Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Edcamp Evolution

I recently attended my 5th Edcamp Omaha.  I currently live and work in Kansas City, MO so moving south certainly did not mean that I would not return to my hometown for another Edcamp Omaha led by the greats:  Josh Allen and Kristina Peters

It provided a chance to go home and see some family as well as connect with amazing educators from across the region at the conference.  At the "tweet-up" the night before the conference we were discussing how many edcamps we had attended.  For me it was my 12th.  For Toby Brown, professor from Oklahoma St is was his 30 something (he is currently writing his dissertation on edcamps) and for the Queen of Edcamp Christine Ruder it was her 25th.

There is a reason people attend and come back to edcamps in my opinion.  From a professional development side it might be the lure of choosing what I learn, having conversations instead of "sit and gets", and voting on my feet if the session does not meet my needs.  Perhaps people enjoy the connecting with like minded educators and seeing old friends.  Perhaps it's for reasons outlined in this poster created by +Kasey Bell
Image created by +Kasey Bell @ShakeUpLearning
For me, this edcamp was worth the 3 hour trip.  Once again, I was able to see and connect with amazing educators!  After looking at the boards that had quickly developed there was not anything jumping out at me to attend for the 1st session, so as we walked out of the whole group introductions and instructions from Josh and Kristina I asked a few folks around me if they were up for starting a smaller conversation with me in a little side room.  It turned out to be the best conversation and seriously made my entire road trip worth while!  We visited the entire 1st and 2nd sessions.

Lunch was then catered in by some great sponsors and my conversations continued and included even more people.  After lunch I was able to catch up with some other amazing people in the hallways and great spaces that the UNO facility afforded before I had to take off to get back to KC for a fundraiser event my district was hosting that evening.

As I drove back to KC after I got thinking about the conversations I had.  I tweeted about some of those thoughts and those people thanking them for the great conversations that affirmed me in some cases and pushed my thinking in other cases.  I then tweeted this:
This tweet led to some replies and a little blog challenge actually with a few of my fantastic PLN members Ann Feldmann, Mickie Mueller, and Cynthia Stogdill.

So if you are still reading this let me get into my evolution of attending edcamp.  As I mentioned this was my 12th.  I have blogged many times about edcamp and I suppose I will probably continue to do that because when I attend an edcamp I am always inspired, encouraged, empowered, pushed, and feeling like I am on the right path!

Five years ago when I attended my very 1st Edcamp in Omaha I had no idea what to expect, but immediately fell in love with the environment, connecting with and meeting new people, and learning!  11 edcamps after that one I realize my needs as a professional have evolved.  I remember the days when I would walk in the door and people would be asking and expecting me to host a session on Google!  I remember getting asked to hold "app smackdown" sessions.  I remember helping co-lead the "staple" sessions like "Rocks vs Sucks or Twitter 101".  Part of that was because I was a "veteran" to the edcamp and it was as if I felt obligated to host those sessions for the newbies.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed doing those sessions, but I could feel myself slipping away from wanting to do those sessions the past couple of years.

The power for me has always come in the conversations and my needs as a learner have evolved with the positions I have held and where I am today.  Edcamp has never disappointed in this area as I have mentioned in a recent post about my time at Edcamp Liberty.  As I looked at the boards for Edcamp Omaha there wasn't anything burning for me to attend particularly in the first session and that is when / where I decided to ask some folks I was surrounded by as I walked out of the main room to start up a hallway session that actually then led to a smaller conference room off the hallway.  This group included Devin Schoening, Ann Feldmann, Stephen Sautter, Amanda ZiegenbeinRob Lindquist, Mike Mansour, and occasionally an interruption from Josh and Kristina!  Our conversation in this small conference room off the hallway, completely impromptu, was fantastic and we actually stayed together for essentially the first 2 session times up to lunch.  These educators allowed me to put myself out there and bounce ideas, thoughts, questions, and feelings percolating in my head as well as some fun bantering.  This conversation was well worth the road trip for me to get there!

Another part of my evolution is the members of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) that attend edcamps.  I personally look forward to seeing so many of them.  I have met so many awesome educators at edcamps that are now valued members of my PLN or I had already been following them on Twitter and now the edcamp gave us the opportunity to meet face to face.  It's in essence given us a reason to collide and have conversations face to face and dig deeper into conversations we are already having.  This group within my PLN I believe would feel the same way in the manner of attending the edcamp to see everyone and of course in that scenario we are going to talk shop and solve the worlds educational problems!  I guess one point I'm trying to make is by attending edcamps I get to see many of the same people I met at the previous edcamp the year before and that I have continued to develop relationships with on Twitter, G+, Google Hangouts, etc.  Edcamp gives me a reason to schedule time to see them!

