundreds of awesome educhampions (more on this in a bit!).  I had attended this conference previously in 2016 but missed last year's event.  I was very happy to return to the event this year, with much less time spent traveling now that I am only about 3 hours away from Napa.  It took me a week to fully recover and reflect, so here goes!

Get ready world, Joe and I are about to be unleashed!
Anymore, whenever I go to a training or conference, I'm looking more for the networking aspect of the event.  This doesn't mean that I don't go to sessions or put less emphasis on sessions, but I always learn so much from simple interactions with people that I have grown to know and befriend, as well as meeting new people and learning their take on things.  Fall CUE was no different right from the start.  After picking up my conference badge and checking into my Airbnb, I headed to a pre-conference meet-up with other CUE leaders.  It was great to see so many of the people that have inspired me over the years, such as Brian Briggs, Ben Cogswell, Matt Miller, Ryan O'Donnell, Kristina Mattis, Nicole Beardsley, Misty Kluesner, Ann Kozma, and so many more.  It was also a pleasure to meet some others that I have interacted with on social media but never had the chance to meet in real life, like Joe Clark, Jay Sorenson, Adnan Iftekhar, and Burt Lo.  And I am just going to go on the record now and warn the world:  Joe Marquez and I were scheming some things, look out in the next few months for an epic collaboration between the two of us!  And how did this scheming take place?  A digital relationship that turned into a face-to-face relationship about a year ago and now is going to grow an amazing collaboration!

This time around, I went to sessions that I either did not have a solid background or had no background.  Hyperdocs was one of those sessions.  Now, before you judge, it's not that I haven't tried to get on the bandwagon.  I have gone to sessions at no less than four events on hyperdocs.  From that experience, I can give you a great Wikipedia worthy definition of what a hyperdoc is supposed to be, but I never felt that I could truly design one the way that it should be done.  This is not a knock on the presenters of the sessions, this is more of a knock on myself for not trying it out immediately after the session.  So this time, I vowed when I saw an extended two and a half hour session on hyperdocs, this was going to be it!  I am happy to report that I feel that I can finally build and implement hyperdocs in my classroom, and I owe all of that to a tremendous husband and wife presentation team in Eduardo and Ruby Rivera of Palm Springs.  Rather than presenting a session on what it is, handing over some templates and giving the attendees the reigns, they built a session that was a hyperdoc WITHIN a hyperdoc.  The session not only showed how it worked while in a hyperdoc, but it incorporated collaborative activities that grouped attendees.  Since it was a small session, maybe 10-12 people, there was a lot of one-on-one interaction with Eduardo and Ruby as well.  Not only am I better prepared to build hyperdocs, but now I am considering creating a presentation in the future in hyperdoc format! 

My expertise in green-screening was limited to my daughter's kindergarten class last year where her teacher did activities in her class using a green bolt of fabric from Joann's and the Doink app for iPad.  So, I decided to attend a session on green-screening, something that I have been aware of for a long time, but honestly, just did not know where to begin.  I also was convinced to go after meeting the presenter on Friday evening, Ali Deguia-Bumgarner; she told me it was going to be great, and who am I to question that?  Ali did a great job of demonstrating the materials that can be used (a green tablecloth from the dollar store!), a variety of apps besides Doink, and showed a multitude of examples of projects that she has done with her students.  We even did a short video in the session that was reminiscent of an improv show where we shouted out a few things to build a story!  While I still feel that I need to do some tinkering and looking around, I am a lot further along than I was prior to Ali's session!

CUE has changed their membership structure to where now you don't have to pay to be a member if you don't want to; however, for the original membership fee of $40/year, you get access to a variety of perks, such as discounts on events, voting rights for board and policy elections, and as they offered at Fall CUE, discounted books!  There are a ton of books that I have always intended to buy, they were in my Amazon cart, but just never got around to buying them.  My excuse was out the window when books that typically went for $20-30 were on sale for $10!  I couldn't resist picking up Lead Like a Pirate by Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess, Shake Up Learning by Kasey Bell, Make Learning Magical by Tisha Richmond, and Kids Deserve It! by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney.  I also scooped up a copy of The Hyperdoc Handbook by Lisa Highfill, Sarah Landis, and Kelly Hilton (this one was not part of the $10 deal, but now that I feel comfortable with designing, I thought a book from the creators would be a great guide to build great hyperdocs!).  Based simply on my book purchases, I have essentially paid for my CUE membership for the year.  So if you are a CUE member and have not paid for a premium membership yet, I highly recommend that you do!

