Saturday, June 27, 2015

North Alabama Technology Conference 2015

This past week I attended the North Alabama Technology Conference (NATC) at Hazel Green High School in Hazel Green, Alabama.

I was encouraged to apply to present my flipped classroom by our system's technology coordinator. I was accepted, and I used the presentation I gave to my school's faculty in April.

My session, "Flipping - It's Not Just for Cheerleaders Anymore," was in the first time-slot of the first day. After getting a couple of technical kinks worked out, I attended the morning's keynote presentation (more on that later), and went back to my room to present.

Two people attended my session. One was the mother of a student I taught this past year; she is working on her education degree and subs in our system. The other was a Hazel Green High School chemistry teacher. She had done some flipping by providing videos for her students who needed extra instruction.

The session was very laid back. The current education student was able to ask some questions, and the two veteran teachers were able to share things we had done in our classrooms for our students.

And I got to talk about what I love. :)

Sure, I would have liked to have had a room full of people, but just getting to practice sharing my flipped classroom was good, and reflecting on the year got me excited about it all over again.

The rest of my time during the two days of the conference was spent learning.

The opening keynote was presented by Travis Allen, CEO and founder of iSchool Initiative. Oh, and he's a college senior. He was amazing. He was just the person we veteran teachers need to tell us how to reach "that kid" in our classrooms: the bright but bored and disengaged student. It was great to hear about the progression of technology and how to best use it in our classrooms from the perspective of one who has grown up with it.

All three of my Tuesday sessions were spent with Barry Wiginton, a representative from Alabama Technology in Motion, a wonderful resource for Alabama educators I was unfamiliar with.

His first presentation was on SMART Boards. I am in constant need of learning and being reminded of the capabilities of my board. My biggest takeaway from that session was a shortcut for how to get to the orientation screen. I'm not sure how I've had my board for so long and didn't know that trick.

After lunch I went to the presentation about Google forms and Flubaroo. I played around with Google forms just a bit this past year. He showed how to use them for formative assessment and how to grade those assessments with the add-on Flubaroo. I plan to use Google forms for students to enter summaries of videos this coming year.

I finished the day with a presentation about Google extensions. There are a lot of possibilities out there that have applications for classrooms. Of course, now I need to go back through everything he showed us and remember what I wanted to try, but thankfully Mr. Wiginton has all of his PD sessions on his website.

The second day started with a presentation from Internet safety expert, Katie Greer. I learned so much from Ms. Greer. I wish every educator, parent, and student could hear her speak. Our students have no idea the situations they're putting themselves into with what they share and who they connect with on social media and through various apps (some of which are frightening!). I highly recommend everyone follow her on Facebook.

I attended a session on Plickers. I'm not sure I will use Plickers, as I have other options since we are 1:1, but they were fun to learn about. And they might be good to use from time-to-time in my classroom just to swap things up. I have found my middle school students (maybe all students?) get tired of the same "cool" tech thing being used all the time.

I heard a fourth grade teacher's journey of flipping her classroom (math first, then social studies). While her situation is obviously different from mine, our journeys were much the same.

After lunch I went to a workshop led by the chemistry teacher who came to my session. Hazel Green High School is a BYOD school, and she was sharing tips for managing the BYOD classroom. Our 1:1 classrooms don't have all the challenges of a BYOD classroom (I only need a basic understanding of how to troubleshoot a single device), but it was good to get more classroom management tips for a classroom where everyone is holding a technological device in their hands.

While I had an hour's drive each way and was very tired at the end of the two days (I was also finishing up the last week of teaching summer school this week), I am glad I went and I learned so much I can't wait to try this coming year. I am wanting to garner the power of Google for my classroom. I go to an informative session at my high school Monday to learn more about Google Classroom, and am excited to learn how I can do so much for my students with things that work so well together and can enhance what I'm already doing in my classroom, including flipped lessons.

I have to give a short personal story about the conference. I was the only teacher from my district there, and I was probably one of only a few who had traveled so far to be there. Most everyone there was from the same district (Madison County); their conversations were very district-related, and I felt very out of place.

I was relieved to find a lady from my church there the first morning to sit with for the opening keynote address, but most of the time I was by myself. A lot of time I felt pretty lonely.

Everyone was very friendly, and I realize my feelings came from my own perceptions, but I observed how we as teachers - human beings - interact and respond to others. We stay with our group of friends and don't often reach out to those around us. It happens in faculty meetings (I know how terrified we get in my school if they make us sit with those not in our normal circles), it happens at PD events. I decided I don't like going to things like this by myself.

At lunch the second day, I felt like I was back in junior high. There were all these groups of friends/teachers, and I was sitting by myself (I was one of the first ones to sit down for lunch). I was so happy to see the Hazel Green chemistry teacher come toward me with one of her friends and ask, "May we sit with you?"

I did make new connections and new friends, and I'm very thankful for those. But I hope my experience will make me more aware of others who need reaching out to the next time I'm at an event like this.

We teachers can learn from each other. And we need each other.