WVSTC 2015, Pt. 2

I’m finally getting a chance to update about the second part of the conference. I’m home, and hoping to stay home until August 7, when I will be traveling with my parents back to Pigeon Forge to see Dolly Parton in concert.

I last left often mentioning that there would be a TIS Reception that evening. The Reception was fantastic. Great food, and a table spot with some friendly faces, many of whom were new to the TIS program. I remember being in their shoes last year. You feel a bit lost then, and really overwhelmed because you have so much work ahead of you to complete in order to finish the TIS certification program. Now that I am on the other side, I realize how worth it the program is, and how far I’ve come technology-wise. Valerie Wilson, Josh Ratliff, and Lori Whitt are amazing cohort leaders.

Back on track now, shall we?

After dinner, we had TIS Smackdown, and anyone who wanted to was invited to share resources. I was first and explained all about Jr. First Lego League, and what it can accomplish for students ages 6-9. I also talked about the TIS grant money, and how it’s important to make sure to spend it to get the most needed items for the classroom or school. I had so many issues with getting my grant money spent, mostly because the wording of the grant wasn’t up to speed with what it could be used for. Lori then told me that they’d changed the wording of the grant so that issues such as that no longer occur, and it was all because of what I went through. Reflex Math was also talked about during this time, and I added to that, since my district has adopted it for K-8. I’m struggling to remember the other resources that were shared.

During the last day of the conference, there were three timeslots for sessions to attend, and I had two of those for my presentations. I didn’t attend the 8 o’clock round of sessions because I needed to check out of my hotel room and prepare for my 9 o’clock presentation. I was nervous about how it would go, especially since it was my first time presenting. Needless to say, I shouldn’t have been so worried.

When I began at 9, I had about half of the room full. I was pretty impressed by the turnout. My first session was on blogging as an educator. I made sure the attendees knew that I wasn’t focusing on blogging with students, but rather on the educator blogging for their own growth and learning. I went through my presentation, going over the reasons why one should blog, potential topics, various blogging platforms, and suggestions for bloggers to follow. I actually went over my time, which I was shocked to discover. However, I had people giving input and asking questions during my presentation, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised. If I can get just a few more people blogging.

My second session at 10 was not so well attended, which was surprising, but yet not. It was the very last session of the conference, and by that time, many people are ready to go. I had a handful of people though, but I’m sure some of them were only there to kill time. This particular presentation was on building a professional learning network, and it shared resources to help educators get started. There were options for blogging, webinars, community forums, corporate sites, and social media.

To be honest, I do wish more educators realized the importance of building a professional learning network; so many in my district are content to isolate themselves to the county level or below and it’s sad. There are so many good resources out there, and so many educators. In fact, attending the conference this year would not have been half as amazing as it was if I hadn’t started building a professional learning network this past year. I met up with quite a few colleagues that way. Plus (and this isn’t connected to PLNs), I had a few of the vendors actually recognize me from the previous year, so that was pretty cool.

After my sessions, we had lunch and the closing keynote. What was most interesting about the beginning of the keynote is that the president of the WVBOE spoke and stated that he wanted to see 1:1 devices for every student in WV by June of next year. Very ambitious, and it would be amazing if it actually happened. I would love to see such technology in both of the schools where I work. It would also mean updated technology for once. I would love to get rid of some of the dinosaurs that we have.

Our closing keynote speaker, Hall Davidson, was quite energetic and enthusiastic about the way that technology can change the teaching game. One takeaway that we were given was the Aurasma app, and I really do want to try that this year. It uses augmented reality to make the world around us come to life. Here’s something to try. First, download the app itself onto your phone. Then get ahold of a $20 bill and flip it over. Open the app and hold the phone over the bill and check out what happens. It’s pretty sweet. I’m going to attempt to use it at the elementary school this year. I would use it at the middle school, but there’s no cell phone service, and no way currently for parents to log in as a guest on the wifi network. That’s fine for now, as I need to test it out myself. I have a few ideas in mind, but nothing solid yet.

By 1 o’clock, the conference had ended and we all went our separate ways to travel home. Well, except for those in the TIS program…they still had to stay an additional 24 hours for training! I was exhausted, but so very thrilled. The conference itself was amazing, and I’m already looking forward to next year. If you’re interested, in attending the WVSTC, mark off July 19-21st on your calendar. I promise you won’t regret it, and will meet up with many new folks!

WVSTC 2015

It’s been a busy couple of days. I am currently at the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference, and it’s my second year attending. Last year I attended as a first time TIS applicant, and fell in love with the variety of opportunities to learn. This year I am attending as an official TIS and as a presenter. I’ve not done my sessions yet, and won’t until tomorrow morning. I’m still finishing one at this point, and this evening I’ll review both of them.

This past year I started getting into building my professional learning network. I’ve noticed a different in my connections at the conference this year because of it. The people I’ve began networking with on Yammer and Twitter are here and it’s great to put faces to the feeds I’ve been following. We’ve been able to get together and share ideas, as well as just hang out and have fun. It’s a great support network, and I can guarantee that if any of us posted or tweeted about an issue we were facing, someone would readily respond. I no longer have to feel isolated in my county, or be annoyed that so few people want to connect outside of their schools. My network, though small, has made all of the difference.

In terms of the conference, I’ve been to a few different sessions that have given me some new ideas. I was eager to attend the OneNote Classroom Creator pre-conference session and learn about classroom creator. Not only am I eager to take Classroom Creator back to my middle school teachers, I’ve also found a renewed interest in OneNote, and am going to work on creating one Notebook that will combine all my paperwork from both of my schools. I would love to cut down on the paper I have to carry with me or worry about losing. I have started a new Notebook, but haven’t been able to work on it much yet since I’ve been working on my presentations.

I also attended a Minecraft session. While it didn’t really give me anything new that I can use in the classroom right now, it did provide me with more ideas for using it in the classroom, should that ever come about in my district. It is nice that it will be available by default on Windows 10, as that would be a start. Of course, our district is just now updating to Windows 7 so it’ll be some time before they decide to update to 10.

Another session I have attended was on EverFi. They have a few different free courses they offer to be used in the classroom, such as their money vault. However, I was only interested in the STEM and Coding course, as that might be beneficial for my middle school programming club. It looks intriguing, and we were given a conference login so we could try out some of the courses for ourselves.

These have been my favorites so far. I’ve also spent a decent amount of time in the vendor hall, and ended up with quite a bit of swag. I love freebies, and vendors never fail to disappoint! I have visited a few, but my school either uses them, they aren’t relevant to me, or they didn’t really interest me.

Going back to my professional learning network spiel, we did have a tweet-up last night with members of the #wvedchat crew. The place where we gathered even had a trivia night going, so we created our team and joined in. We actually did really well, and got 2nd place, or first losers, as we called it.

Tonight I am attending the TIS Reception for current TIS trainees and alumni. We have a dinner gathering, and there will also be some presentations. There weren’t many to sign up for the TIS Genius Hour, so there will be a few presentations for everyone. I actually will be presenting there, as I spoke to one of the cohort leaders about doing the Jr. First Lego League this upcoming season. She was intrigued and wanted me to talk about some of the things open to TIS members. I’m also to talk about ways to spend the remaining TIS grant funds once a TIS trainee has been completed any trainings that they needed.

Time to get going once again. I’m excited and loving it. I hope I can update again soon!