Where Did He Learn THAT?

IMAG0026My oldest son, Davis, loves football!  Not just playing the game, or watching it on TV, but everything about the sport!  He’s a walking encyclopedia of football history, player stats, and current team news.  

Last weekend, while we were watching the NFL Pro Bowl, he pointed out key players before the commentators could say anything.  I found it humorous how he would share information with our family about the player’s previous college experience, draft pick, and every team he had ever played for, only to hear the commentators repeat the same information soon after.  At one point, the commentator and my son called a player by different names.  The sportscaster quickly corrected his error!  Mind blown!

IMAG0025This week we watched a really interesting story about the history of the Super Bowl.  Davis could tell me who won, who was MVP, and interesting facts about the game, from every Super Bowl!  

Where did he learn that?  I can tell you, without a doubt, it wasn’t from me!  I enjoy watching football, but I know very little about the history of the game, specific stats about players and teams, or current information about specific teams. To be honest, I can’t even throw a spiral!

IMAG0028I believe he learned so much about football because he has developed a deep interest in it.  He reads blogs and online news reports, watches ESPN, and pays close attention to the details of the sport.  He writes his own blog on NFLRush.com, and follows players and teams on Twitter.    

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could help kids find that same drive and passion for learning in school?  I think we can!  

Last week I was sitting in on a parent/teacher conference.  At one point, the parents explained to the teachers that their child had spent three hours on a powerpoint for class.  The teachers were confused, because they had not assigned a powerpoint, and certainly wouldn’t have expected the students to spend three hours on an assignment!   After a little more conversation, the teachers discovered that the “assignment” was a “Genius Hour” project that was optional for the students.  Students who wished to participate would present their project to the class at the end of the week.  From what I gathered during the meeting, the students could research anything that interested them. This particular student spent three hours that evening on an optional project about snakes!  How cool is that?  

Kids have the potential to blow our minds with their learning!  We just have to give them opportunities to find their passion and to develop it!  As educators, we have to find ways to make math relevant, writing meaningful, and science exciting!  

By the way, if you haven’t read it yet, Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess is an amazing book about helping students find their passion!  


Twitter Confirms it is Indeed a Small World!

I want to take a minute to show you just how small our world has become because of Twitter and other social media:

Screenshot 2014-01-19 11.13.10Last week I came across a Twitter Chat that intrigued me.  #PTChat is known throughout the country (and beyond!) for its engaging discussions with parents and teachers, about relevant educational topics.  Last week, #PTChat was talking about using Twitter as a communication tool for teachers and administrators.  Our school believes in the power of Twitter, and we encourage our teachers and administrators to share classroom and campus information through this social media tool. I was excited to share some ideas, and learn from others through this chat.

Screenshot 2014-01-19 11.37.00During the chat, my friend (through Twitter) Gwen Pescatore, a parent from Knapp Elementary in Pennsylvania, gave a shout out to our school’s weekly chat, #TMSHawkChat.  It’s an informal discussion that our principal moderates each Tuesday evening at 8:00 pm., and it gives us an opportunity for two way communication with our community.

Screenshot 2014-01-19 11.39.46Screenshot 2014-01-19 11.40.35Screenshot 2014-01-19 11.41.22As it turns out, a principal and her students from Wisconsin were also participating in #PTChat, and picked up on Gwen’s tweet about our school chat.  The principal, Melissa Emler, asked her student group, Shullsburg Pride, to gather information about our school chat to participate, and possibly gain ideas for their own chat. Gwen graciously offered the info they needed, and mentioned me and our principal in her tweet.  Melissa noticed that she and I were actually teamed up (randomly) by George Couros, to participate in a new Twitter based program called the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP).

So….if you’re playing along at home, let me summarize:

  • Random people from around the country participate in a #PTChat session
  • A teacher asks about school specific chats, and someone mentions #TMSHawkChat
  • The teacher recognizes me as a member of her twitter community.

And that’s how small our Twitter World is!  Even though we’ve never physically met, I feel like Gwen, Melissa, and I are already connected.  I imagine if we ever ran across each other at a conference, workshop, or airport, we’d pick up where we left off on Twitter…we’ve already met.

