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Thursday, February 25, 2016

What's In the Box? - The Reveal

My apologies for the delay in this post. I know I promised to have it to you on Monday, unfortunately illness had me home from school for two days and I was unable to open the boxes after the weekend as promised.
What's in the boxes?!?!?!

If your reading this after my original post, chances are you may have waited a week to discover what was in the box. I thank you for indulging me with guesses, silly or otherwise. Your responses tell me you are almost as excited as I am.

And now the wait is over (or nearly over)-it's time to discover what was in the box. But first, let's discuss some of your guesses!

If you know anything about me, you might guess it's a new pair of running shoes or some other equipment meant to get me laced up and back out on the road, in training for my next race. Perhaps spending some big bucks on running gear might get me motivated to run again...I sure know I miss it!

If you know me well maybe you guessed I dropped big bucks and loaded my amazon cart with a "library" of new books, but in truth, my TBR list of books I ALREADY own could keep any bookworm happy for the balance of 2016!
One of my TBR lists.
This one is from #Read4Fun
Or if you REALLY know me, you guessed that I splurged on a fancy "house" set Harry Potter books. Alas, the sorting hat is still not certain where I belong. Maybe once I get my letter from Hogwarts I'll stop by Flourish and Blotts for a new set (my 4th) of Harry Potter books.

Tired of guessing? Tired of having your guesses shot down? Want me to just tell you already?

Ok, here it is...after nearly a year of saying I would NEVER do it, and eight months after being approved for a grant from the West Windsor Plainsboro Education Foundation, I am the proud owner of...

My Podcasting Equipment

That's right, this tech coach is getting ready to enter the wonderful world of PODCASTING with the students and teachers at her school!

So what exactly was in the box? Two Behringer Q802USB Mixers, six Samson Q2U Handheld Dynamic Microphones, and six of those foamy things that go on the mic (just kidding, they're called windscreens)!

I'm still as excited and maybe even more nervous about my purchases than I was last week. Why? you ask. Because now that you know what's in the box, I imagine your next question will be, "Now what?"


Stay tuned next week to find out how this adventure begins to unfold!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oh My Goodness! What Have I Done?!?!

I've done it! I've pulled the trigger. I've pushed the button. I've opened my wallet and in less than 60 seconds I have managed to spend more money in one sitting than I have ever done in my entire life (except maybe in December).

My heart is beating wildly in my chest and my hands are shaking as I draft this post. I am experiencing the same nervous sense of excitement that is the norm before a BIG race - say a half marathon - from what others might consider a simple purchase.

I can't wait for the box(es) carrying my purchase to arrive at school! I can only begin to imagine how big the box(es) will be! It will be a restless few days of waiting.

Mystery Box 2 Clip Art

Any guess on what I purchased? On Monday we'll find out together! Until then...

Thursday, December 31, 2015

15 Most Memorable Moments of 2015

With only a few hours left in 2015, it's safe to say that there is very little more that will happen as we count down to midnight that will change how I view my 2015 school year. I find myself, like so may teachers (and regular, non-super hero folk), reflecting on all that has happened during the past 365 days. I find myself smiling as I recall the 15 moments in 2015 that are most memorable. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here they are...

15.    Book Clubs:  This year was the year of "Professional Reading" for me. It started in January with a book club hosted by Beth Houf, Jay Billy, and Marci Houseman that centered around the amazing and career changing book Teach Like a Pirate (TLAP). For several weeks teachers met as a community to discuss the book using the hashtag #bfctlap. The book club culminated in a surprise GHO with "Lead Pirate" Dave Burgess. This inspired me to suggest that my team read the book so as to better assist the teachers with whom we work. All told, I spent time in three different book clubs discussing TLAP! It was an amazing period of personal PD! This first book led to several others that my team and I would read during 2015; Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogs Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Sharon's pick), Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Dan Heath and Chip Heath (Dan's pick), and  Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (Rick's pick). I'll be honest, I haven't read that one...YET!) I look forward to the list that my team has created for 2016!

