ISTE is big. If you’ve never been, it can be overwhelming. In 2017, I attended ISTE for the first time and I was OVERwhelmed to say the least. Maybe it was because I had just started as Technology Integration Coach, had a presentation accepted for ISTE, and attending fall at the same time! Crazy, I know, right? In 2018, I didn’t have all those crazy firsts all at the same time, and I felt like I was able to tackle ISTE more efficiently and maximize my professional learning. I listened to the advice of my PLN: (1) be patient and wait in line if it’s a session you really don’t want to miss, (2) follow the backchannel on social media (learn informally - which can happen while you are waiting in line), (3) while you are waiting in line build your PLN - get to know the others who probably share some of the same passions as you, and (4) meet your PLN educator rockstars you’ve been following on social media forever. I may have been star-struck at times (well, at least 4 times specifically), but I felt like I could really connect with educators who were just as all-in with technology as I am. I met many of the edu-rockstars I’ve followed on Twitter for a long time, but most importantly I met other educators who were passionate and willing to help me get outside of my comfort zone. One of the biggest takeaways that came from building my PLN at ISTE is that I am not the only tech coach that feels overwhelmed sometimes! I’ve said before, being a system technology coach can feel like you are being pulled in every direction (one direction for each of the schools you serve) but I met others who are in similar circumstances as I am. I had the opportunity to learn from them, pick their brains, and further connect with them on Twitter to sharpen the saw continually. One thing I really learned is that we are #bettertogether!
Conferences help introduce new ideas and instructional technology tools, but at ISTE one of the main focuses for the conference and moving forward is strengthening digital citizenship principles and how we look at fostering good digital citizens among our students. Digital citizenship is a passion of mine, I do not believe we should ever feel like we have mastered teaching digital citizenship. New apps, new challenges, and new situations evolve all the time. How we approach digital citizenship as instructional leaders is key. Traditionally, as a former library media specialist, I believed it was my (fortunate) burden to teach digital citizenship, but I realized it had to be embedded and infused into all daily interactions and learning just like traditional character education to be effective. Now, as a technology integration coach and someone who works with library media specialists still, I try to focus on how we can teach digital citizenship more effectively by embedding the learning instead of teaching stand-alone lessons. I encourage you to read Digital Citizenship in Action by Kristen Mattson, Social Leadia by Jennifer Casa-Todd, or take one of the new ISTE U courses on Digital Citizenship that will be coming out (these are CEUs/graduate level course credit hours). The question is how am I going to foster a generation of good digital citizens?
Everyone wants to know about the edtech tools I heard about, learned about, or what I think would be awesome. I am going to sum it up, and not all of it will be new technology:
Augmented and Virtual Reality have a place in education, but I feel like we have just scratched the surface. The Merge Cube is really big right now, and can possibly still be found for super cheap clearance prices at Walmart. But this AV/VR cube can unlock learning potential for students in many ways.
Wipebook: Simple product concept but great collaborative potential. Most educators have whiteboards whether these be in the classroom, in collaboration spaces, or even for planning purposes. Wipebook has quite a few products that allow you to use dry erase products but ultimately send your whiteboard content to the cloud service of your choice. It works similar to Rocketbook (which I have loved for many years since it’s Kickstarter campaign). What I like most about Wipebook is that it works with any brand of dry erase markers, it great for the humid temps of the Southeast but let’s face it - nothing sticks to the walls - not even the HUGE chart paper with the sticky backs we all use to plan, collaborate, and chart with during meetings. Wipebook can easily be used, sent to Google Drive (or another cloud service of your choice) and it’s easily shared with others on the faculty and stored there until deleted. Boom, simple but awesome concept and product. Love it!
STEM kits, robotics, and coding are still really big right now. One of the goals for our school system is to develop STEM skits that can be used for a STEM/Robotics/Coding club at the upper elementary grades to provide enrichment opportunities and introduce students to computer science. There were tons of products at ISTE for STEM, robotics, and coding. It would be another post into itself. But once I start to dive in more to the CS enrichment kits we will build, I will make that post. But to share a few I really liked:
ISTE can be hard to budget, but it is worth it. Especially if you can catch it were less expensive travel is required since it does rotate locations. My suggestions for lobbying support:
I hope to see you at ISTE in the future!
Do you ever get the feeling after attending a conference you have just downloaded this huge file and then you need to process, or extract, all the information? Maybe it’s just me, but after talking to other educators, I feel like it might not just be me. The information overload can be overwhelming and dizziness almost, but the hope is when your PLN is also buzzing with ideas and bytes of processed information. That’s why the backchannel of a conference is so important. I suggest you always follow the backchannel, or if there isn’t a backchannel CREATE IT! Be the driving force to process, reflect, and lead sharing the information in byte-sized chunks.
