Connecting Your Classroom to the World

One of the things I’m looking forward to the most next year is the ability to collaborate globally. As a classroom teacher, I’ve been able to foster connections using tools like skype and hangouts with professionals such as authors and scientists in fields that my students are learning about and are innately curious. Tools like ‘periscope‘ will make it easy to live stream field trips to classes around the world and share them with twitter hashtags and ‘Google Fi‘ will give us worldwide coverage.

Platforms for Connected Classrooms

Traveling Teddy: This is a fun site to dip your feet in connectivist culture wherein your class signs up to take a teddy bear around the world and document it as if it were a member of the community. Rockstar teacher Pana Asavavatana is the brainchild behind this fun program. Signups for next school year start in August.

Flat Connections: This is Julie Lindsay’s site that she uses to connect classrooms around the world to each other through events and projects. She’s a global legend and I just read her book ‘The Global Educator’ for the second time and pleased that many teachers featured I now call my friends!

Empatico: Craig Kemp turned me on to this one and my after school ES ‘Techsperts’ club has been using this for the last few weeks to connect with a classroom in India. We started as a mystery hangout and then moved into empathy building sessions (hence the name) built around prompts such as how you help in your community, to local landmarks, and how students use energy in their homes.

Google’s Applied Digital Skills: This has caught on like wildfire. Google compartmentalized tools of their app suite into tutorials and projects with a specific topic focus (coding, online safety, project management) and targets these projects for a specific audience within schools. As Google in Education has a focus on collaboration, it’s a great way to go beyond basic tool use and highlight the possibilities.

Education to Save the World: This site is also a great blog and Julie Stern breaks down approaches to global learning through inflection points called ‘Concept Based’ approaches to teaching and learning. She does a beautiful job of grounding current problems to historical ones.

Write About: This is a fun blogging platform that I’ve used with students that teaching not only writing, but the art of reading and responding to others as a commenter. The site has really fun writing prompts and as a teacher you can moderate the posts and comments from other students. A great way to start publishing student work to a larger global audience.

STEM colelection

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4 Tips for Staying Fit While Traveling

Health and fitness are about what you do constantly, not occasionally.

Keeping to a regular fitness regiment and healthy eating are easy to do at home, but hell to do when you’re on the road. Limited food options and sparse fitness centers make staying in shape a challenge for long periods of travel time. There’s something comforting in our routines.

A few summers ago, we spent a summer in Italy, Belgium and Croatia. Between the Italian food and Belgian beer, I gained (no shit) 15 pounds in 7 weeks. My ‘fat’ pants became my tight pants and I spent 3 months working it off. Chalk it up to Italy having some of the best food in the world, and to waving it off with an “I’m on holiday“, but still it’s easier just to keep it off.

Staying fit during long term travel with limited gym options is hard, but at the ripe age of 42, I’ve managed to get in the best shape of my life despite working full time. Here are some tips:

1.) Find a Consistent Time

I usually wake up at 4:15 am to do my 30 minute cardio routine, but on the road will probably sleep in till 6ish. I like the morning is nice as it’s generally cooler and you have a nice rush of endorphins to start your day. I also like the personal time of waking up early as my girls are still asleep and find peace in the solitude.

2.) Surround Yourself with People that Inspire You

Jillian Michaels said a way to motivate you to exercise is to surround yourself in media that inspires you to get fit. Add fitness gurus to your social media feed with pictures and workout tips.

3.) Eat Well

You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet and when traveling to foreign places it’s easy to indulge in its culinary delights. Some things I’ve learned over time that mitigate the calories

  • Have your ‘Cheat Meals’ early. Have your ‘big meal’ out for lunch or breakfast (if you’re staying at a high end hotel) but more modest meals for dinner.
  • Eat Smaller Portions. If you’re staying at an AirBnB or place with a fridge, save leftovers for heat up meals the next day. It will save you money too.
Yoga Clothing for You

4.) Find a Routine You Enjoy

Finding a routine is often the hardest one because there will be limitations on space. If your hotel has a gym, great, but if you’re staying in an AirBnB or smaller hotel, you may be relegated to the outdoor patio, roof or balcony. Here are some platforms that I’ve used over the years that I like:

