Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#PETE2017 Day 1

This is one of my favorite times of the year! A time to come together with hundreds of excited educators to learn about the latest in the world of educational technology. From the inspiring keynote speeches each morning, to the inspiring breakout sessions throughout the day, and ending with the evening entertainment, PETE&C is an event every educator should experience. I hope I can do justice to this amazing event as I recap the activities of each day.

Day 1 Keynote - Carl Hooker: Mobile Learning Mindset

If you've ever had the opportunity to attend PETE&C, you know how inspiring and challenging the keynote speeches can be. I've had the pleasure of hearing from (what I would call) titans in education; speakers like Kevin Honeycut, George Couros, and Angela Myers. I can now add Carl Hooker to this list. From the moment he hit the stage, Mr. Hooker brought his 'A game.'

I came away from this morning's speech feeling both inspired and frustrated. Inspired by the thought of utilizing technology to literally bring the world to our students. Frustrated by what I see as the limitations of our system. To bring the world to our students, we as teachers will have to take risks. This goes against the natural tendencies of many of us, but as Mr. Hooker said, "Students don't take risks if teachers don't as well." Talk about a challenge!

One final thought from Mr. Hooker: "The building exists for the kids, not for the adults." BOOM!

Let's take these 21st Century Learners and teach them to fill their minds rather than to simply fill in the bubbles.

Day 1 Breakout Sessions

This is where the true learning takes place at PETE&C! I always love to hear how real teachers are implementing real technology with real students in real and meaningful ways. There seems to be a major focus this year on STEM, STEAM, and Project Based Learning. This is the future of education and how we will prepare our students for life in the 21st century. From the looks of it, I'm not the only one who sees value in these activities. Each session I attended was full to the poiint of people being turned away! I know for the second session of the day, I had to move on to my third choice!

Speaking of my third choice, it may have been one of the best sessions I attended on day 1. The focus was on Computational Thinking, a component of coding. I've had the pleasure of working with many of teachers in the district with Hour of Code events. This session has made me question how I conduct these sessions. I always stick kids on computers and they begin playing games. This is OK but I feel it could be more and we could easily get more teachers involved in the process as there are so many activities available that do not require a computer! This session focused on these unplugged activities and the value was immediately evident. How cool would it be to get entire buildings in our district involved in the Hour of Code and every teacher leading simple unplugged activities in order to present Computer Science topics to our students at all grade levels. I hope to offer trainings in the near future in order to show everyone just how accessible these skills are for everyone. Let's make it happen!!!

That's all from Day 1! Thanks for reading.



Friday, February 3, 2017

Confronting Failure

As a technology coach, I treasure the opportunities I have to work with teachers and students by injecting the power of technology into teaching and learning. When a teacher comes to me with a project idea and I have a chance to discuss the implementation of technology in a meaningful way that will increase student learning, I run with the opportunity. I am a firm believer that technology presents opportunity for our students to learn, create, and share ideas like never before. We live in an exciting time when our thoughts and creations can be shared with a global audience with just a single click!

Along with these opportunities, however, comes the threat of failure. Anybody who has ever worked with technology realizes that it will fail - it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when! Sometimes things just don't work the way we expect them to work and we have to find an alternate method to achieve our goals. I believe, however, that what we do in the face of such adversity will teach our students just as much, if not more, than the projects themselves! What better lesson to learn than how to effectively confront and deal with failure?

I've recently had the opportunity to assist a teacher with a project in the elementary schools. The project involves researching a specific country and then preparing a commercial that advertises the perks that would come with visiting that country. This is a cool project that will provide the students the opportunity to creatively show what they've learned in their research. The commercial is set to be recorded on an iPad utilizing Touchcast software. I was asked today by the teacher if students would be able to use animated backgrounds in their videos - we will be utilizing the chroma key features of Tochcast - to show something such as snow falling. I immediately went to work trying to find a way to make this happen and kept running into errors and failures with every method I tried. Part of me wanted to just throw in the towel and tell the teacher it couldn't be done. It wasn't until the fourth or fifth attempt at bringing in this animated background that I found success. What if I had stopped at the third attempt? I'd have some disappointed students who wouldn't be able to bring their vision for this commercial to life!

I know as teachers we feel the need to be the experts in the room. We feel that everything has to be so carefully scripted that it cuts out any chance for failure. By cutting out the chance for failure, however, are we not also cutting out the thought of doing something new and exciting and, dare I say, innovative? We all know that perfection is impossible to achieve no matter how hard we try. By conducting our classes in a way that minimizes the chance of failure, are we truly preparing our students for the future? Should we not provide our students the opportunity to observe and learn how accomplished professionals take risks and adapt to failure?

Sadly, and I have been guilty of this, failure is often viewed as an unacceptable result. When something new doesn't work perfectly the first time, the temptation to abandon ship and go back to our traditional methods of doing things becomes very enticing. Rather than adapt and change our methods, we completely blow up the process and return to our comfort zones, saying "See, I knew it wouldn't work." To me, this reaction is a disservice to ourselves and to our students.

Again, technology has brought us to the point where we can share our ideas and our creations with the world with a single click. Writing blog posts, recording podcasts, uploading original videos to YouTube, and similar projects are just a starting point, but they allow us and our students to share our creations with an authentic global audience. While it seems intimidating, I would encourage all of us to find some way to harness the power of technology in the classroom to allow students - and ourselves - the opportunity to share with this global audience. We all have something to say, so let's say it!

If you would like to brainstorm ideas on bringing technology into the classroom, please schedule a coaching session with me by clicking the link on the left.