Google Expeditions

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. –Saint Augustine

My motto is, “Have suitcase, will travel.” If I could spend the rest of my days traveling, I would. However, I do not have access to unlimited funds, so I work. I work as an educator and encourage all of my former students to see as much of the world as they possibly can. I travel bitmojiknow that not all students are able to explore our country or the world right now, so to me, being able to use Google Expeditions is a way to expose them to as many experiences as possible so that maybe, just maybe a spark will be lit and later in life they will take off on grand adventures and do great things.

When Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions hit the scene, I desperately wanted to get my hands on a headset. When I had the opportunity at ISTE, I was absolutely amazed and felt like our students would be just as awestruck as I was. I begged my boss, but because of budget limitations, it was not possible at the time. Finally, right before Christmas this year (great gift, I know), we found a way to build our own kits that would be put in the hands of our teachers. This is how we were able to expose our students to the world beyond their classrooms and our city.

Our Process – Phase 1

We initially purchased 15 Kxox V2s from Knox Labs. Instead of purchasing the Google Cardboards from Google (strictly a financial decision), we went to a different retailer. This is a pilot project and we want to make sure that it is feasible to move forward before we make a huge financial investment. Making a decision on what kind of device to use for the kit was a harder decision. After doing some research and not getting a conclusive Google Expeditions kit Contentsanswer as to the suitability of an iPod Touch, we made the decision to utilize iPhones. In our district, all building administrators and central office administrators are issued iPhones. Some were eligible for an upgrade, so we upgraded them and retrieved their old phones. Once the phones were reset to factory condition, my colleague Robin Harris and I set up the phones with the appropriate apps. We also disabled the features that would allow the students to add or delete apps.  The only apps that are on the phones are the ones for virtual reality. Everything else is hidden, and all of the apps are in the same location on each phone.   We also put a pass code on the phones.

We purchased boxes from Office Max. In each box, we put 15 cardboardGoogle Expeditions Checkout Form headsets – they are numbered, two power strips, and charging cables. There is also a checklist in the box indicating the contents of each box.  Robin created a Google Form that we use to keep up with the location of the boxes. Once the boxes were finished, they were ready to be put in use.

Another Box – Phase 2

After we had some success with the first set of boxes, we decided it was time to do another set. We purchased 15 more Google Cardboard headsets and upgraded the phones for the maintenance department. We again reset the phones and added the apps. Now we have 30 headsets and devices that can be checked out by our teachers. This time we added a release form that must be signed when the boxes are checked out and in. Teachers will be held responsible if something happens to any of the devices or accessories. Upon completion of the lessons, Google Expeditions Teacher Agreementteachers are asked to complete a short Google Form to reflect on the experience and also to give us feedback or suggestions. We are also working on creating a list of available expeditions for the teachers to use. As we make plans for next school year, we will offer additional trainings for the teachers. We want to make sure that they know how to successfully lead an expedition and seeing it from the student’s perspective will help tremendously.

Future Considerations

Going forward with this project will mean making some changes. For instance, we purchased the cardboard headsets. They will not withstand the wear and tear inflicted by constant student use. In the near future, we will have to purchase sturdier headsets. I would like to encourage more schools to purchase some and have us provide training and curricular support. If more schools purchase kits, then more students will have access. I am hoping that at some point, Google will enable features that allow teachers or students to create their own expeditions. Talk about 21st Century Skills! I am looking forward to having them ready for the next school year. Having two kits in use will give us good data to analyze. Also, I am eager to get my hands on an iPod Touch to see if they work or not. If they do, I think that we may be able to get more kits because we won’t have to worry about having cell phones. We can purchase iPods for much less money.

Until Next Time,autodraw 5-9-2017 (2)

Connections and Reflections

Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we are not alone in this world. –Jonah Berger

Blogging Buddies ImageThere are times that I think that I am stuck in a time warp. Although I find myself thinking about what the future holds, I spend a lot of time thinking about what has happened in the past. I guess one could say that I like to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. I suppose that’s true. As we wrap up another school year and my third year as an instructional technology coach, I have a lot to reflect upon.

