Warning, this is going to be a long post. I'm not apologizing, but I am giving a fair heads up. Also, it's late and there might be typos. Not apologizing for that one, either. The past week has been so overwhelming that I needed to sit down, digest it, reflect on it, and write about it. In here, there will be some stories, some pictures, some "thank you" letters, and my takeaway from what just happened. As I sit here in McArran Airport in Las Vegas for my gloriously delayed flight (4 hours and counting), it's a perfect time to... GO.
To start the week off, I was asked by the folks at EduCanon to give some ideas and feedback about their new product. We met via GHO and chatted about how to improve their product. The goal is to make the flipped learning experience a little bit more interactive on the student side of a video that gets presented. Within EduCanon, teachers can build in questions and threads of comments that will be triggered by the timing. They still have some work to do before they release their full version, but be on the lookout for them if you flip your classroom.
THE AIRPORT (VOLUME 1)
Usually when I'm traveling, I have great luck with layovers and connectors. Flying is nothing new- I've been fortunate. The first leg was delayed by 30 minutes or so, which was no big deal. The second flight was delayed by almost two hours, which is also not that big of a deal. That is, unless you're being picked up by a friend who you met on Twitter who has generously agreed to drive to the airport to pick you up and let you crash at his place for the night. Karl Lindgren-Streicher didn't have to, but he did. A common theme throughout this week has been the reassurance of how cool my twitter friends are in real life. Without this friendship, I would have rented a car and a hotel room and probably spent a lot of money on gas trying to find my way around town. I cannot thank you enough for reaching out like that.
To make matters worse for Karl, he had to get up early in the morning to present at the MERIT conference, which was almost an hour away from his place. So what do two people do when they get back to safety at 1:00 in the morning? Yes, correct! They have a glass of a delicious home brewed beer. Right... My friends brew their own beer. It was just what was needed after that nonsense of flights.
A few hours later, we made our way over the MERIT conference where I got introduced to some pretty awesome people whom I admire beyond description. Lisa Highfill, David Prindle, Megan Ellis, were all there, and getting to work with Diane Main again was a true treat. While there as a guest of the conference, I had the opportunity to chat with some math teachers about the flipped classroom. I'm passionate about sharing things that teachers can use to evolve their classroom, and the flipped model is just one of many. We talked about the idea, a little about my book, and then chatted about apps. Once TouchCast came up, that's all we talked about. In fact, they asked me to show it to the entire group, so I obliged. Even Lisa, yes Lisa, was blown away! However, this wasn't even close to the highlight of the day.
Next up, a group of high school students (well, recent grads) got up and stunned an audience of teachers with their model that they had created. Club Academia is designed and focused around the students. These students create short, funny, and very engaging videos to help their peers understand the content that they are struggling with. They are more effective than me. To be honest, in some ways, they're probably more effective than all of us. Like Roya was saying in her presentation, we get teenagers because we are teenagers. No debate necessary here.
Somehow, twitter has an incredible way of connecting people. I had seen an app called Drawp get some airplay on Twitter and found it interesting. I downloaded it, played around with it, had my son play around with it, and was impressed with its potential. I threw out a message to them via twitter and, long story short, we set up a meeting after my MERIT experience to talk about their future in secondary education and how it can be customized for older kids in a way that teachers would want to use the app. Download the app and try it. The conversation was rich, full of inquiry and insight into what teachers actually want to see in an app. Woohoo! This app, due to their willingness to listen to teachers, has the potential to leapfrog other whiteboard and early learning apps that are out already.
I've never been involved in a live twitter chat in which the participants, at least some of them, were right in front of me. Honestly, it was a bit weird. As David Malone mentioned, "I came here to hang out and everyone is just talking to each other on twitter". Sorry David, you're right. Sam Patterson put on the chat and had a couple startup companies there who provided some food and brews. The #PATUE chat evolved into a real world conversation with some of the coolest people I know. Once again, I didn't know who any of these people were before twitter. Shame on me. Along with Sam and David, I got to meet Robert Pronovost, the Google Glass ninja. My first review on this is a bit tainted because it was loud and I didn't give it a fair shake, but it wasn't what I was expecting. Plus, it's weird to wear a screen in front of your face. Then again, it was weird to have the internet on your phone a few years ago.
