World Sketchnoting Day #SNDay2017

Yesterday (Wed., Jan. 11) was World Sketchnoting Day, I participated by listening to an episode of the House of Ed Tech w/ host Chris Nesi. I thought it was only fitting to listen to & sketchnote episode 068 with special guest Stacey Lindes who discussed sketchnoting, what it is, her process, and went into detail on her personal challenge, sketchnoting each day for 100 days. Take a look below…

My Work Space… #EdublogsClub

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt. 

Sometimes it is interesting how various items converge around the same time. This week’s topic, a blog post from Richard Byrne called ‘Why We Feel Attached to Our Stuff‘, and news on my current space at work have all converged this week to make for a timely post.

I don’t normally veer off from talking about technology integration, but this is one topic which I felt warranted the diversion. Let’s take a little detour and get caught up on some backstory. At the beginning of the school year, I approached my building’s principal with an idea. Let’s take one of the abandoned computer labs (all students in the building now have Chromebooks) and let’s convert it to a training center for teachers. She was on board and the start of room 619 becoming a space for teachers to learn happened. Now fast forward to just coming back from winter break. Due to some circumstances beyond my control, I was informed that the space would need to be shared with our PRISM (gifted) program. So this week started construction on the space. All of the custom tables (from when this was a computer lab) were removed, painting began, and the equipment from their previous space started transporting to this space.


How the room looked on Tuesday

As teachers have walked by, many have stopped in to see the transformation take place. Several have asked the same question, “Are you upset about this?” My response has surprised many and I think I can attribute it to reading the post and watching the video (embedded below)

I recognize the room is not “mine“, even if I wanted it to be, it couldn’t.

Have you ever had a change to your space that you had no control over? I would love to read about how you handle/dealt with the change in the comments below.

Take Apart Day 2016-17

Last year I wrote about Take Apart Day. This year we had more students come out and get their hands into the innards of some items like a toaster, alarm clock, old desktop computer, an “Easy” button, etc. The students had a blast (as you can see below). We hope to do some follow up and incorporate ThingLink as the example I created just to intro the idea shows with an old webcam.

Two Overdue Recommendations…

One of the purposes of this blog (which was reminded to me through reflection on the last post, My Blogging Story…, thanks to #EdublogsClub) is to recommend tools which I come across and use with teachers. A little peak behind the curtain, so to say, of ‘A Tech Perspective…’ is how I utilize Google Keep to (for lack of a more creative word) keep track of blog post ideas.

This posting is one which is over due. I have two tools which I have used with different teachers that: were successful, easy to use, and facilitated a need they had.


If you haven’t seen, heard, or tried Recap, you must. This is a free platform where teachers are able to pose question(s), either typed or video recorded, and students record their response in video format. The teacher is able to designate a specific amount of time they have to record their response (holds students accountable to be clear and concise). These recordings are then stored in an easy to access spot for the teacher to view and comment back. The teacher can also get a link to the “daily reel” (collection of video submissions) which they could then send to students or post in Google Classroom for the students to view.

Backchannel Chat

The second tool I was asked about was something:

  • free
  • easy to setup and maintain
  • would facilitate online discussion during a socratic circle

I recommended  Named perfectly, it is a back channeling tool, similar to Today’s Meet, but in my opinion, more powerful for the teacher. As the teacher, I create a free account, setup the space, have the students go to the site and type in their name and the room code, that’s it. During the chat, I have the ability to mute anyone who misbehaves, lock the chat so I can gain everyone’s attention, and even pin posts to the top for easy reference.

Here are two (or rather three if you count Google Keep) tools which you can add to your toolbox.

Have you tried either of these tools or is there a new tool you have discovered which others could benefit using? Please share in the comments below.

My Blogging Story… #EdublogsClub

So I thought I would try my hand at blogging… sharing ideas, thoughts, and maybe a little whimsy. We’ll see how it goes.

Those were the first lines of blogging text posted to the second iteration of this blog back in April of 2012. Now, nearly five years and over 120 posts later I’m still looking for ways to increase/improve my blogging. That’s where #EdublogsClub comes in!

What is the #EdublogsClub?

This is a creation of Ronnie Burt, where once you’ve signed up, each Tuesday you will have a prompt emailed to you. These prompts will be on a specific topic with enough flexability to post what works for you. Once you post, you then comment on that week’s blog post for the #EdublogsClub w/ the link to yours. You can also share via the social network(s) of your using. You can read what others have posted, and potentially leave comments growing your personal learning network.

Try things that fit what you need…

That last part is what speaks to me. See when I started blogging (the first iteration, pre-2012) the blog was a means for communicating what was happening in my classroom. I taught fourth grade and each week a different student had the ‘job’ of posting to our classroom blog. This took the task of sending out a weekly bulletin to my students’ parents out of my hands and placed the responsibility into my students’ hands. Then my career took a different path, I was no longer a classroom teacher and I became a technology coach for teachers. What to do with my blog???

A new path!

