Well, I’ve been home, had a good night sleep, worried about the 7+ inches of rain we’ve gotten and now, to write up my second day of learning.

I started the day out with a technology integration specialist from our AEA who did a presentation on PK – 3 literacy apps.  A big thank you to Deb Henkes (@dhenkes) and the great presentation that she did.  While I’m not in the age group, I walked out with the presentation (http://goo.gl/4Gt31A) and a great list of apps that I could share out too.  I’ll have to say, Endless Alphabet has been a favorite of our family (daughters now 14 and 16) for many years. I was shocked to see it is now $5.99 as we all have it on our devices, playing with it from time to time! Check out “itchy”. 🙂

We had the privilege of hearing from Lisa Johnson aka “The Tech Chef” (@TechChef4u).  Like Richard Byrne the day before, Lisa gave us a very thoughtful talk about the recipe for learning. Learning is slow cooked not rushed, that it’s modified and polished, that we need to add our secret ingredient in, and that most of all we need to share.  She shared out a great many different quotes from educators who’ve answered a Google form of her about technology.  I’m not sure if this was one of them or not, but the quote was “Sharing is not bragging, it’s our moral obligation!”  What a powerful statement to a profession that does very little to self-promote.  We need to share all the awesome things, and use social media to control that story. (That was a major theme of many of the presenters I had the pleasure of viewing.)

We had three break out sessions today, the first being “What is Flip” by Jarod Bormann.  What I appreciated about this session what that is wasn’t a “sit and get” in the least.  We talked to our neighbors about a variety of topic in the flipped classroom venue.  From the “what is it” to “why do it” to “why not do it”, we had a very spirited conversation going on, with Jarod fielding a ton of questions and keeping things going in a positive manner.  What I also appreciated was the fact the Google doc (tinyurl.com/tic14) of this presentation was populated and edited by us, so we could see each other’s thinking.  All and all, this was a successful session for me because while I tried this a bit over the course of the year, it was pretty much a failure.  I can see a few things I can improve upon myself that will make this so much more useful both for students and myself!  I’ll link his second section (http://goo.gl/Sxhuwr) which is more of a “how to” web site.  I’ll also put a shout out to Sophia Learning (http://www.sophia.org/) as they have a self-guided course on flipping classrooms that I’ll be trying out soon.  Thank you Jarod for the work done both before and during this session.

I didn’t attend Jarod’s second session, the how to, because I went to the session “Genius Time: Supporting Passion-Based Learning” done by Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth).  If you aren’t familar with this, Genius Time/Genius Hour is modeled after Google’s “20% Time” where their employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time working on a project they are passionate about.  This concept has flowed into the educational setting, allowing for students to work on their own interests, yet, working on grade level content standards as well.  She got us going right off the bat, trying to push us into coming up with a driving question for our own year long professional development and showing us that it’s almost exactly what we do to our students.  This idea of Genius Hour is one that needs the guiding/driving question, one that is not “Googleable” (awesome word).  If it can be found through a Google search, it’s not a deep enough question.  We also talked about the “CRAAP” method of evaluating information, web site especially (Currency (timelyness), Relevance, Authority (source), Accuracy, and Purpose. Her three rules for Geninue Time: 1) That there is a guiding question (see above). 2) That there is quality research being done (see above as well). 3) There is sharing going on.  Even if the project isn’t done, an update can be given.  The Google presentation she linked to us (http://goo.gl/Jn8Efx) has a ton of great information like this.  Many of the pictures are hyper linked, so scroll over them for either the web site or more information.

My last session also happened to be with Shaelynn, titled “It’s Time to Get Connected”.  Obviously, this was about being a connected educator and how to go about doing this if you weren’t.  I was happy to see there were a few people on Twitter, but for this conference going through four years, I thought there’d be more.  We talked about Twitter as such a huge resources, both in the classroom and professionally.  We also talked many of the other social medias out there: Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Voxer, Google+, Linkedin, WordPress, and others.  As with many of the other sessions, it’s our message to control IF we use the social media tools we have.  If not, we give that control to someone else and their Facebook page or the newspaper’s website, or word of mouth.  Through these tools, we can create so much good will, and Shaelyenn talk about how districts might be finally starting to loosen up on social media (we’ll see).

Finally, our last session was “Topping Off TIC”, a big old ice cream social where many prizes were given away.  Highlighting this, two $250 gift certificates from Scholatic Book and an iPad Mini!  I’d love to post my picture with one of these prizes, but alas, no, my prize was ice cream and toppings! 🙂

Three of overall takeaways for me:

1) Build the relationships!  Being a connected educator, I see that daily in my Twitter account.  Whether I’m in a Tweetchat, sharing my blog, or sharing information from Flipbook or Zite, I feel those connects to the people here.  What’s better, I get to meet them as well!  Shaelynn, Dan, Aaron Maurer (@coffeechugbooks) and Tim Scholze (@scholzet) are all active members of my PLN whom I’ve never had the pleasure to meet before this conference.  I’m a better person and teacher for their inspiration, and it was awesome to be able to spend a few minutes with each one of them.  Next time, it may be a little more time as we continue to grow together.  On top of that, I bet I added 15 new people to my network, teachers, principals, and a couple of superintendents too! What a great way to build a network of regional educators, focused on the good work of educating our children!

2) The tech is a tool.  That was echoed in many sessions: technology will never replace good teaching, having good teaching will only accent technology.  These are educators who are risk takers, ones who push the envelope whether it’s the superintendent who’s taking their school 1 to 1 or the teacher doing the Mystery Skypes, all are creating a place where students are learning in an environment rich in technology and learning.

3) We need to keep connected, period.  This isn’t just for teachers, but principals, superintendents, tech coordinators, all of us.  I was happy to see more teachers on Twitter, yet it wasn’t half.  In many sessions, I heard, “I don’t have time to ________” with social media.  It drives my wife nuts sometimes, I know this, but I make the time to keep my connections.  Last year, they were my lifeline into a more positive vibe and direction.  Without those connections, both with educators and other people on Twitter, my overall outlook would have been much more negative.  With them, I was able to share, but also able to be a friend, mentor, and just that guy who posts stuff about the Hawkeyes, Cowboys, and Spurs!  Those connections extend to our parents, our students, our community.  We are in a time where we can share so many good things, yet we don’t.

I’ll leave you with that quote from above: “Sharing is not bragging, it’s our moral obligation!”

The more we share, the more we connect, the better our overall teaching becomes.

Thank you Keystone AEA for another great conference. I hope that 700 people shows that yes, we are craving a conference like this! 🙂