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SLATE 2016: Day 1

Today, I attended the School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education Conference, aka SLATE. The conference as the title suggests is geared towards implementing technology k-12 education.  The sessions at the conference are focused on different levels of implementation from classroom level, to district level, all the way to state initiatives.
The keynote today was by Jaime Casap. He is Chief Educational Evangelist at Google.  His sermon today focused on what we are asking students to do in our schools and if it is making them ready for the jobs that they will be applying for.  Jobs that have yet to be created or in some cases even imagined.
The biggest takeaway for me was the roles we are creating for students in the classroom.  Jaime proselytized that we should be creating students who are problem solvers.  Students should be focused on solving problems that have meaning to them. Because ,it is the process of problem solving that will make them ready for the jobs that have yet to be created.  My favorite quote of the day though was, “By asking students to solve problems, we ask students what is their purpose.”  Meaningful problems generate meaningful purpose.
The process of identifying a problem and solving that problem is a skill that is essential for successful leaders.  Collaboration is also key.  Jaime made it clear that collaboration is not simply being a part of a group.  It is an individual's ability to listen, give feedback, be able to change one’s own mind, and to build consensus among a group of individuals.  Leadership is not telling people what to do, but leading that group to a create a common goal, a plan to reach that goal, and monitor progress towards that goal together.
Jaime also pointed out that when pontificators talk about the future of education, they are looking years down the road.  He argued that true innovators look a mere 24 hours into the future to the next class. For those of use who teach multiple sections, the future is the next period. It is our next iteration of education. Our future is a series of different iterations that will lead to innovation. I couldn’t help thinking of the work of George Couros and his book Innovator’s Mindset. Shout out to you G. Diddy. Mo Iterations Mo Innovations.
The first breakout session exposed me to a world of resources I never knew existed.   Kaye Henrickson of CESA #4 led a session introducing us to WISElearn.  WISElearn is an expansive catalogue of resources for educators (some only for WI teachers).  I was very skeptical about this at first until I actually started digging in.  These resources have been closely vetted.  Also, the experience of finding resources is like shopping with a great filter system.  We can filter and drill down by grade level, content, and even specific standards. For example, I could look for activities and resources that address specific Common Core Standards or Next Generation Science Standards.  
What I was ultimately embarrassed by today was that although I had heard of open educational resources, but I didn’t know about I am actually quite ashamed that this is not something educators in my district are talking about everyday.  I am looking forward to working with my PLC to dig deep into what is offered here. It’s arranged so elegantly.  I look forward to having my students find activities they can search out here and propose to me as their teacher to meet a specific standard.
This is really pretty crazy awesome.  After this session I was all like, “I can’t wait to dig into this!” But, then I realized this was only the first session.
If it ever seems like you may be isolated in your classroom and don’t feel that connected to other teachers in the building, imagine how disconnected you feel from your neighboring districts. That’s how I felt when I heard about the amazing things going on in New Berlin, our neighbor to the south. Jennifer Schlie-Reed and Caroline Haebig presented a great session on metacognition in their district. Specifically, how their learners are using reflection and feedback to understand the process of learning.
They did a great job of framing their reflection and feedback practices as learning FOR assessment. In this mode, the process that students go through as a part of the assessment process requires them to go through the process of deep learning associated with skills and content.
The feedback process requires five key steps.  
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What Caroline and Jennifer advocate for so well is the use of technology tools to facilitate the process. Steps 1 and 2 are need to be transparent and clearly designed by teachers. But, the ability to provide feedback and assessment open up the opportunities for students to choose modes that meet their own needs. In order to do this, the outcomes and criteria must be designed to allow for multiple modes of expression.  If they do not, you have already constructed obstacles that may block access to populations of students.

Their full presentation can be accessed below. Chew on it for a while. I'm still on my first bite. Also I look forward to investigating some of the great texts that they recommend.

Like a great work of art, this is one of those presentations educators could sit through and glean new information and strategies each time.  It’s always exciting to realize that there is a common vision in a neighboring district.  The issue is when are we ever going to have a chance to meet and discuss.  How do we move from a district PD model to a regional PD model with annual resource sharing?  That question is well above my pay grade.

The final session of the day I had the pleasure of presenting with two of my educational muses, Kate Sommerville and Angela Patterson.  We got to sing the praises of the tech tool that has redefined learning in my classroom, Pear Deck. Pear Deck is a rapid cycle feedback tool that allows instructors to increase engagement during large group instruction.  More than that, though, it allows instructors to create lessons that students can work through at their own pace.  In either scenario, large group or self paced, instructors can see how each student is doing and the class as an aggregate.  This powerful and immediate feedback helps guide learning for the class as a whole or helps teachers implement specific remediations or enrichments for students.
If you go to the URL below and enter the code, you will be able to walk through our Pear Deck.
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So, that was day one.  It was a wonderful day.  Kind of on overload here.  But, I’ll catch a few hours of sleep and get ready for a couple of more great sessions on Wednesday.

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