#DENSI2014 Did that just happen?

I returned from #DENSI2014 in Nashville Friday night after a day full of driving in the rain. Not my favorite way to drive but none the less, it was time to get home. Prior to arriving at #DENSI2014 I was a little fearful of my aversion to large groups, close quarters, 6 women sharing 1 shower, and having to be “on” all the time. Yes, I am an introvert but an introvert that can drip her toes in to the extrovert world at times. I kept telling myself it would be fine.

When I officially checked in to the Carmichael dorm I was all ready overwhelmed with all of the people and the noise. People were hugging, laughing, and greeting one another. I unloaded my car at the stairs by the door and then parked. When I came back to the door Mark Case, whom I had never met was all ready lifting my heavy luggage up the stairs to the dorm. At that moment I thought, it’s going to be ok.


DENnis Grice, Dave Tchozewski, and David Fisher

Throughout the week I was exposed to some amazing sessions planned and unplanned. My favorite keynote was Lodge McCammon. He never ceases to amaze me. I really enjoyed Conni Mulligan‘s session on creating shadow puppets with old overhead projectors. It gave me so many ideas for not only work but play. Tim Childers session on teaching with one image resinated the word focus for me. I managed to make it to #SitDen (AKA meet at Starbucks and chat at 6am while others were exercising at #FitDEN) a few times. I learned there too. Kathy Schrock showed me explee.com. It’s a cool image animator.

As the week progressed, I decided to let a little of myself show. I brought my photo booth mustaches and started taking photos of people using them. I would walk up to people and say,  “I ‘must-ache’ you a question, may I take your picture?” It was a great way to just talk to people I didn’t know for a moment.  This led to “my thing” at DEN. Someone suggested I do something for WDEN our morning news show. When I was looking at the photos later that night I thought…BAZINGA! I will interview people and they will have to answer with the mustache! This was great for my introverted self. I would meet even more people because I was working on a project. So I spent Wednesday interviewing people in between sessions and editing video. I submitted my video to WDEN and they played it Thursday morning. Here is a little look if you want to watch it. I have more footage and plan on creating a few more episodes. Hopefully time will not get away from me.

Being an introvert, another worry of mine was finding time to recharge in silence. I was worried I wouldn’t ever be alone. Not that I wanted to be antisocial… I just need to recharge. I probably missed out on a few fun things but I did find some quiet space on the patio outside the dorm. It was a great place to sit feel the cool breeze.

I would like to thank the DEN for letting me be me all week. I was able to learn the way I liked to learn. I wasn’t pressured to be part of the crowd. I was given space when I needed it.  The conversations I had were amazing and I met some wonderful people. The conversations were invigorating. The DEN Love was palpable. My twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with their knowledge and friendship. Thank you, so much for this experience.

After the week, I have to admit seeing this post on twitter made me feel a little better about my introverted-ness. It reminded me we are everywhere!


Oh, and by the way, if #DENSI2015 will have me back… watch out, I’ll be out of my shell. 🙂




Their Nashville Story

roberts.jpgOn Monday, Discovery Education sent us on an outing around Nashville. We visited the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Honky Tonk Row. Of everything we did on Monday, 30 minutes of my day will stick with me forever. A few of us were walking around Honky Tonk Row around 10:45 am and the establishments were beginning to open and have live musicians. Prior to leaving for Nashville my husband told me I needed to go to a honky tonk and listen to music during the day and he suggested I go to one of his old hangouts called Robert’s Western World.

