Thanks for the memories NYSCATE!

Originally posted November 28, 2017
I hope everyone had a very happy and relaxing Thanksgiving holiday break. Not only am I recovering from two-7 hour drives, but my brain is still trying to process all of the information I gained while attending the NYSCATE conference in Rochester, NY from November 19-21. The last time I attended the conference it was held in Albany, NY and the attendees received a Palm Pilot…(needless to say, it’s been a while).
I have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the sessions I attended as well as the Key Note speakers. Tom Murray was on Sunday night, and he really made me think about school culture, who creates that culture, and how/why we use technology in schools (among many other things).
(I just noticed, I can see myself taking this picture! LOL)
The next day was Chris Emdin. Wow! Talk about an engaging speaker and someone who forces you to think out of your comfort zone. There were some key quotes I took away from his talk:
  • “You don’t teach grit, you activate grit.” It is already there for kids.
  • “We need to re-imagine the classroom first” before you can address integration of technology to impact learning
Although I really enjoyed all of the sessions I attended, there are four I am going highlight and I will reflect on them in the order they occurred.
I started my first day attending SketchNoting with Andy Wheelock. I have heard (and seen) a lot about this topic all over Twitter and I believe that students learn better with visuals, so this was the perfect way for me to start my NYSCATE adventure. I enjoyed seeing some of the research that backs up the idea of Sketchnoting, but even better, I like that Andy had us take the new information we gained from that research and create a SketchNote for it. I also enjoyed seeing how other people opted to draw their ideas. Best of all, he provided us with resources to not only see people who are well known for their use of SketchNoting, but also information to help us become better and tools to use to practice. I can see many uses for SketchNoting in the classroom, and I look forward to sharing this with the teachers I work with.
The next session (which I volunteered to be a presider for) was one I was very much looking forward to since my main focus for attending this conference was gain more information to not only bring back the teachers in my district, but also ways to help me improve my craft as a technology coach. Although the title was what grabbed my attention (Moving Up the SAMR Continuum: Coaching for Transformational Learning) it was the content that kept me engaged and delighted that I chose this session. The experience and knowledge shared by Vincy Murgillo and Megan Hugg was exactly what I was hoping for. I was just having a conversation with my fellow District Tech Coach about the idea that the coaching training we have attended doesn’t always 100% address our needs as tech coaches, so this was so helpful!
I have to say I have become a lil bit of a Twitter fan of Monica Burns, so when I saw that she was going to be presenting at NYSCATE I knew I had to make it to one of her sessions. I chose Tasks Before Apps: Elevate & Energize Traditional Learning Experiences because I think it is easy to get caught up in the tech tool, and forget about the learning goal. My biggest take away from her session was the idea of providing authentic audiences for our students. “If no one sees the work, it is the same as keeping the work in a pile on your desk.” This really resonated with me. She shared a book trailer project made with Adobe Spark which used icons and student voiceover to share information about the book, which was then made into a QR code that was placed on the book in the school library. HELLO?!?! There are so many reasons why this idea is awesome! I have already shared it with my fellow coaches as well as an English teacher who I already had introduced to Adobe Spark. We met, I shared this idea and she is now adjusting her project to collaborate with the librarian to make it happen. WINNING!
Last, but certainly not least (and I am not including this because I won a Nearpod VR headset…oh yes I did!!!) is Leverage Technology to Sculpt Culture & Ignite Innovation with Elisabeth Bostwick. There are so many ideas that stood out for me from this session. Elisabeth used a variety of visuals and quotes which, for me, helped send home the message. There seemed to be a common thread to many of the ideas that were being shared at the conference in general and in this sessions as well, one of which is to focus on the WHY (Ted Talk by Simon Sinek) and that many schools still look the same as they did in the early 1900’s. We, as tech trailblazers, need to disrupt in order to help innovate. This image she shared spoke to me:
This was such a great conference and I am so grateful I was able to attend and expand my coach’s toolbox all while adding to my Twitter professional learning network. There was a true sense of collaboration and camaraderie! Thank you NYSCATE!

Decisions, Decisions…Delivering Digital Content

(Originally posted October 3, 2017)

WOW! What a crazy few weeks it has been! I have been thinking about this post for awhile, and with all of the inquiries I have been getting lately, I thought no time like the present!

Within the next two months, my district will be deploying Chromebook carts to our two high schools.  With the excitement of this making its way around the district, a number of teachers have asked if it was possible to digitally deliver their content to their students and make it more engaging.

I immediately thought of NearPod, since it was something that I used with iPads in my classroom when I taught 5th grade.  If you are not sure what NearPod is, here is a great short video that gives a thorough overview.  What I like the most about NearPod, is that they give you a fully functional FREE account.  So you can actually, invest time and energy into creating interactive lessons that you can use longer than a 30-day free trial that many other companies offer.  They even give you the option to upgrade for FREE.
Out of all of the additional features you get with the Gold Edition, the one that I find most useful is the ability to deliver a student-paced lesson (anytime, anywhere) rather than a live session (all students at the same time) which comes with the basic account.  If you are using Google Classroom, Schoology or Canvas in your district, NearPod integrates well with all three.
Something else that sets NearPod apart from the crowd is its vast library of pre-made lessons available for a large range of grade levels and content areas.  Wait for it…they also have VR lessons that you can use with (or without) VR viewers.  Since I first heard of and started using NearPod I have seen them expand their offerings and collaborations, creating more and more quality, engaging lessons.

It just so happens I tried Pear Deck for the first time recently when I was delivering an Introduction to Chromebooks staff development class to teachers in my district.  Pear Deck is very active on Twitter, so I thought I would give it a shot when trying to show teachers how they can better utilize their Chromebooks.  If you are new to Pear Deck, they have some ‘training’ decks that provide you with previews of the various types of questions you can deliver, however, they are just that-previews-so they are not interactive and you are not able to see how they actually work.  If you are relatively tech savvy, it has a pretty small learning curve and is definitely worth looking into.

Although Pear Deck does not offer as many delivery options as NearPod, I did like that you also had a fully functional product from the start.  There are some key features that you can only get with the Premium Account: the key one that I feel is the biggest loss is the ability to do DRAWING SLIDES.  Since my teachers will have access to touchscreen Chromebooks, the ability to have students respond with a drawing (annotation) is something that I am really looking for when looking to deliver digital content.  They also limit the number of PDFs (and Google Slides) you can import with the FREE account, which can limit your ability to deliver pre-made material.

The last platform I wanted to talk about was Book Widgets. WOW! I found them on Twitter as well, and it piqued my interest.   I think this is a fabulous tool! If you want to take a look at some of the examples of the different ways you can deliver content to your students take a look here.  Once you create your Widget, you can share it with students to work on independently (a BONUS) or you can embed the link to a website.  At this time, I have not had the opportunity to use this with either students and/or teachers (as students), but I see great promise with it.  The BIGGEST downfall, and unfortunately it is HUGE, is that they only offer you a FREE 30-day trial, after that it’s $49/year.  By the time you find the time to learn something new and then make all of the lessons, your trial would be over…

Unfortunately, for many of us, if we want to use something like this in our classroom, would have to pay for it out of pocket. (On a side note, in case people are not aware, as it is teachers spend hundreds and some thousands of dollars a year for classroom supplies.)  For those of us that may be lucky enough to work in a district that would pay for this, often times a month isn’t enough proof to support the investment.


Do you use these products? Have you found others that you feel work well with your students? I would love to hear from you!