Saturday, February 27, 2016

Making Time for Professional Development

I've been an educator for 21 years.  The world has changed quite a bit in this time period - we have seen the emergence of the internet, mobile devices, Silicon Valley heating up the Bay Area housing market, and much more.  When a person makes the choice to become an educator, s/he must understand that, no matter what, we will always be held to a higher standard.

Educators are lifelong learners.  It is very rare that you teach 30 years one time; an effective teacher teaches one year 30 times, always seeking for improvement, better ideas, better methods. So the question is, how do we make time for professional development?

This question has haunted me.  I once had a colleague that attended every conference known to man (ok, kind of an exaggeration), but there was never that next step - how do you implement what was learned? How can the learning improve the teaching and learning.

I've learned over the years that attending a conference, WASC accreditation, or visiting other institutions to learn best practices can be the most important professional development.  It's wonderful when a school or district provides release days for teachers, and sometimes the "expert" really is next store.  However, without branching out, we become stagnant.

Professional development really comes down to leadership and goals.  I know as well as anybody else that we can manipulate data and information to make it look the way we want.  But are we changing and improving our practice?  Are we going against the grain, looking ahead, and TRULY preparing our students for the 21st century?  Are our teachers and administrators prepared for the 21st century?  We must make time for professional development - send teams of teachers to events with specific goals in mind and implement improvement to enhance the overall experience for everybody - especially our students.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Saturday's Presentation for California League of Schools

Tomorrow (Saturday, February 27), I will be presenting for the California League of Schools at their Annual Conference - North.  I have always believed in paying it forward and sharing challenges and successes I've had as a professional.  I've been affiliated with the league since 2001 - great folks!

I'll be sharing the presentation embedded below -

I've blogged about my district's adoption and use of DocuSign with Google docs and its use for streamlining many other processes.  It's been a fun ride, but full of challenges as well.  Changing process and culture is never easy.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Making Connections?

I tend to keep my political opinions to myself.  Well, most of the time.  It's weird how events intertwine and we see our own connections between the events.

Tomorrow night, FX will air the 4th of 11 episodes of The People vs. OJ Simpson, based on the novel by Jeffrey Toobin, The Run of His Life: The People vs. OJ Simpson.  I equate watching this to visiting the 911 Memorial in New York.  Let me explain...

I am a history major.  Find me a Civil War battlefield, take me to Washington DC - I'm in heaven.  The history I studied in college was history I did NOT live through.  The OJ Simpson "fiasco" and 911 are historical events we LIVED through.  I remember visiting Ground Zero in July of 2012.  I couldn't even speak.  Remember that day?  Who could forget.  It was my daughter's first day of preschool (she is now a Freshman at UC Santa Cruz) and I simply could not make sense of it.  America, attacked.

Then I think back to the OJ Simpson trial - events leading up to it and events since.  I wasn't particularly excited to watch this FX miniseries, but Toobin's book got a great review and he went inside each of the main characters.  In Episode 3 last week, it became apparent to Toobin, a legal journalist who covered the trial for The New Yorker, that the defense team was going to make the trial about race.  [Side note:  our country is obsessed with race - perhaps a way of trying to make sense of our past?]    I remember as this trial unfolded - it was such a circus, such a "show," yet many forgot that two people were murdered!  The defense was brilliant in the fact that they did EXACTLY what Donald Trump is currently doing as he seeks the Republican nomination for President - playing on people's emotion, not their common sense.

Common sense is something that many forget they have or never use.  Evidence does not lie, but it can be picked apart, questioned, and lead ignorant individuals to believe anything.   Did the LAPD and District Attorney's office handle the case correctly?  Probably not.  However, as "spectators" it's easy for us to criticize when we are not living the situation and handling factors that are beyond our control.  This murder was not a race issue - it was a crime.  A crime committed by one human against two others.

I think our system is out of whack.  Some people actually think OJ is innocent.  People are supporting Trump, who has never held a political office, has declared bankruptcy time and again, and wants to imitate Hitler with his "Muslim Solution."    Our country was founded on the principle that we should all be treated equally.  We are a melting pot, a tossed salad.  We cannot govern on our religious beliefs.  Being an American means we understand and tolerate.  There's a lot of our history that we are not proud of, nor should we be, but it's never too late to do the right thing.  I have many friends who are Muslim; I would hate for them to feel unwelcome in OUR country - ours and theirs.  

