Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Academies of ISD

If I am not vested in my community:  its businesses, schools, carwash fundraisers, fall festivals, traditions, and everything else than why am I here?

Personally I want better for my kids in schools and their education.  Not that my education was bad by any means because I believe you get out of things what you put in to them.   In fact, education has empowered me to want more for it holistically on all levels.  Certainly my five kids at home drive my passion and desire to make their experiences better than mine.

My district, Independence School District, is on to something fabulous!  We have partnered with Ford Next Generation learning and are creating our Career Academies.

I love that the Career Academies can empower kids to find their passion and find something they can love to do and make a difference.  The five academies include:  Industrial Tech, Health & Public Services, Business, Arts & Education, and Computer Science.  This will be at the high school level.

Recently we held our 1st Annual Academies Retreat and we had the pleasure of listening to Rhonda Dolan from the Independence Chamber of Commerce who really inspired us with the possibilities of how far this can take our school district and community.

As we discussed different facets of all the parts that will make up the Career Academies of ISD we had round table discussions with business partners, colleagues, and student ambassadors.

 The Retreat was packed with great conversations and presentations on the future!  The future is exciting for our students, but also our community.  These academies will make learning engaging and relevant for kids and how cool will it be when they can graduate with industry recognized credentials and have established relationships with many different community business partners.  Independence School District is on the brink of something very powerful!  It will be interesting to see how the next several years play out as more academies begin and we continue to evolve within this process.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TOP 36 Educators to Follow on Twitter with under 1000 Followers

TOP 36 Educators to Follow That Have Less than 1000 Followers 

 ***This blog post is co-written by Craig Badura (@mrbadura) & Brent Catlett (@catlett1)***

As connected educators Craig and I strongly believe in ALL educators being connected.  We believe that building and developing a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) is an important task for ALL educators to be doing, not just a few.  We also believe that ALL educators bring great value to the table as someone who can SHARE the great things happening in their classrooms, schools, and districts via Social Media like Twitter!  
As educators we sometimes become idea hoarders and are afraid to share some of the successes in our classrooms because we feel like we are bragging.  I am convinced that there is a plethora of great educators out there who  have started a Twitter account, used it consistently, but haven’t gained a large number followers, for some reason or other.
Perhaps our list of 36 educators are typically not listed in articles talking about the "Top 25 Educators to Follow" on Twitter by popular educational companies like Edutopia or Education Week, or another person on Twitter with a massive amount of followers, but it doesn’t mean they are any less of a potential contributor to one’s PLN.  They are simply great teachers.
To Craig and me, the number of followers we have on Twitter doesn’t matter!  Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in that when you first get started on Twitter. Heck, Craig even wrote this blog post back in 2012 about my Twitter numbers.  What was he thinking?!
In one of our many discussions about Twitter we discussed how awesome it is to FOLLOW educators back that follow us!  Not ever limiting ourselves to certain numbers or acting as if we are too good for them because they may only have 24 followers.   Every member of your PLN is important.  Follow them.  Never limit your numbers.  We also discussed the fact that we try to respond to ANYONE who tweets us with a question or thought.  I know I was frustrated several times when I started on Twitter because someone wouldn't respond to a tweet I had directed at them.
We feel like anyone who wants to join our PLN is more than welcome!  You follow either of us, and you are an educator, we are probably going to follow you back!  Just make sure you have a great bio explaining who you are and what you do in education!  And be sure to add a profile picture of yourself!
This amazing group of 36 educators that have less than 1000 followers are a group that anyone could easily learn from, collaborate with, and break down classroom walls!

So, GO FOLLOW THEM because they are fabulous educators!  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Insight from Experiences

Watch this video first!

This video by Shots of Awe, which by the way I love Shots of Awe and suggest you follow their work, made me wonder about how cool it would be if we traveled more all over the world to experience different cultures and people.

Until I moved to Kansas City recently I had lived in the same city (Omaha) for 38 years.  I have traveled to many places in the USA, and once to Mexico, but that's it for me.  Have I hurt myself by not experiencing more cultures and places around the world?  I believe I have.  The sad truth of this though is not that I don't want to travel around the world, but it is that I cannot afford to!  I wish that this sort of travel was more accessible and feasible for people.  Perhaps our world would be a better place "and leveraging that insight might allow us to find a way to connect more deeply with one another" as mentioned at the end of the video.  POWERFUL thought in my opinion.

