Join the Roadtrip To Success Book Group

Hello everyone!

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It has been quiet here on the Coffee For The Brain home front for quite some time now. I have been away hanging with my family, doing some new projects, reading, traveling, and more.

I am back. I am ready to get back into the flow of things and I am going to do so with a big announcement and idea.

I have been working on a book now for quite some time. Believe me, it has been a journey that has pushed me to brink of excitement and frustration more times than I care to count. However, I believe in the message and really think I have something that can resonate with many of you.

Instead of just publishing it outright I have decided to reach out to all of you in hopes that you will join me in a little experiment. I would like to release the book in small chunks over the course of the next few months. I need some readers to give me feedback, test out the ideas, experiment with the challenges, and help make the book better than the current draft.

I am hoping that this person is you!

All you have to do is sign up by filling out this form below

Join the Roadtrip to Success Book Group

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Once you fill out this form I will be in contact with you starting on August 1st. We will be providing all sorts of powerful content such as:

  1. Chapters to read for free by agreeing to provide feedback and complete the challenges
  2. Podcasts and videos of myself as well as you the readers sharing your stories
  3. Challenges and contests
  4. Help with artwork, resources, and journaling
  5. Creating a network of people ready to map their journey to success to help each one another accomplish our goals

If you are ready to preview and read Improvement Is No Longer The Challenge: Designing the Roadtrip to Success, the simply fill out the form above and starting August 1st you will receive the first segment and other surprises.

This book was written for my kids, but with educators in mind. I hope you will join me and I promise this is something that you will benefit from by participating. I cannot wait to start sharing with all of you.

As a bonus I will send out the intro when you sign up. This will give you something to chew on while you wait for August 1st to come around.

Are you ready to no longer be average and hit that milestone you have been wanting to reach for a long time? Then this is for you!

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Learning is not difficult, it just takes time.

This summer I am disengaging from nonstop education thinking and just clearing my mind, body, and soul. If you have followed me online so far this summer it is really been saturated with my training workouts, books I have been reading, and family. I have decided to train for a marathon. I have ran one several years ago when I was in shape, had less children, and my body was not in the state of terrible fitness it is currently.

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So far, things have been going pretty good, but I have only been training for a few weeks.

To get my mind back in the mode to complete the runs, not miss workouts, and to make sure I don’t second guess myself when it comes to track workouts and long runs is the real challenge. These are the things that I am currently working with my kids.

My son is one who is not loaded with confidence and positive self image because he has yet to realize what potential he has inside him. Just the other night he was quite upset that he had to go to a basketball skills workout. He thinks he sucks. He thinks he is the worst player and that everyone looks at him. I tried to explain to him that he has the ability, but two things are holding him back.

  1. He does not believe in himself. 90% of being able to do the drills is to simply believe. I shared that just yesterday Ava finally decided enough was enough and she taught herself to ride her bike. She wanted zero help. I kept telling her to believe she can do it. Don’t doubt yourself when you start pedaling. Just keep pedaling. After 15 minutes she was riding up and down the street like a pro.
  2. It takes time. He was mad and arguing that he did on session and did not see improvement. I explained that one hour won’t make anyone a pro. This realization has come in my own life as well.

To reach our goals is not necessarily difficult… It just takes time.

And that is what we all need to learn.

Most things aren’t actually that difficult. But learning them does take awhile. The hardest part is devoting time to get better and to reach our goals.

Running isn’t overly hard – it’s just complex and learning a new skill takes time. This is why I am training with a group that provides the training plan. I just need to show up and do what is planned. Not that difficult. I just need to not skip a workout.

Running a marathon isn’t very hard. The numbers showcase that over a half a million people run a marathon each year. However, the number is deceiving because less than .5% of people have ran a marathon. We are all plagued by the notion of time. Can we really commit? Are we strong enough to do so?

