July 14, 2017

The Not So Scary World of Technology Weeks 5 and 6

We are down to the end of The Not So Scary World of Technology. One week left and I know I will be disappointed when it is over.

The good news...people have asked if I will do this series again. Of course I said yes!

The past two weeks I really think we made some serious strides. I have the participants asking good questions. They are also finishing some of my statements...which is great because that was my intention. For example, I ask every week, "did anyone break their device..." Of course, they all respond no and remind me that they would have to drop them on the ground or flush them in the toilet.

The key is...I can see the fear leaving. I see evidence of more tinkering and I LOVE IT! The participants are still apprehensive about certain things but I can see their minds ticking and their problem-solving abilities increasing.

One of the biggest takeaways so far happened this past session. One of the participants said she had an issue with her device. She asked her kids and they ultimately solved the problem. She was then able to explain to me the exact steps they took to solve that problem. Of course I commended her on remember those steps and told her she did exactly what she should have done. And now she knows what to do if something goes wrong.

But wait, there was more.

I told her to repeat the problem she had. As she repeated it, I typed it into a Google search.

Guess what happened??

The steps she used to solve the problem were the EXACT ones listed on the Google search. Why do I share this? It is simple, I showed the participants the simplicity of typing their question into Google to get an answer.

Pandora is stuck, what do I do??  Google answers it.

My carburetor is dirty, how do I clean it?? Google answers it.

Something that I have known for a long time was fresh and valuable information for the participants. They seemed to be relieved that they had another tool to solve problems.

We did the same strategy with YouTube. I showed examples and we played around with Google searches as well as YouTube searches. I gave them a great example using my increasing interest in making things with concrete. I wanted to make a round concrete table top and was not exactly sure how to make that happen. But, I showed everyone the process I used (Google and YouTube) and believe it or not, made it happen. Like students of all ages, I think it was important they saw a relevant example of how the process works.

In case you are wondering, here is how the round table top turned out...

 This is prior to cleanup, it looks awesome!

Back to technology...

The week before, we spent most of the time signing up and logging into the participant's Google accounts (some actually already had one). We also explored the specific icons that will help them find what they need and even looked at apps that would be beneficial to them, such as Google Keep and Pocket.

Throughout the classes, I have not pushed Google to the participants but have encouraged it for two main reasons.

1. It is FREE
2. For the most part, it is not device-specific.

This was reinforced this past week when we began searching YouTube and playing with Keep and Pocket because they were able to log in with their Google accounts and subscribe to videos and articles that were interesting to them.

This was a game changer.

In the future, when I facilitate this class we will start off earlier with the concept of searching and how it can benefit problem solving. I have told many of them to be careful because people were going to start asking them how to do things with devices. The biggest response was a laugh and a quick comment stating that they did not need to be that person. But in all seriousness, it will happen. As they get more comfortable, they will become the teachers...and I LOVE that!

One interesting observation...a participant asked how I knew all of these things to look for and to tinker with. I responded that basically one click leads to another. Once people become more familiar with technology and less apprehensive about using it, those helpful apps, websites, devices, etc become more visible.

A word to the wise...do not let it consume you. Pick something that you want to learn more about, learn more about it and then it is time to move on. A feeling of being overwhelmed is a ticket to leaving the Not So Scary World of Technology. Everyone should explore at a pace that does not confuse, anger or overwhelm them. That includes me too!

Remember, it is not lack of ability which restricts us it is the mindset.

Happy Clicking!

June 30, 2017

The Not So Scary World of Technology...Week 4

We have made it an entire month! I have not collected any data because...well, I wanted this to be fun, not business. My gut (my best data) says that things are going well. The group is growing and word is spreading that WE are not going to be afraid of technology anymore.

Here is a GREAT story...

A participant had a specific question on how to do something with her device. I asked her to explain to me the steps she took to try and fix it herself. She told me step by step what she did and I (with a smile) said, that is exactly what I would have done. The interesting thing is that she was not sure and was afraid that she might mess something up but did it anyways. I call that a tinkerer and told her she was in good company. 

The class started with the weekly question..."Who broke their devices this week?" Of course no one did because we continuously emphasize the fact that it is near impossible to break it unless you drop or flush it. I know I sound like a broken record but EVERYONE in there knows that I am going to say that at least once.

Our next step was introducing everyone to Google. About 1/3 of the class already had a google account so we spent a large portion of time setting up accounts for everyone else. We met no resistance to this and I believe folks were eager to try it out.

Here is why I choose Google...

1. It is FREE

2. It is not device-specific.

I gave the example of IBooks (most everybody had an apple product) and Kindle. IBooks on the IPad and IPhone is great. However, I prefer Kindle because it is not device-specific. This helped the participants understand that part of the why.

Most of the time was spent getting people to log in but most importantly we reviewed certain symbols that were specific to Google. That way, as they tinker this week, these symbols will be familiar.

Recognize any of these??

Although this was the most difficult task for most of them so far, I felt there was an excitement in the air. The remainder of our classes (through July) are going to be aligned with specific Google apps and extensions that I believe can make their lives easier. With easier comes confidence and with confidence comes the ultimate goal...mindset change.