OK... enough.  That's my non-tech rant.  No more politics.  Go Bernie!?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Update: Wearable Technology

Last month I wrote how I tried it all - FitBit (various models) as well as the Apple Watch.  I've been "wearable" device free for over a month.

Guess what?  I have not gained weight, I have continued to exercise and eat well.  And I have felt liberated not to be connected all of the time.  Interestingly enough, a friend of mine sent me this article last month from the NY Times.  The article claims that wearable technology does not end up on your wrist in the long run.  Like many other things in our homes, it ends up in the junk drawer.

Another article recently released claims that  smart watches will overtake fitness bands.  I do think it will be interesting to see how this market evolves and if it has staying power.  If anything, at least it is making many Americans far more aware of monitoring their health, exercising more, and hopefully making better decisions with their diet.

On another note, I recently bought a new car - I upgraded from my 2007 Ford Explorer (which I loved but killed me on gas and started having continual problems) to a 2015 Nissan Rogue.  The Rogue was brand new - nobody bought it from this dealership in 2015, so I got a great deal, given that the 2016's are out now.  The technology that now exists in vehicles blows my mind.  I do like the ability to answer the phone or read a text without touching my phone.  The satellite radio and navigation system is amazing.  The backup camera is unreal.  But I also see many of these things as distractions.  I've been arriving at destinations and not remembering how I got there.  The backup camera is a huge adjustment - I am still more comfortable turning my head and looking around.  The "blind spot" sensors are cool, but the moment I get into my wife's car or daughter's car, I am going to have to re-adjust.

One of my mentors once told me that the only constant is change.  He was right.  I think back to the first brand new vehicle I bought - a 1994 Ford Ranger.  Standard cab, no power steering, no air conditioning, no power windows.  $7999.  I was 23 years old.  My stepson is 24 years old - just upgraded from a 1998 Ford Ranger to a 2014 GMC Sierra with every feature one can imagine.  He couldn't believe it when I told him about my 1994 Ranger.  But it was mine and I was damn proud of it.  My, how times have changed and we have become a "spoiled" society.  Somebody once said, "Less is more."  That person may have been right.

Find My iPhone...

I know we all have our own preferences and opinions about products - welcome to the free market of capitalism and democracy.  There are many anti-Apple folks out there, and I respect their reasons, although I probably disagree.  I'll be honest, I tried the Android route before.  But I am spoiled.  Apple products may cost a bit more, but the seamless synching, consistency, and ease of use is unparalleled.

Last year, my secretary accidentally (of course this was by accident) dropped her phone into the garbage bin next to her desk.  She left work, realized she didn't have her phone, and so the story goes.  The next day, after turning her car inside out, etc and dealing with Verizon, a friend of hers suggested to use "Find my iPhone."  Guess what?  It ended up being in a dumpster at work - our custodian emptied the trash in our building, didn't notice the phone in there, and the garbage ended up where it was supposed to.  We were able to recover her iPhone.  I seriously was in awe.

Yesterday, I had to use this feature for the first time... I left the gym, started driving home, and went to make a call in my car, when I realized my car told me, "No Phone Connected."  Panic.  Stress.  Pulled over - went through my gym bag, my pockets, next level of stress kicks in.  I went back to the gym and looked in the locker room.  Nothing.  Front desk - nothing turned in.  I drove home, ready to cancel my phone and my Visa debit card (yep, in the case of my phone, along with my driver's license), when my stepson says, "Track it with 'Find my iPhone.'"  I guess stress got the better part of me because I didn't even think of this.  So we locate the phone and it appears to be in the gym parking lot!  I take my stepson's phone with me and go on my hunt.  He claimed it was moving, turned off - then back on, etc.  On my hands and knees in the parking lot, going through bushes.  Finally he says, "I'll send the alert to the phone so you can hear it."  Long story short, I walked back into the gym and the girl at the front desk had my phone.  I left it on the elliptical I had been using.  Feeling stupid, I played dumb, thanked them, and was on my way.  Debit card and driver's license in tact.  Dodged a bullet.  Never leaving Apple.  Never....