Friday, July 18, 2014

I Vow

My mom on our Aruban vacation in June 2013

This week was rough.

It was a reminder to live abundantly, love generously, and laugh more.  When you experience a traumatic event, whether it involves loss of life or not, you are changed.  My mom went in for 'routine' hip replacement surgery on Tuesday.  While in a math training at my district, I received this message from my Dad: On operating table, turned blue, cpr, assisted breathing, touch and go...

One short text reduced me to a puddle of tears.  I'm thankful for friends who were praying for her and our family.  I'm thankful for my mentor who prayed with me, for my brother who called to apologize for a years-long estrangement, for my aunt and cousin who went to be with her in the hospital, for people around the world that were praying (Cameroon, Honduras, Canada, UK, Nigeria), and for a good friend who kept reassuring me that 'It'll be fine.'

I vow to live my life abundantly, to love my friends and family generously, and to laugh and enjoy life. I vow to tell people I love them more, even if it makes them uncomfortable.  I vow to spend more time with those I love and invest in our relationships, even when we are all busy.

This week is getting better.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Libros para los niños de Honduras

A few books for IVA

 A Book Drive for Instituto Vida Abundante

This past February dear friends of mine opened a school in a very remote region of Honduras.  It's been truly a labor of love as they have had to coordinate the construction of the building, all the details of opening a new school, hiring teachers, finding sponsors for 60 students, schedules, and purchasing laptops.  

In the past few months one of the major obstacles has been the lack of reading materials in Spanish. Myself and others have sent books when we can.  Half Price Books and Scholastic Book Fairs have been where I usually find books in Spanish.  Then, we've had to coordinate sending them down to Honduras.  

Well, I decided it was time to hold a Book Drive for Instituto Vida Abundante.  So here goes...

I will be collecting books in Spanish--any level--starting now.  If you are in Texas, I will probably be at EdCamp FTWX and EdCamp Dallas so I can pick them up from you. Otherwise, you can email at me or DM me on the Twitters.  If you are out of state, I will send my mailing address when you contact me.  

I'd appreciate anyone who can Retweet this and share it with friends.  Maybe someone would take it on as a school service project.  Thank you for investing in the children of Honduras!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Inve$ting in Myself

Last week I was lamenting to a friend about a situation I am engulfed in which has really consumed me. She gave me a piece of advice which resonated with me, "Invest in Yourself."  Focusing on oneself can seem counter-intuitive sometimes.  I was raised to 'put others before myself.'  Shouldn't I be worried about others before I worry about myself?  As educators, our students come first.  But, if we aren't taking care of ourselves, how can we help them?  In friendships, how can we be a listening ear or a 'shoulder to cry on' if we aren't working on ourselves first.  In relationships, if we aren't taking care of our own issues, how can we help our significant others become better people?

So, this weekend, instead of worrying about what will become of my situation, I'm investing in myself. I'm doing activities that I want to do, that will better me, ones that make me feel accomplished.  I'm redirecting.  Because, ultimately, when I invest in myself, I can be a more effective person, whether in education, friendships, or love.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Flappy Bird. Where Are My Priorities?

I refuse to sit on the couch and let life pass me by.  I refuse to be the one always taking and not giving back.  I refuse to let my time get sucked up by irrelevancy.

This week has been one of reflection for me.  I've been considering my priorities, reflecting on how I spend my time, and analyzing what I can do to live better.

Here are my conclusions: I care more about my health than sitting on the couch watching Netflix.  I love my friends & family so much that I want to be present in every moment with them.  I want to live a long life and make an impact for Jesus Christ, and, therefore, I will spend more time eating better food, exercising, and loving others.  I want to build relationships with students, colleagues, friends, and family.  I want more time face-to-face with these people instead of emailing them or writing on their Wall.  I want to experience life fully.

Ultimately, when I pass on, I want people to remember me for the passion I had for the Lord and others, not what I posted on the Internets.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Healthy Perspective

Transformation of 2013: wishing I had taken better before shots.

There are some posts that just seem to sit in the queue while I ponder them.  Even though, there wasn't really any post in draft form, this is one I have been mulling over a while.

Last year, I underwent a major transformation. I lost a considerable amount of weight (and kept it off), due in part to inspiration from friends, several apps, and good old-fashioned willpower.  Actually, not much of that was willpower, most of it was inspiration and apps.  On my journey, I learned about and used several apps which helped me stay the course.  This year I am again working to lose another big chunk of weight.

