ECIS Annual Conference

This weekend I was able to attend the ECIS Annual Conference in Nice, France.  This was my first time at the conference. I have to say that I am very glad that I was able to go. For me this was a very validating experience. This is the first time that I have been to a big conference, and I felt like “Yep, we are in the right place and heading in the right direction.” 

While at the conference one of the things that I did was to sit on a panel for a roundtable discussion about the role of IT in the IB curriculum. I was a bit worried when I looked at the names of the other panelists, three heads of IT at big schools and a Vice Principal at another, then little ol’ me! I was very pleased though to have been able to answer all of the questions with confidence.  

We had a very small audience which allowed us to answer questions and ask questions of them as well. We even had the Curriculum Manager of Online Learning at International Baccalaureate on Google Hangouts while we had our discussion to listen in and comment about what we were saying.  

During the rest of the conference I attended a great maker workshop by Francesca Zammarano @fzammarano who teaches for the United Nations International School and has created a great maker space called the CoLaboratory. She got me thinking about some projects that I could do with my Geek Squad and how my nephew would have loved to have her in his school to teach!

I decided to stay until the very last session for a workshop called “Putting Cool Tech in the Hands of Students” and boy, am I glad that I did! I met Dan Reedy @Reedy Dan works at the Leysin American School in Switzerland and has an after school coding club. He showed us some of the stuff that he has done with those kids and some of the ways that they have approached running the club. It has given me the courage to go ahead and offer a coding club after school next semester along with my Geek Squad.  

He showed us the website for Treehouse which he uses with his kids to get them interested in coding.  I have already emailed them and asked about the ages that their site is designed for.  

Over all it was a great conference and has given me the courage to ask for permission to present at the ECIS Tech Conference in March in Munich!  Stay tuned to find out if I get to go!

Student Helpers in Teacher PD Session

The PD went well today.  I was able to have four of my Geek Squad attend.  They videoed, took pictures, presented and helped teachers.  They were a great hit and were amazingly good sports!

We started with the boys showing the teachers how to back up their iPads to the iClouds. They were also a great help showing the teachers how to reflect their iPads.  We then moved to Sue McCluskey showing the teachers how she uses the app Pocket to store articles and websites that she finds on Twitter to read later.  We then moved on to show how web links could be created and distributed to teachers and students through the iPads. The next app was the Cloud Spotter app.  Jude Vaughan shared her love of clouds with the teachers to show them how we can use our iPads for very personal reasons instead of always school, school, school!

Then Louise Day stood up and showed how she uses Class Dojo in her class to track the healthy snacks that her students bring for their morning snack.  I then talked about how I use Twitter as my personal learning network.  I gave them a very brief overview and showed them how I use pocket when I am in twitter to save articles.  I also shared with them a few of the people that I follow on twitter.  (@caryghart, @Facespics, @mumbaimaggie, @acsintschools,  @SuzanneMcClusk1,  @sherrattsam, @whatedsaid)

We then moved to Lauren Dean sharing how the grade five students apply for apps that they would like all of grade 5 to have. Then back to Jude Vaughan to show Apps Gone Free. This is a great app that occasionally has some very useful education apps.

After all of this we had 15 minutes for teachers to explore one of these in more detail.  This gave the teachers a chance to really look at one of these in more depth and detail. It also gave the Geek Squad boys a chance to help individual teachers get logged into Drive and solve other issues with their iPads. Out of these break out sessions we managed to get at least one self proclaimed “technophobe” on Twitter!  Go Jenny!

Teacher PD

Tomorrow I am holding a teacher PD session for the lower school teachers.  I am going to structure it in a similar way to a TeachMeet.  So there will be 10 apps/programs introduced in two to seven minute presentations.  Then at the end there will be two mini breakout sessions where teachers can  learn more about one of the apps that has been introduced.

I originally had about 15 things to introduced but I have cut it back so that hopefully it won’t be too much all at once.  The focus is not an in-depth look at these apps/programs but more of a quick look.  Then if the teachers want to know more they can go to the break out sessions or come to see me later to have a more detailed session.

One part that I am very excited about is that at least 4 of my Geek Squad will be there.  The Geek Squad is an after school club that I am running for grades three through five.  We are looking at computers, ways to help teachers and students and programming.  The students in the club are having a great time spending an hour with me once a week while we talk about coding and computers and all things tech. When I asked if anyone could help out, several offered to skip their Wednesday activities to come to the meeting!

Taking the Professional Development Initiative

In the last two years I have gradually begun to take more initiative in finding professional development (PD) for myself.  Some of this was due to a lack of permission to go on PD courses but more so because PD in my area is so widely available online and so under represented at conferences.  I started slowly by following some blogs that I stumbled upon through a couple of groups that I am in.  Our librarian told me of a few IT related groups that she followed, so I joined them as well.

Then I moved to Twitter and following a few selected blog posts from other educators.  Twitter has now become my main source of information and PD.  I still visit a few blogs regularly but I have found that many of the blog posts that I have found useful, ended up on Twitter within a few days of me reading the posts.  Spending time doing this PD has made me realize that with the increased use of the web, the time for teachers waiting for PD to come to them or waiting to be sent to a training is over.  There is no reason that as teachers can can’t improve our practice with ideas gathered instantly from the internet.  There are teachers, trainers, facilitators, and companies posting good ideas and resources online at an amazing rate. It’s like having access to all of those great ideas from the Mailboxes magazine instantly at your fingertips at once.  It is also good because you can get current ideas and resources from some of the top people in education instantly.
All you have to do is decide whose ideas you find the most helpful and follow them in some way.  Be it on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, emails, their website, whatever you like best.  It doesn’t matter how you get the information, just get it.  You don’t even have to check it daily, because it will always be there waiting for you to access it! Use the internet to your advantage.  Don’t shy away from it, embrace it.

This quote from a “you may be a 21st Educator” list pretty much summes it up.  “One of your most trusted and reliable colleagues is in another state or country and responds just as quickly via social media as the teacher next door.”

Here are a few of my favorites from twitter: