Coming from a district that is not wealthy by any means, the idea of a tech conference is one that’s become less and less a reality.  However, through our area education agency, the Technology Integration Conference has been born.  This is the third year of this conference, the first being fairly small, but very well attended.  Last year, they moved to a local college and really saw an increase in both the size of the population who attended, and the wide range of topics. This year, we are in Dubuque, with 740 educators in attendance! Amazing growth, and for the cost, it’s a truly great opportunity for those of us who cannot get to even regional conferences anymore.


Our keynote speaker was Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) who spoke to us about Common Core in the Cloud.  Much of what she talked about what how we need to reinvent how we teach.  We cannot simply add technology, but teach the same way.  She also talked a lot about how we have always been a nation high in creativity and HOTS, higher order thinking skills.  However, with the rampent standardized testing, the higher order thinking skill can get crowded out by the LOTS, lower order thinking skills.  It was great to hear Vicki in person as she’s been a follow of mine of Twitter.


My second section was also with Vicki, dealing with the flattening of the classroom.  Again, much talk about higher order thinking skills and how students must become independent thinkers.  Co-collaboration is where as teachers we should be aiming our students when we start to flatten our classrooms.  There are many different ways of doing this whether it be with a social science project such as a tree banding project through the Smithsonian or Mystery Skypes with different connected classrooms. The point is that you are making connections that are outside of your little area of the world.


Next, Brenda Knobloch (@bkknobloch) talked with us about paperless grading.  The main focus of her presentation was an app called Moxtra ( This app can be run through Google Docs, is free, and offers a great way to offer collaboration between teacher, student, and others! This will be something that I will certainly look into this summer as I’ll be a 6th grade teacher working with our 1:1 program!


Lunch was a hoot with teachers from our school and my beautiful wife Melissa (@mharveyjohnston). I don’t get to go with conferences with her at all, so this is a treat for both of us!


My afternoon started off with being a connected educator by Jimmy Casa (@casas_jimmy) and Matt Degner (@mwdegner) Both of these men have been on my list of face to face meets for a long time because of the work that I see them doing online.  Both have a tremendous online presence and just are good people.  There presentation was just that, excellent.  Pulling from some big names in the Twitter world along with others they’ve met along the way, the idea that we as teachers must have a voice in the conversation both for ourselves and our students came out loud and clear. Much of what they said and presented made sense, but for me, the highlight of this session was afterwards in getting the chance to meet them both.


Finally, the last session was dealing with middle school literacy. All three women who presented are in a neighboring district which makes it that much more meaningful!  They talked about their 1:1 standards they held their sixth graders to, before they go their computers. They talked Edmodo, Schoology, and Moodle as learning management systems (Edmodo is my favorite).

And of course, apps and websites: and Both were described as ways of adding authentic learning to literacy with additional knowledge and research needed to fill out books. A mind mapping web site that runs with the Google Domain. It can be saved via pdf or image, or it can be shared as well. This web site was used with a 6th/K collaboration to create bullying stories.  The web site itself does a good job of describing how exactly it works.


All in all, this was a great first day of learning!  I love to thank the volunteers who’ve kept this show running all day long.  My wife has commented numerous times that the Internet, the response time to problems, all of it matches or is better then some of the national conferences she’s attended!  I’m also grateful for all those at the AEAs who’ve worked so hard to put this on.  740 educators in attendance means that something here is being done right!


My highlights for the day:


1) Being here with my wife! We don’t get this opportunity to travel together as professionals. Very cool indeed! For those of you who are in early childhood, she’d love to hear from you!


2) Meeting so many people and renewing connections with others! I had the chance to meet and talk with many teachers from the Howard-Winn school district, and they again brought a tremendous group with them!  Also had a chance to talk with Scott Boylen (@iowasboy) a connection made last year, and Jarod Bormann (@jbormann3) who presented on flipped classrooms today.


3) Seeing so many educators giving of themselves to make their students better in the long run.  It’s summer.  It’s time to recharge via books, sleeping in, coffee on the porch, and a good long nap in the afternoon. Yet, 740 educators were here in Dubuque by 8:45 to hear Vicki Davis speak, and I’d imagine the same amount will be here tomorrow to hear Eric Sheninger (aka @NMHS_Principal) speak. Makes me proud to be an Iowa teacher (pun intended) knowing how passionate my colleges are.


My wish, that I can someday life up to the examples set by so many of the teachers who presented and attended here today!  Tomorrow is another awesome day of learning! Beyond the fact the Spurs shot themselves in the foot, tomorrow will be a great day!