Conferences are usually a way I energize myself through connecting with members of my PLN, collaborating, communicating, and learning from other talented and passionate educators. AETC, the Alabama Educational Technology Conference, is one that has been a favorite of mine since 2011. I have met some of my most inspiring PLN besties through AETC, and I continue to be amazed at the ideas shared among the talented Alabama educators passionate about educational technology. I wanted to “download” all the ideas I presented and learned from attending AETC:
Sessions I presented: (Links to presentation information included)
Increase Student Engagement with Flipgrid, Nearpod & Edpuzzle
Facilitating the 4 C’s
Impromptu Session Presented:
*When you think you won’t be challenged or stretched during a conference, the opportunity presents itself to collaboratively present a 1.5 hour BYOD session on Chromebooks with about 5 minutes to prep for a presenter who didn’t show up!*
Workshop: 315ThA 1 1/2 Hour chromebooks: incorporating Google Docs, forms, Slides, classroom, and Drive Within A classroom Setting 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. BYOD
What I learned the most: Collaboration is AWESOME. You can lean on each other and learn from each other in the midst of a session you are collaboratively presenting. Working with someone who I had just met the night before with a quick introduction and then remeeting in the hall when asked to present in the place of the MIA presenter. Building that relationship through collaboration was almost the most helpful thing I did all 3 days of the conference!
What I learned from AETC:
I learned so much from so many more educators this conference, but I wanted to make this post as concise as possible!
The district I am a technology coach for has recently provided 6 Chromebooks for each Kindergarten classroom. As a technology coach, I find this so very exciting as it will open up many opportunities for the students. I did not go in expecting everyone to be on board with the Chromebooks, as we all know in reality change is hard. But I did have a realistic idea that the Chromebooks would be welcomed as our system has been innovative in the technology integration and implementation department before I was hired as the technology integration coach.
Fast forward to 2 months later after the Chromebooks were delivered to the classrooms and one strategic planning meeting later... Success! Teachers are working with their students to teach them to log in, log out, access adaptive learning programs, and most of all USING THE CHROMEBOOKS! Small successes here, since the Chromebooks were in the classrooms in March.
After following Christine Pinto over the last year, I feel like I should sing backup in her choir. “Yes. They. Can” Kindergarteners can learn technology skills that are more than consuming technology such as games and sight word apps. There is a time and place for games and practice apps, but there is so much more out there our Kinders can be doing through utilizing technology.
Keyboarding - Once students have mastered letter recognition (wouldn’t using the keyboard be a reinforcement of learning letters and recognition?). Simple sets to teach them how to log onto the Chromebook and logout give students a skill set they will use in first grade as we expand Chromebooks into the primary grades.
Mouse/Touchpad - Using the mouse or a trackpad will help students develop fine motor skills needed to complete daily tasks. The more they are exposed to the use of these tools, the better their use of them will improve.
Creativity - Allowing students to learn technology skills embedded in learning activities is key. Technology is secondary to the learning objectives/goals/targets. When technology is integrated in such a way that it can enrich, extend, or add a layer to the instruction that does not trump the learning goals, learning becomes so much deeper. The collaboration and communication that can take place during creativity activities.
6 Chromebooks for a class of 15-20 students. After reading Learning First, Technology Second by Lisa Kolb, it really helped to change my view of technology integration. In her Triple E framework and ideas in the book, the one that really shifted for me was her emphasis on co-use of technology. Two or more students on the same device. This somewhat flies in the face of the 1:1 movement in technology, but she emphasizes that many of the analog instructional activities that have the greatest impact are activities that involve social learning. Social learning on technology helps to solidify learning for many students. Students in co-use activities can deepen their understanding of technology and the content by helping students learn skills and concepts. I have emphasized even with the Kinders to not do something for a classmate on the computer but to EXPLAIN. This is critical and higher order thinking skills. It helps you to really think about the task and explain it to someone else to teach them. Boom! Embedded skills all over the place.
In the simplest form, this blog should have simply read, “Kinders can, just let them!”
In case you were looking for more EdTech in this blog, I will share with you 3 Tech Tools I’m Loving Right Now. I am very passionate about providing educators with professional development that is timely, quality, and relevant. I have curated three of my favorite tech tools I am sharing with our district’s educators right now. I believe these tech tools are extremely versatile in the ways they can be used over PK-12 and the ways in which educators can use these tech tools.