#TMSHawkChat meets every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CST (when school is in session).  The discussion is informal, and is usually centered around a relevant and timely educational topic. Teachers, administrators, parents, students, and guests are always welcome!  
#PTChat meets on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. CST.  It has become the premiere Twitter Chat for parent/teacher discussions.  Join others from around the world as they discuss topics that are important to teachers, parents, and the community.  
Not sure how to participate in a Twitter Chat?  Check out this informative page from Cybraryman, which includes a Quick Start Guide to Participating in a Twitter Chat.

Where’s My Flash Drive?

nousb“Where’s My Flash Drive?”

  • Teacher: Where’s your project?
  • Student: On my flash drive.
  • Teacher: It was due last week, can you turn it in now?
  • Student: Ummm…I don’t have it.
  • Teacher: You don’t have it?
  • Student: No…I lost my flash drive.  I think it’s in my locker….or at home…or maybe my backpack….or…

images (1) There’s a better way, people!  

This year, our district joined Google Apps for Education.  This means that every student in the district now has a Google Account, and with it, a Google Drive, with tons of free storage!  Why not use Google Drive instead of a flash drive for your storage needs?  It just makes sense!

Untitled spreadsheetSharing

With a flash drive, you must physically turn in your thumb drive to your teacher, provided you remembered to bring it from home!

With Google Drive, you can easily share your project with your teacher. Now it’s already turned in! Every time you update your project, your teacher receives the update immediately.  You can never use “I lost it” as an excuse again!


When you store a document on a flash drive, your teacher can share comments with you only by writing notes on a printed copy of the document.

With Google Drive, the teacher and student can comment in real time, right on the document.comments

Storage Space and Cost

Flash Drive – the cheapest 32 GB flash drive I could find was twenty bucks.

Google Drive – standard storage for students is 30 GB – FREE! images (2)

MEAWHILEWorking from Home

Flash Drive – as long as you remembered to take the flash drive out of the computer you were using at school, you’re good to go!  You can work on any device that has a USB input (no phones, ipads, etc. though!)

Google Drive – access your file anytime, anywhere, from any device…period.

So what are you doing to rid your school of unnecessary flash drives?  If you haven’t tried it, give Google Drive a shot!

Challenge Accepted…

I have a shortcut button to my blog, right on the toolbar of my Chrome Browser.  It doesn’t do much….just sits there….and stares me down…reminding me that I need to write…and I tell myself I’ll get right to it…then I close the browser…and forget about it.

What that button at the top of my browser couldn’t do, my friend and colleague Carrie Jackson has managed to accomplish.  In her latest blog post, Carrie issued the following challenge:

1) Acknowledge the nominating blogger. 2) Share 11 facts about yourself. 3) Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you. 4) List 11 bloggers. 5) Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you. 

And so Ms. Jackson, challenge accepted!

Eleven Facts About Myself

  1. I’m addicted to technology.  Seriously….I think I need an intervention!  I can’t remember the last day I didn’t check my Twitter, post something to Google+, read my news feed, or yell “OK Google” into my phone!
  2. I’m a big Texas Rangers fan!
  3. I have pretty smart kids! My youngest is a creator…he builds, designs, creates, invents, produces, and experiments! My oldest is a learner and a writer…he blows me away with his wealth of knowledge, specifically sports trivia.  He writes a blog for NFLRush, and he’s a lot more dedicated than I am!
  4. My wife is also pretty smart! She’s a great teacher, and she’s passionate about doing what’s best for kids!
  5. Here’s something you probably don’t know about me….I originally went to school to become a priest!  I learned pretty quickly that my calling was in teaching and serving others through education.
  6. I secretly wish that someone had convinced me to go into computer programming after high school.  Who knew you could make a few bucks doing something like that in the ’80s?
  7.  I love to try new foods.  I’m definitely not an “I’ll have the usual” kind of guy!
  8. I enjoy running, but can never seem to find the time!
  9. Android or iPhone?  Definitely Android!
  10. I’m blessed with an amazing job, loving family, supportive friends, sufficient finances, and vibrant health.
  11. I’m a big fan of taking risks! If there’s a chance it might not work, but also a chance it’ll change the world….I’m in!

