"Creativity is contagious, pass it on." ~Albert Einstein

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

This August I will begin my 18th year in Education. WHERE has the time gone?  

It seems just like yesterday that I walked into Room 211 at Centura Junior/Senior High School to prepare for the 1999-2000 school year.   I was so excited to get started with my career in education.  It's hard to believe it's been 18 years.

I often find myself looking back at my younger self, realizing how much I have changed.  Especially as an educator.  So much that I wanted to write a blog post to myself as a first year teacher back in 1999. What five pieces of advice would I have for myself as a first year teacher?  

I've had this blog post in draft for about two years now and I am finally taking the time to finish it.  Here it goes...

Hey, Craig!  It's me.  Well, YOU in the year 2017.  I've learned a lot during the last 18 years. A lot about life and a lot about being a better teacher.   I thought I'd take a couple minutes to jot down a few pieces of advice that might come in handy to you as you begin your teaching career...

1.  Don't be such an authoritative teacher!  Quit being such a hard ass and taking pride in how "well behaved" your students are.  It's not cool to raise your voice and lead with fear.  You learned this from some of your favorite teachers/coaches in high school and you are now teaching/coaching like them. Stop it!  Don't try to emulate teachers you had.  Be YOURSELF.  You'll figure this out in about year eight of your teaching career.  

2.  It's about the STUDENTS, not YOU!  Your classroom isn't yours, it's your students.  Get rid of the 25 year old ego that's screaming, "I'm the Boss!" If you are going to post "Classroom Expectations" for your students on the bulletin board you sure as heck better post another poster next to it titled, "Expectations of Me, Your Teacher."  You set rules for students, you better have visible rules you have for yourself.  It's about give and take.  You need to not only build strong relationships with you students but you MUST develop and practice empathy in your classroom.  Developing empathy is the foundation to building strong relationships. 

3.  Get the hell out of the way in your classroom! Get out of the front of your room. Quit lecturing. Quit assigning worksheets and assessing with the test creator that came with your textbook.   Be CREATIVE, it costs you nothing! Empower your students with leadership roles in your classroom.  Engage in powerful conversations with them.  There's this thing you've started to use a bit in your classroom called the internet...it's going to change your role as a teacher (if you embrace it) tremendously in the next couple of years. This will all eventually make sense and it's going to be the best three years of your teaching career.  

4.  Don't let your part time job (coaching) get in the way of your full time job.  Yes, you have a full schedule of duties after school.  You are coaching junior high football, girls/boys' basketball and then boys' track in the spring, plus driving the shuttle bus to take the students back to their respective towns.  That's a lot on your plate.  But remember this, you are a teacher FIRST.  You were hired to be awesome in the classroom.  It's easy to let some of the things you need to get done in the classroom slide.  It's easy to work on coaching duties when you should be working on making your classroom an awesome experience for your students.  Balance.  It's all about balance.  Yes, sports are fun.  But they aren't everything.  You might think so right now, but eventually that will change.  Trust me. 

5.  Enjoy the ride!  Teaching is awesome, isn't it?  There are so many great (and bad) memories that you are going to have over the next several years.  Take some time to write these memories down.  Yes, the good AND the bad.  Learn from them.  Take time to reflect at the end of each year.   DON'T do the same thing year in and year out.  Hone your craft.  You are a paid professional.  Make yourself better.  There will be times that you will wonder what in the world you are doing in a classroom.  Teaching is hard, but it is one of the most rewarding professions on the planet.  Enjoy the ride, Craig! 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I was afraid of trying to make a video using a green screen app.  There, I said it.
I loved (and still do) using the iMovie app, it worked for the simple projects that I was creating.  But I kept seeing some really neat creations come across my Twitter stream that had been created using a green screen app.   A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Karen Miller, one of the co-founders of the Doink app and my whole perspective about green screen apps completely changed.  Karen showed me how easy it was to use the Doink app and I was immediately ready to go back to school and try it!

Here is what we created in Kindergarten.   No, it's not going to win an Academy Award, but it worked for the project we were working on and it was so easy to create with Doink!  The best part? The students loved it!  I uploaded the video to YouTube, copied the link into SafeShare to create an add free video, and then dumped that link into the Seesaw app for all of our students and their parents to view.