14.    Blogging:  This was something that was pushed on me by too many people to remember and name, but I thank them! Shy to share my words, and inconsistent at best, blogging became something real for me after I attended TCT15 and ISTE2015. I felt I had so much new learning to process, the only way to do it justice would be to share my new information with the world. I started, but then stopped. This blog seems to be a series of start stops, but I am hopeful that, as 2015 comes to an end, I am able to START a habit that sticks! (I am also hopeful, dear reader, that you will help hold me accountable!)

13.    Trail Running:  I know, you are asking yourself, What in the world does this have to do with teaching and technology? Let me explain...running in my release, my calm, my rejuvenator. It is also when I generate some of my best ideas! My head clears and the ideas flow. This summer I explored the local trails and trail running for the first time and it made running and thinking new again!

12.    School PD Committee:  This year I am acting as co-chair of my school's PD committee. My co-chair, Kara Kleckner, and I make perfect partners. We each bring different talents to our role and in our shared space/classroom we hash out ideas and plan a minimum of 2 PD sessions per month. So far we have planned PD focusing on technology, literacy, and student engagement. PD has taken place in the morning, during faculty meetings, and during PLC time. I am lucky to have such an amazing partner!

11.    Sketchnoting:  I have always been a bit of a doodler and last year I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere I went (again) to capture my thoughts, notes and important details from various meetings. Seems like a bit of a stretch that this techie would carry a notebook, but I assure you, it is not. I remember so much more when I write rather than type. And I remember even more when I add sketches or doodles to my notes., Thus, my fascination with sketchnoting. I will leave it at that for the time being, but know that I am co-planning PD on sketchnoting in the classroom. Look for a blog post once our PD day is over in February.

10.    EdCamp, TCT, Ednado...oh my!  Living in NJ there is no loss for weekend PD. On almost any given weekend I am able to find quality PD within a 50 mile radius. Anything from EdCamp NJ, EdCamp LDR (I had to pick from North Jersey, South Jersey, and Philadelphia), EdCamp Jersey Shore, EdCamp Philly...I think I may be missing an EdCamp somewhere. Then there was the first Ednado and the inaugural Tomorrow's Classrooms Today. In the past I have attended events like these as a participant. For 2015, with a LOT of encouragement and persuasion from my PLN I took the plunge and started presenting. I have always learned a lot at these events, but acting as the presenter is a growth experience like no other!

9.    Voxer:  If you haven't experienced Voxer, you don't know what you are missing! Walkie talkie like conversations that are stored on your phone. Groups that will share valuable (and some not valuable) information that will change the way you learn. Voxer is a way to connect daily with the people with whom you would like to learn. Unlike Twitter, there are not constraints of 140 characters and you can choose to share content via text, video, photo, and audio message.

8.    Twitter and Twitter Chats:  If you are reading this I feel it is safe to assume that you are already in Twitter (and if you're not, please comment on how you found this post-seriously!), therefore I am just going to mention a few of my favorite twitter chats... #BFC530 (that chat that started it all for me), #PodcastPD (the chat I started), and #2pencilchat (the chat I wish I had started-thanks Sean Farnum!). Sorry I am light on details here. I PROMISE to write a full blog post on these chats and more in the New Year!

7.    Meeting People in Person:  Let's just say it's safe to say that with the number of conferences and unconferences I have attended in 2015 I am bound to leave someone off the list of people I have met. To save myself any embarrassment I am going to say it was lovely meeting you all and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

6.    PodcastPD the Podcast:  It started as a supplement to the #PodcastPD chat, something for participants to listen to when AJ Bianco, Chris Nesi and I took a break for holidays. Then it morphed into an occasional blab.im conversation, because Chris wanted to "try something new". Now it is a weekly conversation. Talk about peer pressure!

5.    #PodcastPD:  PodcastPD the Podcast would exist without #PodcastPD and #PodcastPD wouldn't exist without the post I wrote for my department blog and a LOT of encouragement from Jen Williams, AJ Bianco, and Chris Nesi. It started as a traditional Twitter chat-taking place Sunday evenings from 8:30-9:00 ET. We are currently blabbing, but we may make our way back to Twitter in 2016, we shall see!

