CategoryEducational Technology

GaETC16 Was Exhausting and I Loved It

For the last three days of work, I was at GaETC, an educational technology conference held near the Atlanta airport. I go each year. Some years, I’m into it; other years, not so much. This year I happened to be really looking forward to it, and I have to say, I came away with tons of new ideas.

Those who do not attend conferences frequently (or ever) are often under the impression that they’re some kind of joyous festival–Woodstock, but with apps. Don’t get me wrong, the conference is a lot of fun, but it was also an exhausting three days. I was getting up at 5:15AM to get in my car by 6:00. Tuesday night I stayed for the reception and didn’t get home until almost 9:00PM. Friday night, I slept for 10 hours. So, yes, it was fun, but it was also super busy.

I kept all my notes in the same file, which is now seven pages long. It will take me much of the week to look at them at school, decompress them, and sort the good ideas from the it-sounded-good-then ideas. That said, I’ve got some preliminary things I want to start working on right away.

  1. A compelling report–which I will read in its entirety this week–indicates that the vast majority of a teacher’s professional growth occurs in their first five years of employment. After that, it starts to level off dramatically. I need to refocus my efforts, not just on new teachers, but on those who have been here for more than a year (but less than 5), who I’m guessing often get forgotten about.
  2. I’ve been struggling to get a gamification of our technology professional learning off the ground, due mostly to the fast that the back-end requirements to keep up with everything seem overwhelming. I saw a presentation from a school that was using badges instead of full-blown gamification and was able to use them in a way that recreated the best parts of gamification, but kept it very simple to keep up with. I look forward to playing with that some more, and perhaps reaching out to some experts on Twitter who can help me.
  3. My leadership strategy needs to change. I’ve been to a thousand sessions about “try this cool app” or “50 apps in 50 minutes,” so this year I focused more on the sessions that said they were about digital leadership. I learned some great things–particularly with respect to administration–which I will be expanding on this week. My eyes are a little more open now.

Those three items aren’t the only things I took notes on, but they’ve been stuck in my head since I left, so I’m considering them the most important for now.

I am really looking forward to sitting down with my coffee tomorrow and reflecting on my notes in greater detail.

Thinking About Thinking About Next Year

Only 10 weeks remain in the current academic year. Although I’m not saying goodbye to this academic year just yet, it’s time for me to start thinking about the next academic year. The rest of the technology team agrees with me that changed need to and will be made next year. I already know that I’m ready to consider alternative methods of meeting my teachers’ professional learning needs, but I’m contemplating a few options as to the best way forward:

  • Rings. This concept is inspired by the way Microsoft runs its Windows Insider program. Opting into Insider allows you to receive Windows updates and new features at a faster pace than general customers. In exchange for early access to the latest and greatest, you agree to provide Microsoft with feedback on these features and must be more willing to tolerate bugs and problems. You can select the pace of updates and how far on the cutting edge you are willing to go–these are the rings. On the laptop I’m writing this on, I’m in the Fast Ring (most risk, most reward). My gaming laptop is not in the Insider program at all, so it gets updates and new features later, but is more stable.My thought towards applying this concept to my instructional technology program at school also dovetails nicely with the district’s expectation that each school cultivate a group of “lead innovators,” who are the vanguard of new technologies and teaching ideas at each school. I’m considering putting the top 25% of teachers in this group and calling it the gold ring. The middle 50% of the school would be the silver ring, and the bottom 25% would be the bronze ring. Gold ring teachers would receive professional learning earlier, faster, and with more features than would the bronze ring, and gold teachers would be responsible for a small degree of teaching those in the other rings.

    While I’m favoring this plan at this time, it’s not without some concerns. As with any potential plan, administrative support will be crucial. Without backup, I might as well not even try. There is also the issue of making sure teachers evaluate themselves honestly (and that they understand and believe that their status won’t be held against them) as well as avoiding the stigma associated with being in the lowest group.

  • Gamified Learning. I’ve spent the last year chatting with people who do this in their classrooms or in professional learning. And, as someone who loves games himself, the appeal is obvious to me. That said, I’m not sure if all of my teachers would be interested in this, plus the backend management and setup requirements would be much great on me. Also, if I’m concerned my administrators wouldn’t support even a moderately different plan like the rings above, I’m doubly worried about gathering support for this.As of right now, my plan for gamified learning for next year is really more of a second-tier, extra-credit type of setup, in which the gamified learning supplements the more traditional stuff and allows me to extend my reach with the teachers. Developing resources along this line might be more of a summer activity.

