Thursday, December 12, 2013

I got Tagged - Did you?

The other day Dean Shareski tagged me here. My first thought was what can I tell people about me that they don't already know. Here are 11 random facts about me:

1. I love road trips.
2. Both our cars have twitter accounts - thanks to @BigPurpleHat.
3. I feel I am incredibly late to the tech party.
4. I worked with the Senior golf tour for 11 years every time it came to Dallas..
5. I have worked at the same school for 37 years.
6. I also graduated from this school and those years are not counted in the number above.
7. I played baseball in college after turning down offers to play football in college.
8. I was in charge of the university kitchen on the weekends to help pay my way through college.
9. I am an ordained deacon in the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
10. I love picking up people and safely delivering them places when they come to Texas.
11. The university I graduated from just honored me by naming a full scholarship after me that will be granted every year to a deserving student from Bishop Dunne..

Those are the random facts about me that some folks may not know. By the way the Prius also known as the Eco Ride is @PaulRWoodsPrius and the Lexus which is known simply as The Ride is @PaulRWoodsLexus. They can be uppity at times but it is fun to have those accounts.

Dean asked the following questions so here are my answers to those:

1.How do you feel about pants? Highly overrated.
2.What was the last movie you saw in a theatre? The Butler
3.Where are your car keys? Left pocket.
4.What time is it? 8:05 p.m.
5.What’s the last tweet you favorited? Joel Adkins Tweet about
6.Outside of your immediate family, which relative do you like to spend time with? My Aunt Geneva
7.Have you ever been to Saskatchewan? Yes, and even stopped in Moose Jaw and Regina.
8.How long did it take you to walk to school as a kid? Most of my schools were more than 10 miles away so we didn’t walk.
9.Besides you, which blogger should I be paying attention to? Unfortunately anyone I think is important to follow I believe you already pay attention to Dean so I don't have a recommendation.
10.Name one golf course. Dallas National. But here are some others.
11.What’s your favorite Seinfeld episode or line? Any one with Elaine trying to dance like this.

Here are the 11 folks I am tagging:

1. Scott Floyd
2. Matt Gomez
3. Toby Brown
4. Christine Voigt
5. Angelyn Cheatham
6. Zach Snow
7.  Joel Adkins
8. Phillip Cummings
9. Amber Teamann
10. Martha Lackey
11. You. (this includes all the people I didn’t name because I figured they thought  they were too cool to do this as well as those I never even thought, which could be you. Either way, I’ll read what you write)

Questions for those listed:

1. What is one thing you are proud of that you have participated in?
2. Do you follow a particular professional or college team? If yes which one?
3. What is your superstitious ritual? The one that goes with the commercial  "It's only weird if it doesn't work!"
4. What has been your favorite age so far and why?
5. If you could drive any car what would it be?
6. What is your favorite comfort food?
7. What is the holiday you enjoy the most?
8. What is your go to music when you really need a pick me up?
9. What is your favorite movie?
10. What was the last book you read for fun?
11. What is the fastest you have ever driven?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random 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 have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Have some fun with this. I did. Let's hear from you.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

50 Years Later

It has been interesting watching all of the news, videos, documentaries, etc., surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President Kennedy. As a fourth grade student, I remember the day very clearly in my head. Sitting in Sr. Mary Rose's class as St. James Elementary School, I believe it was a reading class, the day was interrupted by an announcement from the Principal, Sr. Jan. She asked the boys to stand and the girls to remain seated and we would all recite the rosary together.

After a while, the Principal again interrupted the rosary by telling us over the PA that President Kennedy and some others had been shot, and that President Kennedy had died. Our parents had been called and we would be going home from school. We were told that we needed to continue praying for our country.

It was a weekend of watching the black and white television at our home and what became continuous live coverage of all the activity. Then the news came in that an officer had been shot at the Texas Theatre, a theatre we went to many times to see movies. Then the next day we watched Lee Harvey Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby while being transferred and seeing Mr. Harrison, who was a police officer, member of our parish and a friend of our family right in the middle of the craziness in the basement of the jail.

