Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review: C-jump Computer Programming Board Game

Review:  C-jump Computer Programming Board Game
A while back, someone who’s name escapes me mentioned there was a board game that could be used to teach some basic programming concepts. I scoffed at it initially, with my own knowledge of programming limited, it certainly couldn’t be done with a board game.


As my experience has increased and knowing what I know about teaching kids to code, exposure is everything. The expectation shouldn’t be that students jump into coding with both feet and begin writing loops and variables in C++.  The goal is to lay the bread crumbs in the hopes that they’ll find it enjoyable or seek more out on their own in the future.  This is where c-jump succeeds.


The goal of the game is to use terminology and syntax similar to languages such as C++ and Java to drive the gameplay and reach the end. It works like a normal turn-based, die-rolling board game, with the added element of commands to obey on most squares.  For instance, if a spot says “x+1” you would add one to the roll and move that many spaces.


The directions that came with the board game were decent.  They covered the spots you would land on.  However, upon replaying the game, we did run into an issue that we were actually playing the game incorrectly. For the ifs and loops, we were only supposed to react to those if we landed on the spot, instead of during a move. Thankfully, the c-jump website cleared this up for us.


I played the game for the first time with two eighth-grade students, both female. They seemed to get into and have fun.  Probably the most encouraging thing to me is that after a few turns, we didn’t need to consult the directions on some of the landing spaces because they got it and it made sense to them.  They also picked up the variable “x” pretty quickly and were able to calculate the additional spaces to move on the roll without struggle.


When talking to the students after the game, they indicated they enjoyed it, and also learned the words “increment” and “decrement”.  However, at least after one play through, the programming logic didn’t seem to be something they understood.  Part of this was due to the fact that the game isn’t actually a program that you could run.  In that regard, you aren’t so much dissecting code of a working program, but rather repeating the same types of programming syntax over and over again.  It would be cool, and possibly more useful, if the code on the board game was a working program (NOTE: The website does refer to this game as being based off the code of a working program). However, that would likely include too many advanced features that would detract from the enjoyable experience of the board game.




Some interesting things that came out: I always took the == as a given for just being equal. However, the students didn’t quite understand why it had to be two equal signs as opposed to one. With my basic background, I know that using = usually declares a variable, but did not explain it to them, and if a teacher is utilizing this board game with no prior experience, they will likely miss out on that detail as well.  The students also saw the while loops as an enemy to avoid.  I thought this was funny, because loops are an integral part of making a program work.  Perhaps somewhere in the directions, or on the board, it could be explained how loops are actually beneficial. I’m not sure students are left with that impression when playing.




The second time I played through this, I was with my brother in law who knows a bit of programming. He helped explain to me some of the syntax and also helped do some double checking of the game play with the c-jump website.  We played a few times, really enjoying it in both cases.  That game is fun as it is easy enough to understand but complex enough that there is a bit of a challenge. A good combination of both.




In my two gameplay cases, the game was well received and enjoyed. The goal of the creator, Igor Kholodov, was to make a game that took the intimidation out of beginning to learn code.  He certainly succeeded. The students were pretty fearless once they got in, and actually were excited to give it a try.  The concept was interesting to them and got them exposure to programming that they may not have otherwise received in any other format.  As someone who is passionate about getting more students to try coding at a minimal level, I would highly recommend this game. It is affordable, has great replay value, and lays those breadcrumbs that can lead to connections later on for kids to continue down a path of computer science.

To check out C-jump and purchase it, head here: www.c-jump.com/pagebuy03.html

(NOTE:  Special thanks to Igor and C-jump for allowing me to review their product.  It was a joy to play and experience!).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Clean SLATE - Lessons in Starting Over from #SLATE2014

The room is blank. I needed something to match the title
I just returned home today from a few days at a large technology in education conference in Wisconsin, known as SLATE, or School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education.  This was my third year attending, and it is interesting to see how things have changed for me over that time period.

To start with - the biggest reason I attended this year was due to having a presentation proposal accepted. Not only was it accepted, but it was a pre-con, which is a 2-hour session prior to the main event. My topic was on coding and you can check out my slides here. The session itself went well, and as usual, I feel like I learn more than the attendees when I present.  It is pretty apparent the things that work and the things that don't work, so I just need to bring a lot more energy and get people doing and moving more.  But, this post isn't about that, so I digress...


The opening keynote, Scott Mcleod, inspired me.  I was set on fire and ready to go, even though his presentation wasn't as well received by everyone.  I was hoping to keep that energy going.

However, my struggle this year with SLATE was that I had a challenging time finding sessions that really met my needs.  Sure, there were lots of topics that were interesting to me, but ultimately I wasn't learning anything new, or more importantly, wasn't being inspired.


See, the thing for me that I am over are the tech tool dumps. I have nothing personal against them, and they are certainly valuable for many people, but for me, that doesn't help me grow where I'm at right now. The other struggle is when I find a session that sounds interesting, but then ends up being a lot of theoretical stuff without practical examples of how to utilize what is being presented on. What helps me grow are sessions like the one Dale van Keuren had, where he was energetic, giving examples and reasons for why he did what he did with personalized PD at his school. He really helped connect the dots on some struggles that I'm having and suggested solutions for those.
Pictured above:  one awesome dude
After his session we had lunch, expo center time, then session 2. Because I was busy networking, I was late getting to the room of the one I wanted to get to, so it was overflowed into the hallway. It was about a 1:1 path and I was really interested, since I want to move my school that direction. However, I couldn't really hear them, and didn't have any links to follow along, so I stayed as long as I could and then left. I gathered a few notes for my reference, but ultimately didn't leave feeling ready to roll, nor did I have the opportunity to talk to them afterwards like I always do when I'm really curious.
The real reason I was late - my fixation with the hashtag lamp!

The other two sessions were decent. One was on Digital Book Clubs with Matt Renwick - very humble guy with big ideas and an even bigger heart for kids. The other was the way one school does their weekly announcements. Ultimately, I learned a few new things I could potentially use down the road, but nothing that really impacts what I do now, although I did enjoy both presentations.

The best session of the entire conference happened that night. No, it wasn't a concurrent session, it was a brew pub hangout session until past midnight with Jason BretzmannKenny Bosch, and Mr. #Wischat himself, John Gunnell. These two brilliant educators had so much insight and ideas to share that I wanted to run back to my school and try them immediately.  I loved Kenny's approach of asking what part of a teacher's day they hate most and how I can help them get rid of it (I've heard the approach before but appreciated how he phrased it).  We also talked about idea sharing and successful personalized PD and flipped classrooms and toast. It was truly a great time.
Jason and Kenny - the pride of Muskego
Wednesday brought a couple more sessions, my favorite being Joe Sanfellipo and Melissa Emler jacking up the crowd to #gocrickets and really hammering home not just why we need to share our story, but how we can do it efficiently and work for us (such as meeting Danielson domains).  Honestly, this was the most fired up I've ever seen presenters in my life. The passion was flowing and it is contagious. I can only hope to be that passionate when I present and is always something to strive for. Thanks Joe and Melissa!

So, after gathering my thoughts and trying to get them down before I left, I really am left with a lot of things to ruminate.  The combination of a couple key sessions and the late night conversations helped me get what I needed from this.  Then again, for the sessions I did not get a lot out of, maybe I should have taken this advice from David Theriault.  Next time man! Thanks should also be given for my former colleagues from Denmark School District, who ate dinner with me both nights. It was a ton of fun getting to catch up and keep the friendships alive.

Probably the biggest takeaway from SLATE, synthesizing my thoughts from all the sessions, is how I could be doing things so much more effectively. What I really need to do is clean the SLATE and start over. Start over with my approach as a tech integrator. Start over when I think about how to move my school 1:1.  Start over when discussing technology professional development and including more key stakeholders (thanks for the push, Corey Hansen!). Start over when planning how to run a workshop or conference session. I can't stay stuck in the old paradigms of how things have typically been done.  Sometimes, to move forward, you have to kill a few sacred cows along the way. Not everyone will like it, and it will be hard work, but anything worthwhile is. Time to get back that sense of urgency. Our kids need us to be better yesterday, so we have no time to waste. Let's clean the SLATE, start over, and move forward to where we know we need to go.
Sorry Bessie, your days are numbered








Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Tips to Startup a Start Up" - #Techeducator Podcast Episode 77 Recap

Start ups are a trendy thing right now, really just putting a new name to the entrepreneurial spirit. But haven't you wondered just what it takes to get a start up off the ground and more than an expensive hobby?  The #techeducator podcast was lucky to be joined by the great leaders of innovative #edtech start ups, including PledgeCents, Crescerence, Storyboard That, and JettPakk. They took questions from the panel and live audience, fielding questions about getting ideas to growing their business to quitting their day jobs. It was a fun conversation that you should check out now here!

Next week, we have our last show of 2014! Join us as we say goodbye to 2014 with a smackdown of our favorite tech tools and tricks from the last year. It looks to be an action packed, fast paced show, so you don't want to miss it! Join us December 14th at 6pm CST for the Edtech Year in Review show!

