A Comprehensive Annual Review Process

Every year, I try to reflect on the previous year’s successes, failures, biggest risks taken, and biggest lessons learned. My annual review process has become quite extensive and is presented here in its entirety.

Every year, I try to reflect on the previous year’s successes, failures, biggest risks taken, and biggest lessons learned. My annual review process has become quite extensive, but the major questions I try to address are:

  1. Past: How did my previous year go?
  2. Present: How is my overall life satisfaction now?
  3. Future: Where do I want to go in the next year?

This Annual Review process is quite comprehensive and is broken into 5 days and 13 sections. It is best to not attempt to cram all of this into a single review session, but space it out over a number of days (as outlined) or multiple 1-2 hour sessions with a break in between.

A template to create your own annual review will be made available here later. And a more detailed description of much of this list can be found at my Korean language learning blog.

Day 1

1. Start with WHY
  1. WHY do you do what you do?
  2. WHY do you want what you want?
  3. WHY do you set the goals you set?
2. Overview your previous Year
  1. 10 Great things that happened last year
  2. 5 Lessons learned (or repeated themes)
  3. Any regrets? (something you wish you did, or did more of)

(Optional) Review your statistics

  1. List all books you read – and length
  2. List any courses you studied – and length
  3. List any new projects completed (and skills / things you learned)
  4. List any exercise you can track
  5. List any money you can track
  6. List any contributions you made (money, code, service, etc)
3. Detail your previous Year
  1. Smartest decision last year
  2. Most loving service
  3. Most happy with finishing
  4. 3 people who impacted my life the most
  5. Biggest risk taken
  6. Most improved important relationship
  7. Compliment (or opportunity) I wish to have received
  8. Gratitude list: What are you most thankful for in your life now?
  9. ONE word summary of the year

Day 2

4. Rate your Life Satisfaction NOW

Give yourself a rating 1-10 for your satisfaction with each of the following. Then, write down at least one goal for each.

  1. Physical life / health
  2. Mental life / personal development / learning / growth
  3. Spiritual life
  4. Lifestyle
  5. Career / job
  6. Financial satisfaction / health
  7. Family
  8. Social (friend) relationships
5. Look Forward
  1. What 3 things must STOP in the next year?
  2. What 3 things must START?
  3. Where are 3 places you must STAY (though hard)?
  4. Where are 3 places you must LEAVE (though hard)?
  5. Where are 3 places you must SERVE (though hard)?
  6. How are 3 ways you need to CONNECT with others more?
  7. How are 3 ways you need to TRUST others more?
6. Look far Forward (beyond next Year)

Consider your ultimate destination(s) in life – beyond next year.

  1. Where do you want to be in life in 2 years?
  2. In 5 years?
  3. In 10 years?
  4. In 20 years?
  5. Before the end?
  6. Create a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) that seems out of reach now, but could be accomplished with enough focused effort.

Day 3

7. Define Success

Define your Level 50. What does Success or Greatness look like for you?

  1. What are all the things you want to HAVE in life?
  2. What are all the things you want to DO in life?
  3. What are all the things you want to BE in life?
8. Design your next Year (Set Goals)
  1. From your list of goals in Part 5, reduce that to only 3 Major Goals to focus on for the next year (or quarter).
  2. Decide upon 3 Action Steps for each Major Goal to take immediately to make progress toward that goal
  3. Decide upon a Deadline for (at least Phase One of) each goal
  4. Consider if anyone can keep you accountable and write that person’s name next to your Major Goal
  5. For each Major Goal, create a Habit (see Part 9) to help get there
9. Become the Change you Seek

What kind of person can achieve what you’ve written down? Brainstorm for a while and write a short paragraph for each.

  1. What kind of person would achieve my Physical goals?
  2. What kind of person would achieve my Mental goals?
  3. What kind of person would achieve my Spiritual goals?
  4. What kind of person would achieve my Lifestyle goals?
  5. What kind of person would achieve my Career goals?
  6. What kind of person would achieve my Financial goals?
  7. What kind of person would achieve my Family goals?
  8. What kind of person would achieve my Social goals?

Can you find any recurring patterns or themes? Write these out as a series of Affirmations to repeat for the next year.

Day 4

10. Schedule it

Start with the Big rocks on your calendar.

  1. The Year: What major events or commitments for the next Year can you immediately mark on the calendar?
  2. The next Quarter: More specifically, is there anything coming up in the next 3 months you need to make a note of?
  3. This month: What specifically would you like to accomplish this month – particularly as it relates to Major Goals and Action Steps?
  4. Ideal week: In a Spreadsheet or paper grid, block off your weekly commitments and anywhere you’d like to include your new Habits.

When blocking out your Ideal schedule, also consider the following Time Blocks:

  1. Buffer Block (30 min x 2 / day) : to take care of unplanned interruptions
  2. Strategic Block (3 hrs / week) : focused time, where you make progress toward your goals
  3. Breakout Block (3 hrs / month) : to get out and rejuvenate yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally
11. Create the Habits to get you there

For (at least) each of your Major Goals in Part 8, determine how you can create a Habit for it. (You may also consider making or breaking Habits for some of the things you listed in Part 5.)

Make a Good Habit

  1. Cue: Make it obvious
  2. Craving: Make it attractive
  3. Routine: Make it easy
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying

Break a Bad Habit

  1. Cue: Make it invisible
  2. Craving: Make it ugly
  3. Routine: Make it difficult
  4. Reward: Make it empty
12. Track your progress

That which gets measured gets accomplished.


Determine how you will Track your progress daily, weekly, or monthly. There are apps that can help you by keeping track of certain things automatically. For other things, use paper.

  1. How will I track Physical progress / goals?
  2. How will I track Mental progress / goals?
  3. How will I track Spiritual progress / goals?
  4. How will I track Lifestyle progress / goals?
  5. How will I track Career progress / goals?
  6. How will I track Financial progress / goals?
  7. How will I track Family progress / goals?
  8. How will I track Social progress / goals?
  9. At what time of day will I sit down to track one or more of these?
  10. Which day of the week will I track and review my weekly progress and preview or prepare myself for the week to come.
  11. After how many weeks or months will I sit down to do a comprehensive review of my progress and redirect my steps toward the next span of time. (Personally, I prefer Quarters – about four times per year, with three months between each.)

Day 5

13. Prepare yourself

At the end of a long week of reflection and planning, the final step is to prepare for the next burst of energy. You want to make everything as streamlined and smooth as possible so that you can hit the ground running with your new Habits and Goals.

  1. What NEW things do you need? (Tracking apps, new clothes, etc)
  2. What OLD things need to be thrown away? (Distractions, etc)
  3. What MILESTONES do you need to prepare for along the way?

Well, there you have it. A very intense and comprehensive Annual Review process to help you prepare for the next step in life. For me, the times I’ve taken to be alone and reflect and plan like this have been literally life-changing. It is a long process, but if you do it well and stick to your plan, it’ll make a big difference in the upcoming weeks and months.

Plan your work. But don’t forget to work your plan.



Some books I’ve read that helped me learn and incorporate some of these principles into my Annual Review are as follows (affiliate links).

  1. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
  2. Design your Best Year Ever by Darren Hardy
  3. Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt
  4. The 12-Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
  5. The 12-Week Year Field Guide by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
  6. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits that will turn you into a Superhero

Drawing on numerous resources, this presentation investigates what habits are, how they work, and how building the right ones into your life will turn you into a literal superhero. We’ll take a look at triggers, cravings, and rewards; the formation of good habits and the destruction of bad habits; and the top 6 High Performance Habits developed by Brendon Burchard and the High Performance Institute after over a decade of research and coaching.

Have you ever felt too busy? Overwhelmed? Stretched too thin? Your work doesn’t have to be like that. Your life in particular, shouldn’t be like that.

Drawing on numerous resources, this presentation investigates what habits are, how they work, and how building the right ones into your life will turn you into a literal superhero. We’ll take a look at triggers, cravings, and rewards; the formation of good habits and the destruction of bad habits; and the top 6 High Performance Habits developed by Brendon Burchard and the High Performance Institute after over a decade of research and coaching.

If you’ve ever wondered such things as “How long does it take to develop a new habit?” or “What if I fail in maintaining my habits?” or even “Which habits will move the needle the most in my professional and personal life?” then this talk is for you. The talk also ends with a discussion on good and bad teaching habits and how to improve yourself in your classroom and office.


What’s the difference between superheroes and us “normal” people?

Could it be living a life of purpose? Purpose leads to fulfillment. Fulfillment equals happiness.

Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.

Ben Franklin

A basic framework for happiness:

  • Engagement: Time spent daily, hopefully in a job that challenges us, but also in our after-hours hobbies. (see Power of Full Engagement)
  • Mastery: An ability to show ourselves that we are making consistent progress and improvements toward a specified goal. (see Drive)
  • Flow: Energy and attention dedicated each day to an activity that puts us in the zone. (see Flow)

Happiness is a consequence of the things you do daily, not a reward.

Steve Kamb, Level Up Your Life

Your (Super) Hero’s Journey

  1. Act 1
    1. Introduction to the protagonist’s world (that’s you!)
    2. Call to Action: Habits? What about Freedom?
      1. Neuro-pathways & Significance of your Identity
    3. Crossing the Threshold: How habits work
      1. Immediacy and addiction
  2. Act 2
    1. Meet the Mentor(s)
      1. Be intentional
      2. Reframe your mind
      3. Get some Accountability
    2. First Challenge: Make Good Habits inevitable
      1. The Law of Least Effort & The Goldilocks Principle
      2. Keystone habits & Habit stacking
    3. Temptation: Make Bad Habits impossible
    4. Dark Moment: 
      1. Importance of your Environment
      2. Schedule over Scope (Don’t break the Chain)
      3. Frequency: “How long”? Try “how much”?
  3. Act 3
    1. Final Conflict: High Performance (Superhero) Habits
      1. Personal: Seek Clarity
      2. Personal: Generate Energy
      3. Personal: Raise Necessity
      4. Social: Increase Productivity
      5. Social: Develop Influence
      6. Social: Demonstrate Courage
    2. Return home (changed): Systems trump Goals (“Continue playing for the love of the game”)

Ready Player One

1.1 Introduction

How’s life? 

Have you ever felt too busy? Overwhelmed? Stretched too thin? Your work doesn’t have to be like that. Your life in particular, shouldn’t be like that. 

A 2006 Duke University study indicates that more than 40% of your daily activities are habitual. Not enjoying your day? Change your habits.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.