What do you get when you combine hundreds of educational technology geeks at a conference with bags of self-created stickers? The #supermuch Sticker Swap during lunch!  We teacher are very serious about our stickers and decorating our devices, I even went as a far as ordering a cover for my laptop because mine was almost full of stickers before the exchange (and my laptop cover is now full too, guess it's time to buy another cover!)  I showed up with my AndersonEdTech blog stickers and The BeerEDU Podcast stickers.  I was blown away to hear from several people, many of whom I had never met, say that they had heard the podcast and that they were enjoying it and were happy to meet one of the faces of the voices.  While our download numbers are good, I never expected that kind of a response; it makes Ben and I have to keep creating great content to meet the expectations of those listening (and we appreciate the love and feedback, keep it coming! 

With the exception of the "I Love Hyperdocs" and Camera sticker in the middle,
this is my laptop before the sticker exchange.

This is the case I bought specifically for the stickers I knew I'd get, and I
have more stickers left over, time for another case!
The happy couple along with their families, and the CUE Championship belt!
The end of the day on Saturday, perhaps one of the coolest things I have ever seen at a conference took place with the #adakat wedding!  Adam Juarez and Kat Goyette met via Twitter, developed a relationship in real life, and were married in a family ceremony the week before Fall CUE.  However, because of the impact CUE and educational technology has had on their lives and their love for one another, it only made sense to have a second ceremony as a session at the end of Saturday's festivities.  Jon Corippo officiated a humorous edtech-laden ceremony, complete with a "How well do you know Adam and Kat?" Quizizz.  Adam and Kat's parents made the trip to Napa for the event, and it was a pleasure to meet Kat's father and see Adam's parents again.  I have met Adam's parents before, and his mother treats me like a son whenever I am around, and it was very nice to see them again.  Luckily, I get to see them again soon, as I will be heading to the Tulare County Tech Rodeo again this January. 

Saturday night was more networking, with a quick trip to Napa Smith Brewing Company for the East Bay CUE BrewCUE.  Laurie Wong told me that since I was at Fall CUE without a large contingent of my own CUE-NV affiliate, I was essentially a man without a country and had to join their affiliate for the weekend; I happily obliged and had a great time before heading to Napa for Adam and Kat's reception at Downtown Joe's.  After further networking and fun in Napa, it was back to American Canyon for several hours of networking at Junction Brewery before sleep and another full day of learning on Sunday!

I used Sunday strictly as a day of networking.  I had some fantastic conversations with some fantastic people, including Jeff Heil, a gentleman I have come to know not through CUE, but through EdTech Team, as he has been one of the lead presenters at several of their events that I have attended over the years.  I also had a great conversation with Crystal Chavez, whom I met at CUE National back in March.  She may have mentioned it to me at the time, but she told me that I was one of the first people that I met at CUE and that I am one of the reasons why she gets involved and goes to events, which was very humbling to me; Adam Juarez was nearby, and in true brotherly fashion, told her not to judge her experience with CUE just off of me (I love you dude, and I expect nothing less from you, the day you stop giving me a hard time is the day that I'm not sure we should be friends anymore!).  Throughout the morning and into lunch, the conversations were great, the exchanges with the belt were even better, and the nerves of presenting began to kick in...

I have presented at dozens of events, but I had never presented at an event as large as Fall CUE.  Part of me kept telling myself, "It's just a session, you've done this session before, you'll be fine."  Another part of me was saying, "This is kind of a big deal, don't screw it up."  I spent the hour before my session making sure that everything was set with my presentation, backed it up in case the Internet failed me, and double checked that I had my Pear Deck stickers and that the links to the free premium subscriptions worked.  My worry was for naught, as not only did nearly 50 eager attendees show up FOR THE LAST SESSION of the conference, but Randall Sampson and April Buege came to learn and support.  I actually felt better after that session than I had after other times I have presented.  I asked attendees to fill out a feedback form and it was overwhelming positive (I need to apply for Google Certified Trainer again, I will certainly be using the feedback from that session!). 

