Just like last year two of my favorite days are the pre-conference offerings of HackEd and the Global Education Day. The Global Ed day reaffirmed what I already knew, students need and want to make connections that extend way beyond the classroom. We have done random Great Mail Race letter exchanges in the United States, but students last year expressed interest in writing to students beyond our borders, especially since our class covers geography of the entire Western Hemisphere. It seemed so practical for me to utilize my time at ISTE to reach out to teachers around the world. I repurposed a Google Form to collect information from teachers I met from around the world while at ISTE. I have a group that my students will send letters to first. Instead of random questions, it will be connected to the five themes of geography. I’m still working out the details in my mind, but I’m confident it will work, which is thanks to the enthusiastic support of @JoAnn Jacobs from Hawaii. We talked for the entire hour of #coffeeEDU and she contributed some great ideas. I might have my students practice short geography writing prompts with the ‘Out My Window‘ project. I loved the round table discussion during the Global Education Day when people were able to describe their project creation process, which works out nicely since there will be a Great Global Project Challenge through the VIF. I have until September 15th to figure out all the details.
Edcamp Mentality (rule of two feet and vendor-free*)
This is almost a lie. This year I presented for Amazon Inspire (right after the article was published in the NYTimes announcing Amazon Inspire, no pressure or anything) and Flocabulary, so I did spend time at their booths. So much time with Flocabulary that the song Types of Rocks Flocabulary has been playing in my head on repeat. I learned much more about all the features, especially new ones to be released in the near future.
*compared to the average person in the vendor hall.
However, I probably only stopped by 10ish vendors. I don’t have purchasing power or influence and I don’t need random objects that wouldn’t fit in my suitcase. I did visit: Amazon Inspire, Flocabulary, Nearpod, Minecraft Edu, Canvas (still don’t get the costly appeal), Edmodo (just to say hi to Liz and Kate), Google, Net Smartz, and Remind. There might have been something else, but it wasn’t memorable. I do not go to conferences to spend hours talking to vendors. I go to learn. I get much more out of talking to actual teachers during the poster session. Which I did more than anything else; I would guesstimate that I saw over 200 posters over the three days. I’m still trying to dig through all of the specific resources that were shared. That will be a separate post, with an annotated list. I originally was hoping to get random stuff in the Expo Hall to give away at Edcamp Hershey, but it was not even worth the time for that. Instead, I’m just asking the edtech companies I have a meaningful relationships with.
I did approach ISTE knowing that I’m on the Professional Learning committee again next year. Sometimes I feel like we have stagnated with offerings since our district was innovating years ago, yet the PD hasn’t kept up. The middle school teachers were fairly active for the different Twitter chats and Twitter challenges throughout the year. A tool that could help with #dtsdchat is Participate.com. The website organizes resources shared in a chat as well as easily curates the conversation and participants.
I found the next books I want to read for professional development, and thanks to the Corwin Focus group they will be free for me. I wish the district would bring back the robust professional development library we used to have. It was interesting to see what other people wrote, since writing in the margins was not frowned upon. Maybe we can do something similar at Edcamp Hershey.
One of the best ideas was using students for professional development. The school had a Mouse Squad made up of students that would not only troubleshoot, but come in during teacher in-service to run trainings based on teacher surveys of what they wanted to learn. It started as a middle school group and morphed into a high school class.
Students can also be used to get teacher buy in. At HackEd someone shared the idea of giving badges to an entire class. Teachers would learn something then actually apply it to their classroom. It would not have to be perfect or complex, but they would need to try. It would be presented to the entire student body so they could encourage their teachers and even plan some things. Ideas for badges: contacting a content area expert with social media, global collaboration, digital story, publishing a collaborative eBook, digital test, creating a formative assessment game online, posting on an online forum (like padlet), using an LMS, sharing student work with parents digitally, etc. The options are endless – and they could be general or specific. I have not discovered a platform for digital badging that I like best yet.
Almost related to this is parental involvement. There was a great presentation from a school district in Maryland about how they get parents involved and train them. They hold a student technology competition in the middle. They offer short sessions providing tech help. They also have outside agencies that provide free services for students, like summer camps, clubs, library, etc. An idea for the competition is a digital creation mash up challenge, which was inspired by the Apple Playground and the PD dice. There would be two dice that have 12 different apps that are commonly used in class. The third dice would have the subject area. Each student would roll the dice and take a picture. They have to create a mash up about something related to the subject using a mix of both apps. This would get the students excited to share what they are using with parents and get the parents in the door to learn more.