I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the years to attend and present at educational technology conferences hosted by outstanding organizations such as ISTE, CUE, Google’s EdTechTeam, National Writing Project, and NCTE. Being able to attend keynotes and sessions by nationally known educational visionaries, such as Will Richardson or Kylene Beers or Rushton Hurley, provides sufficient inspiration and innovative ideas to energize my teaching throughout the school year.
When I attend conferences outside of the Sacramento region or outside of California, I’m also aware that very few teachers from my district have been able to find the funding to cover registration and travel costs. Many are just dipping their toes into the technology integration waters and are not yet ready to submit a workshop proposal, for instance, which might entitle them to attend a conference with registration fees waved (a benefit I frequently take advantage of). And those who do attend some of the two-day, three-day, or four-day conferences often share with me that they ended their conference experience a bit overwhelmed by all the mind-blowing tips and tricks from the many technology rock star presenters.
I love what my district is doing to bring teachers on board with technology integration. Last Saturday, we hosted our 2nd annual Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminar at one of our high schools. For a mere $20 (which covered breakfast and lunch costs – and was waived if you volunteered to present), teachers could begin the morning with an amazing keynote from nationally/internationally known technology innovator and #HyperDocs queen Lisa Highfill. Following the keynote, our teachers could then select four 1-hour, hands-on sessions to attend.
To give you an idea of the wonderful variety and range of topics, here are a few session descriptions:
- Teaching in a [Semi]Paperless Google Classroom – Teachers of all grade levels can learn tips and tricks to setting up their Google Classroom and implementing assignments. Basic knowledge of Google Drive very helpful, but not required. I will show you what it looks like from teacher view and student view.
- e-Portfolios for PRIMARY Students – Start an amazing journey to meet CCSS with authentic assessment using 21st century tools. Come learn how to create digital portfolios of student work to provide them with important opportunities to reflect on, curate, and showcase their learning beyond the classroom walls. Engage easily with parents and connect them to the heart and soul of your classroom. It’s EASY, versatile, and accessible from ANY device. You’ll love it!
- Extension Must-Haves for Teachers – Chrome extensions can make you a millionaire! Okay, so not really, but they can help you and your students be more productive and isn’t that more important than money? Come learn how to install and use the top must-have extensions you need now.
- NASA & Project Spectra – Come learn about various tools you can use to teach astronomy & magnetism, grades 6-12. Get hands on practice with interactive games, find resources that augment your regular class materials and try your hand at mapping magnetism on another planet. “Project Spectra!” is a science and engineering program for 6th – 12th grade students, focusing on how light is used to explore the Solar System. “Project Spectra!” emphasizes hands-on activities, like building a spectrograph, as well as the use of real data to solve scientific questions.
I believe what makes our Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminars so immediately relevant to attending teachers is that, other than our keynote speakers, every presenter is a district teacher. Across grade levels and curriculum, our presenters share best practices that work with our students – students who the attendees may have taught in the past or may be teaching in the coming years. Add to that motivating factor the fact that all presenters are easily accessible for an on-site visit or via district email, I know many attendees left ready to implement on Monday new ideas, strategies, and tools.
It was my privilege to co-present Extending Student Voices Through Videoconferencing with Erica Swift and Twitter: What’s all the fuss about?! with Cathe Petuya. Already several teachers have contacted me with questions and ideas for weaving videoconferencing into their curriculum and others (via Twitter) to express their awe at the power of Twitter.
Given the manageable scope – and reasonable expense – of organizing and hosting a district-centered Saturday technology conference, I highly recommend this concept as an effective way to encourage technology “newbies” to explore how different tools offer new possibilities for teaching. I’m pretty sure the “newbies” who attended our Saturday Seminar are now ready to head off to CUE, ISTE, and other popular technology conferences – minus the intimidation factor. And based on the above session descriptions, I will be encouraging ALL of our presenters to start submitting proposals – beyond our 2018 Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms event.
If you are already sponsoring district-based/centered technology conferences, I would love to hear any suggestions or answer any questions!