  • Shaun T– I’ve been exercising to Shaun T for nearly a decade. I started with this T-25 series but have been using Insanity Max 30 lately which has helped me improve my upper body strength. What I like most is the ‘timer’ at the bottom of the screen that shows you time duration left of an exercise and workout as a whole.
  • Jillian Michaels– I’ve done fitness with Jillian also on an off over the years and she really stresses good eating as well.
  • Yoga With Adrienne– I usually do yoga for 5-10 minutes in the morning before cardio and again in the evening which saves my knees and back. Adrienne has a free youtube channel with over 400 videos and a a soothing voice.
  • Pinterest– Pinterest just went public with their IPO last week and I think it’s one of the most underutilized social media/reader platforms out there. It curates articles based on your search history, so you are constantly seeing new things as your searches change over time. I have half a dozen boards devoted to crock-pot recipes, to healthy eating. I have a board devoted to back stretches and travel workouts that you can follow here.
I think I’m more excited to visit Morocco for the early morning Riad rooftop workouts. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

There is no shortage of fitness regiments to find in cyberspace. Typically, I like free platforms, but ones requiring a monthly subscription may motivate you to visit and commit to creating a healthy lifestyle.

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Tips for Working with Drones on your Holiday

My after school ‘Techsperts’ club has been learning about drones.

It’s inescapable that we are in the early stages of living with drones in our everyday lives. From packages being delivered from Amazon, modern warfare, and recreational use, the public has adapted to that familiar ‘bee-hive’ like buzz at sporting events, beaches, and popular tourist sites. The wide shots that they provide at 4K are exceptional and I’ve used them for marketing footage at my school for a variety of projects. It’s inevitable that we’ll look up the skies in the coming years and see a denser and denser swarm of autonomous bots delivering and returning items, and even monitoring crops as an extension of our workflow to enhance productivity on the ground.

This opening tracking shot I did with the drone is ‘almost’ Nat Geo worthy.

Others don’t share that sentiment. More and more, drones are being denied flight time at monuments, airports (for obvious interference) and even have been shot out of the sky or billy-clubbed to death by law enforcement upon landing. There are concerns that they could be misused for ‘spying’ overhead in people’s backyards as they sunbathe or people who are unsuspectedly filmed outside of their window while getting out of the shower. I’ve read and seen videos of film crews using them to document conditions at inhumane livestock ranches, and Paul Scharre’s book ‘Army of None‘ highlights the terrifying uses of drone armies to modernize warfare with lethal packages and AI to coordinate autonomous robots on the battlefield.

6 Tips for Successful Drone Operation and Filming

1.) Don’t neglect the orientation. DJI now has new users go through a multiple choice test in initialization involving a formative assessment to acquaint them with FAA guidelines, proximity to public areas and maximum heights.

2.) Familiarize yourself with country laws. Some countries have banned personal drones. Some game parks in Africa don’t allow you to fly in parks without a permit (which could be exploited by poachers) but youtube’s creator studio has a lot of creative commons 4K footage in national parks.

3.) Start conservative and get more daring. There are user settings which can be customized based on experience and user needs. Typically, it’s best to start with more conservative settings which result in slower maximum speed and a lower flight ceiling. Use this for your first 20+ hours to get experience and then raise your flight ceiling.

4.) Don’t fly blind. Once a friend and I were doing some guerrilla drone filming in an area that was off limits and we didn’t have eyes on the machine. While doing a beautiful side pan, he flew right into a skyscraper.

5.) Get creative and practice. Pull aways, tracking shots, sweeps, fly overs all can give a unique perspective. In the case of the the Mongolia video opening above, I practiced about 4-5 times before the actual shot to get the feeling of the fine motor skills needed for the tracking than pull away wide angle.

6.) Avoid Buildings. This might go without saying, but the more you shoot in urban environments, you’ll start getting closer and closer to buildings. A sudden gust of wind may sweep the drone into a wall. Once, I had a metal column suck the electromagnets of the motors into it from 10 feet away.

