**Update: I had this post started back in December, but I never finished. Blaugust is a good time to do so!
It has been a while since I have written anything. The school is in full motion and that has kept me very busy! On Thursday and Friday of this week there was a conference called Learning with Technology. I have been fortunate to win registration for this conference for the last two years, though the conference is only $10 so it is very manageable. Anyway, this is the first year that the conference was two days. I was only able to attend Friday because we had conferences on Thursday.
In some respects this conference is similar to an EdCamp situation because it is acceptable to leave a session and go attend another one that better fits your needs. They also had some "Unconference" sessions in which people suggest topics and can actual lead them. So overall, this is a very laid back conference, but there is a lot of information that one can go away with.
I was able to attend five sessions, which I will tell you a little bit about. I will also link to the page that has extra links for some of the sessions. I don't know how long that page stays active for, so if you find something helpful, I would definitely take what you need and/or bookmark the link you want to save.
The first session I attended was a Makerspcace Panel. I am aware of the general premise of makerspace, but I really didn't know what to expect when I sat in the session. This probably wasn't the most informative session for me personally, but there were some ideas I can keep in my back pocket. I am certain there are colleagues of mine that may have more a means to run with this information more so than I hope that I might be able to share information in that event. There were a few different makerspaces represented. There were two high schools, a PAC group, one through a library, and one was in an industrial setting.
The makerspaces had things like 3-D printing, cricut, knitting, MakiMaki, etc. as activities. Schools are making use of spaces like computer labs, which become obsolete because of 1:1 programs. All the programs said to make it work it needs a systems person and a creative person. One of the programs said they give the users a starting point and then lets the users become experts. The programs involve a lot of prototypes and constraints of the problem. There are resources on #makerspace and #makered that the programs recommended. Regarding the 3-D printers, they really recommended doing homework on the devices, especially the filament. One space had a Spheros Challenge to help keep the attention of the users: "When presented with an easier way out, they will take it." Add constraints to programming problems or other designs to keep the ideas flowing.
The last bit of advice I have about Makerspaces is that if you wait until everything is set, you will never get started.
Another session that I went to was called Google Snipits. I really wish that I wrote about this when it was fresh in my mind because I really found this session interesting. The teacher that presented about this (actually, I think he was a principal)
said he really wasn't an expert in coding and really just takes advantage of the scripts in Google Docs and programs within Google. He recommended really just playing around with things and seeing how it works. He used code.org and Scratch and wanted something else to do.
Most of my notes don't mean a whole lot because they were very technical and unfortunately, I had my iPad that day and this doesn't work on tablets at this point. Anyway, a couple things I found interesting were his Choose Your Adventure stories. I included the link to is presentation, so I think you can find more information about how that worked there. I wrote a note about using it for a getting to know you exercise, but I definitely don't think that will be something I get to this year. There were some scripts that could write out messages for your students or your students could do so. He mentioned something about writing projects that include code too.
I attended a STEM panel for my next session, but I didn't really take any notes about it. I am in a STEM program and think it is beneficial, but I think STEM is getting a bit overused of late. It is definitely a buzzword right now.
Moving on: I attended a session about Finch Migration of Robots and Coding. I haven't had really any experience with robotics, so I thought this would be interesting. The teacher who presented this was actually a former HS teacher of mine and he was able to show different connections that could be made to the technology standards and especially math. These robots have left/right motors, sensors for light, temperature, and obstacles. There are sounds and a pen to draw shapes and other things. These robots are $90 and there is some sort of loaner program that schools can look into. I believe he recommended this for the 3-8th grade level.
My last session was about assistive technology for readers and writers. The presenter shared a lot, but a few stuck out to me. I didn't really take notes on the apps because I was mostly familiar with them, but like all the other technology we get, we often forget about things and revisit them when we have a need for them. Google Read and Write is one that I think a lot of students at my school take advantage of. Because we have a lot of language learners, many of them are still working on reading and writing skills. Having text read aloud often allows these students to be more independent as they work. I made a note about Google Dictionary too. I think that this helps students add different words that they commonly use into a dictionary. Another one I noted was Kaizena, which is a verbal commenting tool. I believe you can add into Google Docs and give students feedback verbally rather than written. For concept maps, there are Lucid Chart and MindMup. I have used those minimally, but I think they could be pretty useful for those tasks.
I have really gotten a lot out of this conference. I hope that I can continue to go, AND that the cost stays as reasonable as it is.