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... 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Certifications & Advanced Degrees

In the past few days on both of the podcasts in which I co-host, The BeerEDU Podcast with Ben Dickson and Sons of Technology: The Podcast with Joe Marquez and a rotating set of amazing educators, we focused on the importance of certifications and advanced degrees and education.  It was not planned to have both of these episodes focus on this topic, it just happened to fall into place in this manner.  Both episodes even had three people in common: me, Katherine Goyette, and Adam Juarez.  We also had Corey Coble join the Sons of Technology episode to share his opinions and expertise.  You can check out both episodes through the links below or search (and subscribe) on your favorite podcasting app.  

The Google Certified Educator, Level 1
badge that is earned after completion of
the Level 1 exam.  
The focal point of both conversations was based on why: why should educators seek out certifications?  What does an educator get out of becoming (insert edtech tool) certified?  Why should educators endorse various tools and act as ambassadors for products and their functions?  And what the conversations really boiled down to was as educators, it's about learning, a growth mindset, and a desire to do what we feel is best for our students.  While there was certainly talk about what tools and what certifications are worthy of pursuing, it all came back to the why.  A great point that was brought up is how much one can and will learn simply by going through the certification process.  

The Google Certified Educator, Level 2
badge that is earned after completion of
the Level 2 exam.
The best example was the process of becoming a Google Certified Educator, either Level 1 or Level 2.  If you have never taken either of the exams, it isn't simply about completing a form, answering a few short questions, and "earning" your badge.  Not to knock any tools out there and not to mention any names of tools, but there are certainly some tools that offer certification or a badge simply by asking for one.  Google's certification program must more rigorous, and the best part about it, it makes one prove that they are knowledgeable of Google's tools AND can APPLY those tools to an educational setting and scenario.  I certainly recall learning a lot of different things each time I completed the Level 1 and Level 2 exams (I have taken each one twice).  If you would like to learn more about the exams, you can check out the Google for Education Teacher Center for more information. 

There also some other certification exams that while I don't believe are as rigorous, I still learned a great deal and earned the certifications.  Two prime examples of these are the Microsoft Innovative Educator and the Apple Teacher Certifications.  Both programs are free (the Google exams are $10 for Level 1, $25 for Level 2) and do not require the process of taking a long exam and demonstration of the use of tools like the Google exams.  However, the certifications weren't simply a "create your account, provide us with some information and we will send you your badge."  Both Microsoft and Apple required knowledge and application of each platforms tools.  

Not a rigorous as the Google exams, in my opinion, but
I am still very proud of earning this certification!
I earned my Apple Teacher certification a few years ago.  With all of this talk about certifications, I think I need to go back and do it again just because it has been over 2 years since I completed the tests.  The Apple certification breaks it down into two segments: iPad and Mac.  There are several topics within each test, such as skills and application of tools like Keynote, Numbers, Garage Band, iMovie, and others.  I don't own a Mac but used one for several years as it was my teacher workstation at a previous school, but I do have several iPads at home.  While I haven't used Numbers, Pages, and Keynote extensively, if much at all, they are very similar to Docs, Sheets, Slides, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, so I was able to get through those exams with a little bit of digging and toying around.  I did struggle some with some of the accessibility tools of each platform, but eventually, I was able to earn both the iPad and Mac certifications.  I don't use Apple products much outside of my personal iPad, but I certainly know more about both systems because of the Apple Teacher program.  And they have a wonderful Twitter chat, the #appleteacher chat on Tuesdays (I haven't participated in a while, I'm sure it's still great) and post great things on the Apple Education Twitter account.  And if you want to do a deeper dive in Apple tools and prove your expertise, there is also the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  You can learn more about all of these on the Apple Education page.  