As said before, the participants seem to be getting something out of this, at least I hope it is not a waste of their time. But quite honestly, I am learning so much about myself and how to approach adult learnings that I realize this is a win win for everyone.

If you want to come participate, by all means come join us. If you want to come watch, you are more than welcome to do that as well. Come check the changing of a mindset.

Next week we meet on Wednesday at noon at Trinity Lutheran Church. The remainder of the classes through July will meet on Tuesdays at noon.  I hope to see you there!


June 23, 2017

The Not So Scary World of Technology...Week 3

Week 3 of The Not So Scary World of Technology and we have not given up YET!!

In fact, I have added some people to the class. When I started this venture, I did not realize how difficult it would be...it is! However, I feel that each week we are making progress.

As said in previous posts, the main goal of this class is to change everyone's mindset to one of "I can do it and I am not afraid." We are not there yet but I can see it happening.

We kicked off the session with a simple question...

How many of you broke your devices last week??

I actually got some giggles which meant they understood the meaning behind the question. Over and over I have told them, the only way you are going to break it is by dropping it on the ground or dumping it in the toilet. Of course I know that is not entirely true but it gets the point across and also gets the participants thinking that as long as they stay away from pavement or toilets, they are good to go.

Tinkering and risk-taking is encouraged in this classroom. 

We accomplished a ton in three weeks. Here is what we are perfecting so far.

We learned the appropriate way to take photos with devices (interestingly enough, I had a couple bring me an article from AARP that listed some of the very things I discussed with them...gave me some credibility!).

We learned how to send photos from various devices as well as create albums.

We learned about certain icons that are universal, such as the trash can, the plus sign, the minus sign, the different dots that Google has...etc.

This past week, ALL participants created a Pandora account and we learned how to log in and select specific genres of music. They loved that!

We discussed the differences in Wifi and data...we will continue to discuss these because I believe too many times people get stuck with larger bills because they do not understand the difference. I know it seems simple but it really is not, especially to someone who tends to avoid looking beyond Facebook or whatever keeps them glued to the smart phone.

So what is next? One of our goals is to make sure we learn about programs, apps, etc that are not device specific. I think there are other apps or programs that are beneficial but so far, I have Macs, Kindles, IPads, Iphones, PCs and Androids all in one class...it can be tough if everyone is doing something different.

So, for that reason, we are going to begin exploring Google next week. I am going to have all of the participants sign up for a Google account (if they do not have one) and we are going to start diving into those apps that can be most beneficial to everyone.

Honestly, I am excited about that!

In this process, I am gaining so much. I have been out of the classroom for a decade and it has not been easy BUT I am definitely getting into a groove and I truly believe this is something beneficial for all (including me). I invite anyone who wants, to come join us. Whether you are afraid of technology or not, it is an awesome experience and I guarantee it will not be an hour (sometimes hour and a half) wasted.

In case you are wondering...next class is Wednesday, June 28th at 12pm. We meet at Trinity Lutheran Church in Tullahoma, TN.

Bring a device, bring your lunch, bring a friend but mostly bring an open mind...we all have room to learn.


June 18, 2017

The Not So Scary World of Technology...Week 2

Ok, so I did this crazy thing and decided I would try to help reluctant adults (of all ages) become more comfortable with technology. If you remember from last week, this came from an epiphany while sitting in church (sorry Pastor) about how there are so many adults who I know want to grasp technology but cannot because of FEAR. This lead to the creation of the Not So Scary World of Technology.

Prior to week one, I had no idea what this was going to look like. Of course I had these grand ideas of sitting around with some adults from church and teaching them how to use HTML or edit photos on Adobe Spark or even start their own blogs...I had to slow down a bit.

As an educator, I realized quickly that I needed to figure out the needs of the students. I also realized there was a pretty big range of ability among the participants. Their confidence levels also varied as well. Although I feel that even the most confident participant in the room was still pretty unsure of herself when it came to all aspects of technology.

Here were their biggest fears:

Breaking something...

Losing something...

I realized that the biggest lessons were not necessarily going to be about technology but more about confidence. We had to break down that fear among them. The way we do that...practice, tinker, play...no different than any other student.

So, my dreams of coding and blogging with my Not So Scary participants have slowed down a little bit...and that is OK! We are working on the basics of taking photos, editing them a little and sharing those photos. We are also spending time on the various symbols that are pretty much universal, like the trash can or the box with the arrow. The main points...

It is as simple as it looks.
The trash can means trash, the plus sign means add, the arrow means send
Do not over-think it

We also played Kahoot as a fun, closing quiz. Kahoot is simply an online, interactive quiz that is used with students in schools. Of course like many things, the age of the student does not matter. They seemed to enjoy that.

We are not changing the adults all at once. Not every participant will completely eliminate their fears of using technology. However, I am starting to see more smiles and a glimmer of confidence among the participants, and that is what matters.

Until next Tuesday...


June 6, 2017

The Not So Scary World of Technology...

I am trying something new.

Always the educator at heart and being in the world of admin, I do not get to practice my teaching chops as often as I would like.