My Answers to Carrie’s Awesome Questions

  1. Why did you start blogging?
    1. I started blogging as a way to share my experiences as a first year administrator with my family, friends, and colleagues.
  2. What is your favorite post of your own? Why?
    1. My favorite post is titled, “How Can I Help.” This post sums up my leadership philosophy perfectly.
  3. What is/was your favorite holiday activity?
    1. My favorite holiday activity is putting our home video together during the Christmas break.  We spend New Years Day watching videos from the previous years, then we watch the last year’s video New Years night.  The kids grow up fast!
  4. Share your favorite sports team.
    1. Texas Rangers…I’m a big fan!
  5. In what activities did you participate in high school?
    1. I was a band geek! I also participated in Theater, Speech and Debate, and Student Council.  Yep….I was pretty nerdy! But I wouldn’t change a thing!
  6. What makes you look forward to each day?
    1. My goal is to make someone’s day…every day!
  7. What is your personal theme song?
    1. Lean on Me
  8. If you were a part of the pizza, would you prefer to be the crust or the toppings? Why?
    1. Let’s go with crust. Crust gets overlooked. It lets the toppings take the credit, but we all know that, without crust, it’s just a saucy mess!
  9. Share your favorite television program.
    1. I’m a big fan of “Modern Family.”
  10. Share something you aspire to do in 2014.
    1. One of my goals in 2014 is to become a Google Qualified Educator. (I know…nerdy!)
  11. What is one thing you don’t know how to do that you wish you could learn?
    1. I wish I could learn to memorize names and faces.  I want to be that person that meets someone once, and remembers their name forever!

My Nominations to the Blogging Challenge

  • Davis Wright – @dbacksbaseball6
  • Conner Wright – @connerwright10
  • Brett Stamm – @Bstamm00
  • Josh Lucas – @joshlucasphx
  • Eric Rath – @EricRath1
  • Brad Tyler – @AimChanger
  • Anthony Gilreath – @agilreath
  • Kelly Christopherson – @kwhobbes
  • Jenna Shaw – @Teachbaltshaw
  • Melissa Emler – @melissaemler
  • YOU – Yes, you….reading this blog….I nominate you, too!

My Questions for You

  1. Who is your role model?
  2. If you could have any career, what would it be (besides your current job)?
  3. iPhone or Android? Why?
  4. Tell about one of your proudest moments.
  5. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  6. Who are three people (living or not) you would invite to dinner if you could?
  7. Describe your perfect vacation.
  8. What’s your favorite book? What’s it about?
  9. Share something you aspire to do in 2014.
  10. If you could choose a time period in which to live, what would it be?
  11. What motivates you?

And there you have it!  I’m looking forward to reading some fantastic blogs! Here’s to an amazing 2014! I wish you nothing but incredible experiences, lots of laughs, and continued good heath!  And GO RANGERS!

Classroom Management – Physical Education Style


I believe that Physical Education teachers may be the best managers of classrooms in schools today!

They really have no choice.  The nature of the class demands it.  Huge class sizes, lessons involving flying objects, students running in class, and lots of “organized chaos,” dictates the need to create a safe, orderly classroom environment.

I had the opportunity to observe some of our P.E. classes last week, and what I saw was an impressive system of procedures and processes, which allowed for successful participation, engaging lessons, and enjoyable activities for all students.

Six Reasons P.E. Teachers are Excellent Classroom ManagersDSCN1773 DSCN1774 DSCN1780 DSCN1783 DSCN1785 DSCN1787

  • They establish high behavioral expectations for all students
    • Rules and procedures are established from day one.
    • Rules are consistent, fair, and intentional
  • They practice the procedures with the students
    • Teachers review the expectations often
    • They practice the procedures with the students
    • When the procedure breaks down, they practice it some more
  • They create an atmosphere of mutual respect
    • P.E. teachers treat all students with respect, regardless of ability
    • They encourage every student to do their best, and insist that students encourage each other as well
  • They keep the rules simple and relevant
    • There are no complicated or unnecessary rules
    • There are no lists of “Do Nots” posted on the wall
    • Students understand that procedures are in place for their own safety
  • They are proactive!
    • Making up rules “as you go” just leads to confusion!
  • They provide activities that are fun and engaging
    • P.E. is fun! Students have the opportunity to play games, run off some energy, and compete against their peers
    • When students are involved in something they enjoy, they are less likely to cause disruptions

Need some help with classroom management techniques?  Go check out your school’s P.E. classes!  They’re doing incredible things!