I'm saving a special spot for Drew Minock and Victoria Olson (disregard the fact that she has a ridiculously long twitter handle. Just follow her and be happy). These are young guns in education (I'd like to consider myself young, although the big 3-0 is right around the corner) who have made an enormous impact in a very short amount of time. Drew with his website and Victoria with her Canadian Awesomeness brought me in right away as if we were buddies since junior high. It used to be awkward meeting someone new, finding out about their experiences. With twitter, we already knew each other and had a great deal of respect for each other, so it was a seamless transition. Also, it doesn't hurt when you share the same birthday with someone you have crazy mad respect for. Yep, Victoria and I are basically twins (4 years apart, but that's a minor detail).
Sam knows how to drive, just in case any street course NASCAR teams are looking for substitute drivers. That dude can pull the meanest U-Turn with a Hyundai that I've ever been a part of. Regardless, we made our way to board the USS Hornet, a historical gem. Seeing it from the outside was impressive. Being a part of the aircraft carrier that had as much clout as this was on a completely different level of impressive. Kurt, our tour guide and liaison for the entire time we were onboard, was accommodating and awesome to talk to. He was what every great teacher was: patient, understanding, passionate, and personable. If it weren't for him, the experience wouldn't have been the same.
Since we were presenting, we had the honor of staying on the carrier the night before the conference. Not only that, but we slept in different quarters (the J.O.B.... I still don't know what it means). We took a tour of the carrier and all of us were in awe of her beauty, her history, and the condition that she is still in. That carrier has some swagger in the world of aircraft carriers. We even had an opportunity to check out the CIC room where the crew was constantly working to identify threats and map everything out on the boards. That was worth the price of admission all in itself.
LET IT BEGIN
We started the session with some depressingly brutal Internet issues. Imagine going to a technology conference and there is no Internet. There was our scenario. If we had it, we lost it within minutes. To defend Chris, our IT coordinator for the event, this was the first time that her team had dealt with a group asking to use the Internet on the aircraft carrier. Surprisingly, the USS Hornet was not equipped with the network cables necessary to run 300 devices. Silly them for the lack of foresight. We forged ahead and kicked off CUE Rockstar USS Hornet with an intro from Jon Corippo and Will Kimbley, but they weren't even the stars of the intro. We had a new scapegoat this conference, dubbed the Honey Beaver by Chris. As crazy teachers, we went with it. If something went wrong, we blamed the Honey Beaver.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE THE FOLDER WITH IMAGES TO USE IN YOUR OWN CLASSROOM, PLEASE GO HERE
In the second session, we did the same routine, but a little something new developed at the end of the session. We reconvened and discussed how students can use images and Google Drive to submit work. For anything Google, go check out Alice Keeler's website. From that, the conversation evolved into a tutorial for using Twitter as an educational tool. I was more than happy to share the tool that has turned me into the teacher and student that I am today. As you may already know, I attribute everything I have learned and done in the last 10 months to "The Twitter". One attendee, Melody Phillips, started the conference with 1 follower. After the first day, she was super excited to look at her phone and proclaim that she had 14. Melody is a soon-to-be teacher who is going to have a huge impact, so give her a follow and welcome her to this awesome world.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
When Victoria Olson tells you that you're going to have a drink with Alice and Barton Keeler and Catlin Tucker, you listen. Well, I listened, and we meandered through Alameda to find a rinky-dink bar that had a guy who mysteriously resembled a tattered version of Wolverine as the security guard. It was a hole-in-the-wall setup, which was perfect for a relaxing view of the city and a great chat with some outstanding teachers.
THE BEAT GOES ON
There's no way in the world you can end a night at 8:00 when you have an opportunity to connect with these people in this setting, so we made our way to the fan tail of the ship. While there, Scott Inman, Carrie Ann Gehringer, Kathleen Diver, Erin Lunde, Jon, Drew, Victoria, David, and so many others gathered to chat. We even had a MERIT 13 crew (mentioned way way above) crash the party just in time to see the sun set and join us for the fun. Not on twitter, not through text, but genuine conversation. We talked about anything and everything- school, not school, tech, not tech, and it was awesome. There were some pretty incredible hashtag shenanigans that came up, mostly awkward ones, that kept us laughing for quite some time. I needed that! That, and we had a killer sunset to soak up.
As I made my way down to the berthing (not birthing... totally different) area, I met a volunteer on the carrier named "Doc". He seemed a little sketchy at first, but I quickly found out that this guy was an encyclopedia containing some incredible stories about the Hornet's past. I'm not going to claim to be a history buff, but some things that impressed me about our conversation were (I do not claim these as accurate... They were quickly jotted down using my iPhone):
- Women built the majority of this ship (the men were at war)
- There is a significant prayer that soldiers believe blessed the ship
- The Hornet spent a period in which she didn't port for 18 months
- For 14 of those months, she was in 59 major battles
- The USS Hornet was never hit by enemy fire during those 59 battles
- Only ship in history with that clean of a record
- 10 pilots made "Ace" in one day
I wish I would've taken better notes, truly. Not only for you, but for me. I was just so overwhelmed with the content that was being shared. He closed our conversation saying that soldiers were asked if they were up for the challenge, responding "We're Hornets, sir".
