Sunday, March 9, 2014

Connect & Engage with Technology - NCTIES 2014!

I love a good conference!  Especially, one that helps you learn new and creative things to bring into the classroom and allows you to connect with other professionals to build your personal learning network.  This past week was the annual NCTIES (North Carolina Technology in Education Society) conference.  This year's theme was all about using technology to connect and engage students in the learning process.  NCTIES  is one of my favorite annual conferences and if you have never had the opportunity to attend, you need to add it to your teaching bucket list.  I always walk away feeling invigorated with the new things I learn and eager to share with students and staff.  I strongly believe that one of the most important things we can do as educators is to continuously grow and learn to inform our professional practice and then to share that learning with each other.  

This year, I had the privilege of attending NCTIES with a team of educators from Northside. Getting to share in the excitement of what you are learning with colleagues is always more fun than attending something solo. I love that moment when you are sitting next to a coworker in a workshop and you both look at each other with that expression that shouts, "Oh, yeah....we are definitely going to try that with our students - how awesome!"  It is that shared excitement and fervor for teaching and learning that helps build capacity in a school for new and innovative ways of educating our students.  Our team walked away with new and creative ways to make learning come alive for our students and staff at Northside and to bring relevance and authenticity to the work we do each day.   The car ride back was exciting as we reflected on our learnings and our eagerness to share what we learned with our whole school community. 

The conference ended with a presentation from Adam Bellow who is a leading speaker on technology in education and integrating technology to aid school reform.  He said many things that resonated with me but one of the most important was, "the key ingredient to learning is passion."  How very true and one of the many reasons I love the school library and why school library programs are so important for our students!  The library is a place in which all students can find something they are passionate about and pursue their own unique interests.  The library can be the foundation of a passion driven school helping students and staff connect and engage in new and creative ways through inquiry and exploration.  We must build a passionate school of learners.  We must teach with passion each day and let students bring their own passions into the classroom to help drive the learning experience.  We must make learning both authentic and relevant to our students so they can be passionate about what they are learning.  We must not only teach the readers and writers but also the mathematicians, the engineers, the artists and the musicians.  How can we as educators ignite the spark of learning so that all students are driven by the need to know more? How can we use technology in creative ways to reach our learners and allow them to create, connect and engage?  

I walked away with many takeaways, but here are a just a few highlights from NCTIES 2014: 

1) I really want to create a Library Makerspace.  What is a Makerspace, you ask?  Basically, it is a space in which students can create in a myriad of ways.  From simple arts and crafts, to computer coding, to designing objects that can come to life on a 3D printer.  It's a space in which students can bring their creative ideas alive.  It's also a space in which its okay to explore, create and fail.  In fact, failure is an important part of the learning process and helps students understand that with patience and persistence great things can happen.  To learn more about makerspaces click here

2) I want to infuse augmented reality tools into the learning environment.  Think QR codes on steroids.  Basically, AR allows students to interact with a flat service using a smart device and bring it to life.  We saw this earlier in the year when students created "Dots" for our dot day celebration and then interacted with them in 3D mode.  Imagine going up to a student's book review, holding a device over the image of the book and up pops a video of the student describing why they loved the book so much.  Or, for another example, looking at a book about dinosaurs only to scan a page and see the dinosaur "come to life" and interact with the reader.  This in a nutshell is augmented reality and I want to infuse this in creative ways at Northside as we move into next school year.  Check out this great blog post from an educator about the many ways Aurasma (an augmented reality) app is being used at their school.   

3) The importance of infusing digital citizenship skills alongside all this great use of technology.  Thinking critically about how we are getting our students to question the media they encounter daily and use resources ethically and responsibly.  Whether it comes to researching online, communicating with others, or using digital media for projects, it is our responsibility to help guide our students through these waters and model its appropriate use. We can't protect our kids from all the evils of the world but we can arm them with the tools they will need to chart their course in the digital world they now live.  

I look forward to sharing (along with others from Northside) all the great things we learned while at NCTIES so our students can continue to "think, learn and grow with purpose, persistence and pride." 

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