I'll tell you a secret: I wasn't too terribly excited about going. Not only was I nervous about presenting (first time), but I'm a bit burned out on tech. I teach in a 1:1 school, and this was the first year with all students having iPads. The majority of our PD this year has focused on-you guessed it!-technology. I didn't even realize how tired of it I was until my great friend Kristy (@kmkteach) mentioned how much she missed content-specific PD. As much as we both love and are excited to have tech in the classroom, we really miss English and digging deep into that world as well.
But I was signed up to present and figured heck, why not get the most out of paying for parking?
I got so much more than that.
I won't get too specific, but the day was amazing. It began with Dr. Tommy Bice, our state superintendent, urging us as educators to step out of the box. He requested that we step up to the plate and make a difference-shake up the education world. He guaranteed years ahead without test scores effecting teachers' jobs and school accountability. He refused to apologize for adopting the CCRS, turning away from NCLB, and causing disruptions in the traditional education system. Truly inspiring. I couldn't be luckier to work in Alabama with the support of Dr.Bice.
Next I got the opportunity to see one of our assistant principals at HHS win the Marbury Award for technology integration. Dr. Sutherland (@BUCSlead) has been a wonderful leader in our Engaged Learning Initiative for Hoover City Schools. I'm very proud to work with her daily.
Then the true conference began. Jeff Utecht (@jutecht) was the keynote speaker and was jaw-droppingly hilarious. If you don't know Jeff, you should connect with him on Twitter immediately. He's taught and worked with schools and children all around the world, which makes him an interesting speaker. He showed us what technology looked like globally and how many misconceptions many Americans hold about our technological advancements in comparison to other countries. Believe it or not, we're actually behind. Rwanda and Ethiopia are aiming to have 100% wifi connection at least a year before the U.S. is projected to.
His presentation really urged us as educators to change the CONTEXT of how we teach in today's globally-connected society. He reminded us that standards will always be standards, but we need to teach in the context that our students will experience in the world around them. Instead of focusing simply on paper-based reading skills, why not integrate reading the internet search pages? Why not focus on how we can train students for jobs that are cloud-based (which, by the way, had 1.7 MILLION unfilled jobs in 2012 due to the lack to knowledge needed to carry out the job).
To say the least, the presentation was eye-opening and humbling. I will continue to connect with Mr. Utecht over Twitter and hope to continue learning from his global experiences.
Next, I attended a session given by Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt). I had heard so much about him before attending the session that I was overjoyed to have the chance to meet him. His presentation argued for educators that are constantly learning, showing a love for learning, and passing that along to students. He argued for creation (with self-created businesses, startup projects, and student-driven compaines) on all levels.
One of my favorite things that he recommended was having students work in companies for a semester. They were given "money" to "buy" things that they would need in order for their companies to be successful. I'm thinking about taking this concept and putting it toward my PBL project for next year. Stay tuned! :)
I then went back to hear more from Mr. Utecht. The two sessions I attended were amazing. The first was based on Google Apps and how to use them in ways that we don't consider at first. The second informed us of how to use blogs as an eportfolio system. Both of these sessions were unbelieveably helpful. Here are the links that he gave us with resources from the sessions:
Also, here's a bonus interesting link from Jeff about how Wikipedia is actually more accurate than your most recent textbook (even in HISTORY!)
Lastly, I presented with Nikki Robertson (@NikkiDRobertson) on Doctopus, Goobric, and Google Hangouts. You can find my video on how to use Doctopus and Goobric below. I'm just getting started with making vidoes, so beware!
If you're able to attend next year, I highly reccommend this conference. You can go ahead and mark your calendar for June 9-11 2015!
Until next time,