Showing My Work!

It's time to practice what I preach. In my keynote I talk about the importance of take small steps each day, failing, and repeating.  I believe I work hard, and I love tinkering on new ideas, however, I do a terrible job of showing my work.  Life is flying by so quickly and I'm not creating a digital achieve.  

In the past I would wait until I had a (what I thought was) good idea, a point that I wanted to make, before I would come to my blog.  For some reason I was concerned what others might think, whether my thoughts were "good enough" to be published. That's no way of going about my business. 

That's why, starting today, February 5, 2015, I'm going to do a better job of showing my work.  Some days it may be a stream of consciousness. Others, it might be a formal post that attempts to make some bigger point. Regardless, it's time to stop sitting around and start shipping.  

The author Austin Kleon talks about the importance of showing your work and illustrates how a small amount of work each day can lead to something much larger. 

The author Austin Kleon talks about the importance of showing your work and illustrates how a small amount of work each day can lead to something much larger. 

Winter Break Project Idea: White House Film Festival

Looking for the perfect project to challenge your students as they head off for the holiday break? The White House [student] Film Festival is just the ticket.  This year's theme is "service" and K-12 students from the United States are eligible to submit a short video (3 minutes or less) on the theme of giving back. 

Send your students to to learn more! All submissions are due January 20. 

Here are some of my favorite videos from last year's competition: 

How (and why) to Create Interactive YouTube Videos

As we begin to understand the strengths and limitations of online and video instruction, it is important that teachers are equipped with the skills necessary to create their own high quality educational videos. A transition to digital classroom models should not mean a reduced role for the teacher. By leveraging digital tools, teachers can augment their role and extend their instructional voices beyond the classroom walls. 

Here are ways you can use interactive YouTube videos: 

Create interactive books: In this video I've taken the traditional read aloud and broken it into four separate videos. When the student arrives at the end of the first segment they are required to make a make a decision. Once they select their answer, the second video in the playlist will load. 

Curate great resources: With iPads and smartphones, the days of a list of blue links are limited. In this video I've linked off to four other videos that help students learn about types of chemical reactions. 


Review critical questions:  In this video I've taken a single exam question and turned it into an interactive experience for the students. Anytime they get the answer incorrect, there will be a video of me explaining why it's incorrect before they try again. The entire experience is four videos. 


Here is a video tutorial on how to make your own interactive YouTube videos

The Dung Ball - Progress Through Failure

This weekend I had the opportunity to meet with teachers in Frederick Maryland and Manchester Connecticut.  I love doing these talks. It's an incredible rush to know that because of your message a teacher is ready to put him or herself out there and try something new in their classroom. Maybe it's finding an alternative to a worksheet they've used for ten years, or creating a video so that students can access the material at home. 

The topic of failure is often preached at our events, and there are fantastic examples of people who have taken a risk and it hasn't worked out.  However, that doesn't make it any easier. Anytime I fail I get incredibly nervous and fear what others may think.  So much so that I will begin thinking of ways to frame the mistake so that it lessens the blow.   What I've started to do, however, is start with the cold hard truth. I made a mistake. This didn't work. In other words, I failed. 

When I was in the classroom, I had times where my test scores were lower than they were supposed to be.  I've forgotten critical deadlines that led to missed opportunities. I've empowered students to publish online, only later discovering that what they posted was very inappropriate and potentially damaging to the school's reputation. 

I now believe that those failures help us discover who we are. Every time a mistake happens, we are forced to look in the mirror and realize that we're not as good as we would like to be. Over time, we begin amassing a huge collection of mistakes, or as I like to call it, a dung ball.  This ball of "*@*@" is who we are, and it motivates us to be better next time; to continue searching for the correct path forward. 

Don't try to hide your dung ball. Own it. It's who you are. You will be surprised how relieving it is to know that even the worst about us is out. There's something to be said about not giving others the chance to hold something against you. Because you're so up front with pointing out your failures it can no longer sit in the back of your mind and keep you for taking the next big risk. 

