Sunday, January 28, 2018

Google Summit Goodness

Life for me as of late!  But I wouldn't have it any other way!
It is conference season for the educational technology enthusiast.  A couple of weeks ago, it was the Tulare County Tech Rodeo.  Last week, it was supposed to be the IACUE Tech Fair, but some things came up and I was not able to attend.  In the coming weeks, it will be CUE-NV's Silver State Tech Innovator Symposium, and the mother of all events that I attend, the spring CUE National Conference in Palm Springs.  This weekend, I attended and presented at the EdTech Team's Las Vegas Google Summit, and as always, it did not disappoint.  

This event has been coming to Las Vegas for several years now.  I attended my first summit in January 2015.  EdTech Team held a second summit in Las Vegas later that year, but it has been one summit every year since, so this is the fifth time that I have attended the summit and the fourth time that I have presented at the summit.   I also attended and presented at a one-day Apple Summit hosted by EdTech Team in 2016.  Over the years of attending, I have gotten to know many of the attendees and presenters and it is always great to see everyone, often times for the only time that I get to see them in the year.  It is also a great opportunity to meet new people and continue to grow that PLN that is so important in our profession.  

This year, my approach to the summit was a little bit different than in the past.  Previously, I would meticulously plan out my two days by going onto the schedule and reading through the sessions, marking down in the app where I am going to be.  I decided to wing it a little bit more this year for a couple of reasons.  One, sometimes you just want to decide at the last second what you want to do; this gave me the freedom to do so.  Two, the sessions selection this time around, for me, was not as strong.  This is not to say that they were not great sessions with great presenters, by no means whatsoever!  At this point in my professional development, I am very strong in many areas of Google apps and tools, and many of the sessions were geared toward beginners.  I mentioned this to George Barcenas, one of the presenters from the summit and somebody that I have interacted with in a Voxer group in the past.  He suggested that next time, I present more sessions, something that would not be terrible!

My absolute favorite session of the summit was on FormMule, an email merge program, presented by Kim Pollishuke.  In the past, I used a program called Yet Another Mail Merge to create email templates, pull information from spreadsheets to build emails that are more personalized, and schedule emails to be sent.  YAMM is a great tool, but to get the full versatility of YAMM, it costs $30 for a yearly subscription.  It's not a lot of money, but one of the best perks of FormMule is that it does all of the things that I want to do for FREE!  FormMule allows you to take information like names, email addresses, answers to questions, and so much more from a Google Sheet (this is especially great when it is a sheet that is linked to a Google Form!), create multiple templates that can be linked to that spreadsheet, send emails immediately upon receipt of a response, manually, or you can set a timer to send.  You can also customize filters based on responses in the sheet or to specific people.  The possibilities with it are endless!  Want to learn more about FormMule?  Check out Kim's session information and email away! 

I presented two sessions over the course of the weekend, one on Google Keep and one on Pear Deck.  Both sessions were well attended, with about 45 for Google Keep and about 35 for Pear Deck.  Overall, I felt that both sessions went very well, for the most part.  I hit a couple of snags during my Google Keep session.  The first snag was how an embedded Google Slides activity showed up in Pear Deck, cutting off the Tools menu, which was key to participants completing the activity.  We figured out a quick workaround and was able to complete the activity.  The second snag came when I was trying to show participants the geotagging feature on the Keep app.  The option in the app that has the geotagging feature wasn't showing up on anybody's devices!  Or so I thought... it turns out that it was located in a different location than when I saw if a few days prior, something that Google is well known for doing when updating apps at times.  A couple of the attendees that stayed after to ask questions really wanted to figure it out, so after a couple of minutes of working together, we were able to find the geotagging function and all was well once again.  Throughout the two days, many people came up to me and told me that they really enjoyed my sessions, so that made me feel better.  Even though the snags that I had were minor, I am my own worst critic and strive for perfection.  

Even novice hockey fans can appreciate just how nasty this goal is!
#GoKnightsGo #VegasBorn #GoldenKnights
Over the course of the two days, I heard some very inspiring stories, caught up with some people that I don't get to see that often, especially Joanne Schmutz, Heather Nail, Donnie Piercey, Jeff Heil, Michelle Armstrong, Susan Stewart, Robert Speciale, Rosalinda Jaimes, Michele Osinski and Nick Park.  I also met some great people like Jen Giffen, George Barcenas, Kim Pollishuke, Laura Hamelink, and Austin Houp. I had some great conversations with tons of people from near and far, especially a gentleman from Vancouver, BC that I helped with Google Forms and talked hockey, and a pair of women from Calgary that I also got to talk hockey with (I never tire of talking hockey with anyone, but especially people that appreciated and love the game as much as most Canadians do).  The learning at conferences is always great, but the networking is even better.  

So conference season is upon us, I hope that the conferences that you attend are amazing, what you learn will be applied to your craft, and above all, I hope that you share with your fellow educators the great stuff that you bring home.  

Until next time... 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Learning with the TCOE #TechRodeo

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Tulare County Office of Education's Tech Rodeo.  I was extended an invitation to present by two people that I am honored to call friends of mine in Katherine Goyette and Adam Juarez.  It was great to see so many educators that took time out of their Saturday to hear an amazing keynote speech by John Spencer and AJ Juliani, choose from dozens of presentations from a who's who of educators from Central California and beyond and to top it off, enjoy a lunch of a California classic, barbequed tri-tip.