The funny thing is I remember when that happened and spending time sitting around with my family and watching things on television, but I don't remember going back to school or things surrounding the return to the "new normal." A country in continual turmoil, the Vietnam War, eventually Woodstock, the sexual revolution, and on and on.

The next summer while on vacation, we were traveling in New Mexico from our home in Dallas and we stopped for some lunch and a bathroom break. We did that a lot with 5 kids, stopped a lot for bathroom breaks. While there, a man asked where we lived and I said Dallas. I remember his response was simply "Oh you people kill presidents don't you." I couldn't understand why people didn't like anyone from Dallas.

Diane and I have talked many times about what is there historic to see in Dallas, compared to places like Boston, Philadelphia and so many other cities throughout the United States and all we can come up with is the 6th Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza and South Fork Ranch where they filmed the show Dallas. After that there wasn't much to see.

Dallas continues to try and figure out it's place in the world in my opinion and once again the nation and the world focuses it's media eye here to try and figure out who, and how many actually were involved. Me, I still wonder why?

So much to learn and so little time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Be The Difference!

Disclaimer: While most of this will be about my experience growing up in high school it is to relate to you my experience of the video link that Michelle tweeted. Do NOT feel sorry for me in any way. That is not what this post is about. Thank you.

Fun, friendship, learning and people that truly make me think. That is what twitter does for me.  Recently Michelle Baldwin, aka @michellek107 tweeted the following “Watching this--> The One Thing All Men Feel, But Never Admit” I clicked the link and sat mesmerized, but at the same time I was flooded with memories of growing up and not very good ones.
Being a middle child, bigger than most growing up I lived a life of Insecurity, inadequacy, and never being good enough, or at least that is what I thought. My size, in an all-boys middle school meant play sports or be ridiculed. I played and did my best until I broke a friends ribs near his spine. I walked away from football the next day. I also played basketball, ran track and tried out for the baseball team my freshman year. I enjoyed basketball except for the constant “don’t dribble the ball, rebound and pass.” Or walking down to the boys’ locker room to see if I made the baseball team only to be told by an upper classman “Wood, you don’t really think you made the team do you? Well you didn’t.” Be strong, don't show emotion.
My participation in sports dwindled and I was only playing basketball, at the same time my grades suffered. I felt inadequate. I wanted more but I didn’t want to open my mouth, I didn’t want to say anything that people might use against me, I didn’t feel good enough. One day in class one of my teachers asked what do you want to be when you grow up, my response was  "I want to be a psychologist." The room laughed. Be a man.
My junior year a new coach came along and had heard about my ability as a kicker, he also liked my size. He wanted me to come out and play football. I told him I would be happy to kick for him but that was it. He said fine. One week into the season I was told I was too big to just kick and they needed me to play full time. Tight end and defensive end. Maybe I could be someone playing football again.  I also made the baseball team that year and I was still playing basketball. My grades improved but I didn’t want to say anything, I didn’t want to be laughed at, I tried to do everything right so people would be OK with me. A safe life. A life that was never an adventure, I didn’t want to risk being ridiculed. Don't be a wimp.
Another new coach my senior year and I learned to hate football. I hated it enough to turn down offers. I played basketball but there were better players, I was tired of practicing and sitting. I didn’t want to be a minute man plus I knew I wasn’t going to play in college. We got new uniforms and they had to special order mine. I can still hear the ridicule from my own class mates from the bleachers. I played baseball and did OK. Stop being a wuss.

I could go on and on but this truly is not about me. However, many of you know me and the reason that I am writing this is all because of Michelle Baldwin and that tweet. With school preparing to start, we all know students, boys and girls that don’t “fit” what so very many think is the right mold. Help them to be the best students, people, individuals that they can be, please. All it takes is for you to be interested, to take a moment, show up at a game, stop and talk in the hall, sit with someone at lunch.

We say it is OK for our students to fail but what about the one’s that are fine with academics but feel they are already failing life? Are we looking out for them? Be the difference. Please be the difference that you are capable of being. I could have used a teacher that picked up on what was going on. I am thankful I never made the decision to follow through with what I had concocted in my head during my senior year. Otherwise, there are so many of you wonderful people I would have never known.

Be the difference this year.