After I watched the video above I was struck with the idea of what I have missed and how it has possibly impacted me.  I consider myself a connected educator, which has helped tremendously both professionally and personally!  I follow many amazing people and I thought of guys like +Don Wettrick & +Robert Dillon who I have recently watched through Social Media as they have embarked on their adventures to far away places and experiences.  I can pretty confidently say that these two gentlemen are probably better off because of these experiences.

So the dreamer in me says how do I make this happen for myself, my wife, and my kids!  I have considered teaching / working in education abroad before, perhaps because I yearn for this sort of thing.  I'm not sure.  I am just moved to write out my thoughts around how I can make my greatest impact in all aspects of my life and particularly the HUGE roles I play as husband, dad, and educator.

So what if?  What if we could all travel worldwide much easier?  Would this world be a better place because of the experiences we have?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pure Genius by Don Wettrick

I recently took the time to read Pure Genius by Don Wettrick.

I have several thoughts around this book that I found inspiring and interesting.  The fact I am writing this post should tell you that I highly recommend you read this book, particularly if you have any interest in Genius Hour, 20% Time, Google Time, whatever you call it.  Don calls it his Innovation Class.

First off, Don Wettrick is flat out inspiring!  I hope some day I get to meet this educator face to face!  Or even better, perhaps collaborate with him on an EPIC project.  My dad would tell you I'm a dreamer, I think this is a good thing.  My dreams have led me to where I am today!  Don harnesses dreams in his Innovation Class and empowers students to think critically and dream bigger!  What he has done in his career is nothing less than impressive.  I thank Don, for writing this book and being transparent with how he has done it!

One thing that stuck out to me when reading Pure Genius was Don's evolution of his use, but more importantly, his student's use of Social Media!  Safe to say he has harnessed this powerful tool brilliantly and Social Media has afforded him and his student's opportunities that may not have been there without it.  Brilliant stuff in this regard!

Furthermore, I was struck by how Don shared his evolution of teaching his Innovation Class.  He continued year after year to tweak, improve, and learn how to make it better as each year passed.  I appreciate this because nothing happens overnight when trying to build a "program / Innovation class" like this.  Much can be learned with this marathon versus a sprint!

I have many other great take-a-ways from this book, but thought I better not spoil all of it for you if you have not read it yet!  So get out to Amazon and order this book!  It is totally worth your time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Embracing Social Media for Communication

I am a big believer in harnessing Social Media to tell your story (as far as schools or districts go).  As a past principal I recall many different conversations I had with parents where a lack of communication happened between home and school.  Social Media can help bridge the gap of communication for any classroom, school, or district.

I think it's imperative that we meet parents and students where they are at!  I also think it's extremely important for educators to be digital role models for their students & parents!  So if we know that the vast majority of parents are on Facebook and would LIKE your classroom, school, or district Facebook page, why wouldn't we want to meet them there and communicate with them in that space?
My daughter's preschool had a Facebook page set up that they would post different things to, but my favorite thing they did was simply state the questions I needed to ask my daughter when I got home or when I got to pick her up on some days.  It looked as simple as this:

These simple posts gave me the "ammunition" I needed to ask driving questions of my daughter's day at Preschool which led to much better conversations between the two of us, versus the days when they did not post anything and I would ask her how did school go today, "Fine", What did you learn? "I don't remember" or "I don't know".

I recently met an educator that shared with me a way they were using the app Snapchat to communicate with their students about their Reading assignments.  Again, in this case, students have flocked to apps like Snapchat and use it regularly!  Why not meet them where they are?  After visiting with this educator I realized how easy this is to do, but it just takes educators who are willing to step out on a limb, learn a new tool or app, and then try it with kids!

I always say "it's 2015", it's time to get on board.  We can't keep blocking Social Media sites in schools and districts when students can hack around it or simply grab their phone to get to it!  We need to empower our staff to use these tools to communicate by updating policies and regulations around appropriate use of the tools and embrace them and teach with them and to they appropriate use of them.