I started this job with a few instructions on things that would need to happen in our district, but I did not have any idea of where to go to get answers. Lucky for me, there were two of us hired to serve as instructional technology coaches in the district. My colleague and now friend, Robin Harris, felt the same way I did. We were just a little lost that first year. However, things changed for us. Two weeks after I  got hired, I was in Atlanta at  the ISTE Conference (International Society for Technology in Education). Talk about brain overload! That fall, we went to GaETC and presented. I think that’s where the shift started. Our session was entitled, “From Tin Cans to Twitter: Maximizing Your Personal Learning Network”. We talked about Twitter, Voxer, and Google+. People listened, and we started making connections with people across the state and region. As my circle grew, so did my level of knowledge. I began reaching out to others to get and share information.  I took advantage of my ISTE membership and joined the online communities, started lurking in Twitter chats, and stumbled upon #Edumatch. Realizing the power of being a connected educator, I attended a few edcamps and actually contributed to some Twitter chats. Oh my goodness! Who ever knew that there was so much useful knowledge out there on social media?

Fast forward to May 2017… I was recently named the ISTE EdTech Coaches PLN Award Winner for 2017. I co-authored #EduMatch: Snapshot in Education 2016 with 19 other phenomenal educators from around the globe. I have presented at ISTE 15, ISTE 16, GAFE California Summit, GaETC 2014, GaETC 2015, GaETC 2016, G Suite for Education Southern Summit, and was selected to attend the Google Geo Teachers Institute in 2016. Oftentimes I am participating in #Edumatch Tweet and Talks discussing important topics in education and moderating Twitter chats book studies, and I am currently in the process of writing my own book which will be released in 2018. All this is possible because of the connections I made via social media.

I would love to see more educators connect via social media. Amazing things can happen. My part in making connections will continue to happen as I move forward into the fourth year of my job as an instructional technology coach. I am excited to participate in the ISTE #ETCoaches Blogging Buddies project. I am part of a group of educators who have committed to blogging at least once a month and commenting on the blogs of the people in my group. My group consists of Katie Siemer, Tara Helkowski, Rahila Mukaddam, and Knikole Taylor. I am looking forward to this blogging journey with these ladies. So many good things have already happened as a result of my connections on social media. I cannot even begin to imagine what will happen once we get going. Having a group of people to help hold me accountable will no doubt help me improve my craft. It will be nice to be a cheerleader for them and for them to cheer me on. We all need people in our corner to be there for us. I see these ladies being part of my #edtechvillage. Let the journey begin!

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Better Than Last Year…My Hope

“You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better.  By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.”  — Coach John Wooden

Baseball is my favorite sport. Okay, maybe it is my co-favorite sport. I also love swimming. I can’t swim, but I love watching it, and I loved my time as the coach of the Griffin High Swim Team – the Bearacudas. I can, however, play ball. I played on my very first organized ball team when I was in the second grade. My team was the Yankees, and I haveyankees been a fan of the New York Yankees ever since. I only played baseball for one year. The next year, girls were not allowed to play baseball. I made the All Star Team, and there were many dads who had issue with the fact that their sons lost their spots to girls. I played softball from that point on and did well. I always made the All Star Team each year I played. When it wasn’t ball season, I played baseball with the other kids in the neighborhood. We played during the summer, in the fall, after school, and even in the evenings when our dads got home from work. Baseball was my life. I collected baseball cards and spent many nights watching the Yankees on TV. I thought I knew everything there was to know about baseball. In reality, I knew very little. I knew about the game, but I didn’t know the game.

As an adult, I coached a 9-10 year old girls softball team. In two seasons, we won three games. I could give lots of reasons why we didn’t win more games, but that won’t change the fact that I was not a good softball coach. I did not focus on what I needed to do to get better as a coach. I spent a lot of time trying to make the girls better. I never looked at what I needed to do. My team probably would have had better seasons if I had worked on being a better coach. I am not sure if I will ever take on coaching a youth sports team again, but if I do, I know what I will do differently.

As an instructional technology coach, I am always thinking about how to do things differently. My how to do things differently project for this year is that I am doing a one on one coaching project with one of the teachers in my district. She teaches middle school social studies and science. I am a bit nervous because I have not taught science before. I am certified to teach middle school social studies although I never have. Science is totally new to me. I am stretching my wings which is a good thing because I am going to be asking my teacher to do the same. I expect to see a lot of growth for both of us between now and the end of the year.