What I am trying to showcase to Aiden and my daughters is that things are not really that difficult, but that our goals take time. This is a monumental mindset shift. They don’t understand and in the moment Aiden does not want to hear it. He does not like basketball and so convincing him that he could like it if he opened up his mind. More importantly, we tell him that playing various sports and games is good for his hand, eye, feet coordination that will help him in football which he loves.

I am happy to report that a few weeks into these workouts and sessions he has a new sense of confidence about himself. He smiles more. His shoulders don’t slouch. He does not cringe when it is time to go. He enjoys it. Maybe not the sport itself, but the challenge, feeling the improvement, connecting with friends. Most importantly he is starting to realize that maybe he can actually do the things he puts his mind to(although he won’t admit any of this!)

Back to the matter at hand. We don’t need special genes and DNA to reach our goals. We just need to be able to devote time to our goals. With time comes patience to not give up, staying consistent, and a positive self image. We can only achieve what we believe we can achieve.

Now I need to adhere to my own words of wisdom as I struggle with dropping weight and getting frustrated. I just need to exercise patience and believe in myself.

 

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Robodogs Sumobot Camp Day 1: Holy Robots, Batman!

This year we added a new camp that is all about sumobots. This is a three day camp that allows us to work with a greater range of students from grades 3-9. We have been asked time and time again about opportunities for younger students and we thought this was a perfect fit. This camp allows students to really do a lot more with robot engineering in terms of building a functional robot and figuring out how to best build a solid robot chasis. The beauty of this camp is that we can teach coding, but it does not require a lot of coding to get started which is perfect for the younger ages.

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Our first day was a great start to the camp. We got everyone settled in and made sure everyone knew the rules and how things would operate. You can check the slidedeck but realize this is a living breathing document and will probably change and be modified today as we continue to work through things.

The basic premise is to knock off your opponents robot from the arena without doing massive damage to the robot and parts.

We have about 30 students in the camp ranging from incoming 3rd graders who have never touched a robot to 8th graders who have a pretty extensive background. In the end it does not matter because they all work at their own levels and in this case experience is not as important as one might think.

The first day students were taught how the robots work, how to create a base using simple parts, and the very basics for getting a robot to move. We had them only focus on adding wheels and a gyro ball and getting the robot to move. Our more advanced students went ahead and did their own thing as they already knew these basics.IMG_4256

Once students were able to build a simple robot base that was sturdy we sat with them and demonstrated how to program using the move blocks in the programming language. Our first step was to basically show them that they could build and program a robot.  Confidence is key with anything we do in life and so the quicker we can instill that confidence, the better the outcome.

After we had the robots up and running, we had the students add a color sensor so their robot could detect black and white which are the two colors on the board.

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If students can begin to understand that they can program a robot to make a decision, then the possibilities start to really take off. In our case we wanted every student to have a robot with a color sensor that detected black and white. If the robot read the color black, then their robot would do “x”. If the robot read the color “white”, then their robot would do “y”. It is at this point that students start to make their robots unique in terms of behavior, actions, and movement.

IMG_4276 (1)As students started to figure these things out, we let them work for a bit on their own. There is a real powerful moment of learning when a student experiments on their own. It is also a very fine balance in teaching where we want them to do the work, but we don’t want them so frustrated they give up. Our real goal is to help these students develop their problem solving skills through robotics.

Finally, once they have a robot that can detect colors, then it is now up to them to build and develop a robot that will win a sumo match. This is where day 2 will lead as many of them have a robot that moves. Most of them have the color sensor working. We will have all of this done early in camp in day 2 and then it will be up to the students to devise a body, attachments, sensors, motors, etc. that will really bring their robot to life.

Already we have seen some really impressive robot designs. The imagination and creative juices of students impresses me time and time again.

Here is a quick recap of day 1 and we are really excited about day 2 and seeing how the robots develop and evolve.

 

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Robodogs Robotics Camp was AMAZING!