As I am sitting in church awhile back...yes I was listening too! I had an idea come to mind. There are people in my community who are jumping in to the technology and quit way too early simply because it is TOO overwhelming. After bouncing my idea off of the pastor, we agreed that this could be a great stewardship opportunity.

After several weeks of thinking about it, I decided this summer would be the time to start. So began the series now known as The Not So Scary World of Technology.

I created a simple flyer...see above. I had it announced in church...so now it had to happen.  Fast forward a couple weeks and our first class took place TODAY!

I recruited my son Colin and another teacher from my church volunteered to help and I feel we had a great first session. Don't get me wrong...it was hard but I truly believe the people who participated will feel much better about technology by the end of the summer...assuming I did not scare them off today.

Simply put, here are my goals for this summer:

1. Change the mindset

2. Increase the comfort level

3. Provide one takeaway each session.

After polling the participants, I realized that our summer would be divided into specific themes including photos, communication and entertainment. We spent most of the time using their devices to take photos, tips on finding those photos, how to delete photos and strategies on taking the best pictures. I would say definitely simple and practical. To the tech guru this may seem too simplified but I emphasized the importance of finding one or two things to focus on without moving on to something new.

I may be wrong but I feel most left with a renewed enthusiasm towards learning technology. The main thing they have to get over...

Each week, I will continue to take a simplified approach to technology with the purpose of helping to ease that fear.

The one thing I am not sure they realized is the fact that I also get overwhelmed with technology. As technologically savvy as I am, too much can lead me to giving up as well. That transparency will help them realize that fast is not always good but focusing on what is important and wanted is the route to go.

Stay tuned...


May 1, 2017

Testing is Over...Now What (Day 1)

"Yes we will be learning today..."

Have any of you had to say that in the days and weeks after testing?

Have you ever been surprised by the number of students who are disappointed when you make that statement to them?

What about when a parent says, "we are going on a trip and we know you guys aren't doing anything anyways now that testing is over..."

Is it really over? I mean, looking at my calendar I see that we have four weeks left. That leaves a great deal of time for connections, extra opportunities and preparing for the students' upcoming transition.

Yes, I am aware there are some who have "thrown in the towel" for the year. Some classes will watch the entire Disney collection in the remaining weeks of the school year. I can assure though, that is not the norm. Many educators use this time to discuss and collaborate on great topics that may not be covered in the required standards. Others may use this time to try new innovative techniques that they have wanted to try all year. There are even some who "team-teach" with colleagues in different grade levels to mix it up a little.

Even with that, it is hard to convince people that the test does not determine the end of school. The mindset that school is over still exists but we need to change it. There could be many reasons why and some of those may be our own fault, but I like to focus on the HOW and not spend much time on the WHY.

So how do we change the mindset?

This is not necessarily going to be easy but luckily it is doable. Remember, we are battling a mindset that will be hard to change because it has been around for some time. And remember, this change will not happen overnight. You will still hear grumblings. Over time, those will be replaced with cheers of joy...ok, maybe too enthusiastic on that one.

OK, so here are some ideas on how to change the mindset...

Tell the World
Continue to tell your school's story! Make sure EVERYONE in your community knows that you and your students are still going strong and celebrate it. Let the parents and students know that learning will continue. In fact, be specific. Come up with a "schedule" that includes the time you have left with specific goals, topics and activities. Take pictures and videos and share regularly on social media. It wouldn't even hurt to invite parents and community members to come to the school and see all of the cool things going on. The bottom line, if YOU do not take charge in communicating and reinforcing that school is still going on, someone else will take that responsibility. If someone else takes charge, it will not be the story you want told.

We are all tired and that's OK.
There is NOTHING wrong with people knowing that we are all tired. Identify that early and let the kids and parents know they are not alone. We also need to be transparent and realistic about people’s stress level and fatigue but also honest about finishing strong. At this point in the game it is not about being motivated to continue but being disciplined to finish strong. Remember, enthusiasm is contagious but so is apathy. Dig deep, recognize that everyone is tired but maintain a level of enthusiasm and positivity to help keep the momentum going.

Relax...BUT Provide structure
The worst thing we can do is nothing. As much as people complain about structure, the truth is we all need it bad. We especially need it now when the mindset (hopefully changing) is one that says kids need to be free from learning. With that being said, it is also important to not burn yourself out either. Remember that more structure usually means less issues in the classroom which equals less stress which in turn helps with the relaxation. When structure is combined with relaxation, it is easier for students to be open to the continuation of learning.

Visit places - for real and virtually

Go somewhere...really. Find a museum to explore or go to the woods and do some exploration. You could get in contact with local businesses and industry and spend some time on career exploration. Also grab some VR googles or Google Cardboard and take some virtual trips. There is nothing wrong with taking some recreational trips (bowling, movies, etc) as long as the emphasis leading up to those trips is learning. Make sure your students know why you are doing this and again, let the parents and community know what you are doing.

Give the students a taste of the next level
When in doubt, collaborate with the grade level above you and work out some time to have the students talk about expectations. Although this is not necessarily academic (though you could use it for that too) it is important for students to see what they are getting into. Who best to fill them in than the students who experienced it?? Let the parents know too. Include these activities as part of your schedule. Emphasize the importance and make it something you do on a regular basis.

