On February 25th, I had the honor to attend the Illinois Digital Educator’s Alliance (IDEA) IDEAcon 2020 conference. I came back home to Fremd High School motivated and inspired by the dynamic educators I met, networked with and learned from. Here are some of the highlights I’m excited to share➡➡➡
Keynote – Teach Boldy: Using EdTech for Social Good with Dr. Jennifer Williams and co-presenters Billy Spicer, Carolyn Skibba and David Chan
I really looked forward to this keynote since I previously purchased Teach Boldly: Using EdTech for Social Good by Dr. Williams and already connect with Dr. Williams perspective of students as creators and creative problem solvers! Along with my AP Language & Composition PLT, we ask students to team up into small groups research on and create a potential solution for a current, controversial issue. As a final step to the project, I challenge students to create an action plan for their solution that includes reaching out to local organizations and/or experts in the field of their study. Dr. William’s book is filled with real-life application ideas like these! Her keynote presentation, like her book, was filled with real-life ideas for empowering students to actuate change with projects that help them share their voices with authentic audiences. With classroom examples from Billy, Carolyn and David, Jennifer reinforced the power technology has to amplify and spread student stories beyond classroom walls. Students are already leveraging technology to creatively problem-solve in the classroom; Williams challenges us to empower our students to take edtech a step further and execute on their solutions. This was the perfect start to our day at IDEA’s jam-packed conference all about offering means to make that easier for teachers to do just that.
A few of the sessions I had the chance to attend . . .
Ready.Set.Play. A Beginner’s Guide to Gamifying PD with Stefanie Crawford (Dunlap CUSD 323, Instructional Coach)
After attending last year’s ICE conference session, “Epic Hack Battles of Teaching” by Vernon Hills Science teachers Brandon Watters and Chris Wolf, I immediately marked this one to attend. Last year, inspired from Watter’s and Wolf’s “epic hack” format, our own professional development team created an ed hack session on cultivating positive culture in the classroom; so, I was excited to see what PD ideas Stephanie would be sharing to bring back to the PD team this year. What I found to be so great about Stephanie’s ideas are the vast amount of choice involved teachers as well as an element of friendly game competition!
Stefanie utilizes a gamify approach to PD to motivate teachers while still focusing on building and district goals. The approach includes activities teachers can incorporate into their own instructional planning, thus offering opportunity to engage in their own learning while discovering new means to assist students to do the same. Here are a few of Stefanie’s inspiring ideas:
- “CLUE 123” = Teachers throughout the school are organized into teams. Teams have the semester (or year) to choose activities through an online choice board presented in the theme of the CLUE game. Each square on the board offers a different activity worth a certain amount of points. At the end of the semester or year, the team with the most points wins a recognition prize. Choices include everything from submitting an idea to build school unity, completing a short online tutorial for learning a new skill, using a district database to research a question, or checking out a resource and sharing the way you used it in the classroom. Gamifying PD this way provides teachers choices with some friendly competition mixed in to motivate. I appreciate the allowance to complete activities at their own pace too! It seems to eliminate the time crunch pressure for sure.
- Reading Bingo = Again offering varied choices, teachers choose articles, journals, professional development books and recreational books to read as offered on an online Bingo board. Teachers are challenged to read something they may not normally choose to read (i.e. a book outside of their preferred genre). As with Clue, teachers complete activities at their own pace while earning points for playing. This seems to be a really cool way to spawn productive conversation between colleagues! And, teachers always wish for more time to read all of the awesome resources available to us. What a great incentive to do that!
- “Idea Flood Challenges” – These are online challenges offered each month for teachers to simply share ideas on a given topic. Stefanie’s district has an added caveat to this – teachers share their ideas in the form of sketch-notes, while being offered resources and tutorials to learn how to sketch-note. This is all voluntary and offered, again, for an extended period of time. What I like about this is it gets teachers thinking outside the box, taking notes, perhaps learning something new outside of their comfort zone and engaging with their ideas …. and isn’t that what we ask our students to do?
