Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ISTE 2016 Live from Bloggers' Cafe: How to Survive the Chaos

If you've never attended ISTE before, you should know that it is a bit like a cage filled with 18,000+ caffeinated hamsters. This is my third ISTE conference, and I whole-heartedly admit that I learn new tips and tricks every year for making the most of my time here. No-brainier tip number 1: make labels....lots and lots of labels...prior to coming to ISTE. There is no bigger waste of precious learning and socializing time than writing out hundreds of tickets for swag.

My second tip is to generate some themes on passion areas in which you really want to grow. While not being locked into only seeing exhibits and sessions on these topics, it really helps me focus my efforts to make sure I come back with exactly what I'd hoped for and more. This M.O. has not disappointed. A couple of my areas of focus included AR and VR.

If you read my last entry, you'd know that I really felt like I hit the jackpot in terms of getting started with moving this into curricular areas. Go read it here, if you're interested. To further enhance my knowledge and get ideas, I also visited several booths and poster sessions on the topic. Nearpod offers one of my favorite VR experiences through their site/app. Their virtual field trips are phenomenal (available with a paid subscription that is well worth it)! Nearpod is also currently giving away VR headsets if you're lucky enough to have the magic touch at the wheel. (Sadly, I didn't get one, and I'm still sulking.)

Today was a burst of information in another one of my focus areas: professional development. As the technology integrationist for my district for the past 6 years, part of my responsibilities lie with preparing and delivering professional development to our K-12 staff. Because I've been in education for 22 years, if you do the math, you'll know that I've been exposed to my fair share of professional development. Some excellent. Some marginal. Some atrocious. I never, ever want to be associated with mediocre professional development. Hence, the constant learning and acquiring of new PD skills and ideas to enhance my craft.

One of the PD sessions I was most looking forward to was provided by Adam Bellow and Steve Dembo, entitled "Fear the Sitting Dead". If you've never attended a session by these two, just know that they never disappoint. Throughout the session we were able to hear of and participate in several activities that would get both teachers and students involved and excited about their learning. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for PD as delivered by these two:

1)  Fast Pass- Modeled after Disney parks, a fast pass can be something as simple as a quick survey or sticky note display done upon entering PD. Teachers select the areas of your presentation they are most interested in and you begin there. Easy-peasy. And teachers are happy because their topics of choice are guaranteed to be covered.
2) Snowball Fight- Using nothing more than paper, participants can write down information relevant to the topic (list your favorite tech tool and how you use it, for example), wad it up and toss it to another person around the room. Others then open it, add a comment or question, and give it another toss. In the end, simply post results and address questions  or share them out however you wish, and you have all-inclusive learning.
3) Rocks or Sucks- While I've used this method in the past, it was fun to hear a new take on it. In this method, a relevant  issue is displayed. For example "Is homework a good idea?". Moderators set a timer and the participants move to the designated side of the room for their feelings on the issue. During the allotted time, discussions on the issue happen.People may even change their minds after hearing others' opinions. In this case, they mosey on over to the other side of the room (or the middle for the indecisive).
4) Speed Geeking- A new take on speed dating, this lends itself to many variations. I'm already dreaming up ways in which my student tech team could utilize this in a PD setting to introduce teachers to new technology. The key is a timer. The session is only to wet appetites, not divulge every bit of information available about a topic.
5) Block Walks- Research validates that movement increases engagement and retention. Walking or exercise in any form can really lend itself to fantastic conversations when done in pairs or very small groups. We have done Walk-n-Talks in the past, which is the same concept. Give teachers a focus and let them collaborate and discuss while also burning off that morning donut.

While this is in no way an exhaustive list of PD ideas that were mentioned, it should give you a good start into super charging upcoming PD for your district. I have a lot of ideas about what makes great PD and I'm passionate about individualized learning.  PD is no longer the Ferris Beuller-style awful classroom filled with droolers and gum bubble blowers. It needs to be meaningful, relevant, engaging, and applicable. Thanks to Adam and Steve for adding to my PD toolkit.

Monday, June 27, 2016

ISTE 2016 Live: Reflections on Day 1

My feet are a couple of fat sausages. My Apple Watch tells me I've more than doubled my move goal. My body aches like an 80 year old.  And yet, I've got a super-charged attitude and am ready to run right back to my office and begin planning for the coming school year! On this first full day of sessions at ISTE 2016, I have to say I'm thrilled to be gulping from the fire hose of information that has come at me today.

