WI STEM Summit Recap

This last week I was able to attend the WI STEM Summit in Wisconsin Dells for two days. I was a little unsure of what I would gain from going to a STEM conference at first, but then was reminded that between my knowledge in technology and project based learning, I’d be a good fit at a conference like this.

The first keynote speaker was Murray Banks. Murray spoke of Reenergizing and Refocusing. He discussed GG – also known as group griping. I realized that I do this and many staff do it. It made me realize that I need to remember to adopt a positive attitude all the time. I’m struggling with this this week, but I’m trying to remember the old phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.”

I enjoyed Murray’s speech and wanted to hear more about what he thought about Inspirational Leadership in his roundtable discussion during the first breakout session. I was with a small group and Murray reminded us that we are in tough positions. I didn’t take away anything amazing from the session. Great conversation, but nothing that was above and beyond what I thought/knew already. Except that I should apparently not wear high heels into the Tech Ed classrooms because you should dress closer to what the people you are talking to wear. I have to wear safety glasses, I am not ready to give up heels yet.

Fast forward to after lunch to a breakout session on the Next Generation Science Standards. I believe that I may have slept with my eyes open. You can always tell when presenters haven’t been in a classroom in a long time, or ever.

Third session of the first day was from Project Lead the Way. I knew a little about PLTW, but was hoping to get more in depth into what they actually do. Not so much. This felt more like a sales pitch than anything else. I did steal some great ideas from what they are doing though: Mom’s Night Out, lots of PR pieces, etc.

The second day of the conference yielded much better sessions for me (or maybe I just got better at picking them….depends on how you want to look at it). Our keynote speaker on day two was Marc Prensky. Marc was a great keynote speaker! His focus was on using technology for more than trivial things. He engaged us with active learning strategies throughout his entire presentation. C’mon….how many keynote speakers know the phrase and actively do it? This was pretty great. My take away from Marc was “If you did the same thing before computers and now it’s just on the computer, it’s trivial and not helping students.” So true.

After the keynote, I went to the first session given by Florentia Spires about STEM schools in an urban setting. If you have the chance to hear her speak, you had better take it. Wow! She was one of the best speakers I’ve been to in awhile. She was very articulate and intelligent in the topic. She used a group active learning strategy of actually engineering a tower during the allotted and how it tied in. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. She sparked many ideas for me.

The next session I attended was with Marc Prensky. A very small, think five people, roundtable discussion about the Yes, Buts… in education. Marc is very knowledgeable and personable. We discussed our 1:1 rollout with Chromebooks and different ideas that we could take back with us. I already have my students working on some of them now!

The last session I headed to was about turning your classroom into a total tech paradise in one year with Krista Moroder. I was very excited to attend this session as I’ve heard Krista speak at other conferences and EdCamps in the area. She started out really strong and I loved the first part of her presentation and then you could tell she got a bit rattled when people left the presentation and lost her oomph to present. When she started walking people through Google Apps and how to create documents, I left. Being a Google Certified Trainer myself, I didn’t feel like that was the best use of my time. Sorry Krista!

All in all, I’d say Day 2 was very intriguing for me and Day 1 was just there. I enjoyed learning about everything and had some wonderful take away ideas that maybe someday I’ll get to implement when I’m coaching staff. One can hope.



Chromebook Queen or Jester?

This past month since the Chromebooks have been rolled out at the high school has been a complete blur. 

We have roughly five to ten students per day with some sort of issue with their Chromebooks that appear at our Help Desk. Sometimes the issue is hardware, sometimes software, sometimes just plain, old user error. I feel as though my team members and I have become the Chromebook Kings and Queens (or maybe the Jesters!). On a daily basis we are resetting passwords for Skyward and Haiku, helping students to schedule their I/E blocks in Skyward, find the correct Haiku site for our domain, and showing students the basics of Google Apps and Chrome Apps and Extensions. 

We have an AMAZING IT director who has been unbelievably supportive and dedicated to this huge undertaking. He spends his short amount of time at the high school during the week with one other IT person and our Help Desk students fixing screens (when will the students stop sitting on their computers?!), flipping back the switch and reloading computers. These are our top hardware issues. Once in a great while we get a funky trackpad or keyboard, but the majority of errors are because of the screens and flipped switches. 

We have a cart of 30 rental Chromebooks for students who have their Chromebooks in for repair, just need a quick charge or left theirs at home to use throughout the day. Unfortunately, the cart has been emptied every day this week. Hopefully we see students not having to check out as many in the upcoming weeks.

We have four extremely helpful Help Desk students who are able to fix the hardware and software issues. It’s pretty amazing to watch what the students can do as when they are given the tools, instruction and trust to just go ahead and fix things. 

There are days when I wonder what in the world we were thinking with this huge undertaking and then there are even more days when I am thankful that we chose to go 1:1 with Chromebooks. The response from the vast majority of students has been amazing. When you have a student crying to you with happiness of how much better this computer has made her life and the lives of her family members, you remember that resetting passwords and fixing screens is all worth while.