This may have been the official birth of #CUEBald!
Besides the collaboration that was planted between Joe Marquez and me, two more developments occurred during Fall CUE that I look forward to the continuation of the championship belt at the organizational level and the birth of #CUEBald!  Randall Sampson brought the championship belt to the Silver State Technology Conference, and it was a big hit; it was an even bigger hit at Fall CUE!  The belt will be making its appearance at Spring CUE and other affiliate events from now on!  Check out some of the amazing pictures of champions with the belt throughout the weekend here!  As for #CUEBald, this was born out of a group of follically-challenged gentlemen talking throughout the conference about having our own hashtag and t-shirts.  I am happy to report that ideas are being exchanged and there will be t-shirts for the bald brethren in Palm Springs, more details to come! 

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Alternative Education

Image result for warning
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Before I begin, I want to state a few things that are very important to the material in which I am going to present in this post of Anderson Edtech.  First of all, these are my opinions, and my opinions only.   The views presented here are solely those of myself and are not endorsed by any educational organization, person(s), etc. of any current or former employer, educational institution, etc. This is not intended to be a judgment of any particular person, school, organization, etc.  This is strictly my thoughts on my experiences in working in an alternative school in the past school year, my thoughts on what I think the pros and cons of an alternative school are, and my thoughts on why I believe there needs to be substantial change in education as a whole, not just in alternative education.  No person, school organization, etc., other than myself, are identified by their name to protect their identity.     

When I returned to the classroom from administration in September of 2017 (see my previous posts, Priorities, and Changes (For The Better) for more insight), I stepped into a role that was very much different than anything I had experienced before.  First, I was going to be teaching physical education, something that I had always been licensed to teach, but had never done before, and secondly, I was going to be working in an alternative, or behavior, school.  Part of me was very excited for the opportunity to make a difference in students' lives that needed it the most, part of me was scared to death, not know what I was in store.  Over the course of the next 8 months, I learned a lot about myself and about the whole concept of alternative schools, some of which was very upsetting to me.

Students are often in alternative school settings for behavioral reasons, such as fighting, possession of drugs or weapons, or other major or habitual offenses.  Many times, these students are also behind academically because of a learning disability, lack of family/community supports, and/or general apathy.  Students in these settings are expected to meet very rigorous demands in regards to behavior and academics, yet many of the things that would make improving oneself behaviorally or academically are taken away.  For instance, in many alternative settings, students do not have access to any sort of technology unless it is under strict supervision from the teacher in a computer lab, something that teachers are not going to have access to every day.  That being the case, teachers have to resort to "old school" teaching methods of stand and deliver and sit and get, worksheets, and textbook reading and questions.  Students that are already disengaged become even more disengaged and often times fall further behind and turn to disrupting their peers.

Many students in the alternative setting have language skills that are comparable to, what my Grandma used to say, "sailors on shore leave".   The use of inappropriate language was something that I became numb to, as inappropriate words were spoken by most students constantly, and regardless of redirection, it continued.  However, how does one address it?  Reprimand and have more language directed at you?  Write a student up and have them miss class and cause resentment later on?  The best that I could do is to politely redirect, model appropriate language and interactions, and do my best to not let it get to me.  However, if the language became degrading to another person or resulted in bullying, I had to report it and did report it.

However, while it was frustrating to witness the apathy, the inappropriate language, and the nearly daily occurrences of near violence between students, there were some great things that I was able to experience.  First of all, myself and my colleagues were the only people of positive influence in many of our students' lives.  While one student is too many, too many of our students came from single-parent homes, were the children of drug addicts, gang members, or had parents in prison.  To be able to have positive interactions with students from these types of backgrounds made me know that I was making a difference.  Sure, one moment a student may be putting me down with some creative use of a series of four-letter words, but there were many more moments of positive interactions.  The biggest key is that regardless of how negative of a situation there could be, positivity would lessen the tension of the situation and pay dividends later.

People have asked me how I could have worked in such a setting.  My response was always the same:  80% of my students were in the alternative setting because of mistakes that they made, mistakes that my colleagues and I stressed would not define who they were as long as they worked to learn from their mistakes.  The other 20% were there because of similar mistakes, but it was taking a little bit more time to learn from the mistakes and they had other issues, such as issues with adult figures, that prevented them from being more successful.  I pointed out that in my previous schools, I had similar numbers: 80% of students were very easy to work with, while the other 20% were tougher nuts to crack.  The biggest difference between the alternative setting and the standard setting?  Class sizes in the alternative setting were about a quarter the size of the standard school setting.

