eric sheninger

Reflections on VSTE 2017

Another VSTE has come and gone, and it was fantastic! This was my 2nd year attending, and it was even better than last year because I had some wonderful connections and people to meet up with. Big shoutout goes to my tech buddy Heidi Trude (@htrude07). She and I love tech conferences, meeting speakers, and bouncing new ideas.

I arrived bright and early on Sunday morning and got checked in. My big task for the day was my Minecraft presentation. I was scheduled to go right at the start, which was fine by me. I was able to get it over with and then focus on other things with the conference.

I had a full room of 30, and I set up my session to play some Minecraft themed music from my YouTube playlist. I also dressed up in my Steve outfit, which many people got a kick out of. My topic was on empowering students through architecture and design. I focused on how this topic empowers first, and then dove into each of my workshops- middle school, rising 1st/2nd grade, and my Cityscapers club. From there I also talked about empowering preschool kids, using my buddy Reed as an example. I got a lot of good questions, and shared all of my workshop resources with folks, which they really appreciated.

The rest of the conference was a whirlwind of fun and learning. Here are some of my favorite key takeaways:

  • Virtual courses and professional development: I listened to a presentation from a district on how they were offering virtual courses for professional development. This allowed them to be flexible for their teachers, and to offer many chances for teachers to find ways to use the tools in the classroom. I want to design a course for next year, and I’m thinking it may be on Google for beginning teachers or something like that. I just need to research and toy with my idea more.
  • Minecraft for Teachers: Minecraft is a game meant to toss the player into it with very little instruction or guidance. While there are teachers who will also embrace this tactic and learn to play the game this way, there are others who are too hesitant and uncertain. I am thinking of potential developing a play and learn series geared specifically to them.
  • Minecraft Challenges: I had forgotten that even though I no longer have access to the old MinecraftEDU, I can still get access to the lessons and world files for the program. I would like to import some of the worlds into Minecraft and redesign them to work for students. This is something that could take awhile, so for now I’ve downloaded a latitude and longitude scavenger hunt world to tinker with.
  • Google Forms and Data Validation: I loved this session because it gave me new ideas for my teachers on how to use forms to get certain answers or to set up puzzles and passcodes for access. For example, a teacher can use data validation to get students to enter a secret code to then be taken to the quiz part of a form.
  • School branding: I loved both the keynote speech and the session done by Eric Sheninger. His work affirms that I’m on the right path with branding, especially with our schools. I took away some new ideas for branding, and have since met with one of the middle school administrators to see how we could do better. We actually have a plan in place, and it will allow us to get more stories and pictures from classrooms without teachers having to do much extra.
  • Photojournaling– I went to this session to learn about the impact photojournaling can have on students, and how it promotes collaboration. The presenter had us do some of the activities in the lesson plan itself, and of course received the lesson and all necessary resources. The best part is that the lesson is written in such as way that it can be applied across disciplines, so teachers can modify as needed.

After all those sessions, I was on information overload, and still am. I am slowly working through bits of it as I complete my daily work. I feel that I can be a better teacher and ITRT once I’ve started applying more of what I’ve learned.

I also made new connections and reconnected with folks from last year. It was good to see so many familiar faces. I tweeted up a storm, which should be no surprise if you know me well. I can go back later to check out those tweets and discover new ideas.

VSTE definitely helped me recharge my batteries. I felt on top of the world as I left Roanoke on Tuesday afternoon. I am ready to work on making more changes to my work, and improving myself.

This will be my last VSTE for awhile. I am going to skip next year (unless my district decides to send us) because I want to save up for ISTE 2019. It’s going to be in Philadelphia, and very doable in my case. I just need to make sure I have the money ready to roll. I know my district won’t be able to fund something so pricey, but I am very determined to experience this amazing conference at least once in my career!

My Current EduReading List

There are plenty of books I need to read, and I have quite a few of them. These books have been recommended to me over time, and I’ve picked them up. So far, they’ve spent a lot of time on my shelf as I work my way through the school year. Reading is a passion of mine, but I usually only read before bed. This, of course, is under the cover of darkness, curled up in my bed with my Kindle. Reading helps me relax my brain and fall asleep more easily. Obviously this is not the ideal time to read any kind of reference material. Plus, I like to have physical copies of my reference books. This allows me to easily locate information or make any kind of marks I want. I’m not someone who marks up her books, but I do paste QR codes in them from time to time. The codes link to blog posts that I’ve written on that chapter or topic.

Most of the books listed work for anyone in education. Usually I find ways to link them to edtech or my own leadership in the field. There is always room to grow and room to learn.

Here are the books that are currently on my list to read and tackle. I’ve provided links to them on Amazon as well for easy purchase:

  1. The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros: I actually started this in the fall and participated in half of #IMMOOC before I got busy with other things. I am going to finish the rest of this book first!
  2. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess: I started this book, and then I switched out of the classroom and into the technology specialist position, so I never finished it because I was learning the ropes of a new job at the time. I need to revisit it now that I am more comfortable in my position. Goal is before summer, as I get to see both Burgess and Couros speak at Copenhaver Institute!
  3. What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker: If you know me well enough, you know I love promoting being a connected educator and growing one’s PLN via social networks, such as Twitter, which is my main playground.
  4. The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar: All I know is that this is a must for me in my coaching position and that it will help me assist my teachers better. I’ve had multiple folks tell me to read it before next school year begins.
  5. Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger: I have a copy of this book somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it right now. It may be at school. I want to create technological change in my schools, or at least see where I can begin.
  6. Lead Like a Pirate by Shelly Burgess: I’m in a unique leadership position as an ITRT and I want to see what new ideas this book will have to help me improve my leadership among my teachers. I think it’s geared toward admin, but I will find out. I want to be a better leader.

I have a lot to tackle, and I hope to jump back in soon. What’s on your current edureading list? Share in the comments section!