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.

Looking for Some Feedback…

I toyed around with an idea for a lesson activity talking about Logos and their hidden meanings. A couple of years ago, I worked with a group of third-grade teachers on a project where the students had to create a logo which represented them. We discussed a couple of logos which I presented through about ten slides. This was more talking than I wanted, but at the time I was against the clock and had to come up with something. Now, using Nearpod, I created a more interactive session. Check it out below and I would love some feedback, i.e. ideas, suggestions, improvements, etc. Please leave me comments to reflect on.

Motivating Attendance to PD through Scratch Offs

I’ve been trying to figure out different ways to get more teachers to come out for PD sessions. My most recent attempt was… bribery!

I read a blog post a while back on how to create DIY (do-it-yourself) scratch offs. They are quite simple to make:

  • Paper
  • Clear contact paper or Clear packing tape
  • Silver paint
  • Dish soap

I had, from my elementary classroom teacher days, a square punch-out (similar to this) which I used to cut out squares of clear contact paper. The Google Drawing embedded below was a template I used for the scratch offs. Want your own copy?

I place the clear contact paper over the grey section of the scratch off then mix equal parts of paint and dish soap. I apply that (2-3 coats) on the contact paper and when dry it will act as a scratch off. This means they are reusable!

I reached out to my building admin for some prizes like their parking spots, Dippin’ Dots, I have a box of swag items collected from various conferences, and recently we purchased 20 dongles for our chromebooks. All of these are potential winning prizes.

My last PD session in November, I announced that each attendee would receive a scratch off for attending and at the end of the session they would see if/what they won. Check out the last slide from the presentation (I love the gifs)

What have you received to tried to do to boost attendance to voluntary PD events? I would love to find out in the comments below.

A Coaching Win…The Story of Kelly Lee

Recently I read a post, one in a series, by Adam Schoenbart titled ‘The Coaching Chronicles: Small Victories, Big Impact‘. It reminded me of a “victory” I had the pleasure of hearing about this week.

A little back story, right around the time I posted ‘A Teacher Inquires…‘, a different teacher in my building, Kelly Lee, reached out to me about doing badging in her 6th grade Science class. She wanted to connect this to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) where the students would answer open-ended questions around Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs). She organized all her materials through a ThingLink, the end step being a Google Form (only accessible to our domain) where the students would answer two questions:

In your own words, how would you describe what makes living things, living?

What evidence can you provide that you, yourself, meet the requirements of something that is living? Explain.

She would then go into the Google Sheet of responses each day, review the answers, and in a column enter a 1 or 0 to signify to FormMule (a Google Sheet add-on) which email template to send.

Earlier this week, she showed me the next badge the students could earn, “Cell Savant”. But she also changed the management side. On her own, Kelly explored how to have the process completely automated. Utilizing the Quiz feature in Google Forms, students answer a series of questions which get automatically graded. An additional column is added to the Google Sheet of responses which utilizes CopyDown (another Google Sheet add-on) to insert a formula [=if(C_=12, 1, 0)]. This 1 or 0 would again be the trigger for FormMule to either send an email with the badge or an email informing the student as to what their score was, resources to look at for a refresher, and the link to submit the Form again. Both email templates also include .gifs of encouragement or congratulations. Hearing this process, which was completely self-directed on Kelly’s part, made this tech coach beam with pride!

So to Kelly, I include your .gif here to show my congratulations to you:


Have you had any coaching/teaching wins this week? I would love to read about them below.

Google Cast for Education

From time to time, I like to recommend different tech tools which I feel can easily be incorporated in classrooms and change the instructional practices of teachers.

One such tool is Google Cast for Education. I can’t describe it any better than the video they created:

In a classroom setting, I can now have students wirelessly share their chromebook screen to my device connected to a projector and guide the class through what they are working on, researching, discovered, created, etc.

Below are screenshot directions I created as a resource (click the link for your own copy) for my teachers:

Have you used Google Cast for Education? Please let me know about your experiences in the comments below.