**Stefanie had more great ideas that I took notes on during her session. These are just the highlights!!**
Engaging All Students with Creative Student Voice Activities with Steve Wick (Neuqua Valley High School Science Teacher) and Melissa Wilson (Neuqua Valley High School Assistant Principal)
After happily following Steve Wick on Twitter for quite a few years, I was excited to meet the man behind “Wicked EdTech” and learn what his sessions are all about! I was lucky to attend one in which he presented alongside his co-teacher Melissa Wilson, former English teacher and current Assistant Principal at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. I walked away with many resources for integrating technology across all content areas that I’ll be sharing with both my building and department! Melissa and Steve shared resources and samples lessons for students to creatively voice their original work or responsibly repurpose digital resources into new creations. Here’s some of the engaging tools Steve and Melissa shared:
- Quick Draw with Google – This is a game built with AI machine learning. Players are prompted to sketch an object on a 20-second clock using the mouse or touchscreen. While the player doodles, the neural network throws out its best guesses of the subject, stopping mid-sketch if it guesses correctly. Try it and turn your sound up! It’s kind of addicting, especially for someone like me who can’t draw. There are many ways this could be incorporated in the classroom … I see this as a useful tool for ELL students, reviewing vocabulary. It would also make for a positive entrance or exit activity. As an English teacher, I’m excited to share an example Melissa offered where, as her former students read The Crucible, she had them creating a GOOGLE DRAWING that illustrates a situation within the book along with addressing an aspect of humanity that is being challenged from the situation chosen. While not QUICK DRAW, this is a great example of leveraging tech to allow students a different way to communicate their interpretations of what they read.
- Google Applied Digital Skills – This is a free online curriculum that Google provides, accessible to either individuals or teachers for a classroom setting. The project-based units help students practice career-building digital skills using Google’s G Suite for Education applications. Everything from creating “If Then” stories, designing an infographic, finding credible sources online to scheduling emails for goal-setting. These are real-life application skills to help prepare students with skills they’ll likely use outside of high school. Melissa shared another example here. Using the “If Then” digital applied skills, students created interactive narrative stories with Slides that allowed readers to choose optional alternate endings via hyperlinks. Students were practicing their narrative skills while simultaneously leveraging technology to layer their stories with alternate endings!
- Pear Deck – This is a live slides presentation tool that works with Google Slides or PowerPoint, allowing students to see the slides on their own devices as the teacher works with the master slides. With Pear Deck, interactive slides can be added to solicit feedback, do a quick formative check, or just see how your students are feeling that day. For instance, you can have students write a short answer essay for immediate feedback, circle answers in real time, vote in a poll, draw, and more. I’ve used this already at all levels in my classes. I’m excited to share more with colleagues!
- UnSplash – It’s the little things! Unsplash is not only a source for copyright free amazingly beautiful photos but one can submit his/her/their own safe photos for sharing. What I like best about this site is the simple categories the photos are divided into (such as current events!) for accessibility. As an added bonus, the UnSplash Chrome extension makes opening up a new tab on your laptop or iPad a more aesthetically pleasing task; a new photograph opens and fills the screen with new tab openings.
**These are a sampling of the many ideas and resources Steve and Melissa provided to help equip teachers to engage student voice through a variety of digital creations.**
What’s Up Google Doc? with Fried Technology
I’m happy I attended this session. From the moment we all sat down, Brooke Lowery presented quick tricks for GoogleDocs that so many of us could use every day:
A few of my new favorite functionalities of GOOGLE DOCS:
- Open a new blank page – more quickly by typing docs.new, doc.new or documents.new in the url space bar. Voila!
- If you’d like students to have more digital space on their screen without their work spilling on to the next page, and don’t plan on printing: PageSetUp, PaperSize, Tabloid 11×17 will give them a wider amount of space.