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Set Your Clocks, the Hour of Code is Coming Soon!" - #techeducator Podcast Episode 76

The #techeducator podcast was all about code this past week as Sam Patterson (@SamPatue) facilitated a great discussion on ways to incorporate programming for the upcoming Hour of Code, set to take place between December 8th and December 14th.  Special guests included Susan Bearden (@s_bearden), who described her experience with Crescerance (last week's guest!) in creating apps with her students, and her own app that is available (Tweechme). Tara Linney (@TechTeacherT) also joined in the festivities as she shared her expertise on how coding can help meet Common Core State Standards. Family coding nights and engaging "beyond the hour" activities were also discussed.

The podcast will be taking a break so everyone can enjoy the holiday weekend.  It will return on Sunday, December 7th.  The topic is subject to change, but right now student response systems, such as Poll Everywhere and Kahoot, are currently on the schedule for exploration and demonstration.  Thanks for watching!

Miss last week's show? Check it out here: www.teachercast.net/tep76/

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Do You Want to Build An App - Man?" - Techeducator Podcast Episode 75!

Apps are a powerful tool for informing communities and parents about what is happening in your school. Unfortunately few schools know where to turn to make this happen.  This episode featured "Crescerance" and has plenty of great advice to get districts, AND students, creating apps! 

Next week, we are doing a little more to gear up for the Hour of Code. It is coming before you know it (actual dates - December 8-14). Be sure to join us at 7pm EST/6pm CST every Sunday night!

Check out this past Sunday's show here:  http://www.teachercast.net/tep75/

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"99 Ways to Say: Get Organized!" - #techeducator Episode 74 Recap

The #techeducator podcast was a tour de force on Sunday night, with nearly 15 curation and organizational tools demoed.  The new Google Bookmark Manager got some love, while standbys such as Diigo, Livebinders, and Symbaloo received much due respect. The night could best be summed up by regular #techeducator viewer Peggy George, in saying "I think it's important to find curation tools that meet your needs and stick to them rather than trying to use many--so hard to keep up with them all."

Next week, #techeducator dives into the exciting world of App creation for schools with a representative from Crescerance as a special guest!. Don't miss it on teachercast.tv, 7pm EST, every Sunday night!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why I'm Doing #NaNoWriMo14

I'm don't consider myself a writer.

I wasn't that great in English class.

I haven't written fiction since creative writing in high school. Even then, it was a struggle (I thought having turtles in a play was a good idea. Come on Ms. Triplett!).

So why, as a 26 year old guy busy with a job as technology integrator, surrounded by devices and video games and presentations, am I choosing to devote copious amounts of time to writing?

It is simple really - writing is important, and I want to be able to come back to my school and my students and walk the walk.  Too often in school, we do things that have absolutely no relevance outside of the school day. Because of this, we might turn off students to the possibilities of that skill or tool because they have now forever associated it with something that is unfun. Of course, this isn't always the case, but as a student myself, that is how I felt.

Writing was tough. I'd try my best, but my thesis would be off. I'd get a bunch of "So what?" on my paper.  Even though I didn't get terrible grades, I am still sure my teachers went through at least an entire pen of red ink on mine. Well, except for Ms. Kuzcmarski.  Apparently, everything I wrote for her was gold. Even if it was done the night before (once again, what does that say if that is constantly what happens? That is a blog post for a different time).

Anyways, after a lot of challenges and difficulties with writing for an audience of one, it can be hard to shake off the idea that we aren't good at writing, or why bother, it isn't any fun.

Well, I'm here to say we can shake that off.  Writing is important, and you only get better at writing if you are reading and writing. As educators, we need to do a better job of walking the walk when it comes to a lot of what we preach to our students.

"Make sure and divide this up. You can't do this all at the last minute!". Teacher devotes 6 hours to grade papers in one night.

"You are going to need to know this math for the future!". Teacher uses a calculator for most math, or stores numbers in a spreadsheet or financial program.

"Make sure you have the right thesis statement, and your citations better be correct MLA format!" Teacher doesn't write anything academic beyond college, and only links to resources used for class activities.

Note:  I'm not here to blame teachers. We are in a system that values doing things to prepare kids to do those same things the next year.  But, we need to reflect on this issue and realize that it doesn't have to be that way. We can be doing things that are authentic and meaningful.

Like writing a #NaNoWriMo story.  It is meaningful because it is an expression of me. It is a way to show I can focus on one thing for a stretch of time, and commit myself fully to it.  It is authentic, because I am sharing my story with many others (and soon, the world).  I don't just want to do it, I want it to be as good as I can make something.

Most of all, I want to break the perception that some people are writers and others are not. Or some people are techies, and some aren't.  Or some people are math people, and others aren't.  This is all a big pile of BS. Sure, we have our own talents, but we have to stop shortchanging ourselves, while at the same time building in excuses for failing or not doing something. We are all capable of whatever we want to do.  We just have to commit, be willing to fail and keep trying, and get better. We need to broaden our horizons and challenge ourselves in areas we are weak in.

To end, let me tell you a story that is a little embarrassing for me, but helps emphasize this point.
<embarrass>
As a young kid, probably no more than 7 or 8, I tried to ride a bike with training wheels. I ended up crashing into the swamp, and never tried again. That is until I was 26 years old, and I received a bicycle as a gift, with the obligation that I needed to learn.  I'd be willing to be there are few things more hilarious than watching a grown man try and learn to ride a bike. I looked like a toddler. I fell. And fell. And fell. I got frustrated. Threw tantrums.  Probably made my wife feel like this probably wasn't a good idea. But to her credit, she stuck by me and supported me. She wanted this to be something we could do together, and she wasn't going to let me fail.

So, this summer, I'd go out and shoot hoops. Then, on my own, knowing that I would probably fall again and again, I brought out the bike, determined to beat.this. After about two weeks of daily crash and burn sessions, I was able to stay up, on the sidewalk for a few seconds. Then I was able to make it to the end of the driveway. Then down the road. Then on a bike trail.

Now, that was over the period of one month, doing something almost every day for about an hour.  I went from being absolutely unable to do something to being able to serviceably do it on my own. Yeah, I'm not comfortable going in the road, I'm not great at turning, and I still wobble like a toddler.  But now I've seen the success and it is addicting. I went from never wanting to ride a bike, to wanting to do it more so I can get better.
</embarrass>

So get out there and do something you suck at.  I don't mean do something you hate. Clearly there should be value to it. But let's all get real about our role. As educators, we are to be examples. If we are closed minded, only focused on the things we are already good at, we, whether you agree with me or not, are doing our students a disservice. They need role models who can demonstrate the willingness to try and fail like we expect of them. It might not be the silver bullet, but it will improve your relationships with your students and help everybody get a little better at something in the process.

And that's what it is all about.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Review of Lightbot

The Hour of Code is coming soon.  My team at Coding Connect and I are working hard to help you decide which tools will be best to use in your classroom for the Hour of Code...and beyond!  This week, I bring you a short review of Lightbot!

How do we get there?

Lightbot is an Android and iOS app that you can pick up at Google Play or the App Store for $2.99.  There is also a Jr. version for younger kids that is the same price. Thankfully, there is a free "Hour of Code" version online here.

Positives

Lightbot is a quick and easy intro into code. It is a game, making it instantly engaging of the bat for students. However, under the hood are some key fundamentals to coding.  You must be able to break down complex commands, like turning on three lights on your way to the top left corner of the screen, into independent steps.  In later levels, you need to be able to utilize variables and loops to solve the puzzles. Ultimately, students will get to experience the joy and frustration of coding without needing to mess with a coding language.

Drawbacks

Lightbot is not a programming language, nor does it really prepare you for one. Yes, it does cover some key computational thinking concepts, but it really doesn't give you a leg up learning a particular language. This is a great Hour of Code activity, but if you are looking to integrate more programming into your class, you'd find the opportunities to integrate Lightbot to be slim. It is a game - a great one for introducing programming, but not one you can easily combine with other things you'd be doing.

Conclusion

Engaging, fun, and simple - Lightbot makes the perfect introduction to computational thinking. Even though it isn't programming, it is a close relative and deserves consideration as a way to whet students' appetities on the way to some serious coding.

Want to see a demo? Check out this short tutorial I made for Lightbot:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"I think I want a Mac!" - #techeducator Podcast Episode 73 Recap

The #techeducator podcast is in full swing, having just completed episode 73 on the new Mac OS - "Yosemite".  This show did not disappoint. Jeff Bradbury and Jeff Herb bantered back and forth about numerous built in features that educators would find very useful, like screen recording using Quicktime (which can also show your iPhone screen!) and automatic signing of PDF files.

