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... 

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