Will Durant

1.2 Call To Action

Once more, from above: “Not enjoying your day? Change your habits.”

But what about Freedom?

Many people think that increasing our Habits decreases our Freedom for choice in life. But the opposite is actually true.

  • Jocko Willink (former US Navy Seal): posted a picture of himself surfing with his son before work one morning.
    • Commenter #1: “Must be nice.”
    • Commenter #2: “Discipline equals freedom.”
    • Advice: Be incredibly disciplined about parts of your day so that you have the freedom to enjoy the rest of your day.
  • Steve Jobs (& Mark Zuckerberg): often wear the same thing every day
    • Advice: Make decisions in advance, be as habitual as possible about certain things, to reduce cognitive load and allow yourself more brain power for the things that truly matter.

Introduction to “Neuro-pathways”

Neuro-pathways are connections formed in the brain between neurons in different areas of the brain. The more you perform a certain habit, the more deeply ingrained it becomes. But, we can change our neuro-pathways.

Your life moves in the direction of your strongest thoughts. Don’t like where your life is moving? Change your thoughts!

Craig Groeschel (paraphrase)

Every thought or action is a “vote” for who you are or want to become. Over time, will “Future You” thank you for the decisions “Current You” is making to shape his/her identity?

1.3 Crossing the Threshold

Charles Duhigg wrote an excellent book called The Power of Habit that clearly lays out how habits work, how to change bad habits into good ones, and how to create new habits.

How Habits work

  1. Cue: Something triggers your habit or a Craving
  2. Routine: You do something to satisfy this
  3. Reward: The cycle has a clear ending

Often, you cannot fully control the Cue nor the Reward. Therefore, Duhigg argues that to change a habit, you should focus on the Routine. In truth, all people have control over the choices they make about their habit routines. But many people feel controlled by their habits, not in control of them. 

  • Why do I do what I don’t want to do?
  • Why don’t I do what I want to do?

Additionally, many people express difficulty in creating new habits or breaking old, deeply ingrained ones.

Immediate Consequences

In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear points out that “immediate” rewards or consequences are the key. 

  • That which is immediately rewarded = repeated
  • That which is immediately punished = prevented

Returning to our discussion of “Future You” vs. “Current You,” we can understand how “Current You” is more in favor of Netflix and ice cream after a long day at work than in helping “Future You” become fit. The craving for immediate, visible gratification often outweighs our desire for long-term positive outcomes precisely because we cannot immediately perceive that our efforts have had any effect. 

  • Netflix + ice cream = immediate stress relief and relaxation
  • Exercise at the gym = muscular pain for…. what? long-term health? No thanks, I’ll take the immediate hit of sugar and comedy~

Rising Action

2.1 Meeting the Mentor(s)

Much of this next section includes notes from James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Check out his blog for more great articles.

Humans tend to be weak in the moments of Craving or HATS (Hunger, Anger, Tiredness, Stress). But there are a few things we can do about it:

  1. Release tension, Set intention (from High Performance Habits)
  2. Reframe the Cues
  3. Get some Accountability

Set intention practices

  • During the pauses between activities, mentally release what was, and decide on what you will make of what is to come.
    • After work, in front of my door, take 10 deep breaths, release my work stress, determine to smile at my wife and greet my children with hugs first upon entering the house
  • Visualize the outcome you want
    • Michael Phelps: famously played “mental videotapes” in his head every night before bed during training and before every meet in which he “performed” at his peak – when the race came, he did
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger: when interviewed after his first movie “Hercules in New York” flopped, claimed he’d “be the biggest name in Hollywood” 
  • Write out an “Implementation Intention
    • Research indicates that writing down your intention to do a certain thing at a certain time and place raises the likelihood you’ll stick with your intention to 91% (compared with 35-38% success if you rely on motivation or self-control alone)

Reframing practices

  • Your Cue can be deceptive and you can change how you interpret it
    • You don’t crave chips, you crave something sweet and crunchy
    • You don’t crave alcohol, but you are thirsty, need to relax, and want some flavor
    • You don’t crave a cigarette, you crave conversation (or alone time) outside the office in the cool fall air
    • You don’t crave sex with a stranger, you crave physical release (exercise) or human contact (snuggling)
    • Your heart rate and breathing increasing, palms getting sweaty before a competition or presentation isn’t you being afraid of that, it’s your body preparing you to perform at the highest level

Accountability practices

  • Find someone who’s already doing what you want, and ask to join them (training at the gym)
  • Sign a “Habit Contract” with a partner that lays out immediate consequences (like giving a set amount of money to something or someone you hate) if you fail to live up to your end of the bargain

2.2 First Challenge

Time to put what you’ve learned about Habits to work. Let’s create a NEW one! Advise: start small. The “Path of Least Resistance” teaches us that the easiest thing to do is the thing you will do. So, setting a goal of ONE pull-up per day is a much easier (and better) way to get started exercising than trying to begin going to the gym everyday. 

(Note: I literally remade my life in 2013 in a similar fashion after I first listened to The Power of Habit.) 

Make Good Habits inevitable

  1. Cue: Make it obvious
    1. An alarm, a time of day, after a certain activity, in a certain place
    2. You can also pair a new habit with a Keystone habit (one that is the “gateway” to other habits), or Stack your habits
  2. Craving: Make it attractive
    1. Temptation bundling = give yourself something you want (chocolate) for doing something you need to do (exercise)
  3. Routine: Make it easy
    1. Use the “Path of Least Resistance” to determine the smallest step you need to take to begin a new habit. 
      1. Want to run? Set out your clothes the night before.
      2. Read more? Set a book on your bed after you make it.
      3. Wake up early? Get home by 10pm.
    2. Additionally, the “Goldilocks Rule” says that if something is too easy or too hard, you won’t stay motivated. Things within 4% of a “stretch” are “just right” and allow us to continually progress.
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying
    1. Satisfy your Craving – eat the chocolate, watch the Netflix show, drink your special coffee, etc

Here’s a practical example of something I should start doing a better job of.

My example: Grading student work:

  1. Cue: Every Friday at 3pm
  2. Craving: need a mid-afternoon energy boost
  3. Routine: sit down at the computer, open the Gradebook on the left and assignments on the right, begin grading
  4. Reward: buy a latte (I don’t buy them often), or eat my favorite chocolate

Keystone habits & Habit Stacking

  • Keystone habits are habits that set the foundation for and naturally lead in to other habits
    • Good ones:
      • I wake up early so
      • I eat breakfast and go to the gym so
      • I shower so
      • I shave so
      • I brush my teeth so
      • I feel healthy so
      • I’m energized so
      • I arrive at work energized so
      • I do my best work so
      • I get promoted…
    • Bad ones:
      • I wake up late so
      • I’m rushed so
      • I don’t eat breakfast so
      • I’m angry on the road to work so
      • I get in an accident so
      • I arrive late so
      • I snap at my coworkers so
      • I under-perform so
      • I get fired… 
  • Habit stacking is where you look through your current habits and determine a place (with a Cue that is the completion of one habit) where you can insert a new habit
    • For example, in the “Good” list above, how about inserting “read for 15 minutes” after “I brush my teeth”? Then, you list will read:
      • … I brush my teeth so
      • <I read for 15 minutes so>
      • I feel healthy <and smart> so

2.3 Temptation

Reverse the habit loop above to flip bad habits upside down and destroy them!

Make Bad Habits impossible

  1. Cue: Make it invisible
    1. Put the TV in the closet, keep your phone in another room, keep junk food out of the house, drive down a different road at lunch
  2. Craving: Make it ugly
    1. Picture yourself with 20 extra kg, visualize the fat and calories seeping into your blood stream and clogging your arteries, enable black & white mode on your phone
  3. Routine: Make it difficult
    1. Remove batteries from the remote, delete the app altogether, change your environment (more on this in the next section)
  4. Reward: Make it empty
    1. Chide yourself whenever you engage in that behavior, remove one good thing you enjoy from your life as a consequence, pay the dues of your “Habit Contract” (above)

My example: Checking Facebook:

  1. Cue: I’m bored, need entertained, or want some connection
  2. Craving: I visualize it as a slot machine that delivers politically-charged negativity more than it delivers real satisfaction
  3. Routine: Deleted the Facebook app in June
  4. Reward: (also with YouTube) I only give it one page scroll when I’m in a “bored” state of mind

2.4 Dark Moment

But what if you fail? Obviously we cannot succeed 100% of the time.

When you FAIL at Good Habits

  •  Never Miss Twice: Get back on the horse as quickly as possible. Anyone (everyone) can have a bad day. It’s not a single mistake that changes the direction of your life. But a series of many missteps over many years, a repeated pattern of “bad” behavior will. Correct yourself as quickly as possible and get back at it.
  • Don’t Break the Chain: Use a calendar and put a green circle around any day you perform your good habit. After a while, you will start a series of green circles (indicating success), and you will find yourself mentally looking for ways to NOT break your cycle.

When you FAIL at controlling Bad Habits

  • Environment: Understand that your environment has a HUGE impact on your habits
    • In the Vietnam War, up to 20% of soldiers became addicted to heroin (35% reported having tried it). After returning home (to a new environment), only 5% of them were re-addicted in one year (12% in three years)
    • The opposite statistics are often true for domestic heroin addicts who go to rehab, get clean, and then return to the same old environment that led to their addiction
    • Upgrade your Bat Cave (from Level Up Your Life): If your environment is causing you to stumble, change it! You have control over the many of the things you see, listen to, do, and eat every day.
  • Identity: Remind yourself of who you ARE deep down (like Simba in the Lion King). Are you really the kind of person who does these things? No! Remind yourself who you ARE and that each vote (action) FOR or AGAINST that identity will make it stronger or weaker.

Anecdote on Identity:

There was a young boy who loved to play baseball. He would go out to the field all the time, throw the ball up in the air, and try to hit it.

  1. On the first throw, he said, “Here comes Johnny, the greatest hitter who has ever lived!” He threw it up. A swing, and a miss.
  2. On the second throw, “I’m still the greatest hitter who has ever lived!” A throw, a swing, and a miss.
  3. On the third throw, “I’m still the greatest hitter who has ever lived!” Again, throw, swing, miss.
  4. Finally, he exclaimed: “WOW! I can’t believe it! I’m also the greatest pitcher who has ever lived! Because I just struck out the greatest hitter who has ever lived!”


The habits outlined in this next section come from Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits. Check out his blog for more great articles.