So, without further ado, here is my list of must-haves for leading to a healthier lifestyle.

1.  My Fitness Pal: I had this app on my phone for about a year before I started using it.  My good friend, Sara, had encouraged me to journal what I was eating.  Doing it digital was much easier for me.  I can even scan barcodes to find what I am eating.  I love the analytics of seeing how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat I eat.

You can access MFP online, too, which allows more customization, such as changing the percentage of the macros (carbs, protein, fat).  Ultimately, I think lowering my carbs is helping me lose weight.  This app has led me to stop eating so much processed food.  My goal is to log 365 days in a row.

2.  Pact: A decent app that keeps you accountable for working out, logging your food, and eating healthy fruits & veggies.  You have to use the app to check in at your gym or use the movement tracker if you aren't at a specific facility.  Pact syncs with MFP so you automagically get credit for logging your food.  In order to document what you are eating for fruits & veggies, you have to snap a pic and load it to the app.  The "community" upvotes it, if they think you are eating it.  I find this to be the biggest drawback, as it can be difficult to "show" you are eating certain foods, or if you forget to take a photo before you eat it.  Also, members of the community don't always understand what a vegetable is.  This morning I took this pic:    

Apparently, they didn't think green and red peppers were vegetables.  Hm....

The only caveat is that you do get charged every time you don't exercise, eat veggies, or log your food for that week.  You decide the amount of money you get charged.  It can be an extreme motivator.

3.  EveryMove: Another app that syncs with MFP.  You can log what activity you complete, and it credits you with points on EveryMove.  The rewards aren't that awesome, but it's something.  I don't have to open it to get the points.

It also syncs with my Fitbit.  I don't have to log anything.  It just populates my activities and gives me points.

4.  SleepCycle: This app does cost 99 cents which I think is well worth the data it gives you.  I like that you can add sleep notes so you can see how things like drinking caffeine, eating late, working out and stress are affecting your sleep.  There's also a fade out sleep aid that will play sounds such as ocean waves, autumn leaves, rain, wind, and countryside ambience to help you fall asleep. SleepCycle syncs with RunKeeper and Facebook, too.  They continue to add new features.

5. FitBit: I just ordered a Fitbit Flex. It should be here soon. Fitbit will integrate my sleep tracking and my movement tracking. I know it does more than that.  I will update this post as soon as I start using it. I can't wait to see how this will help me reach my fitness goals.

***Update: So, I have been using my Fitbit for almost 3 days now.  I already feel like it is motivating me.  I have been motivated to work out every day and even after that, I took the kids on a 2-mile walk both days.  I am tired every evening, but I see the 10, 000 step goal, and I want to meet it.  I still haven't been able to get there, but that may be due to the fact that we are on spring break.  I can't wait to see how it translates into weight lost.

A few of the features I like are the ability to sync with My Fitness Pal so I can see how the calorie intake stacks up against the steps taken.  It also measures my BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)--something not viewable on MFP.

Next week, when we are back at work, I'm hoping to see more steps taken.  I'm also thinking about getting up and taking walks in the morning.  We'll have to see how that goes....

Saturday, March 8, 2014

9 Fun Activities for Teachers during Spring Break

#9: Hang out with friends (used with permission from M. Vandagriff)

***Updated 3/14/14: I wanted to document what I have completed, mostly for my own "journaling" purposes.

I was inspired my Matt's post about fun activities to do with your kids during Spring Break.  So, I thought it would be fun to create my own list of fun activities that teachers can do during their time off.

1.  Pick a recipe from Pinterest and make it!

During the school year, I never have time to actually make recipes from Pinterest.  One of my goals is to make a recipe I pinned on Pinterest.  I just created a new Clean Eating board so I have some fun new recipes.
I was so excited to make a recipe yesterday for Chipotle Sweet Potato Quinoa Tacos.  I didn't have all of the ingredients, but it was oh-so-yummy and healthy.  It's the first time I have made quinoa, and it surely will not be the last.

Right before I put the filling in the tacos.

2.  Go to a movie.

One of my favorite pastimes-- I love the movies because I can zone out.  And, there's popcorn.
I saw Non-Stop on Saturday night.  I love relaxing at the movies, and I was absolutely relaxed because I just had a massage before that.