Next week, #techeducator takes on digital curation and organization. With so many things to manage, like your email, your appointments, your bookmarks, or anything else digitally, this episode will be here to help!  Looking forward to seeing you next Sunday at 7pm/6pmCST!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Family Reunion: Edcamp Green Bay 2014

That was fun! Edcampgb 2014 is in the books, so after a day of rest and thought, here are four key take aways from the experience.
...but first, let me take a selfie

1.  The spirit of education is still very much alive.

Leading up to edcamp Green Bay, there was a lot of planning and coordinating, and late nights (on my part, at least) and shortened finger nails.  All of this was in an effort to get as many passionate educators as possible together on a Saturday to take back their own learning.  I believe we were successful, getting about 98 educators in the door (up from about 87 last year). As always, there were many new educators, and we had several travel from as far away as Milwaukee! All of these great people giving up their Saturdays, and focusing their conversation on getting better helps me believe that educators as a whole, even though many weren't there, still believe in education and believe they can make a difference as teachers.

2.  Twitter is nice...but face to face is soooo much better!
"Brothers don't shake hands, brothers gotta hug!" - Chris Farley in Tommy Boy.

That quote sums up exactly how I felt as I got to reconnect with so many friends face to face. Sure, I communicate quite regularly with them through other means, but man, seeing them in person is such a rush! Whether or not Michael Matera (@mrmatera) or Adam Moreno (@USMDrama) or Ashley Gavin (@MrsGavin_) really wanted it or not, I need to hug. I'm a hugger.  They are such inspirations ( a few of the many) and there just aren't great ways to show how much somebody has made an impact on you.  It was also cool to connect with so many former colleagues and catch up on life and school. It was just a crazy whirlwind of familiar faces!  In addition, I also got to meet some people for the first time, and tried to get to know as many new attendees as possible.

One of the attendees stated she could have gone to a family reunion. In my eyes, I was AT a family reunion. my edu-family is a powerful one, and meeting them is an experience I look forward to, and wish could happen more often. Since I certainly didn't want the connections to end, I set up an informal get together at a local establishment in Green Bay to get to know each other better outside the educational context. About 10 of us went, which is awesome!  A great time was had by all, but just to tell you how passionate these educators are - our several hours together were mainly spent talking about our practice. How about that?

3.  Hosting and running an edcamp is a whole 'nother ballgame

My favorite part of edcamps is the chance to share with others in a safe environment, and learn from some of the brightest minds in education, without any pretense or need for ready made presentations.  I didn't really get that opportunity this time around, as I had my fair share of running around to do as my team and I made sure everything ran smoothly!  However, I found a new favorite thing about edcamps - the flexibility and freedom to make things happen on the fly.
She celebrated her birthday with us...so she got a sweet Google shirt. Was only fair!

I was able to help a young woman by the name of Mindy (I believe). She was frustrated because her session was at the end of the day, and that was really the main thing she wanted to learn about (animation tools and creation). So, as facilitator, I was able to move her session earlier in the day, and give her some direction, AND connect her with people who I knew had experience or at least were in the same content area.  She ended up staying the entire day, and...

Yup, she won a box!
Ultimately, all the planning, prep, and worrying was worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and can't wait to get started on #edcampgb2015 (or whatever it may be muwahahaha).

4.  We still have a long way to reach critical mass with ed camps.

I love edcamps. I think education as a whole would be better if they were the primary form of professional development for school or region level.  They are free, local, and usually come with a ton of perks, including freebies, breakfast, drinks, lunch, and the chance at some amazing door prizes and swag, as well as new connections.


But as I lay awake at night, I can't help but ponder:  why, out of 145 signups, were only 91 able to make it? Why, in a region with several thousand teachers, could we get maybe 1% of the group to attend? Why was I unable to convince any of my new colleagues to come? 

Of course, I shouldn't beat myself over this, and don't intend to. But as passionate as I am about this, I want everybody to experience at least one. Obviously the only way we can achieve that is if schools adopt the model. Unfortunately, there also weren't any administrators at this edcamp... so how do we get them to come?
We even had amazing pizza!!
I don't know the answer. We just have to stay the course. We have to continue to promote the enormous benefits. Ultimately, almost 100 teachers lives and skills are improved because they came. I appreciated their donation of a day of their lives, a day they could spend away from school.  I know it is hard. I know lives are busy. I know they have families. But we also have our students. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Millions of them depending on us to bring our best selves every single day. We fail, but attending these events is one small way we can get closer to providing our students the type of experiences they will need to be successful.

Until next time...
if this train ever ends...been waiting since yesterday afternoon!







Saturday, September 20, 2014

An Unexpected Journey

Three weeks in, and I'm doing things I would have never thought I'd be doing at this point.

That's right...I've entered the Matrix. I'm the balding guy up there in the corner.
This school year, I began a new position as a Technology Training Specialist. Coming from being a classroom teacher, I had no idea what I was getting into. I'd hoped my job would include plenty of integration and time with teachers and students, and obviously lots of time playing with tech. It has been some of that, but other things have surprised me.

Courtesy of 8th grade teacher Meghan. Wish it was in my office 

First - I've spent a lot of time on Google Scripting.  And I'm not done yet.  I was approached by the middle school looking for a way to facilitate their new Academic Recovery system, where students would go to get help on homework they were missing.  The system was to help track for data purposes, as well as a way for teachers to communicate with the academic recovery team.  The first iteration sent an email to the team each time a student was sent (via Google Form). But, an issue occured when trying to maintain the spreadsheet and remove the students who had finished. Not that it is that hard, but it is one extra thing and certainly something that is time consuming.

So, with the help of an amazing guy David Tess, we made a system that, using Google Scripts, allowed teachers to type in the name of the student on a different form, and it removed them from the Academic Recovery list.  This then led to requests to have students removed by assignments, because the current method only supported a student name.  We added that in.  Finally, at the end of a long road, we went for a long shot.  With the help of David, we combined old sheets and FormRanger with custom scripting to generate a dynamic drop down on the removal form, eliminating the need to spell both the student name and assignment perfectly as it was on the spreadsheet to remove a student.

I plan on tinkering with this over time, finding new ways to make life easier for teachers. But ultimately, I'm happy with what I learned there and am thankful for the knowledge of Google Scripts and the friends I have that can help me on a whim!

Secondly, I've done a LOT of public relations work for technology.  The attitudes towards technology are very negative, and most teachers are in a whirlwind with the constant changes.  Because of this, I've poured a lot of effort into trying to simplify things for teachers, and show them ways they can achieve results without necessarily losing functionality.  It is scary to live in a world where things change so fast AND they affect your job. It has also helped my rapport immensely once teachers realize that I have taught. I was a teacher.  

Undoctored email. My heart is warmed by stuff like this.

Third, I've got some awesome student connections going. I've transformed the middle school announcements into a daily morning semi-live activity using Google Hangouts on air. I had two boys from last year loving coming in every morning and making this happen. Grand visions exist of a fun and vibrant "news-like" experience where my two veterans can produce the show without much input from me, and we get weekly guest anchors.  The possibilities are there and I'm pumped to see where they go.

Along those lines, I also get to do a similar once a week announcements with students at the intermediate school.

Most promising, though, is a coding club. My assistant principle Luke has been a champion for this club from the beginning and is going to be taking this to our superintendent to make the case for a paid extracurricular. Whether or not it is doesn't matter to me - I'm loving the support and can't wait to get that off the ground this year.

After three weeks of live school (and another two weeks of prep work prior to the school year) I am loving my new position and feel that I am thriving on the fast paced and multi-faceted role I am in.  As the year progresses, I'm hoping to be in classrooms daily and making an impact on each child through some amazing tech integrated projects.  Our TTS team is planning an awesome schedule of workshops for teachers.  De Pere will have an exceptional year of growth in this area.

Oh, and there's this Minecraft after school club I'll be doing on occasion throughout the year.

And we just started a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the intermediate school.

Life is good. I love supporting teachers and connecting with students.

I'm in my element, and it feels great.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Concerns with Educational Conferences

Let me start by saying that I LOVE attending conferences.

They are inspiring, empowering, and always leave you with a boatload of connections and ideas to aid in becoming a better educator.

They provide an opportunity for individual teachers to share their learning and the things they are trying with many people in a face to face environment. It is a way to celebrate what great teachers are doing.

So don't get me wrong, I love all of those aspects. But ultimately, they are very isolating and limiting, which is a bit ironic. Let me explain.

First of all - how many conferences are there throughout the year that are in the middle of the week?  For most teachers, it is challenging to get administrative approval to take time off for conferences. In my experience, teachers get somewhere around two personal days a year.  I attended a conference last year that would have eaten that up. If I didn't have support from my district technology budget, I wouldn't have attended any of the conferences that have inspired me thus far in my career. And I'm not sure where I'd be if I hadn't attended them.

Secondly, and this is the big one, is they are so incredibly cost prohibitive.  Once again, if you are lucky enough to be in a school or a position (as I have been) where you can be covered by the tech budget, then you can go to these things.  But how many teachers can a district afford to send? Coming up in November is the Midwest Google Summit. The registration is nearly $300, and then you have to travel there, and if you attend both days, likely stay two nights in a hotel.  That comes out to over $500 once you factor in food and hotel rooms, even if you share a room.  If teachers aren't supported to go, $500 and blowing two personal days is a lot to ask to learn when...