We met for the first time this week. We spent an hour discussing how she is currently doing things in her classroom. We talked about data collection, assessment types, class content, digital resources available, and digital citizenship.  Our initial plan is for me to come to her c and spend a day observing her teach. I want to see how she is currently integrating technology.  I have an observation form that I will use each time I conduct a walkthrough in any of the classrooms in the schools in which I work.  I have looked at 6th grade science and social studies standards, and she sent me her lesson plans and curriculum maps. Prior to our first meeting, I set up a Google Classroom and put several tech-coaching-projectresources in it.  I also included a short video on SAMR, a graphic with a variety of Google Google Tools that can be used in her class, and several questions for her to answer to get her to start reflecting on her practice of integrating technology.  Google Classroom is going to be the method that we use to house resources and communicate with one another. One of the resources I shared with her was a self assessment on SAMR. Right now, she is saying that most of her tech integration falls within the augmentation stage.  Our goal is to get her to more of the modification activities.

I will spend an entire day with her classes next week. I will record the day’s activities so that we can review the positives and the not so positives during our next planning session.  All of our classrooms are equipped with cameras and sound systems so that teachers can record lessons and share them with their colleagues. We want teachers to be able to grow as professionals and one way they can do that is by reflecting on what works and what does not work. Working collaboratively with others gives them the chance to get feedback and suggestions. I will use the recordings from our time together to help both of us grow. Also, the recordings will be artifacts for my coaching portfolio.  Next week promises to be full of new opportunities for both of us. I will be back in the classroom helping a colleague and at the same time, I will be learning how I can be a better coach. I anticipate having a winning season.


My First but Certainly Not My Last

The solution often turns out more beautiful than the puzzle.–Richard Dawkins


Periodically I go through phases in which I think I need a hobby. Towards the end of last year, I decided (again) that my hobby would be putting puzzles together. At another point in my life, I was all about putting puzzles together.  I like the challenge of trying to figure out where the pieces go. I like the time it allows me to think and focus on a specific task. I really like the sense of accomplishment I get when I finish the puzzle. Of course, I am always left wondering what do I do when I am done with the puzzle?  I’ve spent so much time putting it together and then what comes next? Taking it apart and starting another one? More times than not, that’s what happens. I admire the beauty of what I have done and then jump into the next challenge. My co-workers and I are doing puzzles at lunch. We eat our food and then sit around the table working together towards a common goal. Sometimes we talk and other times, we sit in a comfortable silence. Just like when I am finished, we sit back and admire our handy work and then move on to the next puzzle.

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the GAFE Southern Summit held at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayetteville, Georgia. GAFE Summits are put on by the EdTechTeam, and they work in partnership with a local school system or organization to host the event. In this case, they worked with my fantastic friend Kate Crawford who is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Fayette County School System.  Working together, the EdTechTeam and the Fayette County Instructional Technology Department put on one heck of a professional learning opportunity.  I remember speaking with Kate prior to the 2015 Summit, and she asked if I would be attending. I told her no because I felt it was too much money, and at the time, I did not see the value in it. After spending two days in Google heaven, I wish I could take those words back. I WAS WRONG.

From the moment I received my registration confirmation in the mail, I was excited about attending. Not sure why.  This wasn’t my first conference. I’ve been to ISTE and GaETC twice. I have also attended a couple of Edcamps, and we even hosted the first ever Edcamp Griffin this past fall. The GAFE Southern Summit just had a different feel to it even before I ever set foot on the Rising Starr Middle School campus. Saturday morning I was up and ready to go. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I got myself out the door, drove to my colleague Robin’s house to pick her up, and we were off. Disclaimer: Robin and I are not morning people. We rode in relative silence all the way to Fayetteville. Our respective quiet times are an everyday occurrence in our office. We have to have time to wake up and process the fact that we are no longer in the comfort of our warm and cozy beds. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the conference and walked up to a  gregarious group of Google people. They were laughing, talking, welcoming people, and for reasons known only to God and them, they were taking selfies. Who does that before noon? Not us. GAFE Southern Summit 2016_picmonkeyedActually, it quickly became us. Who could resist Dave Hotler? His smile and charm are contagious. I quickly forgot that I was out of bed, functioning, and began to absorb all that the GAFE Southern Summit had to offer. We checked in, decorated nametags, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast provided by Panera Bread.