Doink is so simple to use!  Below is another (amongst many) green screen vidoe that we created this year.  This particular Kindergarten teacher has a "tea party" each Thursday in her Kindergarten classroom.  Essentially, the "tea party" is a different life lesson that the teacher talks about each week with her Kinders.  We wanted to create a green screen video in which each student would share about their favorite life lesson that they have learned this year.  Here is what we created:

The second green screen app that I am becoming more familiar with is the Touchcast app.  I've only used it for a couple of projects, and consider myself a novice user.  Everything I've learned about this app can be attributed to one of my amazing colleages, Mr. Tim Elge.  He has done an amazing job inegrating this app into his curriculum.  What an amazingly powerful app!   There are so many powerful tools within Touchcast.  I can't believe it is FREE!  I must confess that I've only used the basics of this app for my creation below. There is so much more that you can do with this app! Download it and investigate today!

There you have it.  I THOUGHT that green screen apps were hard to use.  Boy was I wrong. Download the Doink and Touchcast apps and begin creating today!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I think that every teacher should use Twitter to supplement their personal professional development.  It's authentic, immediate, easily accessible and constant.  The ability to connect and learn with educators from all over the world is amazing.  You, the user, are in total control of what you want to learn or who you want to connect with.  The only drawback to Twitter is that it's kind of hard to understand when you first start.  With the @ sign, the hashtags, composing, replying to a tweet and following a conversation can be confusing and frustrating.  This frustration can essentially lead to a teacher giving up on Twitter.

Here are five tips that I have come up with to share with the Twitter newbies in your district or professional learning network when they are first getting started with Twitter.

1.  Create a professional bio starting with an image of YOU.  I know that you might have a cute dog/cat, a smokin' hot wife/husband and a beautiful family, but people want to see who they are following and interacting with.  Be as clever or professional as you'd like with your bio, but remember you only have 140 characters!

2.  Follow 300 "people of interest" when you first sign up for Twitter.  These could be fellow educators in their content area, educators out of their content area, professors, keynote speakers. Anyone that has anything to do with education.  You get out Twitter what YOU want.  If you want celebrity gossip, follow celebrities.  If you want to learn, grow and collaborate as an educator follow all things education.  If you follow someone and don't like what's coming from their stream, unfollow them.  It's okay!

3.  Lurk and learn for six weeks.  That's it.  Don't stress over what to share with that first tweet.  Sit back and lurk.  Pull out your phone to check your Twitter stream when you have an extra minute or two.  Read articles, monitor conversations.  Examine how people share with images or by retweeting material.   When you are comfortable, begin the process of going from consumer to producer.

4.  You are not going to be able to read every single tweet.  Quit trying.  This was my biggest obstacle when I began with Twitter.  I couldn't keep up.  I was frustrated.  Luckily, my mentor told me it's a continuous conversation and you can never keep up.  It's not even worth trying.  Which leads me to my next tip, hashtags. When I found hashtags, Twitter took on a whole new meaning for me.  Hashtags gave me the ability to follow what I wanted to follow.

5.  Find hashtags that are relevant to you and begin examining the content that is associated with those hashtags by searching.   Still struggling with hashtags?  I know, I did as well.  I called that symbol a pound sign when I was younger.  Now it's a hashtag?!  Here's the simplest way I've found to explain hashtags to teachers that may not understand what hashtags are.  Think of a hashtag as a television channel.  Once you've found a hashtag that interests you, search it and watch it. A lot. Just like you do with your favorite television channels.  How do you find good hashtags?  @cybraryman1 has created an amazing list of pretty much every hashtag imaginable that is related to education.

Good luck in your Twitter journey.  I hope these tips help.  I know I am thankful for each and every person in my professional learning network on Twitter.  I have learned so many things from them. Joining Twitter was the best decision I have made in my professional career.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Let's flash back twenty years ago to the summer of 1997.   I had not yet started my teaching career.  I was the Parks & Recreation Director in the town where we lived.  My wife was in her second year of teaching 4th grade in the same town.   Boy, were we young.

 Earlier that Spring my wife's elementary principal had taken a position at a different school district.   The entire staff at my wife's school was dumbfounded when the administrator announced that he was taking a different position.  He was very successful in his position. His staff truly cherished him and his leadership abilities at their school.  I was confused as to why he would even leave.  The administrator had just built a beautiful house a year before.  His own children were students at his school. It was a surprise that he would even consider a different position.  In my mind, there were so many reason NOT to take a new position.