Another year of robotics camp is in the books. We had an amazing week working with so many talented, smart, intelligent students from grades 5-8 who came to work every single day for 3 hour blocks of time to push their learning and thinking. We had students coming 30-40 minutes early to get extra work on the robot. We had students studying videos online to learn more tactics and build ideas. We had students asking questions, wondering what if I do that or this.

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I was reminded about how amazing students can be when given the chance to spread their wings and fly. I was reminded that there are so many ways to go about being amazing and solving problems. I was reminded that gender and age mean absolutely nothing when we put our minds to a problem. We witnessed incoming 5th graders solve some pretty complex tasks. We watched girls knock it out of the park. We watched students of various ages coming together sharing ideas, teaching coding, helping with code.

We also witnessed and help to coach and mentor through the moments of failure. We told the students that robotics is about dealing with failure. 80% of the time is working on things that don’t work. There is a great deal of learning about oneself when something does not work for the 50th time. Students were working through the process of moving ideas from their head into the real world.

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We also had students work on their speaking skills. We challenged them to articulate their thoughts, explain why the built the robots they constructed, break down their strategy for earning points, and what they hoped to achieve. We taught them that being able to communicate and articulate ideas is one of the most vital skills we can develop. If we can communicate and problem solve, then we are highly employable and can accomplish great things.

I wanted to take time to not just emphasize robotics, but to talk a bit about the lessons learned.

  1. The impossible happens….only if you try. We challenged students to do things they have never done before. Some of the students had never touched a robot. Some have never programmed before and we challenged them to build and code a robot that would solve missions. Some had experience so we pushed them to do things with code that was beyond their current level of thinking. The big theme was to do things we never thought we could. It is scary to push into this new zone of thought, but the rewards can be great if we try. The ones who were successful realized that if one idea did not work out, then they would be able to devise and create another one. Many times we give up and instead we have to keep trying.IMG_3824
  2. Opportunity is always expanding.  We must continue to learn and grow. Each day students had the opportunity to learn and grow. Some stay focused on the task at hand while some migrated to other ideas, but we all expanded and pushed our boundaries. We must remember that the physical work is not as fixed as we once thought. What schools have taught in the past are wrong because our dreams don’t need to be fixed either. The landscape of the world is changing so we can do anything we want to do.IMG_4243
  3. Dream what doesn’t exist.  Go out and build that robot that nobody thinks you can build. Go out and solve that mission that nobody thinks can be solved in a 15 hour week of camp. We had students score some incredible point values that many teams in 2013 would have loved to score during the 4 month season. I was literally blown away by what the students were able to do. Check out the scores.
  4. Focus is key. Many students experienced what it means to take ownership of their work and learning. They realized that their success and setbacks was a result of them and their work. Nobody was going to do the work for them. In these moments students learn so much about themselves. Students came together to cheer one another on. When students were frustrated we watched others come to their rescue to help build them back up. Many learned a valuable lesson that the obstacles occur when we lose sight of the goals. We cannot solve all of these lessons in one camp, but the more we can immerse students in these life experiences the more opportunity they have to develop the skills and perseverance to endure.IMG_3819
  5. Teaching is a privilege. I love having the opportunity teach coding and robotics. I honestly feel blessed to be able to do these camps and continue to have these moments to teach and learn with students each and every school year. I wish I could provide more camps and opportunities and am working to do so, but regardless I am reminded how lucky I am to work with amazing students and watch them grow and develop.

In closing, we had another amazing camp and I was reminded of these life lessons. I hope the students had the same life lessons. We now prepare for one more robotics camp where we will be building sumobots. Until then keep pushing yourselves and learning each and every single day.

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Previous post about the camp.

Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2: Perseverance http://wp.me/p4covo-1Ev

Information about our camp

 

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Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2: Perseverance

The second day of camp always proves to be a bit of a challenge mentally. The day first comes excitement and all new challenges and building of a robot. The second day is where students find out if their ideas work. For many, the process typically requires a complete or very near complete overhaul of their original design concept.