I earned half of the points at CUE 2018, the other half?
I completed some tutorials while watching the 2018
World Cup one morning in June 2018. 
The Microsoft Innovative Educator came about as a perceived necessity.  When it was determined that I would be moving from Las Vegas to Northern Nevada, I knew that Washoe County School District (Reno/Sparks) was a Microsoft district, not a Google district like most other districts in Nevada.  So when I went to Spring CUE 2018, I made sure to seek out session on some Microsoft tools to become more familiar with the ins and outs of Office365.  I hit the jackpot when I went to a three-hour long CUE Rockstar session that was hosted by Tammy Dunbar.  She went over some common tools like PowerPoint and OneDrive but introduced others that I had never used like OneNote and Sway.  After the session, we were presented with a promo code for points to be used toward the Microsoft Innovative Educator certification, which added up to about half of the points needed.  See, Microsoft gives you a lot of different options in getting their certification.  You can pick and choose from different topics, complete the tutorials and exams, and earn points that will get the certification once you earn 1000 points.  There are a variety of badges that you can earn with Microsoft that demonstrate knowledge of tools, evidence of training teachers in Microsoft tools, and many more.  Like the Apple Teacher program, I learned a great deal about a lot of the Microsoft tools, and while I ended up getting a job in another Google district and don't necessarily use the Microsoft skills often, it's another perspective that I was able to learn about.  If you would like to learn more about the Microsoft Education program, check out their resources, there are a ton of them, plus the Microsoft Education Twitter feed.  

I have a few other certifications and badges to my name as well.  I am a Pear Deck Certified Coach, a distinction in which I had to be nominated for.  Nick Park, an employee of Pear Deck, and I struck up a relationship at first professionally when I worked with him to purchase a site license of Pear Deck for a school.  While we don't see each other much, we do keep in contact and chat every now and then, but he nominated me for the program where I had to complete some webinars and live chats, submit a Pear Deck presentation for review, and now that I am a certified coach, I am part of a group that can share ideas, learn of updates, and "Share the Pear" at conferences.  It's been a lot of fun being a part of the group and promoting such a great product, in my opinion.  I also sport a Flipgrid Certified Educator badge for demonstrating my use and knowledge of Flipgrid.  

My proudest achievement in the certification world!
My favorite certification, by far, is my newest one, Google Certified Trainer.  The process of becoming a trainer is lengthy and rigorous.  You must be a Google Certified Educator, Level 1 and Level 2, complete a trainer assessment exam, complete an application that demonstrates your abilities to train people in Google tools, as well as provide feedback attendees of sessions have given you, and complete a video (here is mine if you'd like to see an example) that tells the world why you should be a trainer and a screencast demonstrating a Google tool.  I applied to be a Trainer in 2016 and was rejected.  I tried again in 2018 and was rejected again.  Finally, in 2019, I applied and was accepted into the program.  Now I am part of a group of educators that can share ideas about how to use Google in the classroom, learn about updates ahead of the general public, and I am listed in a directory of Trainers where people and schools may contact me to inquire about training.  While I love the fact that I can share my expertise, the best part is the opportunity to learn from others and build my professional network further so I can learn even more!  

Further oneself professional is so much more than certification in various tools.  Educators often need to obtain an advanced degree in order to keep up on advances in our field, and if one wants to earn more, districts often require advanced degrees to move along the pay scale.  I earned my first master's degree in 2010, completing a Master's in Education from Southern Utah University.  In 2014, I earned my educational specialist in school administration from Nova Southeastern University.  And now, as of May 2019, I have completed my Master's in Special Education from Western Governors University, a degree that was more out of necessity to get a job when I moved to Northern Nevada.  However, it was a blessing in disguise because it made me realize how much I love special education.  I like to joke with people that I am now one of the most educated people in my school without a doctorate.  All jokes aside, I learned a ton about pedagogy, leadership, and technology going through each of these programs.  I am also very marketable, so if I ever need to move again, I am certified in social studies, physical education, health, special education, and school administration.  Will I pursue a doctorate?  Perhaps, but definitely down the road more.  

What are your thoughts on certifications?  What lessons and knowledge have you learned from your certifications and advanced degrees?  I would love to hear more from you on Twitter, and as a shameless plug, if you have anything that you would like to share on my podcasts, please let me know as we are always looking for great guests.  

Until next time...