I was curious as to why this administrator would want to do something like this so I questioned him about it.  He was working in his yard one day as I drove by.  I pulled over and proceeded to have a conversation with him that would have a profound impact on me later in my career.  When I asked him why in the world he would want to take a different position in another school district when he had everything going for him, his response was simple.  He said, "I was too comfortable."  Perplexed, I said, "I don't get it."  He proceeded to tell me that I would "understand" someday and to never get "too comfortable" in my profession.   That was it.

Fast forward to 2011.

 I had a teaching job that I loved.  I was teaching social studies, doing some coaching and enjoying the fact that I went to a job each and every day that I enjoyed.  My wife and I had a pact that if a job were ever to open in a couple of districts that we were fond of here in Nebraska, we would apply.  Well guess what?  One of those districts had a job opening and my wife told me that she would like to apply for the administrative position.  I agreed that she should apply.  It would be a good move for our family. In the back of my mind I was nervous that I would be giving up a job that I loved if my wife were to get the job.  Then I remembered that conversation back in 1997 and the words "I was too comfortable."

It all made sense now!  I was too comfortable in my position. Yes, it was stressful knowing that I had to go out and find a new job, leaving the one that I loved.  It was so hard.  I thought I was going to have that job until I retired.  Looking back now, it was one of the best decisions I made in my role as an educator.

Change creates opportunity.  It may be scary as hell when pondering that change, but it's so beneficial when it happens.

Too often I see teachers that aren't happy in their current positions.  Some are overworked, tired and negative.  Others have worked at the same school their whole careers and are hesitant to change because "we've always done it this way," while others are stuck in a rut doing the same things year in and year out in their classrooms.

From my personal experience, changing jobs created a whole new world of opportunities for me as an educator.  I truly believe that it has made me a better teacher and all around better person.  It's changed my perspective.  It's opened my eyes.  I am glad that I was too comfortable so that I needed to get uncomfortable.

Maybe a change will do you good.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I want you to take 10 seconds to think...

Think about the BEST day you have had in your teaching career.    What was that day like?  What made it the BEST day?  

I remember mine vividly.  It was February of 2005. 

It all started out as a regular day, but with a pretty steady snow falling.  It was one of those snowfalls that we don't get too often here in Nebraska.  There was no wind.  The snow was falling straight down.  It was gorgeous. 

The mild temperature that morning created snow that was the perfect texture to build a snowman.  

But it was a weekday so it was off to school. 

Mr. Brown, one of my colleagues and former teachers mentioned that it would be a great day to have a snow day.  Not a "snow day" where we went back home, but a day where we went outside with every single in grades 7-12 and have a snowman building contest! 

Excitedly, I agreed.    Begrudgingly, I went back to my classroom to prepare for the day thinking there was no way it would ever happen.   Little did I know that Mr. Brown slipped into Mr. Monter's (Principal)  office to discuss the possibility of a "snow day" happening.   

Soon, all students and staff members were summoned to the gym before the start of our first class period.  

Mr. Monter announced to the staff and student body that we would be running a late start schedule that day so that we could go outside to have a snowman building contest.  I smiled.  Kids looked at each other in bewilderment.  I thought to myself, "I am going to remember this day as one of the best in my teaching career."

Fast forward eleven years later to 2017, my eighteenth year of teaching.  I have several years left before I retire, but it's going to be hard to top that day.  It was magical.  No textbook or lesson could have replicated what we all experienced on that snow-covered football field in February.

What's your BEST day ever in your teaching career?  Leave me a comment.  I'd love to read about it.

Oh, you were wondering how the snowman building contest went?  How the students enjoyed the day?  I guess you'll have to watch the video below.  I am so glad Mrs. Coover's media class was able to capture the memory!  Thanks Peg!


Saturday, December 10, 2016

It still happens.  I see countless opportunities to create on the iPad wasted.  Instead, a worksheet (that has been used for several years) is scanned, turned into a PDF then uploaded to a platform that allows a student to annotate the PDF on the iPad.  

It's not good practice.  Period.  

A worksheet on an iPad is still a worksheet.  It's boring.  We are paid professionals, we can provide better opportunities for our students.  

In a previous blog post I listed some activities that could be done on an iPad instead of a worksheet.  That was two years ago.  As professional educators, we should continually strive to hone our craft, so I've decided to offer some more activities that can be done on those iPads in your classroom instead of a worksheet.  

