If you are looking for a antidote to post-election blues, I highly recommend pulling together a student showcase of elementary, middle, and high school students excited to demonstrate innovative uses of technology. To that end, last week I was tasked by my district’s Technology Services Director to bring a team of students to the Sacramento Convention Center for the 2016 CETPA Conference. This was my first time to attend the CETPA Conference. It was also CETPA’s first time to dedicate a section of the convention lobby for a two-hour Student Showcase. What an enjoyable, inspiring morning!
Our youngest presenters, a team of four 2nd graders from Elliot Ranch Elementary School, introduced conference goers to Code.org. They were joined by Herman Leimbach Elementary School’s team of 5th and 6th graders, who were eager to share how to create a digital story through MIT’s Scratch coding program.
The video production team from Toby Johnson Middle School alternated between talking with visitors to their table and making the rounds to gather interviews for upcoming school-wide news broadcasts.
Sheldon High School’s K9 Studios’ team dazzled conference goers, including vendors, with their virtual reality (VR) projects. I loved watching the teams interact with – and impress the heck out of – technology directors and visionaries from across the state.
This morning I received an email from Shawn Sullivan, who is featured with his students in the above photo. He wanted me to know that his students were interviewed by Google and that “Google was interested in sharing VR and how to use it in the classroom. They were excited to hear we already are using it. They gave a challenge to the students on creating educational content for the classroom. At lunch, that day, the students started planning what to do for that challenge!”
And CETPA rewarded the students with t-shirts and pizza. Nice combo! Wonderful event!
If I had had any idea of how amazing Dr. Robert Ballard’s keynote would be, I would have tried to persuade the student teams to extend their stay. Ballard is a brilliant + hilarious presenter (another nice combo). Although his keynote was not filmed, the TEDX Talk below and a visit to his website will give you an idea of why I was swept away by his keynote.
I came to CETPA incorrectly assuming that the conference sessions would be more for those who support districts’ technology infrastructures rather than classroom practices. I ended my CETPA experience with three great teacher/TOSA presentations:
- Is Drive Driving You Crazy? – Rebecca Maas’s session was a reminder of why it’s a good idea to introduce teachers to Google Drive before jumping into Docs/Slides/Sheets/Forms/Drawings. When she mentioned color coding folders, for instance, a teacher shared that he has students color any shared folders red. Great tip!
- Make Writing: 3D Printing to Teach Literacy and Writing – Teacher/TOSA/Edutopia columnist Heather Wolpert-Gawron and Principal Matt Arnold made visible an often missing component of the “maker movement”: writing. They shared their excitement over a significant transition (in attitude and learning) they witnessed with a group of disengaged LTELLs (Long Term English Language Learners), sparked by opportunities to explore what they could do with a 3D printer that happened to be housed in their English class. The slideshow provides a window into the depth, breadth, and awesomeness of the project.
- Beyond the Classroom Walls: Developing Globally Aware Youth – I didn’t actually attend Karen Larson’s session, as it was during the Student Showcase, but I was able to connect with her before the keynote. My big takeaway from Karen’s slideshow and our conversation was the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s K-12 Global Competence Guide, which provides teachers with a structure (via “indicators”) for viewing Common Core Standards and typical grade-level projects through a global lens.
The CETPA Conference switches locations each year, with next year’s event in San Diego. Based on my first impression, when CETPA returns to Sacramento, I plan to attend all four days.