Sunday, September 23, 2012

General Colin Powell at Dreamforce

Have you heard of Saleforce? I had known about the company, but that was about it until this last week. I first wanted to know more when I realized the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were playing 2 blocks from where I volunteer last Wednesday night. At this point I figured I should see what this company is all about. I think it was an interesting conference, but I think I learned most from it by listening to a man by the name of General Colin Powell.

Colin Powell  was the first African American to serve as the Secretary of State under President Bush. Just knowing this, was enough to decide to listen in on his speech during the major keynote at Dreamforce. He was accompanied on stage by Jeff Immelt CEO of GE and of course Mark Benioff CEO of Salesforce. I found that Jeff had a lot of good ideas and thoughts, but I really felt like Colin Powell's thoughts were a lot more meaningful to the human condition.

First off Powell's thought on technology were extremely interesting to me. An older man that has done so much without the use of todays technologies. A man who has seen so much good, bad, and pathetic with technology. Powell's view was simple though, if it helps use it. He was not against technology at all, as long as it strictly was used at a catalyst for a bigger cause such as creating jobs, liberating people, or helping a team. He talked a bit about technology, but what really got me listening was he thoughts and views on leading, presenting, progress, life's purpose, and loyalty. Every thought that came from him was focused on one thing, people. It wasn't based on the US, money, culture, or even popularity; it was based on people and nothing else. Some of the quotes that really struck me when he was talking were:

  • Think of people first
  • Think about your audience before your presentation, before you even make your first slide
  • Think, 'how can I help my team?'
  • What is your purpose in life?
  • Be ready to throw over your shoulder a great idea because it actual just sucks [for the greater cause]
  • Pursue something bigger than you
He allowed me to really think about how important people are and how you go about your actions. "Pursue something bigger than you," he was talking about teamwork at this point and explaining that devotion to your team rather than you personal gains of the team is more important because your impact on the world will be much greater. 

General Colin Powell expressed that he has a favorite word and I couldn't agree more with his choice: Inspire

As always here a few pictures from my recent adventures!
You can find all the pictures Here.

 A great sight from the Golden Gate Bridge!
 Can you say great sunset??
 I went on my first "long" bike ride last weekend. I made it 33 mile and then got a flat tire and had to take public transportation back. But on my adventure I came across the San Francisco National Cemetery. It was an unbelievable sight to say the least.
 At the center, there was a huge flag that was just an amazing sight at the top of the hill.
 While riding back on my adventure I found a crazy awesome location where couples have weddings. Personally I would have mine in a church, but this sight was absolutely amazing!
 Wednesday I went to a Giants game for free. Pretty cool!
 Dreamforce. A conference focused on Salesforce. This was just cool advertising on these stairs if you ask me.
 There was a whole outside concert the whole day on a beautiful sunny day!
 Look its me! The board I am next to was a digital spray paint board.
 Did I mention I got into the conference for free? And then I found a beer garden.... for free.
 This was the major keynote that I went to. The room was packed, it was soo huge!!
 General Colin Powell speaking
So after the conference I asked a conference staff person if there was anything going on after the last keynote and he looked into his little guide and told me that there was a whole bunch of after parties around the area. So I went to a club close by the conference center and while waiting I realized this was a gathering for partners of Salesforce and VIPs only. I was tired and decided if they didn't let me in (I just had a generic free pass) I would just go home...... well friends they let me in! My guess is because I was one of the first people the the bounces weren't sure who to let in.  Nonetheless, they had free drinks, food, appetizers, and lots of networking. It was a enjoyable time to say the least. Below you will find some of the pictures of the food that was there. MMMMMMMMMMM

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tech Savvy Classrooms and the Luddite Fallacy

Sometimes the main reason I find it hard to blog is the exact reason I should blog. Experiencing so much new in my life has really allowed me to see a different side of things and has allowed me to really step back and think about memories and recollections of my life. So today I will discuss a few topics concerning the use of technology in the classroom and what it means to the futures of these kids and the rest of the world.

Today was the first day of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) at De Marillac.  First off, apparently kids are introduced to bubble testing as early as 3rd grade. Unbelievable! I never thought that national statistical data would need to be collected at such an early age... but I guess it does. Second, statistical data! I used to think that the big picture idea of bubble testing was dumb because you could never truly gauge a childs growth by the test. Today though I had a realization-- The test isnt about the child, but rather the whole. In terms of De Marillac, they use these numbers to show donors of the progress of the classes and the program that DMA provides. It is also used to keep DMA accredited with the archdiocese, Californian, and US. Then in tern, DMA gets money donated depending on scores. Granted there is a lot of flaws with this and many controversial topics surrounding the whole bubble testing idea. Nonetheless, ITBS week is apparently a big deal in schools and wasn't just made up to torture the kids for a week. :)