Remember, Robin and I are not morning people. Rushton Hurley’s keynote was exactly what two non-morning people needed at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. “The only person to whom you ever need to compare yourself is the you who you were yesterday.” Rushton hit the nail on the head. I don’t want to suffer from CIS (Comparative Inadequacy Syndrome) because I already suffer from CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff). I want to be better, do better, live better!  I do not need to compare myself to anybody else. I am who I am!  What a way to start the conference!

From Rushton’s keynote to multiple interactive sessions, my brain was constantly spinning. How did I miss the usefulness of ClassFlow? I had heard of it, but I had not taken time to truly sit down and play with it. We will call that a loss for Leslie. However, that loss has turned into a win. I have another tool for my tech coach tool kit. More tools for my tool kit: BreakoutEDU. OMG! My group did not finish before time ran out, but I loved trying to figure out the clues. I can see so many uses for it in my professional learning sessions and in the classroom.  I’m planning on having one when school starts in the fall.  Cat Flippen shared SO much with Google Geo Tools, Google Hangouts, and Google Hangouts on Air. My mind is already thinking how I can use the video managing feature in YouTube to make my video for my next Google Innovator application. The first time I applied, I was not accepted. This time will be different. I have had a lot of time for self-reflection, and I have a new sense of determination. The ideas won’t stop coming!   Anyway, back to the Summit. The Demo Slam at the end of the day was phenomenal! I’ve seen them done at Edcamps before, but none of the ones I attended had such trash talk flowing freely. It was great to see the sense of competitiveness yet affection among the presenters. I like how they are passionate about their chosen apps, about winning, and about respecting the craft of their fellow educators.  It was pure, clean fun with a hint of a competitive edge to it. Donnie Piercey shared How Not to EdTech in the Sunday morning keynote. Loved it!  As an ed tech person, thinking about how to do it wrong is well, very thought provoking.  Speaking of thought provoking, Dave’s session on Capturing Creativity caused me to step back and think about whether or not I was encouraged to be creative as a child, a teen making the transition to adulthood, and even in my past and current jobs. Did I encourage my students?  Am I encouraging the teachers I work with?  I don’t have a definite answer. Yet.

There were many more sessions at the Summit.  There were probably over 300 educators in attendance. So much knowledge in one place. So much learning, sharing, and exploring. Once I got home Sunday evening, I tried to figure out how I was going to put all this knowledge into use. How could I share it with the teachers in my district who in turn will share it with the students?  I realized, as tired as I was, that going to the GAFE Southern Summit was a lot like putting together a puzzle.  Saturday morning I had all these pieces and no idea how they fit together. Saturday evening I had the outside frame together. By Sunday evening, most of the inside was done.  In order for me to finish the puzzle, I have to get a plan for disseminating all the Google goodness I learned about during the weekend. Once I start sharing and the teachers start doing and the students are creating, collaborating, and communicating, then the beauty of the completed puzzle will be done.  I can step back, admire my handiwork, and find another puzzle to put together.



I’ve Arrived. Almost.

I’ve learned in my life that it’s important to be able to step outside my comfort zone and be challenged with something you’re not familiar or accustomed to. That challenge will allow you to see what you can do.  –J.R. Martinez