As we walked down the street, I looked up after we passed Tootsies and I saw Robert’s sign. We did not realize Robert’s was not open when we walked in but they welcomed us, let us know they would be open at 11:00am and told us to make ourselves at home. I began looking around at all of the artwork on the wall. I noticed an older man about 78 years old preparing the stage and a little old woman sitting content to the side. I walked over to the woman and said, “Do you do come here every day?” She smiled, giggled and said, “Yes, I have every day for 44 years.” As she talked there was a sparkle in her eyes. I went on to ask her if her husband owned the honky tonk. She told me no and went on to tell me her husband plays the 11:00-2:00pm slot every day. Proudly she pointed to the recognition plaques her and her husband received for the years they sang at Robert’s. She pointed out two plagues, one for 30 years and another for 40 years. Looking at the plaques, I learn their names are John and Lois Shepherd. Lois was so very proud of the life she and John have spent at the Honky Tonk. John used to work for “Robert” the original owner when Robert’s was a clothing store. The location began serving dinner and then added singers to the day all while selling clothing. Eventually they stopped selling clothes and focused on food and music. After our short discussion, my party and I decided we would come back at 11:00am to hear John sing. I am not sure if Lois thought we would really come back but when we did with another companion, John looks at Lois from the stage and says, “They came back with another to hear the music.” and immediately broke in to Conway Twitty’s song “Hey, Darlin’.”

IMG_0283As John played we took in the paintings and shelves of cowboy boots on the wall. Tim, Sandy, and I decided to order a fried bologna sandwich and coke, the house special, to enjoy while we listened to John sing. When ordering we asked the bartender about them. She told us John and Lois were a staple in the bar and the area. Lois used to sing a lot more with John but she doesn’t much anymore due to her health. John continued to play music and ask for requests. Tim requested George Jones and then asked him to play a song written by Lois. When Tim made this request, Lois beamed. John introduced the song by telling us she won an award the specific song he was going to sing and “two fellas in Ireland recorded it.” After John finished the song, Lois walked over to us while we were waiting on our food to tell us the first photo of John and her was on the wall next to where we sat. We moved the boots to see the photo. She told me she thought he was so handsome and they were in love from the moment they met. John and Lois were a team. Lois wrote the songs and John sang/played them.

I was sad to leave too soon but we had to get back to the tour bus. I could have listened to John sing all afternoon while I talked with Lois. You never know where you will find the next story that will touch your heart. Lois (pictured to the left) was the sweetest, most adorable woman I have ever met. She was so willing to share herself with me. John was a wonderful artist. Their relationship was beautiful.


Those few moments I spent with John and Lois Shepherd made Nashville become ‘real’ to me. It was no longer this tourist destination about cowboys and country music. It was about real people. Their story makes me want to return to Nashville and get to know the city a little better. I took from their story love, respect, and passion for each other and country music.

So I ask you, what is your story?


If you are interested in listening/watching John and Lois Shepherd check out this YouTube video. The video isn’t that great but you will be able to hear their beautiful voices clearly.




Dimitris Kalogeropoylos, https://flic.kr/p/5qtj4r

Dimitris Kalogeropoylos, https://flic.kr/p/5qtj4r 

Today the word FOCUS has hit me like a ton of bricks in a good way, if that can be done. I am presently attending #DENSI2014 in Nashville, TN. Today we spent the day in sessions learning new tips, tricks, and techniques about technology integration. The day was kicked off by Lodge McCammon. He is one of my favorite people in the realm of education. Lodge talked about the word ‘Lecture’ not being a bad word. If we looked at how we do lecture we could make it more effective and efficient.

Lodge spent time working with us on the efficiency of the mind and body. This was fascinating to me and even now as my mind and body are exhausted from cognitive overload. In my job I spend a lot of time reiterating things over and over like anyone else. It’s exhausting. Recording the content or expertise would essentially “free my mind” of some cognitive overload. See what I mean from one of his ‘recorded lectures’ in the keynote.

And this brought me to my aha… Lodge worked with us on how recording our lessons helps teachers reflect allowing us to FOCUS and improve our teaching. This really spoke to me.