My final thoughts, if you are still reading this novel, is how will edcamps continue to evolve for educators like myself or you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Check out these great blog posts on the recent Edcamp Omaha

#edcamp Reflections by Mickie Mueller
My Edcamp Evolution by Otis Pierce
Reflections of an edcamp attendee by Jen Houlette

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Edcamp delivers as usual

photo by Eric Langhorst - @elanghorst
Today I attended Edcamp Liberty hosted by the Liberty School District.  Once again, it proved to be another amazing day of connecting, collaborating, learning, growing, and personalized professional development for me that did not fall short of pushing my thinking like all other edcamps I've attended before today.

Edcamps are unique in that you can vote on your feet and leave a session if you want to, or attend multiple sessions.  Edcamps are different than average conferences in that the educators who show up at an edcamp want to be there, because edcamps are on Saturdays.  They don't cost you a dime, but simply a little time.

photo by Eric Langhorst - @elanghorst 

Shout out to @TraceyKracht , @sara_wickham and the rest of the @EdcampLiberty crew for putting on a great day!  For me, getting to see fantastic, passionate, like-minded educators like Tracey and Sara and so many others is worth the price of admission.

The picture below says so much!  Christine is unofficially considered the "queen of edcamp" she has attended ALOT of edcamps (more than me!), Laura is a frequent edcamp attendee and edcamp KC organizer who is a change agent with dreams of connecting all Kansas City area educators with #KCedu & the great community of KC, Liv is a student and daughter of an amazing educator Michelle: Liv facilitated her own session at this edcamp, and a photo bomb by Tracey an amazingly vivacious educator who helped organize edcamp Liberty.
front left - Christine Ruder, middle - Laura Gilchrist, right - Liv Nebel
photo bomb in back - Tracey Kracht
photo by Laura Gilchrist
I have attended many edcamps in Central Nebraska, Des Moines Iowa, Kansas City MO, Omaha NE, Springfield MO, and now Liberty MO.  Some of those edcamps I have been to multiple years (they are a 1 time a year event).  There really has not been one that I did not take away something from it.  Edcamp Liberty was no different and did not disappoint.  Often times I facilitate sessions / conversations when I'm at edcamps, but this time I didn't and I attended 4 sessions as a learner and contributor to the conversation.  I thoroughly enjoyed this.  This was the kind of edcamp that there were so many good sessions going on at once that you struggled to pick and you followed the twitter hashtag #edcampliberty closely because others were sharing out from those other sessions.  This was the type of edcamp where every session I attended no one used a projector and conversations and sharing amongst educators happened during sessions.  This was the kind of edcamp that had great diversity in its session offerings.  This edcamp had multiple districts represented from all over the area.  See the image below.

I had an amazing conversation in the hallway with +Jamie Greason during session 1, this was my session 1 :  ).  I attended a fantastic session led by +Eric Langhorst on Social Media.  I attended several sessions during the 3rd:  photo walk with +Laura Gilchrist, a Google session, and a 1:1 talk led by +Michelle Nebel, for my final session I attended +Mimi Jones session on failures which turned out to be very powerful.  It was an awesome day!  I was really excited also because a half dozen or so educators from my district attended as well.

There is a reason edcamps are happening all over the country.  I'd like to end by saying that I highly encourage you to check out an edcamp near you.  I am already excited to return to my hometown March 21st for edcamp Omaha.  Perhaps I will see you there.

Check out Eric Langhorst's flickr set of his day at Edcamp Liberty.

Check out the Storify of Edcamp Liberty here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Day When Sully Came

Today was one of those days that will forever go down in the story and experiences of my life (and my son Sully's life).

Today, February 18, 2015 my son Sullivan Joseph Catlett was born at 7:53am.  He weighed in at 8.4 lbs and 23 inches long.

But, before we get too far down the path let's back this train up a little bit.

Sully is my 5th and final child.  I know this because I have had surgery to correct the "problem" totally joking there, but I am officially done creating children.  With that being said, I am completely blessed with 5 amazing kids.  Parker 8, Kennedy 4, Charlie 3, Ollie 1 1/2, and now Sully!

