I had about 750 words done on this post the first time, and somehow, the “save draft” button failed me, so I’m not sure what this will turn into! 🙂

Last week, I had the change to attend the fifth Technology Intregration Conference (#TICAEA1) held in Dubuque, Iowa.  It’s a tremendous regional conference, and those who you are part of Iowa Ed Chat, I’d love to see you attend!  Not many times that you have the chance to see outstanding, nationally known, keynote speakers, play with robots, and attend mind stretching breakout sessions for such a small cost.

Now that I’ve given you my PSA about the conference, my take aways:

1) Silly rabbit, it’s about relationships!

I tweeted this out


As we listened to our keynote speakers, Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann) and Jennie Magiera (@msmagiera), BOTH spoke of ways they created relationships.  Jon, a pioneer in the flipped classroom (or godfather even!), talked of how he was able to connect with his students on a more personal level because of his flipped room.  As Jon asked us, “What is the best use of your face to face class time?”  It’s it doing those low level Bloom’s tasks, or can change that, allow students to do those tasks via video, then come back and dig deeper, connecting with students more personally through their work? As Jennie talked about relationships in her session, she talked of helping students “find a better version of themselves” through social media, about who this is where they are, and we need to help them navigate a place where your mistake is now amplified through social media.  Tough tasks, but that’s what we SHOULD be doing.  Why do we need to continue to be told to create relationships, then not do it?  That’s what leaves me baffled for certain.

2) Meet your students where they are at.

Are you on Instagram? Twitter? Snapchat? Facebook?  If not, why not?  This is where your students are and in growing numbers, where your parents are at too!  In a session by Karla Duff (@teacher6th) and Mary Beth Steggall (@mrssteggall), they gave us several ways that their group in Oelwein connected via social media with their project, Oelwein Water Walk.   In another presentation given by Dean Dahl (@dahlhouse500) and Meghan Haselbauer (@megsbauer), they talked to us not only about technology used to connect, but about teaching their sixth graders the appropriate manner to use those tools.  From helping to organize bookmarks to teaching proper email etiquette to having an “Untitled Clean Up Day” in their Google Docs, Dean and Meghan really focused on making it student centered and meeting those students at their skill level and pushing forward.  Their presentation can be found here.

3) Create the environment that keeps them coming back for more.

That fits right into the first two.  If you have the relationships, the connections created, and you are meeting them where ever they are, it seems obvious that you want to create that environment in your classroom that keeps them excited.  Sometimes that’s with the flipped classroom.  Now, many think that a flipped classroom is only for a math class or maybe a grammar class.  In the presentation, How Do We Flipping Do This, Deb Day (@mrsday75), Tanya Riehle (@artteach13), and Libby Schwade (@lschwade) gave us some insight into a flipped classroom that’s a little different.  Deb talked with us about the creative writing class, Tanya in her art class, and Libby in her world language class.  All talked about how flipping their respective subjects gave them more time to work on a more individual basis with students, creating more excitement for learning in their classrooms.  Their presentation can be found here.

That environment means having the proper tools as well, and there were many tools out there for teachers to check out.  There were robots galore (which I had a chance to play with a little bit), drones flying all over the place (didn’t have a chance to see them), and computer tools!  Lindsay Salinas (@iatechieteach) hit on three great ones: Boomwriter, ThinkLink, and Zaption.  All three have that ability to connect students in a way to get them excited about what they are doing.  What I liked, it got teachers excited! I tweeted out about this, and one teacher tweeted back to me how this could be a “game changer” in his classroom. I love it!  Her presentation can be found here. Julie Ludovissy (@bludovissy) and Julie Lange (no twitter found) gave us the “Tech Ten”: 10 web sites, 10 apps, and 10 tools.  There were also presentations about Chrome extensions along with a wealth of knowledge just shared between teachers sitting near each other.

It’s the relationships that will make the difference, not the technology.  I’m one who loves using the tech in his classroom.  I feel that it’s where my students are at and who am I NOT to try to meet them there.  But I also give them the face time to vent, to share that their cat had kittens, that they had a crappy morning, because if I don’t do that, no amount of technology will ever matter.  I’ve said this to a couple of people and know it to be true.  I know I’m not always a very good teacher: I’m unorganized, I don’t communicate well with other teachers, and am a procrastinator.  However, I know my students, period, and that gets me results.  They know that I care and while still middle school students (silly, crazy, mildly inappropriate), they will perform the tasks I need them to.  In the end, if we as a profession cannot wrap our heads around that idea of relationships, we’ll continue to struggle as a whole.

I’m excited to go back through my notes and saving information to see how this can make changes in my classroom. I’m excited to share with other teachers in the district who didn’t attend.  But most of all, I’m excited to see 600+ teacher giving up a couple of days in June (beautiful days I might add) to sit inside for the betterment of their students.  That gives me hope for the future!

Thank you for staying with me this long!  I wish you a wonderful summer and hope you have that same excitement about your profession! 🙂