Mavic Pro Platinum Up To USD $100 Off

If Your Drone Flying is Denied

I’m in Singapore right now working on a video while on spring break, and despite research telling me that drone operation here was legal, I got the kibosh on my flying time shot down by local law enforcement and was told I needed a permit that was difficult to secure given my narrow window of time here. An easy work around is to search for drone footage on youtube and filter for ‘creative commons’ which is free for the public to download and use. I found a user ‘Timberland Pham’ and his site “Phamtastic Productions” had some good footage so I sent him a letter asking for permission and he was more than happy to oblige.

Filtering for free to use ‘Drone Footage’.

What Will the Future Hold for Drones in Education?

One of the members of my PLN, David Navis, shared that he started a drone club at his school in Guangzhou that has swelled to 50 members that has started racing competitions, and even offered some of his students internships with companies that are developing this technology. Some of his students have been sponsored by companies specialized in competitive racing. One student even developed this racing frame which is being sold (How’s that for entrepreneurism?) and even toured the company making the Ehang 184. At the rate private international schools are innovating with tools such as Raspberry Pis, 3D printers, and robotics, I think we’ll see ‘Drone Maintenance and Repair‘ as a course listing 10 years from now.

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The End of a Ski Season

There are moments that divide our lives.

Milestones of your child’s development. A promotion. Moving across the country. The loss of a family member or addition of a new one by birth or marriage. When we look back at these moments, they divide our memories into segments of our time before it happened and how much your life changed after it did. I had such a moment yesterday while up atPhoenix Park ski resort celebrating our last ski trip of the year.

“Daddy, can June and I ride the lift together….without you?”

“Without me?” I replied.

“Well you can ride the next chairlift behind us.”

Up till then, skiing had been a slog with Ava. The beginning of the season would revisit basics of snowplowing and after 1 or 2 runs, she would be done- happy to retreat back to the lodge with mommy to warm up with hot chocolate so daddy can cruise some double blacks. I’ve always wanted her to build her skills as a skier and I hoped that after enough trips up, it would eventually ‘click’ and become a life time passion. Still, I imagined her and I sashaying down runs together, a father and daughter duo enjoying the efforts of the other as equal peers like a modern day Rory and Lorelai from ‘The Gilmore Girls‘.

Ava and Jun Seo riding the gondola

‘We’re big kids and very confident skiers’ Ava tried to reason with me.

We went up to Phoenix park to spend it with our friend Seok Jin who was leading a trip there for his travel company and his son Jun tagged along for the ride. An injury Seok Jin sustained earlier meant he could not take his son out himself and resorted to paying for overpriced lessons on Friday. I was happy to take the kids out and give him a break.

The first few runs as a trio kept me behind the 9 year old dynamic duo, pulling up to help only if they wiped out and needed help reaching their skis or getting to their feet. However, after the sixth run, something happened. They started doing runs without crashing. They wanted to go again, and again. Then, it came:

“Daddy, can June and I ride the lift together….without you?”

Reveling in her newly minted confidence was equally the painful realization that my daughter was growing up, and away from me, albeit one run at a time. I flash forwarded to her wedding day when I would one day ‘give’ her to another man (or woman), whom she was spend the rest of her life with which I imagine is both the best and worst day that I father experiences for her baby girl, and in some small way, riding the chairlift with Jun was a harbinger of things to come. I thought that would be the end of it.

“Uh daddy, can Jun and I ride down a hill..without you?”

“What if one of you falls and needs help up?”

“We can help each other! We’ll be fine.”

I decided to test this theory by riding behind them for a few runs only to watch one of them fall and sure enough, be helped up by the other. It’s touching to see elementary boys and girls help one another, not yet fazed by the awkwardness that teenagers feel when they hit puberty and the middle school years. Soon after, I went to go check on mommy with them content to explore the mountain on their own.

“Let me get this straight.” I said upon their return. “You guys went through the terrain park?”

“Yes! It was so fun and they have big jumps.”

Aren’t you guys a little young to be going through the terrain park by yourselves?” I suppose this is what I get after showing Ava Chloe Kim’s latest halfpipe run in Vail (my alma mater) from my instagram feed.