I’ll be spending a good portion of March looking more into these methods (and any other good ones that come my way) so that I can start developing them in April and May.

Technology IEPs?

One of the conference sessions I attended today mentioned a novel strategy for getting teachers intrinsically motivated for technology professional learning: Technology IEPs. The documents are created by the teachers themselves, and contain an area they want to explore, a plan for exploring it, and brainstorming about how to overcome any potential problems.

I really like this idea. The form to generate an IEP was easy to fill out and was based on a Google Form. The resulting IEP is very simple (this is not a 25-page document like student IEPs). I especially love the implementation strategies and the requirement of some pre-thought out strategies for overcoming any pitfalls.

I would like to see if I can manipulate this idea to see if it could work in my school. Perhaps I could do something with this in conjunction with other training initiatives?  I could ask a new technology committee to help develop the form and pilot the process out themselves.

I would want to tweak it a little bit before implementing it in my school, and there are still issues of school- and professional culture that need to be addressed before this really takes off. Still, I think this could be just the start we need, and I can’t wait to flesh out some of these ideas more this weekend.

Thinking About PLCs

I want to create a technology PLC at my school. This is 95% inspired by the awesome session I attended today on creating PLCs by a principal who does them all the time at her school. I loved her session because it was very practical stuff that I can bring back to school next week. It is very doable and can be done in a way that is a great use of everybody’s time and ultimately impacts students.

One challenge I wouldn’t mind solving before I do this is how to get teachers at my school to honestly rate themselves with respect to where they are with technology in classrooms. I woulda love to have a diverse PLC of teachers at all different levels, not just the experts. I’ve had some relevant discussions in my building around this topic recently and I have a few ideas as to how to proceed.

This is something that could a be beneficial to our teachers and our students. I’m excited. I love when a conference session exceeds my expectations.  

Conference Eve

I’ve packed the gadgets and I’m ready to head to Atlanta for the rest of this week. Here is what I decided to bring:

  • iPad Air 2: I’m not an Apple person but I do like this tablet. Good for extended browsing, light content creation. Poor at creating lengthy content and anything involving lots of writing.
  • Windows Phone: Syncs to my Office and OneDrive accounts, as well as my OneNote notebook. Will be perfect for quick notes and to collaborate or find my colleagues and friends. For anything requiring more writing, it won’t do the trick. Good for social media. Camera is not so hot.
  • Chromebook: I have no experience with Chromebooks whatsoever and I am looking to change that. So I’m taking one to the conference. I’m leaving the charger at home, so I hope the battery lives up to a the hype. Great for lengthy notes and checking e-mail, but must be stowed in my laptop bag as I move from place to face.
  • Battery pack: I ordered a 20,000 mAh battery pack online when Amazon was having a great sale on a highly-rated model. It is beautiful and will also charge my phone 8 times, or my iPad 4 times, which is great. I’ve learned these devices are a must have at conferences.

That’s it! I’m trying to keep it lighter than usual this year. My alarm is set for 5:15, my out-of-office Mail reply is on until Monday, and my badge is in the car! In just a few short hours I will be arriving at the conference center!

Thinking About Conference Sharing

I’m lucky enough to be attending an educational technology conference later this week. I usually leave from these conferences with a giant list of ideas, apps, websites, and random thoughts. What I generally do not leave with is a plan to share that information with my teachers in a planned and purposeful way.

I think I’d like to spend some time over the next few days asking around and finding our how others relate information back to their school from conferences. I’m not really interested in writing a giant e-mail with 100 links in it, or creating a YouTube video about what a great time I had. I’d like this to be a little more lasting.

Next year, I’d really like it if some of the teachers from my school would be made available to join me. I understand the money and logistics are often barriers to entry at these conferences, but the conference is inexpensive relative to money I’ve seen wasted on things we don’t necessarily need at school. We could send a teacher to this conference, and cover their classroom with a substitute for three days, for well under $400. I think that’s a worthy investment. I’ve also heard that teachers who attend are more likely to share directly with their peers, and are also more likely to exert influence over them, than “the technology coordinator went, and that’s great, but I won’t use this in my classroom.”

I did block out a little time on Tuesday afternoon just to get myself ready; I’m hoping answers (or just ideas) relating to these questions will make themselves clear by then as well.

© 2017 Mike Vigilant

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