3.1 Final Conflict

So, what are THE best habits you can cultivate in your own life? Here are notes about 6 that have been compiled by Brendon Burchard at the High Performance Institute after over a decade of hands-on research and coaching with world-class performers.

I’ve mapped these habits to many of the spokes on Dan Miller’s Wheel of Life from his book 48 Days to the Work You Love:

High Performance Habits

Personal Habits

  1. Seek Clarity (Mind)
    1. What’s your Identity? Are you who you want to be? What kinds of things would that person do / not do? Am I living into that Identity?
    2. What are your Habits? Be mindful of this. Perform a self-inventory and determine where there’s room for improvement.
    3. Set up Quarterly reviews. I’ve personally found it very helpful to quarterly take a FULL day away to brainstorm and become VERY clear about myself, my habits, environment, and vision for the future. It makes the next quarter much smoother. Two good resources:
      1. Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt
      2. The 12-Week Year by Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington 
  2. Generate Energy (Body)
    1. Physically, do you have enough energy? Exercise has been shown to help increase energy levels (as has proper nutrition)
    2. Can you bring energy to what you do? Are you passionate and alive about it?
    3. Personally: I go to the gym every morning before 7am and commute by bike. The mental and physical benefits are immeasurable.
  3. Raise Necessity (Spirit)
    1. People with a greater sense of “necessity” are more likely to follow-through with their tasks. Raise your “necessity”, raise your follow-though.
    2. How important is it that you get a certain thing done?
    3. Personally: When I find myself slacking, I have to constantly go back to my “Why” (Start with Why) to remind myself why I’m pushing and hustling and working hard.

Social Habits

  1. Increase Productivity (Career)
    1. How can you do more with less? How can you be more efficient with what you have? How can you accomplish tasks more quickly with the same level of quality?
    2. Set a Schedule, not a Deadline: The problem with deadlines is when we miss them, we feel guilty, and sometimes even give up on what we were doing – even if we’re better off now than when we started.
    3. Personally: This means getting up every single morning (even Sundays) well before the sun is up. I try to set aside a minimum of 3 hours every morning before work to accomplishing my personal (non-work related) most important tasks.
    4. Prioritize Education over Entertainment: I’ve also not had a TV for 10 years. I spend the majority of my “down” time engaged in some kind of “active” relaxation that is stimulating my brain and helping me learn new skills. Increase the output that matters and get insanely good at new skills.
  2. Develop Influence (Social)
    1. Get out there and meet people. You can’t accomplish much alone. Build a team before trying to change the world.
    2. Lead by Example: Be a leader. Stand up and role model the way. Encourage others to follow your example.
    3. Personally: I’m involved in a few organizations where, if something needs done, I just do it. This has led to others being more open about stepping up and helping out as well. 
  3. Demonstrate Courage (Legacy)
    1. Find someone to fight for. Who needs your “A game”? Play big or go home. Take bold action. Dream big dreams.
    2. Personally: After my wife gave birth to our first child (son), I had a sudden, sinking realization that my life was no longer my own, and that my base income was no longer sufficient to sustain a growing family. I raised my “A game” and courageously stepped out into every opportunity that presented itself.

3.2 Return Home (changed)

Continue playing for love of the Game (or why Systems trump Goals)

Five years ago tomorrow, Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert wrote on his blog about the difference between Goals and Systems (James Clear expands upon the failings of setting Goals without Systems):

In my new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, I talk about using systems instead of goals. For example, losing ten pounds is a goal (that most people can’t maintain), whereas learning to eat right is a system that substitutes knowledge for willpower.

Scott Adams

What’s the difference?

Systems vs. Goals

  1. Winners and losers have the same goals, but winners create superior systems to accomplish those goals
  2. Achieving a goal is momentary, but systems last a lifetime
  3. Goals actually restrict your happiness by telling you “once I reach XYZ goal, then I’ll be happy”, but systems enable happiness in the moment
  4. Goals create a “yo-yo” effect – once you pass the finish line, you stop working hard for a while until the next goal is looming, but systems enable continual, long-term, sustained effort “for love of the game

Change your game

Play the game you can win at.

  • Hicham El Guerrouj: Moroccan 2-time gold medalist and world-record holder in middle-distance running 
  • Michael Phelps: #1 most decorated Olympian in history (swimming); 7 inches taller & 40 percent heavier than Hicham

These two appear to be very different. But there is one thing they have in common: the wear the same length inseam on their pants.

But would either of them, if they switched places, under the same training and circumstances, have been the same caliber athlete as the other? Not a chance. Phelps’ body is built for swimming; Hicham’s is built for running.

Create a new game

Do you find you’re not succeeding at the game you’re playing? Create and play a new game altogether. 

A good player works hard to win the game everyone else is playing. A great player creates a new game that favors their strengths and avoids their weaknesses…

Specialization is a powerful way to overcome the “accident” of bad genetics. The more you master a specific skill, the harder it becomes for others to compete with you.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it. 

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

What are you skilled at? What are you fascinated by? What do you enjoy doing most that many people would argue is painful or hard to do? 

Perhaps you’ve found a new game to begin developing.


The following authors, their blogs, and books have had an enormous impact on my life. I’ve also linked to their “Academies” where applicable:

  1. Best blogs
    1. James Clear (Atomic Habits) | HabitsAcademy
    2. Steve Kamb (Level Up Your Life)| Nerd Fitness Academy 
    3. Michael Hyatt (Your Best Year Ever)
  2. Great books
    1. Brendon Burchard (High Performance Habits) | High Performance Institute
    2. Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit)

The following collection of books are those that I’ve referenced in this talk. Each has had a significant impact on my life. Many I’ve read more than once, and some I’ve desired to read again immediately upon finishing. Be aware that these are Amazon affiliate links, so I’ll get a small commission if you click through and purchase any of them.

Increase your Professional Performance

Over the years, I’ve collected numerous tips for better teaching, better presentations, making course materials, and presenting your best professional face to the world – both in person and online. This talk will include a collection of at least 10 such tips.


Over the years, I’ve collected numerous tips for better teaching, better presentations, making course materials, and presenting your best professional face to the world – both in person and online. This talk will include a collection of at least 10 tips including Google Drive, Classroom, & Search tips, creating listening tests, increasing your professional productivity, setting and achieving goals, using LinkedIn and online resumes, and so on. I may structure it as a bit of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” presentation and allow the audience to choose the tips most relevant to their interests. And as usual, I’ll try to allow for plenty of question time at the end.

The best Teachers are Life-long Learners

With this presentation, I hope to convey to you that becoming life-long learners is the #1 best way to become a better teacher. Over the past 10 years, I’ve accomplished the following and grown immeasurably:

  • 170 Lynda.com (LinkedIn Learning) courses
  • 100+ books (Audible.com)
  • Online Master’s degree (Full Sail University)
  • Online Nanodegree (Udacity)

If you want to stay “ahead of the curve” in any industry (or even keep up, let alone catch up) you need to become a life-long learner and make a habit of keeping up to date with the goings-on in that industry.


  1. Google
    1. Google Classroom
    2. Google Tips
    3. Google Drive
  2. Korean
    1. Korean Grammar
    2. Korean Vocabulary
    3. Korean Games
  3. Apps
    1. Lightshot
    2. Audacity
    3. LinkedIn
  4. Bonus
    1. Bullet Journal

1.1 Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a great way to stay organized as a teacher and distribute assignments to students in a whole class or individually. Check out the following links for some of my other presentations on Classroom:

1.2 Google Tips

Google Service is the most ubiquitous, powerful, and yet also the most under-utilized Google service. Follow the link below to get some tips for making the most of it. There are 10 other Google Services listed as well:

1.3 Google Drive

Drive acts like a hard drive in the cloud, but has some pretty unique features that you may not know about.

  • Sharing & simultaneous collaborative editing
  • Preview files you don’t have programs for (.AI, .PSD)
  • Review Drive activity ( Info)
  • Review File Revision history
  • Add-Ons (DriveTunes)

Plus, Drive is a great way to keep your USBs safe (by simply not using them). But if you insist on hanging onto your USBs, you should really install Panda USB Vaccine to disable Autorun that often gets you viruses when you plug it into an infected computer.

2.1 Korean Grammar

As you learn more Korean grammar, you’ll be better able to teach English grammar. You’ll be better able to pick out common mistakes and explain English grammar patterns in a way that is easily understandable. 

But first, you might want to learn Hangul touch typing. This will save you loads of time in the future, if you type in Korean much. It can also be quite beneficial in class to type 명사, 동사, and 형용사 (noun, verb, adjective) and other things to help you explain the grammar patterns better.

2.2 Korean Vocabulary

Did you know it’s possible to learn 3600 new vocabulary words in 4 months by only practicing for around 30 minutes per day? Have you ever tried it? I’m living proof that the method outlined in the link above works.

And here’s a video with 10 more suggestions to learn new words. Use it yourself or share it with your class:

2.3 Korean Games

Learning a little Korean pop culture also provides you with a great opportunity to connect with your students on a new level and make classes more interesting and engaging for them. Here are three games that they’ll all be familiar with that you can learn in class to teach new vocabulary:

3 Korean word games to test or improve your Korean vocabulary

3.1 Lightshot

Lightshot is hands down the BEST screenshot app I’ve ever come across (yet). It’s so good, I install it on every computer I have access to. I’ve also installed it on every computer in the lab at the high school I work at. 

  • Simply press the PrtSc button to darken the screen and get a crosshairs mouse pointer
  • Draw a shape around the area you want to copy, print, or save
  • The editing tools in the app also give you the ability to DRAW or type anything within the space you’ve outlined
  • Key point: Basically, you’ll be able to create an instant on-screen whiteboard in any class to draw on scans of the book or highlight grammar points in a document you’re showing on the projector

3.2 Audacity

Audacity is the best FREE audio editing app, and it’s great for making listening tests. It’s so versatile that I’ve used it for the following:

  • Recording podcasts
  • Editing sound for movie production
  • Creating pop song remixes and mashups

3.3 LinkedIn

Find me on LinkedIn here. I’ve optimized my profile to showcase my professional skills and abilities. These days, your “resume” isn’t just something you hand in on paper. Every employer can (and will) Google Search you, so it’s important to have something online that is complete, professional, and highlights your accomplishments.

There are plenty of great books online to help you optimize yours. 

