10 takeaways from my first EdTech Summit!

I had the privilege to teach and attend my first EdTech Summit. Not only was I able to share with passionate educators, I was able to learn from other educators. Having only experienced one other technology type conference, I was hesitant in attending.

Why? I have no idea.

I knew I would be around other excited and eager educators, but entering into a new conference setting made me a little nervous. As I sit here reflecting, I am literally laughing out loud! I’m such a silly girl for thinking the way I did. I recognized several welcoming faces of some awesome presenters, that I had seen from past tech conferences I have attended. But, I also met and chatted with some new awesome presenters and attendees.

As I sit here, after two wonderful days engrossed in hard core PD, I reflect upon my two roles at the summit.

My takeaways from presenting:

1. Did I give them too much time to “play”?

So I love to present, but I don’t like to do much talking. I approached my Interactive Infographics presentation very differently than the last time I presented it. I explained my pedagogy, but I wanted to make sure my attendees had time to play. This was different than the last time I presented. For some reason, I feel like I gave them too much time to play. For me, my worst nightmare is to lead a session that doesn’t use every ounce of the time given. I hope that by giving my attendees time to “play” allowed them to gain a better usage of Slides, and they didn’t hate me.

2. Hope “they” got at least one thing from my session.

So as I stated in my previous takeaway, I modified my presentation. I gave them tips and tricks to use while creating infographics. I really hope the hyperlinking & graphing component was something they didn’t know. I know that every presentation cannot be perfect, but as long as they walked away with one new thing…I have to be okay with that.

3. There’s always room for growth.

The perfectionist in me feels like I could have done parts of my presentation differently. I know in the future, I need to document additional aspects of what I am presenting for those who “want to take it further”. I hope that in the future, I can give attendees more information than what I’ll give lip service too. If they are anything like me, they will want to explore more than what meets the eye.

My takeaways from other presenters:

4. “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” -Jennie Mageria

So often my mind wanders as I watch so many people’s Facebook feeds, Instagram posts, Twitter Tweets and SnapChat pics….that makes me sit and think, man they live such an amazing life!?!? Jennie’s keynote message was such an intriguing presentation that made me think about my story and people’s untold story. Quite often other people display their circumstances to the world, in the most bright & magnificent ways. It makes me think, wow, I wish I could live their life. However, as Jennie’s keynote pointed out, that people don’t post the “real-world” & “mundane” items of their day to day life. They tend to focus on their “highlights”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of posting my highlight reel. I think if we are being honest, we all do. As we scroll through other people’s social media, we have to keep in mind, “don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” We have to make sure we don’t lose sight of our abilities and unique qualities we posses. We as individuals, have so much to offer the world. Yes at times other people’s outsides will look differently than ours, however there is not another person who has your heart, soul and passion. So….do you!

5. “If you try to be me, then who will be you?” -Jennie Mageria

Jennie ended with a great story about how her fourth grade teacher made such a profound impact in her life. She went on to explain that she met with her teacher and stated that she wanted to be just like her. Rather than agree and encourage Jennie to do the same, her teacher said, “If you try to be me, then who will be you?” This statement resonated with me deeply. I’m guilty of trying to mimic other amazing things that educators do. However, in doing that, it makes me tend to lose sight of my goals, talents and abilities. I have to remind myself that I have been given a soul and passion that no one else has. My background, upbringing and experiences are unique to me. In that, I have to use my past, abilities and knowledge to leave my own mark on the world. So that is what I’ll do. As I continue to learn from amazing educators, I will put my own spin on it, so that it fits my personality and abilities.

6. “You don’t create a revolution without sharing it!” -Rafranz Davis

I can think back to my first few years teaching. I didn’t really leave my classroom. I didn’t chat with my peers. I came to work, taught my babies and coached. Nowhere in the mix did I ever think of sharing with my colleagues. It was not until I started attending technology conferences that understood the power of sharing. Twitter for me, has been a great platform to share out the wonderful things my students & colleagues are doing at my school site. My mission this last year was to encourage and motivate other teachers to share out what they are doing in their classrooms. By not sharing, we don’t give our students a voice nor do we give hope to teachers who are stuck. In order to start movement, we have to move. We have to document what we do and be willing to take the steps necessary to share it out with the world. My encouragement to you is….it is worth it. Your current students deserve it and so do the students you will have in the future.

7. “It’s not the MAGIC that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic.” -George Barcenas

We as teacher possess the opportunity to instill magic into our daily lesson plans. The magic (our lesson plan/content) is there, however, it is how we work to display it, that makes it worth it. I am a huge advocate for student voice & choice. I strongly dislike giving my students all the information regarding labs and PBL lessons. Relinquishing this control has been something I have slowly done throughout the years, but through this process my students have revolutionized their learning. There is more work on my part from developing HyperDoc units, creating Screencasts, researching technology, to beta testing it…I tend to lose sleep. BUT I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have the ability to come to work everyday and cultivate an epic learning environment for my students. I want them to be excited about learning and be able to take the knowledge they develop in my class with them in the future. I would love to encourage you to continue in your efforts. If you’re reading this and you don’t have that passion, I hope that you find that one “crazy” teacher and begin to ask questions. I promise, it will be worth it.

