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.