- For students creating essays with a word minimum or maximum, display word count while typing with one click:-Select All Matching Text & Format Tool after formatting a piece of text to copy all formatting onto a new piece of text (bold, font style, color, etc) without having to individually set up each format:
… and many more tricks including inserting a table of contents into a document, formatting tables, using voice typing (which I was able to suggest to a student who has a sprained arm!), using the Explore functionality, etc.
Exploring Mindfulness through Technology with Lauren Beversdorf (Bannockburn Spanish Teacher, Yoga Instructor)
As a practicing yogi, I understand that mindfulness is one of the simplest and single most powerful thing we can do for our well being. I truly appreciated Lauren’s session as she applied mindfulness to the classroom and how ed tech specifically can be leveraged to make one more mindful.
Mindfulness can be defined as practicing attention within the present moment – not anything in the past nor any possibilities for the future – only the present moment. Want to see how mindful you really are?! Take THIS quiz Lauren passed on during her session. It’s a mindfulness survey offered from UC Berkley. It should only take about 3 minutes of your time to take.
As Lauren states, “when it comes to the crazy,turblence-filled flight that is teaching, we’ve got to put our own oxygen mask on.” As teachers, we put the needs of our students first, and it truly is all about the students. That doesn’t change. But putting our needs in check first doesn’t take away from our students; it only helps our ability to be the best teacher (and person) we can be. Mindfullness can reduce stress, improve physical health and improve overall quality of life. AND the best thing about practicing mindfulness is you have all you need within you, and it really doesn’t have to mean taking too much time out of your day.
Lauren offers helpful ways to incorporate mindfulness throughout our school day:
- From How to Train a Wild Elephant– Simple Daily Mindfulness and Practices for Living Life More Fully & Joyfully by Jan Chozen Bays, MD: Every time you get a phone call, text or notification, stop what you are doing and take THREE breaths before answering. The point is to put purposeful pause in your day. It helps focus, and allows opportunity to be more fully aware of the conversation. After doing this for quite a few days, the goal is for you to do this automatically. This one is not tech-related but I had to share. This practical little book includes 50 simple practices like this to easily and quickly incorporate throughout our day.
- Stop Breathe Think is free to teachers, with 100 mindful activities for teachers and students alike to build resilience and more kindness in our culture.
- Mindful Schools and Mindfulness without Borders offers curriculum for teachers and schools.
- The following apps each offer their own unique function. I have almost all of them and will be happy to share more:
Here’s an inspiring TedTalk Lauren recommends to share with staff, focusing on what we can do to make our lives more meaningful and view stress as something we can overcome with resilience and positive outcomes:
And last but most certainly not least, what is truly great about these conferences is the serendipitous conversations we have with fellow educators we run into. Case in point, I happily ran into Shawn McCusker in the hallway, on the way to a session. Through our brief conversation, he filled me in on Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, a free tool built into Word, OneNote, Outlook, and more. It integrates techniques to improve reading and writing for people regardless of ability through functionalities such as enhanced dictation, programmable font spacing, real-time translation and even Math read aloud. This is a tool I’ll be purposely using myself and sharing with more of my colleagues … all started from a chance, passing conversation at this conference.
💚💛 If you are a part of the Fremd High School family and wish to learn more about any of the items I’ve mentioned above, just let me know. I’ll be happy to talk to you about how any of this can be useful within your own classroom.
Thank you to IDEA officers and committee members for making this year’s #IDEAcon 2020 an exceptional experience for growing our PLN, gaining resources and learning from an amazingly inspiring group of educators. Special shout out to IDEAcon Conference Committee member Maria Galanis who it was most wonderful to run into. I originally met Maria at an EdCamp hosted by my former school.back in 2014. Again, it’s the PLN connections that make these conferences so worthwhile and memorable. I really think IDEA outdid themselves this year!! Never have I attended a more jam-packed, worthwhile event. Thank you and I look forward to the digital and real world future connections!