Sunday, October 13, 2019

#ToTheEdgeEDU: The Fruition of an Idea

Writing has always been something that I have enjoyed.  I can remember being a little kid and "writing books", creating them out of paper and cardboard.  My artistic skills were limited at best, but I could always get a story down on paper.  As I grew older, book reports, research papers, and essays were something that I never really dreaded.  And while I have always been a good test taker as well, I would much rather write an extensive paper for an assessment rather than a 100 question multiple-choice test.  At some point, I don't remember exactly when, I told myself that someday, I would write a book.

A couple of years ago, an idea came into my mind about what I could write about. The idea was born out of this blog that I have been plugging away at for nearly four years.  My initial thought was, "Why don't I compile my blog posts, maybe clean them up a little bit, and publish an anthology of my blog posts?" I quickly dismissed the idea because if somebody can just go to www.andersonedtech.net, why would they bother to buy a copy of a book when they could get everything for free?  I decided that any idea that I would have needed to be an original idea.   So the idea of writing anything for publication was put on the back burner for the time being.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017.  I helped put together the Silver State Technology Conference with my CUE-Nevada colleagues (an incredible group of educators and leaders, I am a lucky man to be able to get to work with them on a regular basis).  At this conference, a gentleman by the name of Dr. Randall Sampson was there.  Over the course of the two days of the conference, we learned a lot about each other, including how we had both played college football for the same head coach, Doug Sams, just at different times and at different universities (Randall played at Fairmont State in West Virginia while I played at Northern Michigan University).  I also had the opportunity to pick his brain about the writing and publication process of his book, Welcome to the Grind! How Educators Achieve Exponential Results.  During our conversations, I mentioned to him how I wanted to write a book, but how I had moved on from my original idea and was working on another idea that was more of a memoir of my experiences in education.  Randall told me to keep in touch and to share my ideas with him and that he would do whatever he could to assist me in the process in the future.

I had set one of my goals for 2017 as writing a book.  It didn't happen.  I set that goal again for 2018, and again, it didn't happen.  It wasn't that I didn't want to, obviously, but finding the time to do it was tough, not to mention some career and personal issues that I was experiencing throughout that time and a move from Las Vegas to Reno.  This year when I thought about my goals, I decided that 2019 was probably not going to be the time to write a book either, so I didn't even address it.  I figured that once I met some other goals and settled into a better routine, I would be able to set aside time to write.

At CUE19 in Palm Springs, I saw Randall yet again, and like always, it was a blast hanging out with him and talking about anything and everything.  The subject of my book came up, to which I responded that I had refined my idea and now I just needed to find time to write it.  I also saw Sarah Thomas, the founder of Edumatch and their publishing wing, Edumatch Publishing.  I mentioned to her that I had been tossing about an idea but still hadn't written anything, but she told me to keep in touch because she liked the idea that I had and that she would love to look into it further once I had refined it and began the writing process.

However, the person that probably had the biggest influence on me at CUE19 regarding writing a book was Brent Coley.  Brent had recently published his book, Stories of EDUInfluence.  At various points throughout the weekend, I asked him a few questions about his process and the publishing process and got some really great info, but I need to know more.  So I contacted Brent via Voxer and asked if we could do a video chat for a few minutes so I could pick his brain about everything.  Because Brent is one of the most giving and gracious people on the planet, not only did he agree, but he took over an hour out of a Saturday to answer every question that I had about everything.  It was at this point in late March that I decided to get going with my outline and start writing my book.

My first step was to outline the premise of my book and how I wanted to set it up.  I turned to my tried and true friend, Google Keep, to get the process going.  I created a note that had ideas for my title, a basic outline, themes and potential titles for chapters, and other ideas.  Then, I dove in. I opened up a new Google Doc, created a header and footer that simply said, "DRAFT" in big, bold letters, and started typing.  I didn't set aside specific times to write, I wrote when I had time and when I had the itch to write.  I didn't have a specific thing I wanted to write each time.  Sometimes I would write for five minutes, sometimes I would write for an hour.  Either way, over the course of about two months, I got about three or four chapters written, or in the case of my document, about 60 pages in a standard 12 point font, double spaced.

Very early on, I realized that my book was going to be a first-person story.  However, since I am most likely not that interesting of a person, I knew that it was going to need to be more than an autobiography.  There had to be a theme that tied people back to their careers in education, even if I could tell a compelling story.  I decided that the theme of my book was going to be a story of times in which I have been a risktaker in my life and the results of those experiences.  This wasn't going to be simply a story of my successes, I needed to tell the tough stories as well and deep dive into times where my risks made me fall on my face and look and feel rather foolish.  And without giving too much away, there were going to be some stories and risks that were going to be very hard to write about and were going to conjure up some demons and feelings that were hard to cope with at the time and revisiting in order to get them down into words.  But I knew that if I was going to write a compelling story that was going to inspire people to become risk-takers themselves, I knew I was going to need to dig deep into the depths of my soul.

In late May, I submitted my idea and what I had for a draft to EduMatch Publishing.  I explained my vision for the book, my intended audience of educators, the book's format, etc., and received a response back that the publishing team would review my proposal and get back with me soon.  A few days later, I got my response: they were interested in my idea, but there were a few things that I needed to address in my draft before they would make a decision.  A few edits and additions, I resubmitted my draft and "forgot about it", finishing off my school year, getting into the groove of the first few weeks of summer vacation, and pecking away at the draft a little bit more when I made time to write.  I figured the best thing to do was not to worry about any decision on my draft but to try to avoid thinking about it and hope for the best.

Just after the 4th of July, I received a message from the publisher's panel that was reviewing my proposal.  After careful consideration, the team decided that they liked my idea enough to offer me a publishing contract!  To say that I was stunned and ecstatic is an understatement.  But what it also did was give me some motivation to finish my draft.  I likened the contract offer to the finish line of a race.  If you go out for a run with no set goal or distance in mind, you may not have the motivation to try very hard to achieve a personal distance or speed record.  However, with a set distance in mind, such as a half marathon (a distance that I have personally run on a few occasions), it gives you something to shoot for and the motivation to strive for personal bests.  The book contract was my finish line.  Now I had reason to set aside time to write on a regular basis, not just "when I felt like it" or "when an idea came into my head."

Over the course of the next week and a half, I made time every day to write.  Sometimes it was early in the morning.  Sometimes, it was afternoon.  Sometimes, it was into the night hours.  Or in one case, it was ALL NIGHT! One Saturday evening, I was struggling to fall asleep, so I got out of bed around 10:30 and got behind my keyboard with the intention of writing for a bit, hopefully, to tire myself out and get back to bed.  The next thing I knew, it was about 4:30 AM! Knowing I had somewhere to be at 8:30, four hours later, I put on some coffee and went for a quick walk, determined to write for the next few hours since sleep at that juncture was going to be almost pointless.  It was during this writing session that I wrote the most difficult chapter of the book.  It makes me wonder how that chapter would have turned out had I written it at another time or had broken up the writing into several sessions instead of the marathon all-night session in which it was written.

As of this writing, I do not have a release date for the book.  It has made it through its first round of edits and it is currently in the focus group state where a handful of people have read through the draft and will provide feedback on what they like, what they believe can be improved, and what really stood out to them in the draft.  From here, I'll make a few more edits before it moves on to the official editor.  In the meantime, other details are getting attention, such as cover design, my bio for the back cover, design of the script, and other items that one typically doesn't give too much thought to when looking at a book.

What I will reveal is that my working title for the book is To The Edge: Successes & Failures Through Risk-Taking.  My goal is that those that read my book will analyze my life story and glean inspiration to take risks that perhaps they wouldn't have taken before.  If I can inspire one person to try something crazy, then my words have done their job.  So in the coming weeks and months, watch for my story to be released through Edumatch Publishing.  Following my social media feeds (@AndersonEdTech on Twitter, @andersonedtech on Instagram, and my book Instagram, @totheedgeedu, plus #ToTheEdgeEDU) will be the best way to stay up to date on the book's progress.  I cannot wait to share this story with you!

Until next time...






Sunday, October 6, 2019

Clearing My Plate, Figuratively & Literally

We don't get many nights out, but we did manage to
sneak away for a while the night before my birthday!
I am a busy man.  For as long as I can remember, I have always been a busy man.  I thrive on routine and love to rise to challenges, personally and professionally.  Never have I been busier in my life than I am currently.  On top of my position as a special education teacher, I also teach government two nights a week to students working to earn their adult education high school diploma, I work with my district's technology office to provide training to teachers one night a week, then I have my two podcasts, this blog, and a host of other things.  On top of that, my principal asked if I would co-teach another class last spring for a prep buyout, so I extended my school day by an hour and a half to a nine-hour day instead of the typical seven and a half.  All of this along with being a husband and a father.  While I love being busy, the grind has become really crazy this year and about 6 weeks into the new year, there aren't any signs of slowing down.  

Part of the busy can be contributed to my wife's graduate program.  While she isn't taking as many classes this semester, she is conducting her clinical hours and it has taken some getting used to over the past few weeks.  Before, we were able to split pick up duty for the kids a lot easier, but her hours have made it more of a challenge.  On top of that, the kids are getting older so they are starting to get involved in various activities.  My daughter is part of a cheerleading club with the University of Nevada cheerleaders where she practices with them and gets to cheer at select football, basketball, soccer, and volleyball games.  However, my wife and I both realize that it's only for another 8 months until she graduates and this part of the crazy will be over and we can establish a better routine for our family.  

I am so incredibly proud of my wife and all of this is going be worth it when she is done.  We joke that once she is working again and is pulling in a paycheck that we can start buying name brand groceries again!  I also joke that I am going to take a year off and do nothing but fish, but I know that will never happen!

Ultimately, in order to relieve some of the busy, I had to evaluate what I have been doing.  Different aspects of my life have been sacrificed as a result of my busy, so I took a long look at everything and made some decisions to scale back or completely eliminate some things.  These decisions were made easily but in the long run, I think I am going to better off.

While I love to present at conferences and learn from the great people I meet, I realized that I need to spend more time at home on weekends.  In past years from late August until early November, I have been at an event nearly every weekend.  This year, I have scaled back significantly.  I decided to select only events in which I was directly involved and/or committed to already or have brought me great benefit in the past.  That said, I have narrowed down my conferences to five events instead of the nearly double-digit events that I have typically done in a school year in the past.  Most of the reason is the time and stress factor, but also monetarily, being I am the sole income earner in my house and I plan to go to ISTE for the first time next summer.

At my last CUE-Nevada event as a board member,
I raffled off a copy of my upcoming book. Angela
Barnett was the lucky winner and will be one of
the first to get a copy in a few months!

Since the fall of 2015, I have served on the board of directors for CUE-Nevada, first as a board member then elected as vice president in 2016 and again in 2018.  As an all-volunteer organization, I worked with a dedicated team to grow the organization and provide educators from Nevada and beyond with high-quality professional development opportunities.  The hours are long and especially when an event is approaching, it can be stressful.  That's why as of September 30, I resigned from my role as vice president with the organization.  The commitment to CUE-Nevada was something that I could not continue to promise, and the organization deserves somebody that can be fully committed.  I look back fondly on the time I spent as a board member and the relationships I forged with my fellow board members and the educators that attended our events.  While I am no longer a CUE-Nevada board member, it doesn't mean that I won't be involved; it just means that I won't be part of the planning side of the organization.

Another thing that has suffered has been this blog.  While I love to get a post out every week or two, as of this writing, it has been nearly a month and a half since I last posted.  It doesn't mean that I have run out of ideas and have stopped writing though.  I currently have four other posts created in Blogger that I have started (when I have an idea for a post, I try to create it and at least put down some bullet points so I can revisit later).  Some of it is because of my busy schedule as of late and some of it has been redirecting my writing focus to edits on my book as they come in.  Because I write these for pleasure, I don't feel a commitment to write all of the time, but at the same time, I really do need to make time to write as it is a form of therapy for me.  So while I am scaling back a bit in my posting schedule, I am looking to set aside time on weekend mornings to write so I don't completely get away from it.

While clearing out some clutter, I found these Wakelet shirts.
They are a size smaller than my current size, so I'm
hoping to fit into them in the next few months!
And while I have been trying to trim away nonessential activities in my life, I have also been committed to trimming away at my food intake.  Various health ailments like high cholesterol and diabetes run in my family, so I have been seeing a doctor regularly for the past few years to monitor my vitals.  As expected, my cholesterol is elevated, but for now, my blood pressure, blood sugar, and other stats are in good shape.  However, I am carrying more weight than I really should be and a recent doctor's appointment put me on alert.  My doctor directed me to commit to a meal plan that involves lean meats and vegetables and limit to eliminate all wheat and rice products.  I most certainly have my struggles to avoid bread, rice and rice noodles (I've only had two bowls of pho in the last 4 months, I used to be a several bowls a month eater of that delectable Vietnamese staple), but so far, it is paying off and I have lost about 15 pounds.  I have made goals for weight loss before, but it was more of a vanity goal before; this time, it's about extending my life and avoiding the health issues so many in my family have been stricken with.

In a sense, I have been trying to clear my plate, figuratively with everything that I have committed myself to, and literally, eating less to achieve a healthier body weight and vitals.  Perhaps you are in a similar situation.  I encourage you to take a hard look at your commitments and make the tough decisions to commit to less, learn to say no so you aren't stretching yourself so thin, and if you are looking to lose a few pounds, whether it's to improve your vitals or look better for a vacation or something, know that I am here to support you in your journey!

Until next time...


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Podcast on a Budget Part II

About a year ago, my friend Ben Dickson and I launched The BeerEDU Podcast.  We didn't know whether it was going to something that was going to take off,  if anybody was going to listen, or frankly, if we were going to enjoy doing the show.  Fast forward to now and our show has far exceeded our expectations!  While not on the same level as Serial or The Joe Rogan Podcast in terms of listenership, we feel that we reach a decent-sized audience and we have a lot of fun recording it and meeting people from all over the nation (and even the world, we have had guests from Canada) and listening to their stories and passions. 

When we first began recording, our setup was simple: we used a laptop (sometimes my Windows PC, sometimes my Chromebook), a Blue Ice Snowball microphone, and Soundtrap.  In fact, not long after our show went live, I published a blog post titled Podcast on a Budget to highlight the tools that we were using to produce our show.  Some things have changed since those early episodes, such as the length of the show, we have incorporated guests to join the conversation, and have implemented some more advanced tools into the mix to improve our show.  Let's take a look at some of the tools that we use that may cost a little more money but are still feasible for those looking to podcast on a budget.  

Before, it did not matter what device Ben and I would record from, as Soundtrap was accessible on any device.  However, what we discovered when we tried to record remotely for the first time was that while live recording when we were miles apart was possible in Soundtrap, it was very hard to get everything in sync and we struggled.  We decided that if we were to record remotely, we had to try a different program.  This is where a program that I had received as a presenter gift from a Google Summit a few years ago came into play:  Camtasia.  

I understand that the creator said it's a soft G,
but I'm not going to argue with the Jedi Master! 
As a thank you for presenting at a summit, I was given a license to TechSmith's SnagIt and Camtasia.  SnagIt is a program in which you can take screenshots, record short videos and create GIFs (with a hard G 😛😀😁).  Camtasia is a video creation program that is similar to iMovie, but accessible on PCs and, in my opinion, more robust and easier to use.  SnagIt is something that I used on a regular basis when creating content for my classes, presentations for conferences, and much more.  However, Camtasia was something that I only had dabbled with a few times, creating a few short videos for class.  I was more familiar with WeVideo, but when looking at that, I didn't see how I would be able to record remotely with Ben.  Camtasia looked like a great way to record my screen while Ben and I (and eventually guests) chatted via video.  If any edits needed to be made, Camtasia allowed tons of way to edit the recordings.  After everything was done, I would be able to extract the audio from the video and save it to upload into Anchor, the program we decided to use to publish the podcast.

Since that day that Soundtrap "failed" us (Soundtrap is a great program, it simply wasn't right for what we were trying to do; the music for our podcast was created in Soundtrap and it's great for a lot of other things), Google Hangouts and Camtasia have been our method of recording madness.  Ben and I and our guest will arrange our time to meet, join the Hangout link and I record the session through Camtasia, making any edits and adding in our music before exporting the audio.  When we were using Soundtrap, it was a free program, and my license of Camtasia was also free, but I was given the license.  If you want to buy Camtasia, it is $249 for a license, plus an extra $49 to guarantee the next release.  However, an educator can buy it for $169 plus $42.25 for the next release.  You aren't required to buy the release, but it is nice when TechSmith releases new updates.    While the price may seem a bit steep, I cannot say enough good things about the things you can do with Camtasia and the ease of use.  While I don't record a lot of videos, it does a fantastic job of video creation (I created my Google Certified Trainer video in Camtasia).

The Blue Yeti in midnight blue
I have also since upgraded my microphone for recording.  When we began the podcast, I would use a Blue Ice Snowball microphone, a very good and very affordable microphone that did the job very well.  But as great as recordings sounded through the Snowball, I kept hearing from numerous individuals that Blue's Yeti microphone was even better.  So I invested!  And I was not disappointed! The Yeti has four different recording settings:

  1. Stereo: records sounds from the front and the sides
  2. Cardioid: records sounds from the front of the microphone only (this is the setting that I use when recording on my own)
  3. Omnidirectional: records sounds from all directions (great for recording with multiple people around a table)
  4. Bidirectional: records sounds from the front and the back of the microphone (great for one-on-one speaking with another person sitting across from you)
In addition to the various settings (the Snowball only offers stereo recording), there are many other features of the Yeti.  It has a headphone jack so you can hear yourself when you speak and you can run the computer's sound through your headphones as well (great when recording via video chat!).  The gain knob allows you to sit further away from the mic and still have it pick up your voice clearly and record your voice at a higher volume.  There is also a volume knob for the headphones.  But perhaps my favorite feature it the mute button.  This comes in handy if you need to cough, if there is a lot of background noise, or if any other unexpected sounds are present in your recording environment.  You simply press the button and the microphone stops picking up sound.  The microphone is a little bulky, but not so much that you can't take it with you.  Plus, you can remove the mic from the stand if you have a microphone boom. 

If you are a beginning podcaster or you are trying to podcast in your classroom with students, this may be too much of an investment.  There are definitely great products available for recording and editing that are much cheaper.  In fact, especially when recording with students, built-in microphones on Chromebooks, iPads, and other devices will do the trick.  Someday, I would love to have a room dedicated to podcasting in my home with a professional mixing board, microphone, etc., but for now, both The BeerEDU Podcast and The Podcast by Sons of Technology sound good (in my opinion) with the equipment that we have been using.  Someday when Stitcher or NPR calls us to produce our shows, perhaps we will upgrade!  

Podcasting is a great way for you and your students to share your voice and it is becoming easier each day.  Share your recordings to the world!  Exchange ideas with other podcasters on recording!  And expose your students to the wonderful world of podcasting, both as producers and as consumers!  

Until next time...

Jake Miller, the #edugif guy, host of the EduDuctTape Podcast,
host of jakemiller.net, and overall cool dude knows what's up...
(Sorry, I had to take one more swipe!)  






Sunday, August 11, 2019

Rainbows & Unicorns It Is Not!

Two things: this is exactly my opinion of social media at times
lately and I love giphy.com! You can find ANYTHING there!
Social media has been a life-changing phenomenon for me as a professional.  Without (mainly) Twitter, Facebook, and more recently, Instagram, I am not sure where I would be at this point in my career.  I have learned so much from so many people, many of whom have become great friends, and have found an outlet of positivity for educators when traditional media, internet trolls, and people in our communities have bashed education and educators for far too long.  However, over the past few weeks, I have begun to notice something: social media has morphed into something else and I do not like the direction that it has taken.  

Internet trolls thrive on anonymity.  By sitting behind a screen, trolls believe they can say whatever they want without consequence, oftentimes things that they would never say to somebody's face.  And many trolls doing only to get a rise out of people, trying to bait people into a conversation so they can continue to humiliate and antagonize people.  I don't engage trolls, and most of the time I block them if I see them, even when I am not their intended target (come to think of it, I can't think of a time in recent memory where I was the target of a troll, thankfully).  I also do not engage online in political, religious, or debate on current events, even with those that I know because it is not worth the hassle when (not if) it turns ugly.  I would rather focus my energies on the positives and scroll onward in my feed.  

While my Twitter account is normally a positive place, as my list of those I follow is all educators save for about 10 sports teams and a comedy podcast that I listen to, lately, my feed has not been immune to troll-like behavior and belittlement by others.  What I have noticed in recent months is that civil discussion about topics in education is becoming more of a virtual shouting match, or even a group of people "ganging up" on somebody when they express an opinion.  For example's sake, let's say that somebody tweets an idea about taking steps to reduce homework in their classes this year.  Rather than encouraging the person, sharing ideas on how to do so, etc., individuals will often attack the person, pointing out that reducing homework is not enough, that anything but zero homework is unacceptable.  Now, instead of motivated by their goal of reducing homework, now this person feels deflated because of the vicious attacks by the social media saviors of education and humanity. 

Another thing I am noticing is the number of accounts that have abandoned sharing ideas and interacting with other educators in favor of trying to post "viral" quotes and stances on various issues, especially what I have always referred to as "chair throwing issues".  These are the ones that are controversial and if you watch long enough, eventually, the debate will become so heated that somebody will throw a chair (in our political climate, gun control is definitely one of those, and right to life versus pro-choice is another that has its moments in the spotlight).  Those behind these accounts will post their position or quote and sit back waiting for the likes and shares.  After a while, somebody will comment with their position, sometimes agreeing, sometimes respectfully disagreeing.  At this point, the original poster jumps in and attacks those that are not 100% behind their tweet.  Homework is another great example of this.  

In one such exchange I saw recently on a post regarding a zero homework policy, an AP teacher commented that they assign some reading homework for their class because there is so much material to cover.  Right away, the author of the post and their following ripped this poor teacher for "destroying these students" self-esteem, family time, etc.  I honestly felt terrible for this teacher that simply shared their thoughts and reasons why they assign reading for homework.  I don't know how much reading this teacher assigned, what subject it was, I just saw this person destroyed by strangers when these strangers easily could have sparked a discussion on how to cover material without having to assign students reading to complete at home.  Instead, many people have an all or nothing mentality, where one must agree with 100% of a thought without question, or they are 100% against them.  And unfortunately, many of those guilty of these attacks, whether blatant or passive-aggressively, are the "educelebrities" of social media, those that have a ton of followers and significant influence through their contributions to education, their expertise, and their opinions. 

And while there has been more negativity lately, it doesn't stop there.  There is also an overabundance of the "perfect" classrooms, lessons, etc.  Very rarely do I see people posting about their struggles with something, it's always the polished and beautiful result.  Pinterest inspired classrooms, sketchnotes that no average person would ever be able to create, and handpicked student projects that make one look better flood the streams.  And while I could be sharing more of my failures and struggles, it's rather discouraging when I see things like this because it's something that the average educator now feels that they need to "live up to", myself included.  I have never done much with sketchnoting because of this, even after hearing multiple people say, "it's whatever you make of it, don't worry about how it looks".  But even then, encouraging people to draw their thinking instead of writing it while displaying borderline Da Vincis to the world isn't a great way to inspire others to try sketchnoting. 

And I have to give Ryan O'Donnell a shout out for this next thought: when replying to a message in which several people have been tagged, if it is something that enriches the conversation and moves it forward, by all means, reply to everybody.  However, too often messages are sent to everybody that pertain to only one in the thread (think email reply all).  This can often lead to a series of notifications that are meaningless to many, as they do not apply to anything regarding the original message. 

I get especially irritated by some of the "Follow Friday" or other random tags of people in messages that eventually result in a lot of "irrelevant to my mission of social media" notifications.  I have turned more and more to muting conversations or even individuals as a result of these types of messages overrunning my feed and notifications.  I wholeheartedly agree that we should follow other educators and that we are better when working and communicating together, but must we announce that to every person that we follow, follows us, or we happen to meet at a conference?  A lot of times, I feel like many of these types of posts are simply ploys to gain likes and followers rather than an authentic method of connecting educators to one another. 

And I don't want to come across as some ungrateful jerk, but there are many reasons why I am not on social media. I'm not on social media to be force-fed opinions masqueraded as fact.  I'm not on social media to be attacked or witness others being attacked, especially if trying to participate in civilized discussion.  I'm not on social media to earn followers, likes, retweets, and saccharine-laced messages of how my mere presence or the presence of others somehow makes the world go round.   I appreciate civil discourse, words of encouragement, and opinions so long as they are supported by fact and presented respectfully. 

There is enough negativity on social media, especially outside of the educators that have embraced social media.  I understand that toxicity is like cancer and can spread quickly and easily, that is why it is important for educators to stay positive in the face of negativity.  But at the same time, positivity needs to be authentic and needs to celebrate the struggles as much as the successes.  I know that many are going to have issues with my thoughts here and I welcome you to disagree, respectfully. 

Until next time... 



Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Access for All

Ben & I with Maggie Cox, president-elect of
NACTE prior to our podcasting session
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in two great professional development opportunities, the Nevada Association for Career & Technical Education (NACTE) Conference, and the CUE Leadership Development Institute (LDI).  While my role at NACTE was that of a presenter and as an attendee at CUE LDI, a common theme came about from each event that resonated with me, the idea of equity and access to all that are affected by each organization.  

Months ago, my BeerEDU Podcast partner-in-crime, Ben Dickson, and I submitted a proposal for the NACTE Conference, a session on beginning podcasting, using our show as an example of why podcast, the equipment and software involved, and how educators and students can use podcasting as a way to demonstrate learning, connect with authentic audiences, and have fun at the same time.  After our session was accepted, I was also approached by the coordinator of the conference, Craig Statucki, and asked if I would be willing to participate in a panel session during lunch on one of the days of the conference.  Craig is somebody that I have been connected with and have looked up to for a long time, so without question, not even as to what the topic was going to be for the panel, I agreed. 

One question that came up in our presentation: were we going
to provide beer for the session?  
In our presentation, our attendees asked a lot of great questions on the why, how, and what of podcasting.  While our session was an hour long and mostly informational in format, I wish we could have had longer, perhaps even a three-hour session to help our audience to begin building the beginnings of their podcasts.  And I must give Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott of the TOSAs Talking Tech Podcast a lot of credit, as many items Ben and I presented in our session was provided from episodes of their show.  We even directed attendees to check out Tom and Mike's four-part series on how to start a podcast.  But one of the main points that Ben and I tried to convey and what many attendees asked about was related to access to content for students and choice in assessment, catering to student strengths, as well as a more modern way of communicating with families and the community through podcasting.  While I feel that it was a great session, there are definitely some things to improve upon for later, and Ben and I have already been asked to bring the session back to the regional ACTE conference to be held in Lake Tahoe in the spring of 2020. 

As for the panel, as I had mentioned, I did not know what I would be addressing, so I tracked down Craig after my session to inquire.  He informed me that I would be on the panel with Snehal Bhakta, a friend of mine from my years in Las Vegas and a coordinator of career & technical in the school district, and Dr. Summer Stephens, the superintendent of the Churchill County School District in Northern Nevada.  The topic of the panel would be equity and access to career & technical education for all students.  While I am not an expert on career & technical education, I did work at a CTE school for many years and along with my (limited) experience in special education, I do have strong feelings about access to CTE curriculum for students and schools, so I was very excited to serve on the panel, especially with two people like Snehal and Dr. Stephens that have a lot of experience in CTE and leadership. 

I had never served on a panel prior to this.  It was a bit intimidating to think that I would be put on the spot with questions that I hadn't been presented with prior to the panel, but the topic was something that I was knowledgeable of, passionate about, and I had two other people that I would consider experts along with me to take some of the pressure off.  Once we got going, I had nothing to worry about; in fact, the first question that was presented by the moderator was something that I wanted to answer right away. 

It was an honor to serve with Snehal Bhakta and Dr. Summer Stephens on this
panel.  I look forward to serving on another panel someday! 
The question related to the importance of offering CTE courses to students.  Right away, I thought about a student that I had nearly 10 years ago that came to me on the first day of school to tell me that while he was going to work very hard, he struggled with reading and writing and English was not his first language.  Ultimately, this student improved his reading and writing skills and passed his proficiency tests (something required for graduation at the time) and graduated with his peers.  His hard work had a lot to do with his achievements, but he was also in a school that offered him courses that he was interested in and would help him to prepare for a career or further education after high school and gave him the motivation to succeed, something that many students that struggle do not have the luxury of having and often times end up giving up and struggling to graduate, or even drop out of school because of their lack of motivation.  The point I tried to convey in the first part of the panel was that if more schools offer a variety of CTE courses, more students could find something that they are passionate about. 

As the panel progressed, my colleagues on the panel brought up some great points about bringing access to CTE for all students.  Topics covered ranged from the funding of CTE programs, encouraging female students to enroll in male-dominated courses like auto mechanics, welding, and computer science, to one of the most intriguing topics, how schools build their schedules around academic and CTE courses to provide access to all students.  I had never thought much about this before, but it made me realize that many schools struggle with this.  Often times, in order to give students a schedule that meets the required courses in which they must enroll, students are excluded from enrolling in their first choice elective courses, which include CTE courses.  Schools must work harder to ensure that students have access to their preferred electives and work to build schedules that allow students to explore their interests.  To piggyback this, I also believe that schools need to work harder at building relationships with "non-traditional" education programs, such as with companies and unions in the community.  Colleges and military branches are always represented at career days, why can't something like a local carpenters union also be represented and come to schools to give presentations?  Perhaps this is the case where you teach, but it is something that I have not seen much of in my career and the schools in which I have taught. 

Prior to the event, Ben and I got on our bikes
along the beach near Asilomar, taking in the sights!
From Lake Tahoe, after a quick stop to run some errands and take care of some things at home, I drove from Reno to Salinas, CA for a night with my friend Ben Cogswell before heading to Pacific Grove for the CUE Leadership Development Institute at the Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds.  LDI is an event I had attended twice previously, missing the 2018 installment, as I was moving to Reno the same weekend of the event.  The purpose of LDI is to bring together members of the various CUE affiliates in California and Nevada to brainstorm ideas on how to make CUE a better organization and give affiliates the opportunity to learn from each other to improve events and connections for those that the organization and affiliates represent.  Like the NACTE Conference session and panel, the theme that I took from LDI was access:  How do we as an organization, and in my case, a leader within CUE-NV, provide access to educators within the State of Nevada and make CUE membership worthwhile?  Between the leaders of CUE as a whole and each individual affiliate, 22 affiliates in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to network with people and share ideas about how to make our affiliates better and offer teachers in our areas high-quality professional development and opportunities to connect with one another. 

Ultimately, whether talking about access to career & technical education curriculum for all students or providing a way to provide professional development to all educators, the takeaway from either is that we must work together to provide students with the best possible education and opportunities to explore their interests.  Choices in electives for students and providing training for educators to be better at their craft is a great start.   I encourage you to ask the tough questions about what we can do to be better for our students. 

Until next time...




Saturday, July 13, 2019

What Team Are You On?

Desmond Howard showing Ohio who is the best in the 1991 meeting in this
storied rivalry.  While the Maize & Blue have had a tough go of it in recent
years, I have a feeling things are about to change! Image courtesy of
https://www.heisman.com/articles/desmond-howard-25th-anniversary-heisman-winner/
Competition is something that has dictated human nature since the beginning of time.  In the beginning, it was about mere survival.  Humans competed with one another for food, for shelter, for protection.  As time went on, competition dictated the successes and failures of nations, of empires.  Today, competition drives so much of the world, as nations compete economically, individuals compete for better jobs, and on a more recreational level, various games, sports, and the rivalries that arise as a result, like the Yankees and Red Sox, Maple Leafs and Canadians, Packers and Bears, and Michigan and Ohio (State, but Michigan fans don't add the rest of the name when referring to the school from the state to the south).

Recently, Pear Deck announced that it was partnering with Microsoft Education to offer its platform for use with PowerPoint Online, something that has been available with Google Slides for some time.  You can check out my post on this announcement, Pear Deck for #MicrosoftEDU, here.  This announcement gave me the opportunity to explore Office365, OneDrive, and other Microsoft apps a little bit further, as I haven't used Microsoft much over the past few years since I started using GSuite for Education apps exclusively.  It also sparked a conversation between me and a handful of others on a recent episode of Sons of Technology: The Podcast about competition between educators and the camps that teachers tend to put themselves into.  Listen to the episode (and subscribe) below or find Sons of Technology wherever you listen to podcasts to check out this conversation and many more.



We all know those people, in fact, we may be those people.  "Forget Microsoft Office365, I'm a Google teacher!"  "Why do you use Nearpod?  Pear Deck is so much better!"  "You're still using Kahoot!?  You know that Quizizz is better, right?"  "I can't believe somebody would buy a phone other than an iPhone, it's light years ahead of anything Android."  You get the picture.  In fact, I have been this guy before, criticizing somebody's preferences over my own.

Over the past couple of years, I have shied away from such criticism.  Who am I to judge somebody based on their personal preferences?  And who am I to judge what a school district provides to its teachers and students?  While I certainly prefer GSuite for Education, it's mostly because it is what I know after the districts I have worked for adopted Google as their platform of choice.  If somebody works in an Office365 district and doesn't have access to Google, I have no place to judge and criticize them.

Why create a divide when we should unite in the name of student
achievement, empowerment, and connectivity! Image courtesy of
https://www.motocms.com/blog/en/microsoft-office-vs-google-docs/
While my shift to a more accepting attitude toward others' preferences was more out of respect for others, it brings about another important point: if something works for you and it is beneficial to student learning, what difference does it make?  We don't need to put ourselves into teams that try to compete against one another when we all have the same goal:  student achievement!

Now, this does not mean that we should support absolutely everything and try to implement every single tool that's available into our classrooms, far from it!  If you like a tool, use it, tell people about it, brag about what it can do for you and your students.  Have constructive debates not about what tool is better, but how each tool can be beneficial.  Try to see all sides and make informed decisions about tools to you, don't just use a tool because a colleague or a company told you to do so.

As for sports though, keep it civil, but keep running your mouths and keep rivalries alive!  I am sorry Randall (Sampson), I love you, but you are a Buckeye fan, so I may be a little bit slower in getting to you if a group of Wolverines has you surrounded.

In closing, one team that I hope you will join will be my book team!  I have been relatively quiet about it, with a few tweets here and there and some mentions occasionally about a book that I have been working on.  As of July 9, 2019, I signed a contract with a publisher on the book that I have been working on for the past few months.  More details will be released as we get closer to a finished product, but I cannot wait to reveal to you what I have been pouring myself into, with the hopes to inspire those that will read my work.

Until next time... 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pear Deck for #MicrosoftEDU

Pear Deck for Microsoft: another great pear!
Image courtesy of peardeck.com
For several years now, I have been hawking the awesomeness of Pear Deck, first from its origins as a stand-alone application, then to its partnership with Google with the Pear Deck for Google Slides add-on.  This week, Pear Deck announced the news that it was now also going to partner with Microsoft to allow for Pear Deck to be used with PowerPoint much like you can do with Google Slides!

Before getting too much deeper, you've always been able to use PowerPoint in creating Pear Deck presentations.  In the early days of Pear Deck, the editor allowed you to create a presentation within the app, but it was very limited in its design, with only a white background, a few options for inserting text and images, and the ability to insert YouTube videos in addition to the interactive questions.  If you wanted to make a presentation more personalized and visually appealing, you could upload a .pdf file, Google Slides, or PowerPoint.  However, each of these file types had to be uploaded into the app, then you inserted the interactive questions as their own slides, not as a conversion of a slide that you made.  While Pear Deck was limiting in the early days of using it, I obviously continued to use it because it was way better than the standard PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation and it did not give me a headache like Prezi (if you don't know Prezi, ask around, someone is bound to tell you the horror stories of the animations that people overused in that program).

Tons of templates at your disposal!
After using Pear Deck for a couple of years, it was announced that an add-on for Google Slides would be the primary method of creating and presenting with Pear Deck.  Now instead of needing to upload files into Pear Deck and making the necessary edits and additions of interactive slides, you could create right in Google Drive and keep your file as a Google Slides file instead of converting it while using the Pear Deck for Google Slides add-on.

Want to create your own interactive
slide? Use one of the options in the
add-on and make it your own!
The add-on also introduced the template slides.  In the template slides, you could insert (and edit) slides for the beginning of the lesson, during the lesson, and the end of the lesson.  Critical thinking slides were eventually introduced, and most recently, social-emotional learning (SEL) template slides were introduced.  All one had to do was click on the template in the add-on and insert it in the presentation.  The add-on also allowed for interactive questions to be added to regular slides as well, so teachers could use their own images and slide designs to create interactive slides.

You could still upload a Microsoft PowerPoint file into Drive and convert it to Slides, but while the original editor was still available for a short time, eventually, the ability for one to present a PowerPoint file disappeared.  In addition, to log into a session, you were required to have a Google account.  This prevented schools that had Microsoft for Education accounts from basking in the sunshine of Pear Deck.  A few of my friends like Tom Covington, Michael Jephcott, and Ben Dickson all work in Microsoft districts, so trying to preach the Pear Deck gospel to them didn't necessarily fall on deaf ears, but it certainly was not something that I'm sure they got too deep into whenever I would start to rave.  On top of that, I work in a district where we have Google accounts, but our email is through Outlook, giving us access to both Google and Office365 platforms.  For those in my district that were using Microsoft, they either had to learn how to use Google Slides in order to use Pear Deck or not use it at all, as it was not available for PowerPoint.

A peek at the Pear Deck for Microsoft add-in. 
But now, Microsoft users rejoice!  Pear Deck is available for PowerPoint! Since this announcement, I have spent some time getting to know how Pear Deck works with Microsoft, refreshing my knowledge of Office365 that I haven't touched in a long time and learning a lot of other aspects of Office that I did not know existed.

It is very similar to how it works for Google Slides.  From PowerPoint Online, download the Pear Deck for Microsoft add-in (not an add-on, as it is referred to in the Googlesphere).  At this time, it is only available for use in PowerPoint Online, but it will be available in the desktop version of PowerPoint soon.  Because the desktop version does have features that the online version does not, you could do the bulk of your design in the desktop version, save it to OneDrive, then open it from OneDrive online and use the Pear Deck add-in.

Here is the major difference between the Google and the Microsoft versions of Pear Deck.  While Google allows you to simply click on a template and add a slide into a presentation, Microsoft requires a little bit more background work first.  In the add-in, the templates are available, but when you click on the link, it directs you to PowerPoint files of the slides.  In order to use them, you need to download copies of the template files (I recommend downloading to OneDrive, but you could save them to your hard drive, desktop, etc.) then copy the specific slide and paste it into your presentation.  It's a little bit of extra work in comparison to the Google version, but it gets the job done.  As for creating your own interactive slides, the process is the same: choose the type of slide in the add-in and go!

Another aspect of the Pear Deck for Google Slides add-on that makes presenting easy is the Google Classroom integration where a presentation can be posted in Classroom rather than giving students a code to log into a presentation.  The Microsoft equivalent, Teams, does not have this integration at this time, but Microsoft has announced that the integration will be available for Teams very soon!  And as more people begin to use the Pear Deck for Microsoft add-in, people will voice their suggestions and improvements will be made.

So, if you are a Microsoft user and are excited about this new partnership, I have created a couple of items to assist you in exploring Pear Deck more.  Please check out my Pear Deck for Microsoft Sway presentation or a sample Pear Deck presentation in PowerPoint below.  And if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to hit me up.  If I don't have an answer for you, I will learn along with you as I need to increase my Office365 knowledge and skills anyway.