My Tech takeaways:

8. Google Extension–iorad

For all you Tech Coaches and Trainers. Have you heard of the extension iorad? Do you often create Screencasts that show your colleagues how a program works? You send it out and get that email response of “are there step by step directions on how to do this”. Now there is!! Use this extension to help you do just that.

9. Google Drawing is my friend!! 

Most people have used Drawing, but have you ever tried to mimic artwork from other people? Using the two tools: Curve and Polyline? Check out George Barcenas explanation of these two game changers. I have already began creating my very own blogging sticker, email signature and so much more!

10. Rocketbook! 

I love my rocketbook. Do you sketchnote? Do you still enjoy the good ol’ pen and paper? Do you want to be able to take your notes and share them in your Google Drive? Rocketbook is the book for you. By using friction pens, the notebook, and Rocketbook app you will be able to easily upload your sketchnotes into your Drive. The BEST part of Rocketbook, is once that it is full you are able to put it in the microwave and erase all of your markings. YES, I just said you put it in the microwave. Still don’t believe me? Check this out!

So needless to say, I’m hooked on EdTech Summits. Thank you everyone for making my experience a wonderful experience.

#KidsDeserveIt

This summer, I have been on a reading frenzy. Aside from reading required texts for my last PASC class, I have been able to read for my own enjoyment. One of those books was, Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome.

This book is a must read for any educator.

I have been a teacher for over ten years and ensuring the success of my students have always been at the forefront of my mind. In education, there are so many obstacles, defeats, changes etc., that can often be discouraging. However, there are often victories, opportunities, successes etc. that can be so rewarding. As an educator, I have had my fair share of both worlds.

After reading Kids Deserve It, I have been so encouraged to share out a few takeaways that hopefully encourage you.

  1. Push Forward, Move Past the Alien Look

Have you ever met with your Principal, colleagues, peers etc and shared an new innovative idea and….they stare at you with “that look”. You can hear a pin drop or they literally laugh out loud at you? Well I can honestly say, I have. I felt the size of the old school toy Polly Pocket. However, regardless of that feeling, I get excited when I get “that look”. I’m a pusher, I love to challenge the status quo.

I know rules are set for a reason, however, I do not enjoy the saying, “it’s the way we’ve always done things”. When it comes to kids, if it requires me to pursue the task because it will benefit kids. You better bet your bottom dollar, I will do whatever it takes. I love what it said in Kids Deserve It, “If we don’t, we don’t push education forward. We don’t inspire innovation and creativity. We just get more of the same. Be glad when you get the alien look. It means you’re thinking differently and trying to push the envelope with new ideas. It means even though not every idea will come to fruition, you keep pushing to give kids what’s best. Because your kids deserve it!”

So ask yourself, what new exciting program, activity, field trip, instructional strategy etc., would you like to implement in your classroom? Do it. Risk it. You have to be willing to set the bar higher than mediocrity.

**Note, if you are a Principal: Be willing to listen. We live in a world that is different from when we grew up. Students don’t learn the same way we did, they don’t experience life the same way we did. Know the legality of issues, but if it’s something new that is worthwhile, let teachers try.**

Thank you to all my administrators that believed in my crazy ideas. You have encouraged me and supported me in everything. I am so grateful for that.

  1. Build Relationships, with Everyone!

A huge part of growth in education takes place when you build relationships. Building relationships and connections has always been something I value. I have been able to build and maintain relationships with many people within my district. I love being able to say I work in the same district, I went to school in. With that being said, I have a huge level of comfortability. However, that didn’t get established until I lowered my guard.

All too often we as educators and people feel like if we ask for help, others will think we are subpar, incompetent, or incapable.

I will be honest, coming into the teaching profession, I didn’t have my teaching credential and did not have any experience (other than my years in school) in a classroom. With that being said, I did not know where to start when it came to teaching ALL students. I had to lower my guard and lean on the people who walked with me during my time as a student. Seeking advice out of my four classroom walls, was the most rewarding experience of my teaching career. As Nesloney & Welcome state, “we want to break down the walls of our classrooms and become partners in the journey.” So many stakeholders in education are ready to help you!

Aside from gaining perspective and knowledge from many in my district, I’ve also been able to gain a worldly perspective from educators around the world. Twitter has been one of the greatest resources I have had in seeking new ideas, building/fostering relationships, and is a place of continuing support for me on my journey.

I know so often, we get overwhelmed with the job and may encounter the following (according to Nesloney & Welcome):

  • I don’t have the time.
  • The new technology is too confusing.
  • My district would never approve it.
  • I don’t really understand the value.
  • I’ve been doing fine for years; why change now?