In closing, I think we, as educators and schools, need to step up our digital citizenship lessons with students and modeling for them as the adults as much as possible!  Also, let's not forget about parents in this mix, teaching parents about social media and how all this technology has hit them as parents and parents of kids in schools where lots of technology has been integrated within the classroom!  Perhaps you host some parent nights or bring them in during a school day for donuts in the morning or come eat lunch with your child and learn.  Make something happen!  Now is the time!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Never met an edcamp I did not like

It's true, I have never met an edcamp I didn't like!
Photo cred:  Michelle Nebel - selfie stick at Edcamp Leadership in KC!

Recently I got to be a part of a team of educators from around KC, MO to co-organize Edcamp Leadership which was held worldwide and here in KC, MO we hosted one!  It was a fantastic day!  As usual, as I have blogged about before, this style of professional development did not fail me!  Any edcamp I have been a part of has yet to disappoint!  Edcamp Leadership was no different!  The energy, the vibe, and the collaboration was fantastic!  The schedule for the day looked like this:

If you are unfamiliar with edcamps I highly suggest you look in to attending one near you.  Part of my motivation to write this post was to provide some upcoming edcamps near me that one could attend!  So let me dig in to that!  Here are some upcoming edcamps near KC that one could attend:

Columbia (formerly Jefferson City):  September 12
Springfield:  September 19
Des Moines:  September 19
Kansas City:  November 7
Iowa:  January 2016
St. Louis:  February 2016
Liberty:  March 5
Omaha:  March 2016
Kansas:  Summer of 2016

Here is a post Laura Gilchrist wrote on starting an edcamp in her school district:

Perhaps a goal of yours this year could be to attend 1 edcamp near you.  I know many of the ones I listed above I will be attending.  My reasoning for that is simple.  I get energy and life from attending edcamps, I always learn and grow as an educator because of the conversations / sessions I have and attend while at the edcamp, and I can vote on my feet and personalize my PD and learn about things that interest me.

With the school year right around the corner, edcamp season will be in full swing as well!  I hope to see you at one of these upcoming edcamps this school year of 2015-16!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Rise and Fall of Tiger Woods

Today in history, Tiger Woods missed the cut at the British Open.  This marks the 2nd consecutive cut he has missed in the Majors of pro golf.  It is significant because it is the first time it has happened in his career and at one point in his career it looked like that would never happen, in fact, many people thought he would win many more Majors and set records never seen before.

Tiger is arguably the best golfer ever, but he hasn't been for years, and it's not like he's old.  His fall from stardom has been tough to watch.

Whether you are a Tiger Woods fan or not, he has done a tremendous amount for the game of golf.  Sadly, he is not the same Tiger many of us became accustomed to watching and I would argue we may never see "that Tiger" ever again.  If you ask me, I have told members in my family that he will never win another Major.

Seeing this fall has and does sadden me.  I enjoy seeing a superior athlete excel at the greatest levels possible.  I grew up on Michael Jordan.  He was my idol.  I wanted to see him make every shot he took.  I loved watching Nolan Ryan pitch.  I wanted to see him strike out every guy he faced with his nasty curveball or blazing fastball.  I stopped what I was doing to watch either of those guys play.  Tiger did that for the game of golf and for me too.  You wanted to watch him golf.  I wanted to see him break every golf record there was.  The game had never seen anything like him before.

Listening to announcer Paul Azinger today, friend to Tiger, speak about how Tiger's state of mind and golf game is certainly not where it needs to be and it was up to Tiger to get back to his prominent form.  I was thinking about how Tiger must feel.  I was trying to put myself in his shoes.  What would it feel like to be on top of the world and now no where near it.  I feel bad for him in many ways.

Some of my PLN members Devin, Dean, and Craig got tweeting about the wind delay in the Open and began discussing where perhaps our next golf match could be, perhaps at a conference in the future.  We all share a common love of the game.  We all have our battles within the game, we have our struggles like any golfer and I'm confident we all have learned a great deal about ourselves by playing the game.  Or perhaps I should speak for myself, the other three mentioned are great golfers.

So today as I watched Tiger limp in at 7 over and miss the cut by 7 shots I began to reflect upon some my own rises and falls in my life.  I've endured both, and I know today I stand stronger for all of those experiences.  I am a fan of the game and a part time hacker.  I wish I could play more because the game is a place where I can unplug from the stresses of life and be challenged with a game I truly enjoy to play.

So what do you think, will Tiger ever win another Major?