4.    NJ/PA ECET2 (aka the Alphabet Conference): NJ/PA Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers is an invitation only, overnight, all expenses paid conference the likes of nothing I have ever attended. As I was walking around during one of our meals, someone said to me, "Look around, I feel like all of the NJ Edu Rock Stars are here!" And it was true! The names are too many and as in #7, I fear I would leave someone out. I was honored to be able to present to such an amazing group!

3.    ISTE 2015:  The Tech Conference to end all tech conferences took place in Philly this past year (another one of those 50 mile radius opportunities) and I was fortunate to attend as an ambassador for Glogster. While I spent many hours on the Expo floor, I was afforded the opportunity to meet so many new people, people I only knew as a handle and a tiny photo! I was also afforded the opportunity to attend numerous presentations and meetups. Let's suffice it to say that ISTE is for tech educators and educator who use teach what Disney is for this princess (I ran as Ana from Frozen during the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon). I hope to repeat both experiences in the coming years...I'll start with ISTE 2016 in Denver!

2.    My TRST Team:  TRST = Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology - a really long title that  equate with tech facilitator or tech coach. I am fortunate enough to spend my days working and collaborating with one of the best teams around. Dan Gallagher, Melissa Morris - Inoa, Jaime Cook, Kim Lowden, and Laura Agnella have helped me grow as a teacher in my district in immeasurable ways. Whether we are planning, laughing, eating or taking risks, we are constantly growing!

1.    The #EdJusticeLeague:  Some of the most creative and dedicated teachers I know, Dani Kennis, Chrissy Romano, Chris Nesi, Adam Schoenbart, and AJ Bianco have shaped my learning in a way transformative as that of my mentor, Aline Galvano. Each with their own super powers, our master mind group is in contact daily using Voxer as our bat phone. There is no doubt that they have unlocked my hidden super powers and unleashed in me someone with a burning desire to be better, to grow, to change and to help others--one tech tool at a time!

It's hard to believe that 2015 is over. So much has happened this year for me professionally. I was a sponge and I soaked up all that I could...and then I shared (just a bit). I know I am fortunate to have had the year that I had. If it had been half the year that it was, I would still consider myself lucky! For 2016 I will WORK to make it a year that is equal to, if not better than this one! I hope you have had some similar moments. Take a minute to reflect back and share ONE of those moments with me in the comments; I'd love to hear all about it.

Have a Happy New Year!

Sorry for the lack of photos...I'll update after my race tomorrow!

Monday, November 16, 2015

You're Invited!

My invitation arrived via Twitter at 9:00 am exactly 10 days ago. I was excited for the invite...it's been a while since I've been to this party and I've missed the energy and excitement that comes with attendance. And Jen Williams knows how to throw a party and host an event! The conversation, the idea sharing, the fun and the new learning promised during this party was more than enough to make my RSVP a definitive YES! So, what kind of party am I talking about? The Tribe of Bloggers, of course!

My last blog post was nearly a full four months ago. Back in July I was on fire, fresh off the excitement of ISTE and other summer professional development. I had attended a session about blogging and was ready flex my new found muscles and share my learning and ideas with the world.

Fast forward to August and the start of the school year and it seemed I had no time to commit to this new "hobby".

Another hit on the fast forward button and we arrive to ten days ago and Jen's invitation to join the #TribeofBloggers. What is it? The rules for this party are simple... One new post every two weeks. Sounds simple, right? Ten days ago I thought the same thing and here I am, just like when I was in school, pulling an all nighter to get my first post in on time. I make this promise to my new tribe-I will not be so late with my entries-I will not wait until the deadline again.

My Blog Ideas mini notebook

I have started a notebook full of ideas that is sure to keep the posts coming (at least for the first few months) and I am excited to be typing away at the keyboard, sharing my ideas. Here's to many more "miles" of posts.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday Words With John Mason - Social Studies Teacher and Podcaster

Q1 As you reflect on your last year(s) in education, what is a stand out moment for you?

