Yesterday was the second day of our conference (found at #TIC13).  Sometimes I felt as though I was tweeting too much during this conference, but as I’ll write, I wanted to tell the story of what I was learning.  There’s too much good stuff happening here in Iowa, in our classrooms for me NOT to do that.  It’s especially hard when our media constantly is telling us how we slipped or how education in Iowa is failing our students.  If what I saw over the last two days is sampling of what’s going, our students are in safe hands.  Certainly, there is work to be done, and honestly, the system as a whole needs to change, yet, change is happening.

Anyway, enough monologing! The first order of the day was the “Flapjack App Smackdown” led by Vikki Davis.  Now, I’ll openly admit, I wanted pancakes with this, not some stupid bagel, however, breakfast disappointment aside, this was a great time! It was sitting room only (we found awesome places on the floor!) which tells you that people are interested in what others are using in their rooms!  Much of what was talked about was recorded via Today’s Meet here.

Our keynote speaker was Eric Scheninger, who can be found on Twitter as @HMHS_Principal. Much of what he talked about what how all of us in education, ALL of us “have the capacity to lead, to make a difference.”  From high person on the totem pole to low person on senority list, we all have that ability to create a change in our school however small it might be.  I loved how his school allow devices, allows social media, and trusts students.  They are taught that their choices have consequences, but are given those real world tools to solve real world problem.  Their teachers are taught “not to fear the f-word: failure” so there are new things being tried at any given moment.  

The other thing I took away from this was the idea of using social media in terms of branding.  We will be creating a new shared high school for at least the next three years, so we are in a unique situation where we can literally create a new brand.  How can we do this, showing off the positives that take place, keeping parents in a district this is physically huge involved and informed?  Along those same lines, this sharing agreement gives us a chance to tell the story that we want.  Too many rumors, the “he said this” stuff can be put to rest IF we have the methods to get the message out and create the perception that we want.  As an elementary teacher, I don’t have much pull in this, but as a middle school coach, I’m all ready putting out what I want via hashtags and when school starts via Edmodo too.  I’ve not decided if a blog will be part of all this, but it’s simply another way of putting out the positive message I want.

That social media branding is one part of a group of things the Eric called Leadership 3.0, much of which focused around  keeping the communication open, both with the public and within the classroom.  Giving students, parents, and community members that chance to collaborate and share either experiences, their voice with a larger audience is what we need in our school.

Finally, when a student of Eric’s told him “school is a prison and you are the warden” hit hard. How to be change this mentality that teachers have to be in control of the learning? We don’t, period. We need to guide, teach HOW to process the information, but the information itself is accessable to ALL students who have a device of some sort.  With tablets, smart phones, laptops, updated infrastructure, students can find out whatever they want, basically whenever they want.  We need to give them the outline of what expectations are, but beyond that, we don’t HAVE to see ourselves in that role of knowledge king or queen.  I appreciated Eric’s words greatly and as I went from session to session, they stuck with me.

My first session was dealing with SmartBoards.  I’m not sure what I expected with this session, but it didn’t come up with what I needed, and while I walked away with some resources, I was disappointed.  I did have the chance to look through the Smart Exchange more closely, so that is a positive. I’m hoping that as I go back through the resources given, that I’ll find some gems in here! 🙂

Next, Evernote and the paperless Pensive. This was a great session for me, if not a bit overwhelming because of Evernote. I got into Evernote, then for some reason worked away from it.  I love that I can create tables, audio, video, and text inside of it, but am still struggling with the add ons that were talked about.  I’ve added Skitch onto my computer, but am not quite sure of how much more it could add to Evernote, so that’s one thing I’ll be playing with this summer. Otherwise, I’m taking part in an online book student dealing with the Daily 5 and CAFE books, so I’m looking forward to seeing how else I can incorporate this technology into my classroom.

Again, lunch. How many times in a year do we get to eat a leisurely lunch with our colleges?  True, we were naughty and didn’t network, but yet, this type of networking is worth it as well! The laughter and stories shared are something that we never have the opportunity to do, to allow ourselves the time to know our co-workers a little more deeply!  I am thankful for those times!

My first afternoon session was with Shannon Miller (@shannonmiller) and creating a global voice for students. All I can say is wow, this was a power packed session with tons of great resources given. It was also unique in that Shannon was presenting at a conference in Minnesota at the time, so did this presentation remotely.  It just gives you a different idea of how learning can be done, and maybe some perspective as to how students might view learning in that way.  The link  to her resources is here.

Finally, my last session was with Bev Berns (@B_Berns) and creating a connected classroom.  Bev’s worked with our local schools last year, and created some awesome connections with our Northeast Iowa students and students all over the world.  She’s got an ambitious docket of stuff planned for the upcoming school year, and I’m excited to be a part of it!  What she talked to us about were a couple of the things that had gone on over the school year with Mystery Skyping and video math problems.  Mystery Skypes, just google that and you’ll find a ton of information about them! Great for collaboration with both students and teachers, along with various literacy and social studies skills! My goal for this upcoming year, one a month, which in the grand design should be pretty doable!   We also created a video math problem. I worked with a teacher from North Scott who was in a PC environment, and we used the MacBook.  It was a quick easy problem, but he got to see a little bit what Macs could do, and I got to see how easy this kind of problem fits right into the CGI thinking of math!  And if those in the room who weren’t overly comfortable with their technology could do create a problem, I think about my class and how they will take it and run!


All in all, this has been a very satisfying event!  I was grumpy about having to drive to Dubuque, but after being in the convention center, having fast Internet with very few hick-ups, and seeing how easily over 700 educators fit, this was a wonderful venue!  Next year’s conference (#TIC14) will be held at Luther College, just a brief drive from my house.  I’ll be interested to see how it’s put together there, but I’m super excited to show off my side of the state to the world! Luther is a gorgeous campus, and Decorah has some wonderful night spot that well hold their own for those evening “talks”!  Plus, everyone needs to experience Mabe’s Pizza and the Whippy Dip!


I leave you with this: if we aren’t the change we want in our students, who will be? Government? School reformers?  We have such opportunity here to seize control of the message and create the schools, the learning environment that we want.  However, each one of us is responsible for that, and in doing that, we must become more connected with each other, students, classrooms, administrators and teachers.