Why I Lead

This summer I ran across a tweet from one of my role models, George Couros, inviting administrators to join him in his initiative called the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program. I immediately signed up!  I mean, what part of that doesn’t sound amazing? School Admin – that’d be me! Virtual – sounds intriguing! Mentor – who doesn’t need more mentors in their lives? Program – if there were no program, there would be no School Admin Virtual Mentor part I suppose!

I have some amazing mentors here in Keller.  My colleague, Carrie Jackson is an admin Rock Star!  She’s not just an amazing principal, but a great person in general.  I’ve learned so much from her in regards to building relationships with students, staff, families, and the community.

My district assigned mentor is Brett Stamm, and  he’s an incredible resource for me.  He is always willing to help out when I have a question, and takes time out of his busy schedule to meet with me.  And he’s brilliant!

These guys, along with many others both in Keller and in my Personal Learning Network, inspire, educate, and motivate me to be a passionate leader.  I look forward to adding the influence of leaders from around the world through the SAVMP.  I encourage everyone to follow the #SAVMP hashtag this year and learn along with us!

And now….on to the show!

The first “assignment” for the SAVMP is to reflect on “Why I Lead:

I lead because I want to be a role model.

This may be the number one reason I lead.  I want to live my leadership through my daily life.  I want students to learn life skills (like mutual respect, empathy, the ability to make mistakes, the importance of laughing, and how to get along with people) through observing my actions every day.  I want teachers to understand what it means to be passionate about a career, truly care about kids, and trusting one another, through seeing me in the halls every day.  And I want my own children to understand the importance of loving your family, taking time to be a kid regardless of age, and the passion needed to be a true Texas Rangers fan, through my interaction with them every day.

I lead because I want to serve.

One of my favorite books on leadership is called, Fred Factorby Mark Sanborn.  Fred is a mailman, and one of the best descriptions of a leader I have ever seen.  Check out the link to learn more about Fred.

Fred’s leadership, according to Sanborn, is focused on these specific areas:

  1. Making a difference.  Fred took an otherwise monotonous job, delivering mail, and made it into an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he served.  He knew not only the names, but the stories of all those on his route.  He was passionate about serving others.
  2. Relationships. Mr. Sanborn says, “Fred is proof that, in any job or business, relationship building is the most important objective, because the quality of the relationship differentiates the quality of the product or service.” I believe this is true in educational leadership as well.  They won’t follow you if they don’t like you!
  3. Creating value for others.  As a school administrator, I think this is crucial!  I believe it is my job to create value for our teachers, staff, students, parents, and community.  It doesn’t even have to cost anything.  An, “I appreciate what you did for our kids today,” goes a long way toward creating value.  My goal this year is to create value for someone every day, whether it’s an unexpected email, a positive phone call home, or an impromptu breakfast for the office staff.  It’s our responsibility!

I lead because I want to leave a legacy. 

Dan Pink, in his book Drive says, every man’s life is a sentence.  My sentence is,  “He thought of others first.”  I lead because I want to think of others first.  I want to do what’s best for kids…always.  I want to help teachers understand that what they are doing is the most important job in the world.  I want our community to know that we are there for them. I want our parents to know that we love their kids!

That’s why I lead.



What Just Happened? #ISTE13

2013-06-23 16.38.42I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio last week.  Today, I’m trying to make sense of all the notes, pictures, and SWAG that I returned with.  I also wanted to write a blog to share some of the things I learned, so here is my attempt to do both at the same time.

The ISTE13 Conference Experience

When the program was published several weeks ago, I had a feeling I might be overwhelmed by the conference.  It literally took me three days to just read through the program and make notes about possible events I’d like to attend.  When I had finished going through the program, I had booked myself for at least three events for every time slot!  So much to do, so little time!