My wife Josie and I went to the hospital at 11pm the night of Feb 17th because she had started feeling contractions around 5pm that evening.  My amazing and wonderful administrative assistant Sara had offered to come watch our other kids when things went down.  So Sara showed up and off we went.

When we arrived we were sent into a Triage room to be evaluated and such.  Josie got checked and she was 2 to 3 cm dilated.  Josie's contractions were getting stronger and as close as 3 minutes a part at some points, but they would sometimes taper off and only be 7 minutes apart.  After an hour she got checked and she was 4 cm dilated and there were talks of sending us home.  We started walking laps around the unit and then the nurse offered Josie to try out the jacuzzi tub.  After a few hours of walking and the hot tub Josie had increased to 5cm to 6cm dilated and 100% effaced.  It was decided then that we were a go and we were transferred into our room.

After another hour or so, Josie had moved to 7cm dilated and everyone was preparing for a baby to arrive soon.  Josie received an epidural around 7am and then around 7:30am the doctor came in to talk with Josie.  They discussed her previous pregnancies and specifically they talked about how Josie in the others had her water broken by the doctor and usually after that things progressed very quickly and baby was born soon thereafter.  Little did we know what would transpire next.

The doctor broke Josie's water at 7:43am, but very little fluid came out and the babies head we were told was acting like a cork not allowing the fluid to release.

From this point forward all hell broke loose.

They had Josie roll to one side, then the other, then they had her get on all fours.  They continued trying to adjust the heart rate monitors strapped to Josie's belly to find a heart beat, but were having trouble doing that.  I could immediately sense a bit of urgency suddenly come over the doctor and the nurse.  They told Josie to lay back down and that she would need to start pushing now!  The doctor called for all the nurses and an army of 12 nurses came descending upon our room.  I look down and see Josie upset, worried, and crying.  I, of course, am too at this point.  After a minute or so of pushing, the doctor inserts one of those deals on the babies head to get a pulse and tells us she wants to get a consistent feed from it because she is having trouble locating it.

Meanwhile the room was buzzing with activity, movement, and noise.  Josie was pushing as I held her hand and head as two nurses flanked her lower body.  The doctor at one point yells after everyone to be quiet and she tries to hear a heartbeat and from my vantage point, she can't.  I remember looking at the doctor and she hadn't even dressed out yet.  She didn't have time to.  Panic has hit the room and the doctor is encouraging Josie to do everything she can and push with everything she's got.  It was a fury of pushing, no breaks, no time to rest.  Josie finally broke down and stopped.  The doctor said, "Listen to me, I don't have time to take you over for a C-section, you can do this, you need to be the one to push him out, you can do this".  Josie bears down and continues to push.  His head is started to become more visible from my vantage point.  The doctor was trying to use the vacuum, suction cup thing a couple times to assist getting him out.  Josie was very emotional which tore me apart.  I tried to encourage her on as she was getting so close and making tremendous progress very quickly.

Josie broke down and quit again for a moment.  A nurse from the other side of the bed told Josie to hold her breath like she was jumping into the pool and push.  She did and great progress was made, but Josie was spent.  She fell back in exhaustion.  I encouraged her that she had made great progress and told her to keep doing that.  She pull herself back up and pushed again and the doctor was yelling at her that she was so close.

Suddenly his head was out, and as I watched the doctor in a matter of seconds, she unraveled the umbilical chord one revolution from around his neck, clamped it and cut it, then after cutting it, unraveled it another revolution as she pull him the rest of the way out and passed him to a couple nurses that swooped him off to the lil warmer station to do their thing.  I noticed he was a boy at this point, which was a surprise for us this time.  Once he got to the table and they sucked some gunk out of his mouth he began to cry.

This sound was the best thing I have ever heard in my life.

This was at 7:53am, 10 short, but very very long minutes after the doctor broke Josie's water.  10 minutes I'll never get back on my heart.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  I have probably not done this story justice as I am not the best writer and don't have all my fancy medical terms down, but all I know is this was a stressful situation.

Sullivan Joseph Catlett est. 2015

Thankfully, God has blessed us with another beautiful baby boy, Sullivan (aka Sully) and this story has a good ending.  I am pretty confident though that I think my heart lost several years of life in this ordeal.

The next day the doctor told Josie that she was sorry it got so crazy in there and she felt terrible about it.  She said that Sully's heart was under distress and that is why she made the moves she made.  Josie told her she did an amazing job and made the right calls!  The doctor was unaware that Sully had his umbilical chord wrapped around his neck and that she did not know that until she pull him out initially.

