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Sunday, May 31, 2015

iEngage-Berwyn...We did it!

Hosting a two day Educational Technology Conference is a lot of work! We spent 10 months planning for it and it seems like it was here and gone in the blink of an eye. I was on the sponsorship and PR/social media committee for the planning team, dubbed iLead. Here we are at our kickoff which took place at one of our institute days.

There were many committees and we learned a lot along the way. On my committee we solicited sponsors. Then we got the word out about the conference. It is important to keep really good notes, admit when you are wrong, and reflect after the experience about what went well and what did not. I'm not going to air all of that here.

Friday, May 8th
On Friday morning we arrived early. There was nothing left to do except let the people show up. The LaVergne Gym looked fabulous and we were ready to go. We started with an overview of what makes +South Berwyn 100 special. The site visit welcome was given by +Shannon Soger. She talked about our state report card statistics and the five categories that make us an Apple Distinguished Program; visionary leadership, innovative teaching and learning, flexible learning environment, compelling evidence of success and ongoing professional development. She did a fabulous job! Next we were on our way to start the first of two site visits for the day. I was assigned to Emerson School. I taught in that building for 17 years, so I was glad to showcase it. The visitors were able to go to different classrooms and see 1:1 computing in action. One of the visitors remarked after seeing the first grade bilingual teacher, "Let's stay here. I could watch her teach all day." It was so great to hear that. 

Site visitor talking about 1:1 with one of our 1st graders
We traveled back to LaVernge by bus to see the lunch time keynote speaker +Carl Hooker of Hooked on Innovation (read his blog post about the conference here). His keynote was thought provoking, interactive, and funny. Carl also brought with him the App Mazing Race - iEngage-Berwyn. It was a big hit! 

Activity during Hooker's keynote

Waid & Hooker

In the afternoon we went back for another site visit with a different group to see more teaching and learning in action. As our superintendent +Stan Fields always says the devices are not the magic of our district - it is the people; the teachers, the support staff, the secretaries, the custodians, the bus drivers. It is a true group effort. The other thing that makes our district different is that we are not afraid to change, to innovate. We didn't just bring in computers and iPads for everyone. We changed almost everything! At the same time as adopting 1:1 we started full day kindergarten, adopted the co-teaching model, purchased furniture for flexible learning environments, changed the food served in our lunchrooms, made our schools safer, adopted standards based grading, dual language, and so on. 

Afternoon site visitors to Emerson School

To finish the afternoon we had a debriefing panel of "experts" from our district. It included (left to right) +Stan Fields superintendent, +Jeremy Majeski building principal, +Jim Mukite technician, +Shannon Soger director of 1:1 program, +Jen Lehotsky middle school teacher, +Jordan Garrett instructional coach and +Christina Betz elementary teacher. Here visitors were able to ask questions and get detailed answers about what they saw during their visits. 

Brad Waid demonstrating Color Alive
On Friday night we went to the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park for the social event associated with the conference. +Brad Waid decided early on in the planning that a good social event was a must. We worked with myOn and +DAQRI Education to plan the event. Students, their families and conference attendees were invited. There was a viewing party for videos created using myOn books. myOn is an interactive digital library from Capstone Publishers that we use in our district. The student and class videos were phenomenal. Click on the myOn link above to see the winners. My favorite was Noor's video! Then we had an adults only party featuring Big Data, a band made up of Tech Directors from around the state of Illinois, and +DAQRI Education. +Brad Waid demonstrated the augmented reality magic of Crayola Color Alive. It combines just the right amount of hands on and tech for our students. It's the simplicity of a coloring page with the magic of DAQRI's 4D app. No social event these days is complete with out a photo booth. We used our Double Robot and the Simple Booth app. A good time was had by all. 

Anne Truger, Jordan Garrett,
Kevin Honeycutt, Brad Waid

Dancing to Big Data

An aside - While we were waiting for the festivities to begin we found ourselves in the bar attached to the hotel, Poor Phil's. It was here that the iCoach team had their first team meeting in Spring 2012. I knew at that moment that the entire event was going to be a success. 

Saturday, May 9th
We slept quickly and arrived at Heritage Middle School on Saturday, to do the conference portion of the event. There were poster sessions put on by the students and teachers. These were summations of successful tech projects from the school year. They were outstanding! John Antonetti gave the opening keynote. He talked about student engagement. He was wonderful!

Emily & John Antonetti

Student poster session

After the Keynote it was time for the concurrent sessions. There was time for two in the morning. +Jordan Garrett and I presented our Bringing PLCs to Life with Google + . There were many great sessions. You can find the presenters' slides and picture archive in the iEngage Google + Community. Next it was time for lunch and the leadership panel.

Dr Leonard, Mr Polyak, Dr Hutton, Dr Voltz
One more session in the afternoon, and then the closing keynote by +Kevin Honeycutt. Kevin's keynote was exceptional. He covered so many points. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak you should make it happen. 

Kevin Honeycutt with Shannon Soger is the background
The entire two day period I was tweeting and posting to Instagram. I was also monitoring the hashtag #iEngagebwyn for activity for our social media contests. We had plenty of great prizes to give away thanks to our generous sponsors. Here is a link to the Storify for Friday and for Saturday. We generated so much traffic on Twitter that we were a trending topic for Chicagoland on Friday!!! These Storifys give you a very good picture of both days. There are over 1,000 Tweets and Instragram posts from both days!

Shannon - Thanks for Dreaming Big!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

ICE TECH 2015 in Springfield

On Thursday, May 7th +Michael Saracini and I took 2 students down to the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield. Mike applied months ago for the opportunity and the day was finally upon us. It is a 3 hour ride from suburban Chicago to get to Springfield. We left early and the children were anxious to get there. When we got there one of our students remarked that they had never been through a metal detector before. That's when I realized this was a very new experience for both of them. We got there early, so we set up our table in the south hall on the 1st floor. I have recently broken my leg, so I watched our stuff while Mike and the kids looked around the Capitol Building.

The visit is set up by the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE). The goal of TECH 2015 is two fold, the first is to spotlight the use of technology in the classrooms as a vital tool for students. The second is to shed light on the need for increased funding for Illinois schools.

$3.00 green screen!
Our goal was for the kids to use the +TouchCast app to create a news video about our visit to the Capitol Building that day. It was Mike's ideas and it was brilliant. I was just there for moral support and to schmooze with the legislators.  I have been doing a lot of Touchcasting lately. It is such a versatile app, as I have said before. Natalie and Angel went around and interviewed participants in our area. They interviewed the president of ICE, Charlene Chausis, a teacher from Murray Elementary Language Academy in Chicago and Senator Napoleon Harris.  They had been practicing and developing their interview style for quite a few weeks and it showed. They both did a great job of creating and asking questions spontaneously of their guests. I was so impressed with their skills. 

Angel interviewing Charlene Chausis
Natalie showing Senator Landek how to use Touchcast
These kids were fearless and they did such a wonderful job interviewing different people with different perspectives on being at the Capitol Building. Sometimes it is hard to believe they are only 5th graders! 

If you are from Illinois and you want to apply to have your students attend, it is really easy to fill out the application form and send it in. The applications open around the first of every year and close in early February. Schools are notified in mid-February. The event is always in May. The ICE committee and its members did an outstanding job organizing and running the event. Thank you to all of them.

Here is the link to their final product! Great job Angel and Natalie! We are so proud of you! 

For more information on the use of Touchcast visit their website or read this blog post