At the end of the school year I had the opportunity to sit down with my, now former principal, to go over my annual review for the school year. In the course of the conversation we spoke about what was required, going over my evaluations and areas in need of improvement, but the conversation continued into other areas as well. For example, that we need people who are willing to put themselves out there and not merely wait to be offered a position. There is still a strain of thought that people need to put in ‘their time’ in order to gain things whereas with the major shifts that are happening in education today it is simply not sensible to follow this mentality. If someone has great ideas they need to put them out there and to not be afraid to go for it regardless of the status quo. We hear this frequently, as teachers, but workplace politics and the reality of it ultimately softens many of us and our resolve to do so. I’d suggest that if one has something in mind that is truly awesome that even those who would prefer that you hold back will ultimately come to your side once they see how great you ideas or actions can be.

Q2 Who or what inspires you as an educator?

Students certainly inspire me on a regular basis but perhaps not in a typical way. I find often it isn’t a student’s curiosity or drive that motivate me to improve my craft but the opposite; a lack of wonderment and intrinsic desire for growth and learning pushes me to try to find ways bring that student into the fold. Clearly, we need to teach to who is in the room and often times this means that we are dealing with students who may not be particularly interested in school, for a variety of reasons, on a given day. While there are also a plethora of awesome people in my PLN who push me towards greater things some folks that have been involved in my nascent career have been instrumental in pushing me forward. I’d be remiss not to mention Steve Santilli, @SPSantilli, who not only hired me for my first teaching job but pushed me towards becoming a Connected Educator, and to not merely be satisfied with what is but moving towards what education should be. My wife, @MsKouzoukas, continues to inspire me, whether she knows it or not, and keeps me moving forward as I want to be awesome for not just my students and myself, but also her.

Q3 How do you integrate technology into your teaching?

Technology is an integral part of my pedagogy but in two main and different ways. While ideas of App Smashing and using technology on a regular basis to make cool things and to push one’s learning is great, I try to think of teaching the structure of technology in addition to how to use it to make awesome things. For example, as my middle school went BYOD in the past year I had students communicate concepts like collective learning in a 6 second Vine clip. Great use of technology, challenging, pushes their thinking, 6 seconds is a real short clip, and introduces the students to rudimentary video editing. I also make it a point to try to teach them the fundamental pieces of technology that they will likely continue to use over time. For instance, defining a web browser, at least the concept of it. Will web browsers be exactly the same in 10 years? Many people would assume not but while their abilities and appearance have shifted they are largely the same as they were ten years ago even with the advent of tablets and smartphones. The idea that the web browser is what one uses to visit places online, and that places online have addresses like houses, help to teach students the larger concepts they need to know to navigate the tech world. Teaching 6th grade, many students weren’t aware of how to visit a website without just searching Google. Contrary to popular belief, I find many students have a rudimentary understanding of technology at best and part of my job is to teach them how to use tools but also to understand technology in general.

Q4 What resources do you use to learn about new instructional technology? Where/how do you do your tech-sploration?

Twitter, of course, is a great resource for learning about educational technology. Due to the inherently limited nature of Twitter it is often best used, in my opinion, for things like this where ideas and tools can be shared in a more straightforward manner within the 140 character limit. Podcasts are a great resource, too, and there are tons of great Edtech podcasts, I particularly like the House of EdTech. Often times it is still a search on DuckDuckGo, that allows me to go find new tools to play around with. Once I find a new tool to say that I explore it is an understatement where I almost always immediately go through every single option that I can tweak and try to figure out the overall structure of a tool to determine whether or not it will fit my needs. Of course, this isn’t a perfect system, and I still make mistakes and end up investing time in a tool that I may not ultimately use, but as a whole I can usually make a decent judgement as to whether or not a tool will fit into my workflow. Between Twitter and searching online I generally have no shortage of new tools to try, however, and do also keep up with some iOS and related blogs, such as Apple World Today, to try to stay up to date on new apps and things to play with. I am also a productivity nerd and always love to try to find out more about how to upgrade my workflow, sometimes to my detriment, and to find ways to allow technology to make my teaching life easier overall. Places like TheSweetSetup spend ample time on this as well as other folks like Brett Terpstra provide tons of resources for this.

Q5 What's next for you in the coming year?