I am now working in a more traditional school setting.  I don't have students cursing left and right and cursing me out at times when I redirect their behavior.  However, I am teaching a couple of nights of adult education American Government.  Students enrolled in my classes are there for various reasons, but ultimately, there to get the credits that they need to graduate and get their high school diploma.  I am also working in an alternative program that is held after school, designed for students that have been removed from a traditional setting for behavioral and academic issues.  Do I have all of the answers to solving the issues of my previous school, adult education, and the alternative program that I am now working in?  Absolutely, most certainly, not!  However, by continuing to be a positive light in students' lives, working to redirect, not reprimand, and putting in the work to assist each student to be successful, I think that I am winning!

Until next time...

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Why of the Busy Season

The first few weeks of a new school year are always busy, for the obvious reasons.  If you are new to a school, that amount of busy increases significantly, as you are learning new procedures, policies, faces and names, and so much more about your school and, in my case, a new district.  Then if you are like me, the busy becomes even more because the beginning of the year is also conference season, where it seems that there is a workshop, training, convention, or conference almost every weekend, especially educational technology-themed events.  A quick Google search of educational professional development events will bring up events from the EdTech Team, CUE and CUE affiliates, and other organizations, and these are just the ones holding events in the Pacific region.  MACUL, the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, an organization similar to CUE that is very active in Nevada and California in providing professional development in educational technology, has also had or will have numerous events of over the weeks.  

Because I have a passion for learning and providing professional development for and with my PLN, I have been busy on most weekends with conferences.  Just in the month of September and into October, I attended and presented at the CapCUE Tech Fest in Roseville, CA, helped coordinate the CUE-NV Silver State Technology Conference, and will be attending and presenting at the FallCUE Conference in American Canyon, CA.  Further down the road, my school in Carson City will be hosting an EdTech Team Google for Education Summit in December, another event in which I will attend and present at.  

So with a full-time teaching position, one in which I am brand new to, having never taught special education prior to this year, a spouse that is attending grad school full-time, two children that are in new schools, teaching a couple of nights of adult education and technology skills for teachers to earn some extra money while my wife cannot work, and everything else that comes with life, why do I spend my weekends attending and presenting at conferences?  

  1. Because of my passion for education and educational technology.  
  2. Because of my desire to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in educational technology and, more importantly, the pedagogy behind the use of educational technology. 
  3. Because I want to inspire others to become better educators and improve their teaching skills.  
  4. Because I enjoy keeping myself busy and challenging myself.  
  5. Because I enjoy the professional and personal relationships that I have built with so many people from all over the nation and world as a result of my interactions with educators on social media and IRL (in real life).  
In addition to the list of whys above, another thing that I truly enjoy is seeing the faces of people that experience that "ah ha" moment.  Often times, the ones that I enjoy the most are teachers that aren't technologically savvy, that have either been afraid to try things with technology or have refused to embrace new things for whatever reason.  I know that once a teacher experiences that moment of discovery for the first time, they have turned a corner that is going to benefit themselves and their students, and ultimately, that's why we are all in the game together.

On top of providing professional development for my colleagues, attending conferences to better my skills, I am also (semi)regularly recording The BeerEDU Podcast with my friend, Ben Dickson.  If you haven't heard it yet, please check us out on your favorite podcast platform.  Our show is loosely based on the conversations that you have with your colleagues at the bar after a long week of school.  We bill it as "the podcast for educators that love to learn and share ideas with fellow educators over beers" but if you don't like beer, or don't drink at all, that is alright!  We only ask that you love education, good company, and podcasts!  We do have stickers, and in the next few days, magnets with our podcast logo, so track us down in person or send us a message at beeredupodcast@gmail.com, Twitter at @BeerEDUpod, or on Facebook at beeredupodcast and we can get you a sticker and magnet!

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Podcast on a Budget

Unless you have been taking a lot of naps over the past few years, you know that one of the greatest forms of professional development and entertainment available to educators is the tried and true podcast.  As I wrote in a recent post called PD in Your Ears: The BeerEDU Podcast, I highlighted some of my favorite shows and introduced the world to the podcasting venture that my good friend, Ben Dickson, and I commenced over the summer. 

Quick side note: The BeerEDU Podcast is officially live wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, Spotify, and many, many more!  As of this writing, we have three episodes, plus a little intro episode that we recorded in June to introduce it.  Check us out, subscribe, and give us some feedback!  You can also find us on Twitter (@BeerEDUpod), Facebook (beeredupodcast), email (beeredupodcast@gmail.com), and use the hashtag #BeerEDUpod.  And, we also have stickers!  If you see Ben or me, ask for one! 

