Monday, June 8, 2015

TechCon 15

Week two of the Summer of eLearning  brought educators together in Greencastle, Indiana at #TechCon15. After a collaborative breakfast, the crowd moved to the auditorium to learn from Scott McLeod. McLeod is well know for his Dangerously Irrelevant blog and his work in digital age leadership. During the Keynote, Scott challenged the group to rethink how they are designing learning in their schools. His ideas define the desired direction of learning as "greater cognitive complexity, student agency, and, usually, technology infusion." To better understand these concepts, he took the group through many school and program models that are "getting it right." 

Web Sites and Apps Make Life Easier! This was the focus of Mike Feagans and Jeff Chicki’s session that provided participants with new tools and mindset shifts for teaching digital age learners. Being a digital age teacher gives students more freedom to explore, and keeps learning up to date. But don't overload yourself or students with too much! Be patient. Make changes and implement apps that make sense to teaching and learning. 

A few popular apps from their session are: Coveritlive - an open blog for live engagement with owner control over posts. It keeps students commenting and paying attention.  Session participants loved the idea that students who are too quiet and those too talkative can share in class without disrupting the learning. Teachers can be upgraded to a pro-account by asking! Today's Meet is another great tool for live conversations, and very simple to use. Need to organize and push out resources to your class visually? Symbaloo is for you. More of a "mind-mapper" when it comes to organizing your work? Jeff shared his favorite collaborative mapping tool, Mindmeister. The session was way too short, but connect with Mike and Jeff to bring thoughtful, exciting, and valuable uses of technology to your classroom.  

Shawn Wooden, principal of Greencastle Middle School, led a great session where he talked with leaders from neighboring districts about instructional leadership in digital environments. Wooden said that if we are really going to ask teachers to redesign instruction using technology, leaders are going to have to model that by changing the way they organize their work. He shared how he creates digital agendas for each of his faculty meetings and leadership team meetings. Using digital tools, he says, the documents he creates are never printed, file themselves, and are delivered to his staff in seconds. To communicate with parents, Wooden built a free Google Site for his school community where he posts video newsletters he created with his iPad. He also encouraged leaders to get comfortable with Twitter so that they could connect with other leaders, as well as networks like #INeLearn.
Amy Weliever, librarian at Greencastle Middle School demonstrated CK-12 and the free resources that they have created and curated. If you haven’t looked at CK-12 lately, you may want to give their content another look. Since their inception in 2007, when they simply hosted free online textbooks, they have shifted their focus to smaller concept-based chunks of content that teachers can now arrange as they like. In 2013 they added class and group functionality that allows for the organizing of content and sharing in ways very similar to an LMS. Their most recent work is with simulations and PLIX, which are interactive widgets that allow students to manipulate virtual objects. It is very easy to sign up (and free) so that you can begin to search for content to use with your students.

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