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This is a tough moment. Many think their first idea is the best idea. Many have never been in a situation where they have had to endure several versions of their prototype ideas to find out what actually works. This can be challenging, but it is a vital piece in the learning process.

One of the key pieces of learning that is often hard for students to understand is the process of elimination. Today all of them were gaining valuable insights and critical elements of learning by discovering what does NOT work.  The process of elimination is what will allow for success. However, this is difficult for students to grasp because the learning is not always tangible. Points are not being scored and missions are not being solved. But, by working through ideas and noting what works and what does not is one more key step in learning and robotics.

Success comes from ruling things out. This is why in a typical robotics season we invest hundred of hours into our robot as we figure out what works and what does not work in addition to adding new layers to the robot as we incorporate new missions and challenges.

Today we really had students trying to think about strategy. We started off helping them to think about strategy. Do you know the points? Do you know why you are building what you are building?

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This is all new territory for many of the students. They are doing amazing. What the students have been able to create, code, and accomplish in two days is really a sight to see. Each student tackles things a bit differently and that is what makes it unique and exciting.

Day 3 will lead us to checkpoint to see where each robot currently is before our Friday point runs. Today will be another exciting day as they continue to learn so much about themselves and robotics even if they don’t even realize it!

Here is our photo album from camp.

Here is a little video of day 2

Robodogs LEGO EV3 Camp Day 1 http://wp.me/p4covo-1Es

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Robodogs LEGO EV3 Camp Day 1

This year of camp is off to a great start. We are testing out new ideas this year. First, we eliminated group work and gave each student their own robot. This means we have 70 robots doing some amazing work, but it also requires lots of organization, sorting of parts, and making sure that everything works.

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Additionally, this year we decided to use old FLL mats to give students a true simulation of First LEGO League. In years past we have designed and created daily missions. This year we mixed things up and so far it has been a smooth beginning. We must continue to ensure that students have daily successes.

For the first day we divided students into three groups. We took our new students and taught them the software, how the sensors work, and how to do basic programming. We did not spend a long time on this, but just enough for them to understand how things work. We then shared the board and explained all the challenges.

For our returning students and former Robodogs we gave them a kit and set them to work on their own to get started. We discussed how we are looking for their strategy and ideas. For our new students we had a prebuilt robot that they tested ideas out on before they were given their kit to build a new one from scratch.

By the end of both three hours sessions we had students already solving missions and already finishing up their build designs for their robots. They were much further ahead than we expected. There is a power to personalized learning when instead of trying to whole group teach and holding people back. Instead we gave them the tools they needed and away they went. The students have ideas and until they build and try them out for themselves they are not going to listen or hear our ideas. As they work they ask questions to us and to their peers.

Three hours is a long time, but you would be amazed at how focused every single student was during the camp. These are some amazing students. I cannot wait to see what they accomplish today.

Day 2 will be some quick teaching points based on what we observed, a few suggestions, and then working to solve the missions.

Here is our photo album from day 1. We will have many more pictures in day 2

Here is a little video of day 1 that I put together for everyone along with some slides we used at camp.

Here is the pre camp Sway sent out to students for them to prepare.

Last, here is all of our camp information for those interested

Cheers to an awesome first day and onwards to another exciting day of camp today!

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Realizing Who You Are

I have been working through many ideas in my head around passion, mindset, culture, and purpose and really struggling to find any source of an answer or belief on my part. I wrote a piece about Passion, Mindset, Culture, and Purpose Part Uno last week where I focused on mindset and culture.

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I have probably written close to 15 different draft blog posts on passion and whether or not it is bad advice or the way to live our lives by pursuing our passions. Each one has not felt right in terms of how I really think or feel.

I headed down to the Nerd Cave this morning and on my screen was something my daughter, Addy, wrote for her notebook. Her and I have been really connecting over the NBA Finals talking about mindset, toughness, work ethic, etc. We have been working on her form and doing some driveway exercises. She keeps a notebook where she draws, doodles, writes ideas, and whatever else she does. I saw her gluing some papers to it the other day, but did not pry as it is her notebook.