I transitioned to more of a reflection, recommendation, and retelling of my tech experiences. I wanted a place where others could learn about what I have shown teachers and hopefully it will be a virtual help to them. I also wanted to hear/learn from those who read my posts. But unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. Maybe its because I don’t have many who follow/read my blog, maybe the posts don’t speak to them. I try to make it a point to end each of my posts these last couple years with a question to spark comments, but only on a couple of occasions have dialogues sprouted. I hope that this will change with the #EdublogsClub.

A long time ago, yada, yada, yada…

A couple of years ago, I did get the opportunity to hear from someone, Rafranz Davis, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person at a SMART Global Summit, who encouraged me to continue blogging. When we met face to face she informed me that she enjoyed reading my recommendations but hadn’t recalled one for quite some time. She wished I would post more (at the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear).

Sometimes you don’t know the impact you have on others.

See, I can look on the dashboard at the number of subscribers (11, thank you to each of you who subscribe) but that doesn’t reflect the true reach of your posts (this would be the advice or rather the tip to remember for those starting out). I have a ‘gadget’ setup to automatically tweet when I publish a new post, anyone who reads the blog from that link are unknown to me. Also, I use a service, Feedly, to curate all the blogs I follow; I have no way of knowing how many readers use something similar and have this blog as a favorite. Keep blogging, even if you don’t believe someone is reading, because you never know who is or will be reading. I have on several occasions returned to past posts to recall what I did to setup a workflow or try to remember a tool I recommended a ways back which might help one of my teachers now.

Will you be taking the #EdublogsClub challenge and post this year? I would love to read about it and click your links in the comments below.

This one time, at scout camp…

This past week, Mari Venturino posted to her blog, ‘This one time, at band camp…‘ which reflected on her journey to a career in education. This resonated with me and brought back flashbacks as to why I became an educator.

A long time ago, on an island not so far away…

I grew up in Scouting. My grandfather, father, uncle, and eventually my cousin all at one point or another were in the same troop. Just before the summer of ’98, my scoutmaster at the time was selected to be the camp director of Treasure Island Scout Camp in Pipersville, PA. I was fourteen and he approached me about working at camp. He knew my hobby was woodcarving, which was offered at camp, and he knew it was one area which was hard to fill. I agreed and was hired as a C.I.T. Unbeknownst to me, I would spend the next eight summers on that island.

Camp patch

Sometimes, you never know the lives you touch…

That was a phrase repeated many times during training week, for me, it wouldn’t be true. It was early on in the summer and I was teaching three periods a day of woodcarving merit badge. I wish I still remembered the name of the Tenderfoot scout, but I remember the situation. See he was taking woodcarving, which can be a harder merit badge to achieve, but he had some background experience. His grandfather showed him a thing or two. Well it was on Wednesday morning where he came to me and said that his grandfather passed away and he would be leaving camp on Thursday to head to the funeral. He didn’t think he could finish the badge and wanted to collect his paperwork for a partial (he would have a year to finish the merit badge with any other counselor back home and all the documented requirements would carry over). I told him he was so close to finishing that if he wanted to stay later in the Handicrafts area, basically skipping lunch, I would stay and we could finish up. We worked on the last requirement, a relief carving, he chose to carve a fish. I showed him the techniques of how to hold the knife and which cuts to make, using my block of wood for demonstration. He replicated the movements and cuts on his block of wood. When he finished, he informed me that fishing was another experience his grandfather introduced to him and that he would be placing his finished carving in the casket. He thanked me saying, “Dan, thank you for being a great teacher.” Teacher? I never thought of myself in that light; I only thought of myself as a camp counselor.

Possible carving projects you could complete for the merit badge.

A change of heart, leads to encouragement…

Now fast forward four summers, I am the area director for Handicraft, still teaching woodcarving merit badge. I’m going into my senior year of high school and because of my previous experiences I’m applying as an education major much to the dismay of my dad. At the time, he only thought of teaching as high stress with low pay; not a career he wanted for me. But he wanted to understand why I wanted to pursue this path. Without telling me, he signed up to volunteer a week at camp. This would give him a chance to see what it was I did all summer. On the second day of that week he was amazed. He stopped in during one of my merit badge classes in the morning, took a head count and saw that I was circulating a group of 34 scouts, all with knives in their hands. I would check in with each one, see their progress, give some pointers, and then get everyones attention back on me for a whole group demonstration. He didn’t say a word to me, just observed. Later in the day, he checked in at the health lodge and inquired to how many knife cuts from woodcarving merit badge our health officer treated. Well, our health officer has been with the camp longer than me and was able to tell my dad that since I started instructing the merit badge, the number of injuries due to carving dramatically decreased to maybe one or two for the entire summer. That’s when he knew, education was the path for me.

My journey to becoming an educator started at scout camp. Quite frankly, scout camp was a microcosm of what teaching would be like. Lots of work, many times way after my official hours on duty were over; low pay; hardly any acknowledgment of gratitude; but memories and experiences filled with an abundance of joy; individuals which would become life-long friends; and the knowledge that I went to work everyday happy and excited to be there.

Why did you get become an educator? Please share your story or a link to yours in the comments below.