Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Language Barriers, Time Zone Challenges, and More Lessons from E2

Two years ago, I was selected to attend the Education Exchange (E2) in Australia but prior to going, the conference was delayed and then canceled. Now, in 2022, E2 has gone virtual. While it means I don't get to travel to Australia (yet) it also means that I had an amazing opportunity. I was selected to be part of a team of four to present one of the breakout sessions.

Sadly, one of our four team members never responded to emails so we ended up a team of three. But we were a magnificent team of three. That is of course once we finally got started. That was one of the major lessons I learned from this experience. All three of us were located in different time countries (United States, South Africa, and Viatnam) which meant three time zones and two languages.

Our team
When we were first teamed up, it took a while to find that time that worked for all of us and it seemed we were all of the mindset that we didn't want to start on our own and waited for the others. Finally, I created a Word file in OneDrive and we all started just free-flowing our ideas and commenting on each others. Then, one of my teammates created the Powerpoint template and we all added slides to the deck. It was slow because there was long wait periods between feedback and changes but eventually we got it together, with less than 24-hours to spare. 

This experience was a great learning experience and I look forward to when E2 is held in person again.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Spam Filter Enabled

This is a little sad, but I had to turn on comment moderation for my blog. As of right now, I don't get many comments on posts here, but within the last week I had over half my posts, new and old, receive random comments. All filled with text about online casinos and hyperlinks to... I don't know, I didn't click the links. 

I deleted the comments and felt it necessary to turn on comment moderation. This means that if you would like to comment on one of my posts, I will get an email and need to manually approve the comment. I want everyone to comment on my blog even if they disagree with me, but I need to prevent these spam posts. I promise that as long as your comment is related to the blog I will approve it to be displayed, even if I disagree with you. The only comments I will ignore are ones such as those casino spamming comments. 

I have a feeling these spammers are trying to build their SEO by having random websites link back to their site. What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization. I only am beginning to understand marketing and SEOs as I've taken a bunch of courses through LinkedIn Learning and HubSpot. The basics and what I believe the unfortunate purpose of these spam comments is that search engines such as Google and Bing rank sites based on their validity and popularity. Therefore, if more people link to a site it improves that site's ranking on the search engine. Links for ranking purposes must come from external sites. For example, if I link this post to a previous post, that won't affect either post's ranking because they are internal links. 

Page 3 of a Google search
Side note: While going to grab a screenshot of a Google Search, I discovered on page three of searching my name, I've finally been published. I wrote an essay almost two years ago and submitted it for an anthology on mentorship in education. I remember signing papers giving permission to publish it but I never heard anything after that so I forgot about it. I guess the lesson is sometimes it's worth going past page two of search results.



Thursday, February 10, 2022

In Person Again, FETC 2022

Figment of my imagination.
In my first return to the new normal, I spent the last week of January in Orlando attending FETC. This was not only my first time attending FETC, it was also the first in-person conference I have attended since the initial shutdowns began. It was exciting to be with my peers again for the first time since January 2020, but it was also a little scary. The world has changed a lot in the last two years, but one thing remained the same - teachers attending conferences to learn new tricks, tips, and programs to bring back to their local communities.

My trip to FETC began with a day where Murphy's Law ruled. The entire morning represented the expression "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong" but eventually I arrived at the airport and checked-in for my flight. When I landed in Orlando, I knew everything was looking up when Figment greeted me at the airport. You don't know Figment? He's the underappreciated mascot of Epcot, a Figment of my Imagination. Eventually, I arrived at the hotel and made a plan for the next day.

Day 1 (False Start)

MIEExpert Road2E2 jackets
seen in the wild.

One thing I learned, a little too late, is that the first day of FETC is all premium workshops. This means that you needed to register and pay for a premium registration to attend. Therefore, after I checked in and got my nametag, there wasn't anything for me to do. So what did I do? I spent the day relaxing and maybe I did a little shopping.

Before long, it was time to meet up with my MIEExpert family for dinner and a reunion. Our dinner lasted so long it was amazing the restaurant didn't kick us out. Not only was it the MIEEs, but we were joined by the awesome teams of Flipgrid and Wakelet as we all caught up on two years.

I not only reunited with friends and peers. I also made new friends and connections. 

Day 2 (The Real Start)

Wednesday morning revealed the true FETC beginning. I started my morning by trying to attend a session on making professional development engaging but it was standing room only so I ended up leaving. Made my way over to Microsoft's room and found that was standing room only also, but there was enough room near the door that I stayed to listen to Leslie Fisher talk about Teams and OneNote.

Collage from the expo hall.
The keynote was much better in the sense that there was plenty of space to social distance. The speaker focused of SEL and encouraged positive psychology to help students and colleagues (and self) through the stressful times known as Covid-19.

I spent a good amount of the day in the expo hall learning about new products and features of products I already knew before trying to attend a few other sessions. One thing I will say about FETC is that because it was the first in-person conference and because I was really nervous about being in crowds I missed out on a bunch of sessions I wanted to attend because they were all popular. 

Wednesday night, I was invited to an event hosted by Nearpod and it did not disappoint. I am not part of Nearpod's PioNear program like I am with Microsoft's MIEE program, but they welcomed me at their dinner anyway and made me feel like family.

Day 3

Day three started with another Keynote and more networking. In the afternoon, it was my turn to present a session on Digital Whiteboarding. My session was scheduled for one of the mini theaters in the expo hall which was great because tons of people were stopping to watch for a few minutes between checking out the vendors.