Still so much to learn and so little time.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I dropped out of grad school and don't know if I am going back

The following is a post that I wrote in anger one evening after dropping out of my grad school courses. I have 3 classes to go for the level I was working on and have not gone back. I am starting to get the urge again so maybe. Here is that post and hopefully if you are teaching online courses you might think about some of these things.

I dropped out of my grad school class. It was a tough decision but I had enough. I am not looking for sympathy and I am not here to throw anyone under the bus. My hope is to inform you of some of the things I felt were lacking in this program. I would like to think people I hang with would not do this if they were online teachers or even teachers in a live classroom. If this causes you to think about how you do things, then I have done my job. I felt there were mistakes on three sides of this equation, the university's, the professor's and my own.
Me - Last year I sat out of grad school for a year due to health and medical procedure reasons. I am also an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. Along with that I am a high school director of technology, and many of you know my wife Diane. I came to the grad school table with a lot on my plate as so many of us have and yet I thought I could handle it. I was frustrated for most of this semester as I didn't feel I was doing a good job. I like to do a good job.
The University - I don't know what the situation was that brought the University to hire this professor, but I would venture a guess that they were in need of a teacher, they found someone willing to handle an online course that is a core requirement, and with little to no training they tossed the professor in to the deep end of the pool. The university also switched from an online form that they had been using and went to a new system right before the new semester and everyone was scrambling to make it work.
The Professor - With a new PhD and trying to get hired on, the professor said yes to a core course, yes to a new program, yes to an online class and in all likelihood, yes I will figure it out. The first week the recorded lecture video was off. We could only see 1/4 of the screen material. The professor sent us the slides at least so we did have those. One lesson had the same word misspelled throughout the entire slide presentation.
Over the next 8 weeks there was confusion as to where to post things, we were told either the discussion board or the dropbox. I found out later that the professor thought they were both the same thing. I looked for feedback other than from other students in the class who were doing the best they could, but only got one line of feedback in the second week of class. I kept looking for grades in the gradebook, but the only thing there were asterisks and possible points. By the end of the semester, I would have read about 1000 pages, 20 other posts from 20 classmates each week, answered 10-12 weeks of discussion questions on my own as well as written about what new insghts I had that week, listened to an average of 60-90 minutes of lecture online each week, leading up to a major paper, a major reflective essay and a cumulative final exam. I am sorry but rigor - mortis has set in my posterior.
If you are a university, I hope you give your professors all of the help, support and training that they need. If you are a professor, I hope you aren't afraid to ask for help, are willing to give feedback and can get by on fewer than 6 textbooks in a semester and especially for an online course. I also hope you are willing to help your students seek deeper and more relevant thinking. And don't forget to give feedback, feedback, feedback. If you are planning to be the student, make sure you know full well what you are getting in to, I thought I did, but there is also life to live as well.

So much to still try and learn and so little time.

ISTE 2013 - Some Retrospect

I want tho thank the folks at ISTE for once again bringing together so many people that continue to help advance my education, knowledge and inspire me to continue doing what I do for the students I come in contact. I am wondering if the show has gotten too large.

Vendors - I was worn out both physically and sensorially by the vendor area. The sights and the sounds were to the point of being overwhelming. Even with a map I had some difficulty finding the vendors I needed to speak with, and yet in the Bloggers's cafe and the ISTE Newbie lounge I had less trouble finding vendors and or people willing to pitch their products or their printed paraphernalia without an invitation. These areas need to be used by the people who they are intended for and not by the vendors. If I am not mistaken, there is a vendors lounge and most vendors also have areas to meet people and work on deals. I hope someone can get a handle on that.

I know that without vendors it is difficult to make this show happen. Everyone wants to make money and no one is in it to lose money. So I truly understand the need for vendors to be present, but because they pay for the privilege, that doesn't mean they can run over folks in different areas. Even in the HackEd unconference on Saturday, people had to be reminded that they could not hawk their own products during the smack down.

