Saturday, June 28, 2014

Teachers Can't Fear Technology


"In the future, I don't view teachers being replaced by technology, but teachers who don't use tech being replaced by those that do." 

That's a quote I took from a principal I follow on Twitter.  A principal I started following while attending the Technology Summit in Joplin, Missouri yesterday.  We were tweeting during the was kind of encouraged, cause...well, it was a TECHNOLOGY summit.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  

Yesterday, I attended the 3rd annual Technology Summit held in Joplin, Missouri.  The summit was being held in the BRAND NEW Joplin Middle School.  It was built after the tornado took out the last school.  And, I know that this may sound terribly bad, but there was definitely some good that came out of the wreckage from that tornado.  That school is STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL.  Not only that, but they have completely catapulted themselves in to the 21st century.  

The classrooms are built in pods, having a central "commons" location and rooms with glass walls built around the outside that can all be opened up and customized to join together.  The projectors in each room have Apple TV built right in to them.  There are "teacher centers" for teachers to work in and collaborate and whatever else they need some space for.  Even the stinking water fountains look like something right out of a futuristic movie, with built in dispensers to fill up bottles.  Definitely the best locale for such an event.

There were around 300 teachers from all over SW Missouri in attendance for the conference.  I was so excited to see teachers, administrators, and tech people of all different ages so fired up about the technology tools that were going to be presented.  

The conference kicked off with a presentation from the keynote speaker, Marc Prensky.  He is an internationally acclaimed writer, consultant, and a motivational speaker for education.  He's the author of five books focused on technology and learning. He got the conference kicked off with a great talk on how education and technology are evolving.  My most favorite part was when he discussed that technology should NOT be used to redo old things, that's not what technology is for.  It's time when the the wheel DOES have to be reinvented in order to keep up with the way the vehicle it's moving is changing.  He went on to discuss how technology is NOT our future, anymore, it's our "right now".  We have to start accepting that, evolving, and embracing how technology is an extension of our brains.  

His talk got me fired up and ready to attend the first session of the day, which was actually being presented by one of my colleagues, Bill Chamberlain. (If you're interested, go visit his blog:

I've already decided that next school year, I'm going to start keeping ePortfolios for all of my students.  Digital portfolios.  That way I can get rid of all the paper that accumulates EVERYWHERE.  I can capture whatever the student has done by scanning it in, recording it, taking pictures, whatever, and then upload it all into personal online portfolios.  Then the artifact can be sent straight home.  Bill was presenting on something that would help with the endeavor:  Analog to digital.  We created examples of hands-on learning activities that happen in the classroom, and then he walked us through the process of capturing the learning digitally, sharing the learning digitally, and virtual extensions that can be applied to the lessons.  


After that, it was my turn to step up and present.  Not for the actual presentation that I was giving in the afternoon sessions, but a "spit fire round" of questioning the summit deemed as "Flash Mobs".  Long explanation short, a room, whoever is interested in the topic attends, and they get to bombard me with as many questions that I can answer in 30 minutes.  I was given the topic of using Minecraft in the classroom.

I got a pretty good turn out, and I was SO excited to see such an array of age groups that attended.  Not that I'm bashing teachers that have been teaching for 15+ years, but they tend to be the ones that fear technology a little more than those that have been teaching for less time.  And, I could tell by some facial expressions that the thought of using a game such as Minecraft was a HUGE undertaking.  I was answering questions left, right, and center and I started to see those scared facial expressions lighten just a little.  But, that was nothing compared to the person who was sitting front and center.  Marc Prensky, himself, decided to attend MY Flash Mob.  And, he wasn't going easy on me.  He was throwing tough questions my way... but I understood why he was doing it.  He wanted to see if I could explain to some of the "concerned teachers" how beneficial a game such as Minecraft could be.  When it was over, I felt like I had at least got a few people interested in using Minecraft and at least willing to look a little more in to it.  

Marc Prensky joined me in the long line for lunch, and we continued our conversation about how I was using Minecraft and my future plans for using it with my kiddos.  He was genuinely interested, and it felt really great (ego inflating) to hear that he was such a supporter for adaptation in terms of learning that's NOT JUST focused on assessment, but deeper understanding and virtual simulation of what the kids were learning about.

Once lunch was over, it was time for my presentation:  The Benefits of Blogging.  My session was supposed to start at 12:30, and at 12:28 the room was completely empty.  Not a single person had shown up, which made me think that I'd be packing up and leaving a lot earlier than originally planned. But, within those two minutes, people started showing up.  Then more people.  And even once I started introducing myself, more and more people kept flooding in.  By the time I really kicked off, it was standing room only in my room.  I had teachers standing around the back of the room, and sitting in any available place they could park themselves.  Can you say intimidating?  

But, thankfully, the presentation was a success.  I got a lot of great feedback, and had some great discussions about how blogging can really help teachers provide alternatives to some assignments, how the audience that blogs provide help students get more engaged and care more about the quality of their work, and my favorite go-to perk:  LESS PAPER!!  Plus, Bill was there with me to provide a few more resources for the teachers to take away.

All in all, the day was amazing.  I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, I shared a lot, and I felt like I walked away apart of an amazing uprising of educational technology.

Now, if I can just get $7000 for a 72" tablet I got to play with while I was there, and put it in my classroom....oh yes, they really make those.... life would be even sweeter.

Any donors willing to pitch in?

Enjoy your Saturday, everyone!


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