All I know is having a child come out completely healthy and for all intensive purposes perfect, is a miracle.

Mom and baby are doing fabulous and expected to come home tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 20th.

Proud big sister Kennedy with Sully

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Easy ways to Integrate Technology into the Classroom

There are many easy ways to start integrating meaningful and purposeful technology uses into your classroom today!
If your district is a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) district that would be the first place I would have you start!  Google Apps are amazing for so many reasons, but one of the best reasons is its accessibility from multiple types of devices.  It's collaborative uses and easy interaction with teachers and students also make it worth your time.

Get started by using Google Classroom as your management hub for you and your class of students.  Multiple classes can be set up if needed and Classroom provides the organization you will want as you start down the path of creating and sharing within GAFE.  Read this recent post from +Shelly Mowinkel 5 reasons why I love Google Classroom.

In Google Drive you can create many things:  Documents, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Forms, and Drawings.  Using Google Docs with your students will provide you the ability to have kids collaborate with each other and for you to provide real time feedback to your students as well.  When using Docs or Presentations make sure you try out the Research tool under tools on the menu bar because this is a complete game changer for students researching while working on projects with the ability to cite images, links, and resources as they work.  Finally, I really encourage you to use Google Forms with your students.  Forms can be used for formative assessments or simply to gain information on how your students are feeling in a very quick and easy way.  You can grade these forms using the Add-on Flubaroo and provide your students immediate feedback with this tool.

Another area I highly suggest you get started in is blogging with your students.  My favorite is The main reason I like Kidblog is it's security features.  As the teacher, you can control what gets posted both in posts or comments before they go public, meaning you would have to approve them first as the teacher.  At the same time, the tool provides a user friendly atmosphere that works on multiple devices.  I would use kidblog for K-8, once kids got into high school I might look at Wordpress, Edublogs, or Blogger for your students to do their blogging.

If you get started down the path of blogging and using Google Apps with your students these tools will provide you the space to be secure and safe, but yet also allow for potential publishing of student work to others outside of your school or district to gain an authentic audience.

Some other ideas to investigate would be Mystery Skype or Mystery Hangouts.  In these activities the teachers are making the connection before it takes place and the idea is that your class has to try and figure out where the other class is in the United States or world.  Your students have to ask the other class questions that can be answered as "yes" or "no".  For example:  Is your state west of the Mississippi river?  Once kids get the hang of how this activity works these usually only take 15-20 minutes max.  Here is a Google Document I have used for jobs within a Mystery Hangout / Skype Jobs. 

For some quick review and fun, you will want to check out - This fantastic tool is easy to use and takes minutes to create.  Kids will love this for the challenge, competition, and music!  It provides a "leader board" after each question based on kids who answer the question correctly and the fastest.  Trust me, this tool is worth giving a try with your students.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

An Open Letter to My Wife

My dearest Josie,

My love, I have this crazy notion to write you in the form of a blog post.  So here goes.

Words cannot express how lucky I feel to have you in my life as my partner in crime.  You are without question my soulmate and the love of my life.  It is hard to believe how far we have come in such a short period of time.  The births of our children have forever changed me and made me the luckiest husband and Dad in the world.  The idea that I had a part in creating those cute little buns is mind boggling.  Thankfully they look a lot more like you than they do me.  :  )

I am especially thrilled for your new improved role in our house as a "stay-at-home" mom.  Of course you have been the kids' mom since their birth, but we struggled mightily through those last couple of months of day care with nanny's disappearing on us and a slew of replacements with different people everyday.  I remember you being torn up texting me and worrying sick about the kids and how Kennedy would break your heart every night asking you who was going to be there tomorrow.  Well, no more of that, and those memories have quickly faded away and Kennedy knows its always you, and so does my man Charlie and the little man Ollie!

So the reason I got inspired to write you this was because of our newest little bun in the oven who is due February 18th!!  You truly inspire me with how easily and well you carry yourself during pregnancy, nevermind the fact you are 38 weeks pregnant and still doing everything around the house and raising the kids.  I could not be more lucky to have such an amazing woman as my wife and the kids' mother.  As you know, we are going to be surprised this time around.  I can't wait to meet the new little one, and put the final name into our book of life at the Catlett house.