What would the difference in the conference have been if instead of 10,000 Surface tablets, Microsoft were to offer 5,000 teachers an opportunity for conference attendance and some money toward room and board while in San Antonio? Would that have been beneficial to some of the school districts or even our student's classrooms? How many vendors that are Tier 1 Sponsors are ever asked to do this? Might be a thought for future ISTE events. That idea came up in the comments section of Lee Kolbert's blog about ISTE found here.

I am still mulling around some other things and hopefully I can get to them soon before this old mind loses them. So happy to see so many good people, have so many great discussions and be able to laugh and share as well as cry with so many of you.

So much to learn and so little time.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thank you Microsoft

In a time where school budgets are dwindling, the need for equipment is important, Microsoft took a bold step by supplying 10,000 surface tablets to the first ones there of an announced 20,000 people at the ISTE 2013 Conference. Whether it is the right move or not, I am amazed at some of the negatives I have heard from folks.

I challenge you to take the Surface back to school and hand it to a child that can’t afford any type of equipment and see how much that child whines. The phrase I hear over and over again is that it should not be about the tool. So let a student decide if it is the right tool for them or not.
Even at my school, a private, Catholic school, we have students that live below the poverty line and we subsidize their education. I dare say that just about every school has someone that they know in the same situation. It is time for us to continue to think about what is best for our students as opposed to what we like. Maybe it doesn’t run everything that we want it to run because it is the lighter version Surface, but why not let a child figure that out. You might be surprised what that child can show us all.
Thank you Microsoft.
So much to learn and so little time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Part 3 - The People - It's all about the people

In this 3rd installment of what we did on our summer vacation, I mentioned that it would be about the people. Our jobs are people, students, faculties, friends and most especially families. But we are all about people in some way shape or form.  Part 1 is the trip to the destination of Washington State and the people we visited along the way. Part 2 was the trip home, so this is Part 3.

I happened to mention on Twitter that we were going to the Pacific Northwest one night and that I needed to look for places to stay and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations. I had decided to not attend ISTE12 in San Diego so I figured that most people in that part of the country would be gone anyway. Then I started to get some DM's from folks in my network. Stop by and visit, would love to meet you and visit. Then I received a message from Julia Fallon. When are you heading this way? What are the dates? After an exchange of messages Diane and I suddenly had a home base to work out of and a place to stay while in Washington State. Julia would be leaving for ISTE and we were more than welcome to stay at her house while in Washington State. We took her up on it.

Kelly Dumont always seemd like my kind of guy from the first time I started to interact with him on twitter. We stopped to visit with Kelly and his family while watching his son play in a baseball playoff game. That was a fun time. On one side high school ball players and behind us beautiful mountains. Kelly loves baseball like I do, He has played it I believe and I know he has coached it and he went to the same game in Baltimore that we went to when ISTE was in DC. Down to earth and so real it was nice to be able to share some time with kelly and his family.

Julia Fallon and I first met in Denver. I vaguely remembered that after she refreshed my memory. A bunch of people came out to our Denver ISTE Mansion and visited and I drove her and some others back to their hotels from the house. As with so many people on Twitter or at least in my network of folks, I have shared things, more privately than publicly but am always grateful for the people I know. Julia and I have listened to each other, shared with each other, worked together as a result of her working with John Pederson and Todd Sanders and their Mercedes Benz Super Bowl race. That was when I really interacted with Julia as so many of us did. To me she was the organizer of the chaos that was the race. Upon our arrival we sat and talked for a bit and then the next morning she was gone.

Jennifer Dhalby - While I don't know how I ended up with Jen in my twitter stream (probably thorough seeing her talk with Alec Couros, Stuart Ciske, or Tim Lauer) but anyway she constantly gets grief for the ever changing avatar picture but is incredibly thoughtful with a great deal of depth. She invited Diane and I out for a visit so we made our way out for a visit. We spent a few hours at her place visiting with the children and talking work and networks and life in general. Then she offered brownies that had been made. Good eats are always worth the trip but the opportunity to meet people face to face makes it that much better.