The year I turned 30, I decided I would go on a trip every single month for the year.  It did not have to be a huge trip, but I had to get out and see stuff. I felt like 30 was a big deal, so I needed to do it big. In retrospect, I had gotten complacent with what I was doing, and I wanted more. Wanting more seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Almost 17 years later, I still want more. My plans to go somewhere every month took off. I went to North Carolina to ski and hike with friends, Gatlinburg for a singles conference, Mobile for a work conference, Alabama for a singles conference (yes, I am still single even though I spent a lot of time at singles conferences), Ohio for my grandfather’s funeral (not really a vacation, but I counted it anyway),  and the Grand Canyon which included stops in Washington, DC, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Not long after I returned from the Grand Canyon, I started to pursue employment opportunities that would take me away from my home in Griffin, GA. I interviewed for a job in Lake Jackson, Texas and decided that was not the place for me.  I next applied for a job in San Jose, California.  Every since I was a little girl, I wanted to live in California. I remember watching the shows from the ’70’s, CHIPS and Charlie’s Angels especially, and I imagined myself living, working, and playing near the beach. Moving 3,000 miles across the country based on childhood dreams seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do.  I applied for the job, had a phone interview, and was invited to meet with the executives while in Kansas City, Missouri while at the National Girl Scout Council meeting. Based on the interview, I was convinced I would not be offered a job. I was wrong. At the end of October, I received a phone call asking me to come work for the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County Council. I accepted the job and began the process of leaving one job, my family, and my whole life to start anew in California. I did not know anybody. I did not have a place to live. I had not even seen my office.  Other than what I saw on the internet, I had no idea what I was getting into by moving to San Jose. However, I stepped out on faith.  On Saturday, November 27, 1999, I put my little red Hyundai Accent in reverse, backed out of my parents driveway, and headed out west towards new dreams, opportunities, and challenges.

Going to California was the best and worst thing I could have done for myself. I ended up only staying in California for 7 months. The week after I left, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. A month later, we found out it was terminal. I came home because I wanted to be with my mother as she lived the last days of her life. Although I wanted to come home immediately, my parents convinced me to stay until July. I did, and I am glad I followed their advice. I needed to leave home. I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I needed to know that I could do what others said I couldn’t.  Moving to California would mean that I had finally arrived, albeit a few years late, to adulthood.

I feel the same way now. I have been an instructional technology coach for nearly two years. I have done a lot of training sessions with teachers, presented at numerous local, state, and international conferences, and maintained somewhat of an online presence, yet I am finally at the point where I feel like I am actually coaching.  I can’t put a word to what I would call what I have been doing, but now I am coaching. I am helping a school as they pilot a 1:1 Chromebook rollout. My job entails working with two teachers as they transition to a more deliberate and focused use of technology on a daily basis. This feels more like coaching than what I have been doing for the past two years. In my coaching sessions, I am sharing with them what and how to implement SAMR. We will examine data, create rigorous lesson plans, engage (hopefully) the students, and see positive academic growth. I will model lessons for the teachers. I am excited about the direction in which my coaching is heading. I guess I can say that I have almost arrived at being a real live instructional technology coach. Finally.

I suppose that just like the day I left home and headed to California not knowing what I was getting into, I have no idea how this will turn out. That’s not even really an issue at this point because I have to prove to myself that I am capable of being not just an instructional technology coach, but a darn good one. I am all about challenges and accomplishing goals. I think that all of the jobs I’ve had prepared me for this moment in my career. It’s time for me to take what I have learned and what I have done and do more. Doing more will challenge me and show me what I am made of. I am long past the year I turned 30, but I still need to step out of my comfort zone and have some excitement, incredible learning experiences, and a reason to keep striving for the next set of goals.25184_10150177512170570_2019967_n


#OneWord 2016

Life is not about making others happy.  Life is about sharing your happiness with others. — Unknown

For the last five weeks, I have been recovering from major surgery. Although I am a planner, and I did a LOT of planning, I was unprepared for all that came after I got out of the operating room.  From the moment that my surgery was scheduled, I had my handy dandy Google Keep to-do list, and I added items just as soon as they popped into my head. By the time I went to bed the night before the surgery, everything was checked off my list. Everything.  I tried to plan for every contingency, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I even watched a YouTube video of my surgical procedure.  I went to several stores and purchased all kinds of things – just in case.  You would think that with all the planning I did beforehand, I would have been better prepared. I was not. I can safely say that the only thing I really needed was the socks.

In retrospect, what got me through my recovery could not have been planned. I got through my recovery because people shared.  I did none of the sharing, but after reflecting on my journey to a better quality of life post-surgery, I realized how very important sharing is. That realization came as a result of many people in my life who were willing to do just that for me. On the heals of my realization, I decided that my #OneWord for 2016 would be #share.  Yes, I know that I am almost three weeks into the New Year, but I am of the opinion that late is better than never. Besides, I am still recovering from major surgery :-).  Moving forward into 2016, I plan to do more sharing of my time, talents, and treasures.


