Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Organizers Reflection of #EdCampOmaha

It's about time. A week later, I'm finally carving out some time on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to reflect about another amazing EdCamp Omaha.
Because I'm so late, I've had the opportunity to read some insightful reflections of the day from the people that matter the most - the attendees. Because they all captured the day so well, I'm going to direct you to all of their blog posts and reflect on some other things from an organizers perspective. Thanks to Michelle, MichelleDarin, Guy, Ann, Brent, Alex, Jennifer, Kristina, the camera-toting teacher Laura and all the others who gave their feedback about the day. I truly appreciate the feedback and hope we can address some of the critiques that I've seen as well. We are far from perfect, but I feel we learn more each year and I really like how we do things at EdCamp Omaha.
One of the most important times for me is the before and after of EdCamps. Twitter allows educators to connect on a regular basis, but I really love the opportunity to sit down with people in a more social setting. It allows you to get to know them a little more personally. Saturday night a group of 8-10 of us went to The Blatt for supper. I shared something that had been rolling in my head for a while - attendance. To be clear, I'm not disappointed in our attendance, even though it was slightly less than the last two years. I don't concern myself with having x number of people, because when we had 60 people show up, the conversations were just as rich as when we've had 130. But if you click on any of the links above, you read about how energizing of an experience EdCamp is, how refreshing being around all of those passionate educators is, and how attendees leave wanting more professional development like this - how many times do you hear people want more professional development? 
During one of the breaks, I got to talk with Joe from NE Loves PS, one of our local sponsors who does GREAT work across the state (they even let me on their blog!). We talked about the quality of educator that attends EdCamp Omaha (any EdCamp, for that matter) and we both agreed that, while there are definitely others like them out there, these educators realize this isn't an 8-4 job. They genuinely love education, kids, and being a learner. 
It got me to thinking more about how do we get more people there, so they can feel the same feelings that you read about in the posts above? I don't have a great answer, but Saturday evening allowed me to do some brainstorming with those at Blatt. We'll never get 1000 teachers there. Things happen. Life happens. My wife reminds me often that our target demographic is 25-55ish (*edited after comments & more reflection :)) year olds, working people, many married, many with kids. Giving up a Saturday is tough, and as the father of three I completely understand and am not criticizing them. But I know that there are educators out there in that demographic who would have a better understanding of why I, with three kids, have made time the last four years for a dozen EdCamps if we just get them in the door. Why three people traveled 6+ hours to come last week. Why about 20 more traveled over 2 hours. They would see how empowering it is to have a voice and learn with others who were born to do what they do. Another analogy that I've been think about is that EdCamps are kind of like churches - if you are a religious person, it's a no-brainer that you make time to attend church regularly. But how often do you bring someone new with you? How easy is it for you to explain what you get out of attending in a way that someone else is compelled to devote time and energy to attending (I'm horrible at this)? It's something that I think about a lot and have been keeping more resources for next spring. I'm also hoping to infiltrate some other list serves after January 1st to get the word out a little better. Admittedly, we had significantly increased attendance the first three years so I wrongly assumed that EdCamp Omaha would promote itself. Live and learn.
EdCamp Omaha continues to be a great event and one that I'm very proud to organize with a wonderful minion like Kristina.
We have such great educators that give up their time to make the day so great, I just hope we can share the wealth some more!
Thanks to everyone who attended and reflected! You really make the time and effort easily worth it! Follow our website and @EdCampOmaha - we've hopefully got a big announcement coming in the future!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beginning to blend

My school district is rarely the first to do anything, and I'm perfectly OK with that. We really try to do what's best for students based off of the information we have at the time, not what's new and shiny. Along those lines, we are beginning to explore blended learning in our classrooms. We've began gathering resources and look at where this might be a good fit for our curriculum. We haven't ruled anything out, but we are starting to craft a vision for what it looks like in our district. 
Our students do well on standardized tests, so it's been difficult to promote a need for changing instruction. Fortunately, our curriculum department sees that we need to better engage our students with the curriculum so they can develop a deeper understanding of it. I found this picture from Sean Junkins today that really resonates that point.
We know there are different ways that blended learning can be successful in our schools, and not just with technology (could insert another Junkins post that speaks to that). We also understand that it's going to look different at different grade levels.
I've started an Evernote Notebook (here) and a Flipboard channel (here) to gather some information for our district. This link from the Christensen Institute (also located in the Evernote Notebook) has been great for me to wrap my head around what blended learning looks like. If you have other resources, we'd love to hear about them! We will definitely be relying on the experts (like the one already in PLN that I found during an EdWeek webinar I attended) for help!
Lastly, I'll share my initial sketch as I sat down to start thinking and gathering info on blended learning. I'm excited to look back in a year to see how far we've come and how right or wrong/naive some of these notes were.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Idea Dump to Evernote

Thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter, I found this blog post by Ramsey Musallam about creating an "Idea Dump" to Google Drive. The idea is to text yourself ideas as they come up. As an avid Evernote user, I switched the ending to do the exact same thing, only it will add to a note in Evernote.