Spring is almost here - even though in the deep south it feels like an on-again off-again relationship where Winter keeps storming into the room to say, “And another thing!” Maybe the lack of warm weather has helped to quell the Spring Fever that tends to happen this time of year in the classroom. Who knows? Enough about the weather, you’d think I was writing a weather blog or a unit on weather.
I have made the commitment to join a community of like-minded professionals in the ISTE EdTech Coaches PLN who are wanting more accountability and motivation to begin blogging. I am officially now part of a Blogging Buddies group. The idea of Blogging Buddies is such a great push for those of us who believe we aren’t qualified, knowledgeable enough, or good enough to share our ideas publicly. As I am on the other side of 30 now, the weight of those excuses weigh less on me as I feel I have grown as a professional and desire to share.
Thank you for reading.
I think it’s only fair since posting about Amazon’s Alexa to explore the options Google’s Assistant can provide for the classroom. The Google Home and Home Mini that have been highly advertised during the holiday shopping season are powered by Google Assistant, a personal concierge much like Siri.
The question is: “What can your Assistant do?” Now you can search a database of over 1 million things to try with Google Assistant. Many of us in education are head-over-heels into Google with Classroom, Docs, and all the other awesome products that help to integrate technology in meaningful ways within our classrooms. Naturally, it makes sense to explore the possibilities Google Assistant can bring to the classroom.
One large drawback is Google Accounts set up through K-12 schools, non-profit groups or .edu email address are not going to be able to use Google Assistant. You will need to use a personal account in order to use Google Assistant. [See Google Assistant Help explanation.] Don’t let this drawback stop you from using Google Assistant in your classroom -- easy enough work arounds - let’s face it, most of us all have a personal Gmail account; if not please go here to get yourself one set up.
Let’s explore what Google Assistant can do right off the bat Google suggests:
Create your own Apps (or actions) for Google Assistant
The idea of creating my own app for Google Assistant is intriguing, but also sounds very daunting all at the same time. After reading you can quickly and easily create an app within minutes using Google Sheets templates, I felt like it would be much more attainable. The easiest one and most applicable to education is a quiz/trivia template. There is also a flashcard option that would be helpful for review.
Here’s to trying new things in 2018, including a new teacher’s assistant with either the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. I think finding the right balance of what you need is key before making a decision on purchasing a Google Home (runs Assistant) or an Amazon Alexa.
If you are blessed enough to teach in a system where you have a teacher’s aide, assistant, or angel -- whatever you want to refer to them as -- consider yourself very lucky. Many teachers have students stacked to the ceiling it seems in classrooms with growing class sizes. Many teachers have learned to adapt by working smarter through productivity tools and measures implemented throughout the day, but what if $29.99 - $49.99 could purchase an effective teacher’s assistant you didn’t have to set up a desk, buy a Christmas gift, or get along with?
Meet Alexa; chances are you’ve probably already met her or at least have friends that shout to this Alexa in their homes. Some teachers have explored the idea of using Alexa in the classroom once the Echo Dots became very affordable in late 2016. With the addition of Skills, Alexa can do more than just pick a number, tell the weather, and roll the dice. Alexa can really help your students (and you) to be more productive and learn more everyday.
While Alexa won’t be able to help you grade papers, supervise the students while you take a much needed bathroom break, or clean up your classroom after a glitterific art activity; there are many ways Alexa can help with productivity to help you power center rotations, provide vocabulary definitions, and even provide fun facts for learning during the school day.
I have searched the 3,525 (as of December 1, 2017 when I began writing this post) Alexa Skills in the Education and Reference category on Amazon. Whew! Many were educational… but not necessarily for the K-12 classroom. But after culling through the list, testing the skills on my Echo Dot with teachers and students in the classroom here is a long list of skills to make you consider purchasing an Echo Dot for your classroom. Here is the link to the Skills Database [Google Sheets]: https://goo.gl/gFRr2D
While the Skills Database list is growing longer, I have curated 10 Skills to get you started using Alexa in the classroom today.
The New Year brings many people to make resolutions or motivation to complete tasks they've been putting off for way too long, right? [Asking for a friend.]
I like to share instructional technology, integration ideas, and best practices with the teachers I work with, but there are so many others in my PLN outside of my school system that I like to share with as well. I have given thought to shifting the purpose of this website from strictly serving as a portfolio. I've created a blog portion to be able to share ideas, post the wonderful (and credited) ideas of other hard-working educators diving into instructional technology, and to provide a forum to hopefully help others integrating instructional technology.
Hopefully by setting this professional goal to begin writing, sharing, and connecting with other educators in similar roles, I will be able to sharpen my skills as an educator and technology integration coach.
If you want to know more about who I am, you can check out my biography & portfolio areas of my website.