You have Twitter. You have edcamps.  You have G+.  Now I don't know about you, but the main reason I've heavily involved in those things is because I heard about them...AT A CONFERENCE!  So once again, we have a case of the haves and the have nots.  It is great for those of us who have experienced those powerful opportunities to laud the connections on Twitter. But if you haven't had a great launching experience, as much as someone praises the values of something like Twitter, it is hard to convince them how great it is.

I wish I could tell you what the solution is. I know the venues, and the food cost money. I know it is probably only fair to compensate those who plan the conferences. But, I know hundreds of companies pack the expo hall at some of these events, and I know they have to pay for that floor space.  I know I've attended Edcamps where I learn as much as big conferences, make twice as many connections, and they are cheap and covered through donations in most cases.

Big conferences have name recognition.  They provide a platform for those that are trying to influence education.  But too many teachers are left out because of the cost. Because of the timing.

I am probably a hypocrite, having given presentations at several paid-for events.  But I would never limit what I have to share to just those people that attend.. That is one of the only ways in our current structure to make this work. The few that get to go need to share with the rest.

My wish is that more people could experience the career changing moments I have at this events.  I just worry that a majority of educators are unable to go because of restrictions, cost, and time.  The goal of these conferences shouldn't be to improve the few, it should be to improve education for all. Yes, those of us that get to go are charged with sharing what we learned. But it just isn't the same as experiencing it for yourself.

That brings me to another conundrum.  I love edcamps. They provide a great solution to this problem. However, that still isn't catching even a sizable fraction of teachers. At least in my state, I know it isn't for a lack of location opportunities.  So on one side, teachers can't get to conferences because of cost. On the other side, when cost isn't an issue, teachers don't show up.  Why not?  

I don't know. It is hard to give up a Saturday when you are putting in 70 hours a week.  How can you possibly think of incorporating something new when you have the one million standards you have to cover by next Tuesday in time for three weeks of standardized testing?

There has to be a middle ground.  There has to be a way for teachers to get invigorating professional development, but in a way that meets them where they are at.  My experience today at the Google for Education Online Summit (and in the past at Edcamp Home) gave me a glimpse of what that could look like.  But even if these events were free and held weekly, how do we get teachers to participate? Adminstrators and schools need to support these opportunities, and see them as ways to level up their staff and improve the learning.  They need to attend edcamps, connect on social media, and give their staff TIME to do these things.  

The problem may be with big conferences. The problem may be with edcamps. The problem may be with schools and administrators. The problem may be with teachers.

But ultimately, the only way to get everyone learning and applying new things, we have to get those operations and stakeholders working together.  All teachers deserve high quality professional development.

It is about time we get it to them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Quick Analogy

So tonight, I decided I would be the culinary chef of our kitchen and make dinner for my wife and me.

All class

As a began to put this nifty concoction together, I went to find a flipper as I browned the ground beef. Before I got started, my wife rushed over, opened the drawer of cooking tools, and proceeded to show me this beauty:

I didn't get the idea to write this until after I started cooking
The point of this tool?  It is made specifically for mixing up and chopping up food as you cook it. Perfect for browning ground beef when you want small portions.

The tool in action
But Josh, this is a technology blog, so what are you talking about cooking for?  First of all, I am a well rounded person, and I also enjoy a lot of things (see what I did there?). Secondly, this is technology.  All technology means is applied scientific knowledge.  Somebody was frustrated and annoyed at how ineffective flippers were (or any other tool) at browning beef, so they came up with this.

So does it do everything a flipper does? No.  Does it have many uses? Depending on your creativity, maybe, but ultimately, it has a very specific purpose. So why on earth should we use this tool?

Because it performs the tasks more efficiently that other tools.  Because it allows me to think of other creative tools I could use in my kitchen to increase my productivity.  Because it, combined with other things I already have and know how to use, can make for a stress free dinner.

Technology is just a tool.  Remind101 is just a tool. Google Apps is just a tool.  Prezi is just a tool.  Edmodo is just a tool.  Padlet is just a tool.  However, these tools allow us to do things more efficiently, more creatively, and more enjoyably than we would have accomplished the tasks prior.  Along the way, using those tools can lead to more critical thinking skills as we strive to apply the best tool for each job.  Combining some of these tools together can lead to some very powerful experiences (Posting a Padlet link to an Edmodo group, taking a screenshot of the results with Snagit, and tweeting the resulting picture, for example).

The flipper is a great kitchen tool with many uses. But from now on, I will always use that weird new tool when trying to brown meat, because it gets the job done and is fun to use!  Plus, it is simple. 

And a tool is only as good as it is user friendly :)


NOTE:  Above comment meant for educational technology integration purposes only




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

But...What Will I Do All Day?

To say I am feeling a bit nervous about my new job would be an understatement.

The look of a nervous man

After three short years in the classroom, I decided to take on a new roll as a technology training specialist in the De Pere School District. There were many reasons for the switch, but paramount to my move was that fact that I feel connecting with educators and helping them use technology more effectively is my greatest strength.  If I've learned anything from reading, learning, and growing, it is that you capitalize on the things you do well. That doesn't mean I'm not working on my weaknesses and deficits (embarrassing fun fact, I just learned to ride a bike THIS SUMMER), but for gainful employment, I know I'll be more successful in this role.

I don't have footage of the bike ride, so here is a baby pig.

But, of course, none of that cures the apprehension I have when attempting something new. I keep wondering "what if I can't help people?", "what if they don't like my philosophy", "what if I don't have all the answers?".  I know these are foolish feelings and I just need to be myself, do my best, and keep grinding.  The craziest reoccurring thought though, is "What do I do all day?".

They'll probably find a use for me...

I am responsible for two buildings, totaling probably (I'm ballparking) 70-ish teachers.  They are grades 5-8. They probably have the most technology in the district, but are very new to Chromebooks and Google apps. Here I am coming off an amazing summer, having attended the Google Teacher Academy and generally learning a lot about doing this type of work. Yet I still wonder if I'll be good enough to really excel. To really bring the learning to the next level. To really fulfill all those lofty ideas I have for education. Will I have that type of influence? Is that even a good thing? Most of all, I wonder what I'll be doing all day.

For the first time in any job I've had, I don't really have a set schedule. There isn't a prescribed routine. It really begins and ends with me. Sure, teachers will ask for help, and the principals will give me assignments, but the action isn't going to come to me a majority of the time. I have to have the courage to make things happen. I have to push post all the insecurities, the stupid questions I mentioned above, and really believe in my philosophy and that what we can do with technology with my help will greatly improve the education for the students of De Pere.

 So what do I want to do all day?  Let's make a prediction here, and when I look back at the end of the year, we'll see what I accomplished!

  1. Help get 100% of the staff to utilize Google Apps in their classroom at some point. Obviously, I'd like them to use it regularly, but they've only been a Google school for 1 year.  Time to take it to the next level.
  2. Get at least 50% of the staff connected to a PLN, either on G+ or Twitter.  I think Pinterest is great for classroom creation ideas, but Twitter takes it to the next level with professional connections that keep the fire burning.  Much of what I know and do as an educator is a direct result of the connections and learning that occur through this.
  3. Get at least one teacher to gamify something. 
  4. Get at least one teacher to adopt a flipped classroom.
  5. Get both the Intermediate School and Middle School on Twitter and Facebook, and weekly provide updates, pictures, and generally positive connections with the community. I'd ideally like to do Instagram as well. Perhaps I can connect all three.  *This one is especially important to me*
  6. Be alive and breathing on June 13th
  7. Generate positive change and innovation amongst the staff (I get it, it is touchy feely and no measurable. So sue me).
  8. Recruit at least 30 new teachers to attend an edcamp.
  9. Recruit at least 5 teachers to join the #tlap crew!
  10. Above all, I want to continue to keep the focus on how technology can better support kids and their learning.  Ultimately, the students should enjoy school more, they should be learning more, and they should be creating more. If all else fails except this one, then I had the most successful year.

It is safe to say that in order to make these things happen, I'm going to have to work my butt off (sounds like a great workout plan anyway).  

So when we put it that way, I guess I know what I'll be doing all day.

This, right?

Time to make it happen!


Monday, August 4, 2014

Reflections on #GTAMTV: Our Time Has Come

NOTE:  I will probably write a second blog post about my experience in California overall, but in the sake of trying to stay on point, I focused on the Google Teacher Academy portion for this. I'd love to share the rest of my experiences and will work on a blog post soon for that!

Wow, where to begin?
And we're off!


Should it be from the moment I arrived at the Mountain View campus with the other eager participants to begin two epic days of learning, sharing, and collaborating?


Or, maybe it should start from the day before, when the great Caren McConnel organized a hangout at a local establishment and Andrew Kramer brought the t-shirts he had made for the event?

How about that morning, when I jumped on a plane for the FIRST TIME to take this adventure to California?
Me leaving gravity...

Perhaps we could go even further back, to when I was applying and collaborating with my good friend and talented movie man Scott McPherson?

Maybe it started with my brainstorming for that application?  Further? Like when I applied and was unsuccessful last summer?  Or does it go further back?