Many are under the impression that in order to produce a high-quality podcast, you need to have some high-quality, ridiculous expensive microphones with a mixing board and a complicated recording program.  That is not the case at all!  There are numerous low-cost options for recording programs, microphones, and publication tools so you can get started podcasting immediately.  I want to highlight what Ben and I use for recording The BeerEDU Podcast. 

Computer:  We don't have anything extravagant for a computer that we use when we podcast.  In fact, depending on the recording session, sometimes we have used my Dell Inspiron laptop, something that I bought at Costco for less than $500, sometimes we use my Asus Chromebook.  So long as the device we are using is connected to the Internet and can access the recording and publishing tools, we are able to produce a quality recording with a standard machine.  The bottom line: you just need a regular computer to get started!

Blue Microphones Snowball iCE
The tripod and 360° design of the
microphone make this portable
and able to pick up sound from
Microphone: Most laptops, Chromebooks, etc. come with a built-in microphone.  While it works fairly well in most circumstances, the built-in mic may not pick up everything that you want to record, especially if you are recording with another person.  That is why we use an external USB microphone when we record.  There are a lot of great microphones out there, but we use the Blue Snowball iCE because it can pick up our voices well, even when we are sitting across a table from one another, and it filters out a lot of other noise that could lower the quality of your recording.  According to the Snowball's manufacturer, this microphone is Skype certified, ensuring that your recordings will be clear regardless of where you are using it.  Blue does manufacture some microphones that are a little less expensive, and some that are very expensive, professional models.  And because it is plug and play, you don't have to install any drivers or software, you just plug it into your computer and start recording.  For less than $50, you cannot go wrong with this mic.  Find one on bluedesigns.com or Amazon (which, as of this writing, had this model on sale for $39.99!). 

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Soundtrap is a "freemium" service, but you can certainly create
quality recordings using the free version.  We even created our
theme music using the loops and instruments in the free version!
Recording Program:  Again, just like computers and microphones, you have tons of options to choose from when picking out what program that you use to record and edit your podcast.  Ben and I use Soundtrap to record The BeerEDU Podcast.  Soundtrap is a program that I was introduced to a couple of years ago that was described to me by a Soundtrap representative as "the result of Google Docs and Garage Band (Mac, iOS) having a baby."  In Soundtrap, you have options for recording voices, creating tracks from thousands of loops and instruments, and collaboration with others, even when they aren't in the same room.  When we record, we create a voice track in Soundtrap and record.  If need be, we cut and edit out things that we don't want in the recording, then we add sound effects (for The BeerEDU Podcast, it's the sound of a can of beer opening), our beginning and ending bumpers, and I record a quick intro to the podcast to place at the beginning.  After piecing it all together (which we now do on the fly, now that we have intros, bumpers, and sound effects already created), we download the episode as a .mp3 file and prepare it for upload to the podcast platform. 

Image result for anchor.fm logoPublishing Your Podcast: Once you are ready, you can publish your work!  And what good would a podcast be if you Anchor!  Anchor has it's own abilities to record, add sound effects, etc., but Ben and I use Soundtrap because it is more robust and has more features to edit our final product.  You can use Anchor on the web or by downloading it to your phone, iPad, or tablet.  After we record in Soundtrap, we download the file and upload it into Anchor, prepare a description for the show, and publish.  You have the option of posting only in Anchor, or it will publish to all platforms that Anchor works with, which as of this writing, is eight more platforms in addition to Anchor. 
kept it to yourself?  In the past, getting your podcast published on platforms like Apple was a very cumbersome endeavor, so cumbersome that I know of some podcasters that created a free Google website and put links to their audio files or they uploaded the file to YouTube to create an audio-only file there.  However, now it is much easier with

Odds & Ends:  There are a few other things that you may want to keep in mind if you want to pursue a podcast. You may want to include episode show notes, which Ben and I include in the description when we upload via a link to a Google Doc.  Our episode planning guide essentially becomes our show notes.  You also may want to create a logo for your show, something that we created using Bitmojis and Google Drawings.  To promote your show, make sure you take advantage of social media! While you don't have to create accounts for your show, it gives your show a little bit more ability to promote.  And if you really want to get serious, you may even create a website, listing previous episodes and show notes, something Ben and I haven't gotten around to just yet. 

