Showing posts from 2016

Vision Accomplished: Parent Edtech Conference

Eight months ago, Parent Edtech Conferences was simply an idea that I had about improving education and a few weeks I officially made it a reality.

And I'm so glad its over.

It's not because it was a horrible or terrible experience (in fact it was really encouraging!), but I knew that I needed to have the experience of the first conference before I could really start expanding and growing my idea.

I officially launched the conference to the public after Minarets Fall Showcase, which is our version of back to school night. I bombarded parents with flyers in their quarter grade packets, emails, and posts on social media. The conference was held on Wednesday, November 16; next year I plan on having the conference much closer to the start of the year for further relevancy, but with this being my first conference I decided to have it later so I could plan it better.

An aspect of the Parent Edtech conference that I wanted was having it customized to what the parents need. Because t…

Solving October Stress: #FallCUE

October is always a fun month; please note the sarcasm. Its the first month without any breaks or three-day weekends (at least in my district), the start of cold/flu season, and grades are due for the end of the first quarter. On top of that, I was also in the middle of my first semester of my Master's program, the new advisor for both CSF and NHS, and planning my #googleEI project that is scheduled for November. By the end of the month, I was stressed, exhausted, and completely drained, like so many teachers around the country.

Unlike Octobers in the past, I got to finish the month by attending and presenting at #FallCUE up in American Canyon, CA.  I didn't have much time to get pumped and excited for the conference so I went up with my to do list weighing me down. But once the conference began, I immediately forgot about my stress and became re-energized by collaborating and sharing ideas with educators around the state.

There were so many incredible experiences at #FallCUE

From Mars to Ancient Societies

Last year, I launched my World History class with the project called We, the People of Mars... where students investigated various forms of government so they could form their own ideal government to be used on Mars. As I mentioned in a post last year, it was one of my more cringe-worthy projects for a variety of reasons and I decided to completely revamp it for this new school year. But no matter the adjustments I made, I couldn't fall in love with the project and I felt stuck on what to do for a project that discusses democracy.

As one of the beginning of the year activity, I had students do a gallery walk with sticky notes where they answered questions on posters. One of the questions was "What do you want to learn in History?" No students put "FOUNDATIONS OF DEMOCRACY!" and I realized that I only taught that concept because I always have, not because the students were excited about it. The most successful PBL is one where students are engaged in relevant pr…

Changing the Way I Teach 9/11

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, but it is also the first time that I had a group of students who had no memory of the attacks. In fact, almost every teacher is experiencing this as students are born farther and farther away from 2001 and it has completely transformed the way I discuss 9/11 with them.

When I first started teaching, I would start class by showing the following video:

Then follow up by discussing what I remember about that day and what I witnessed. I was also a very history-oriented child and I collected every magazine and newspaper that discussed 9/11 over ten years so I would show them those materials; I'm working on compiling them into a scrapbook for students to look at. Students would then share what memories they had or the memories of their parents, but most of the time they would ask me specific questions about the event, like why it happened, how the world changed, etc. Many times it took an entire period, but I …

The Fourth Year

During the first class I took to become a teacher, the professor took half of the class out and informed us that after four years of teaching half us of will have left teaching all together. Now I'm well into my fourth year and I'm still standing.

In fact, I feel that this year is going to be...

For starters, I have officially started my Master's in Educational Technology. I'm only a few weeks in and, while I'm overwhelmed and stressed, I'm glad that I'm finally taking the next steps in my education. It also helps that one of my amazing friends is doing it with me!

I'm also blessed to be going into my second year at Minarets High School, which continues to be my dream school. As many people said, the first year was me trying to drink out of a fire hose, but now I feel confident and ready to be 100% PBL in a 21st century school. Over the summer, I participated in the EdtechTeam's Teacher Leader Certification and becoming inspired to set new goals for…

Finding Educational Inspiration with PokemonGo

Over a week ago, I attended a panel at #ISTE2016 about Augmented Reality in education. Having just realized the amazingness that is Google Cardboard, I felt that this panel would be an appropriate next step and the panel included a wide-range of experts, including Brad Waid, Katrina Keene, Drew Minock, Shannon Soger, and Kolsten Keene. But one quote stood out to the me the most:

"AR is already being used at consumer level so students need to be one the building these experiences"

Now if your understanding of Augmented Reality was very low over a week ago, this statement would be incredibly easy to brush off as false: Augmented Reality? Wasn't that in a really lame X-Files episode? This isn't something that students will actually do as jobs.

But then Augmented Reality hit center stage when PokemonGo went live:

In case you missed it, Pok√©mon Go mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. The game allows players to capture, battle, train, and trade vir…

Living in BETA: #COL16 Reflection

Its official: I'm a Google Certified Innovator!