You see, before I can really reflect on this experience, I need to identify where exactly this opportunity fits in the context of my career and life. Why did I want to attend the Google Teacher Academy? What was the point? What will this help me accomplish?

As a young boy, I always told myself I was destined for greatness. Perhaps it was influence from my amazing father, who was full of encouragement and pushed me, and really could have written the first book on growth mindset if he ever bothered to write down the hours of positive reinforcement he provided in my formative years.  I worked hard to be a good student, but worked even harder to be a great baseball player. The baseball thing didn't quite work out, but the point really wasn't whether or not I succeeded. It was did I do everything possible to succeed. I attended camps, extra workout sessions, worked out outside of the season, threw for hours against a brick wall, and played my heart out when I got into a game. However, it really wasn't meant to be - I loved baseball, but life took me a different direction.

So what does this have to do with the Google Teacher Academy? Well, after I decided baseball wasn't for me, I shortly thereafter moved my college major to become a Business Education teacher. Personally, I knew I had the characteristics which could make a great teacher (or so I thought), and believed I could be successful. But a weird thing happened - I stuck to doing just what was expected. I didn't attend any outside conferences, and only lightly contributed to our student group. This carried over to my student teaching, and even some of my first year of teaching. Where was this guy who worked so hard on baseball that it crushed him to give that up? Was this really so different?
Maybe I spent too much time thinking about food?
So I decided to be different, and finally understood what it meant to go the extra mile. You help people. You take on extra roles. You speak up in committees. You learn new things to help others. And most of all, you believe that you can be great. In an area like teaching, that confidence is everything! This spilled over into my second year, where I believe I started to catch glimpses of what education could be and what role I could play. I became restless in my school and in doing the same old, same old. I began to make big changes in my classes, such as completely flipping and self-pacing a class with about a week's worth of planning before the class started. Having goals became paramount, and I wanted to have as much influence as possible to make the types of changes to education that I believe (and so do many others) will make it awesome for students. One of the keys to my plan was to become a Google Certified Teacher.
Pictured: Going above and beyond. Or crazy. Either one.

It is just a label, and I think we get caught up in labels too often in education (see:  flipped learning), but to me, this meant two things.  Number 1 - it meant that I had earned something. That my passion, hard work, and drive was noticed. All teachers want that kind of recognition, and most are greater than myself. But this was important to me and I learned all I could from current GCT's and put myself in position to qualify.  The second thing it meant to me was that I would now have some legitimacy behind my name. When talking to administration about ideas for technology in education, I can now point to something concrete as a way to back up all of my crazy ideas and ambitions for making this thing we call school a great place to be for all kids.
They look happy, don't you think? They keep jumping!!!! Ahh make them stop!!!!!


So when all this effort, thinking, and planning came to head, and I am happy to say I had the great fortune of being chosen to go to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View at the Googleplex. To be honest, I was literally shaking with excitement for WEEKS after this. The craziest part though wasn't visiting the Google HQ. It was meeting and collaborating with some of the most inspiring, creative, and hardworking teachers in the WORLD. It is the connections with these people that was make the changes we want to see in education and the world, and I am so excited to work with them further.
Pictured:  Simon:  expert photobomber, great guy, and apparently talented placemark holder upper

Maybe that was more than you needed to know, but I hope I showed just how much this moment in time means to me, and how grateful I was for the opportunity to be there.

As for the academy itself, it was such a well-planned, well-designed, and well-executed professional development experience. If we ran every teacher workshop like this, oh man we could blow the lid off many schools!
Like, up into the stratosphere, or something! (note: that is where this picture was taken. I looked it up!)
The sessions were very fluid and were very much experiential learning, in which we played with the very strategies we were learning. It was phenomenal! The convergence of technology with the physical world and collaboration with other humans was evident in everything we did. We used Near Field Communication on a Google Maps Scavenger hunt in which we needed to snap photos that related to quotes we found. Crazy stuff with David Theriault and Cory Pavicich I loved the hyperdocs concept by Lisa Highfill, in which, instead of providing all the info up front, you lead students or teachers through a series of well designed documents, slides, maps, spreadsheets, videos, or whatever else you like to link. The idea is that you catch them and keep drawing them in, without overwhelming them. It was amazing.
Yeah, I got to hang with the amazing Mr. Theriault
And the man Rolland! (man...I need to work on my photo face)

We played Ingress. Enough said. We experienced a simple, but effective way, to template out presentations using the underlying concepts in the Frayer Model to flip instruction and have students learn while demonstrating communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. (credit to Jon Corripo and J.R. Ginex-Orinion).We were inspired by nine of our fellow attendees (well, in formal presentations. I was inspired by them all at some point)! We learned ways to hack things we thought we knew, like using Class Dojo to track fictional character development in a story. We practiced the art of the quick video and Youtube's publishing tools.  We laughed, we communicated, we shared, we dreamed, and we lived in the moment. No two days have ever flown by so fast in my entire life. I never wanted to leave the Google Store, which was our last meeting place. I am getting emotional just thinking about it...

What does it all mean? Am I some radically different person now? Am I even supposed to be? Was this an affirmation of the path I was on, or a springboard into something different? Perhaps I'm asking too much questions, the wrong questions, or not enough questions. What it really comes down to is this was an experience about making education better for our students. They deserve our best, and Google wants to help. Sure, they aren't without a horse in the race (see lack of qualified programmers), but they are making great products for education.

I'm overwhelmed to even be mentioned among the incredible talent in that group who I've covered in light detail.  Spoiler alert - they are one million times more impressive in person. That is a scientific fact. As GCT's, we need to craft an action plan going forward. Once again, I got involved with an amazing group of people who's vision matches my own, and I am eager to see the great things we accomplished.
Note:  Giant Prehistoric statues not an anticipated accomplishment, but would be a pleasant surprise :)

My only regret really isn't a regret, but a factor of time. I didn't not really get to meet every one. I wish I would have been more extroverted in reaching out to others, but that is still a part of my personality I struggle with. I am grateful for the time and opportunities I did have there.

This is by no means conclusive.  There are so many more thoughts, feelings, and reactions but my mind is still jumbled after what seems like a constant barrage of events and amazing experiences for the last nearly two weeks. Time to get ready for a new year. Time to get ready to positive impact students. Time to make a difference. Whatever we were, whatever we thought, and whatever we did before becoming GCT's, we can't help but have one common mission now.

Next stop:  changing the world.

Wheels Down!!





Friday, June 20, 2014

65 California Dreamers: Introducing the Attendees of #GTAMTV 2014

65 is a pretty cool number.

In many schools, 65 means - "You Passed" (I'm looking at you, Tommy Boy):

This also could describe our feelings after getting picked. (courtesy of Reddit)

In other places, 65 miles per hour is a common speed limit.
Does anybody really drive under that, though?(courtesy of Pixabay)

The greatest baseball player to wear number 65?  That would be Cliff Lee. (nobody else is even close)

In late July, 65 extraordinary educators will head out to California to become the next 65 known as "Google Certified Teachers". I can't wait to get to meet each and every one of them in person. We've already formed an awesome community, holding hangouts and exchanging tips and advice. So much excitement already!

Just a note about the list - there are a lot of participants, so I'm providing just a few pertinent details. We are all involved in education somehow, many tech integrators, tech directors, teachers, and some admin. My goal was to make it short and sweet so you could read it without a bathroom break.

Without further ado, here are the 65 participants of the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, CA, 2014! (You can view most of the successful application videos here, courtesy of the amazing +Adina Sullivan)

Ryan Archer 


Location: San Marcos, CA
Fun Fact: Besides being a successful science teacher for 16 years (with a recent change to tech integrator), he once spent a year testing educational software for Lightspan, Inc. Lightspan recently merged with the popular PLATO software company.  He'll be our secret weapon in "testing" out the latest and greatest from Google!

Michelle Armstrong


Location:  Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Fun Fact:  A current Head of Educational Technology, Michele Armstrong brings another 15 years of education experience to the team.  She had a wonderful personality from all accounts (I Google "Hungout" with her for like 10 minutes once!).  According to a recent blog post I read, she is quite an amazing present as well, and a champion of the underrated Google Drawing! She'll definitely be "drawing" attention to the amazingness of this group!

Jerrad Barczyszyn


Location:  Las Vegas, NV
Fun Fact: Another 16 year teaching vet, Jerrad comes to the group having years of experience as a math teacher. Currently, like many others in the group, he has moved on to an educational technology integration role.  Interestingly enough, on this Google Site I found from him, he lists his occupation as "Educational Computer Strategist". I like it! He also lists himself as a current athletic director. Wow - hope we can keep up with this guy!

Dan Bennett


Location:  Los Alamitos, CA
Fun Fact:  Dan is a high school science teacher currently. His Edmodo profile states that he has a passion for Star Wars and exclaims that "he's your guy" if you "don't mind learning from a geeky sci-fi crazed dad".  I'm big into Star Wars myself, but it seems that the force is strong in this one!