That night, the three of us set out again to do some night skiing after Korean barbecue and copious amounts of soju for the adults on Seok Jin’s 46th birthday. By then, the temperature dropped and the slush gave way to freshly groomed runs with less crowds and floodlights.

The night belonged to the kids and they grabbed their moment like a baton that had been passed from an older to a younger generation, emboldened by illusions of immortality buoyed by Chloe Kim’s snowboarding abilities. They could do no wrong and would ski as fast as they possibly could, all the while staying together while a 42 year old snowboarder shouts frantically for them to slow down, tries to keep up, and recedes farther and farther from view.

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The Last Sleepovers

The Last Sleepovers

It’s 8:39 am and Ava just had a friend over for a sleepover the night before. For the first time in the dozen or so sleepovers that we’ve hosted, we didn’t have any flour or milk, so I wasn’t able to make my token pancakes. It didn’t go over well with my daughter.

Sorry Ava, I don’t have ingredients for pancakes this morning. I can make you both bagels and cream cheese.

No pancakes daddy? What kind of sleepover IS this?

I then thought that Ava might benefit by starting her trip by writing a thousand word essay on the topic of ‘disappointment’ to shake creeping first world privilege. While I was wrestling with whether or not I might be too hard on her, or raising a spoiled child, I had an epiphany- sleepovers would soon dry up.

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Proper pancakes

The Challenge of Making Friends While Traveling

By now, word has spread around our community of our plans. Common responses from our coworkers in passing have been:

“What a great learning experience for your daughter!”

“She’ll have so many good memories to look back on!”

“No doubt, she’ll have a great global perspective!”

True. But, how will she make friends? Say what you want about the 9 to 5 grind, but there are real comforts in daily work-life. Visiting the gym regularly, social get togethers, local hobbies- all of things make a place home, and after weeks on the road, we’re always happy to be homeward bound. With us being gone for a year, how will our daughter make and sustain any long term friendships? How will she learn to resolve conflicts through negotiation and role play? Sure, she’ll meet people here and there, but as people are always coming and going on the road, I know the moments will be fleeting and ephemeral. Here are some strategies that we’ve learned to keep her social:

Skype and Hangouts. Not just for calling your parents (see below). Some of the families that we’ve been following have said that periodic chats with friends around the world via skype or Google hangouts can do wonders for loneliness.

The Local Park. Europe is awesome for community parks and I was surprised at how much I liked down days just hanging out on a blanket in the grass. Some times, we would take a picnic lunch, a book to read, sunscreen and a frisbee and it would turn into one of those ‘magic days’.

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Local park in Budapest

The Beach or Swimming PoolI’m already jonesing for the beaches on the Mediterranean. I think when most people think of those idillic beaches of the world, they think of deserted places. I’m the opposite. The more the merrier, and with people come amenities like cafes, ice cream shops but more importantly, other kids with whom to play.

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Swimming with besties in Vietnam

Resort Owners A few years ago we went on a diving trip in Moalboal (see below) and arranged for childcare ahead of time so Lisa and I could go diving. Upon arrival, we learned the owner had two grandchildren visiting and we asked if Ava could play with them. They hit it off instantly and soon we gained the trust of the family to leave Ava with the other children in the pool for a couple hours when we went diving. Since then, we’ve made an effort to see if any of the owners of the hotel or Air B and B have similarly aged children for a playdate.

 

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Untangling Branding and Social Media

I read once that 50,000 new blogs are started every day.

Most languish on the vine after a few months. People get an idea that the world is just aching to hang on their every word, only to learn later that they are a speck in an infinitesimal sea of people just wanting to be ‘liked’. Garrison Keillor once said: “In the future, everyone will have a blog with 6 readers- 4 of them family members.” I may not have the quote correct, but I doubt GK will dispute this as he’s quite busy contesting his recent sexual assault allegations.

This is my fourth blog. My third, “Teaching Ahead of the Curve“, was an Edtech blog that once was in the top 500 educational blogs in the world and in its heyday, provided 4-6  posts of a month. It tapered off after 5 years of trying to keep up with ever changing trends and edtech tools that were saturating the market and becoming obsolete in a matter of years, sometimes months. It was like trying to shovel the driveway while it was still snowing.