A Canva template.
I had planned demos of a few different whiteboarding apps to compare them and show how teachers can use certain templates, such as those from Canva, with a variety of whiteboard softwares. For example, if a teacher wanted to use Canva's template for a Team Check-in as the background for both Microsoft Whiteboard and Google Jamboard. It can also be used in programs such as Nearpod and Peardeck.

Murphy's Law reared its ugly head again as I had a lot of wifi issues during my session. Luckily, Microsoft Whiteboard is not 100% cloud-based so while I couldn't demo the cloud and collaboration, I was able to demonstrate the Windows 10 whiteboarding app. While the cloud was not cooperating, I did have my slide deck in PowerPoint so I was able to also show screenshots and discuss some pedagogy including the awesome templates on Canva.

After the Conference

Miami Beach
Due to the snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic, airlines warned about flight delays and cancelations, so I managed to change my flight home from Friday to Sunday and from Orlando to Miami. I then got a ride from another MIEExpert that was heading home to Miami and spent the weekend with my aunt. Since I was following his schedule for Friday, I did leave FETC before the final day was over but luckily I was able to accomplish everything I had hoped to while attending FETC.







Disclaimer: As a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert (MIEE), I was fortunate to have my registration and travel covered by Microsoft as a presenter using Microsoft tools. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Need to Find a Larger 3D Scanner

Uploaded model to Tinkercad
A while ago, I was at an expo for a half marathon when one vendor was offering free health scans. It was a system called fit3d. While the system really is used to determine body fat, muscle mass, and other health-related measurements that's not why I'm writing about it. The system also created a 3D image of your body. 

When I was looking at some fitness programs to consider right now, one gym was offering a free scan when you joined. They had mentioned that after the free scan, you could purchase a package of additional scans to get an accurate comparison of your progress. This reminded me of the scan I already did so I went to the website. After resetting my unknown password via email, I was able to access the history with my previous scan. Then I saw that not only was there a 3D avatar of my body to see on the page, but it could also be exported as an OBJ file. Well of course you obviously know what I did. I printed my bust. How cool is this? 
Printed bust

I know I've seen some small 3D scanners so now I'm wondering how we can replicate this for students. I don't think schools are going to purchase this fitness scanner, but maybe there is a less expensive scanner. Or some method of manually scanning a person's head or something. Perhaps the opposite of a panoramic image.

This is definitely something I am going to look into more. Perhaps I'll find the solution next week at FETC. 




Monday, January 3, 2022

Being Taught How to Use a Chromebook by my Nephew

 Over the new year, I spent an extended weekend with my family. It was a much needed vacation but the best part was my excited five-year-old nephew showing me his new school issued Chromebook. He just started kindergarten this year and every experience has been new after his last year in daycare and pre-k was mostly virtual or non-existent.

The first thing he wanted to show me was his new Chromebook. He was so excited to have a big kid computer. I loved seeing the practical use of all these programs and devices that I study and learn about. Since I work with mostly secondary teachers and was a secondary teacher before leaving the classroom, I wasn't sure how the younger students would do. Well, I'm impressed. Am I impressed with him or his teachers though? Or the Ed Tech companies that make the products? I think it's a combination of them all.

Chome "Beachball" Icon
To start, he used a Clever QR code to login to the computer, but his Google login was also on a sticker on the palm rest. I wasn't happy about the sticker with his password for obvious reasons, but I understand that he's five and the district probably needed to do something. I just hope they don't do this for everyone.

He had his QR code on a small piece of paper that was sandwiched in the closed computer and I did comment to my sister that I was surprised they didn't at least laminate it. She informed me that they have multiple copies and the classroom teacher has extra if it gets lost. My nephew showed me where to click on the screen and then how to hold the paper up to the camera to login.

His Chromebook is a touch screen and I think that was a good thing because I didn't once see him use the track pad. I'm not sure if he knows how and finds the touch easier, but I didn't ask. He did type a few keys when he pecked at some numbers.

Once logged in, he told me that I needed to click the beachball to open the computer. Yes, he called it a beachball and when I looked at it, I was surprised I never noticed that before. This is what I mean about kindergarten teachers knowing how to reach their students. 

His district has defaulted the Clever page as the home tab so it automatically opened a page with all his bookmarks. When I started to type a page directly in the omnibar my sister actually looked up from what she was doing and reminded me not to "mess up" his computer because he wouldn't know how to access anything. In her defense, I do have a reputation for changing things on family members' computers (video clip from The IT Crowd that represents me trying to help) however I never mess with core functions or features.

My nephew pointed to Dreambox and was excited to show me all the games and avatars. I have heard of this program before but never actually used it, so I learned a lot by having him guide me through it. Seriously, he kept referring to it as games, never once referring to it as math. I love that. He was voluntarily practicing his math skills and referring to it as games. As someone that grew up on Reader Rabbit and Math Blasters, I completely agreed with this mentality. 

Just a few bookmarks I saw on his Clever page:

  • BrainPop
  • Discovery Education
  • DreamBox
  • Google Classroom
  • Newsela
  • Renaissance Learning
  • Typing Club

I really enjoyed learning about the Chromebook from the eyes of my nephew. Seeing his excitement about both the technology and school was great. Knowing how important the kindergarten experience as the first introduction to school, I'm glad to see that halfway through his first year he's having such a positive experience.