Before we split, he reminded me that "You sleep where Hornets slept". The patriot in me had a profound respect for Doc, the boat, and the men who served aboard her all those years.
You need to leave an impression on people, and I firmly believe in doing so by making them feel good. Well, most of the time. Our second day was sure to be just as much fun as day one, so let's have some fun right off the bat. Being the last shredder in these sessions afforded me the opportunity to pull out some Mr. T, heckling the other presenters and their sessions. The only problem was that the aforementioned Keeler and her timer kicked me off stage before I could even get to what my session was all about. It's alright, it was well worth the time on stage to get people fired up. On top of that, I got an epic shout out from Karl and had Catlin offer an online rebuttal.
During this session, I realized that I don't have to post formulas around the room. Students should work to remember the basic formulas, times tables, number lines, and all of that mess. If they need it, have it available, but make it a step that allows them to think twice. Hiding a times table behind a QR code encourages students to try solving the problem without using that crutch, but providing it in case they need the help (this is all theory and could be completely ridiculous, but it sounded pretty good to us).
Since I had to leave early to make my flight at SFO at 6:05 (which was coming up soon), I asked Drew if he wanted to lead the last hour of my second session. This way, he could continue showing attendees the cool stuff we can be, and will be, doing with Augmented Reality in the classroom. If you don't follow Drew and Victoria, stop reading this, go to twitter, and click their follow buttons. He agreed, but first he and Victoria blew everyone's mind at lunch.
Erin Lunde, a person who JUST met me on Twitter and in person during this conference, happily stepped up and offered this random guy a ride to the BART station so that I could make my flight. We hear about a lot of bad people making bad decisions, good people making bad decisions, and we don't hear a lot about great people like Erin going out of her way to help someone she just met. I'm going to chalk it up to her being a great person, but it also goes to show the power of a PLN. I would do the same for her, or anyone in my PLN, given the opportunity. We're here to support each other, right? The term is vague and the sentiment is genuine, but I just can't thank you enough for what you did.
I got in with an hour to spare, thanks to a 15 minute flight delay, and then completed my flight from SFO to Las Vegas, where I will be stuck for a minimum of 4 hours and 50 minutes. Not that I'm counting or anything, but that's a long time (as you can tell by this insanely long post, if anyone is still reading at all). Here's a test... If you're still reading this, I'll give you..... a high five. Sorry, couldn't take the risk of someone following through.
I am blessed to have met you at EdCamp LA and continue to be blessed by what you offer to my growth as a professional. You are the connector, and a really good one at that. You're the only one crazy enough to pick me up from the airport, and didn't even bat an eye. You went out of your way to help a friend and I truly appreciate it. This is just the beginning of the projects and impactful work that we will work on together that will change this world.
Thank you so much for setting up the chat and offering your genuine appreciation for relationships to all of us. I felt welcomed by you and your actions, never feeling like an outsider or isolated. As with the online experience and your puppets, you make life fun and that has been solidified this week.
My twin, yes, but more than that. You're the friend that we all need in our lives. Laughing, chatting, and hanging out like we had known each other for years was an incredibly rewarding outcome of the trip. I can't wait to learn from you throughout your upcoming adventures (and possible job!). Oh, and I want some in-n-out the next time you're out and about :) You're coming down to Southern California next year for an event or two (or more), and we'll continue the hashtag shenanigans
What you bring to the table is the energy and passion that I so desperately needed. Not just for Augmented Reality and the forthcoming successes that you are about to be a part of (and already are), but the passion to be connected, learn from others, and develop those relationships that were started from twitter. I have a ton of respect for your drive and feel fortunate to call you a friend.
This is all your fault. Putting out on twitter "I need a badass math teacher" piqued my curiosity. Thank goodness it did, because the connections that have come up since then are all accredited to that conversation. Your school epitomized the model that you strive for, your desire to bring the very best opportunities to the students and for the students, in a way that students need. With that same approach, you have developed a rock solid model in the CUE Rockstar conference that is sure to forge a national style of conferences that is dedicated to empowering teachers by bringing out their Rockstar Status and showing them how much they can do with the tools available. The jokes and banter subliminally deliver the message, but the true message is clear: thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the dedicated person that you are.
"We're CUE Hornets, sir"