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SLATE Day 1: Use the Surge, Luke

Sunrise to sunset with a group of committed educators is fantastic. That's what my first day at the SLATE Conference was all about.  I went to several wonderful sessions, but I just need to write this out to reflect on my experience today.


Today's Keynote was by Kevin Honeycutt and it was officially titled Trends, Tactics, and Tools for 21st Century Learning. That sounds like a pretty broad title. It was an epic that Kevin carried of with true inspiration.  Kevin reminded us that we as educators cannot be secret geniuses. His call to us as educators was to share our stories. It's this kind of presentation that makes me feel think, "what stories do I have that compare to these? Am I failing my students by not removing the ceiling on their learning?"  It's the kind of speech that can inspire while making one feel extremely inadequate.

But these would never really be my stories. These are the stories of my students. Have I really been listening to their stories? Or have I just been collecting their work? I have 90 students. Am I creating a place for them to tell the story of their learning and their lives?

If we can find ways for students to tell their stories, only then will their experiences be heard and valued. Kevin reminded us that people will protect what they are proud of. If we share our students' powerful stories with the community, they will see the value of the education in our classrooms. It gives the community the "why" for spending the resources on our schools. Let our students provide the community with the why for investing in education.

Listening to Kevin I made a pledge to myself today. That pledge is to record every lesson I give in front of my students. I'm not flipping my instruction, but making myself as Kevin says "rewindable". If I truly believe that all learners learn differently and I need to give them different forms to access the content in my classroom, this is something I need to start doing tomorrow.

I tried making flipped video lessons a couple of years ago and was so unsatisfied with the process. Mainly because I could speed days just editing a 5 minute video clip to perfection. Kevin's words "Perfect is the enemy of done" gave me the permission to just record and post. No need to edit down or anything else. It will never be as good as I want it. And, that's fine.

Another one of the many big takeaways was allowing time for reflection as a teacher. I realize that I ask my students to reflect on their learning and I reflect on my learning through my blog. But, I'd like to incorporate my reactions to student reflections into my posts. I'll have to think about how to do a better job of that. The reason I say this is that I've actually seen my students become more reflective of their learning over time and providing me with great feedback that I take action on, but I hope to take more time to review their stories and make it feel less like grading which it can feel like at times.  

Kevin shared some powerful stories of students creating real products. Products that wouldn't simply be hung on a bulletin board until the end of the school year. These were student authored digital texts (poetry, digital images, and 3D sculptures) that were made physical by online services that could then distribute them to real people and create real profits for the students. Which has more power, an "A" from a teacher who is getting paid to assess you or the knowledge that people will pay to get your creations. This is how he was able to see students "launch", how he was able to "hook his students and reel them in", to see the value that others didn't see in these students and "flip" them. This work is not schoolwork. This is life work and it has value after the dismissal bell. I need to start investigating ways to make student products real. I do need to find ways to bring the art into my classroom products whatever they may look like. Probably time to rewind this older version of the keynote I found on YouTube.

Session: Google Extensions and Add-ons

One concurrent session I attended was focused on a large quantity of useful Google Apps and Extension. Sarah Arnold from Elkhorn Area High School did a masterful job of curating and presenting these different tools. As we in Elmbrook move forward with 1:1 Chromebook innovative, finding ways to use Google Apps will help make life simpler and easier for our students. Apps are really important for Chromebooks because they don't have the the traditional pieces of software on hard drives that laptops might. So, it was great to learn about some great tools to use on Chromebooks. The two that I look forward to using the most are Pull Quote and Grammarly. You can find all of the tech tools Sarah discussed in her presentation below explained more concisely than I ever could hope to:

Session: What's In Your EdTech Toolbox

The last concurrent session I attended on the first day was focused on technology tools that work well in a personalized learning environment. The two presenters of the session were Diane Rozanski and Teresa Barch  from The Institute for Personalized Learning.  Their session focused on the difficulties educators face when trying to find appropriate and reliable tools to use in their classroom.  Sometimes as educators we are lost in the cold desperate to find that EdTech tool.  

If only there was an Obi Wan Kenobi force ghost to tell us where to go to find our Yoda.  The game changing service they presented to the room was (only 1 person in the session had heard of it before.) EdSurge provides the bridge between EdTech firms and schools looking for those tools.  

Why is it so great? Well, EdSurge has a Product Review Index that as you can see below is categorized for easy filtering.

Once you've narrowed down from this menu, you'll have a chance to filter out even more results based on many important variables.

Finally, when you click on a tool you'll see more information including the all important teacher reviews. 

So now that I've committed to start recording my lessons in real time, EdSurge will help me find the best way to do this.

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