Thursday, October 18, 2012

What I Learned at ITEC

I just got back from the annual ITEC conference where tech directors, teachers, and some admins get together to learn more about technology in education. It was a wonderful conference held at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines with over 1200 attendees. What I learned:
  1. Focus on the student and the learning outcomes and not the technology. Once you know what your learning goals are, then you can think technology -- And, start with what you have!
  2. If you haven't tried Evernote, you should. It's a great place to store your thoughts. Better yet, I learned I can buy a Moleskine notebook, get three months of Evernote premium free, put a special sticker on each page of the notebook, take a picture of my handwritten notes, and they will go to Evernote to the right folder based on the sticker. For someone who loves to write things by hand sometimes, this is fantastic! My handwriting is my art. The best thing about Evernote, in my opinion, are the search and features.
  3. iPads, although created for consumption and personal ownership, can be coerced into doing some pretty amazing, creative things. I'm still not sure they are worth the expense with the short period of time before they are obsolete and need to be upgraded, but boy, teachers have found ways to use them effectively. Jamie Fath has some great info.
  4. I may just be ready to move to virtualized servers. I've been reluctant to add the complexity, but I learned enough at the conference to realize there are some real benefits to going this direction.
  5. You don't need a classroom full of technology to be effective. You can have a few things and do great technology integration by sharing. Follow @mrnidey on Twitter. He's a third grade teacher who has truly transformed his classroom.
  6. If you aren't using your interactive whiteboard as more than a screen for your projector or a worksheet substitute, you are missing some great educational opportunities for your students. Try making your whiteboard one of your Student Centers and give your students the reins.
  7. Offer your kids authentic choices, and they will fly. Let them collaborate outside the school walls.
  8. Using primary sources will bring history to life. Seriously, I think I would have loved history had my teachers gone about it this way.
And that's just the beginning. It was a wonderful time to network, collaborate, and try new things. If we just keep the focus on the students and the learning as we are in our school district and quit obsessing about the technologies, we will be able to improve education astronomically. Like I've said over and over in this blog - Huge Internet pipe, robust wireless, and mobile Internet connected devices in as many students' hands as possible. Add to that the teacher who loves to learn, learns new things regularly, and models that love of learning to the students, and kids will fly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


We had an electrical wire torn out in an accident today and have been reminded how dependent we are on electricity. First, we lost Internet and switches. Then the Internet came back for awhile. Oops, Internet and fiber gone again. Then with the battery backups running down, I've shut off servers. No email. No grade book. Sometimes you might as well go home . . . . Unless you're the Tech Director and need to make sure it's all back online once the power returns. Thank goodness for my phone while I wait!