ITBS was one of the first and most basic ways technology crept into the classroom. Recently, I have been working with a technology by SMART (creator of smartboards) that allows for real time student interaction by the use of clickers. In college, I has a simplified version of this and thought it was cool but not really useful. Then I came across SMART Response at DMA and was asked to research it and present about it. I still thought the idea of creating assessments on the computer and then have the students answer by use of clicker was cool, but I still thought it was overkill of technology in the classroom. So I still did the research, did a presentation, had a teaching session, and then watched the clicker technology be used in the classroom and I found my views quickly changed.
First off, I found that the teacher was about to quickly keep the kids accountable for answering. They were able to "force" the kids to listen to the question before they answered and also about to see in real time (by pie or bar chart) how students answered the question. Cool.
Secondly, apparently newer teachers of today seem to like the idea of technology in the classroom. (Even though I think its cool, I don't know if I personally want to use it in the classroom). This was a surprise to me. Cool.

Its cool to see technology in the classroom. Its cool to think that I can be a catalyst for bring it there. Its cool that with the proper training, technology can give kids the skills they need for a wide range of jobs that are and will be needed. One of my coworkers expressed today that if some of the unemployed of today just had basic typing skills, general computer knowledge, and a motivation to learn more, their chances of getting a job greatly increases. Interesting... though, makes sense, and makes me think.

This thought brings me to great topic of technology. The Luddite Fallacy. This is the idea that while technological progress will cause some workers to lose their jobs as a result of outdated skills, any concern that advancing technology will lead to widespread, increasing unemployment is, in fact, a fallacy. Basically, even though technology is getting rid of jobs, it is in tern creating many many more jobs for the work force. Now, there are very realistic theories saying that the Luddite Fallacy will one day become incorrect, but currently for our society, it holds firm. This means that technology and the tech skill we teach our kids along side reading, math, social studies, and science is becoming increasingly important. Very important.

Point of today: The way technology is used in the classroom is no longer progressive, rather it is imperative to teaching to give students the technological skills to one day do the most basic jobs in a developed digital world.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Today is a new week in San Francisco. I have had many thoughts this last week, missing people, where I fit in, places I need to grow, my family, Iowa State, and even just silence. But the number one thing I have noticed while being out in California is I need to find home out here. Now, I know 99% of the people that are reading this are thinking "NO!!!! You need to come back to Iowa!!!!!", well yes, you are right, but all in good time.

I need to find a center out here. My family isn't here, my college isn't heard of, it's hard to take long bike rides, running isn't quiet or 'my own time', work is not work, conversations are much different, friends are only superficial, and worst is there is no silence where I can here myself think. The things that have kept me grounded for the last 5 years (and even longer) are not actively in my life anymore and I can start to feel the pressure. I need to find grounding out here, a home, something that I can love in my life.

My good friend once told me 3 things. Just 3 things kept him grounded in his life. No matter where he was, what he was doing, or where he was going, just 3 things. Prayer, Community, and Thankfulness. Three simple and yet extremely complex things. He told me that over the years you change a lot and to have that grounding allows you to stay focused and with Christ.

First off, Prayer. To have a personal prayer life. To take time out of your day and just pray to God about anything in your life. This gives you that personal time in the day where you can really focus on the things that matter.

Second, Community. He called it friends, but I like the term community better. I think he called it friends because he even saw his family as his friends and loved their company. But his main point with this one is create a network (or community) of people that will define you, challenge you, and most importantly, will be there for you. Because We all struggle, and those friends will be there for you because, you would be there for them. Having friends is hard work. Well, having true friends is hard work. He told me to make time for them, no matter how busy you are. Stay up until the wee hours to get your work done so that you can have those close conversations, laugh, pray, and love together.

Lastly, Thankfulness. We, as Americans are extremely blessed and we need to thank God for all the joys in our lives constantly. To have a family to love you, to have friends that will be there for you, to always know that you will have a place to stay if you just ask, and to know that you will probably never know what real hunger is.... These are the things we need to be reminded of and be thankful for constantly. Waste not want not. These are the things you do not want to waste in your life.

I feel like I'm not good at these three things, but I respect and love the friend that told me these and I will continue to try and find grounding in them.

Below are a few pictures from last week and Labor Day! Enjoy!
We went to San Jose to my roommates house and enjoyed the beach over the weekend.

Vincentian Service Corps!

We learned how to skim board. Long story short it hurts.

My roommate after a long weekend.

Went on a fun ride with the ladies and a few of my roommates. Definitely a highlight of the weekend.

Our beautiful San Francisco beach!

We stopped to get a hot dog at the local vendor in Golden Gate Park. Almost like a Super Dog!