Mary Bennett


Location:  Clovis, CA
Fun Fact: With over 20 years of experience in various sectors in the educational field, Mary develops curriculum for CUE and am an Instructional Designer for Fresno State.  She appears to be an expert with the Blackboard platform, so it will be great to talk with her about how Blackboard can work with the Google Apps environment (or if her use of Google has impacted her belief in the need for an LMS?)

Mary Berelson


Location:  Truckee, CA
Fun Fact:  Besides being part cat, Mary has been a Kindergarten/1st grade looping teacher for nearly 20 years! It will be excellent to see how Google impacts the way she teaches with such young students.  She also apparently spent some time at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and has a Bachelor's in Cultural Anthropology. I'm intrigued to see how she ended up there. Must be a great story!

Brian Briggs


Location:  Plumas Lake, CA
Fun Fact: Brian is a Director of Innovation and Technology. I'm not sure how you can direct innovation, so I'm sure Brian has some secrets for all of us.  He taught for over 12 years prior to this role and is a fan of collaboration (good for him since I hear we do a little bit of that at the GTA).  He appears to have worked with Tynker for teaching coding in the past, so perhaps he's interested in Googley ways we can teach programming.

Rolland Chidiac


Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Fun Fact:  Rolland is an elementary school teacher as had been for about 12 years.  He is also from a place called Kitchener, so he must be quite the cook.  On a side note, Rolland is currently a finalist for a competition sending teachers to the MLB All-Star game in Minneapolis, MN this year. Maybe vote for him? He might have to book another trip to the US in July!

Sandra Chow


Location:  Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Fun Fact: Another veteran teacher, totaling over 12 years of educational experience so far at the elementary level.  She also had the experience of spending some time teaching in Taipei, Taiwan.  In addition, she was involved in a research study on multiliteracies and how students need to be good at more than just reading and writing. Her experience and expertise in SMART software led her to receiving the distinction as a SMART Exemplary educator as well!

Amy Cox


Location:  Los Angeles, CA
Fun Fact:  Amy has been a technology teacher for the last 5 years and before that, she worked as a computer repair technician. Great news for the team - if any of our devices decide to brick during our time at GTA, she can be our go to! She also appears to have an interest in coding. In "how much more awesome can she get?" news - she won an award called the Golden Dot in her school district this past year for showing respect for others the community. You go Amy!

Lisa DeLapo


Location:  Oakland, CA
Fun Fact: Lisa is yet another Director of Instructional Innovation (apparently it IS something we need to be directing!) and prior to that was a Director of Technology.  Apparently Lisa's love of technology has some deep roots. Although her concentrations in college had nothing to do with technology (one was nursing) - she felt the need to get her geek on and learned Basic and installed a modem in a computer I've never even heard of (XT286). Neat side note - she was a pioneer in internet dating, meeting her husband in a chatroom in 1996!

Chip Dolce


Location:  Palmyra, NY
Fun Fact: Despite no apparent ties to fashion giant Dolce and Gabbana, Chip appears to be a pretty cool dude. He's been a Social Studies Teacher, Instructional Technologist, Principal, and director of technology. Not bad for about 20 years of work.  While he isn't doing that, he is just being a completely awesome human being.  His school contributed to the relief efforts involved in Hurricane Sandy a few years back and he drove the supplies to New Jersey.  Just goes to show the amazing company we are in with this cohort!

Dominique Dynes


Location:  Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Fun Fact:  Dominique joins us as the only cohort member south of the United States border. She does hail from Minnesota (I believe that's what she said in one of our hangouts).  She's been teaching for about 7 years, and currently serves a dual role as a 4th grade teacher and tech integrationist. Her favorite things include salsa dancing, tacos (but apparently no salsa "eating") and picture taking. Looks like we could anoint her our group historian? Muwahahaha (I apparently like giving people jobs AND using parenthesis).

Amy Fadeji


Location: Penngrove, CA
Fun Fact: Amy is an elementary school principal and blogs about her experiences over at http://mrsfadeji.blogspot.com/. Although her profile info is limited, I was able to dig up that Amy taught 2nd grade and spent some time volunteering in places like Nigeria and Mexico. However, MY favorite fact about her is that she named a dog she had after Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell. That. Is. Legit.

Kevin Fairchild


Location:  Encinitas, CA
Fun Fact: After being a science teacher for 16 years, Kevin has recently begun a "special assignment for technology and learning". It sounds like something out of 24, so I approve.  He's begun his own district chat at the hashtag  #SDUHSDchat.  He's the member of a bunch of organizations, and I assume he is pretty proud of his National Board Certified Teacher status.  Couldn't find much else, but he does win Google+ for the greatest skills listing ever - such as bowstaff skills, nunchuck skills and proving that Napoleon Dynamite references are still relevant in 2014!

Josh Gauthier

Location:  De Pere, WI
Fun Fact:  This is me (the author of this blog). I will be switching roles in education after 3 years as a Business Education teacher in Denmark, WI to become a Tech Training Specialist in the Unified School District of De Pere.  I have been presenting at a few state conferences, including SLATE and WEMTA, and have attended 4 edcamps, while helping plan for SITA (a Green Bay tech conference) and Edcamp Green Bay. Personally, I love gaming, reading, and eating. I ate a burger called the Lambeau Heap (smaller than the one in the picture above) and got a T-shirt. Go me.

Michelle Green


Location:  Indianapolis, IN
Fun Fact: Michelle is currently an eLearning Specialist. That sounds mighty impressive. Before that she was an Innovation, Curriculum, and Technology Specialist (so she wasn't directing innovation, she specialized in it!).  Adding to the good person resume of this cohort, Michelle is the proud owner of two rescue canines.  She also likes to drink tea. I'm sure we'll get along great - nice to have a few other Mid-Westerners on the team!

Dennis Grice


Location:  Orange, CA
Fun Fact:  Dennis has been involved in technology a lot. Since 1995, he has been a technology director for a couple different schools. He is also a DEN Star - I think that is a good thing. Goes with his name well, anyway.  He's presented on a ton of different topics, including Chromebooks, Making Movies, and Animal Riddles! In his office - he has a great sign that says "Stay Clam and Check Your Spelling". I'll admit I messed up the first time reading it.

Meghan Haselbauer


Location:  Edina, MN
Fun Fact: Yay! Minnesota. That is a little closer to Wisconsin.  She's been teaching for nearly 10 years in grades in Middle School and first grade, specializing in math.  It looks like she does an awesome job taking math from everyday life situations and using it in class.  She enjoys camping and wants to visit all 73 Minnesota State Parks. I'm sure that's fun, but I'm also sure Wisconsin's are better :)

Catina Haugen


Location:  Petaluma, CA
Fun Fact: After teaching at the elementary level for 14 years, she became the principal of the same building in 2011.  She likes to Kayak and Knit (hopefully not at the same time) and has a passion for educational technology.  Early posts in her blog indicate she loves to read and will review the books as well. Might be a good resource if you are itching for something new to read!

Susan Herder


Location:  Shoreview, MN
Fun Fact:  Susan has been a tech integration specialist for 15 years in Minnesota.  Her content area is Biology (another science folk). She is also another Star Ways fanatic, so that should make Dan Bennett happy.  However, the coolest fact about her is that she won on Jeopardy! baby (sorry Weird Al).  Since that is one of my all time dreams, will definitely be picking her brain about that!

Robert Hochberg


Location:  Oxnard, CA
Fun Fact: Robert is a Director of Technology AND History teacher at a Lutheran school in California.  Must be a challenge to wear those two hats (I'm not referring to the Santa hats!). He really loves his son Elliot and I haven't seen a picture of Robert without Elliot in it. One of his credentials is listed as a Microsoft Innovative Educator, so it will be interesting to see where his loyalties lie after the Google Teacher Academy.

Jeffrey Humphries


Location:  Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Fun Fact: His official title is "Itinerant Teacher of Assistive Technology" and I know he definitely has a passion for how technology can help those with special needs. He's also a Google Education and Apple Trainer.  Appears to be a quiet, reflective person. Hoping to get to know him better out in Mountain View.

Matt Hurst


Location: Salem, OR
Fun Fact: Matt has taught for over 10 years in the areas of English and Technology, currently running an elective on iPads and Video Production (can I take it?). He's also a Remind101 Advisor and blogs at mulloverthings.com. He has a lot of neat accolades that I hope to learn more about when we meet in July.

Michael Jaber


Location:  Sheboygan, WI
Fun Fact: Michael has the distinction of being 1 of 2 others going to GTAMTV that I've actually met in person. He gave a fabulous tour and overview of the huge rollout of Chromebooks at Fond du Lac. He currently works as an Instructional Technology Coordinator in Sheboygan.  When he's not saving the world for technology, he's loving football (having coached for 25 years) and coordinating mustang car shows in the summers. Jaber is bringing the style of Mountain View.