Still it begs the question-Why do some people have so many followers and others have so few?

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The importance of branding. Image courtesy of CC

 

A Customized Logo

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Two days ago, my wife and I bought ‘Nomadic Edventures’ for a two year premium subscription on ‘wordpress’ for $180. The name was catchy, but we decided to buoy the name with a custom logo which we bought for $19 on ‘Logo Crisp‘ which we could use for our site’s favicon (Little icon on browser tab), our site’s logo next to the header, and also for our profile pictures on instagram and youtube. A logo might seem like an innocuous detail, but the logo brings recognition as users navigate to your content.

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

We’re seeing a shift in social media use. Many younger users seem to be moving to Instagram and Snapchat and leaving Facebook and Twitter. With so many overlapping features, here is some of their highlights:

  • Instagram has an emphasis on quality images and less on the text. Posting, be sure to add half a dozen hashtags to share beyond just your followers. I use Instagram for my ‘edgy’ personal life and follow tattoo junkies and fitness freaks, like me.
  • Twitter has more of an emphasis on the text, less on the images. Like above, add half a dozen hashtags to your tweet to reach new followers. I use Twitter primarily for my professional learning community. Google + is also a great one for this.
  • Facebook posts can be public or private to friends. I use Facebook with my friends and family and is primarily used for personal posts.
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Image courtesy of CC

Sharing, Re-sharing and Re-sharing

The above is meant to sound redundant, because all the great content in the world will get lost in that sea unless you make it stand out. Just because you have spent hours making a video or blogging, if you publish content to the web, share it often. Re-share it when you have a not posting day and re-share it over and over. Just when you start to get sick of it, someone is learning about it for the first time.

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What’s in a Name?

“What should we call it?” My wife Lisa asked.

A few years ago, my wife and I had an idea. Not to sleep in separate beds or anything, but to take a trip around the world as a family for a year. I don’t know what prompted it. Perhaps it was the ever increasing audibility of our knees as we lifted ourselves off the toilet, christening the onset of old age. At 42 and 47, we’re definitely in the middle age bracket, but not quite ‘near elderly’.

The planning would be no small feat, but with enough time we were confident that we could figure it out. Some of the big questions that we have had to answer are:

  1. How to save up enough money to finance a year’s travel?
  2. What are we going to do with all our ‘crap’ for a year? (We are living in Korea at the time)
  3. Who is going to take care of our two cats?
  4. How much will health insurance cost and can we get an affordable plan that gives us enough coverage?
  5. Could we blog about it? (and what would be a good name?)
  6. How will our daughter receive recognition for her learning on the road as a fourth grader so she’ll be able to enroll as a fifth grader?
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Our two cats, ‘Georgie’ and ‘Cutie Soft Paws’

If you’re still reading this, like me, you probably already have a headache. Trip planning is supposed to be fun, isn’t it? Why bog down a perfectly good vacation with responsibility?

Except it wasn’t. A vacation that is. This was to be our new way routine with a finite amount of money, with the objective of delivering an educational experience for our daughter with a broad world view. Simple, right?

We plan to begin our trip in June of 2019 (when our teaching contracts expire) and we have started to cobble a bucket list of destinations together on a spreadsheet. As I write this, we are currently under a year away, it is now the time to kick our planning into high gear. With the above questions going unanswered, we needed to get something done, so we settled on a wordpress blog to chronicle the experience. The first step in setting up any blog is to give it a name, because once that’s done, it can’t be changed.

“Any blog name should be somewhat short and sweet, but catchy and easy to remember if you’re telling it to someone in passing.” I replied back to her.

“We’ll be writing about travel destinations, tips for traveling, but also the education and the learning angle”. We came up with the following list:

  • Schooling around the world
  • The world is our school
  • Learning about the world
  • Bucket list family (we found this was taken)
  • Worldschooling Ava (too pretentious)
  • Worldly schooling Ava (Tips on how to emotionally abuse your child)
  • A kid, a swimmer and a techie go into a bar…
  • Small steps in a big world
  • A family that travels together
  • Our traveling family

“How about ‘Nomadic Edventures?'” My wife offered.

And with that, the list got a little bit smaller.