As with every ISTE gathering, trends and lead topics start to rise to the surface as I peruse the exhaustive list of session choices. Along with mainstays like coding, Makerspaces, and effective PD, I have seen some new trends gain more and more momentum. Topics like digital badging and AR/VR  are hot and really have the potential to be game-changers in ed tech, especially after hearing the poignant words from Opening Keynote speaker, Michio Kaku. His focus on education needing to transform from memorization and 1950's automation to conceptual thinking is nothing really new. However, hearing the evidence and seeing his vision for the future really helps drive this need home. We truly are preparing our students for jobs that don't yet exist. We need to develop a generation of independent thinkers, doers, and dreamers. We can do this, in part, through these new hot topics.

Digital badging is becoming more and more relevant as we work to individualize instruction and motivate students to pursue passions. A session today led by Theresa Richards, of Carnegie Mellon University's "Girls of Steel" robotics program, Katie Bordner and Dustin Stiver, introduced us to the ideas behind the creation, design, and issuance of a digital badge. Through this process, teachers are able to guide the students through lessons, workshops, and activities they already do with more focus and a goal that still allows for plenty of voice and choice. While their experiences mostly lie with the Pittsburgh Cities of Learning Initiative, we attendees were given guidance, templates, and ideas for ways in which we could develop our own digital badges. In content-focused small groups, we were even able to attempt the workflow of digital badge development with great success. The concept of digital badging is so diverse and lends itself to so many wonderful opportunities to let our kids shine as they choose to achieve in a modern day version of the varsity letter jacket.

Another trend I saw throughout my ISTE session lists was virtual reality and augmented reality. Considering where theoretical physicist, Dr. Kaku, says we will be in the upcoming decades, there is no doubt in my mind that AR and VR are forces that definitely demand curricular attention. His prediction that science and medicine, in particular, are going to be the driving careers of the future lends itself to this need. With surgeries taking place virtually using robots armed with scalpels and driverless cars careening through our future streets, students can benefit from learning about the power of virtual reality and its development now. In a panel discussion that included one of my favorite tech guys, Richard Byrne of FreeTech4Teachers, among others, the conversation stemmed around the experiences that can enrich the learning of students. VR and AR level the playing field. No longer are students trapped by their physical location. With virtual and augmented reality, there is really no experience that can't be simulated or enhanced. More and more scenarios are being created on a daily basis and these are even being developed by students as another means of showing aptitude. Suddenly an object that was once inanimate and by itself non-descript can become layered with new material, videos, examples and the like. It's souping up the ordinary to make it extraordinary. Personally, I have been quite excited to use Google Cardboard for VR and Aurasma for AR, although I know there are several options out there and more will continue to grow and evolve. Companies like Nearpod have really stepped up their game to include field trips that give teachers the ability to bring students, virtually, all over the world to enhance lessons and spark student interest and learning. I think we will see more and more companies follow suit.

Tomorrow, I'm looking forward to another jam-packed day of learning. Until then, I'm going to go put up the sausages so they can set out on my continued quest for what's next in ed tech at ISTE 2016.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

ISTE 2016 Live: Kaizena

Making my list....checking it twice...

While I'm not Santa, I certainly do feel like I'm in the midst of an Ed Tech Christmas, as I sit here basking in the sun overlooking the gorgeous Colorado Rockies in Denver for ISTE 2016. There are already so many people bustling around checking out presentations and poster sessions that intrigue them. I started the morning with a meeting to learn more about the new features of Kaizena, a student feedback site and iOS app. Admittedly, I'm very excited about what this means for the teachers back in my school in Rock Valley, Iowa!

For those of you new to Kaizena, it's a relatively recent addition to ed tech and my toolkit. It was marketed, originally, as a way to give verbal feedback to students. However, it's so much more than that. Once I dug into Kaizena, I saw that it was a quality venue to give meaningful feedback in a wide variety of ways. I was fortunate enough to have a scheduled meeting to speak with Edward, of Kaizena, this morning at the Blogger's Cafe and see a demo. He was also able to show me some newly developed tools that are coming to Kaizena users very soon.

Some of the key features that promise to be incredibly useful to teachers:
* common responses to students saved as "lessons" and can be used again and again
* easy microphone recording allows students to hear your feedback in your voice (time saver!)
* available app for iOS allows for phone uploads and feedback
* embed videos viewable and links to help resources directly into student feedback
* watch embedded videos directly within the app/website
* students can respond to your feedback in a chat-like conversation
* students and teachers are notified through emails/notifications when there is a response that needs to be viewed
* students can make "got it" when they've viewed and understood the feedback
* create rubric-like scoring called Skills, and tie it to highlighted text. COMING SOON- aggregated results to help you best score an overall assignment
*COMING SOON- Google Classroom integration will automatically run turned-in assignments through Kaizena for feedback.

These features and more are coming to Kaizena in time for the 2016-2017 school year! If you're at ISTE, I encourage you to check them out and ask for a demo. Download the Kaizena app or go to Kaizena.com. I promise you won't regret it! You're welcome....