And the experience was even more amazing and life-changing than I ever imagined. Even though its been six days since Boulder Springs, my brain is still overflowing and still processing all the information. But I'm going to try to make my reflections and takeaways as coherent as possible:

Be Googley. Without a doubt, Google is a truly innovative company with a unique culture and one of our earliest sessions was about Google Culture. A major aspect of their culture is having fun periodically at work. They have a rock wall, Photo Booth, stage for performances, foosball table, and more. While we were there, they brought in masseuses, caricature artist, ice cream truck, and planned ahead ice breakers and games. This got me thinking about how people tell students that school is their job. So if classes are their work, shouldn't it be fun too? I try to make learning fun with student choice, humor, and [hopefully] engaging projects, …

Reflections of an ISTE16 Noob...Part 2

If I learned anything from ISTE, its that caffeine is an absolute necessary. With so many activities, sessions, social events, and adrenaline, I needed coffee to stay alert and focused so that I could absorb as much learning as necessary.

Here are some of my final takeaways from #ISTE2016:

No matter your expertise, there is always something new to learn. During Glenn Wiebe's session about Google Tools in the Social Science, I learned about Google Public Data, a resource that gathers public data into one place; Google Arts and Culture, a collection of resources from around the world; and Chronicling America, a collection of US newspapers from the Library of Congress. Wiebe even walked us through a lesson where we determined the relationship between three separate images by utilizing Google Streetview and Google Public data; this ended up being an excellent example of push and pull factors that lead to migration. What I loved about this session is that all of the tools will give stud…

Reflections of an ISTE16 Noob

I believe it was the summer after my first year of teaching that I first heard about the ISTE Conference, a mega conference that attracted the elite of the edtech world. Each year, I followed people's experiences at ISTE and each year I cursed myself for not attending. It soon became one of those "I'm going to do that eventually.." goals that could easily be put off year after year.

So this year I made the executive decision that I would attend.


Its only the second day of the conference, but I can confidently say that #ISTE16 was one of my best decisions.

For starters, I'm killing it with Step Challenge; the day isn't even over and I'm already over 10,000 steps.
I'm also connecting with SO many of the people I have followed on twitter for the last three years as well as meeting SO many new people with awesomely creative ideas! (I would put everyone, but its too many to list and I don't want to accidentally exclude anyone.)


Honoring the Past

The Cold War: a complex event that lasted over forty years with a wide variety of players and foreign policies. An event that has lasting-effects that we still witness and experience. So as a teacher with the school year coming to an end, I was torn on how to cover such a complicated event with one project.

The year before I would have just lectured about the Cold War, which was easy for me and painful for the kids. Besides, nowadays "if we have an Internet connection, we have fingertip, on-demand access to an amazing library that holds close to the sum of human knowledge," as said by Will Richardson in Why School? So obviously that wasn't a viable option. But how could I expose students to the variety of events in the Cold War without just telling them all about.

Of course, I started doing research on ways other #pbl teachers have used the Cold War, but either I wasn't inspired by the project or I had already done something similar with another project. I searched…

Revision in the PBL Process...Part 2

As I said in my earlier post, revision is a necessary part of project-based learning. In fact, its even embedded into the Minarets Cs, the skills and goals we that emphasize for our students at Minarets:

This is why I continued improving the ways my students revised their work even after I found success with Student Completion in Schoology. Since I had students participating more readily in the scaffold project process, I found another weakness in my process: Peer Reviews.
I love peer reviews because it allows students an opportunity to get feedback from their peers in order to help them improve the quality of their project. It also gives them the opportunity to dissect the rubric and gain a better understanding of what the final expectations are. 
At the start of the year, students filled out a Google Form that was based around the rubric for the project. There would be spots for comments, but students wouldn't always get to see the feedback. I wouldn't share the sheet with t…

Revision in the PBL Process...Part 1

After using project-based learning for a full school year, I have found that getting students to critique and revise their projects is a struggle.

We all know that it is an essential part of any process that involves a final product, but some of my students do not seem to see the benefit of revising their work before submitting it, which means that I end up with projects that seem more like a rough draft than a final draft. Of course this is not just a weird quirk about Minarets; I experience it at my old school site and my fellow teachers at a variety of levels and schools also experience this frustration.

At the start of the year, I knew that I needed to make revision part of the PBL process in my classroom. I decided to do this in two ways:
Scaffold Process: Rather than assigning a giant project that was due in two weeks and saying 'Well, good luck!',  I have students complete their projects in steps. For example, they  turn in a topic proposal then a research organizer, a r…

My [Bumpy] Road to #COL16

I think it was almost three years that I discovered that you could become a Google Certified Teacher, an educator that got prestigious training at Google Headquarters and got to collaborate with some of the most innovator educators in the world. Even though I was still in my first year of teaching and was just learning the potential that Google and edtech had in my classroom, I knew that one day I wanted to become a Google Certified Teacher.

Flash forward to January 2016: Google had revamped its Training Center and "Google Certified Teachers" were now Google Certified Innovators. I was eagerly awaiting my email from Google about whether I had been accepted into #MTV16, the first cohort for the new program to meet in Mountain View. Even though I knew that getting accepted into the prestigious Google program typically required multiple applications, I still hoped that maybe I would somehow get in on the first try.

When it came to the application, I had trouble coming up with c…