This word focus followed me to my next session from Tim Childers, Teaching with Just One Image. Tim talked about how to get students to look at an image and focus on specific things in the image whether it be simply what you see, a specific area of a photo, or using a tool like VoiceThread for students to express thoughts about a photo. But he kept bringing up this ideas of guided attention to focus students. He also shared a touching story about his daughter and her focus on making it up the Beehive in Maine. When her focus changed she was able to continue to the end of the hike. There is that word again!

So it got me thinking. As I conduct professional development routinely, I find myself waiting longer and longer to prepare because “I got this.” When it is time to conduct the PD, I become drained. At times I even really don’t want to do it because I don’t want to repeat myself again. I find that I can become the talking head spewing out information at the front of the room. How can I FOCUS? How do I guide the attention of the teachers? What do I want to accomplish in the PD that I am conducting? Not only do I want teachers have a better understanding on the topic, I want to model teaching practices we want to see in our classrooms. How can I accomplish these things?

How can I FOCUS?

1. Don’t forget what I learned today.

2. Take the time up front to plan and create my lecture videos.

3. Use the added time in the PD session to involve the participants in discussions and hands-on. Keep veering from click her, do this.

4. Reflect each time I conduct the sessions and improve.


Eating… I love it and I’m relearning how to do it.


I have learned a lot about eating in the last month. I struggle with weight and ALWAYS have. Honestly, I haven’t been able to lose weight in over 5 years. I have tried and failed miserably. So at the beginning of June my husband and I did the 2 Week Rapid Weight Loss plan by Dr. Oz. During the two weeks no caffeine, limited wheat, no dairy, no alcohol, limited lean protein and LOTS of  low glycemic vegetables.

I was excited and nervous. Excited just to try something new. Nervous because failure could be a result AND it was the beginning of the busiest time of year for me at work. I am happy to say, we make it through the 2 weeks! My husband and I were a team through the plan. I even ‘cheated’ two times and still lost weight.

In the two weeks I managed to lose 7 lbs. That is more weight than I have lost in over 5 years. The interesting part for me is that wasn’t the most exciting part for  me. Within 3-4 days of the eating plan, I suddenly had more energy. I was waking up 90 minutes earlier than I normally did. I was eating as much food as I wanted. My sugar cravings were GONE. It’s been almost 6 weeks since we started the plan and I travelled for 1/2 of the month of June. To date I am -2 more pounds. I am shocked by the fact that I have been eating out most of the month.

Was the limitations to my diet hard? 

Yes and no. I loved all the food so that wasn’t the issue. The issue was all the food prep took extra time. I spent so much time in the kitchen on the 2 week plan I thought about just sleeping in there. Now, that I am just eating right, I love getting in the kitchen to see what I can create.

In the first 2-3 days of the plan I did experience headaches. I am sure this was a sugar  and caffeine detox.

So what have I learned? 

1. I learned that I was completely addicted to sugar and not natural sugar – refined white sugar. It was great to break that chain. I look at the candy bowl at work and just walk by now.

2. Enriched wheat is everywhere and again, I was addicted. My body doesn’t crave bread anymore. I crave things that make my body feel good.

3. I have always considered myself a foodie. Well now I really am. I love how real food tastes. I crave fresh tomatoes, zucchini, sweet peppers. New flavors are wonderful and exciting to my taste buds.

4. Now I look at food as fuel for my body not something that makes me emotionally feel better. I still love pizza and cheeseburgers. I just don’t eat as much or as often.

5. Having my husband by my side through this transition made things a lot easier than doing it alone. We both crave healthy food now. I also think our change in eating has positively effected my step daughter’s eating. I am happy she has tried all the foods we are eating.

Where do I go from here? 

I will be traveling again next week. I am heading to Nashville for the Discovery Education Network Summer Institute. I know I will be plenty active there but eating… oh, the eating…. I will just have to listen to my body.

My husband and I are starting Couch to 5K and hopefully running a 5K in the early fall.

My body feels good and is looking better.  At 40 years old that is a good thing.

Are large conferences needed anymore?