Ironically, most of the highlights from the conference for me were not about technology, but about people!

  • The conference was huge! Word on the street is there were around 20,000 attendees from all over the U.S. and 70 countries, yet everyone seemed like they knew each other.  I blame Twitter!  Seriously though, the people attending the conference were really nice.  I found myself in conversations with people from all over the world while standing in line for workshops, waiting for events to begin, and just hanging out in the lounges.
  • The content I learned from the workshops was great!  I learned many new things, and was reminded of some things that I had forgotten, but the most impressive part of the workshops was the passion in the voices of the people presenting.  They were sold on their topic, and they were convinced that the information they were sharing could literally change the way our kids learn.  As I listened to the speakers, I was reminded that it’s not the technology, it’s the teacher!
  • bandThe final highlight I should mention came from the keynote sessions.  The speakers were incredible (I’ll get back to them in a bit), but the highlight was the “house band.”  ISTE brought in a live band to entertain the audience before and during the keynotes.  I have a feeling they could have showcased any band they wanted at this event, but they chose a local group, comprised of high school students, to entertain thousands of people from around the world!  And they were amazing!  They are called the Dara Niemi Band. You can hear some of their music on their website: http://daraniemi.com/.

Here’s a clip from their performance at the final keynote.

The Exhibit Floor

I tried to spend some time on the exhibit floor, hoping to come across that magic “next greatest thing!”  The space was huge, with hundreds of exhibitors (I’ve got the free pens to prove it)!  I took time to watch and listen, and tried to envision how the product would change how we teach at Timberview.  But at many of the booths I visited, I found myself thinking, “Can’t Google do that?”  So I spent much of my exhibit time here:


Poster Sessions and Student Showcase

If I could change one thing about my experience, it would be to spend more time at the poster sessions and the Student Showcase.  I had no idea how cool these would be!

At these booths, students and educators showed real life examples of technology in schools.  I loved listening to the students explain how they used technology in their learning.  You could actually see the excitement in their eyes.

One of the groups of students was from the Centro Escolar Los Altos in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico.  They shared with us how they created ebooks using iBooks Author to share with the younger kids at their school.  A few of the students stood at the front of the booth and explained the program, while the rest manned a station where they demonstrated the process.  They spoke eloquently (in English I might add!), were very knowledgeable, and eager to share.  I realized later in the conference, that I missed eight other sessions that they presented!  Luckily, you can find all of their projects on their blog!  


From the opening keynote to the last session I attended, Gamification was a recurring theme.  As I learned about using games to impact learning, I kept thinking that they should call it something other than gamification.  Too many people think games are just “wasting time” or “enrichment.”  So I came up with my own term for using games in school…ready for it?  I think we should call it – Good Teaching!

My Takeaways Regarding Gamification:

My first takeawayJane McGonigal is a rock star!  I knew a little about her through her TED talks and following her on Twitter, but seeing her in person, and hearing the passion in her voice, convinced me that gaming is an integral and necessary part of learning.

My notes from her presentation:

2013-06-23 18.18.40

The average Call of Duty gamer plays 170 hours per year! That’s one full month of full time work every year!

The longer you stay in school, the less engaged you become.

The longer you stay in school, the less engaged you become.

Ten Positive emotions from gaming: Joy, Relief, Love, Surprise, Pride, Curiosity, Excitement, Awe/Wonder, Contentment, and Creativity

Ten Positive emotions from gaming: Joy, Relief, Love, Surprise, Pride, Curiosity, Excitement, Awe/Wonder, Contentment, and Creativity

The opposite of play isn't work - It's depression.

The opposite of play isn’t work – It’s depression.

Signing her book, "Reality is Broken."

Signing her book, “Reality is Broken.”

Takeaway number two: When I heard about gamification, I immediately related it to technology…video games.  But it’s not about the technology at all; it’s about the game itself.  Rory Newcomb gave an excellent definition of gamification in her session:

  1. In short:  a careful and considered application of game thinking to solving problems and encouraging learning using all of the elements of games that are appropriate (p. 15)
  2. A more thorough description:  Gamification encompasses the idea of adding game elements, game thinking, and game mechanics to learning content.  The goal of gamification is to take content that is typically presented as a lecture or an e-learning course and add game-based elements (story, challenge, feedback, rewards, etc.) and create a gamified learning opportunity… (pg. 18)

Here’s a link to her presentation.  If you are at all curious about gamification (you know you are!) her presentation is worth your time!