Until next time...


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Reflection & Planning for the Fall

A good start to the summer with a
live recording of The BeerEDU
Podcast!  Thank you to Shoe Tree
Brewing Company in Carson City, NV
for being such gracious hosts!
The end of the 2018-2019 school year is upon us.  As I sit down and write this, I have been off for almost a week.  My kids finished up their school years (we are in different districts) and have since gone to California to stay with my parents for a few days, giving my wife and I some time to ourselves before she started her summer classes for her grad program. 

While I had the greatest of intentions to get some things done, I must admit that I have fully taken advantage of the time to recuperate a little bit after what was perhaps the busiest school year that I have had in my 14-year career in education.   I have enjoyed catching up on some shows on Hulu and Netflix, episodes of various podcasts, and been able to put almost 20 miles on my bike in the last two days alone.  I even was able to record a podcast on location at Shoe Tree Brewing Company with my partner in crime, Ben Dickson, meeting with our guest, Rob Williams, to have some beers and have an amazing conversation about the great things happening in Rob's district in Southern & Central Nevada (watch for this to drop on Saturday, June 29, 2019, if you are reading this prior to then).  The past few days has given me the opportunity to reflect on this past year and think about some things that I want to do in the upcoming school year, a little over two months away!

I mentioned that this past year was busy; that is certainly an understatement!  I began the school year in a new school in a new city, working in a role that I had never done before while working on a degree program to become certified to work in my role as a special education teacher.  As the sole breadwinner of the family while my wife is in school, I had to pick up some extra duties to make a little extra cash, so I worked a couple of hours a week as an after-school technology coach and taught two nights of adult education, teaching American government.  I couldn't neglect my duties as Vice President of CUE-NV, so I carved out time to work with my board to put on several events throughout the school year.  I attended and presented at several events, including the CapCUE Tech Fest, FallCUE, a couple of Google Summits, the Tulare County Tech Rodeo, and SpringCUE.  And in between all of that, I submitted and earned my Google Certified Trainer endorsement, completed my Master's in Special Education, and have started working on a book (more on this momentarily), all while balancing my life at home with my wife and two kids and co-hosting two podcasts.  While many will think that I am crazy, I thrive on a busy lifestyle and wouldn't have it any other way! But enough about how busy I've been, let's get to the reflection!

I would be lying if I told you I wasn't apprehensive going into the school year and teaching special education.  While I wasn't nervous about working with students and meeting my new colleagues, I was nervous about the paperwork and other duties of the job.  What I learned very quickly, however: I would rather write IEPs and check in with students than writing lesson plans, grade, and everything else that comes with general education!  I feel that I got to connect with students on a more personal level, learning about their lives, their strengths, and their dreams, which was a lot harder to do as a general education teacher.  Now don't get me wrong, special education is not all rainbows and unicorns, there were certainly frustrating days and students that were very hard to work with at times, and parents that were even harder to work with, but in the end, I am confident that I am making a difference in students' lives and look forward to improving as a special education teacher and continuing to inspire kids and their futures. 

One of my favorite views of Reno a few months back.  I can't believe that
something so beautiful is only a short drive or hike away!
I would also be lying if I said that on a personal level that this past year has been easy.  As the only one bringing in a paycheck, there have certainly been some changes in our lifestyle.  Stress levels have been higher at times as a result.  Because of my full days at school, plus the extra time I have been putting in to make a little extra, I haven't been at home as much, taking a toll on my wife and children.  On top of that, Mary's school schedule has her working all day, then several hours a night on her classes.  Because of how busy we have both been, we haven't been able to enjoy our new home as much as we would like to, to the point that Mary isn't incredibly happy here.  But the good news:  the kids have settled in nicely to their schools and have made friends, Mary is over halfway done with her program, and as a speech pathologist, she will not have a problem getting a job anywhere that she wishes.  At that point, we can start to experience the beauty of where we live (if we decide to stay, I hope so, I personally love it here!) and as I jokingly told a co-worker before school ended when he asked what we would do with two incomes, "We can buy name brand food at the grocery store again!" 

Every little bit helps, and Mary and I cannot be more grateful to you for your help!
And speaking of a change of lifestyle and the struggle to make ends meet at times, I owe it to my wife, Mary, to help her in reaching her goals while she completes her grad program.  The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, will be having their annual convention in Orlando, FL in November.  It is a wonderful opportunity to further herself professionally and she deserves to go.  However, between the conference registration, flight, hotel, etc., it is something that will be very tough for us to pull off financially.  This is why Mary has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover some of her expenses.  If you would consider making a small donation to her to help her get to Orlando, we would be forever in your debt.  Please visit https://www.gofundme.com/asha-convention-in-orlando to make a donation!  And please share this link out so that others may be able to help as well! 

The last few days have also given me a chance to think about some things that I want to do this fall.  While I will continue to co-teach World History with the same teacher this year, I am also going to be co-teaching Economics with him and another teacher.  Economics was my favorite subject throughout college and I was really hoping to teach it when I got my first teaching job.  However, it just wasn't in the cards and I have never had the opportunity to teach economics, until now!  I will certainly need to brush up on the content to get up to speed, but I am already starting to think about some activities that will help make economics more interesting and applicable to students' real-life experiences, including a budget simulation using Google Sheets.  But something that I really want to do with both classes is to create a "menu" of the different tools that we will use throughout the year.  The menu will include the tool, a sample activity for students to complete, and examples of how we will use the tools throughout the year.  To take it even further, I want to design the menu in a hyperdoc format and post it in Google Classroom as a material that students can refer back to if needed.  Some of the tools that I intend to include, but not limited to, are Pear Deck, Quizizz, Quizlet, the GSuite tools, and Adobe Spark, just to name a few. 

As the summer progresses, more reflection and recuperation is certainly on the docket, but so are a few other things.  Ben and I will continue to record a few episodes of The BeerEDU Podcast, and we have some great guests lined up.  We would love to have some more guests, so if you are interested, please visit bit.ly/beeredupodcast and fill out our guest form!  My other podcast, Sons of Technology: The Podcast, is also going to continue to record and publish episodes, so be on the lookout for both of those.  I also plan to write posts for this blog, perhaps not as frequently as I do during the school year, but I will write nonetheless.  But I also plan to continue working on the book that I have started.  Without going into extreme detail and giving away the entire premise of my book, it is essentially a memoir of the times I have taken risks in my life as a person and a professional and the impact that it has had on me as an educator.  My goal is to inspire others to take risks in their lives and embrace the successes and failures that come with said risks.  I hope to have a completed draft by the end of the summer and hope to have a publisher accept my proposal. 