Like I said, it could take some time. But the key is taking steps to change that mindset. The best time is now...

In the immortal words of Jim Morrison, "the time to hesitate is through."

In the next few days, four more educators will provide their thoughts and ideas on what to do now that the test is over. I can guarantee none of them will talk about seeing how many movies they can fit in during the next four weeks. Pay attention, because these ideas will be insightful and will provide things you will be able to implement now.

Tomorrow you will get to hear from Chattanooga Ed-Tech Guru Julie Davis. It is guaranteed to be insightful and could potentially have an immediate impact on YOUR last few weeks of school. Julie has a tremendous reputation among her Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter and Facebook and is someone you need to follow TODAY. Tuesday you will find her post at Thoughts on All Things EduTechie Oriented.

Don't forget to keep the conversation going. Feel free to comment and share. We would love to hear from you!


April 28, 2017

Testing is over now what...A 5 part series (PREVIEW)

Most of us our packing up our standardized tests and we will bid them adieu early next week. This definitely marks an ending in our school year but does it mark THE END??

There is an ongoing myth among parents, students, community members...heck even teachers, that once the end of the year testing is over, the school year is over. That theory was ok when the standardized test was in the last week of school. However, in the past few years our tests keep creeping further and further away from our summer vacation.

This leads to comments like...

"Testing is over, why do we need to still learn?"

"They don't do anything but watch movies anyways..."

Well, in case you are wondering, we are not singing Alice Cooper just yet...

In fact, a group of us has collaborated and decided to help others share the word that "the test" does not determine when our school year ends. We, the Masters of Pedagogy, are going provide insight, ideas, thoughts, whatever to help let ever know that WE decide when the school year ends...not "the test."

So here is what it looks like.

Starting Monday, each of the Masters of Pedagogy will provide a post on his or her respective sites to help get you going and spread the word that teaching and learning will continue and School is NOT out for summer...yet.

Monday: It is me, Mick Shuran! This focus will be on changing the mindset or culture of how it seems testing determines the end of school. No Alice Cooper, School's Not Out for Summer...yet! - http://mickshuran.com

Tuesday: My Chattanooga friend Julie Davis, ed-tech extraordinaire, will share her insight and tips on trying new things during this gray area of non-testing. http://techhelpful.blogspot.com/

Wednesday: Fellow Tullahoma City Guru (and LTL PodcasterChristopher King will share his thoughts and ideas in a different format, a VLOG for all you visual and audial learners http://firesidechats.blog/

Thursday: My fellow social studies expert Jacob Dunn will bring a current "in the classroom" perspective towards what we as educators can do after testing.  https://cultivateedu.com/

Friday: Lastly, from Cookeville, TN (home of the great University simply known as TTU) my friend Thomas Fuhrman provides his analysis and expertise when it comes to keeping the teaching momentum going.   https://tfuhrman.wordpress.com/

Please join us, provide your comments and feedback and most importantly, SHARE IT!

See you Monday!


April 7, 2017

What Hawaii taught me about student leadership...

Yes I know, I was in paradise. It was a vacation for the Shuran family. However, it was not a normal vacation for us considering that we were there with around 200 students and family members from Tullahoma.

Just so you know, the Shuran's usually travel in fours and sometimes in groups as large as 12 but this is our first 200 plus.

Our Hawaii excursion included four different flight groups as well as a minimum of four charter buses in motion in Honolulu at any given time.

We traveled almost everywhere together and believe it or not, it was always a pleasurable experience. We walked everyday in mass to Hard Rock Cafe to eat breakfast and you could not walk on the beach or step in the Pacific Ocean without bumping into a fellow Tullahoman. It really seemed like we were taking over Oahu. People noticed us but in a good way. I saw a bunch of smiles from both sides. It was great!

Now to my point, student leadership...

If any organization is a blueprint for student leadership, it has to be the Tullahoma Band. I have had the opportunity to travel with the band a couple of times. Each time, I appreciate what I see even more.

The main things I notice are...

The students know how to act and recognize the fact that they are representing Tullahoma wherever they go.

If adults are around, they are going to help take care of them (including me). Simply meaning, helping load bags, helping carry the heavy stuff and on and on...

The students know they are responsible for their stuff.

Adult chaperones, teachers and leaders do not have to worry, the Tullahoma Band students know and follow the rules.

The students are respectful to the other people around them ALL of the time (we get comments all of the time).

There are several students who "earn" a spot as a Team Leader. There is a reason they earn that spot and ALL of the band members know who they are and follow their lead.

The student leaders do not expect the other band members to do something they wouldn't do with them.

The band adults give those Team Leaders extra responsibility and do not have to worry that it won't get done.

Lastly, the Band sounds amazing ALL of the time. That is a direct reflection of not only the adult leadership but the students' leadership as well.

Shout-out goes to Justin Scott, Martin McFarlane, Atticus Hensley, Doug Clark, Greg English and Michael Todd. They have faith in their kids, allow them to take on responsibility and encourage them to learn from mistakes. The ability of the adults to let go of responsibility only makes the Tullahoma Band better...and it shows.

In case you want to see proof, check out the video below.


