Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tiffany's Reflections of ISTE 2014

So I've had a full day to digest ISTE 2014 in beautiful Atlanta, Georgia.  For those of you lucky enough to have experienced it at some point in your life, you know that it is complete and total overload.  Granted, it's brain freeze of the best kind... to be completely and totally surrounded with over 14,000 educators with a positive mindset, is awe-inspiring.

Here are my TOP 5 take-away's from ISTE.  I hope you can learn from them as well.

1. It's NOT about the technology.

I know, I know.  What's a "techie teacher" thinking when she says that it ISN'T about the very thing she blogs about?  What every presenter, tweeter, keynote speaker reverberated was that it's about using technology as the fuel to EMPOWER students to CREATE, EXPLORE, ASK, PLAY, and ultimately curate their OWN LEARNING.  I was completely inspired by the stories told through two amazing individuals who have allowed life to take them to new and exciting places....simply by being bold enough to ask, "Why not?"  Check out George Curous and Kevin Carroll.  These men epitomize everything that we as educators should stand for.
"Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable. " 
-William Pollard

My new class motto inspired by my learning at ISTE. 
 Learning should ALWAYS be an action verb!

2.  Project Based Learning is worth it.
Though I've dabbled in the PBL world, I leave ISTE with the resolve to implement this brand of learning into my classroom as often as possible.  It's model encourages the critical thinking skills necessary for students to open their minds to new ideas, innovative solutions, and the world beyond their classroom doors.
"If anyone’s thinking we can’t do real things with kids, I’m telling you you’re wrong."  
-Rich Lehrer, Brookwood School, MA 

Here are a few resources I gleaned from a couple of sessions:

  • ScoodleJam- $2.99 app that will aid in student creation throughout the PBL process.  Limitless possibilities
  • Data Literacy Skill development - curates data sets. Web site includes an “ASK” button and you can ask for data that you need for a project. 
  • Tiny satellites in space that allow your students to zoom in on the Earth.  Created by NASA astronauts!
  • Historical timeline that shows you what was happening around the world at the time you are studying.  

3. My colleagues are pretty awesome.
I guess I expected to go to ISTE and be blown away with the innovation occurring around the nation.  Don't get me wrong because there are some amazing, incredible educators who presented at ISTE.  I just propose that I happen to work with a district full of highly motivated, forward thinkers who could easily showcase their talents at this level.  Walking away with a sense of validation is always a good thing in my book! 

I also happened to learn a great deal about my colleagues while at ISTE, and I feel encouraged and refreshed in part because of them.  I had a particularly challenging year, and this was just what I needed to renew my faith that there is purpose in this profession.  It's good to be reminded that it's AWESOME to have passion for what we get to do every day! 

To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you can make a connection to the mind.

4. The world is clamoring to be a part of this tech revolution.
The EXPO hall was ENORMOUS.  I'm not quite sure that one word can sum it up adequately.  It's obvious that some of the world's largest companies have caught wind of this great movement in education.  Here's the take away...we have no excuses.  If we can imagine it, someone can provide us the support to do it.  It was a powerful example to me of the influence we have in industry.  Awesome.

5. Twitter is a formidable ally.
If you are an educator and aren't tapping into what Twitter has to offer, you are truly missing out.  Throughout the conference, #ISTE2014 remained at the top of the trending list as well as the somewhat humorous #notatISTE2014 hashtag.  Educators have literally taken over Twitter! 

Here are some things that have happened to me in the last week ALONE because of Twitter:
  • Met some of my favorite tweeters and bloggers in person (Matt Miller, John Spencer, Matt Gomez, George Curous).
  • Met some amazing folks from my home state via the INeLearn hashtag while at the conference, and enjoyed a special meet-up just for us!  How cool is that?!?
  • Connected with educators from around the country and set up Skype events for our students. 
  • Shared and received valuable knowledge from sessions and keynotes.  Even if you weren't at ISTE, you could catch much of what was happening via the #ISTE2014 hashtag. 
If you have been afraid to test the water of Twitter, check out this BRAND-NEW app, TweechMe! It is basically a step-by-step guide to Twitter.  Dip your toes in, and I bet it won't be long before you drive in headfirst! 

Final Thoughts on ISTE 2014

My brain feels full, my heart is happy, and my resolve has been reenergized.  ISTE 2014 reiterated the same thinking over and over...

that it's absolutely not about the technology, a device, or program. It's about having a mindset that we have a job to do empowering kids to think and learn in the ways that will serve them best in their future endeavors. We absolutely cannot allow negativity to become a toxin in our lives to the point where we become jaded to our mission in life...the mission to love kids so fully that we are willing to do whatever it takes to not just engage them, but to empower them.


Brittany's Reflections of ISTE 2014

For the last few days, I've been trying to figure out how I could possibly sum up the weekend I spent at ISTE 2014.  ISTE's (International Society for Technology in Education) annual conference is basically the biggest edTech conference known to man.  People come from all over (literally) to immerse themselves in all things technology.  My school district received a grant that allowed several teachers to attend this year.  Of course, I jumped on the chance to simply be among those lucky enough to go.  

I was not disappointed.

This year's conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia.  What a beautiful city!  I stayed about a mile away from the conference itself, and this was the view from my window.

Yes, we were that high up.  33rd floor to be exact.

I attended quite a few sessions on PBL, Genius Hour, and basic eLearning stuff.  In all of the sessions, one thing that stuck out to me was that nothing was really specific to technology, but instead to student creation.  

I've made it no secret that I believe students learn best when they make an investment in their learning.  They have to be passionate about what they are learning, whether it's letters and sounds, Worksheets are not an investment or engaging.  

If I had to have just one takeaway from this weekend, it would be that our students deserve this.  Technology is a fantastic tool in giving your students all of the resources they could possibly need to attain their goals, but technology is definitely not the end all, be all.  Good teaching is still the most important thing.  

In the Genius Hour session, Vickie Davis (@coolcatteacher) encouraged us to focus on three takeaways from the conference.  Here are my big three:


I missed out on his session, but I'm an avid reader of Mr. Curous' blog.  This quote from his session (taken from Twitter) resonates with how I've felt about technology as of late.  It's not about the technology; it's a mindset change.  Technology is a tool that can enhance and transform your teaching.  Key words--YOUR TEACHING.  How can I best exude this to my colleagues?


I have written about my love of PBL before, but this year, I really want to expand on it.  I would love to give my students more opportunities to show their genius.  Even though they are five, they have passions and interests that need to be honored.  I hope I can do that for my students.


Of everything ISTE had to offer, Kevin Carroll's keynote on day two inspired me more than anything else I've encountered in a long time.  Carroll told his story of being abandoned by his mother at a young age and working his way through life, eventually working for major companies such as Nike, and having all kinds of crazy cool life experiences.  

In his keynote, he inspired me to make sure to work hard, play harder, and inspire hardest.  I choked up more than once in his keynote, and I'm not a cryer.  When school starts, I want to inspire those around me to give their students the very best experience they can.  I want them to realize they are the biggest asset to their classrooms, not the technology.  I want to encourage them to use the technology, of course, not because our district has invested time and money into it, but because that technology gives students experiences we could have never imagined at their age.  

My want to is strong.  My passion is ignited.  I am ready to get to it.