Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ah, #EduCon - thank you.

I feel that this will be the first of many decompressions of this year's EduCon at the Science Leadership Academy (#SLA).

My mind is on overdrive.

But I feel the need to capture this, and start the sifting process.

It was wonderful to be around so many like-minded people. You all renewed my faith and my hope that change is possible.

It's hard to keep a fire burning by yourself. You all helped spark the embers; you reignited the burning passion to make thing better.

Although I still struggle with the full nature of this idea, I love that Chris Lehman phrased this change as a narrative. We all can play an important role in this story, and it is a tale that must be shouted from any mountaintop or anthill we can find.

We are connected. Whatever the means, we have the means to find the end.

Ideas are bulletproof. Let's thicken our hides and stop hiding - it's time to take this thing and run. To paraphrase Nat Turner: we are what we've been waiting for.

We must stay active and tell this story to anyone who will, and more importantly those who won't, listen.

Thank you, EduCon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

EduCon! I've arrived...

I am so excited to be attending EduCon 2.5 in Philly. Looking for the real-world inspiration from inspiring educators. I will be keeping a running document of notes (feel free to comment right in the Google Doc) which may turn into future blog posts. I will also be tweeting throughout the weekend. Let the learning begin!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Do Students Learn Differently?

I decided to write this post on Storify, as I wanted to include the original tweets that inspired my thoughts. Due to the large font, though, this is a scroller...sorry about that. 

Here is the link to the Storify post in case the embed code doesn't work.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My New Gmail #GTD setup

My district recently started a program to enable employees to become Google Apps Qualified. As we (Clarkstown Central School District) are a Google District, this was an exciting chance to learn more about the tools I already use. I jumped at the chance and became part of a group of 21 other colleagues on our quest to become Clarkstown Google Experts (CGEs).

First, I did not know Google offered such extensive training materials for their Apps In Education suite. Second, I did not realize how extensive the tests were. I spent a manic week studying while my son fell asleep in his crib and then running downstairs for an hour of testing. The good news: I managed to pass all six exams and am now Google Apps Qualified (for the next year). The bad news: sleep deprivation.

One immediate takeaway, though, came from the Other Tools module. Specifically, the Labs section.

First, some context: in September, we were still using good 'ole Outlook. In October, we were informed we would be migrating to Gmail (yay!). However, I had never used Gmail as a web-based experience before; I funnel all my email into Apple Mail on my various iDevices. Being naive, I set about to recreate all of my Outlook folders as Gmail labels.

Inbox 1700+.

I realized the futility of attempting to do this with integrity, and eventually archived all the pre-migration emails.

Inbox 1000.

I then decided to shrink the number of labels I used, and created labels for each of my classes (5 in total) and a few other things (To Do, To Grade, Prep, etc.).

Inbox 1000. (ugh.)

Enter the Google training mentioned above, the Gmail search bar, and the QuickLinks lab. Simply put, this Lab allows you to save a search query as a clickable link for quick use later on. More complexly, the Search bar is amazing (I have yet to explore the Advanced Search in it's entirety). This changed my approach to HOW I use Gmail. In other words, the training allowed me to reflect on my process and experience using Gmail.

Here's what I discovered:

  1. I rarely, if ever, clicked on a class label to view those emails.
         Step taken: delete all class labels.
  2. When I did need to reference a previous email, I found myself searching for it.
         Step taken: archive everything...I have thousands of emails and am at 9% of my 25GB limit.
  3. It was more important to label my processes than my descriptions. To rephrase, the English teacher in me decided to label my verbs, not my nouns.
         Step taken: create labels Follow Up, To Grade, Read and Review.
  4. Having a To Do list was not enough, as it grew out of control. I needed a way to sift through it and categorize the To Do items.
         Step taken: Superstars, another Lab item. This allows you to use a variety of stars on an email. I stuck with 4 to keep it simple.
  5. Having immediate access to the categorized To Do list was essential.
         Step taken: QuickLinks. Save each "star" as a QuickLink and immediately sort your "starred" items.
  6. I needed to see my Unread emails first.
        Step taken: Use Priority Inbox with three levels: Unread, starred, everything else.
By redefining my process, I found managing my inbox much easier. As soon as I read a new message, I do one of three things: reply, Archive, or Flag/Star (depending on which device I read the email on). I then "process" my starred items and make sure they have the appropriate star "level." I have the QuickLinks set up in my left sidebar and I can see exactly what I need to.

I'm sure this will be an evolving process, and I welcome that. Reading the material Google has provided has opened my mind to ideas I did not know were possible, and for that I am thankful.

Oh yeah...Inbox: 82. But all accounted for.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Who needs sleep?

So. This weekend was kind of a mess. Friday evening flurry of #LiteraryTunes, red wine, and what I now know was pre-fever.

Friday night: toss, turn, freeze, swear, wonder why I am buried beneath an avalanche of blankets. Not realizing pregnant wife has same symptoms I do.

Saturday: sick. Fever sick. Stomach borderline, stays solid. Wife not so much. Vomiting on and off. 18 month old seemingly not affected, wants to play. Great fun!

Saturday night: pass the F out.

Sunday: wake up feeling exhausted but not sick. Wife still ill, asleep all day. 18 month and me...Play! Fun.

Sunday night: this one gets a timeline all to itself.

7pm: start baby bedtime. Books, crying, lights out. Not so bad.

8pm: discover #21stedchat on Twitter and get sucked in.

9pm: downstairs, decide grading is done for night. Hooray! Early bedtime! Read, lights out.

10pm: Toss, turn, can't sleep. Kung fu fantasies of what I'd do if a burglar broke (complete with a variety of "tough-guy" 911 calls but, alas, lacking any sort of kick-ass soundtrack).

11pm: sick of not sleeping. Brew sleepy time tea (false advertising), grade another 20 1984 essays.

12am: ready to sleep. Nuthin'.

1am: start thinking about Web 2.0 tools. Of course. Briefly consider my unfinished lesson plans. Start composing this post.

2am: everybody was Kung fu fighting. Hoo. Hah.

3am: decide to live "on the wild side" and "in the moment" and download the Blogger app. Baby cries. Awesome. Baby stops. Awesomer.

4am: finish post and try to remember what automatic settings I have on seldomly used blog. Find myself not caring. Wonder if anyone is still reading (and caring). Praying that I have one more free coffee reward at Starbucks.

Prediction for 5am: I will be surprised when the alarm goes off. Bitter irony.

Good(?) night/morning all.