Well, she left her document up on my computer and I thought it was perfect for sharing. Here is the mind of a 9 year old and in these words are some powerful ideas that we as adults can learn from(just avoid the grammar issues).

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Passion, Mindset, Culture, and Purpose Part Uno

Buzzwords that all need to be addressed!

It is nearing the end of another school year. The little valley in all education calendars when teachers are nearing their end of patience with students because there is so much to get done in such a short time while the patience for deep learning by students reduces by the minute because they can sniff the freedom of summer.

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When we as people, humans, creatures, insert word of choice, are being pulled emotionally and mentally in many directions at the same time we reach a breaking point. Before we hit that breaking point and SNAP let us go back and tackle some key buzzwords that are used all the time and bring some focus.

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Mindset

“Have you ever worked hard to improve a valuable skill and made real progress, only to have your development go unnoticed by the people who told you that you needed to improve?”

This very question to the beginning of the article linked has sat on my brain for some time now. As we are pushed time and time again to improve as educators and schools, we cannot forget to take time to recognize one another. The days are busy. The stress levels are high. Sometimes we hit our goals and have breakthrough moments. Sometimes we fall short. That does not mean we are bad at our job(unless we continue to do the same thing over and over again). Rather, it means we are working to improve and just like students in our classrooms sometimes our ideas that fall short set up and teach us more than a successful lesson or unit.

So many times we are upset and feelings are hurt when our hard work goes unnoticed. This goes back to an issue of culture. The issue that is so often talked about, but rarely addressed because it is hard and difficult. Addressing culture means taking on ownership of what works and what doesn’t. It means owning up to our shortfalls and more importantly addressing the elephant in the room(a different size and color of elephant for each culture being addressed). It is that dreaded topic that is easy to criticize, but harder to achieve solutions. There has to be a way.

We must take time to notice others. If everyone took time to notice another person AND actually told them, wrote them a note, or highlighted their work, then things would start to change. This small task has to be genuine and not fake. It also needs to be done by everyone involved in the workplace from the administration to the teachers to the paras, secretaries, custodians, and more. We must all commit to noticing others and in the process people will start to take notice of you. We must treat each other like family. We are the family structure to many kids in our schools. They can sniff the issues out like nobody else can. The things that frustrate us in our own classrooms are often the very things we indulge in ourselves in our professional circles.

Additionally, there are times when people do gain recognition.  It should not be so scandalous when every once in a while media outlets run stories about people. Instead of tearing down one another we should celebrate because your school is your tribe. We should feel happy for everyone. We should feel like a story about one person is a reflection of all.

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It breaks my heart when I see educators working tirelessly and not getting the kudos they deserve. Sometimes they work so hard and there are ways to make the load lighter. Sometimes they work so hard and it might not be the exact vision of others. Sometimes they work so hard doing tedious work that is not necessary(but they are still working hard regardless). Sometimes that hard work has a breakthrough moment. Sometimes, just sometimes we just need a reminder that we are all doing great work. I don’t know of a single person involved in education who does not want to get better. I do know that many times we just are not sure how and a little pat on the back might be all that it takes to sprout that next seed of insight.

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Negativity does not work. It might work short term, but in the long run it will catch up and burn out the flame that started the vision to begin with when you started. I have learned this lesson the hard way as a parent and also as a basketball coach. It comes down to having a vision and a plan. It requires what it takes to step back and make decisions when emotions are not engaged in the  moment. It requires looking at the end goal as well as the checkpoints along the way to determine the proper course of action. It requires treating people like people. For example, my wife does not like how I fold clothes. When I step up to the plate and try to surprise her with perfectly folded “Hoosier” style folding techniques she does not knock the process. Now, she might go back and refold certain items of clothing, but she applauds the effort and thought behind the intended action. The same holds true for educators trying to do the right thing. The same holds true for the students in our classrooms.

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What are we to do?

