PETE&C 2017 Reflection

This time last week I was trying to sleep, but not doing so successfully; the wind was howling, my brain was turned on, and I was excited for what the next day held. Eventually, I went to sleep and awoke the next morning at 4:30  AM and began my long day. I drove up to Hershey, PA to attend the PETE&C conference. I’ve attended the conference for all seven years of my teaching career and it’s one of the most valuable professional experiences I have each year.

The conference is centered around educational technology. I love hearing about different ways of doing things, learning about new tools, and connecting with people who share a common passion. Since I’ve been teaching in Maryland, I feel a little like a fish out of water when attending the conference. Luckily I get to connect with old coworkers and meet new people to keep me going.

I’ve reflected in video form last year and this (videos below), but I wanted to capture a few things in written form.


Here are a few resources that presenters at the conference shared with us:


After listening and interacting with people at the conference I have a few things that I would like to accomplish. My main goal for the remainder of this year is to really work on flipping my classroom. I want to empower students to work at their own pace and to explore things on their own.

I used to teach at an online school where flipping was kind of what we did, but I want to take it to another level. In Aaron Sams workshop he talked about the different versions of flipping and how the quality of what you produce really matters now. I want to make high-quality content for my students but I also want to share that content out. I’ve really been evaluating how I share my teaching out and how I show off my classroom. I’m ready to really explore what it means to open a classroom up and be a content creator instead of a consumer.

Assigning Individual/Group Assignments in Google Classroom

Google recently announced a few changes to Google Classroom. Some of them are meant for admin-level people, but the thing I’m most excited about is an update for me, the teacher, and for our students. As you can tell from the title, this update allows the teacher to assign items to individual students. I posted a video going over all of the ins and outs below.

Here’s how to do it

If you are not a video person. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know.

Step 1

To begin with, you will need to add an assignment just like you would normally do. Go down to the plus, “+,” sign on the bottom right of the screen and then click on “Creat Assignment.

Step 2


Click on the new “All Students” drop down.

Step 3

Deselect “All Students” and check the students that you want to assign something for. You can do this for as many or as few students as you wish. Once you are done, hit the “Assign” button like normal. You will notice that the number of students showing as not done will only reflect the number of students you selected.

Editing your selections

Luckily you can edit your selections easily and add additional students or subtract students from the assignment. To do this go to the edit menu.

From there you will see the number of students you assigned to the lesson. Click on the drop down and edit your selections.

And hit “Save.”

It’s as simple as that. Thanks Google!

Future suggestions

I would like to see Google add the ability to create groups of students so that I could quickly make multiple different assignments for mass numbers of students. Right now I have to go through and check each student. If I have 150 students, that means that I need to click 150 checkboxes. A grouping feature would allow me to select a group and have it assign to multiple students in that group, saving me a bit of time, effort, and stopping me from making as many mistakes.

so this week | new year, new goals | january 2017 week 1

I’ve decided that I wanted to approach the new year in a different way. My usual take on the new year is that it’s just another day. And, while largely true, I can understand why people use it as a way to begin something new. I don’t think that I’ve ever made a proper resolution during the new year, but my sister inspired me to give it a go this time around. I have a bunch of goals but they come down to three areas:

  • Personal
  • Professional
  • Projects

I have a lot of things floating around in my head and having an actual list written out is a way for me to get some of it down. In the video below, I discuss my goals, reasons for them, and start my journey.

5 Things Think About Before Going Solar

My wife and I decided to have solar panels installed on our house last summer. It took a few months for our panels to actually get installed and be approved and we have been living on solar power for the past two months or so. I’m thrilled with our decision and I wanted to talk about the process that we went through when deciding to go solar.

1. Why are you going solar?

This may seem like an obvious first question but it is one that needs to be answered. For some people, solar energy is about saving the earth and making your lifestyle more sustainable. For others, it’s about the tax rebates (which can be significant). And finally, for others, it is about lowering their electricity bill to save money.

For us, it was all about the dollars and cents. When we broke down the numbers (I’ll show you how to do this in an upcoming post) of how our solar panels will cost us, it was the same amount we pay for our electricity bill currently. When they are totally paid off, we make money. We also recently purchased an electric car and our energy usage has gone up as a result. Solar panels were an easy way for us to save some money long term while make our electric car even less expensive to operate.

2. Are you already trying to lower your energy bill?

If your goal with going solar is to lower your electricity bill you may want to explore things you can do NOW. LED light bulbs, a programmable thermostat, and many other things can be done to lower your electricity bill. As a good proof of concept, do a few energy saving things in your home and see what the impact is. You may find that the money saved by updating a few items is significant.

For us, our electricity bill averaged out over the year is about $100. All of our appliances are under five years old and all of the light bulbs in our house are LED. We have gas heat, so our electricity bill usually follows the temperature. As temps go up, so does our bill.

3. How old is your roof?

Solar panels get installed directly onto your roof through a rack system. If your roof needs to be replaced within the next 5-7 years, you may want to replace your roof before installing solar panels. The cost to replace a roof can be as much as $5,000 extra to have the panels taken off and then placed back on. This can significantly increase the cost of solar panel ownership.

In our situation, our roof has 10-12 years left on it. We plan on having our panels paid off in about 2-3 years and will use the money saved over that time to not only pay for the extra cost of the roof, but also the roof replacement itself.

4. How much do you want to spend?

I will dedicate a separate post to owning vs. leasing solar panels but at the end of the day, it comes down to how much are you willing to spend to go solar? The basic breakdown is this:

  • Leased: No upfront costs, decreased energy bill, no tax benefits
  • Owned: Large upfront costs, decreased energy bill, multiple tax benefits

We decided to purchase our solar panels. The panels cost a total of $36,000 once it was all said and done. Out of that, Maryland gives us $1,000 check and the federal government gives us 30% of that price back in a tax incentive. In our case, it works out to $10,800. Additionally, we will receive about $90 a month for the next five years for the energy we produce as part of the SREC program. All tolled, we will get a total of $17,200 back over the next five years. And that’s not including any money we earn from producing our own energy. So roughly half of the cost of our system is covered through tax incentives. I will go into the whole financial part of owning a solar panel system in a future post, but for us, it works out to about $200 a month (which is really less when you count in that we have no electricity bill and get a check for $90 each month).

5. How long are you planning on being in your home?

One of the most important things to consider when breaking down the cost of solar panels is how long do you plan on being in your home. If you lease or own, the terms of the lease or loan generally are about 20 years long. If you know that you are going to be moving before that deadline, it might not be worth it for you. Under the various options for lease agreements, you could be stuck paying off the rest of the system if your buyer does not want to take over the lease. On the same side with owning, the system doesn’t truly start making money for you until about 10 years out. Again, it’s a long-term plan, but one that can be very beneficial for your pocketbook and the environment.

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