This blog post is a not only a response to Tim Childers New World Order and  I Can Relate but a continuation of a conversation I have had a few times in the last couple of days.

In the last 3 weeks I have been all over the place. I am part of the SC Midlands Summit Planning team. We kicked off June with 600+ educators attending a two-day conference. It was a great two days. The feedback was awesome and reminds us why we do the conference every year. Then I attended the Summer of Summit by Summit Schools in Redwood City, CA. Again another small conference with about 150 attendees. This week I attended #ISTE2014 in Atlanta, GA with 15,000 people in a massive conference center.

It was my 12th ISTE conference so I know the drill. I expect all the crowds and know that many sessions are going to be full. But yet, every year I hope for the best. I hope that it will be different. Sure, there are lots of alternative ways to learn at the conference like the playground, poster sessions, bloggers cafe, or just conversation. But I guess my question is, is it worth it to spend all that money for conversations in the hall? Technology makes connecting to people SO easy to meet and talk with people do we need large conferences to make that personal/human connection? By no means am I saying ISTE is a bad thing. ISTE is great for those new to the profession looking to receive a massive amount of information. I just wonder for me if a full registration is really what I need since I end up frustrated that I can’t get in to the sessions I want to attend.

Let me take a moment to go over my take aways…

The Surprise
Only device I needed was my iPhone. I have never attended a conference before without bringing a laptop of some kind. I had my Chromebook in my backpack for two days and decided to leave it in the hotel on day 3 since I hadn’t taken it out.

The Great
It’s always great to network and meet new people doing things you wish you could or taking the journey down the road you just travelled. I was able to meet a number of people who I will be spending time with at DENSI in a little over a week so that was great.

Seeing Jessica Donaldson and Tim Childers. These two people get me. It’s always awesome to spend time with either one but this year, I was able to see them both.


This ISTE was the first for one of my cousins. It was great seeing the conference through his eyes. Welcome to the ISTE Club, Joe!


Kevin Carroll and the red ball was amazing! His story is an inspiration and made me think about my own passions and how to keep moving forward with them. My favorite remark of the keynote was “If your dreams don’t scare you, you aren’t reaching high enough.” It gave me something to think about.

Poster sessions, as always, never fail. It’s a great opportunity to talk with people  who have worked on specific projects.

The Lack Luster
As I mentioned before the full sessions. I don’t understand why I have to get to a session 30 minutes early to get a spot in line to get a seat. It defeats the purpose of attending any sessions. I know there are many people think it’s so yesterday to attend sessions but my district was gracious enough to pay for my registration, the least I can do is attend sessions. 😉

The sheer size of the conference center was daunting. I didn’t arrive to the conference until Sunday morning so it took my a good bit of Sunday to get the layout. Of course this is something that is necessary due to the amount of attendees.

The noise. This might be one of those times you respond,’What?’ But for me ISTE is overstimulation and noise on so many levels that an introvert like me is freaking out on the inside. I end up having what I call a bit of ADD. I can’t focus on anything because I am worried I won’t make it in to my next session. I have been around people all day and there has been NO silence. I have to be fun and perky at the after parties. I can go on and on. Being an introvert requires some peace and it is hard to find at large conferences.

So this leads me back to with technology connecting with others is so easy. Do we need a large venue and conference like this? Why do we as educators have to have a venue like a 15,000+ attendee conference to make these connections? I have thought about this and I do not want to have to wait to attend an annual conference to talk to people. And when I say talk to people, I mean learn who they are and how we can help one another. Not just a flash by conference conversation about how great you are or what blog you are writing for, or who you just talked with. (Not that this type of conversation happens, ever)I am going to make  commitment to talking more to my conference buddies via Hangouts or Facetime. Who knows what could happen if we talk and collaborate more often the sky is the limit.

Where does this leave me? Conflicted and invigorated all at the same time. I would love to continue this conversation if you have any input.