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

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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, Twitter at @BeerEDUpod, or on Facebook at beeredupodcast and we can get you a sticker and magnet!

Until next time...