Bonus: “Real” online resumes with WordPress

If you couldn’t tell by the rest of this site, I’m a big fan of WordPress (this site is built on it as well). WordPress is the BEST way to get started cultivating your professional online presence. You have two to choose from:

  1. WordPress.com is a managed host – you just pay the bill
  2. WordPress.org is self-hosted – meaning you need:
    1. URL name registration (around $12.95 for a .com)
    2. Hosting (affiliate) (starting at $2.59/mo)

Bonus: Bullet Journal

If you really want to stay organized (a very good idea in today’s busy world), going analog (paper) is so much better than taking everything digital (too many distractions). The Bullet Journal is one of the best methods I’ve found for staying organized. Check out the following for more details:


Let me leave you with three quotes from some of my favorite authors and public speakers regarding your “Professional Performance.”

Either run the day, or the day runs you… Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time… Time management is the best kept secret of the rich.

Jim Rohn

The whole purpose of time management and getting more done in less time is to enable you to have more time to spend with the people you love, doing the things you enjoy.

Brian Tracy

‘Time management’ is really a misnomer – the challenge is not to manage time but ourselves. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

Stephen Covey


Aaron Snowberger is a Google Certified Educator, Trainer, and G Suite Administrator. He teaches Computer Science & Graphic Design at Global Prodigy Academy and English at Jeonju University. He also does freelance graphic design and website programming work, specializing in WordPress and React. He has designed multiple publications, websites, and KOTESOL posters, and has previously presented at the KOTESOL National and International Conferences, as well as the Seoul WordPress Grand Meetup. Apart from work, Aaron also enjoys cycling and playing musical instruments (like bass guitar).

11 Great Google Services (for your classroom)

I want to briefly introduce you to 11 powerful Google Services that can have a big impact on your teaching. These are things that I personally use nearly everyday. I’ll start with the most commonly used and easiest-to-learn tools, and progressively take us through more difficult or less commonly used tools.

View Slides →

Self Introduction

  • Google Certified Educator & Trainer (Feb. 2017)
  • G Suite Admin @ GPA HS (Certified Feb. 2017)
  • Computer Science & Graphic Design Teacher @ GPA HS (Feb. 2013)
  • ESL Teacher (Jeonju University Mar. 2010, Korea July 2006)
  • WordPress & web designer/developer (2010)
  • Freelance Graphic designer (MFA Apr. 2011)


I want to briefly introduce you to 11 powerful Google Services that can have a big impact on your teaching. These are things that I personally use nearly everyday. I’ll start with the most commonly used and easiest-to-learn tools, and progressively take us through more difficult or less commonly used tools.

  • Easiest (Search, Gmail, Translate)
  • Normal (Drive, Docs, Slides)
  • Harder (Forms, Drawings, Classroom)
  • Expert (Photos, Sheets)

Please, join my Class:

Class code: qa3d0gu


#1 Search

The most ubiquitous Google Service is also the most powerful, and the most under-utilized Google service. Here are some tips to get the most of it. I’ve also linked to Google’s full Tips & Tricks page below.

Find stuff for class:

Use in class:

All Google Search Tricks →

#2 Gmail

Personally, the greatest 2 tricks to using Gmail are:

25 Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts that save me 60 hours per year →

#3 Translate

I know many people don’t think Google Translate is a really efficient tool, but there have been some really great updates to it recently that make it a much better tool.

  • Handwriting
  • Audio input (speak in English, HEAR and SEE the Korean response)
  • Camera input (for signs, etc)
  • Tap to Translate is the BEST thing I’ve recently discovered – it allows me to use Translate within ANY app, without switching
  • Translate dictionaries are also available OFFLINE

Tap to Translate video


#4 Drive

Drive acts like a hard drive in the cloud, but has some pretty unique features that you may not know about.

  • Sharing & simultaneous collaborative editing
  • Preview files you don’t have programs for (.AI, .PSD)
  • Review Drive activity ( Info)
  • Review File Revision history
  • Add-Ons (DriveTunes)

#5 Docs

Google Docs acts as an online Word document editor – but it has some unique features that are only available through a cloud service like this.

#6 Slides

One of the most powerful features in Google Slides is the ability to crop and edit images directly within the Slides window itself.

  • Templates & Master Slides View > Master
  • Image manipulation
    • Crop into shapes Format > Crop image
    • Recolor Format > Format options

I’ve previously created a complex PPT using the cropping images feature. I’ve included a link to this PPT below.

I’ve also linked to some really great Slides Templates and an alternate to PPT (slides.com) – that this presentation is based on.


#7 Forms

Google Forms allows you to create self-grading assignments and quizzes.

I’ve personally used Forms for Homework, surveys, quizzes, and chapter tests. It allows you to specify

  • Multiple Choice answers
  • Checkbox answers
  • Dropdown answers
  • Short answers

And if you need more flexibility and grading features, check out Flubaroo as a Google Sheets Add-on which can also analyze your student data and help you to see which questions were the most troublesome for a class.

#8 Drawings

Google Drawings allows you to create complex vector shapes (like logos). They can even be embedded into Docs.

But one of the most useful features I recently discovered was the “yellow handle” (shaped like a diamond) on some shapes that allows you to change its dimensions. I was able to recreate the KOTESOL logo in Google Drawings using this feature:

#9 Classroom

I’ve previously presented on Google Classroom at the KOTESOL 2017 International Conference. One exciting new feature that I’ve discovered since then is that it’s now possible (since January 2017) to assign work to INDIVIDUAL students as well as the whole class. This allows me to personalize assignments for students.


#10 Photos

Google claims you can have UNLIMITED storage of photos and videos on their service – at a reduced quality (their uploader converts it automatically) – I haven’t run out of space yet.

You can also create Shared albums that people with the link can “Add” themselves to and add their own photos. This is great for schools, families, and groups that want to easily encourage participants to upload and share their individual photos.

Read more about this on the article Google Photos adds smarter sharing, suggestions and shared libraries.

  • Unlimited storage with file reduction
  • Share album to allow uploaders

#11 Sheets

Sheets is a VERY powerful program once you start getting beneath the surface of things. It includes at least TWO useful features I’ll introduce here: Data Validation and Pivot Tables.

I’ve previously presented at the JNJ KOTESOL 2012 Conference about this topic – to create a Gradebook that only accepts certain values.


You can get Google Certified too!

There are two levels of Google Educator, tests are $10 each (online, and require a web cam).

Review & Resources

This is a list of ALL the resources I gathered for this talk.

  1. Search
    1. ALL Search Tips & Tricks – Inside Search
  2. Gmail
    1. Keyboard Shortcuts
    2. The 25 Gmail Keyboard shortcuts that save me 60 hours per year
    3. Gmail Guide: Inbox Management and Labels
  3. Translate
    1. Translate
    2. Camera Input example: La Bamba
    3. YouTube: Introducing Tap to Translate
  4. Drive
    1. View activity & file versions
    2. DriveTunes Add-On
  5. Docs
    1. Docs Template Gallery
    2. Google Fonts
    3. Version History
    4. How to Add Stock Photos to Google Docs
  6. Slides
    1. Slides Template Gallery
    2. SlidesCarnival.com (Copy additional, stylish Slides Templates)
    3. Slides.com – Make Better Presentations
    4. KOTESOL slides: Become a Better Presenter
    5. How to crop & edit images
    6. Editing Master Slides
  7. Forms
    1. Forms Template Gallery
    2. Flubaroo Video (better auto-grading of Forms)
    3. Flubaroo Sheets Add-on Link
    4. Example of my Google Site with Quizzes
    5. Create & grade quizzes with Google Forms
  8. Drawings
    1. 8 Creative Uses of Google Drawings
    2. Google Drawings for Graphic Organizers – Link
    3. KOTESOL Logo in Google Drawings
    4. Google Drawings: Semicircle
    5. Google Drawings on YouTube
  9. Classroom
    1. Using Google Classroom (5 page) – Link
    2. Google Classroom Manual (15 page) – Link
    3. Aaron.kr: Google Classroom 101 Talk
    4. Google Classroom updated
    5. Digital Differentiation with Google Classroom
    6. Individual Assignments & Small Group Work
  10. Photos
    1. YouTube: Introducing Shared Albums
    2. Google Photos About
    3. Shared memories made easy with Google Photos
    4. Google Photos adds smarter sharing, suggestions and shared libraries
  11. Sheets
    1. Sheets Template Gallery
    2. Data validation in Google Sheets
    3. Get Organized with 2 Google Spreadsheet Features
    4. My KOTESOL Gradebook Presentation
    5. How to Create a Pivot Table in Google Sheets
    6. Google Sheets Pivot Table Tutorial
    7. Pivot Tables in Google Sheets (Ultimate Guide)
    8. Tutorial: How to make pivot tables in Google Sheets
  12. BONUS! Get Google Certified
    1. G Suite Training – Chrome Web Store
    2. G Suite Training
    3. Training Center: Certification
  13. Other Resources
    1. Naver Office

Thank You!

Google Classroom 101

Google Classroom is an excellent way to stay organized as a teacher and distribute learning material to a whole class or individual students. This presentation gives an overview of how Google Classroom works and how you can use it to your advantage.

View Slides →

Self Introduction

  • Google Certified Educator & Trainer (Feb. 2017)
  • G Suite Admin @ GPA HS (Certified Feb. 2017)
  • Computer Science & Graphic Design Teacher @ GPA HS (Feb. 2013)
  • ESL Teacher (Jeonju University Mar. 2010, Korea July 2006)
  • WordPress & web designer/developer (2010)
  • Freelance Graphic designer (MFA Apr. 2011)

You can get Google Certified too!

There are two levels of Google Educator, tests are $10 each (online, and require a web cam).


  • Intro
  • Student View
  • Teacher View
  • Tips


You (and the students) need a Google Account in order to use Google Classroom. But only you need a Google Account to use Google Drive. I’ll show you both. We’ll start with Google Drive.

So, please, join my Class:

Class code: jklasdf

Student View

While you’re joining my class, let’s take a look at some student opinions about Google Classroom.

Now, let me introduce you to the most common types of files I share in Google Classroom. You have access to all these files when you click the “Open” button.

Now, please complete the “Assignment” in the Google Doc and Turn it In using the button in the upper-right of your Doc.

Teacher View

While you’re completing the “Assignment”, let’s take a look at what some other teachers have to say about Google Classroom.

Let me show you some more of what Google Classroom can do from the Teacher’s Viewpoint.

