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.



Inservice Week #1

Last week began our new school year. Inservices never seem to be what they should, but then again, what should they be? Should they be speeches from important personnel and then a guy who spoke of Sherpas and climbing Mount Everest? Which, by the way, I’m not entirely sure of what his point was. He lost me and all I could think about was I knew he had sponsors, but he spent an enormous sum of money to climb a mountain. Maybe I just don’t get it. I just thought about all the other things that money could be used for.

The next few days were staff meetings and department meetings. I was able to meet with all but one of my middle school departments in one afternoon. I’m excited to be working with all of them and even more excited that many said they’d love for me to be in their classrooms with them. I had great conversations with several departments at the high school.

For me, I didn’t really feel like I gained enough. Apparently, my departments felt similar. They just want time to work with their colleagues – from what everyone described, they want the “unconference” or “EdCamp” model. I wish I knew that this would fly with my district staff, but I’m afraid to bring it up and then have it be a failure.

What if staff didn’t show up to where they needed to be? What if what they were doing wasn’t for student learning? What if they didn’t hold themselves accountable?

Anyone else have this for their district inservices or teacher professional development? I’d love to know how to start something like this and have it be valuable for staff and students while still holding people accountable for their actions.

Aside from that, in one week we will be handing out our first Chromebooks to students. My fingers are crossed that we won’t have too many hiccups. Keep watching to find out how that week goes!

Summer ‘Break’ is Over

August 1 has always signaled the end of summer for me as a teacher. It’s when I really started putting in a lot of hours in my classroom, creating new lessons, etc. Basically, putting together all the cool things that I’d learned about over the summer while I was ‘on break.’ 

This summer was much different. I found a good balance between work and play time with my boys. June, my team of tech coaches and I ran a Technology Coach Seminar course for any interested high school students. It was a blended course and they could attend help sessions if they needed them or they could choose to work at home. The students were required to become proficient users of Google Apps products, create and use tools such as social bookmarking, advanced searching, discussion boards, wikis, blogs, screencast software, and other web tools that they might have chosen. Students had to create a tutorial in whatever fashion they wanted that would walk a person (like grandma) through setting up a social bookmarking account and why you would use it or a wiki, etc. Each project they completed needed a tutorial to go with it. Students also built e-portfolios and reflected on their work.

The objective of this course was to create high school Help Desk trainers for our high school. We knew we needed more than the four Tech Coaches and the four IT guys to keep the district running and make sure that 2400 Chromebooks were functional and being utilized. Some of our students really excelled with the online learning and some found it wasn’t for them yet. Our Help Desk students are now ‘certified’ by us to train other students, go into classrooms and help the teachers with the technology, and do some of the basic troubleshooting or maintenance on the Chromebooks. We have two retired teachers who will supervise the Help Desk, while the Tech Coaches are out and about. I’m pretty excited to see these students flourish and continue to add to their portfolios. 

The summer also saw me spending an abundance of time working with the Common Core math curriculum. The math scores in our district need a boost and the staff were asking for new strategies and resources. I took a lot of time and built a website for the staff with lesson plans, resources, interactive games & manipulations that are all tied to each individual common core standard for K-8. I wasn’t what you would call a “math” person before doing all of this work, but I fell in love with the CC math curriculum and the resources I was finding. I haven’t released it to the district yet, mainly because I’m nervous about what people are going to think. Lame. Yes, I know. The few staff members that I have shared it with are loving it and have told me that I need to sell it. Anyone know how I can do this? 🙂 

August 1 this year found me at EdCamp Oshkosh. #Oshedcamp. Thanks to the Oshkosh staff members Lexi Ballweg (@lexiballweg), Kristi Levy (@KristiLevy), Jeff See (@JeffreyASee), and Nicholas Levy for making that such a great experience for me! It was my first EdCamp and I was happy to be having wonderful conversation with people who really wanted to be there and who wanted to drive their own learning and professional development. If you have a chance, don’t just go to an EdCamp, RUN there. 

This next month will see a lot of changes in my department. We’re in the midst of re-structuring or re-organizing our ISC (instructional support center), our director of curriculum will change due to a retirement (We’ll miss you John! and Welcome Danica!), and we have 2400 Chromebooks being distributed in the next month. Over the next few weeks, my team will be working with administrators by themselves to help them learn more technology; we’ll be holding technology PD sessions on Google Apps, Flipping the Classroom, SMARTboards, Haiku training, and even a Tech Unconference. We’re finalizing our registration day plans for the high school as well as our Chromebook roll-out in September. 

My goal and I’m posting it publicly is to blog twice a week. After being at EdCamp Oshkosh, I know that I have a lot to say and I know a lot more than I thought I did. So keep watching for new posts!

On a personal note, I will also be blogging about my personal life. Why? Because I want to keep a record of my boys. They are four and two and crazy. I never knew the things that would come out of my mouth as the mother of two boys. I will also be blogging about freezer meals (I’m a once a month cook), whole foods cooking, and gardening.