3.  Go on a field trip.

Teachers need field trips, too.  Why not choose a place you've never visited and go there?  Who knows? It could a place you want to investigate for a future class trip.  I'm excited about going with the Bug to the Dallas Aquarium on Monday with her class.
We went on Monday to the the aquarium.  The kids really enjoyed it.  The last time I went was on a trip with my 3rd graders at a previous school.

Sara, Me, Bug, Hen, and Andrew at the Dallas World Aquarium

4.  Take time to explore a new app or web tool.

It seems as though we never have enough time for exploration. Why not pick a tool and get to know it? I'm looking forward to having time to work with Explain Everything.  It's one of the few paid apps we purchased for every one of our school iPad minis.
Sierra and I are working on a project from our trip to the aquarium.  I'm also going to help my friend today with homeschooling her 4 girls.  I'm hoping to explore several "newer" (to me) apps.

5.   Create & Submit a proposal for a conference.

Our district just issued their call for presenters for the annual Learning Institute in August so that is one I will be drafting.  Why not submit a proposal for Podstock or Coppell ISD's Design Techniques for Technology Integration?

6.  Work out!

I'm looking forward to not having to rush through my workout!
Surprisingly, I have been every day to the gym.   I even took the kids to the park twice!  I think it's due, in part, to my new Fitbit.

Hen and Bug at the park.

7.  Relax (get a massage or pedicure).

It's so important to take some time for yourself.  Keeping your tanks full helps you serve the needs of your kids better.
My wonderful masseur always does a wonderful job of releasing all my tight spots!

8. Write a blogpost.

My colleague, Suellen, and I were discussing blogging last week at a training.  She is a veteran ITS, but she doesn't blog.  I believe she is at the point where she should be sharing her knowledge.  Don't just curate and take from the Internets--give back and share with others! Don't have a blog? Why not start one? If you do, share something you are learning as a professional.
I think I've blogged more this week than all time.

9.  Go out for coffee (or lunch or to a Dueling Piano Bar) with a friend or two.

Whether you like to stay low-key or hit the local club, this is another activity that usually helps "fill up your tanks" so you will be ready for your students.
Does going to Costco with my friend Sara count?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Percolator: Now Brewing

Since the beginning of this year, I have been thinking I should really be posting more of the #edtech activities that are happening at my school.  It's been quite a growing process for my friends, but they are finally starting to integrate more tech tools with their learning objectives.  In the past few months, more teachers have requested help with technology, partially due to the fact that our district tech showcase is quickly approaching.  Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter, as long as we are collaborating and creating together.

I got to work with a small group of Kinders last week.  They celebrated their 100th day of school recently and wrote about what they would do with $100 dollars.  They also drew pictures to go along with them.  If you know me, you know I love photo editing apps.  We took pictures of their drawings, and then they used the Percolator app to shake them up and make them look cool!  After that, we dropped them into iMovie, and the kids recorded their sentences.  I think it turned out pretty darn cute. It's artistic and showcases their learning.

I'm going to be sharing more of what the students are doing in the coming days! But, until then, try something similar and share it with us.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Highlights of My Week at #TCEA14

Steve Dembo, Me, Jake, & Carrie Ross
sporting our 'staches from the Tech Amigos!
Before I get back to all the fun that is to come at school this week, I figured I had better give a quick summary of all the cool things that happened this week. I will be sharing more about the tools in the next few weeks, but for now, the fun stuff!

What a week!  So many wonderful memories will stick with me from TCEA14.

Here are my Top 10 Highlights of the week:

10. Trying to position myself in the sneakiest way to get a #selfieswithstuart.

Stuart, waiting for the bus, while I snap a quick pic.
Tim takes a #selfieswithstuart

9. Watching Matt drive around a robot and talk to convention-goers.
Matt, asking strangers for cookies.  #cookieclub

8.  Podcasting with my buddy.

Kenya and Jake in the Digital Square 

7.  Eating & hanging out with my friends.

Torchy's Tacos
Me, Jake, Todd, & Stacey enjoy a fine Tex-Mex meal.

Jake's "Squealing Pig" at Gourdough's
Jake, Me, Todd, Mindi, Stacey, Amy, Lyndsay, & Jazmin at Michelada's.
  Matt was taking the picture.

6. Getting new ideas from Tracy Clark (Make & Do for the iPad Crew).

5. Presenting a session with my Tech Ninja friends!

Todd speak while Stacey demonstrates a website.