  • Share files – View only
  • Share files – Editable
  • Each student gets a copy
  • Assign topics and due dates
  • Schedule assignments (or Save Drafts)
  • Grade assignments


This all seems well and good, but what if you can’t, or don’t want to, force all your students to use Google? The next section will give you some tips and suggestions for using Google Drive and Google Classroom, even without adding students to a class.

  1. Throw away your (insecure) USB key
  2. Go paperless
  3. Run a more organized classroom
  4. Use Google Sites and Forms for Quizzes and Homework
  5. Flubaroo for grading Form answers
  6. Use Naver Office if you want the Korean version
  7. Make better PPTs with SlidesCarnivaland Slides.com

Check out what Flubaroo can do.

Review & Resources

Here’s one more video reviewing all I’ve just covered.

  1. G Suite Training – Chrome Web Store
  2. G Suite Training
  3. Training Center: Certification
  4. Docs Template Gallery
  5. Sheets Template Gallery
  6. Slides Template Gallery
  7. SlidesCarnival.com (Copy additional, stylish Slides Templates)
  8. 8 Creative Uses of Google Drawings
  9. Forms Template Gallery
  10. Example of my Google Site with Quizzes
  11. Google Drawings for Graphic Organizers – Link
  12. Using Google Classroom (5 page) – Link
  13. Google Classroom Manual (15 page) – Link
  14. Slides.com – Make Better Presentations
  15. Naver Office
  16. Flubaroo Video (better auto-grading of Forms)
  17. Flubaroo Sheets Add-on Link

Thank You!

Google Classroom & G Suite for Education Training

This talk provides an overview of what Google Classroom is, how it works, and gives practical tips for how to incorporate Google’s other main product apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Forms) into your classroom.

This presentation was given as part of a training seminar at Global Prodigy Academy international high school in Jeonju. It covers the following:

  1. What Google Classroom is & can do
  2. G Suite services that work well with Google Classroom
  3. Caveat for using Google Classroom
  4. Alternate ideas if Google Classroom is not a viable option for your classroom

What Google Classroom can do


Classroom allows you to do the following:

  1. Add Class (+ symbol in the upper-right)
  2. Join class (+ symbol in the upper-right)
    1. by email (Students tab -> Invite Students)
    2. with a code (you can also display this in huge letters on the projector. Go to the Gear wheel -> Class code -> Display)
  3. Create Assignment (now also Reuse Assignment is possible)
    1. Add attachments (files)
    2. Insert videos / links
    3. Schedule the assignment / Save Draft
    4. Groups Assignments within Topics
    5. Give Assignments Due dates
  4. Grading (I personally don’t use this feature, but it’s wonderful for keeping student Assignments organized and in a central location)
Classroom’s Grading feature keeps assignments organized

Assignment Types

Classroom is best used in connection with Google Drive and gives you access to a number of Microsoft-esque products that you can use to create assignments:

  1. “Microsoft”-esque
    1. Docs (like MS Word)
      1. The best tool I introduce to students in Docs is the paragraph styles
    2. Sheets (like MS Excel)
      1. The tools I focus on teaching students in Sheets are the spreadsheet functions and chart creation tools
    3. Slides (like MS PowerPoint)
      1. One great feature to learn in Slides is where to edit the Master Slides (View -> Master)
  2. Non-MS
    1. Drawings (Can be created separately and downloaded as PDFs or image files, or can be inserted into Docs)
    2. Forms (great for giving tests/quizzes – and can also be self-grading if you input answers)
  3. Distribution methods
    1. Students can view (This is best used for things like class Slides and lecture notes that shouldn’t be edited)
    2. Students can edit (Use this to collaborate on a Shared Document or Spreadsheet where each student needs to add their input to the collective – like shared vocab lists)
    3. Student copy (This copies the file and inputs it directly to each Student account while also linking it to the Grading portion of that assignment to keep things organized)
Distribution methods and Lesson Planning

Organize your Lesson Plans

Personally, I use Google Classroom to help me better organize my Lesson Plans and stay focused during the class. Whenever I create a new assignment, I write down notes about the topic, points to cover, or steps to take. Then, while presenting the lesson, I can refer back to my “Lesson Plan” in the Google Classroom Assignment.

Student / Teacher View

There is a difference between the Teacher View and the Student View, so if you want to explore them both, either:

  • login as a student in your class, or
  • add another account (on the SAME Google domain) to your class and explore as both Teacher and Student


Student accounts and Teacher accounts MUST reside within the SAME Google domain in order to work. (i.e. Gmail users can join Gmail user classes and .com users can join .com user classes, but Gmail users CANNOT join .com user classes)
  1. The Teacher View helps you to stay organized with:
    1. Organized assignments / a grading section
    2. Archived classes (from which you can now Reuse Assignments)
    3. Reorder classes (by clicking and dragging them around the screen, you can place them in the order you will teach them during the day)
  2. The Student View is obviously more limited. Students can:
    1. “Open” files – individual files will be contained IN the Assignment at the bottom, under other files and attachments, in a separate box
    2. Submit (“Turn In”) – students will need to “Unsubmit” work if they want to edit it further – once it’s submitted, it’s no longer editable
    3. Quiz multi-submit – students can submit Quizzes more than once if that option is enabled in the Form settings
    4. Edit together – Students can collaborate on shared Docs

Alternate Ideas

Once again, using Google Classroom comes with a Caveat

Student accounts and Teacher accounts MUST reside within the SAME Google domain in order to work. (i.e. Gmail users can join Gmail user classes and .com users can join .com user classes, but Gmail users CANNOT join .com user classes)

However, even if you feel unable to use Google Classroom with your students in your Classroom, you’ll still be able to use it yourself if you have a Gmail account. The following are some suggestions for using Classroom without students joining it.

  1. Personal Organization (Lesson Planning)
  2. Document Use
    1. Docs (Word)
    2. Sheets (Excel)
    3. Slides (PPT)
    4. Drawings (insert)
    5. Forms (tests/quizzes)
  3. Distribution
    1. Share Link
    2. Google Sites

Personal Organization

Using Classroom for your own personal organization of Lesson Plans is still a great idea. You can write out all your lessons, notes about the content, and any links you want to share with the class.

(This is actually how I give many of my presentations on Google – because no students are “joining” the class, but I still want to use Classroom.)

Sharing & Distribution

You’ll still be able to “Share” Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Forms by clicking the blue Share button in the upper-right corner of any page. You can use Google’s built-in URL shortener, or another one like https://is.gd/ which allows you to customize the link text. Then, write the shortlink on the board to give students access.

Here are some suggestions for how to use and Share each Google Doc type with students who aren’t in your class:

  • Docs: Share test reviews, directions for written assignments, or your syllabus
  • Sheets: Share vocabulary lists, calendars, or schedules
  • Slides: Share your lecture slides, or play PPT games
  • Drawings: Share teacher-created flowcharts and illustrations
  • Forms: You can still share surveys or quizzes and students will be able to do those on their mobile devices. (I’ve used this in large classes of 40 students to quickly “collect” and grade homework.)
  • Sites: And if you want to remove the middleman altogether (the shortened URL you write on the board), create a Google Site and update the assignments and links in there. Then students will only need to know ONE link throughout the semester where they can find all their assignments.


This is only the tip of the iceberg for the kinds of things Google can do for your classroom. Here are two more ways to become a Google Education pro.

  1. Watch FREE video training on ANY Google product
  2. Get Certified!

Teacher Tech Tips

This presentation covers numerous tips and tricks that can benefit classroom teachers who need to use technology. While the middle two sections are most relevant to GPA teachers, the remaining sections contain lots of good advice for any teacher who needs to use technology in their work in nearly any capacity.

This presentation was given as part of a training seminar at Global Prodigy Academy international high school in Jeonju. It covers the following:

  1. Useful Computer Tricks (keyboard shortcuts) for teachers
  2. GPA’s Acceptable Use Policy (Brief)
  3. Website(s) pertinent to GPA teachers
  4. Gmail tips & tricks
  5. Google Calendar tips & tricks

Useful Computer Tricks

The following are some of THE very best computer tricks for teachers I’ve picked up over the years (and use on a nearly daily basis):

  1. Browser Tricks
    1. CTRL + SHIFT + N = Chrome’s Incognito mode (doesn’t save passwords, browsing history, etc)
    2. CTRL + SHIFT + T = Re-open the most recently closed tab
    3. In Gmail, with keyboard shortcuts enabled: C = compose new message
    4. For printing in the computer lab, the Teacher’s computer must be ON because all the lab computers are routed through it to the printers
  2. Windows Shortcuts
    1. CTRL + ALT + DELETE = Slow, additional step to Task Manager
    2. CTRL + SHIFT + ESC = FAST, direct Task Manager access
    3. Win + ← or Win + → = Move current window to half screen
    4. Win + L = Instant logout
    5. Win + P = Change Presentation (projector) mode
    6. PrtSc = screenshot (with Lightshot app installed)
  3. Text Editing
    1. Use CTRL + SHIFT + V instead of CTRL + V to remove styling from text you copy-paste
    2. CTRL + K = create hyperlink from selected text

Acceptable Use Policies

GPA’s Stuff (Google Account / Computers)

  1. Keep it professional (all channels)
  2. Google account:Contract end:
    1. Keep it (~6 months non-use)
    2. Termination: Lose it
  3. Legal issues: GPA owns it

YOUR Stuff (SNS / Messaging)

  1. Keep it professional (all channels)
  2. Socializing with students outside school
    1. KakaoTalk, etc
    2. Scheduling things outside school hours (admin)

STUDENT Stuff (Reminders (from personal experience))

  1. Keep door codes/passwords secret (shoulder surfing)
  2. No food/drink at the computers (in the lab)
  3. No downloading/installing games/programs
  4. Zero-tolerance policy for bullying (online or off)
  5. Teacher’s computer is “unfrozen”

GPA websites

Gmail tips & tricks

There are three great ways you can immediately personalize and start taking control of your Gmail account:

  1. Personalize it
    1. Change your profile picture
    2. Change your email signature
  2. Organize it
    1. Configure your Inbox (multiple inboxes, view settings, etc)
    2. Create Labels (which act like folders)
    3. Create Filters to automatically sort incoming emails
  3. Customize it
    1. Change the appearance with Themes
    2. Change the functionality with Labs

Google Calendar tips & tricks

Some of the best tricks I’ve learned regarding Google Calendar are:

  1. Sharing public calendars
  2. Creating Appointment Slots

(And with Calendar’s recent redesign, it’s much more fun to use too~)

The admin can manage the school calendar and share it publicly with all the teachers and/or students. We then create Appointment Slots in separate calendars for each teacher to allow parents to sign up for Parent-Teacher Conferences.