IFTTT Recipe: Idea Dump to Evernote  

I encourage you to read Ramsey's post about the "why" behind a recipe like this. Yes, you could just open either of these apps, but sending a text message is much quicker than opening an app and waiting for it to sync. 

Feel free to use and share away!

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Homework

I was lucky enough to be tagged twice in the same day on the My Homework meme, thanks to Josh and Jamie

11 Random Facts About Myself:

  1. I drive the same car (Chevy Cavalier) that I bought the summer after I graduated college 11 1/2 years ago. 
  2. My wife and I met when I was a Resident Advisor in the dorm she was living. Yes, that was frowned upon by the higher ups around campus, but my hall director at the time OK'd it.
  3. I was Senior of the Year at my high school.
  4. I won our "Driver's Ed Award" about a month before I rolled my pickup. I didn't realize the gravel road curved and I ended up in a field, upside down. Glad I put my seatbelt on before I turned to take that "shortcut."
  5. In a span of about 10 years I got my high school diploma, a bachelor's degree and two Master's degrees. 
  6. My parents were divorced when I was very young. I call both my Mom and Step-Mom "Mom." This can be confusing when telling a story, especially to my wife, or when both of them are in the same room.
  7. My kids (oldest is 5) haven't figured out that they have more grandparents than other kids. They do like the extra Christmas'.
  8. My office at work is also designated as a "mother's room." 
  9. Since 2009 I've been doing a "picture a day" blog so that family members that we don't get to see very often get to "watch" the kids grow up. I've gotten smarter over the years - now I have one Blogger site. This is the 3rd different service I've used and I also used to create a separate blog every year. Not very smart. The last two years I've done everything from my smartphone. 
  10. My kids all love vegetables. I hate vegetables.
  11. "The Office" was the last weekly sitcom that I would plan my life around. 
Since Josh and Jamie both tagged me on the same day, I decided to just pick the question that I liked.

  1. What was your favorite children's book as a child or favorite to read as a parent? I loved the Pokey Little Puppy, but a close second was The Little Engine That Could. My kids have grown to love The Little Engine That Could also. My grandma who I would read The Little Engine with gave a copy to us when we had our first child. Since she's passed away, I pause whenever I open the book to re-read what she wrote on the front cover.
  2. If you had won that insane lottery jackpot, what is the first thing you would buy? A truck. I'm ready to be done with the Cav. That way I would look good driving to donate money to the Church and other great organizations. 
  3. What's your favorite "get to know someone new" question? "Where are you from?" I think that says a lot about people. And I find that where you live now isn't necessarily where you are from. 
  4. Would you ever consider a job that required an out of country relocation? I would never say never, but it's extremely highly unlikely. I like being close to family.
  5. When was the last time you laughed so hard it hurt, and what was it that made that happen? I have three kids that are hilarious. My middle child is three and comes up with the craziest outfits and things to say. It's wonderful. Either something by them or during one of our Dads in Ed podcasts (subscribe in iTunes!). We've had some hilarious times discussing Brent's baseball glory days (Episode 1 toward the end) and all (er, both at the time of writing this) of our guests have been awesome. Yes, I chose this question as a way to shamelessly get Dads in Ed mentioned here.
  6. What is the one movie that shows up on TV that even though you have seen it a hundred times you still leave it on and watch? The original Blue Brothers. I really dislike watching movies but there isn't a movie that comes close in my book. I love all the music on it. 
  7. How long does it take you to get to work? Generally less than 10 minutes. That's three times as long as when we first got married. I've never lived more than 15 minutes from where I worked.
  8. What was your proudest moment thus far? Honestly, it's probably when I see or get compliments about how my kids treat other people. With my oldest in kindergarten, we keep stressing how important it is to treat others in a positive way. Many "awards" he gets involve how he acted or how he helped others, which means more to me than test scores. 
  9. What's your favorite thing to cook? Don't tell my wife, but I do enjoy baking cookies. I rarely do it because she's an awesome cook. I don't know how to cook much. I learned (via YouTube) how to cook an egg over-medium earlier this year. I really like breakfast and my wife isn't always a fan of mornings, so maybe I should learn how to make fancy pancakes or something.
  10. Android or iOS? iOS. I had an Android when they first came out and wouldn't go back.
  11. If you could pack it all up today and move, where would you land? Some place quiet. I had thought when I graduated college I was going to move to Wyoming and teach there, but grad school brought me back closer to home. I would love to live in a quiet, scenic area that has a change of seasons.

Next up

  • I have no idea who hasn't done this, so if you are reading this and haven't done this, see the questions below!
  • If you've already done this and just think my questions are awesome, feel free to make a new post :)
11 Questions for You

  1. What's the favorite car you've ever owned?
  2. What's your favorite vacation spot?
  3. Morning or night person?
  4. If you had to create a fake Twitter account for an celebrity, who would it be and why?
  5. How many coats do you own? Which one is your favorite?
  6. When you Google yourself, what's the first link that comes up (even if it's not about you)?
  7. Chevy or Ford?
  8. What college did you go to?
  9. What's your favorite story from college?
  10. Who is your favorite band? Favorite song from that band?
  11. If you were to have coffee with one person, who and why?
Here's how it works:
  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers (or take the easy way out if you can't figure out 11 :))
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you.