4. Chatting with Christian Long & David Jakes about Learning Spaces!
Victor, trying out a Buoy active seat in the Digital Square.

3. Attending a grant writing session with Dr. Rita Oates.
I was so busy typing notes that I didn't get a picture of her session.

2. Having critical conversations with Scott, Jake, Miguel, & Tim.  (See yesterday's post for more info.)

1. Playing Saloon Shootout on the Leap Motion with Steve.

Me with Steve, Jon and Matt photobombing

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reflections from #TCEA14--It's Still About the Relationships

Believe it or not, this was my first TCEA convention.  I am thankful that my school foundation was willing to send me, and my principal was willing to find resources to allow me to eat, sleep, and drive there.  I learned some new things this week, was inspired to continue what I am doing, collaborated with new friends, and cemented old friendships.

When I wasn't in a workshop or presentation, I was in the Digital Square.  On the first day, one of my colleagues commented to me, "Gosh, you know everyone."  My response, "I'm on Twitter."  I follow, I RT (retweet), I favorite, all in the name of learning more, connecting more, and building relationships. After almost 2 years of being on Twitter, I can truly say I have learned more as an educator because of the relationships that have stemmed from my PLN.

But, by far, the informal conversations I had in the Digital Square were my favorite part of the whole week.  There is something extraordinary about having conversations with other connected educators.  I was able to connect with David Jakes and Christian Long.  They are involved in educational design, and all the sessions they led were very relevant for me.  At school, I am working on a huge project which is going to transform our classrooms.  I appreciated David's willingness to answer all of my questions.  Also, he is a fellow Chicagoan, so I am a little biased.

On Friday, I got to be a part of a podcast with Miguel Guhlin, Tim Holt, Scott Laleman, and Jake Duncan.  I met Miguel Guhlin last summer at ISTE and had a brief conversation that inspired me.  I can't even particularly remember what he said, but he was down-to-earth and accessible.  He was willing to chat with me (a relative nobody to him) and discuss education.  This was the first time I met Tim and Scott, but after listening to their ideas and knowledge, I know these guys are great ones to have in my PLN.  Jake always shares AMAZING tools with me.  As educators, we need to have more conversations like this, ones that challenge & inspire us.

After Jake returned from his session (tELL me a cuento, por favor), we worked on an episode for our podcast, Cutting Edgucation.  It was nice to be able to process the week with him.  Future episodes with definitely stem from our learning last week.

I'll be sharing more of what I learned in the next few weeks, but until then, if you aren't on Twitter, you should be.  Because it really is about the relationships.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Surviving TCEA (or any conference) as an Introvert

So, here I am (again) at a very large #edtech conference, wondering how I am going to survive a week of learning with thousands of people.  Yes, friends, I am an introvert.

Last summer I attended ISTE13 and learned a whole lot about navigating large conferences as an introvert.  You see, I get reenergized by being alone.  I need considerable amounts of downtime to recharge and reflect.  It's not that I don't like being around people, I just need lots of time alone.  So, I wanted to give my fellow introverts a few tips for staying sane and getting the most out of these conferences.

So, here we go...

Tip #1:
Do not take a roommate.
Number 1 rule for having time to reflect and recharge.  If your school requires you to take a roommate to save money, this could be a problem.  Try, at least, to take another introvert.  If not, maybe your extrovert roommate will be out socializing so you can get some time by yourself.

Tip #2:
Don't attend a session during every time slot.
Give yourself time between sessions to think about what you learned.  Chat with a few people or pull out your laptop and blog about it.  There will plenty of learning going on all week.  Take time to reflect on it.

Tip #3:
Meet new people!
As an introvert, I prefer to talk to small groups or one-on-one.  Make connections and network with new friends.  When do you have a chance to meet so many like-minded people in one place?  Take advantage of it!

Tip #4:
Sign up for evening "activities", but don't feel obligated to attend all of them.
After a few days of all this edtech fun, I know I will need an evening to myself.  So, I usually bow out one night near the end of the conference.  Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on all the fun, but I always feel better the next day!

Tip #5:
Have fun!
A large part of attending conferences, for me, is seeing my friends.  I spend a considerable amount of time hanging out at the Digital Square or the Lounges chatting with my colleagues.  Some of the best learning happens while sharing our experiences on an informal basis.  Take advantage of those times!

Follow these 5 tips and you are sure to have a great time!


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