Luann Lee - I can't remember when Luann showed up in my network but I knew she was a passionate science teacher and for her it was all about the students. And then she started posting pictures of the "farm." A place they lived on the edge of Yamhill. Beverly Cleary Yamhill. So a trip out to the farm. We missed it the first time going down a winding two lane road and then on the return we actually saw Luanne coming down the drive. Such a beautiful area. She invited us to lunch, had a beautiful black lab named Jake that could practically knock you over with his tail wag, and a great setting out on their deck. We talked and laughed and Luann and Diane made a connection while talking about students, special needs and dyslexia. Fresh, cool air out on the deck, Jake waiting for something to fall from the table and wonderful conversation. Then we did some walking and looking around the place and were able to see some of the things they had been working on and just talked and relaxed. The visit was a good time and just showed us the beauty of the countryside as well as a wonderful person.

Tim Lauer - Seemed that every time I had tried to get to the Pacific Northwest, with the intention of visiting Tim Lauer I managed to mess something up on my body physically. One year it was heart the next year it was foot/ankle. Tim entered my network on the recommendation of several people. But alos the same way that Bud Hunt and several others entered it - reading one of Will Richardson's books. Tim also reached out to me in a very special way when I was in the hospital trying to figure out the problems with my heart. He asked if he could call me in a DM and I gave him my number and we talked for about a half hour. A strong, sensitive, caring man who quikly became a friend not just online. When I left my phone on a bus in London I tweeted out that I needed someone to call my wife and let her know what was going on. Tim answered that request. I could only imagine the look on Diane's face as she listened to who it was and just exactly why he was calling. I got my phone back two days later. Tim showed us some of Portland, Powell's Bookstore where Diane continued her affair with the written word in a hardback form and pizza as we got there on a Friday evening. Family all around and a lovely, warm family and house.

Then came Canada and Dean Shareski and the Alec Couros family. When I first entered the twittersphere I went through several people's profiles and followers to see who I might follow. Dean Shareski was one of those individuals. One day on twitter he announced that he was streaming a tour of his former house so I clicked the link. I hollered at Diane and explained what was going on and she watched over my shoulder. When Dean finished Diane said we didn't get to see the kitchen and I explained he had already been throgh there. Her response "ask him to go back so I can see it." I said there was no way I could ask him to do that as he didn't know me. Today I know that if I had asked he probably would have done it. The king of sharing online, from stains to work, to pictures, Dean is usually in the middle of it. Calling on all of us to have our work somewhere for others to see and comment on. We showed up at his door knowing that he was in San Diego. Our shot at having some fun. His youngest daughter was there and thankfully she did not invite us in. We spoke with her at the door, took some pictures of the house with the Prius in the driveway along with Diane and then kidded him about it a bit on twitter. In no way did I want him to feel bad, just having some fun and yet he still will ocassionally tell me he wished he were there. Kind thoughtful and always telling stories, but yet that is what he also wants us to do, tell our stories. I am still trying to live up to what he has shown me and I am so glad to call and be called friend by Dean.

Alec Couros also got in my stream the same way that Dean did, my grabbing him from someone else's twitter followers. Reading through some of Alec's posts, there was an immediate draw as he talked of social justice, education, and working hard to be open and transparent in the work he did. I first met Alec face to face at Educon 2.1 and was engaged from the start. I had been online working with a social media class at the school and mentioned it on twitter inviting people to come answer questions, and Alec didn't hesitate even while he was on sabbatical. His family, all 3 children and his wonderful wife are all fantastic people to be around. True, rich, warm conversations that call you to give your best are so meaningful. Easy to visit with, we headed out to their favorite Greek restaurant and had a blast.  The children were awesome listening to a bunch of old folks talk and I finally got the 2 year old to pay attention to me by playing a simple game of hide and seek through the use of a cloth napkin at the restaurant. She was so cute but all of their children are precious and beautiful. Alec has been one of those epeople that makes me truly think, think about direction, what is best, how to improve and how to serve. To sit with Alec and his wonderful wife and hear their story and the story of Canada's native people opened my eyes a bit to why he is the person he is and that was meaningful to me.

The things I have written about the people in this entry could be said for all of them and so many more in my network. I will be adding to this and linking and dropping in some more pictures but this is way overdue. If you have gotten to this point thank you for hanging with me to the end. I know it is long but it truly is all about the people, and these are some wonderful ones.

So very much more to learn and so very little time.