And if you are looking for ideas to gamify your classroom, check out Andrew Miller’s website: Andrew K. Miller

Takeaway number three: Teachers who use gaming effectively in the classroom are just doing what all great teachers have done throughout history – doing whatever it takes to make teaching relevant!

Apps I Didn’t Know (or Just Didn’t Understand!)

First, I owe Evernote an apology.  I’ve had the app on my devices for years.  I even used it several times in 2010, and once or twice in 2011, but I never really gave it a chance.  After hearing many people talk about it at workshops and conferences this year, I decided to give it another shot.  I am now a believer in the power of Evernote.  I’m not sure there is a tool out there that could have helped me keep my notes from the ISTE Conference organized (not even you, Google!)

Here’s a list of a few of the  websites and apps I learned about (or learned more about) at ISTE:


  • Educlipper – Pinterest for educators.  You can share clips with other teachers or your students.
  • ThingLink – Really cool way to create interactive posters.  I see a lot of potential for class projects, presenting information to staff, and publishing information to the community.
  • Infogram and Easel.ly– Both Create great looking infographics.
  • PollEverywhere – This was a popular tool during the conference.  It was used at keynotes, sessions, and in the exhibit hall.  It’s one of those tools I knew about, but didn’t realize the power.  It’s way easier than I thought.  The presenter sets up the question, then participants answer the question via text message (or Twitter, etc.)
  • InfuseLearning – This one is a must have! It allows real time feedback in the classroom.  Teachers can ask all kinds of questions, students can answer with any device, there’s the ability to draw your response, and teachers can send out links to websites from the program.  It’s pretty incredible – and FREE!
  • BigHugeLabs – This site allows you to do some cool stuff with pictures.  I thought it was cool that you could make trading cards and press badges!  Word on the street is, if you log in as a teacher, your students can log in to an ad-free space.
  • Cel.ly – Mobile social networks.  (Think “Remind 101” with a twist.)  Cel.ly allows two-way communication between teachers and students, faculty and parents, etc.  It’s definitely worth learning more about.
  • Doodle.com –  An easy way to schedule meetings with multiple parties, and it works with your Google Calendar.  I have used this, but it was a nice reminder about a powerful collaboration tool.
  • ScreenCast-o-Matic – This is probably the single best tool I saw at ISTE!  It’s a free online tool that allows you to create simple screencasts.  When I say simple, I mean really simple!  Teachers can easily record lessons for Flipped Learning or days when a sub will be needed.  Tutorial videos are very easy to create.  I think this tool and I may become very good friends this year!


  • Skitch – Skitch is pretty amazing!  You can annotate pdf, pictures, etc. directly from your device.  Works with Evernote.  Lots of potential!
  • Remember the Milk – This is another one I tried a couple of years ago, but just couldn’t convince myself it was worth hanging onto.  After listening to Elizabeth Calhoon talk about it, I think I’ll give it another shot this summer.  It’s a task manager with lots of organizational tools.  Evidently it syncs to Google, so I’m definitely good with that!
  • Ifttt – If This, Then That – This is just genius!  You can set up “recipes” for pretty much anything!  “If I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook, then send me a text message.”  So cool!  I think I found something to do this summer!

Finally, this tool could be the most useful of them all.  It can be used to help those people who are always asking you questions that they can easily find themselves.  Go to the website http://lmgtfy.com/ and enter the question.  Copy the link and paste it into an email.  Send the link to the person asking the question.  (Click preview under the link to see what your colleague will see.)

I’ll leave you (finally!) with this:  ISTE13 reminded me that technology is just a tool, and no matter how powerful the technology is, we have to have great teachers in the classroom; teachers who are passionate, brilliant, and daring; who are willing to do whatever it takes to change the world!

And to my friends and colleagues at Timberview, I apologize in advance for the crazy ideas I’ll be throwing your way in the fall!