Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference in Hershey.  Wow.  This was my first opportunity to attend a conference that affected my career.  I had been to an athletic director’s conference and that was awesome, but THIS.  This made me feel like I finally hit the big time, this was an opportunity to refine my craft and to learn from others.  The feelings that I experienced in these three days I just hope are able to shine through to the kids in the love of what I do.  Which isn’t nowhere near enough.  But we’ll get to that.

Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt) kicked off the conference with an INCREDIBLE keynote.  I tried to flip between taking notes and tweeting fantastic quotes.  Some of my favorites:

“Kids are on the digital playground without playground monitors.”
“We need to teach kids to be good everyday.”
“Everything I can Google about you forever is your digital legacy.” (LOVED THIS!)
“A fifth graders can change the world and they WANT to!”
“A SMART board should be a windshield to everything in the world.”
“Don’t wait to be good.”
“Tradigital=traditional + digital”
“Don’t do things just to do things.”
“If you’re not connected, get connected.  Because your kids are.”
“Even good kids will do stupid things when no one is watching.  Even good adults will do stupid things when no one is watching.”

He gave us great ideas to help bring meaning and authenticity to our students work.  If your students are writing, put their stuff on and they can sell their published work, or cafepress to do the same.  Give them a purpose and show them that they can do anything.  The absolute best thing I heard him say, was in relation to teachers who are afraid to use laptops.  Some teachers say that they don’t know what the kids are doing in the back.  GET UP OUT OF YOUR CHAIR!  Kids passed notes before and we didn’t ban paper, get up out of your comfy chair and go be a teacher.  There was just so much inspiration in his words that I could listen to that man talk all day.

Full STEAM AheadI’ve been interested in starting a “Maker” club, or “Genius Hour,” for some time now, so I was hoping to get some neat ideas out of this session.  In reality, it just pretty much confirmed why I want to do something like this.  When students are doers, creators, and makers they are being taught 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  All things that our students could benefit from.

Discovering Digital Tools for learning with Graphite is a way for teachers to rate apps that are out there, as well as get suggestions for apps as they relate to particular projects.  Great idea, great concept.

iBooks on iPads
Yes.  This is what I want to really explore.  Digital publishing is the next level and something we should have been doing last year.  If I was still a classroom teacher, we would definitely be creating our own text books.  iAuthor was awesome and looked really easy to use.  I can’t wait to explore more once we get our MacBook thanks to our HSA.

Apps for Special Ed.
There were a few I learned about here, such as “Tap to Talk,” “Go Talk Now,” “Proloquo2go,” and “Photomind.”  Other then that, the session itself lacked some luster.

Dean Shareski (@shareski) was our morning keynote, and again, he was just incredible.  His topic was “Joy,” and asked the question, “Is ‘joy,’ the school’s responsibility?  Do we teach students to be happy?”  He wondered, “Is there more to learning than achievement or numbers?”  The best quote I heard from him was, “Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up.”  He gave us picture frames so that we could put on our desks the things that bring us joy.

5 Ways to hack visual storytelling
The presenter was fantastic, and probably the best one of the conference.  His 5 hacks:

  1. Re-imagine story-boreding and look at process over product
  2. Use screen recordings within their project
  3. Create stop-motion movies using Keynote or PowerPoint
  4. Inceptional Thinking-Repurpose things for something new
  5. Repurpose the library as a center for design

I especially agreed with the last hack and his quote, “Students are not looking for a repository, but for a place to produce, not consume.”

SCRATCHing the Surface
I’ve always wanted to learn more about SCRATCH to program.  I thought this was going to teach me basics on how to use it, but it really just gave me ideas on how to use it.  I saw later, that students from the middle school I went to used SCRATCH to create public service announcements, which were pretty cool.

Active Learning and Physical Activity
I jumped into this session (pun intended) to try and see how I could help out our fitness program.  It’s important to connect what we do with our bodies to our brain and the presenters offered up a few suggestions of apps (Aurasma, QR Scanners), and even XBox Kinects, which our P.E. teacher already utilizes.

The Elementary Tech Lab
This session wasn’t at all what I was hoping for.  The presenters seemed to be getting ideas for their own labs.  There was a mix of librarians and tech teachers and it just seemed to be a mess with no clear direction for the session.  What I did take away from it, was the idea that we don’t have to be limited to using Microsoft products; being able to teach kids across a variety of platforms will help build 21st century skills.  The Bold icon in Word is the same in Google Docs.  There also seemed to be more of a focus on teaching things other then programs.  We are currently nowhere near that point.  One idea that was mentioned was for students to dissect a computer like dissecting a pig.  That’s a great idea, but we would never have the time for that.

Shared iPads and Workflow in the Classroom

Think outside the box:
We took a look at a few apps to help control the flow of a classroom with limited iPads.  Nearpod and Dropbox I already use.  Chirp was a cool one, where kids could share pictures within each other’s proximity.  Schoology is one I tried to look at; it’s a lot like EdModo, but since as of now, there’s no use in my class, it kind of fell to the wayside.  Using any of these apps, teachers need to remember that like we tell our kids, it’s ok to fail, that’s how we learn.

MinecraftEDU in the Social Studies Curriculum
Yes.  This is something else that is a must to get into our schools.  It’s the narrative of the story that you create that matters, that you control.  From within this program, teachers can set assignments so that students can work collaboratively and work towards building their grit.  The example we could use relates to early Jamestown settlers.  To give kids an idea of how early villages began, students can use resources to build their settlement and can blog or write a journal about it.  The key to transfer in making sure students understand what they’re doing is reflection, and if you end each lesson with a writing assignment, the students will be able to process what they’ve done and what they need to do next.

Apple Tech for Special Needs
I would love to work for Apple.  I love their products and I love the people who do their trainings.  They’re dynamic, engaging, and they know their stuff.  We took a look at Apple accessibility solutions on the Mac and on the iPad.  We looked at closed captioning, screen zoon, hardware switches, voice dictation, and text to speech.  What was really neat, was looking at a few 3rd party apps to help special needs:

  • Say Hi-Language Translator
  • Say Hi Tabletop-Carry a conversation across a table.  Awesome for secretaries and teachers who have meetings with ESL parents
  • Wordlense-Converts text in real time to a different language by using the iPad’s camera
  • Sign For Me-Type something and the avatar will sign it
  • Soundamp-Uses the microphone to amplify voice
  • Color ID-Use the camera to identify all sorts of colors
  • Looktel Money Reader-Point the camera at money and it tells you what it is

I need to go and add these to my Symbaloo still, but you could hear the gasps in the room as we were shown some of these, especially the Say Hi Tabletop and the Sign For Me.  Special needs is such a crucial area for us all to be able to reach and Apple does a fantastic job of not leaving anybody out of the mix.

What a great time.  I can’t wait to go again next year.  I can’t wait to have another year under my belt and more opportunities to work with some teachers and infuse some great technology into their curriculum!


About MrDeissler

I teach technology education to elementary students and work with teachers on integrating new technologies into their lessons at two different elementary schools. This blog serves as a place for me to reflect and share to help make me a better educator. I've also been considered a "OneDrive Jedi," and am a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. I enjoy blogging, but struggle to keep up with it... All of my opinions are mine and not of the Hatboro-Horsham School District. Follow me on Twitter @mrdeissler
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