This past week was the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (#OETC15). It was the first time I was able to attend this conference, so I had no previous experience to compare it to. Here are some of my thoughts and takeaways from the conference.
First and foremost, the networking opportunities were great. It was a different type of networking than a notional/international conference like ISTE. It’s always so exciting to meet people from other states and hear about what they’re doing in their schools and classrooms; it makes the world feel a little smaller. But meeting people from your own state, who live and work in neighboring districts was also very cool. I would highly recommend going to a local/state conference if you haven’t been to one in your area yet.
The first Keynote speaker, Danielle Feinberg from Pixar was very interesting. I had no idea the amount of time and mathematical thought processes that went into every last detail of animated films. I thought I had an idea, but the information she shared painted a whole new picture for me. I also really liked some of her points about how to overcome obstacles and stick with something that’s really hard. Some things that stuck out to me were “passion” and “early exposure.” Passion has definitely driven me in my chosen field. I also think it’s really important that kids are exposed to technology at an early age, so they are not at a disadvantage to their peers later in their academic and professional careers. She also shed light on the growing technology industry and lack of qualified people to fill the jobs, when she said by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computing jobs and only 400,000 people qualified to fill those jobs. It is clear that simply using technology in schools to read a text book isn’t cutting it. We’ve got to prepare our students for these 1.4 million jobs, the millions of other jobs that will require some level of computing skills and jobs we don’t even know exist yet. All in all, Feinberg had a really cool message and some fun information to keep it interesting.
I also found the second keynote speaker,Yong Zhao from the University of Oregon, very interesting and inspiring. I have wanted to see Zhao speak for a very long time now, so I was thrilled to finally see him. He had a hilarious charm throughout his whole speech (and a very unique way of presenting). He talked about unemployment and the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit. He discussed education reform and how our current “sausage making” system produces children who are ready for jobs that have been replaced by machines in many professions and funnels out their creativity. If you have never seen him speak, I recommend checking out some of his stuff on his website or reading one of his books. He had a really great message that was hard to dispute.
I really enjoyed the Google Educators Group Ohio Meet-up session with Eric Curts. This was the introductory GEG Ohio meet-up. Google has created GEG’s for each state to help people from similar geographic areas connect with one another. Going back to my networking with people in your neighboring districts comments from earlier in the post, it really is cool to be able to call someone up 20 minutes away and get their help with something. If you are a Google using educator in Ohio, be sure to join the GEG Ohio Google+ Community. I’ve been trying to get more into Google+ myself recently, and I think this group will be a very valuable resource. Curts also hosts a Google user group meeting via Google Live Hangouts on the 3rd Friday of the month, which was also a really valuable tool. If you want to challenge yourself on some old school Google Trivia, play the Kahoot Curts created here– I definitely learned some things from it!
My favorite session was with featured speaker Vicki Davis, the widely known Cool Cat Teacher. She is so inspiring and down to earth and has such a great message to share. I really wish she hadn’t been programmed at 1:15 p.m. on the last day. So many more people would have benefitted from hearing her session about flattening classrooms to connect ourselves and our students with the world. She had a great message to share and mentioned a handful of web tools I’m going to check out. If you missed it, you can check out her slideshare presentation from the conference here.
One session with the perfect blend of passion, connecting students with technology early on, teaching students technology skills for jobs of the future, education reform and nurturing creativity, and flattening classrooms a little bit came from a session with two gentlemen on Thursday morning (who I am lucky enough to know personally). Andrew Wheatley and Dave Clark presented about their Straight A Grant and Zulama, a curriculum based on Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Masters Degree program. If you haven’t heard about Zulama yet, you’ve got to check it out! To see how the Zulama curriculum ties into Ohio’s (and other state’s) standards, click here. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, there are direct links to states the program has already worked with and specific standards, which their curriculum directly relates.
My two favorite products from the vendors exhibitor hall:
- Swivl– a swiveling stand for any phone or tablet that connects through Bluetooth to a marker that you wear around your neck. The marker contains a microphone and presentation controls. As you move around the room, you record yourself on your phone/tablet. The marker to Swivl Bluetooth connection will cause the Swivl to rotate wherever you are in the room. They have a cloud drive to upload the videos and will even sync your presentation and your voice if you have a presentation. This would be a fabulous tool for the RESA program, which requires teachers to film themselves teaching. It would obviously be a great tool for a flipped classroom, student presentations and flipped PD. From what I saw at the conference, the Swivl records through an app. I hope you can use and record it with anything because I think this would open up limitless opportunities. For example, you could use it with Google Hangouts on Air to live stream PD or a class for those who cannot attend in person. We’re getting a demo unit, so I look forward to testing this baby out! See it in action here.
- Hummingbird– the perfect STEAM activity! Hummingbird sells robotics kits that essentially turn anything into a robot. Students create their own figure-whatever they want- out of arts and crafts. Then they use the Hummingbird robotics kit and some basic coding to turn it into a robot. The dragon to the right was made out of art supplies and the Hummingbird robotics made the mouth open and close, the head and body turn side to side, the tail wag and a red light flash inside the mouth. You can watch a couple of videos about it here. My partner Melissa Prohaska is trying to get some in our 5th grade art classes!
Melissa and I were also featured on an #Edutekkie Google Hangout on Air! I hate seeing and hearing myself on camera, but it was still fun to try something out. Neither of us had ever done a live Google Hangout.
And of course, we got a picture with the big Ohio sign!
In the future, my biggest suggestion would be to have a handful of higher level, more advanced sessions for tech coaches. I also wish we could switch around the acronym to make it OTEC (oh-tech). Come on, that just makes sense, right?!
Did you attend OETC15? What did you think? If you don’t live in Ohio, what do you think of attending your local edtech conference?
Tech To You Later!