Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reflections on a Successful EDTech Day for Teachers

Yesterday, we hosted an EDTech day for Educators at the York Catholic District School Board which was an overwhelming success.  Here are a few reasons why.

Skip the Keynote

Rather than have a Keynote speaker from outside of our District, we decided to try out an IGNITE session.  A few of us had been to the ISTE conference and LOVED the format. If you've never heard of an IGNITE, Check it out here. We put the invitation out to everyone and only got 6 teachers who were crazy enough courageous enough to come forward.  As the lead organizer, I led the charge, collaborated with the volunteers and then left them to their brilliance.  You'd be surprised at how difficult a 5 minute/20 slide presentation is to prepare!  One presenter said it was the hardest thing he'd ever done.

The result was more than we could have hoped--very different and unique perspectives and topics, and a truly motivating way to start the day!   Thanks to +MichaelWoodrow +Dan Bruni +Anne Ratchford Daniel LaGamba, +Dave Cheng, @MsMollyTL Theresa Penny for joining me on the IGNITE stage!

Student IGNITE presenter

When I met Sabrina, a grade 9 student at St. Elizabeth, whose learning journey brought her such immense confidence, I took a chance and asked her if she'd be willing to prepare an IGNITE as well.  Her teacher/coach Ms. Penney (who also volunteered to present one) helped her to prepare and rather than timing her slides, she controlled them on her own (less pressure).  It was an amazing way to bring student voice into the day and she did an amazing job!

I'm sure that next year, we'll have many more volunteers--both teachers and students--willing to present an IGNITE.

Teacher Facilitators

We created a Google Form and asked teachers from the system to lead sessions.  This year we had over 35 teachers come forward to showcase the innovative things they were doing in their classrooms.  What incredibly talented teachers we have working at our District!  Having them facilitate not only builds capacity of the teacher-leaders in our Board, but their ideas and experiences provide both inspiration and a practical starting point!   We had a great range of topics and various entry points for teachers anywhere in their journey of integrating technology.  Some of the sessions offered less about the "how" and more about the "why" allowing participants the opportunity to talk about important issues around access, logistics, equity, privacy, etc...

Board Level Support

We had full participation and involvement of many key personnel in our District.  Our Director of Education not only came to bring greetings, but she stayed and learned alongside her teachers.  We also had Superintendents of Curriculum, and the Senior Manager of IT @DarleneClaphamK12 support the initiative from the beginning, as well as actively participate in the day.  They have been instrumental all along in providing a vision and  moving our system forward in terms of technology enhanced, student-centered learning.

Push the Envelope a little

Although it was essential for us, to offer beginner opportunities for Google Apps for Education, iPad, and Desire2Learn as these are what make up our Technology Ecosystem, we also wanted to push the thinking a little bit.  There are some early adopters within our District, but for the most part, we are fairly slow to start with integrating Edtech in our classrooms.  Ideas such as Coding, using Twitter and Google +, Gaming in the Classroom, Flipped Classrooms, etc...are old-news to some, but for many of our teachers, they are brand new.  We made sure to include some of these workshops in the mix so that people can at least start to think about non-traditional ways in which to provide a student-centered learning experience.

We invited @MzMollyTL @Niecsa @GamingEdus to present an IGNITE and stick around to show teachers the power of engaging students through Minecraft.  We know that many teachers are excited to explore this further.

Other Musts

Learning Space

This year, we offered a place where participants can go to consolidate their learning if they need to.   We also promoted the idea of a Coffee EDU (an idea which I got from @DougPete this summer and which we saw in action at the Bring It Together Conference 2014).  Basically, people were encouraged to gather and talk about their passions, ideas, or concerns in an informal setting.   We left the cafeteria open all day for this dual purpose.   Although it did mean that some of the sessions may have had fewer participants, for people suffering from information overload  or who felt the need to connect with other educators, it was a great alternative.

Reliable Tech

Let's face it, there is nothing more frustrating than attending an EDTech day and not being able to connect your devices.  Choose a venue that will handle your needs!  We chose to hold the event at St. Augustine C.H.S., which has an excellent infrastructure.  We also had a dynamic duo behind the scenes ensuring everything went smoothly as well as IT personnel there in case things went awry.
Our Information Jedi (@gadgetqwn) took care of our Help Desk, and we lent out devices to people who came without one so everyone would have a hands-on experience.

Here is a link to our EDTech Site:

If you are running your own EDTech event and would like to share ideas, feel free to connect with me!

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