I had a lot of time to reflect on this weekend over the past few days.  My reflection was clouded somewhat on Sunday's nearly 7-hour drive home, as I drove further north to meet a cousin and her family in Oakhurst before turning around to head home.  Sunday also marked the eighth anniversary of my brother's death, so my mind was tied up for most of that drive.  I started to not feel very well on Monday, then waking up on Tuesday with a pounding headache, sore throat, and body aches.  I missed most of this past week of work and as I finish this up on Saturday, I finally feel relatively close to 100% again. 

This was similar to my first cell phone.  Don't really call
myself a digital native using tech like this!
Image courtesy of
The keynote presentation was very inspiring.  One of the things that stood out to me most during the presentation referred to our students being "digital natives."  Digital native refers to students that don't know a life outside the technology that is available today, such as cell phones, tablets, and on-demand just about anything digital.  While based on my age I can be lumped in with digital natives, I tend to think of myself as a digital immigrant - one that had to learn the new technology as it was developed.  Sure, I remember using computers throughout my schooling, but I did not have reliable Internet until I was in college, using dial-up most often.  I didn't have my first cell phone until college, and while it wasn't a "Zach Morris phone", it was analog only, was quite bulky, and did not have much for capabilities besides making calls and playing "Snake" (oh, the roaming fees!).

Even though our students are digital natives, that doesn't mean that students know how to effectively and responsibly use technology, something that was a key point to the presentation.  It was emphasized that it is our job as teachers to bridge that divide, teaching students solid digital citizenship and creating engaging lessons incorporating today's technology to better prepare students for higher education, careers, military, etc.  Mr. Spencer and Mr. Juliani emphasized that rather than referring to our students as digital natives, we should refer to them as digital consumers, since everything that our students are viewing, reading, etc. is in a digital format, not the books, magazines, cassettes/CDs/records, and VHS tapes of previous generations.  I liken this all to driving a car:  just because I grew up around cars and saw them everywhere did not mean I didn't know how to drive one and drive one responsibly; it was up to a teacher and my parents to teach me how.  This makes it even more important that we as teachers stay up on the latest technology and know how to effectively integrate it in order to better serve our students.

I was able to attend a session prior to presenting my sessions.  I went to a session hosted by Christine Monge on hyperdocs, but to be honest, my mind was not in the session.  I was more concerned with making sure that my sessions were in order and that all of the links and videos worked than I was with learning how to build a hyperdoc and integrating tools like Flipgrid, sketchnotes, YouTube, and others into a hyperdoc.  I was able to get a load of hyperdoc templates and a handful of ideas on building some of my own, I just need to sit down and toy with it some.

My first presentation of the day was titled Formative Assessment + Engagement = Pear Deck.  I was honored to have 15 educators come to my session to learn why Pear Deck is such a great tool to engage students and to assess in real time.  It was also my first presentation as a Pear Deck coach, and my first presentation to an audience outside of Las Vegas (one of my goals of the year was to present outside of my home city, goal achieved!).  The attendees were thoroughly impressed with the different tools that are available in Pear Deck, such as the various question slides, the Flashcard Factory, and the new Google Slides Pear Deck add-on that allows one to create and present Pear Deck directly in Google Slides.  As a thank you, I was also able to share some trial premium accounts with attendees, so I'm hoping that a bunch of students got to experience Pear Deck over the past few days!

My second presentation was titled "Keep" Your Ideas and Sanity with Google Keep.  This session was not attended as well as my Pear Deck session, with only five attendees.  However, each person in the session was able to get a much more "one on one" experience and I was able to address questions much easier and more thoroughly.  I was reassured after the fact that Google Keep is an underrated and underutilized tool that many people simply do not know about.  I am hoping that over the course of the next few weeks, I can further promote the awesomeness that is Google Keep. 

I attended one last session titled Google's Secret Menu, hosted by Joe Marquez.  I had interacted with him on Twitter, but never had met him, so meeting him for the first time was quite the honor.  His presentation covered a variety of little-known things that Google can do.  The most striking to me was the Google - My Activity.  When you access this feature of Google, it will show you absolutely EVERYTHING that you have ever done with your Google account.  This includes your searches, your YouTube viewing, the websites you visit, and the apps you access on your phone that are connected to your account.  I could go on and on as to what else Google tracks.  Google uses the information to gear ads and content toward you, make searches and map directions better, etc. Ultimately, while it could scare you, it should be more of a lesson for you and something you could pass on to your students.  Mr. Marquez presented many other cool little features as well, take a look at his resources at and his website, 

Today, I was supposed to be in Perris, CA attending and presenting at the IACUE Tech Fair, but unfortunately, I had some things come up that prevented me from going.  However, there is no shortage of professional development on my plate, as the next couple of weeks will be the Ed Tech Team Google Summit in Las Vegas, CUE-NV's Silver State Tech Innovator Symposium on February 3, then the big one, CUE National, in March.  I look forward to continuing to grow and to seeing so many people that have become friends. 

Until next time...