Get Googley with G Suite
Thank you, Google!  What a great selection of tools to choose from.  If your school is fortunate enough to be a "Google" school you will know what I mean.  Google Docs, Forms, Slides, Sites, Sheets, Drive offer your students a variety of tools to do some pretty amazing things in your classroom.  Be sure to check out the #gsuiteedu, #gafe and #gafe4littles hashtags for all sorts of ideas on how to effectively use these tools in your classroom. 

Create with Adobe Apps

I absolutely love the creation possibilities with Adobe's Spark Post, Spark Page and Spark Video.  Adobe has made it so easy to create with these apps.  With these apps, you and your students will be creating professional looking products in no time. 

Connect using Social Media
Social media is not going away.  We, as educators need to be using it in our classrooms.  You need to find ways to make Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other forms of social media an integral part of your classroom.  For some great ideas on how to utilize social media in your classroom, I would suggest that you follow Kayla Delzer, Brandon Timm, Rebecca Huls and Kara McNeese. Each of them do a tremendous job of harnessing the power of social media in their respective classrooms.  

Create a Scavenger Hunt using the GooseChase app
Trust me, your students will love this app!  You create "missions" that your student will complete. You can have your students complete missions that are photo/video, text-based or GPS check-ins.  I used this app with our teachers at the start of the school year for a school wide scavenger hunt.  Each building in our district (elementary, middle school, high school) competed against each other to complete the challenges that I had set forth.  The winner from each building received free jeans days for the entire first quarter. Talk about competitive.  Very engaging and fun too! 

Engage with Hyperdocs
Hyperdocs are awesome!  What are they?  They are digital lessons that you can assign to your students for engaging, inquiry-based learning.  It's blended learning at its finest. Think 21st-century worksheet."  Your students learn by exploring, explaining and applying as they progress through the hyperdoc.  Be sure to give the creators of the Hyperdoc idea Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis a follow on Twitter.  For resources be sure to check out this Padlet full of Hyperdoc examples and head over to Teachers Give Teachers to search for Hyperdocs!  Make a copy of one that works for your classroom, modify if needed and assign to your students!

Use Seesaw!  
I truly believe that Seesaw is the best educational technology app that has been released in the last two years.  What a way for students to document their learning!  Seesaw is a digital portfolio for your students.  My favorite features are the fact that your students can submit work that they have created, use the whiteboard tool to draw and record their voice (on a whiteboard or something they uploaded), and use the video camera for self-reflections.  Parents can see this all of this if they have downloaded the parent companion app to Seesaw.  Create your account, set up a class and start using Seesaw.  Your classroom parents will thank you! 

Create a Paper Slides Project
Very low tech, but so fun for your students!  I always had a tub of "creation tools" (markers, colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors on the tables in my classroom.  Nothing beats creating something from scratch to assist in the learning process!  Students love to draw, doodle and color.  Don't forget about these "old school" tools when you get the tech in your classroom.  Harness the power of both tools with a paper slides project. Let your students create paper slides projects instead of standing in front of the classroom going through a Powerpoint or Google Slides presentation.  Here is a great wiki with all sorts of information about paper slides. 

Compliment Digital Storytelling projects with animation apps. 
Those of us that have access to iPads know that the best app for digital storytelling would probably be iMovie. Honestly, I've seen this app wear out its welcome with a lot of our students (and teachers).  Making iMovie after iMovie becomes tedious and boring.  Tap into the creativity of animations apps.  Combine these with iMovie and you can create some pretty amazing stories!  Here is a recent blog post I composed about FOUR free animation apps that you can begin using today! 

Create with Canva
I love Canva!  If you haven't created an account for Canva, do so now!  Canva has an app and is web based so you are not limited to the app.  There are so many ways to use Canva in the classroom. You could have your students use it for vocabulary, motivational posters, movie posters for a particular book you are reading.  You could have your students create album covers for a book you are reading, create six word stories with a powerful image in the background.  The opportunities are endless.  

I'm not going to give you a specific tool for my tenth option.  I just want you to think about one word.  Create.  Think of the iPad as a creation device.  It's very easy to consume information on the iPad, but it's just as easy to create.  What can you create on the iPad to reinforce or amplify your lesson?

Happy Creating!  



authorHusband, Dad, Son, Brother, Teacher, Coach, Learner, Catalyst, Collaborator, Creator, Contributor, EdTecher, DIYer, Tinkerer, Golfer, Exerciser, Gardener.