Jimmy Juliano


Location:  Lincolnshire, IL
Fun Fact:  Jimmy is another tech integrationist and may just be the funniest member of the team. His video includes some awesome green screen effects in which he "tries" to angle himself into GTA with in-region status. It is hilarious - check it out here.  I also love his twitter handle and website name - Ed Tech Avenger. I'm not sure what he is avenging, but I hope to find out! His blog is wonderful - reminds me of Cracked.com style list writing, which is so easy to digest. Plus he uses a lot of memes. Definitely a guy to look out for!

Julie Kelley


Location: Wilmington, MA
Fun Fact: Julie has been a music teacher at the Wilmington Public School system for the past 14 years. She maintains a blog over at http://musicroom306.kitcreations.com/.  She does a very cool "this Week in Music Class Post", bringing in pop culture references, humor, and current events to interest her students in music. By all appearances, she loves exclamation points. I'm hoping, since she lives in Massachusetts, that she is also a Patriots fan. Then she'd be my favorite cohort member and no one else would have a shot. Sorry.

Kylie Kissel


Location:  Ponoka, Alberta, Canada
Fun Fact: Kylie is a media studies instruction and tech coach in Ponoka.  He has a pretty sweet looking website over at http://kissel.weebly.com/. It also appears he has done some Minecrafting with students, which is awesome! I am running a summer school class currently, and it is all sorts of craziness and fun. Basically, Kylie is the teacher we'd all want to have, doing fun, cool stuff and going places all the time. Plus he's from a small town, so you know he's down to earth!

Andrew Kramar


Location:  Montvale, NJ
Fun Fact:  Andrew has been a principal for the past 4 years after having taught for 7 years prior to that.  He helped bring a 1:1 iPad initiative to Fieldstone Middle School and was involved in revamping their schools website back in 2012. Other than that, he is a quiet guy by all accounts. Glad to see an admin who buys in to tech integration and is willing to get his hands dirty.

Melinda Larson-Horne


Location: Okauchee Lake, WI
Fun Fact: Bonjour! Melinda is the second of the two cohort members I've met before, I actually sat next to Melinda while eating lunch at a conference. She's incredibly nice and is an expert in French! In fact, she was a French teacher and translator for many years before becoming a tech integrator. She's also taught French and English at the post-secondary level and updates an awesome photo-blog at www.melindalarson.com

Tina Lauer


Location: St. Charles, MO
Fun Fact: Tina was an early childhood educator who is now an instructional technologist. It is amazing how many different titles we can create for tech coach! She also finds time to be an adjunct professor at Lindenwood College. She's a Google Glass explorer (of which there are quite a few in this group) and a DEN Star! Tina also is a fan of the tv show "The Voice". Unfortunately, she also is a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. I'll try and get past that.

Tara Linney


Location: Alexandria, VA
Fun Fact:  Tara can count herself as the first one to arrive at #GTAMTV. She actually got a summer job as a coding camp counselor and is out in California already! She works in a tough, tough school in DC and has overcome many hardships, like theft of a lot of school technology. In the food realm (one of my favorite topics) she loves blueberries. A lot. In addition to all this, she is amazing individual - her story of donating her own hair to her mother as she battled cancer was moving. Tara is a great person.

Karen Lirenman

Location:  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
G+ and twitter handles: +MsKaren Lirenman      https://twitter.com/KLirenman
Fun Fact: She's a superstar! After 21 years of teaching, she was awarded the Kay L. Bitter Vision award by ISTE in 2013 for her technology integration efforts in first grade and the global connections she fostered in doing that.  She was only the second Canadian to win the *global* award! Nice job. Apparently she also likes the Vancouver Canucks hockey team, but there is no way to be sure...

Jane Lofton

Location:  Manhattan Beach, CA
Fun Fact: "Jane has been in education for the past 12 years playing the role of superhero (aka Teacher Librarian), with one year in the middle teaching middle school language arts and computer exploratory.  She also had a long career before that , first as a public library librarian, and  as a technical writer for a variety software companies prior to her work in education, which is a pretty awesome skill to have when you are creating teaching guides for others.  For interests, she states reading (of course), travel, cloud-based tech, blogging, and enjoying theater-going and listening to some classic artists, such as Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and the Beatles."

Chris Long


Location:  Huntington Beach, CA
Fun Fact:  Chris may win the award for highest production value on a GTA Application video.  Watch it now. In other news, Chris taught physics for 18 years and during that time transitioned to a Educational Technology Coordinator, which he appears to be doing full time at this point. When he's not pouring his heart and soul into education, he's either playing with a home theater or using a pneumatic t-shirt launcher (umm...you can get and/or make one? Totally need to make friends with this dude pronto!)

Jessica  Lura


Location:  Los Altos, CA
Fun Fact: Jessica is a 15 year veteran of teaching covering grades 1 through 8.  She specializes in English and U.S. History (strange bedfellows). Adding to the already long list of great community contributions by each of these fine people, Jessica coordinates a yearly food drive that helps teach students about civic responsibility. She's been a Fulbright Scholar, a Santa Clara county Teach of the Year, and was one of five finalists for Comcast's All Star teacher contest in 2014. Not bad at all.

Caren MacConnell


Location:  Holmdel, NJ
Fun Fact:  Caren currently is a K-6 tech coach. She has 20 years of teaching experience at the elementary level, and even took home a district Teacher of the Year honor back in 2005 (we sure seem to have a lot of those in this cohort).  Based on my research, the coolest fact about Caren is she appears to be the originator of the increasingly popular "Mystery Skype", where two classrooms video chat without know the other's location, and they use questioning and critical thinking to figure out where the other class is from. Wow - the talent in this group is off the charts.

Darren Massa


Location:  Chico, CA
Fun Fact: Darren is a middle school science teacher in the birthplace of Aaron Rodgers.  He graduated from a class of 18 kids (Darren, not Aaron).  Naturally Darren joined the water-ski team in college at UC-Santa Barbara. He still will occasionally help out on his father's rice farm. To show you that Darren is the total package, he was also involved in a Sketch Comedy troupe known as Ten West, and holds an Annual Faculty Follies at his school.

Kimble McCann


Location:  Honolulu, HI
Fun Fact: Kimble has a wide variety of professional experiences and pursuits that have all led him to research into instructional technology. He was a special education teacher in Los Angeles.  Currently, he has an EdTech start up called "Handyside" and works with the IT department at Kamehameha Schools (no, I couldn't pronounce it either). He also likes to make music, so maybe we can form an improptu band when we are together!

Michael McCann


Location:  Wentzville, MO
Fun Fact: Michael McCann is an Instructional Technology Coach (yep, another one) from Wentzville School District in Missouri. One cool thing Michael is really spearheading is virtual field trips. He recently "took" a 1st grade class to the St. Louis Zoo. Michael also presents in local conferences. I look forward to getting to know more about Michael at the Academy.

Adam McMickell


Location:  Ogden, UT
Fun Fact: Adam is an Instructional Technology Teacher in Ogden, Utah.  He runs a beautiful tech professional development site over at http://www.osd3t.org/. He presents at many regional conferences. Can't wait to meet him to find out what else he's been up to!

Amy McMillan


Location:  Goleta, CA
Fun Fact: Amy is currently a Middle School English teacher who is working towards becoming a library media specialist.  She became a National Board Certified Teacher this year and has previously been recognized for her outstanding work as an educator.  In addition, it appears she is into YA Fiction. She has a dog named Tulip as well.  I love how her goal is to help 13 year-olds LOVE to write. Not just how to, but to love it. Great mindset Amy!

Simon Miller


Location:  Kellogg, ID
Fun Fact: What can I say about Simon? We've only "tweeted" with each other, but I feel like I know him so well. He is a tech coordinator in Idaho who brought Google Apps to his district and has helped them adapt to meet the needs of students in the 21st century. He is a huge Seahawks fan.  He has a huge heart as the father of three adopted children. In fact, he just returned from a trip to China to meet and bring home their third. It takes an unbelievable person to have that kind of commitment to providing a better life for others. Interesting side note - his twitter handle is partly inspired by his upbringing near lead smelters, which has been said to raise the lead levels in the residents' blood.

Allison Mollica


Location: Sunapee, NH
Fun Fact: Allison does a wide variety of things, including consulting and teaching middle school computer literacy, among other things.  She's been involved in Business, Marketing, and Sales, as well as web design. Safe to say she has a well-rounded skill set making her a great advocate for Google Apps. Her Youtube channel is chalked full of great videos and tutorails (she has almost 60,000 views!). You can check out the services she can provide at amtechnology.org. I believe the AM is for her initials, not for the times she does trainings.

Diana Neebe


Location:  Atherton, CA
Fun Fact: Diana is a high school English teacher as well as a tech peer coach in a 1:1 iPad environment. She has utilized flipped learning strategies and Google to take advantage of this technology. The accolades don't stop with becoming a GCT - she was recently recognized as an Outstanding Young Educator by ISTE, where she'll be presenting this year. She's currently writing a book with Jen Roberts about 1:1 teaching that will be out in 2015. Honestly, she has the most professional list of publications and presentations - MLA (or is it APA) cited and everything - I've ever seen. She has written A LOT and presented A LOT. 