I can't repay you necessarily for the blessings of life you have brought me.  I can't put my body through the ringer like you have four times!  Although I have gotten really good at gaining "sympothy weight" with you each time and I would say I've mastered it in fact.  As I write this, the two of us have finally sat down for the evening to relax after yet another day of working on our new home and enjoying lots of family time outside and around town with the kids.  Looking at you in the park with the kids, less than 2 weeks from having our baby, wearing my t-shirt, I still think you are the most beautiful woman in the world.  You have no idea how smitten I am with you.  I will forever adore you.

Thank you for being you.  Thank you for blessing me with amazing children.  Thank you for always supporting me and letting me be me.  Thank you for encouraging me to keep doing what I believe in and pushing me to be better.  Thank you for always listening and collaborating with me about work.

I love you Josie Catlett.  More than you know.

I can't wait to meet our new baby.


Your hubby

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Letter From Home

To Whom It May Concern:

I am the dad of 4 amazing and unique kids. My wife and I are expecting number 5 in February. I am the lucky and blessed one to have them in my life and soon I will be trusting all of them with you for the majority of the day in your classroom, in your school.

I have many hopes and dreams for these 5 totally different and unique personalities and their futures. I want them to enjoy school. Is that too much to ask? I want them to be engaged while their at school. I want them to have time to play, to explore, and to have fun! Of course I want them to learn and grow their minds. I want their school to be a warm place where teachers care about them. That these teachers give them everything they've got every day and most importantly that they build a relationship with my kid, that they care about my kid. I want their teachers to understand my kid's individual needs and do their best to corral those needs. I want them to be and feel protected by their teacher and principal while their at school. I want the school to work with my wife and I in partnership in raising our kids.

I want them to have experiences outside of their school while at school with their teacher. I want them to see what's out in the real world and be inspired by it. I want them to have the potential to be involved in different aspects of school or have the ability to be empowered to create their own environment for the school. I want them to be exposed to as many things as possible. I want to be invited to come in and see the smallest of learning victories and student work showcases to the largest of successes. I want failure to be OK and embraced at my kids' school because through failing learning can happen.

The learning spaces should be fluid and not rigid. There should be comfortable furniture and access to technology in every classroom. I want a teacher who is a coach, a guide on the side, not a lecturer in front of the room. I dream of collaborative spaces for them.   I dream of a globally connected classroom and school for my kid where teachers and principals bring the outside world in. I simply dream of a space where my kids would love to go to school.

Perhaps my letter isn't super appealing and dolled up with fancy educational buzz words and such, but this I know: Schools and learning are about people. They are and should be about relationships and fostering individuals to grow and be the best they can be as well as helping them find and reach their potential in partnership with our home.

Thanks for considering my thoughts.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Miami Device

I thankfully had the opportunity to go to the Miami Device Conference put on by Felix Jacomino and the entire St. Stephen's Episcopal School staff.  The name of the conference of course about says it all, but that would actually do an inservice to it because location was of course one major bonus, but hospitality was even better.  Hats off to Felix and the rest of the St. Stephen's Episcopal staff for putting on a top notch, first class, edtech conference.  As my friend Craig Badura said, "it was like an edtech nirvana" with the best of best in edtech converging on one place to share, collaborate, and connect.  Being from the Midwest, places / schools like St. Stephen's Episcopal and Coconut Grove don't exist.  The school grounds were beautiful and classroom doors opened to the outside.  It is truly a wonderful space.  The lunches provided by @SageDining were very good and simply being outside soaking up the beautiful weather for lunch and in between sessions while also walking to the opening and closing keynotes was definitely a bonus coming from the Midwest chill of fall.  

Conferences like Miami Device provide amazing chances for educators to learn, grow, and collaborate from their colleagues.  Giving educators the opportunity to connect and learn from others is wildly important, particularly outside of their own district which can become a bit of echo chamber sometimes.  For me, Miami Device was a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the best in edtech today!  I attended many amazing sessions and my thinking was stretched on many topics.  I was able to collaborate and meet people from my PLN that I had not met face to face which is always cool.  I met many other people I did not previously know or follow on Twitter as well which was great adding so many new folks to my PLN and building new relationships.

There is great value in connecting and collaborating with other educators from different places and schools and Miami Device was an amazing venue for this!  Felix and his crew even planned a concert to send us all off.  Miami Device was well planned, well executed, and simply well done.

Thank you again Felix and the rest of the St. Stephen's Episcopal staff for hosting!  

See you two years, unless you change your mind and go annual.  ;  )