For the November Tech Integration Blog Post, I am going to go back to writing, so for those who enjoy watching the video blog posts, please bear with me for this one! I am also going to take a break from the usual EdTech focus so that I can write about the Top Ten things that I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. I know, that's a lot of change for one month, but if you don't regularly take time to reflect on the things in your life you have to be thankful for, I encourage you to try it. It can help center you and rejuvenate you, and best of all, it keeps things in perspective! With that, here's my list:
10. My job at ESU 4: when I first earned my Master’s Degree, I was excited to use it to become a better teacher with the hope of one day moving into a position where I could serve as a Technology Integration Specialist in Education. Thank you to all the wonderful people at ESU 4 for taking a chance on me!
9. Music: it always has been and will always be an important part of who I am. It has helped shape me, and I am thankful for the 13 years that I spent serving as a Band Director. They were rewarding, challenging, fulfilling, and so much more. If one single piece of music could summarize this, it would be Symphony No. 4 by David Maslanka.
8. Traveling: I have seen so many beautiful places in this world, and I am blessed to have been able to share it with the love of my life, Sarah. While there are favorite places we enjoy going back to, we also like exploring new places. This year, we visited and explored New Orleans and it was an amazing experience.
7. Home: we are blessed with a wonderful home, and there’s nothing like traveling to remind you of that and give you a new appreciation for that. While there’s always the list of projects we’d like to do, I try to step back and look at our house and how it has truly evolved into our home. For our son Joey, and our dogs Archer and Sunny, it is basically the only home they have ever known, and that alone makes it special!
6. Technology: I do not simply mean technology for technology’s sake, but rather, technology that changes the world. It’s crazy to think that the internet didn’t exist when I was born, and computers were barely even a thing. I have seen so many changes with the advancement of technology, and how they have made the world a better place.
5. Educators: in my role at ESU 4, I get to see a lot of educators and their students in several different school buildings, as well as a variety of grade levels and content areas. I am always amazed by how hard educators work for the students they serve. It is a blessing to see how devoted and caring the educators in our ESU 4 schools are, and how much that impacts the lives of students. The strive to make school a positive and special place for all--especially for the students who have difficult home lives and need that the most!
4. For all of the teachers who had a profound impact on me, especially my high school and college band directors and all of my other music teachers.
3. For all of the mentor teachers who have helped me throughout my career--especially during those first few years. You saw the potential in me even when I didn’t see it myself, and you were the ultimate example of faith and patience.
2. All of my family and loved ones who are no longer with us. Holidays are always a bittersweet when those you love are not around to celebrate with you anymore. Regardless, their impact was deep, and they will always be a part of who I am.
1. My family: my amazing wife, our wonderful son, our dogs, our parents, and all of our relatives and loved ones. Family is everything, and I am who I am because of them.
The 2017-18 School Year is rapidly coming to an end! Thank you, educators, for all that you have done to make a difference in the lives of students this year. Clarification: I use educators as a term that encompasses anyone who works with kids during the school year: administrators, teachers, coaches, support staff, mentors, and more!
For those of us who work in education, we know very well that summer is not a "time off" for educators. It is a busy time of catching up on professional reading, attending workshops, working on curriculum for the next school year, taking graduate courses, and then, hopefully, getting to relax and spend time with family doing fun things!
Since summer is almost here, I would like to take this opportunity to preview some of the outstanding learning opportunities:
1. Southeast Nebraska EdTech Conference June 11-12 at Beatrice High School
This two day conference will focus on preparing students for success through exploring the Future Ready (Nebraska) Framework, as sessions will be aligned to the ISTE Standards for Students (2016). Click on the link above to visit the website, where you can register, view the complete schedule, and other information.
2. ISTE Conference June 24-27 at the McCormick Place--Chicago, IL
This is one of the largest EdTech Conferences in the world, and will have some outstanding keynote speakers and presenters. If you are tech-savvy and are looking for more ideas to explore and implement in your classroom, this is the conference you have been waiting for!