Bryson Norrish


Location:  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Fun Fact:  Bryson is an Ed-tech Coordinator at Fraser Academy in Vancouver. He's also overseeing the schools e-learning and iPad initiatives - no easy task I'm sure.  I'm hoping he's enjoying his time there - his picture looks like his neck hurts. I'll be sure to lend him some Excedrin as I get to know him better at the Googleplex. In the meantime, you can glimpse more inside his head over at http://bnorrish.wordpress.com/.

Tim O'Connor


Location:  Barrington, IL
Fun Fact: After about 10 years as a social studies teacher and multi-sport coach, Tim now holds the title of "Digital Age Learning Coach". For real, I swear school districts are trying to one up themselves to come up with the most original title for that position! Anyway, I digress. Tim is a Mid-western guy like me, and he understands that the most valuable resource for teachers is each other. I am lucky to call Tim a resource for me now!

Natalie O'Neil


Location:  Ledgewood, NJ
Fun Fact:  Love her tagline on G+ - she is Always Up for Adventure! She is a high school English teacher and New Jersey who got the Google bug this year and went crazy. The collaborative aspects of Google Docs really helped improve instruction in her classroom. In addition, she is beginning to branch out and present, going as far as North Dakota to present at a Google Summit. Natalie also a Girls Fencing Coach. Watch out!

Jeran Ott


Location:  North Fork, CA
Fun Fact: Jeran is currently a math and technology teacher.  He also appears to really like ice cream. Currently, Jeran is working on his doctoral in Educational Technology at Pepperdine University. We soon will have a Doctor in our cohort. That is pretty sweet. Just like ice cream!

Genevieve Pacada


Location:  San Jose, CA
Fun Fact: Besides being the second person in the cohort who has a profile picture with a shark-type mascot, Genevieve is currently a tech coach after 9 years as a 4th grade teacher.  She had a pretty impressive experience getting her master's at Full Sail University, designing games, writing songs, and creating films. Genevieve also became Leading Edge Certified so she can lead professional development in a blended and online environment. She also appears to be a big sports fan - hopefully she's a baseball fan as well!

Sam Patterson


Location:  Palo Alto, CA
Fun Fact: In researching this, I finally figured out what #PATUE means. Palo Alto Technology Using Educators. Finally! Sam started the #PATUE chat on Twitter a while back, and he always referred to it as a chat about tech in education. Now, I have my answer.  Sam is currently a tech integration specialist and robotics coach (among other things). However, we will refer to him as "The Puppet Master" as he is singlehandedly beginning a trend of puppets in the classroom. Don't believe me? Just watch his GTA Video and give a follow to his alter ego Wokka Patue on Twitter.

Nicholas Provenzano


Location:  Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
Fun Fact: We should get along fine - he calls himself the Nerdy Teacher. Nick (can I call you Nick?) is a high school English teacher but speaks across the country about tech integration and maintains an amazing blog at thenerdyteacher.com. Nick is open and reflective, which is an awesome quality in an educator. Recently, he held a TEDx at his school. Pretty cool accomplishment Nick! In other news, Nick built his own pond and apparently likes to game. Wonder if we've played some of the same stuff?

Alison Reichert


Location:  Little River, SC
Fun Fact: Alison is a math teacher at Horry Public Schools. She recently achieved National Board Certified Teacher status. Her tagline on G+ is pretty straight-forward:  Never Stop Learning. Alison is yet another DEN Star, and also has the distinction of founding the #SCed chat on twitter. I'm sure she's been up to plenty of mischief, so I intend to discover more in Mountain View.

Mark Rounds


Location:  San Diego, CA
Fun Fact: Very impressed by this guy. Worked for 15 years with educating students going through a juvenile court system. Now he is working on utilizing technology to better individualize experiences for this teens who need to get back on track. He also adjuncts at Azusa Pacific University. In addition to all of that, he also works with the San Diego County Office of Education on helping teachers earn Leading Edge certifications as well as Bilingual Teaching certifications. Wow...talk about a well-"Round"ed guy! *chuckle chuckle*.

David Saunders


Location:  Greenwich, CT
Fun Fact:  David has an incredibly varied educational history. He taught English to adult Chinese Immigrants way back in 1999.  Then, he was a parish outreach coordinator for the Archdiocese of Boston. He also did private music lessons, taught fourth grade, as well as graduate level courses, all up until 2008. After that, David has been a financial advisor, Guest Lecturer, and most recently a media specialist. However, since 2002, David has been a designer, illustrator, and video producer in what appears to be his own side business. The twitter handle "DesignSaunders" suddenly makes more sense now!

Olivia Scott


Location:  Los Angeles, CA
Fun Fact: Olivia is a high school resource specialist teacher in urban Los Angeles, and actually teaches in the same district as cohort member Amy Cox.  Amazingly enough - it appears Olivia just finished her first year of teaching and got accepted to #GTAMTV. That must be quite the whirlwind experience for her! She's been involved with Teach for America and has a lot of experience in the journalism field.  I think she has me beat for youngest on the team.

Marc Seigel


Location:  Middleton, NJ
Fun Fact:  Marc is a high school chemistry teacher at Middletown High School in New Jersey. His G+ profile indicates he is looking to become an administrator at some point and dares us to fail. Marc's school recently become an official TED Ed club which sounds like an awesome accolade. He also is on a mission to help his colleagues become recognized for the little (and big) things they are doing in schools, whether they are Fulbright Scholars (which he mentions), working on PH.Ds, or holding day long professional developments on a Saturday. Selfless and caring, Marc looks to be another great addition to the group.

Shelly Stanton


Location:  Billings, MT
Fun Fact: Shelly works for Billings Public Schools in Montata as a technology integration specialist (as well as a business education teacher I believe). According to her in-progress website, she hasn't figured out who she is yet, but plans to let us know when she does. Hopefully she'll be willing to share at GTA! As a 12 year veteran, she has plenty of great experiences to offer the group. I for one am happy to have another business ed teacher in the group! Oh, and she also has her National Board Certified teacher. Have you been keeping track of how many of those we have here?

Cheryl Steighner


Location:  Tacoma, WA
Fun Fact: Cheryl teaches grades 2 and 3. She also organized EdCamp Puget Sound. As someone who has helped organize an already established EdCamp, I can only imagine what she had to do to get that off the ground. Kudos to you Cheryl! She also mentions that she plays the tuba. Perhaps we might have a band between the members of this group after all! Cheryl also just completed work on the Horizon Report, looking at the future of educational technology. It is safe to say she's been busy and will be an incredible asset to our team.

Belinda Stutzman


Location:  Plymouth, MN
Fun Fact: Belinda is currently a tech integrationist in Minnesota and has spent over 26 years in education. She adjuncts at the University of St. Thomas and has been recognized by TIES as an Outstanding Educator. Belinda has created her own TED Ed lessons and creates many videos for flipped classes. I look forward to leaching off her wealth of knowledge and expertise!

Adina Sullivan


Location: San Marcos, CA
Fun Fact: Adina is an educational technology specialist in San Marcos. She did an amazing job curating the applications videos for the cohort into a YouTube playlist.  She's been heavily involved in CUE, as a Rock Star Teacher and as a board member.  Adina was also an organizer for EdcampSD and has presented all over the country, including at ISTE. Prior to her time in education, she actually worked in Public Relations/Marketing for an insurance company. She also really enjoys cooking and is fearful of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz.

Andrew Thomasson


Location:  Kings Mountain, NC
Fun Fact: Andrew is a high school English/Language Arts Teacher/Learner. What is unique is he team teaches his ELA class. Now, maybe some of you do too, but there is one more twist. His partner, Cheryl Morris, teaches in California. Yeah. How cool is that? They really do a great job completely flipping their ELA classes together and utilizing technology to its full potential. Andrew and Cheryl have written about their experiences in a number of places, with Flipping 2.0 being one of them. I'd highly suggest it and I cannot wait to meet Andrew in person to learn a little more about the magic he makes happen. Maybe he'll bring some heirloom tomatoes with him (he apparently loves to grow them!)

Michelle Triemstra


Location: Otsego, MI
Fun Fact: Has one of the cleanest digital footprints I have seen. Her name is out there, but no pictures come up in a Google Search. She has a short blog that she's written about Kahoot, Augmented Reality, and Minecraft, so I know we'd have some great stories to swap. Based on my findings, I think it would be a good idea to call on her as your Digital Citizen Superhero if you need help on a lesson for kids. Then again, maybe she only exists in cyberspace?

Cari Williams


Location:  Tustin, CA
Fun Fact: Cari is a teacher and digital learning coach who has a passion for STEAM (not the gaming platfrom - that would be me who has a passion for that) and integrating technology in the classroom. She also teaches a video production course.  Ten years ago, she was awarded a trip by the Toyota International Teacher Program to South America, where she filmed the Galapagos Islands and Machu Pichu, among other places. That is where her passion for video production was born.

There you have it. All 65 of the wonderful educators headed to California this summer. I know I missed out on 99% of what these people are all about, so I for one know I will be spending as much time as I can trying to get to know them better moving forward.

Only 39 More Days!