Now, maybe you don't want to podcast yourself, but you would love to get your students into podcasting.  Because most of the items above are free and your school most likely has access to a few external microphones, you don't need to do much of anything to get your students started!  You may want to avoid publishing to Anchor and instead publish to a class website or cloud folder, depending on your school's acceptable use.  Your best bet is to speak with your supervisor and/or principal to figure out exactly how your students can start creating and reflecting using podcasts. 

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out there and create something great!  And don't forget to share and promote your material! 

Until next time...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Edtech Baby Steps

I'm not 100% sure where I saw it, or when I saw it, for the first time, but there's a great quote out there somewhere, and I paraphrase, "Anybody that is an expert at something was once a beginner."  Now, before I go any further, I don't feel that I am an expert at anything.  I am very good at some things, but to be an expert at anything takes a lot of commitment, knowledge, and time.  And besides, I like to think that if I am not an expert at something, that means that I can continue to learn more about a particular subject.  

I am very passionate about education, which you have figured out if you have ever read my blog, read any of my tweets, or while only an episode in, listened to my podcast, The BeerEDU Podcast, that I host with my friend, Ben Dickson.  I am not an expert in educational technology, leadership, or instructional design, regardless of my college degrees, certificates of completion from various trainings and conferences, or endorsements from technology companies like Google and Pear Deck.  But between my passion for what I do and the knowledge that I do have, I believe that I that I have a lot to give to my students and my colleagues.  

I was most certainly one of those beginners that the quote recognizes.  In fact, when I think back to my first years as a teacher, I wish I could track down those several hundred students and apologize to them for the most likely horrific job that I did as their teacher.  However, over time, with experience, education, and sheer determination to try things, fail, and try again, I became better and built my passion and knowledge of many aspects of education.  I have had the honor of presenting to hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers over the course of the last several years and taught thousands of students.  Whenever I get feedback from a teacher or a thank you from a student, it really humbles me and makes me realize I made the right decision with my career choice.  

Fast forward to my new position as a special education teacher.  While I clearly have a lot to learn, so far, I feel very confident in my abilities and I am truly enjoying the job.  One of the greatest perks, but also challenges, is working in classrooms that aren't technically mine.  As a co-teacher, I assist a general education teacher, somebody that I had never met until a month ago, somebody that has their own expectations and teaching style, and since I am very passionate about and tend to focus a lot on educational technology in this blog, their own abilities in integrating technology.  

In conversations with my partner, we talked a lot about how we would work together, sharing our experiences working in a co-teaching model.  We agreed that it would be great if we could build a teaching relationship where we both could bounce off of one another and bounce ideas for lessons off of each other and try things.  My partner admitted that they were not very tech savvy, but that if I wanted to try some things, they would be willing to learn more about it; their enthusiasm is very admirable!  

So far, I have been able to present some lessons to our students that incorporate some things that my partner has said that they had never heard of, let alone used in class.  In the first couple of weeks, I used Quizizz to conduct a preassessment of students, then used the same assessment several times to show students their growth and learning (thanks Jon Corippo for that idea from Eduprotocols!).  I used Pear Deck to present some concepts on the Renaissance, building formative assessments into the presentation to gauge student learning as we went along, then shared student responses to them through the Takeaways function.  I also introduced students to Flipgrid, giving them a fun sample activity to introduce them to the app before using it for an activity at a later time.  

While I am excited to share my passion and knowledge of technology and help my teaching partner learn some new things, I also know that I cannot overwhelm them with too much, too fast.  That can backfire very quickly and scare them away from trying new things.  I am certainly up to the challenge and am absolutely excited for this school year, and whether you're starting a new adventure or starting a new year doing what you have done for decades, I hope you are excited for 2018-2019 as well!  

Until next time... 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Joy of Writing, Settling In, and Becoming a Senator

I pride myself in writing as often as I can.  I like to write this blog, trying to get a post out once every 1-2 weeks.  I like to get onto Twitter and participate in chats on a regular basis.  I also kind of enjoy writing my assignments for my graduate program (I would rather write than have to complete a 100 questions multiple choice exam).  So it has pained me that I have not been able to do much writing over the past month and a half.  However, the changes in my life that I had outlined in previous posts like The Definition of Home, Uncertainty & Potential, Wow, 13 Years!, and The Pieces Falling in Place certainly had a lot to do with my absence from the keyboard.  That being said, I'd like to take some time to bring you up to speed!

The most glaringly obvious thing that happened was the move from Las Vegas to Reno.  Since my wife decided on the University of Nevada-Reno to further her studies back in the spring, we had slowly started to pack away things, get rid of some stuff, and figure out what we would need to put into storage, since we decided to downsize our home for the couple of years that she would be in school.  We also had some visitors come to town to see us before we moved, including one of the greatest surprises that my wife has ever concocted for me.  