February 25, 2017

The Beauty of a Podcast...

Podcasts...producing and listening, has become a passion of mine for the past couple of years.

I have always been an avid music listener but I find myself connecting with a particular podcast or two as a replacement for my music.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a time a place for me to jam BUT there are many times where the podcast provides the entertainment I need to make it through...

a long drive
a workout
a yard mowing or even...

listening while at work (only if you are allowed too...).

I have written about this before but feel it is worthy of revisiting. If you have not tried a podcast then it is time to give it a shot. You can click on the short video below to see how to make that happen...

If you have already entered the podcast world or want to learn  more about it, good for you! Here are some of my favorites with a quick summary of each.

Three guys (I am one of them) who are on a mission to help other like-minded people think about, talk about and learn about anything in regards to leadership technology and learning. Chris, Scott and Mick are long-time educators who value the importance of having fun while learning. Most of the episodes are under 15 mins and the show typically releases once a month.

This is one of my favorite ed tech podcasts. It typically comes out a couple times a month and the show notes are thorough enough that you could understand what is happening without listening (would not recommend, you SHOULD listen). Chris Nesi does a tremendous job of discussing hot topics in ed tech and has a knack for bringing in guests who are spot on with the ever-changing times.

The podcast created by Mark Barnes, the leader of the Hacking Education movement has a TON of shows that I guarantee you can find something that is relevant to you. Most of the shows are short enough to digest in one sitting but are packed full of useful information. If you aren't interested in the podcast, check out all of the Hack Learning books...there are a bunch to choose from.

This is a new one by Matt Miller and Kasey Bell. I have only been able to listen to a couple but so far it is GREAT! I really enjoy the way these two collaborate together with a common goal of sharing their Google knowledge. This is a must listen for those interested in ed tech especially all things Google.

If you are a Malcolm Gladwell fan then you will LOVE this show. I binged listened to all of his episodes and now cannot wait for season 2. Most are under an hour so they can be taken in on a short trip or during some treadmill time. Gladwell is a storyteller and when combined with interesting topics it can't be wrong. My favorite so far is called The Big Man Can't Shoot, Wilt Chamberlain vs. Rick Berry...do not want to miss that one.

Oh man, I just found this one and I am HOOKED! Another story teller, Dan Carlin, talks on topics typically pertaining (but not limited to) war and military history. Get ready because these shows are in the hour, two hour and five hour time range. They are like audio books but that is ok because he is always telling good stories.

Spiritual and Health
Rob Bell, one of my favorite "traveling" pastors. He has caught some criticism for his previous book Love Wins and his stance on Heaven and Hell (most people jumped to conclusions and read something completely different from what I read). Some of his shows he has guests and others he will simply talk about things that are pertinent to our world. Probably my favorite episode is number 27 with Carlton Pearson (former Oral Roberts minion). The RobCast is not for everybody but definitely one of my favorites!

Great podcast with some pretty cool guests. The main topics focus on basically taking care of yourself. Or as the creator, Jerred Moon says, "making yourself harder to kill." The podcast has a great companion website with all sorts of articles and tips, including a workout called one man one barbell as well as a DIY section for building things for your garage gym. If you want to become stronger and more mentally tough, this is one to listen to.

Great discussions on this one and most deal with manly stuff. However, I believe it is not limited to manly stuff. The topics range from building a survival fire to hosting a gentleman's dinner. Or you might get some cool topics on history, specifically C.S. Lewis or maybe Winston Churchill...too many topics to even list. 

Guy Raz from NPR hosts this show about how certain people are successful. He has interviewed Richard Branson, L.A. Reid, Jim Koch and probably my favorite, Mark Cuban. There are many more and all are very insightful and entertaining. 

This is a new podcast, just started in January. In fact, Chris Guillebeau has pledged to release one per day for the entire year. Each show is about 7-8 mins and covers topics related to every day people making money on their side hustles. What is cool about it, is that you realize any one can do this. The podcast helps get the gears going on in your head. Who knows, maybe after listening to this one we can all start lucrative side hustles. 

Super entertaining show with a wide-array of guests. So far some of my favorites include Jocko Willink (the invincible Navy Seal) and Dan Carlin (The Hardcore Historian). There are tons to choose from and most last around the hour to an hour an a half range. This show will keep you thinking an entertained the entire time. 

Ok, basically this is the show that got "my feet wet" and got me excited about podcasts. If you happen to be a Netflix or Amazon Prime binge watcher (I am too) then this is the show for you. The first season follows a case where a high school student was arrested and convicted for killing his girlfriend. I promise you, it will be difficult to turn this one off. If you do not get hooked and start binge listening, then you may need to check for a pulse. Ok...kind of harsh but really it is like an awesome, suspenseful audio book. 

To wrap it up, there is one other thing you should know. It is not necessary to listen to every single from every single podcast that you have saved. Some of them may not interest you at all and that is ok. Frequently check back with your list to see if there is one that you like.

The beauty of a podcast is that most are free. Even the ones that are not free are worth checking out. Plus, there are podcasts on EVERYTHING. Some are good, some are not but if you find one you really like and get hooked on, I promise you will never be the same.

