Author - Corey Coble

How Cooking Competitions Made Me a Better Educator

This may sound really weird, but I have always enjoyed watching cooking competitions on TV.  From Iron Chef to Chopped, it is one of my guilty pleasures. My oldest son loves watching them with me and wants to be the next “Kids Baking Champion”.  So how does this make me a better teacher?

If you think about it, all of the contestants who go on these cooking competition shows are highly trained and spend hours preparing for their competition.  Just like every educator I know. Over the past few weeks I started looking at my teaching style like a cooking competition. You have to be prepared for all kinds of twists and turns.  I started noticing that in all the shows I watch, there is always a “secret ingredient” or a twist part-way through the contest. In the classroom, we are constantly thrown various curve-balls, twists and changing game plans.  I’ve noticed how the chefs on these shows are constantly trying new techniques or changing up the combination of different flavors. In almost every one of the shows I have seen recently there is always a chef or two that will talk about taking a risk.  They will try something they have never done before or use a technique that has not been tried. During one episode of “Spring Baking Champion” the contestants were given fruit that did not look very good, such as a Jackfruit or Horned Melon, and were to turn it into a beautiful dessert.  One of the contestants tried a technique he had never used with a fruit that he had never tasted before. He took a risk and the judges loved his dessert.  This shows that if something is new to you, never be afraid to try it out. At the least, let the students try it out and have them tell you what they liked.  Let your students be the judges when you try a new recipe (technology).

The more I watch these contest, the more I realize how important feedback from the judges are.  Almost every cooking contest starts with a short round to be judged. The chefs/bakers are critiqued on the dish by judges.  The best chefs are the ones who take the advice and make changes in the next round. I’ve seen some chefs, in the interview scenes, reject the judges advice.  They almost never make it to the finale. As educators, we need to accept input from all the “judges”. From parents to administrators to the students in the room, we have plenty of opportunities to receive feedback.  I’ve tried a number of lessons that were project-based this year. With feedback from other teachers and my students I have a notebook filled with changes I need to make next year.

The most powerful lesson I have learned from watching cooking competitions is to take defeat as a learning experience.  From shows like “Chopped”, “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Iron Chef-Gauntlet” I have seen a lot of contestants leave the contest.  They may have had a bad day or just made a simple mistake. This has taught me that even the top chefs have a bad dish. They don’t quit, they don’t get upset.  They take what they have learned and get better. All of the great ones I have seen leave the competition by saying things like, “This has been a great experience”, “I’m going to take what I learned and grow as a chef/baker”.  This mindset of not letting failure stop us from reaching our dreams. Recently I have been applying to present at big conferences and try new adventures that will get me closer to my dreams. There have been some successes and more failures/rejections since I started applying.  These should not serve as a step back, but as a chance to learn. I decided that just because my idea was not accepted that it meant it was a failure. I’m actually motivated to learn more and try again.

I encourage all educators out there to try some new “recipes” and listen to the judges.  If it doesn’t work or gets bad reviews, don’t give up. Find others who have the same vision as you and work with them.  Educators are in a year-long contest to bring the best lessons to a very picky judging panel. Good educators don’t play it safe and take those risks.  Watch a few of these shows and ask yourself, “How are these chefs like educators?” and listen to the ones who make it to the finale. For the past few months I have been watching these contests with an “Educator’s Mindset” and it has made me a better teacher.


Corey has been a classroom teacher for 24 years.  He currently teaches 7th grade Science, History and Project Lead The Way. He is a Google Certified Trainer and CUE Lead Learner. Corey is a director on the CapCUE board and has presented on technology all over the state of California.

Finding My Rock Star

This is a story about a shy, quiet teacher who pulled himself out of a rut and was pushed out of his comfort zone to share his passion with others.

Rock Star logoBack in 2004 I was in a ten-year rut. I was teaching from a textbook and using lessons made by others. I didn’t stand out at staff meetings and the idea of presenting to others terrified me. Teaching like this was easy and comfortable. I had students filling out worksheets and taking tests. I went to a few science conferences, but when I thought about applying to present I thought, “Who would want to come to a session about worksheets and collecting papers to grade.”

I needed to change, for myself and my students. Then I attended a CUE Rock Star camp in Truckee. I had my doubts. The word “Rock Star” made me think that this conference was for “high-end” educators.

This was not the case. My first day I had a session with Jennifer Kloczko called “Bodacious Blogging”. It started out like any other session. She introduced herself and began telling us the purpose of blogs and why educators like herself were using them. Then she said something that would forever change the way I present to my students and to other educators. Thirty minutes into the session Jennifer said, “Alright everyone, let’s make a blog.” Wait, what did she just say? She was going to give me an opportunity to make one of my own? Where were the 30+ slides telling me how to do a blog? Instead we had time to make our own blog while she walked around and helped.

After my Rock Star Camp experience I decided to make two changes. First, I was no longer going to present information through boring slides, textbooks, and worksheets to my students. Second, I wanted to present to teachers in the “Rock Star” way.

One of the first conferences I presented at was called ETC!2015. This was a one day conference at CSU-Stanislaus. My session was on making dynamic slideshows and HyperDocs. My presentation consisted of screenshots and explaining how to make a “Choose-Your-Own Adventure” type of presentation. When the feedback came in the most memorable were statements like, “The presenter seemed nervous and talked quickly.” and “The presenter did not seem prepared.” This was the moment I realized that my presentation style was like a worksheet. The audience was just sitting, taking notes and listening, just like my old students.

A few months after presenting at ETC!2015, I was accepted as faculty for CUE Rock Star Chico. Note the terminology- faculty, not presenter. This was my turning point. This experience was what I needed to turn both my teaching and presenting style around. Being surrounded by such energy and passion made me realize that my boring slide shows were not going to cut it.