Thank you!

Become a Better Presenter (KOTESOL Workshop 2016)

Think about it. As a Teacher, you are literally a professional, paid, public speaker. Are you good at it? Could you be better? In my experience, there are a number of things each one of us can do to increase our public speaking skills, both in the classroom and out. And what you learn, do, and apply in the classroom can have a great impact on how you speak at professional venues. Come learn the THREE core skills that you can use to take your presentations from blah to bravo.

What I’m going to talk about today is primarily sourced from a book we teach at Jeonju University: Speaking of Speech. I’ve personally found this book to be quite helpful in enhancing my own presentation skills, so I want to share some of the insights I’ve gained over the years.

And while the outline of this talk may follow the same topics covered in the book, I hope to be able to add enough additional material and tips to make it really worth your time.

Speaking of Speech

  1. Story Message = Content is (still) KING
  2. Physical Message = YOU are the presentation
  3. Visual Message = PPT is only a TOOL (not a crutch)

Story Message

If you dress up a dog like a princess, what do you have? It’s still a dog. Likewise, even the most well-designed and beautiful presentation will fall flat if there is not good CONTENT behind it.

Content is (still) KING – particularly in presentations (and teaching).

  1. Introduction = like the top bun of a hamburger – whets your appetite
    1. This is what you WILL say – provide an outline
  2. Body = the meat, cheese, and toppings – all the stuff that makes it good
    1. Say it!
  3. Conclusion = the bottom bun – pulls it all together, or else you’ll have a giant mess
    1. Remind them what you just said – don’t leave them to pull all the pieces back together themselves
  1. WHAT is the topic about? (Title slide)
  2. WHY are you talking about it? (Give them a good reason to listen. “What’s in it for me?”)
  3. Provide an OVERVIEW (Outline) of the whole talk
  1. Introduce = the spoon in an ice cream cup – let’s them know what this is about
  2. Explain = the ice cream in the cup – all the yummy stats, numbers, and figures
  3. Emphasize = the cherry on top – makes the whole thing better
    1. Tasty Transitions – and don’t forget to close each section and begin another in a clear, interesting way

Wrap it up by taking them back to the beginning. Remind the audience:

  1. WHAT you talked about
  2. WHY it is important
  3. HOW they can do something about it

Physical Message

Never forget: YOU are the presentation. The slides behind you are only a Visual Aid (“aid” = “helper” not “do-it-for-you-er”). Don’t rely on those as a crutch. In a pinch, you don’t even NEED the PPT. Rely on yourself to BE the presentation and use all the tools at your disposal.

  1. Posture
  2. Eye Contact
  3. Gestures
  4. Voice

Do you find you have bad posture? Or difficulty having good posture?

  1. Settle in first – don’t start speaking on your way up – settle in, feel the area, control the space, THEN start
  2. Play a mental movie – visualize in your head how the presentation SHOULD go – this mental priming will help you better be able to judge if things are going as they should be or not
  3. Strengthen your core and shoulders – some of the worst posture often comes from hunched shoulders or a bent back. Exercise! Strengthen those muscles when you DON’T need them so they’ll treat you right when you do need them

Do you have trouble making eye contact with the audience?

  1. Look (slightly) PAST the audience – look at their hair, or slightly over their heads, or at their noses – sometimes eye contact can be intimidating, but if you look at noses, you won’t feel intimidated by straight on eye contact
  2. Find a handful of people to connect with – you don’t need to look at EVERYONE, just find a few who are really engaged with what you’re saying and return your gaze to their eyes in sequence
  3. Direct your vision in sequence – start at the left side of the room, then the back, the right, and back to the left – decide on your preferred sequence and stick with it – it’ll take the guess-work out

Most Western speakers don’t seem to have much trouble with gestures, but here are three tips in any case:

  1. Don’t overdo it – gestures are best used to express the following:
    1. Numbers & Sequences (first, second, …)
    2. Emphasis & Focus (the key point…)
    3. Illustration & Location (to the left of…)
    4. Comparison & Contrast (on the other hand…)
  2. Body Language – remember you can also express yourself with the following:
    1. Body movements
    2. Facial expressions
  3. Consider yourself a performer – when you’re giving a speech, you’re out of your Comfort Zone. You need to express enthusiasm even if you don’t feel it, so act it. You are an actor on stage in front of an audience

Do you have trouble controlling your voice? Speaking too fast? Too quietly?

  1. Control your voice through rehearsal – the more you practice speaking through the same content, the more comfortable you become with it. You will also learn the jokes and stories that work best and those that don’t work so well
    1. Example 1: Chris Rock prepares by hitting up tons of small comedy clubs in a neighborhood before a big TV special, taking notes while performing
    2. Example 2: My Friday classes run much smoother than my Monday classes with the same book
  2. Slow down by avoiding coffee – this is a tip from a Keynote speaker at a Tech conference I saw recently. The combination of adrenaline (nerves) and caffeine will automatically speed up your speech
  3. Express greater enthusiasm through exercise – Do you find you have little energy on stage? Is it hard to be enthusiastic about something? Then push yourself physically (with exercise) off the stage so that you can have and produce more energy ON the stage

Visual Message

The Visual Message is LAST because it is NOT what makes a great presentation. PPTs are merely AIDS to help you. Don’t rely on them like a crutch. YOU are what really matters in a presentation.

The Visual Message ultimately boils down to 1) design, and 2) the tools you a) have and b) know how to use.

A tool is only as good as the person using it.

The best tool is the one you USE.

Let’s talk about Complexity and Design.

  1. Show only ONE idea per slide
    1. Less is more, bigger is better
    2. Using bullet points? 5×5 (7×7) – show at most 5 points with at most 5 words each
    3. Yes, this means you may need to increase the number of slides in your PPT, but it also will give you the opportunity to show transitions, animations, and highlighting in more interesting ways (with motion as you flip through the slides)
  2. Simplify
    1. Use high contrasting colors
    2. Use simple backgrounds
    3. Use transparency, contrast, brightness, shapes, and image cropping to your advantage
  1. Colors – Use a limited color palette
    1. Remember the 60-30-10 rule (like a man in a suit)
      1. 60% main color
      2. 30% secondary color
      3. 10% accent color
  2. Fonts – Understand the types and proper uses of fonts – use fonts to show Hierarchy
    1. Sans-serifs = Modern style, good for Titles in print, body copy on screen
    2. Serifs = Classic style, good for body copy in print, Titles on screen
    3. Scripts = Handwriting style – best used in limited quantities (if at all)
  3. Images –
    1. Learn which types of images are appropriate to use legally and where to find them
      1. Creative Commons – or even better CC0 Images

Life as a teacher begins the day you realize that you are always a learner.

Great leaders (teachers) work to sharpen [their tools].

Simon Sinek



  1. Templates:Google Slides Templates @ SlidesCarnival.com
  2. Images: CC0 Images (29 Sites)
  3. Fonts: Google Fonts (available in Google Slides, or to Download for FREE)
  4. Color: Canva Color Theory 101
  5. Color Palettes: ColourLovers.com
  6. Book: How to Avoid Death by Powerpoint (David JP Phillips)
  7. Website: ThePresentationSkills.com (David JP Phillips)

How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint by David JP Phillips:


Death by PowerPoint from Alexei Kapterev

A Roadmap for WordPress as LMS

This talk attempts to give real, practical tips – and a roadmap – for developing a Learning Management System for your classroom with WordPress.

This talk was presented at the KOTESOL National Conference in Seoul on May 30, 2015. With this presentation, I tried to reduce the amount of theory (from my last LMS talk) and increase the amount of practical application steps that teachers could use to begin creating their own LMS websites with WordPress.

This slideshow is accompanied by my own “WordPress as LMS Roadmap” paper that gives step-by-step advice and instructions for building a (basic) WordPress LMS.

Although in the talk, I highlighted the major selling points for using WordPress as an LMS, I’ll refer you to my previous LMS talk titled “WordPress as LMS (Learning Management System)” for more information on WHY you might choose WordPress over the other available options. For the remainder of this post, however, I’ll focus on the practical steps involved in building your own class website in WordPress.

The Roadmap

Review: The 6 Things an LMS Needs to Do


  1. Communicate Objects (Courses, Lessons, Modules)
  2. Show Learning Timelines (Syllabus)
  3. Deliver Content (Dripped content = content that is only accessible at specified times)
  4. Assess & Track Student Progress (Quizzes, Tests, Attendance, Participation, Gradebook)
  5. Communicate with Students (Comments, Forums, Wikis, Chat)
  6. Provide Ongoing Resources (in some sort of library or collection)

Step 0: Get a website

You basically have 2 options: FREE or PAID and both have their upsides and downsides:

  1. FREE Advantages and Disadvantages
    1. (+) It’s FREE
    2. (-) Themes, plugins, and design options are limited. Plus, your URL will be either yourclass.wordpress.com or yourclass.edublogs.org – you won’t own your own .com
  2. PAID Advantages and Disadvantages
    1. (+) You can choose what to pay for and how much you’re willing to spend. You can buy your own yourclass.com URL, and can basically make any theme, plugin, and design choices you want
    2. (-) You pay for it. Some highly specialized themes, plugins, or features are sold separately

If you want a completely FREE site, you can still build a very functional classroom website in WordPress. I used a totally FREE installation of WordPress for the first 2 years of my LMS.

The remainder of this post will focus on creating a FREE WordPress LMS, although I will highlight some of the paid options you may wish to consider.

FREE Hosting Options

  1. Go to http://www.wordpress.com and sign up for a FREE account (you can upgrade later)
  2. Go to http://www.edublogs.org and sign up for a FREE account (you can upgrade later)

PAID Hosting Options

I’ve used Dreamhost.com since 2009 and have hosted dozens of personal and client websites there. You can manage every aspect of web hosting from there including:

  1. Setup Step 1: Buying your URL Domain name
  2. Setup Step 2: Installing WordPress with a One-Click Installer
  3. Setup Step 3: Setting up email inboxes @yourclass.com
  4. Support: Dreamhost also has a large Wiki for support for its services and
  5. Support: They have a very helpful support staff and are active on Twitter

If you want to go with Dreamhost, I can offer 2 months of FREE hosting on a year plan if you sign up with this link AND enter the code WPMUJJ as a discount code when you sign up.