What are some of your favorites?

Do you want to create a podcast??? We can delve into that one soon.

Good luck and happy listening!


February 11, 2017

Personalizing Professional Development...for All

The big talk in education right now is the concept of personalized learning. Yes, I know, this is not new but the talk has been rejuventated and quite honestly it is spot on.

No matter what you think, kids learn differently now. Times have changed, attention-spans are shorter and innovations are coming out at an unbelievable rate (sometimes too fast).

Let's shift the conversation from personalized learning for students to personalized learning for adults. We know it is in the best interest to make learning relevant for kids...to meet them where they are. Should we not be thinking the same for adults as well??

I am not advocating the total elimination of group professional development or attending conferences because I do believe there is benefit in that.

However, what if we were able to personalize our own learning (that may include conferences and group PD) but also include ways in which we are learning what we need NOW instead of what "everybody" needs. Conferences such as the TETC and the TSIN STEM Summit and the Google Summits have been great experiences for me. The BEST things about those experiences are the contacts and connections I make that allows me to continue my learning beyond the conference.

I have a terminal degree from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and my experience was phenomenal. The classes were great. The dissertation process was rigourous but meaningful. But, the biggest gain to this day were the connections with my professors and classmates that has allowed me to continue my learning beyond the school house doors.

In addition to the things I am required to do (for TASL credit) I am able to personalize and be intentional as to what I learn. Should that not be the same for everyone??

For some, the status quo of meetings, trainings, conferences etc is enough. For others like me (#TeamDisruption) I want to have more control over what I learn.

How do we do it?

Here is what I do...


I read constantly. You may have seen my references to books, articles and blogs. Remember, I like to share...

BTW, you can get all of the cool things I share (every Friday) by clicking HERE...

Not only do I read daily but I like to keep my phone or a notebook close by so I can jot ideas that come about while I am reading. Even the fiction books I read have the potential to give me ideas of what I what to share or what I want to learn about.

And of course when I read something I like...I share. I truly believe the act of sharing information that one has learned increases the learning of the person sharing too...WIN WIN.

The image below shows another way I share (and learn). Those shelves are right outside my office and contain books that I think can be beneficial to people in my building. 

Podcast (making and listening)

Don't get me wrong but I love music. But, most of the time when I am traveling somewhere, I have a podcast playing in the background. My podcast list includes spiritual ones, health and fitness topics, business, education, history and even humor.

Here is a screenshot of some of my favorite podcasts...by the way, I love using Overcast as my podcast player on my I Phone. There are many others but Overcast works the best for me.

In case you weren't aware, one of those is mine. Yep, the Leadership Technology Learning Podcast featuring Yours Truly, Christopher King and Scott Hargrove. We get together and produce a monthly show that provides our listeners with great topics in education. The great thing about it, we are learning a TON as we go through the process as well.  YOU should try it, it really isn't that hard.

Google Hangouts

This one is cool and not new but gaining some momentum in our school system. In March, we are doing a "edcamp" style Google Hangout involving folks in our system (and beyond) where we get together to talk about specific topics without ever leaving our buildings. The opportunities are exciting and endless. It is not uncommon for me to Google Hangout with one of my colleagues or friends when I have an idea and get stuck. It is that easy! 

What can I say...Twitter has changed the way I do business. Not only have I been more intentional about promoting the great things going on at WMS (see #WestBobcats) but I have connected with so many like-minded people around the world. I am able to find answers to problems I may have. I am able to get some great ideas to utilize and share. And I am able to build relationships with some really cool people in the process.

If you haven't participated in a Twitter Chat, there are a bunch. Even if you feel the need to "lurk" or just watch, that is ok. You will learn pretty quickly how the process works.

Here are some of my favorites...

Teaching and Coaching Days

I have taught for several years at the university level and the experience has been tremendous. Not because I am a great teacher or that I make some extra money but again, I meet some great, like-minded folks who are just as eager to learn as me. 

I have also added something new this year thanks to Amy Fadeji,  The Shuran Coaching Day. Every Thursday, I keep my calendar open and allow anyone in my building to schedule for a specific period of time. They can schedule me to do anything...yes anything. I regularly talk with 8th grade language arts about topics in motivation. I have worked with 6th graders on math projects. I have even led and participated in a band lesson. 

This has been one of the best things I have done since entering the admin world. By the end of the day I am exhausted so it helps remind me of how difficult teachers have it. But, it is more than that. I am still honing my craft. Teachers get to see me in action, students get to see that I am not just an a guy in an office. It truly has been life/career altering. Below is a recent coaching day where I spent a little time with 8th graders discussing technology and the Civil War.

These are just ideas of mine, I know you have some too. Share the wealth so more and more folks can get on the road to intentional, personalized learning...for themselves.


February 4, 2017

When I write...

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."

Kurt Vonnegut

I read this quote the other day while reading Tools of Titans (Great Book by the way) by Tim Ferris, and it stuck with me.

Just in the past couple of weeks I have talked to other bloggers (current and on sabbatical) who have said the same things...

I don't have the time to write.

People won't want to read about what I say.

I go blank when I stare at my screen.

Sound familiar??

