My first blog post of the new year and what a great one to talk about!

Our school district, in partnership with a couple of other district in the area, pooled resourced and managed to get Kevin Honeycutt to come and talk with us.  Now, if you’ve not heard of Kevin Honeycutt, my guess is you aren’t running in a connected educator type of circle. His web site is FULL of awesome techie kinds of stuff as he looks to leverage the power of the Internet and social media, connecting students with each other and other experts.  However, his web site also has the power of his story, his inspiration attached to it as well.

This is what he talked to us about this morning, how we can tell our story, to be the ones to get the good things out in our school.  I love this idea as it’s something I’ve believed in more and more, that idea of pushing our story out as “if we don’t tell it, someone else will.”  It also goes along with being a connected educator, using the social media that out there: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and whatever else you might be using.  Kevin talked about “living online” so he could model the correct behaviors in online behaviors.  All of the stories and information presented was presented in a such a powerful inspirational way.  He also talked about different ways to leverage those websites that help our students.  Using the website to publish a book of poetry created by a girl struggling in school or CafePress to put pictures on something, there are so many ways to push our student work to the next level.  As a techie kind of guy, there’s were so many new ideas, it was just fun to play “what if” for a while!  We laughed, teared up, and generally walked out of that keynote feeling pumped to be teachers.

As an elementary teacher, we next met up with other fifth and sixth grade teacher from our area.  We had a nice discussion about Kidblog, the power of blogging, and how I have our blog opened to the world, our fifth grade teacher has it locked down to her class, and how there’s merit to both.  It’s nice to talk with other neighboring teachers as sometimes the problems of my own connected network don’t match up to those of a rural Iowa school, one dealing with the loss of a high school, the continued loss of students, and a place where the poverty level continues to grow.  It’s nice to see how our problems are similar, yet how we deal with those problems can be different.

Next, we had some breakout sessions, put on by local educators and our technology consultants.  The session I attended dealt with flipped classrooms, a session I’ve attended before.  This one however was taylored towards elementary teachers.  We had a great discussion about what this could look like in our classrooms and how it could be done with limited resources and/or Internet connections.  I’ve attached to the website we used here if you’d like to have a look at what we did.

And finally, we, all 340 of us, met back up for a send off by Kevin.  So many cool tech tools, ideas, and things that just put us in the right mind set walking back into the classroom next Monday.  The site that made me go “hmmmmm” was a place called Shapeways.  Here, you can take a model, a 3-D figure, get it printed, or better yet, sell it!  Make a little bit of cash on your creativitiy.  There’s so many different ways we can harness this idea of our student passions, but making them something marketable whether writing, art, or whatever their passions might be.

My takeaways:

– Once again, it’s about the dang connections.  Get yourself online, find a classroom to share with, and do it.  Create a learning network for yourself that you can ask questions to, laugh with, cry to, and make silly comments about.  That kind of network, that will help you as a teacher and person grown.  Get your Twitter open, your Instagram, your Voxer, and get your connections made.  Talk on Voxer, get into a Twitter chat, share your life via Instagram, show us who you are and make yourself more human to all of us, students and other educators alike!

– Help your students create a network.  Skype, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, Vine, all of these things can help our students see how other students can live in totally different areas, yet, so many things about them are the same.

– We need to help our students see that the one mistake they make online can cost them big time.  It might be in terms of a good conduct policy violation or it might be losing eligibility or losing scholarships.  We need to keep modeling the proper way of using social media along with allowing them the place to learn and make mistakes, that safe place where we can help soften the blow somewhat.

– We need to keep them busy, doing good things, so that the above mistakes that COULD happen, don’t! Help them see the right thing to do, then allow them to do some work that can demonstrate they understand what we are talking about.

It was an uplifting day, one that I hope people take to heart.  The inspiration found through Kevin, through our own local teachers, and through our breakout sessions, all of this together should combine to make some jacked up teachers come Monday.  I know I will be! 🙂

Oh, and on a side note, I created a hashtag, #NFVPD, and people posted to it.  How cool is that?? 🙂