It is somewhat odd to put this into writing but I recently accepted a new teaching position for next year. I am leaving my first teaching job, spending the last three years in 6th grade Social Studies, and moving to a local high school where I will be teaching a collection of Juniors and Freshmen. Should be an interesting leap, to say the least, as not only will there be new content to teach but new challenges to overcome as I move into a new building to work with an entirely new staff. I will truly miss many of the awesome folks I have worked with in the past three years, such as @bethsteinen, @MissMcErlane, @SPSantilli, but am looking forward to the new challenges ahead. In addition to focusing on teaching entirely new content I look forward to finding out what I will be able to do with high school students as opposed to middle school. I don’t like to say that the middle school students are limited but there is inevitably a difference within maturity level as well as ability. The biggest challenge will be how to best do this while still working on my podcast and going to graduate school. It’ll certainly be a busy year but I, currently, welcome the shift.

John is a 4th year Social Studies teacher from Southern New Jersey who is currently attending grad school for administration. As a lifelong technology enthusiast, lover of coffee, and passionate educator, John has also presented locally on technology, Social Studies, and language arts integration in the classroom. John is also a teacher as well as a practitioner of Yoga and currently lives with his lovely wife in Northfield, NJ. Recently, John launched his first podcast, titled beardED which focuses on big ideas in education, technology integration, and how to connect what you learn online with what you do each day in your school and classroom. You can currently find his podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and at his website, jmason.me

Voxer: jmason

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday Words With Melissa Morris Inoa - First Year Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology

Q1 As you reflect on your last year(s) in education, what is a stand out moment for you?
Something standing out to me right now is the idea of how quickly things can and do change. This is not a single moment, nor is it news, but it is an idea that is becoming increasingly more important to me:  how much change occurs, how receptive or resistant we are to change, what we do with the change; where the change originates, and what other changes it creates.

Changes with technology, especially, are happening quite quickly these days. These rapid and disruptive changes have a huge and immediate impact to the field of education, and our society in general. (Keep in mind that the first iPad was only released in April of 2010 and the first Chromebook in June of 2011...and now it’s difficult to imagine schools -- and museums and doctors’ offices and car dealerships -- without them!) Not everyone responds to these changes in the same way, so change and growth (or the lack thereof) are ideas that I’m sure I will be reflecting and focusing on for a while.  

Q2 Who or what inspires you as an educator? Education is not an easy field. Many people who get into the field of education don’t stay for long, because teaching is extremely hard work and there are new challenges all the time. What inspires me -- and what keeps me in this increasingly demanding field -- are my students. Helping my students to view themselves as learners, set and achieve goals, become impassioned to try new things, and share their ideas and talents with others is what keeps me in this field. Now that my role includes working directly with other educators, they are inspiring me as well. Their goals are my goals, and we are working to accomplish them together.

Q3 How do you integrate technology into your teaching?
Integrating new uses for technology became a part of my teaching practice when I was a novice teacher and was looking for ways to motivate some very, very disengaged students. The actual devices and sites that we used were really secondary to the goal of increasing engagement and empowering my students as learners. Being receptive to new ideas and new ways to engage my students has always been at the core of my practice.

I try to make sure that my students understand what we are learning and why, and that they are a part of the process. We all need to understand how something is relevant to us, both as individuals and as part of a community or society, in order to really learn. I guide my students in putting ideas in their own words, setting goals for themselves and monitoring their progress, reflecting on their learning process, and taking control of their own learning. Technology is a great way to personalize and differentiate learning. When students choose to use a device or a certain app or website, they are making decisions about their learning process.

Q4 What resources do you use to learn about new instructional technology? Where/how do you do your tech-sploration?
I read a lot. (I prefer actual books, but also read magazines, ebooks, and online journals.) As my career has evolved to not only teach students, but to also assist and provide resources for colleagues, I’ve found that it is helpful to follow ideas from all fields and disciplines. I pay attention to how events are organized when I attend them and the way that information is shared with me. I watch how traffic patterns on highways change over time and which products are displayed in stores. I notice how my bank updates their mobile app and how the convenience store implements new ways to order sandwiches. As I encounter new ideas and experiences, I tend to think about how those ideas can translate to the classroom. I think of my students, their interests, their struggles, and I see if there are connections that can be made.