  1. Start off by taking note of the work of someone who you usually don’t do business with. Seek out what they are doing and give them a nudge of positivity. Start by action and leading the way.
  2. When you get treated unfairly or judged by those who maybe don’t have the best perspective or understand things(there are many reasons for this) then utilize the toddler method.
  3. We must also look at ourselves and learn to determine the difference between working hard vs. working with rigor. Seth Godin states it best when he states: Doing things with rigor takes effort, but not everything you put effort into is done with rigor.Rigor is a focus on process. Paying attention to not just how you do things, but why….We know that you’re working hard. The next step is to do it with rigor.
  4. Believe in ourselves. Believe you are doing good work. And if you believe it, then share it out with the world. Invite people in to see the great things. Lead by example. Let your work do the talking. Just do what you do if you know what you are doing is good enough.
  5. Ask for help. Regardless of where we are in our development we must continue to learn from others. Ask for help. Pick the brains of other people. Never stop asking questions. Never lose the spark of curiosity of a 5 year old. Please, never lose that passion for knowledge. Will Richardson posed a great question when he wrote this piece: “Kids have a deep desire to learn when we first meet them. They want to understand not just some things but every thing about the world around they live in. Can we honestly say that is the case when they leave us? And if not, why not?”
  6. If there is a problem, then talk about it. As Seth Godin(I love this man!) states on his blog –  If you have a problem and don’t address it, then it becomes two problems. Even more importantly when it is time to have a crucial conversation about an issue we must learn how to speak and handle ourselves so things don’t turn sour fast.
  7. If you are feeling stressed out, torn between two ideas, not sure where to go, then it is time to step back for a moment. Hug your kids, cook dinner, become a master at Slither.io or create a new playlist of music. Just get away and clear your mind.

 

Part 2 will continue with another buzzword…..

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Makerspace: The Big Picture

This is a series I am writing based on questions gathered from a makerspace workshop I ran with educators and administrators. Please feel free to chime in with your own ideas as these posts are designed to get you thinking about your own makerspaces and learning environments.

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Essential Questions

How do we move this out of activities and into the way we do business?
How do we know it’s MakerEd and not just crafts?

For me, this is all about actually doing. So often in education we spend countless hours reading, discussing, talking, and planning, but never actually getting to the implementation part. We will never have that perfect moment nor will it ever be the “right time”. The right time is now. Start. It does begin with activities. Start small, but build momentum. We don’t start a fire by tossing in the biggest logs we have. We mix a little paper with kindle and let the flame grow. Over time we add the bigger logs to keep things working for a while. Same thing in education. Easy and cheap activities. Find what works. Find what the kids gravitate towards and how they think and operate. As you experiment yourself you can then start to develop plans to move projects and ideas forward to how we do business. Culture and mindset don’t develop overnight. Anything new or anything that could potentially cause disruption for the ways things have been will come with resistance and question. You have to provide people the space to sample and dabble to slowly build up to scale where you see things going.

If you want this to be the way you conduct business, then you simply must do it. It really is that simple.

Even more importantly, what is wrong with crafts and activities? We cannot lose sight that the goal of makerspaces is NOT to have standards, assessments, and measures of learning like schools currently operate. Yes, it is a problem that makerspaces are taking off because they don’t feel like school BUT don’t ruin the magic of these environments because we don’t have a test score and some spreadsheet documenting every single skill and thing that students do. So many decisions in education are based off spreadsheets that we often lose sight of the child as real breathing thing that is more than a spreadsheet of numbers and conditional formatting.

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Windows 10 Tech Tips

I have been building a Tech Newsletter this year, but I know that not many people know about it. I have been preparing the next batch of tips to start launching next week. Here is my Sway that contains all my Windows 10 Tech Tips so far. I will continue to add to this Sway over time usually once every two weeks.

I hope you enjoy and if you have questions please let me know.

“Coffeechug Tech Newsletter”   https://shar.es/14Dqh6

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