It has been two weeks from FETC in Orlando. Easily the most exciting conference I have been to in a long time. For me, there are some really important takeaways that I have been thinking through for the past two weeks.
First – coding is king (or queen)
Reshma Saujani was for me a highlight of the conference. It is so inspiring to listen to a young person who has taken hold of an important issue and has created real change within a large community. Reshma spoke about Girls Who Code – a group I would really like to bring to Canada. She is making a great effort to get more girls and women into computer science by working with great partners like Google and Facebook and by linking up to businesses across the United States who pledge to hire graduates of the program when they complete their studies.
Apart from this inspiring talk, I saw so many companies that are bringing out new technologies that allow students to learn to code at an early age.
Programmable robot by K’nex coming out in July
We have been fortunate enough to buy some of these kits from Lego and Pitsco and we will be adding these to our maker space and science classes as soon as possible. The applications in the class for these kits are endless and the engagement potential makes them so valuable for our teachers. Before FETC, I had never seen any of these kits, now they are being produced by a whole range of innovative companies. What makes these kits really important is that students can learn coding as a way to make machines move and complete complex tasks.
Second – you need a learning management system if you are moving to 1:1
This is something I really never thought too much about before FETC. What I noticed, however, is that most school systems are using some sort of an LMS to manage the use of computers in the classroom. Whether it is Google Classroom, Moodle, Webanywhere or in our case Hapara, you need a way to manage the amount of information your students are accessing and sending back to you in the form of assignments.
We have had Hapara for more than two years, but it never occurred to me that as we move closer to a 1:1 school at all grade levels, the most important digital tool that we can make available to teachers is a management system.
Within two weeks of returning from FETC, I arranged a half-day training session for all of our teachers and we hope to follow this up with another session this April. Teachers are now starting to use Hapara to send out material to students and monitor their work during the school day. It is amazing that I had to go so far to learn the value of this great program.
Technology tips are everywhere
I took in at least three workshops that acted as a survey session on technology tips for the classroom teacher, for the administrator, for anyone. These sessions were so important. Which such a huge selection, you really had to take in a few of these sessions – if you could get in, they were very popular.
Twitter notes from The Top Ten Technology Tips to Transform Teaching in one hour!
The pace in these sessions is so frenetic that the only useful way to take notes is through Twitter. I wrote tons of posts during my time at FETC and tried valiantly to quickly use as many tools as I could so I could remember what I was learning and pass this on to our staff.
Last take away – if you get an opportunity to go to a conference go!
To be honest, I don’t know how you can get by these days without getting to a conference whenever possible. My passion is education technology and I use Twitter and a whole variety of blogs, but there is no better way to stay current than by attending one of these great events.
You all need to get out and learn, talk to people who are making the innovations then take back as much as you can to staff.
Finally, I leave you with some of my visual impressions taken with my new GoPro. It’s a bit jumbled, but I hope it gives some sense of the great creative energy of FETC.