For me, the greatest sources of tech-sploration are usually conversations. I love talking with people about the goals or tasks they are trying to accomplish. I love brainstorming with them -- whether students, other educators, or individuals outside of the field of education -- about what they’ve already tried, what worked and what didn’t, what else there is to try. There are new technologies developed every day. There are new ways to use old technology being explored all the time. I believe that we learn from our experiences as well as the experiences of others and that by sharing ideas and resources, new ideas emerge.

Q5 What's next for you in the coming year?
Many, many new things are coming this year! For starters, I’m going to be working at the high school level for the first time. Most of my teaching career has been at the middle school level, and so it will be exciting to work with an older population of students who are more independent, already identifying areas of concentration, and thinking about their futures beyond high school. It will be especially fun for me to work again with students that I taught back when they were in 7th grade! As an instructional coach, I will be working alongside other educators from all content areas. Our work will be focused on developing, collecting, and cataloging best practices and resources for facilitating future ready classrooms.

I will also be starting a new graduate program this fall, studying the concepts of creativity and innovation. My work will include exploring how the habits and practices of creative and innovative people, in many different fields and all parts of the world, can be translated to the field of education. I’m excited!

Melissa Morris Inoa
Melissa Morris Inoa is a Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology and Instruction in New Jersey. She works alongside teachers to integrate technology into instruction in meaningful and relevant ways. She is a proponent of the growth mindset and innovative practices.  

Melissa is also a former special education and language arts teacher, teaching since 2005. She is currently studying Creativity and Innovation at Drexel University and has a BA in English from Rutgers University and a MA in Inclusive Education from Georgian Court University. She holds a Supervisor certificate as well as certificates of instruction in Elementary Education, Teacher of Students with Disabilities, and Literacy/Language Arts.

You can connect with Melissa online through her blogs: https://melissamorris.wordpress.com/ and https://todayinschool.wordpress.com and on Twitter (@mmorriswrite).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tomorrow's Classrooms Today: My ISTE "Expo"

If you've ever competed in a running event you know that once registration is complete and you've (hopefully) done your training, the next step in the process involves packet pickup and, in bigger races, a race expo.

As a runner I have experienced quite a variety of packet pickups. Smaller races usually include the collection of your shirt and your bib (the number you pin to your shirt during the race) the day of the event; if you're fortunate, there may be other "swag" by way of bags, coupons, samples, and other items that have been donated by race sponsors. Bigger races tend to open packet pickup a day or two prior to race day, but the process is similar to smaller races. Still larger events (for me the Trenton Half Marathon and the Disney Princess Half Marathon) hold a race expo. Typically held in a large hall or convention center, race expos afford participants the opportunity to see what's new in running-from gear, to fuel, to other accessories.

For me, expos always add layers to the excitement that starts to build days before the main event; they allow for you to meet and mingle with fellow runner, get an idea of what the course will be like, and offer other valuable information. In so many ways, the expo can be even more exciting than parts of the race; it is certainly an experience that should not be skipped.

So if you skipped the title of this post, you are probably thinking that my first Race Report for ISTE 2015 is about the ISTE expo-not quite. My "ISTE Expo" the event that raised the level of excitement and heightened my ISTE experience was Tomorrow's Classrooms Today (TCT).

The inaugural TCT was a one day event held on Friday, June 26, two days prior to the first keynote of ISTE. Created and planned by Evolving Educators: Brad Currie (@bradmcurrie), Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), and Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco), TCT boasted a schedule that included keynotes with Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1and Rich Kiker (@rkiker), a brain break with GoNoodle, and four amazing and informative sessions jam packed with presenters. Perhaps, best of all, all six members of the #EdJusticeLeague were in attendance (but more on them later)!

Rather than make this a bed to bed story (that's first grade writing talk for a story that starts with waking up and ends with going to sleep), I'll focus on the highlights of TCT. And there were many!

Session 1 The first session I attended was with the amazing Chris Aviles (@TechedUpTeacher). Chris' session topic, Gamification, was a new one for me. In essence, gamification is the use of video game elements (level ups/status, HP, AP, badges, special powers, special items) to teach and assess learning. What it means in a practical sense is that students are engaged and motivated to learn in the same ways that they are engaged and motivated to advance in a video game, in other words-the classroom is the video game and the kids are the main characters.