What do you do when your best friend comes into town and
totally surprises you?  You take him to get authentic
Mexican food that he can't get back home! 
On a stormy Monday night in July, Mary and I took the kids out to dinner with some friends, then grabbed Dairy Queen on the way home, running into what was first a horrific wind/dust storm before the sky opened up and dumped a ton of rain, knocking out power to traffic lights on our drive home.  I went to bed around midnight, only to be woken up around 1:30 to what I thought was the doorbell ringing.  In my grogginess, I assumed I was dreaming and rolled back over to go back to sleep (not that I would have gotten up to answer it anyway, you never know what that could have turned into).  A moment or two later, Mary came back and told me that she needed help at the front door.  I was furious/concerned that she answered the door that I thought I dreamt, so I was prepared for the worse.  As I rounded the corner, I saw the door propped open by an arm, so I called out, asking what they wanted.  The person outside on the porch poked their head into the doorway and said, "What's up sugar?"  It was my best friend, John, and his son, all the way from Michigan!  Mary and John and schemed for a month to surprise me.  Granted, he was supposed to be in many hours earlier, but the storms had delayed his flights and they had to divert to another airport to get fuel before continuing on to Las Vegas.  I also had a good friend from high school come to town with his wife to visit just days before moving.  Between friends coming to town and meeting up with several friends in Las Vegas before the move, there were plenty of emotional goodbyes in the days leading up to picking up the truck.  

Image may contain: cloud, sky, outdoor and nature
As we worked out way north on US-95 from Las Vegas to
Reno, Mary took this beautiful shot of our moving truck
and the storm clouds
The move was most certainly bittersweet.  We had some good friends show up early on a morning that was already approaching 100 with high humidity, a rarity in Las Vegas, to load up our moving truck.  By the time everything was packed up around 11 AM, it was over 110, with thunderstorms off in the distance, bringing in more humidity, something that I grew up with, but certainly do not miss when it is hot.  Now, the tricky part:  driving a 26-foot moving truck while towing a car behind.  While I have towed our camper behind a vehicle before, I had never driven anything as long as the moving truck while towing.  To top it off, we had decided to drive about 3 and a half hours north of Las Vegas to Tonopah, and we were leaving in the middle of the afternoon rush hour.  Luckily, I only had to worry about a short stretch of freeway where it was really busy before the road opened up and traffic thinned out.  A quick stop for gas, a Moon Pie and a Red Bull, and we were on our way (and for the record, that was the first time I had ever had a Moon Pie)!

Walker Lake, between Hawthorne and Schurz,
is beautiful, but that beauty was diminished by
smoke, and well, let's face it: the woman on the
right is hands down more beautiful!
One of the best nights of sleep that I have had in a long time came that night.  After days upon days of packing, then loading a moving truck, sleep had not exactly been a priority.  We got to our hotel around 7, checked into our room, then headed for the restaurant in the hotel.  By 8:30, we were back in our room, and after a quick check in on Facetime with the kids, I was asleep by 9:00, knowing we had another 4 hours to drive the next morning, plus the unloading of the truck into our apartment and the storage unit.

A quick breakfast, a couple of cups of coffee, a fill of water bottles, and a quick search of Google Play Music, and we were on our way from Tonopah to Reno.  The drive wasn't much different than the dozens of other times we had driven US-95, snaking our way across Nevada past small towns and ghost towns like Coaldale Junction, Mina, Luning, Hawthorne, Schurz, Yerington, and Silver Springs.  The biggest difference on this day was the smoky haze clouding the mountains around us and the horizon.  Fires like the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park, the Mendocino Complex Fires west of the northern reaches of the Central Valley, and the Carr Fire near Redding, CA had blown smoke over the Sierras and had settled into the valleys of Nevada (the night of our arrival, another fire erupted near Pyramid Lake, just north of Reno, spewing more smoke into the air).  As of this writing nearly a month after the move, many of those fires are still burning and others have ignited since, with thousands of people losing their homes and several losing their lives.