I learned more about the CUE Rock Star experience by being on the faculty than I ever expected. They call presenters “Lead Learners”. You learn just as much as the educators sitting in the room. I learned that you don’t have to be an expert. You just have to demonstrate a passion for education and give the audience an experience that is memorable. That’s the mindset I went into the 2015/2016 school year with.

In February 2016, I went back to ETC! and presented again. This time I made my session like a CUE Rock Star session- I wanted everyone to walk out with something to use in their classroom on Monday. My slideshow was minimal and I focused on the experience. Everyone who came to my session walked out with something they made and could teach their students how to use in the classroom. No more screenshots and trying to explain the process. We made a stop-motion animation together and what a difference. People walked out of the session saying it was one of the best ones they have been to. They were telling their friends. My second session was filled and people were sitting on the floor. It was a completely different experience and the feedback I got was 180 degrees different than a year before.

Fun with green screens!

Fun with green screen! From Left- Blog editor Doug Robertson, Brian Briggs (body) Trish Sanchez (head), post author Corey Coble

Because of the Rock Star Experience and the amazing professionals I met through CUE, I went from a worksheet and boring slides educator to memorable and engaging. I encourage anyone with a passion for teaching, who brings a memorable experience to their classroom to attend a CUE Rock Star Camp. Then the next year, you should be a part of the faculty. It will forever change your classroom and presentations! If I can go from the “worksheet” teacher to someone who ROCKS, you can too!

CUE Rock Star camp registration is currently open. Don’t miss this chance to revolutionize your classroom.

IMG_0247Corey Cobel is currently a 7th grade Science teacher in Roseville, CA. He has been integrating technology into his classroom since the late 90’s. From LCD Panels on the overhead projector and Laser Discs to Chromebooks and Web 2.0 Corey has always had a passion for educational technology. He is a Google for Education Trainer and CUE Rockstar Faculty. He loves flying his drone and getting amazing video from above.

Unfixing a Broken Mindset

New Skills in Search String on Smartphone.I can now relate to my students! For several years I have told my students, “Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.” At the beginning of October I decided to stop saying that to my students and actually live it.

I have a love/really hate relationship with math. I teach science and understand that mathematics plays an important role. I use it every day (from figuring how many miles I have left to drive to how much to tip), but it was not fun for me. If you asked me to learn geometry or algebra, it would take me a few minutes to process that and then bust out laughing at the idea of a 22 year veteran teacher learning something new.

For a long time in my career, I thought like that. “I can’t learn something new, only young teachers enjoy math.” I had a fixed mindset. I was happy teaching out of my tried and true Teacher’s Edition and giving those summative assessments so graciously provided by the district. I tried to learn a few new thing, but always came across a challenge that I didn’t get correct. I usually gave up. A great example is when I tried to learn HTML several years ago. Our district was just starting to integrate websites for teachers and I wanted to learn how to make mine cool like others I saw from the new teachers just coming out of college. I began learning a few of the commands and it started getting more complex. I kept getting error messages with no real way to find out where the problem was. I gave up after only two weeks. The book is still sitting on my desk as a reminder of that time in my life when I would give up just because I failed.

Fast forward to the 2015/2016 school year. Over the summer I read three books that changed my outlook/mindset/motivation. The first book was Mindset by Carol Dweck. This book introduced me to the idea of a growth mindset. Looking at things as opportunities to learn and grow. I didn’t want to go back to that fixed mindset again. At the end of summer I read Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and He’s the Weird Teacher by Doug Robertson [Ed. Note- I promise I didn’t tell him to write this, and I’m flattered]. These two books made me realize
that I needed to bring passion back into my classroom.

This is how I began my year, with enthusiasm and passion. I told my students that failure is our first step and that it shows you are trying something new. I even showed the YouTube video Famous Failures. What kind of a “Weird/Pirate” teacher would I be if I didn’t try something new and persevere through the failures, just like my students.

Then I got an email from one of the many edtech companies that send us all emails regularly. Usually I’d look it over and delete it because, let’s be honest, I don’t appreciate the beauty of math and this particular one includes a lot of math. This message was different though. It was about how Pixar made their beloved computer animated movies and characters. They were introducing a new series of learning modules around this concept. I was immediately interested. I had just taught my students how to do stop-motion animation using Google Slides. I wanted to learn more, so I signed up.

Who would have guessed that digital animation involved a ton of math? The very first lesson was on calculating the points on a parabola. This was the moment of truth. I had to get five correct answers in a row to move on. The first time I tried, the answer was incorrect. I told myself, “This is what your students feel like when they come across a problem and get it wrong.” I could do this. It was time to break out another notebook and start taking notes. Five correct in a row and I was moving on.

The math got more complex and I kept going. I was using math to animate lines and shapes. It was exhilarating. Even when I get a question wrong, I wanted to try again and again. I found my passion and it didn’t matter that there was math involved. I actually looked forward to learning more about Linear Interpolation. Videos,
hints, and actual use of what I learned kept me going. The feeling I had when I was able to apply what I just learned to an actual character was indescribable.

I encourage every educator out there to find their passion and don’t be afraid of failure. Take risks, be a little weird, and experience what your students go through. I have a new appreciation for those teachers who try something new. If you ever have a doubt, remember that a 46 year old veteran teacher just learned how to solve algebraic equations and geometry because he discovered a passion. This is the power of a growth mindset and when you say, “WHY NOT!”

Corey Cobel is currently a 7th grade Science teacher in Roseville, CA.  He has been integrating technology into his classroom since the late 90’s. From LCD Panels on the overhead projector and Laser Discs to Chromebooks and Web 2.0 Corey has always had a passion for educational technology.  He is a Google for Education Trainer and CUE Rockstar Faculty.  He loves flying his drone and getting amazing video from above.