So much of what Chris shared in our hour long session (which ended much too quickly) has turned my thinking on its head. As a teacher trained in the guiding principles and practices of Responsive Classroom, I am a firm believer in intrinsic motivation. I questioned how gamification, with its extrinsic factors (special items, badges, etc.), fit with this approach to teaching. I have reviewed Chris' presentation, my hand-written notes, and the collaborative notes taken during the session by the Ed Justice League more than once, and I am still working through this conundrum. After all, he had some truly eyeopening points: we live in a gamified society. Not sure what I mean? Do you have a rewards card you use (think Panera, Dick's Sporting Goods, Starbucks)? Even if it's not on your person, don't you share information with the cashier to makes sure you earn your rewards? Case in point - I will make more than one transaction at Starbucks so that I will earn extra stars, getting me closer to the requisite 12 stars for a free food item or beverage. I even love that my Starbucks card is gold! As Chris stated, "It's all about status, access, power, and stuff."

I still have a lot to explore before I dive into gamifcation and this will certainly NOT be my last post about the topic. From a practical standpoint I am processing his session on two levels: first, how can I use the concepts of gamification with the teachers I support? Second, how can I relay Chris' message and ideas about gamification to my teachers in a way that will be beneficial to their students? There is no easy answer to either of these questions. What I know for sure is that I will be having a follow up conversation with Chris in the near future and I will work with him, my PLN, and my colleagues to design a game that will be right for all of us.

Session 2 The second session I attended was a timely one, as it has me focusing on my blog (this blog) in a new way. Meghan Everette (@bamameghan) shared her expertise as a Scholastic blogger. Her presentation included advice on topic generation - favorite lessons, local problems, national problems, something you love, something you are an expert on, and conferences/PD (this one sounds familiar), to name a few. Other advice included the length of the post (400-700 words), the length of the title (8 words with colons and semi colons), using short paragraphs, and remembering your audience.

Meghan's advice was inspiring. My greatest takeaway from her session was the use of an editorial calendar - which acts as an outline and plan for possible posts and topics. I love this idea and will certainly be using it. In fact, I will be using all of her advice!

Sessions 3 and 4 After an extended lunch, members of the Ed Justice League decided to forgo a formal session and spend time in the Makerspace. There we played with pre-assembled catapults. Once we were redirected by Meredith Martin (@geekyteach) to create our own, the competition was to create the catapult that would shoot the farthest marshmallow. Once we had a winner we moved on to trying to get a marshmallow in someone's mouth and being the first to land a marshmallow on a light fixture...s'mores anyone?

Our intent was to spend only one session in the Makerspace, but we were stood up by the final presenter and we headed back to the Makerspace. This time we decided to work individually and I devoted my attention to a light up, pop-up card. With so many projects to explore, we were not at a loss for inspiration.

During our second session in the Makerspace we also had time to play with Raspberry Pi, a fun little computer that had been programed to be a fast paced game. Our time spent with the lovely folks from Raspberry Pi and other shenanigans (ie tossing marshmallows into Cybraryman's mouth) made me happy that we had a double session in the Makerspace. It's fun to act like a kid!

Overall, my ISTE "Expo" experience, aka TCT, did exaclty what race expos are meant to do: I was introduced to some amazing PLN members: Dan Whalen (@whalen), Jerry Blumengarten, Billy Krakower, Brad Currie, Denis Sheeran (@MathDenisNJ); I reconnected with other PLN friends: Meredith Martin, Chris Aviles, and John Mason (@jhnmason); and had another meeting of the minds with the Ed Justice League (I promise to reveal their secret identities soon enough!). I also had the opportunity to inquire about ISTE and get the information I needed to have a wonderful first ISTE.

I know that ISTE 2016 will be in Denver next year, but I look forward to returning to TCT next June. I wonder if the Evolving Educators will bring TCT to Denver so that others can experience my ISTE Expo.

Related Posts:
I Conqured The Beast That Is ISTE!: A Running Reflection Series