Often I feel the same way as Kurt Vonnegut. He does a good job of capturing that frustration in one quote.

But, there is hope. Vonnegut, in a 1980 issue of Transactions on Professional Communications, talked about a few things we can do to ensure quality writing and how to "write with style."

Here are his thoughts with my commentary...

1. Find a subject you care about
If you do not like what you are researching, reading, coloring, drawing, making, writing about etc...it's going to get old quick. Find something you are passionate about and learn as much as you can about it and then...SHARE.

2. Keep it simple
The harder you make it, the less likely you are going to like it and the more likely other folks won't be able to use it. I am a fan of simple.

3. Sound like yourself
If you are a Southerner, it is ok to sound like one. But, it is also more than that. Don't try to sound like someone you are not. If it is not you, if it is not your passion, people will figure you and your readers will recognize the deception easily.

4. Say what you mean
Don't beat around the bush, say what you mean and do not worry about the fact that someone does not agree with you. Disagreement is natural and as long as it doesn't become hate-filled or personal, then it will be ok in the long run.

To add to this I would also include:

Read constantly
I read all of the time. Many times I have multiple books going. I know, I know sounds impossible for someone with focus problems like me but it is true. Good books have a way of maintaining my focus. It is like kryptonite for my adult ADD.

Pocket is my friend. I am constantly saving articles and videos to my Pocket site to not only read but share...despite what others say, I like to share. BTW, there is a great short clip on my video page that gives you the basics of Pocket.

Keep a journal or your phone near you to jot down ideas
Right now there is a tangerine Scout Book next to my bed. If I think of an idea, I jot it down. Sometimes the next day it makes no sense but at least most of the time I am able to recall the reason for jotting it down.

I am also a big fan of Field Notes and Moleskins and anything else that resembles a notebook. I have even made some out of beer...I mean Coca Cola cartons.

Oh, and if you do not use Google Keep, you are missing out! It is a great tool by Google that allows you to take notes, itemize thoughts, even add pictures...endless note-taking possibilities.

Don't worry about how many people read it.
The fact that you share it (the hard part) makes it worthwhile.

I always get that nervous feeling when I hit Publish. Don't you??

That's ok. It lets you know you are still alive.

January 27, 2017

Kindness Matters...

We have been celebrating a week of kindness this week at West Middle so I thought it would be a perfect time to share some tips on what it looks like to be kind.


I talked with some students and got their feedback. This is what they said.

Helping pick things up
Volunteer work
Complimenting and caring for each other
Helping those who need it
Holding the door
Helping with difficult tasks like when a locker is stuck
Saying good morning and good afternoon
Telling jokes, making people laugh

Here was one I loved...Kindness cards

Like this one...

Or this one...

Basically, the kids have these cards that have inspirational quotes on them. They can give them to random people or simply someone they know. They can say something to them or just hand it out and smile. One students said she liked to just hand it out and see the people's reaction.

How cool is that!

Although we strive to be kind everyday, it is also good to have reminders such as this week. It is intentional and who knows, maybe it will help form a habit of kindness.

As I thought about this, there were some others that I felt needed to be added...

1. Always be first...I read about this one in Tim Ferris' book Tools of Titans. He was speaking about Gabby Reece (famous volleyball player) and her husband Laird Hamilton and their relationship. Gabby says she likes to always be first...first hello, first smile, first hug, etc. She knows if she does it first then the kindness will get done.

2. When seeing someone, act like the young kid does when he or she sees you at the end of the day and its like she hadn't seen you in months. You know, when you walk in the door and your son or daughter screams and is all smiles. What a great feeling! Why don't we do that when our spouse or mom or dad walks in the room. We should take notes from toddlers. 

3. Free Hugs and High Fives...this is one of my favorite things we do. The first day of school, several of our kids and our teachers stand outside with inspirational signs and hand out free hugs and free high fives to any one who wants them. You should see the smiles, it really sets the tone for the day. 

4.  Say you are AWESOME - no explanation needed here. We can always say something good about someone else. 

Here's to every week being kindness week!


January 24, 2017

Ol' Lazarus Lake and the idea of failure...

Have you ever heard of Lazarus Lake??

The ultra-marathoner who starts his race with the lighting of a cigarette.

Me either until just a couple of weeks ago when I was perusing my Netflix account.

Some of you may not know but I have a healthy (or unhealthy for that matter) addiction to documentaries and have watched some great ones the past month or so.

There are no boundaries to my genres of documentaries...none. I love them all! ESPN has some of the best in the 30 for 30 series and they have not let me down yet. Here are just a few of my favorites...

The Barkley Marathons - More on this one in a minute...

Anyways, back to Lazarus Lake.

Lazarus (not his real name) is a runner. He really doesn't run much anymore but has contributed greatly to the running culture for many decades. In fact, Lazarus is well known for creating several races, one in particular is called the Barkley Marathon.

Again, this popped up on my Netflix account and I had no idea what it was about. I saw Tennessee in the title and felt I needed to explore this documentary.

I am glad I did!!

Long story short...The Barkley Marathon is actually an ultra-marathon... meaning that it is super long and I will never ever run in it.  Actually, the official definition is any race that is longer than the traditional marathon length of 26 miles. The race takes place in East Tennessee in part of the Appalachian Mountains and was supposedly inspired by a prison escape (won't spoil it for you). 