3. Great Plains Summit Featuring Google for Education July 12-13 at Southwest High School--Lincoln, NE
This is an excellent two day conference where attendees can learn anything and everything about utilizing G Suite for Education tools to engage students and support instruction. The keynotes and presenters are known on a regional and national level, so needless to say, you will be learning from the experts!
4. Click to View a Complete list of our ESU 4 Summer Workshops
There is something for everyone at this summer's workshops, including exploring the new science standards, Dr. Laura Riffel (aka the Behavior Doctor), MTSS, and many more!
The Spring NETA Conference has always been an outstanding conference for learning about great technology tools to support instruction and student learning, and it has always been a great conference for collaboration, networking, and getting to play with new technology tools in the vendor area. This year's Spring NETA Conference absolutely lived up to that reputation, and did not disappoint! It this post, I am going to share my top takeaways from attending the conference. These are by no means a comprehensive or all-inclusive list. With so many outstanding presenters and sessions to choose from, I am convinced that it is impossible for one person to be able to take in all of it during the two and a half days of the conference. Having said that, here are my takeaways from the conference. I hope you enjoy!
1. Stacy Behmer (@sbehmer) facilitated a session entitled "Hacks to Help Us." At the beginning of the session, she shared a Google Doc with a table, and the participants formed small groups and shared their favorite technology tool in the Google Doc. The information included a description, links, and screenshots or screencast videos. The 45 minutes flew by, and in the end, the Google Doc was filled with 8 pages of great tools and ideas on how to integrate them into your classroom! Click the link below to make your own copy of the Google Doc and view all of the great tech tools that were shared!
2. Ignite sessions are a fast and fun way to get a lot of great information in a short period of time. Otis Pierce from ESU 7 (@odiep77) facilitated a couple of these in which presenters have 5 minutes to present on any topic of their choosing (20ish slides). The Ignite session I attended featured outstanding presenters who were clearly passionate about education, and it was truly inspiring! Presenters included Otis Pierce (@odiep77), Crystal Hurt (@CrystalDawnEd), Karl Hehr (@karlhehr), Corey Dahl (@iCoreyDahl), Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent), and Melissa Pilakowski (@mpilakow).
3. Leslie Fisher had some excellent sessions on hidden gems in G Suite for Education and other web 2.0 tools, and she also had a great session on creation tools for both teachers and students. You can visit Leslie's Website to view her resources. She usually has presentation slides available to download for free for up to 14 days after she has presented at a conference.
4. Joe Sanfelippo (@Joe_Sanfelippo)...holy cow! This was by far the most amazing keynote I have ever heard. What made it so amazing? The content was great, but what made it outstanding was how engaging, authentic, passionate, and genuine Joe was. There was no doubt that he truly believed in what he was saying, and his stories definitely backed that. Some of his stories were humorous, while others were serious, and there were times when Joe became a bit choked up as he told the story. At the end of the keynote, Joe received a standing ovation and there was hardly a dry eye in the audience. Joe also presented some sessions on leadership later in the morning, and they were also outstanding. Joe is the Superintendent at Fall Creek Public Schools in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, which is a small town with a population of around 1,300 people. To learn more about Joe and Fall Creek Schools, here are a couple of websites to visit:
NETA18 was a great conference! If you were not able to attend, you can get a lot of the resources and info on Twitter by following #NETA18 (embedded below). You can also view the entire schedule with session descriptions by visiting netasite.org/?page_id=4596.
It's hard to believe, but we are less than one week away from the Spring NETA Conference, which will be held April 19-20 at the Century Link Center in Omaha, NE. Pre-conference workshops are held in the afternoon/evening of April 18. The Spring NETA Conference has something to offer for everyone, ranging from classroom teachers to technology coordinators, and administrators. There are over 200 Breakout Sessions, and other session formats include Poster/Playground Sessions, Conversation Sessions, and the NETA Innovation Lab. Sessions are categorized by strand (i.e. 1:1, Digital Citizenship, Google Spotlight, and more). There are also numerous exhibitors, which gives attendees a chance to meet representatives from technology companies and see the latest and greatest tools that are available.
I highly encourage you to visit the Spring NETA Conference page: http://netasite.org/?page_id=4334 to access all of the conference information. Even if you are not attending the conference this year, you can still view the sessions, schedule, and view handouts.
