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?

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.