After getting everything unpacked and set up in the new apartment, putting our extras into a storage unit (we did, after all, move from a 3 bedroom house into a much smaller apartment), then getting the kids from my parents, it was time to start focusing on the whole reason for the move in the first place: getting Mary set up for graduate school and starting my new job.  On top of that, both kids needed to settle into their new schools.  The course of the next couple of weeks included a lot of school shopping, textbook purchases (which even with buying used and rentals from Amazon, I realized that I am in the wrong business, I need to sell college textbooks!  Wait, no I don't, I want to be part of the revolution that sees college textbooks go by the wayside!), learning new streets and finding killer burger and Mexican places, and lots and lots of new hire meetings and trainings and learning the ropes of a position I have only been an observer to for my entire career (and I am still a deer in the headlights regarding many aspects of becoming a special education teacher, but luckily, I work with some amazing people that have been nothing but awesome in my transition).

Moving to a new school is always going to be tough, but my new digs have been nothing but welcoming!  My new colleagues that I have met, from the school's support staff, teachers, and administration, up to the district superintendent, have been absolutely amazing!  Working in a small town at the only high school also has its perks as well, a place where most everyone knows most everyone else and buys into the school and the community.    I am really looking forward to what this school year has in store for me and my family. 

Until next time... 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

PD in Your Ears: The BeerEDU Podcast

Just a few of the podcasts that I listen to on
a regular basis, with more added all the time!
If you are an educator, you are always looking for ways to improve your craft.  While formal professional development, such as taking graduate courses or attending paid workshops and conferences, are great, they are not always practical or affordable.  So what does one do to improve?  You find other informal professional development, such as blog posts (like this one, or at least I hope you learn something from this blog), social media, and podcasts.  While I learn a great deal from all of these plus more, I especially like listening to podcasts, as they are something that I can learn from without being actively engaged; I can listen while in my car, while cleaning the house, and sometimes I even listen while on the treadmill or elliptical at the gym.  

Most of my subscriptions are educational in nature.  Many of the educational shows are hosted by people that I have come to know personally and I consider friends, such as TOSAs Talking Tech with Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott, Check This Out with Brian Briggs and Ryan O'Donnell, Edtech Confessions with Ann Kozma, Cynthia Nixon and Kelly Martin, and Teaching Tales with Brent Coley.  Then there is the STEM Teacher Podcast with my friend of nearly 20 years, John VanDusen. However, some of my subscriptions are purely for my own personal enjoyment and interests, such as The Hockey News, the Detroit Tigers, Taggart & Torrens (a comedy/Canadian pop culture podcast hosted by Jeremy Taggart, the former drummer of Our Lady Peace, and Jonathan Torrens, acclaimed actor well known in Canada for shows like Jonovision, Street Cents and Trailer Park Boys), and Drinking Socially (a podcast about the history of beer styles, trends in the beer industry, and where to find up and coming beers).  To listen to these shows, I use an app called Pocket Casts, a podcast catcher that not only allows you to subscribe, change the playing speed of episodes, and trim silence but also allows users to share specific parts of an episode!  

A few years ago, I met a gentleman by the name of Ben Dickson, currently an assistant principal in Reno, NV (when I make my move to Reno in a few weeks, my kids will be going to his school!).  He and I have been talking for years about collaborating on some sort of project to share our expertise, most likely a podcast, but never really was able to nail down something or commit the time to it.  That changed a few months ago when I came up with an idea to combine two of Ben and I's favorite things:  education and beer.  The idea blossomed into The BeerEDU Podcast: The podcast for educators that love to learn and share ideas with fellow educators over beers! Essentially, the concept of the podcast is to model the conversations that educators have with one another at the pub on a Friday afternoon while unwinding after a long week.

As of this writing, Ben and I have recorded and published our first episode, outlining who we are, the podcast's format, and what we expect it to become when we begin recording regular episodes. We are hoping to post 2-3 episodes a month starting in August 2018, and because there are so many great people with a wealth of knowledge that needs to be shared with the world, we will be looking for guests in which to have a great conversation over a fine beer or any other beverage for those that are not beer drinkers. On top of that, you may learn a thing or two about beer lingo!

The BeerEDU Podcast is available on all podcast platforms, including Anchor, Apple (awaiting approval as of this writing, but will be available soon), Google, Stitcher, Spotify, Radio Public, Breaker, and Pocket Casts. You can follow Ben and The BeerEDU Podcast on Twitter and use the hashtag #BeerEDUPod. Since we are new to the podcast game, Ben and I appreciate any suggestions, compliments, and critiques, so feel free to let us know! We look forward to this journey, learning from one another and our guests to become better educators, and discovering some great beers along the way!

Until next time...