Step 1: Communicate Objects (Posts)

After getting setup with a WordPress website and logging into the backend, you have the option to customize your Theme (design), add Plugins (extra functionality), or play with any of your other Settings. It’s probably a good idea to at least familiarize yourself with the WordPress backend menu.

Additionally, you should get to know “The First FIVE Components of WordPress to Understand When You’re Just Starting Out” (click link to view the full description of each). In brief, they are:


  1. Pages
  2. Posts
  3. Categories
  4. Tags
  5. Media

In your LMS class site, you can use each like this:

  1. Pages = semester-long use (static) – use for Class homepages, Syllabus pages, About pages, Resource pages
  2. Posts = daily use (chronological) – use for Class lessons, Homework assignments, or Reviews
  3. Categories = folders – assign each Class a separate folder to store all Class materials within it
  4. Tags = keywords – tag Posts with grammar points, topics, or subject content to allow easy searching and linking of related Posts later
  5. Media = upload your PPTs, PDFs, DOCs, Images, Videos, or other content here – and don’t forget that WordPress also does a GREAT job of supporting native embeds from sites like Twitter and YouTube. Click this link for a complete list of all the filetypes and embeds WordPress supports


  1. Gather your teaching materials and content
  2. Create a NEW Post for every Lesson
  3. Type (or copy-paste) your Lesson into the Editor and give it a Title
  4. Upload class materials and media
  5. Assign a Category using the Name of the Class (Freshmen Conversation 1B, for example)
  6. Add Tags based on the subject matter (be verb, introductions, conjugation rules, etc)
  7. Schedule the Post (if you want it to be available later, not immediately)
  8. Publish the Post

Plugins that may be helpful


  1. Easy Classes
  2. WP Teacher
  3. WP Course Manager (like a course catalog)
  4. EduHack (creates a course catalog showing relationships between courses and prerequisites)
  5. Educator (LMS)
  6. CoursePress (LMS)

Step 2: Learning Timelines (Pages)

After publishing a handful of Posts/Lessons (or possibly before), you may want to create a Class PAGE specifically for containing the Syllabus, Lesson Plans, and Links to those Lessons. The best way to do this is to create a WordPress Page.

Pages are unique in WordPress in that they DO NOT have Categories nor Tags. However, they are hierarchical, so you could create a Freshmen Conversation Page that has multiple “children” like the list below indicates:

  1. Freshmen Conversation
    1. Freshmen Conversation 1A
    2. Freshmen Conversation 1B
    3. Freshmen Tues/Thurs
    4. Freshmen Student Center Class

If you use “Pretty Permalinks” (go to Settings -> Permalinks in the WordPress sidebar menu) URLs of each Page will follow after their “parent” Page like so:

  1. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/
    1. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-conversation-1a/
    2. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-conversation-1b/
    3. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-tues-thurs/
    4. myclass.com/freshmen-conversation/freshmen-student-center-class/

Therefore, you could simplify your Class Page names under the “parent” Page to only include the section number, date, or location of the class if you want (of course, you could also modify the URL by changing the “slug” under the Title of any Page as well).


  1. Create a Page for each Class
  2. Optionally create one “Category” main Page and Sub-Pages for each Class under that
  3. Copy-paste in your syllabus OR type it up in an unordered list OR table (using a plugin)
  4. Link each Post/Lesson from your Class Category to its syllabus item
  5. OR simply link the entire Class Category to the top of the Page (when students click the main link, it’ll take them to the Category Page which will show a chronological listing of each Post in their Class from most recent to latest)

Plugins that may be helpful


  1. Easy Table (can be used directly in the Post/Page Editor with the syntax required)
  2. TablePress (has its own interface, slightly more complicated and versatile)
  3. Websimon Tables (similar to TablePress with its own interface)
  4. The Events Calendar
  5. Weekly Class Schedule
  6. My Calendar
  7. Booking Calendar (allow students to schedule a meeting with you through your site)
  8. Online Lesson Booking (schedule a 1:1 lesson or meeting)

Step 3: Deliver Content (Scheduled Posts)

“Drip Content” is a term that means “sequential delivery of content.” This basically means that students don’t (or should not) have access to later Lessons before they complete (or are taught) previous Lessons.

This is very useful in fully automated online Learning Management Systems where a course creator simply sets up the system that unlocks later Lessons as users progress through and complete the Lessons in order. There are a number of good plugins to help you accomplish this.

However, for a simpler system – and one in which the teacher is a more active participant as the course progresses, the simplest method for “dripped content” is simply creating and Scheduling each Lesson/Post for the date that Lesson is to be taught or made accessible (this is akin to simply writing a new Lesson and Publishing it every Monday, for example).


  1. Write a Post (Lesson) for you Class
  2. Assign it a Category (Class folder) and add Tags (topics / keywords)
  3. Change the “Publish On” date in the Publish Meta Box
  4. “Schedule” your Post

Plugins that may be helpful


  1. Show/Hide Content at Set Time
  2. Timed Content
  3. Table of Contents Plus
  4. Simple Course Creator
  5. Simple Course Creator – Updates (shows updated course content in a timeline)
  6. WP-Members
  7. Search the Plugin Directory for “Drip Content” or “Show Hide Content”

Step 4: Assess & Track Students (Comments / Authors)

There are numerous ways you can track and assess student work in WordPress. Two of the easiest you can set up with no additional plugins are:

  1. WordPress Comments on Class Posts
  2. Giving students a username and login as an “Author” on your Class site where they can write their own Posts (as essays) which you then edit and approve before they go “Live” on the site


Add Authors

  1. Register new Users on your site by going to the Users -> Add New menu item
  2. Assign student roles as “Author” and register them
    1. In recent versions of WordPress, self-registration seems to be disabled, although there are some plugins available that will allow students to register themselves (see below)
  3. Allow students to login and write essays (Posts) in their Class Category – under a Sub-Category of your choice
  4. Edit their work and Publish it – you can write comments in the Post itself or in a Comment below it
    1. Optionally, don’t Edit the Post yourself, but just leave Comments and assign the student the work of coming back in and fixing their mistakes

Take Comments

  1. Go in to the Settings -> Discussion menu to adjust Comment settings appropriately
    1. “Allow people to post comments on new articles”
    2. “Comment author must fill out name and email”
    3. “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”
  2.  Assign students the homework of reading a Class Post and Commenting on it
    1. Additionally, when I was in grad school, I was assigned not only my original Comment about the article, but 3 “Reply” Comments to other students in the class. This is a good way to get a Discussion going.

Grading Student Work

Personally, without installing any additional plugins into WordPress, I have previously just kept records of student work in Excel spreadsheets or Google Sheets (they’re better for calculating numbers on the fly). However, there are a number of plugins available for grading, quizzes, and other things that you may want to try (see below).

Plugins that may be helpful


  1. Add Multiple Users
  2. AN_Gradebook
  3. Grading System Daxxip (VERY simple – just assign a grade and make it visible on a Post)
  4. Watu Quiz Tool
  5. Quiz Tool Lite
  6. Easy Quiz Player
  7. Exam Matrix
  8. BadgeOS (Give badges for achievements)

Step 5: Communicate with Students (Comments / Plugins)

One thing that WordPress makes exceptionally easy is communication between people. Whether this is using a Commenting system (as discussed above) or Plugins that add extra Social Networking style features, WordPress is has many powerful tools available to customize communication.


  1. Enable Comments on your site (discussed above)
  2. Add Plugins that enhance both your Comments and other forms of communication
    1. Enhance your Comments
    2. Add a Contact form
    3. Add Polls or Surveys
    4. Add Forums, Wikis, or Chats
    5. Add a Social Network plugin

Plugins that may be helpful


  1. Akismet (the #1 spam comment blocking plugin in the world)
  2. Disqus (enhanced Comments)
  3. Contact Form 7 (one of the most popular contact form plugins in the world)
  4. PollDaddy (available on WordPress.com already)
  5. Polls by OpinionStage
  6. WP Survey and Quiz Tool
  7. Survey by POWr
  8. Wiki by WPMU Dev
  9. Chat by WPMU Dev
  10. Pure Chat – Free Live Chat Plugin
  11. iFlyChat – WordPress Chat (allow users to discuss in public and private chat rooms)
  12. bbPress (Official WordPress forum plugin)
  13. BuddyPress (Official WordPress Social Network building plugin)
  14. BuddyPress Docs (add collaborative work spaces to BuddyPress)
  15. BadgeOS Community Add-on (add badges to bbPress and BuddyPress)
  16. BadgeOS Invite Codes Add-on (allow users on BuddyPress to join specified groups with an Invite code)

Step 6: Ongoing Resources

Finally, it is important to keep an organized space for resources and references for your classes. The easiest way to do this is to create a dedicated Resources Page that you continually update as new resources are found or added.

Your WordPress Media Library houses everything you upload to your site (in chronological order) so it can get rather messy after a while. However, there are a few ways you can help yourself keep things organized in the Media Library:

  1. Be sure to NAME your resources appropriately so that they are easy to Search for in the Search box
  2. Install a plugin to help with organization (see below)

Another option for creating a list of Resources that are simply links to various other locations online is to create a Blogroll (list of other blogs) on a page or in a Sidebar Widget.


  1. Appropriately name/label every file you upload
  2. Create a Page called “Class Resources”
    1. You might also create Sub-Pages for each Class like “Freshman 1A Resources”
    2. OR if there will be much overlap, simply divide your Main Page with different Headings for each class
  3. Update your “Class Resources” Page as you find/upload new material
  4. Create a Custom Menu called “Blogroll” or “External Resources” or something
    1. Add links to external sites in this Menu
    2. Add the Menu to a Sidebar Widget (or possibly a Page – you might need a plugin)
  5. Add a Plugin to help you manage everything

Plugins that may be helpful


  1. Enhanced Media Library (allows you to Tag your Media Library files and categorize them)
  2. Media Library Assistant
  3. Eazy Enable Blogroll (brings back the original WordPress default Blogroll)
  4. Open Link (outputs Blogroll links to a Page or Post using a shortcode)
  5. Encyclopedia / Glossary / Wiki
  6. Wiki by WPMU Dev
  7. Xili-Dictionary (Multilingual dictionary)
  8. Google Drive WP Media
  9. Google Drive Embedder
  10. BackWPup Free – WordPress Backup Plugin (backups are important)

Full Fledged Learning Management Systems


  1. LePress (lacking documentation and screenshots)
  2. Educator
  3. Namaste! LMS
  4. CoursePress | PRO Version
  5. LearnDash (Premium)
  6. WooSensei (Premium)
  7. WP Courseware (Premium)
  8. LifterLMS (Premium)

Your Turn

  • Have you ever built a WordPress LMS site? How was your experience? Any more recommendations?
  • For first users, was my walkthrough helpful? Anything unclear?