Time is a valuable asset.  In my opinion, giving of your time is one of the most selfless things a person can do. As a child, I valued the time my parents gave. I remember spending hours watching my mother as she prepared delicious meals and sweets for our family and friends. My dad was a soldier in the Army. Although he worked a full day and went to school at night, there were many evenings that he and other dads would join the neighborhood kids as we played baseball.  In the last month since my surgery, I have been blessed to have been visited by many friends.  They didn’t have to come by my house to check on me; they chose to give their time to visit.

380683_10150916701263495_1786097225_nI recently visited with high school classmates I had not seen since we graduated. I graduated in 1987. There is really not a good reason to not see friends. I plan to make more time to be with my friends. Spending time with friends and even strangers is a gift.




10690092_10100807492346128_3639217814012418563_n (1)Everybody has a talent. Many will say they don’t have a talent, but they do. Sometimes we just have a hard time identifying what our talent(s) may be.  I love to organize and volunteer. If I am not volunteering, I feel lost.  Right now, there are three organizations that are receiving my talents – the University of West Georgia Alumni Association, the Flint River Council Boy Scouts of America, and the American Red Cross. Each organization is dear to me for different reasons, and I feel strongly about giving back. I can’t write big checks, but I can give my time and my talents. Once my recovery is complete, I will jump back into my role as a volunteer. I have missed the connections I made with the people I’ve met.


Money. I’d love to have more money. I don’t; however, I can give what I am able when I am able.  There are lots of people who can write big checks, but I am not one of them.  I am a public school employee with limited financial resources.  What I do know is this – I can give a modest donation and paired with other modest donations, a difference can be made. 10628438_10152249039966854_847612148131057242_n


In 2016, I plan to give my time to those I care about and organizations whose missions are in line with my personal values. My plan is to apply my #OneWord to my personal life, but I think that as a tech coach, #sharing would benefit the teachers in my district, the students, myself, and maybe even the whole world.

No (Wo)Man Is an Island

“Leslie is a loner.  She does not play well with the other children.”  I don’t think I was meant to see that. Okay, I know I wasn’t supposed to see it, but I did. My sixth grade teacher wrote that statement in my school file. That was her observation at the end of the year. I saw it and was bothered, but I knew there was some truth to what she said. I am a loner. I didn’t always play well with other children. I’ve always been an introvert though many will disagree.  As a child, trying to get others to be my friend was hard.  I had a few, so I felt I was okay.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to moderate an EduMatch Tweet and Talk hosted by my friend Sarah Thomas.  Sarah has been doing the Tweet and Talks for a couple of months now. I have enjoyed being a panelist, and last night was my first time moderating the Google Hangout. I had suggested a topic to Sarah, and she suggested that I be the moderator. Being me, I was excited and reluctant. Excited because I want to branch out and connect with others but yet I was reluctant because I am afraid of branching out and connecting with others.  Makes no sense, I know.

During the course of the broadcast, I realized I missed talking with my PLN. I know how powerful Twitter and Voxer can be, but I found myself withdrawing into Leslie’s world over the last couple of months. I had gotten away from the Twitter chats and the Voxer groups partly because I have been incredibly busy but also because I have a tendency to seclude myself. As an instructional technology coach, I can’t do that. There is so much out there I need to know about. There are so many educators who are doing phenomenal things, and I am missing out because I am stuck in Leslie’s world. It’s not a bad place, but it’s not where I need to be all day every day. I miss asking questions about how to do something and getting different perspectives from others who are in the trenches just like I am. I also just miss the interaction.

What does that mean for me? I guess it means I have to make more of a deliberate effort to get re-connected to my PLN. I have questions about what I am doing and people in my PLN can help me navigate the ever-changing, sometimes murky, technology waters. I don’t have to do this alone. I can’t do it alone. I am not going to get anywhere by staying in Leslie’s world. It really is a great place, but there is a bigger world out there with some super smart people. Those people can help me, so I suppose I better get up and go to them.