For those attending the conference, I highly encourage you to use Sched to view sessions, presenter information, and handouts. Best of all, if you click on "add to my sched," Sched will build your own custom schedule for the conference that is accessible from any device.
Spring NETA '18 promises to be an outstanding conference for educators! I hope to see you all there, and stay tuned, as my next blog post will summarize my top takeaways from NETA '18!
wZoom is a video conference platform that is paid for by the ESU Coordinating Council and offered to teachers across Nebraska. At the ESU level, we use Zoom almost exclusively for our video conference meetings, as it works smoothly and has many helpful features.
Recently, Zoom added a green screen feature where users can choose from built in virtual backgrounds or add their own--the options are endless! I tested this new feature earlier this morning, and I am happy to report that it is simple and user-friendly! For my green screen, I purchased a cheap green vinyl table cloth and pinned it to the wall behind where I was sitting. I then added some pictures to the virtual background library in Zoom and recorded a short 1 minute video using different backgrounds. I'll attach a couple of screenshots of how to set this up. Again, it is very simple!
I see a lot of potential uses for this. For teachers who have digital media or journalism classes, students could create newscast videos with appealing virtual backgrounds, and then publish them to the school's YouTube channel. This would reach a broader audience, and would be more engaging than the traditional printed school bulletin. Students could also collaborate on digital projects such as commercials, public service announcements, and content specific videos (i.e. science, social students, etc.).
The green screen feature in Zoom is definitely worth exploring! I hope that my screenshots and instructions are helpful. Good luck, and enjoy!
The ESU 4 Engaging Educators Conference was held Monday, Feb. 19 at Johnson County Central Middle School (Cook site). This is the first time that ESU 4 has hosted the conference in 7 or 8 years, and our team decided to bring back the conference based on the feedback and requests that we received from administrators in our area schools. I am proud to say that this year's conference was a great success, and that is due largely to all of the talented and dedicated colleagues on the ESU 4 team. It is also largely due to all of the incredible presenters who came to share their time and talents at our conference. Below are some of the highlights of the day.
1. 5 full school districts from our ESU 4 area schools attended the conference, and a handful of teachers from a couple of other schools in the ESU 4 area also attended. Next year, we expect the conference to grow, as more school districts will be attending the conference.
2. Technology, when used purposefully, can streamline your workflow and help you operate more efficiently. We created a Conference Website that included a Twitter Feed and official conference hashtag #ESU4EE18. The website also included the use of Sched for the conference schedule. Sched comes with many helpful features, such as session descriptions and pictures of the presenters, and the ability for conference attendees to click on the sessions they plan to attend and build their own personal schedule prior to the conference. Sched is mobile-friendly, so it can be accessed anywhere, anytime, and from any device! Below is the Twitter Feed from #ESU4EE18
3. We had incredible presenters from a variety of educational roles and backgrounds. These included content specialists at the Nebraska Department of Education, Professional Development Coordinators from other ESU's, content specialists from Peru State College, and more. We even featured a session where Tim Huls (Principal at Hampton High School) brought some of his students, and co-presented with Taylor Siebert on Class Intercom.
4. Josh Erickson from Team Concepts delivered an inspiring keynote that addressed teacher engagement. He referenced Gallup Studies that were conducted over long periods of time, and the conclusion was that the #1 predictor of success in schools is teacher engagement. That is significant because as educators, we are always concerned with student engagement, but schools that have a high percentage of teacher engagement have a more positive culture and are helping their students be successful.
5. Many thank-you's are due to Marcus Scheer (Technology Coordinator at JCC), Rich Bacon (Principal at JCC Middle School), and all of the JCC faculty and staff for their hard work, as this conference could not have been successful without them.
The 2018 ESU 4 Engaging Educators Conference was a great success, and I am excited to see how this conference evolves and grows in future years. We hope to see you all next year--mark your calendars, as the conference will be Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 (location TBA)!
Ben is the Technology Integration Specialist at ESU 4 in Auburn, NE. He is also a Google for Education Certified Trainer.