Leave me a Comment below.

GPA HS Career Day – Computer Science

The International High School I work at recently had their first ever Career Day and they asked me to present on my field: Computer Science. This presentation seeks to introduce high schoolers to the CS field, and give them an overview of what they can do/learn in the field, future career choices they might consider, and a little bit of advice about what/how to study.

The International High School I work at recently had their first ever Career Day and they asked me to present on my field: Computer Science. This presentation seeks to:

  1. Introduce high schoolers to the CS field
  2. Give them an overview of what they can do/learn in the field
  3. Give them an idea of future career choices in the field
  4. Give them a little bit of advice about what/how to study


What is Computer Science?

A simple definition in the “Simple Wikipedia” says that Computer Science is “the study of how to…

  1. Manipulate
  2. Manage
  3. Transform
  4. Encode

…data.” A good example of this kind of thing would be a Computer Graphics program that allows you to do all of these things at once:

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnBQAwjsfj8
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnBQAwjsfj8

Computer Science requires a basic knowledge of…

  1. Math
  2. Science
  3. Logic

A good example of this is a simple flowchart because this is basically how computers and algorithms work. They go through a series of simple steps, asking very simple questions, and performing very simple commands to produce some kind of result.


Computers are (at their very most basic level) the stupidest metal boxes on earth. They only really understand TWO things: ON and OFF (1 and 0). All computer language, at its core, is just a combination of 1’s and 0’s. But it is the combination of thousands and millions of small, simple steps of 1’s and 0’s added together that creates the massive complexity of today’s computer programs.

Computer Science will push your…

  1. Creativity
  2. Problem Solving Skills
  3. Need for Lifelong Learning

… to the limit. In fact, much of the technology we enjoy today was dreamed up in Science Fiction or other flights of fancy long before it became a reality. Here are a few good examples:

Credit Cards

The first mention of a card that could be processed as money was in 1887 in a book titled “Looking Backward: 2000-1887” by Edward Bellamy. Yet it wasn’t until 1946 that the first actual bank card was invented, and a true “credit” card didn’t become available until 1951.


I recently read an article in which billionaire CEO Richard Branson reminisced about the time (1986) he jokingly declared (in an article to be published on April Fool’s Day) that his company Virgin was inventing a “Music Box” that could store all the music in the world on it. Steve Jobs later admitted to Branson that he’d been intrigued by the concept when he read about it, and Branson admits that his “joke” may have inspired Jobs and Apple to launch iTunes and the iPod.


The movie Minority Report (starring Tom Cruise) came out in 2002 and featured some amazing computer technology that included Cruise being able to use special three-fingered gloves to move, resize, zoom, and rotate images on his computer screen. This is a good example of multi-touch technology that started becoming widespread in 2007 with the release of the iPhone. I can’t help but imagine that the movie may have partially inspired the development of this kind of technology.

Flying Cars

For years, in Science Fiction, flying cars have been a mainstay, and just this year I saw a video of a prototype flying car that may be ready for production and sale by as early as 2017.

As a quote that boldly posted on the high school walls states:

The best way to predict the future is to create it.
-Abraham Lincoln/Peter Drucker

This has never been truer than where technology is concerned. Computer Science (and Engineering) are on the bleeding edge of the future. In fact, nearly every program, application, programming language, and technology that I know today wasn’t even invented when I went through school.

Technology Year invented My age Most recent update
Internet 1982 1 y.o. 2011 (IPv4)
HTML 1992 11 y.o. 2014
CSS 1996 15 y.o. 2012
JavaScript 1995 14 y.o. 2011
jQuery 2006 25 y.o. 2014
WordPress 2003 22 y.o. Today
iPhone 2007 26 y.o. 2014

In fact, if you’re interested in going into the Computer Science field, there’s a HIGH likelihood that what you’ll be working on and building in your career hasn’t even been invented yet! This field leads the way into the future.

Computer Science has Impacted Every Industry

  1. Medicine
  2. Security
  3. Business
  4. Education
  5. Agriculture
  6. Automobiles (even flying cars)
  7. Everything!~

One distinction I thought I might have to make was the difference between an engineer and a computer scientist. Basically,

  1. Engineers: MAKE cool stuff (work with hardware, wiring, chips, machines, and so on)
  2. Computer Scientists: make it DO cool stuff (work with software, program the machines, and so on)

What Can I Learn in Computer Science?

Computer Science can be broken down into two major “branches”:

  1. Theoretical CS
  2. Applied CS

These branches can be further broken down into four “categories”:

  1. Theory (similar to research, mathematical theory, etc)
  2. Algorithms & Data Structures (like what you would learn in school – CS fundamentals)
  3. Computer Architecture (more along the lines of engineering)
  4. Programming Languages (writing code)

The following is a look at some of the most popular coding languages of 2015:


And within these CS categories, there are multiple “avenues” to pursue including:

  1. Numeric & Symbolic Computation
  2. Software Engineering
  3. Artificial Intelligence
  4. Networking & Telecom
  5. Database Systems
  6. Computer Graphics
  7. Operating Systems
  8. Distributed Computation
  9. Parallel Computation
  10. Human and Computer Interaction (User Experience – UX Design)
  11. Security & Cryptography
  12. Modeling & Simulating Real-World Problems
  13. Ethical & Social Issues
  14. Robotics
  15. Game Design
  16. Web Design

And within my current discipline (web design), there are even more specialties:

  1. Front-end development (dealing with what the website looks like and how it performs – using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery)
  2. Back-end development (dealing with the function of the site and management of date – using PHP, MySQL, Python, Ruby, and Java)
  3. Full-stack development (combining the two former disciplines)

Why Choose Computer Science?

For me personally, Computer Science is a perfect blend of my skills in math & science with my skills in art and creativity. But beyond that, CS is a field of study that teaches you how to think – and I like to think.

Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think. – Steve Jobs

It would be wonderful if every kid wrote computer programs and understood how computers work. It would certainly make you a better thinker. – Bill Gates

In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing. We’ll be looking back and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner. – Mark Zuckerberg

Knowledge of computer programming is as important as knowledge of anatomy when it comes to medical research or clinical care. – Larry Corey, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

In fact, learning Computer Science isn’t all about tech companies: 67% of all software jobs are outside the tech industry – in banking, retail, government, entertainment, and so on. And indeed, in the modern economy, there is a growing need for problem-solving skills across ALL jobs.

What’s Wrong with this Picture? (Source: Code.org)

Show Me the Money!~

So, what kind of money can you expect to make as a computer scientist? Here are some examples I found on the web:

  1. Starting Salary: $40-60,000 (ESL in the US = $28,000)
  2. Median Salary: $90,000 (ESL in the US = $40,000)
  3. Top Salary: $150,000 (ESL in the US = $73,000)

(My current career is ESL in South Korea. I make between $33-40,000 USD including full-time + part-time work after nearly a decade doing it – needless to say, I’m looking to transition back into programming whenever I can~)

In fact, according to Geekwire.com, numerous computer science jobs pay better than lawyer and pharmacist jobs.

Career Day - Computer Science (7)
Numerous 0ther well-paid computer science job options in the US are listed here at Business Insider.

Big Opportunities

From what I can see after following the computer industry for a while is that in the present time and near future, there are/will be big opportunities available in:

  1. Big Data (big companies want this)
  2. Internet programming (the Internet is everywhere)
  3. Mobile programming (the industry is booming)
  4. Ruby (current developers can charge up to $100/hr for work in Ruby – compared to the going rate of $50/hr for WordPress developers)

How Do I Start?

I asked some advice from a number of my friends and contacts about how to get into the computer science industry. Their collective experience includes jobs in:

  1. Google
  2. YouTube
  3. Microsoft
  4. Microsoft Security
  5. IBM
  6. Lenovo
  7. MOZ
  8. Airbnb

One of the things about working in tech is that it’s possible to get into it nearly no matter what age or background you are.

Indeed, there are some 90-year-olds who are just getting into designing technology professionally, and some 11-year-olds who are developing mobile apps for the iTunes App Store.

A lot of the stuff we do hasn’t been done before. By the time things are released to the public, we are already started on the next “thing”. There is tons of problem solving and thinking outside the box involved. Half the hardware we use here we are using in a way it wasn’t designed for. But it’s easier to take an existing thing and rethink it to do what you want… The “What you know” isn’t as important as the “How are you going to figure it out?” – James Hickok (my cousin @ Microsoft)

Start a … blog. Write tutorials. Share things that you learn. Learn things by writing about them. That’s how I got to know people in the community. It’s also how I was able to successfully launch Theme Hybrid… And, always reply to comments on your blog. You’ve got to interact with your readers. At a certain point, that gets tough, but keep the conversation going. – Justin Tadlock (WordPress developer I asked some questions to @ WPChat.com)

I would recommend that you learn on your own… You will find that a major in Computer Science doesn’t teach you everything you need to know to be successful on a team. The University tends to focus on teaching the fundamentals of programming languages and only slightly touches on other important aspects of software development… One aspect that is frequently overlooked in people looking for software development opportunities is the need to have great social skills along with technical skills. – Jared Siirila (former classmate and next door neighbor in the dorms)

My classmate Jared also prepared a video to describe his experiences in the software industry over the past 9 years. Check it out:

What you can do to get started:

  1. Build a portfolio of work – show how you learned/taught yourself X, Y, or Z
  2. Do a “Hackathon” where you join other programmers to build something cool in a limited amount of time
  3. Network – in school and out – make as many friends as you can because you never know when your contacts may hear about opportunities that could help you out
  4. Get an internship – this is something I wish had been pushed harder on me when I was younger. If you want a good job, you need some experience – get experience by doing an internship
  5. Build your personal website to share what you’re doing and learning
  6. Join Twitter to keep up with the latest trends in your industry
  7. Get a “self-education” – most of the specifics of you need to know won’t be taught in university
  8. Work on your “people skills” – you’ll need them when you start collaborating on projects


As a quick reminder for all that this post covers, here are the FIVE best things you’ll be doing if you choose to pursue a career in Computer Science:
Career Day - Computer Science

Be Awesome


  1. Code.org Stats
  2. CS Ed Week Stats
  3. What is Computer Science & Careers?
  4. Exploring Computer Science Statistics