heidi trude

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!

Lack of Passion to Connect

One thing I’ve noticed over the course of this year is that change is low in numbers. I do a lot of social media connecting, both for the school and for my own personal growth, and I’ve noticed it in both areas, so that’s where this post is going to focus.

I will admit that my posting slacked a lot until this month. I was far too busy with dealing with wedding planning and all that went with that. When I was home, my destressing time was spent with my wife and painting rocks, as well as planning a wedding and honeymoon. I had too much on the brain, and not enough to go around for everything I wanted to do. Pretty sure that’s okay, and now I’m back on track. Any big life event is going to cause a lapse in working toward change, specifically connecting and sharing one’s stories. Those are not the people I’m worried about.

I’m concerned with those who don’t feel the need to change, or to seek change. I’m concerned with those who feel they have nothing to share, don’t want to share, or brush it off. When it comes to our classrooms and schools, we should be proud to showcase what goes on inside with our students and the learning that takes place. We should want to show parents more than just a child’s grades and progress. As with anything else, one or two glimpses a year won’t tell the entire year’s story.

In my district, I run social media for the two schools I work at. I also can post to the other schools, and act as one of the social media leads for all of the schools. I have noticed that if I am unable to be at work on a given day that the posting isn’t done. I make sure events are placed on the school pages, that announcements are posted, and I try to create things where families can contribute. I love working with social media and spreading the good news about the schools in our district, but I am only one of many.

Over time, I have learned that it takes a passion for social media and leading change with social media to produce results. I can speak about being a connected educator and school branding all I want, but it takes audience members to make that change inside of themselves. Listeners have to want to make the change and follow through with the change.

Social media connectedness is a slow process. Becoming connected with others takes time and patience. One cannot start a Twitter account and expect to quickly gain followers and connections. Like a garden, one must cultivate and invest their own time in the process. I have been actively using my account for professional growth since about 2014, and it’s something I cannot stop doing. I still find some of my best resources and connections through Twitter, or because of Twitter.

For example, I went to Copenhaver Institute this past summer. Because I actively tweeted during the Institute, I not only made a new friend in Heidi Trude (@htrude07), but I also was able to connect and talk to Stephanie Doyle (@stephaniedoyle), who helps run the Virginia Teacher of the Year network. That has led to me being invited to present at the Teaching, Learning, Collaborating Symposium in Radford next month. Ironically enough, I elected to present on being a connected educator.

For as many as I see unwilling to jump on board and connect, there are others who work hard, despite obstacles. A colleague from my former district, Nicole Morris (@cnicolemorris), moved from the classroom to principalship at the beginning of this school year. She was already active in growth and learning on Twitter, and we also are connected on Facebook. What I have noticed about her switch is that as an administrator, she loves to share her schools’ stories (she is in charge of two small schools). While it’s a work in progress while she adapts to her new role, she still realizes that it’s important and shares the stories when she can. She even had each of her schools create a hashtag to use for their stories. I love seeing these little glimpses into her schools.

As I think about becoming connected, I realize that I still am looking for ways to get others to connect, but that it won’t come about without a mindset change. I cannot force anyone to become connected unless they decide that they want to do so. However, I do need to analyze my topics and how I present on becoming connected to see if I can find new ways to persuade others.