Start of the Barkley Marathon

You know how these things get started, friends sitting around having a good time talking about this and that and all of a sudden an ultra marathon is born. That is not exactly how it happened but you get the idea.

I do not want to spend the entire about this documentary because that is not the point. The takeaway was something said by Lazarus Lake. He simply said, "you can't accomplish anything without the risk of failure."

Yes, an eccentric, ultra-marathoner spouts wisdom that is applicable to all aspects of life...including and especially the world of education. You see, in his world, in the world of the Barkley Marathon...most fail. In fact, only 10 in the past 25 years have actually succeeded (more since the taping, but still) in this ultra-marathon. But, the popularity is increasing year by year. I'm sure the documentary will only make it grow more.

You can't accomplish anything without the risk of failure...

In order for that to happen in a school, in the classroom, etc...these things have to be present...

  • A culture that allows people to take risks and try different things.
  • Being transparent and modeling how making mistakes and learning from them can work.
  • Continuous dialogue on how taking chances...trying new things...taking risks can be acceptable if it means that something better is going to come out of it.
  • Sharing and celebrating successes that have risen out of taking chances/risk-taking.

Too often we reward success and discourage failure. Don't get me wrong, educators are good cheerleaders but we may need to go further. Adults and kids need to see it in action. 

They need to see that something better can come out of something that did not initially work.


January 20, 2017

5 Reasons to Try Something Different...

It is important for us to change. It is important for us to do different things. If not, we stand a chance to become stagnate personally and professionally.

To do something different does not mean drastically changing your thought and actions. It could simply be small changes in incremental steps. It can be methodical or spontaneous.

Although I would never recommend drastic changes without first putting some thought into it (pay attention to your Spidey-Sense).

In case you aren't sure what Spidey-Sense is, here you go...

I do think it is important to do something different every once in awhile.

Here is why:

1. It keeps people on their toes...guessing a little.
It is ok that there is wonder. If people expect the same thing every time, then after awhile do they even pay attention any more??

2. Gives you a sense of excitement/nervousness.
Every get that butterfly feeling when you do something new? That is a reminder that you are ALIVE. 

3. Leads to reflection
Doing something different allows you to look back at what you have already done. It allows you to reflect on what has worked and what has not. 

4. Starts a conversation
When you do something different people ask questions. Then, YOU get a chance to talk about the great things you are doing. 

5. Becomes contagious
When people see different things, when people see others get excited and that excitement becomes contagious. People want to be a part of something fun and meaningful. 

One word of warning, people may try to stop you because it is not "normal" or because it is different than what everyone is used to. Those distractors like the status quo and will most likely respond with statements like "it will never work" or "that's not how we do that."

Do not let that change your course of action. Push ahead and if it works, AWESOME. If it doesn't, you can always adjust.

That's the key, you can always adjust...

Go out and try something different.


January 17, 2017

Day of Disruption...(Disruptor Series Part 3)

Friday, January 13th, 2017 was a day like no other at WMS.

Two other teachers and I proclaimed it "Disruption Day" for 8th grade science and social studies. We have been talking about it for awhile. Good ideas were mentioned, what ifs were brought up but we still had not pulled the trigger...until Friday.

This is what Disruption Day looked like for us:

Each class was divided into 3 groups.
The groups rotated during their science and social studies classes to three different locations.
Each location spent around 25 minutes on a specific topic.
The topic was related but it wasn't related...I know weird.
We did that for 3 class periods...9 total rotations.




It has been awhile since I spent a whole day as a classroom teacher and it brought back so many good memories.

On a side note, I think it is a good idea for administrators to actually take a teachers class every once in awhile...it helps bring back those teacher memories. More importantly it keeps you from forgetting where you came from. 

Back to Disruption Day

3 Rotations 3 Classes the theme was...

Fear and Uncertainty.

I know, just enough ambiguity to make the students wonder what the heck is going on. That was our goal.

The lesson all focused around fear and uncertainty in relation to the 1940s to late 1980s, basically the period of the Cold War. Mr. Epley focused on Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. Ms. Cossey used mouse traps and ping pong balls to show reaction. And I used propaganda posters to talk about the human side of things.

Now here is the kicker...The Cold War is not in the standards for 8th grade history. Nor is there any mention of any of that in the 8th grade science standards. Oh yeah, we also did not require any assignments, worksheets or writing about your experience activities. It was simply out of the box thinking.

The feedback was great! The students enjoyed it and said they wanted to do it again!

Some things I think we would do differently...

Bring in more student driven activities (we were all tired).
Extend the lesson to multiple days so the students can identify and solve problems relating to the topics.
Make a bigger deal out of it.

If you ask the three of us it was a success. If you ask the students you hear things like...
"it was relevant"
"it was fun but and we were learning"
"that wasn't like anything we have done before"
"when are we doing it again??"

Disruption Day Part I was a big hit. It will not be the last one. We are already planning for future disruption days. Other people are getting excited about it too.

Who knows, maybe it will lead to more members of #TeamDisruption...