I've cross-posted this blog on our company's blog. I hope to see you at the next EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google Apps for Education in your area. 


5 places to find great (EDU) videos

I love me some good educational video.  With more than 72 hours of new content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, finding great videos to use in class is a daunting task.  Here are the resources I use for finding great videos. 

As always, remember to watch every minute of the video you plan on showing in class!  

1. Devour is a website where they curate a handful of videos every day. Not all the videos shared here are educational.  I like to drop by the site a few times a week to see if something catches my attention. 

2. The Kids Should See This is the creation of a mom and her two kids. The blog site features great videos that you (and your kids!) should see.  The curation skills here are top notch

3. ShowYou is the Swiss Army Knife of video aggregator tools, pulling in videos from all over the web. The best feature is that you can add your Twitter and Facebook accounts and quickly see all the videos people in your PLN are sharing.

4. Vimeo Staff Picks is a great place to discover high quality, usually artistic videos. The staff frequently feature animated shorts created by students in digital arts schools. These videos are perfect or language arts classes. 

5. YouTube Trends is the official YouTube blog where Googlers discuss the latest video trends around the world.  It's a fantastic place to get the story behind a viral video or the latest internet meme. 

Friday's Education Video Roundup (8/29)

I'm an educational video fanboy and it's a major bummer that my current work keeps me from spending hours watching all the new videos coming out.  However, I'm going to try to put out a weekly roundup of the best videos from the week.  Without further ado, here are some of the best:  

How do stones move in the desert? 

How does a bean become a fart? 

What's the value of the Earth?

What happens when I drink coffee? 

How will packages be delivered in the future? 

Why do we draw stars the way we do?  

Am I next? 

It's important to end with a smile... Don't share this one with your students. :) 

Three Rules for Getting S*** Done

I've struggled for months to find a system that maximizes my productivity and keeps me focused on accomplishing my goals. I've tried dozens of paper and electronic solutions: apps, notebooks, sticky notes, you name it.... I'm writing about my latest system because I am far more productive now than I was with any of the previous attempts.

Workflow is very personal. This is not a prescription for success, just one guy's process for getting s*** done. 

1) Write it down: This post (6 Things The Most Organized People Do...) makes a great argument for why you should write everything down.  I spent a lot of time trying to hold information in my head. I'd used to take haphazard notes on Evernote, google docs, Post-Its, and notebooks. However, I never went back to the notes, and forgot many of the todos that were recorded. 

 I finally found a system that works for me. I have a single Evernote doc where I keep all my todos. I look at that document every morning and I move all the tasks that I want to accomplish that day into calendar events. Each completed item gets moved to the "completed tasks" section at the bottom.  I create a clean document every month and only move over the items still on my plate. 

2) Calendar it: I create a detailed calendar for each day, scheduling all the tasks that I want to accomplish that day. My calendar becomes my dedicated staff member, reminding me what I need to get done and when.  I try to over budget time on tasks so that when I work efficiently I can get free time back. This allows me to go into the evening with a clear mind and focus on relaxing and spending time with the people I care about.  

3) Email as an event: I fell into the trap of letting my inbox dictate what I worked on. I found myself reacting to other people's requests rather than progressing on my own goals. In order to minimize the distractions, I've transitioned to a system where I process email at set times during the day.  I spend time with email first thing in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the day, and once in the late afternoon.

When I open my email, I go through each message and "process it."  I use the two minute rule and knock out anything that can be handled immediately.  For messages that require more time I copy the link and add the task to my Evernote document in the appropriate category.

This allows me to keep my inbox at zero and ensure that no important correspondence gets lost. I use gmail shortcuts to speed up this process (the big three being e for archive, r for reply, and tab-enter). 

I'm always looking to improve my systems, send me a message on twitter if you have other tips and tricks that help you.