Excited to start this one!
And of course, summertime is learning time!  Podcasts, scrolling through the Twitter feed, and a couple of events are on my agenda, as is doing some reading that is so hard to fit in during the summer.  I have already completed Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess & Beth Houf, and I am nearly finished with Make Learning Magical by Tisha Richmond.  My next book will be Be Real by Tara Martin, and I will definitely need to pick up a copy of the next in the #Ditchbook line, Don't Ditch That Tech by Matt Miller, Nate Ridgway, and Angelia Ridgway. 

Hopefully, your summer, if it has started, has been relaxing and has given you time to reflect and you have started to think about some things that you want to do in the next school year. 

Until next time...










Thursday, May 16, 2019

2019 Goals Revisited!

In late December and early January, I decided on my goals for 2019.  I outlined some professional goals and a personal goal for the year with steps on how I wanted to achieve those goals.  As we are already in the middle of May and approaching the halfway point of 2019 (already!), I wanted to revisit those to update myself on my progress, make modifications to my goals if needed and set some new goals for the remainder of the year.  Here is a link to my original 2019 goals blog post if you would like to read it in its entirety rather than getting the CliffsNotes version of it in this post.  

Really proud of this badge, I worked so hard for it!
One of my goals for 2019 was to earn the Google Certified Trainer endorsement.  I have been providing training to various groups and individuals on Google tools and pedagogy for several years, and I have applied to the program in the past.  I was rejected once in 2016, then again in the summer of 2018.  I had ideas as to why I was rejected and I wanted to make sure that this time around, I was going to submit an application that went above and beyond the criteria required.  My goal was to complete the application in stages, that way I could pay attention to all of the details and have everything in order when I was finally ready.  

The plan was to have the application requirements ready by the end of February and the video requirement ready by the end of April, then submitting the entire application (the application window is now year-round; from what I have seen, there is a monthly deadline for review of applications).  I actually got everything in order and submitted in time for the February 28th deadline,  a full two months earlier than I had planned.  However, just submitting it was not my goal; my goal was to have the application accepted and earn the endorsement.  After submitting, the confirmation stated that a decision would be made in 4-6 weeks.  On April 7th, I received the notification that my application was accepted and that I was a newly minted Google Certified Trainer! While part of the requirement of the program is to provide training to others, I think the best part about it is the learning that I have already benefitted from as a result of the interactions with others in the #GoogleET community, and I look forward to continued learning and relationship and PLN building.  

Good feeling when this was displayed on the university's app!  
Over the course of the past year, I have been working on the credits required to earn a Master's in Special Education.  While I could have spread out the program over a maximum of two years, my philosophy was to complete it in as little time as possible to save money, as Western Governors University charges the same amount for tuition regardless of how many credits are completed in a term.  In my first term that ended in December, I had completed 23 of the 31 credits.  Technically, I had all of the requirements for two more credits done, but I would not have received my financial aid if I completed those credits before the end of the term, as it would have made me only part-time with the remaining six credits.  So I held onto my final paper for that class and waited until the first day of the new term, submitted it, and received notification later on that first day that I had completed that class.  Then it was on to complete my practicum hours and Praxis tests.  I completed all of the requirements and submitted my graduation paperwork on April 19, a month and a half before the end of the second term.  

While I thought I was done, it turns out that I had overlooked one more Praxis test that I had to take as a requirement of the university.  I had to scramble to find an available slot in which to register, pay the fee (don't get me started on fees for Praxis tests, the ACT, SAT, or any other test that is provided by some educational testing company, that's a rant for another day, in fact, possibly my next blog post), and take it.  Luckily, I was able to get into a testing center a few days later and complete the exam.  As of this writing, I am still waiting on the results, but I am confident that I did fine, I already passed three other Praxis tests for special education.  But any day now, I should be officially completed with my M.S. in Special Education and I can submit the endorsement for my teaching license.  

As for my personal goal of riding my bike more, while it has not been a complete failure, I certainly have not been keeping up on my goal of riding 100 miles or more a month.  I underestimated the impact of my schedule, the winter weather and its wrath, and my kids' desire to ride with me.  My work schedule is very hectic, often keeping me at school for 12-14 hours a day.  Most days, I want to sleep until I absolutely have to get up and when I get home, it's time for a bit of food, then sleep.  Weekends often mean that I want to relax.  The winter weather was certainly a roadblock for several months, as the cold, the wind, and the rain and snow was often a convenient explanation as to why I wasn't able to get out on the bike (or was it an excuse to stay in and play Nintendo?).  And because my kids got bikes as well, it has been hard to go out on long rides, as they are still young and using training wheels.  

However, I haven't completely ignored my bike.  I like to ride to the post office to get the mail, I've ridden the bike to the local breweries a few times, and I love getting the kids out on theirs with me to ride around the neighborhood a bit.  The 100 miles a month is more like 10 miles a month currently, but with the end of the school approaching soon, I should be able to get more miles under those tires.  And speaking of tires, I even learned how to fix a flat tire after getting a pinch flat on the rear wheel a couple of weeks ago.  I went and bought the tube and tools needed and after a quick YouTube video and 15 minutes, I had fixed it myself.  All of the years riding bikes as a kid and into college, I never had to replace a tube or tire, I only ever had to fill a tire when it got low, so this was a new experience.  I have even explored how to convert my tires to tubeless! A coworker told me about a method where you line the rim with duct tape and it creates a seal that is sufficient enough so that the tire will no longer require a tube.  If you are a biker, here's a quick video on how to do it!  

The Truckee River in Downtown Reno on May 16, 2019, screenshot from a
webcam hosted by the City of Reno.  It is predicted to look like this for
several more weeks as the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada was well above
average for the 2018-2019 winter season.
So at this point, I have met two of my three goals.  So my next step?  Set some new goals and modify my bike goal.  With better weather and more time, I am modifying my riding goal to 30 miles a month, essentially a mile a day.  This will take into account that I cannot do long rides with the kids yet and if I can't get out every day, I can do a longer ride on my own a few days of the month.  Another personal goal: take the kids fishing! My son got a fishing pole for his birthday, so he's been asking almost every day when we can go.  The rivers in our area are raging from the melting mountain snow (with tons of snow still to melt) and the lakes and ponds are high as well, but I look forward to getting the kids out to pull in some trout very soon (I lived on the water when I was kid, fishing was something I didn't get do as much as I would have liked living in Las Vegas, Northern Nevada has many more options to get out on the water more often).  Professionally, I am going to start exploring the Google Certified Innovator program further.  I don't believe that would be able to afford the travel in the next few months, but I would love to explore the application and prepare it for when I am ready to submit, as well as think of a base idea or two that could turn into a project.  I also am setting a goal of helping educators in my district to become excited about the Google Certified Educator level 1 exam.  I would love to help at least 10 educators earn that certification by the end of the year. 

Have you revisited your goals for 2019?  Where are you at in your journey in achieving your goals?  Let's hold one another accountable!

Until next time...