My rebuttal is that fostering relationships and expanding knowledge out of your repertoire is worth it. Not only for you, but for your students. It takes time, it takes effort, but life is different than when we were students. We owe it to our students to give them the best instruction and environment to be successful. Just do it. I know you won’t regret it.

  1. Let everything we do, come back to kids.

Think about why you became a teacher?

I’m hoping your decision is similar to what Nesloney & Welcome said, “people choose education because they want to make a difference — to change lives and impart wisdom to future generations.”. I know my reason is very similar to that. I want students to have a prosperous and successful future. I want them to be able to be successful in the 21st century.

If you are in a rut. Go back to your initial answer. Then find a friend. Someone you can confide in, that will push you and encourage you to pursue your passion.

In you are still fighting the good fight. I encourage you to share out with others. Share your successes and setbacks. You never know who you may be encouraging.

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Remember, kids are the only reason we have our profession. They inspire us, motivate us and empower us. We in turn should do the same for them. They deserve to have the best future and we need to be the ones who pave the way for them. After all, kids deserve it.

High Tech High Reflections

High Tech High. Not so tech, but sets the standard on project/problem based learning, oh so high. High Tech High is located in San Diego. It is a choice school where the students are guided by four design principles–equity, personalization, authentic work, and collaborative design.

Let’s just say, I was amazed at how a school could run when focused more on PBL and learning for education sake and not the grade. Don’t get me wrong, I think many schools focus is the same, however based on the freedom this school has, it’s just different. Public schools, where I teach, have standards that we focus on, a wider range of student needs, college prep classes we incorporate, just a completely different set up than this charter school.

However, despite the differences there is so much that I got out of it!

My 7 takeaways from High Tech High:

  1. Don’t build a project to please yourself (the teacher), but for someone or something (an audience). I feel like so often we build projects or instruct our class based on our own personal interests. But in all reality students are living in a different time, when we as teachers were in high school. We have to get out of our comfort zone and teach to students desires and interests. I think you’d be amazed of what your classroom will look like.
  1. Focus on the 3Ps: Participation, Process & Product. I think so often we as teachers can get “nitpicky” on grading. We have to grade every assignment, with a specific grade scale etc, etc, etc. Sometimes it gets mundane. I have my students do work everyday, but sometimes they don’t receive a grade for EVERY assignment. I make some assignments worth more points, due to what they lead to in the bigger picture. I know I will grade heavy in their active participation, the process and the final product.
  1. Work towards your passion. My passion in education is to prepare teachers and students to teach in the 21st century. I want them to feel empowered and make an impact with their own lives, but in the lives of others. In order for me to achieve this, I have to go outside of my comfort zone and put in work. I work almost everyday to find ways to innovate my colleagues and students. Working hard, has given me so much to be proud of and has made it possible for teachers and students to be motivated for learning.
  1. They do what I do. No fear in failure. I have to continue to promote a growth mindset in my class. I have to continue to work outside of my comfort zone and not be afraid to take a leap. Over the course of the year I failed publically and privately. I’ve shared this openly with my students so that way they can see this, there can be no fear, when aiming for new goals. You may fail and fall, but you may fly!
  1. Be explicit about why they are doing what they are doing. Teach/Coach them about what they are doing. Being open and honest with what students are doing goes a long way. Building an honest and open rapport with your students can help cultivate meaningful projects and learning. Being a constant voice of support and direction, can encourage them along the way.
  1. Publish student work. It engages students and let’s them see the value in their work. I need to be better at this! I have started digital portfolios within my classroom, however they don’t necessarily show ALL the hard work my students have put in over the course of the year. I know that the portfolios are a great way to showcase their work, but have exhibitions can also be a way to allow the community to know what my students are capable of. It was huge when one HTH teacher said, don’t just make the “trashcan” projects, make them something memorable and worth publishing!
  1. Listen to why students are not engaged. THIS IS HUGE! Many students become disengaged in content quickly. This directly ties back the my takeaway #1. Students have a voice, they have feelings emotions, desires, motivations etc., we have to listen to them. We have to then take what they say and tie it into our curriculum, somehow, someway!

Cultivating meaningful instruction is hard, but we have to be willing to put in the work. This year I tried HyperDocs for the first time, and it changed the way I instruct. My students were engaged and motivated. Their assessment scores showed a 15% improvement. My plea to my fellow educators is….take the leap, do the work, enjoy the process, build relationships with your students, and show off what they produce. It will amaze you and make your career more worthwhile.

All in all, I was encouraged to know that I’m not far off the path of what HTH is doing. This being an ideal school, I am doing a lot of what they are doing, just on a different scale. After visiting, I know that I must continue to pursue my passion, and continue to dive into the passions of my students.

My Story!

My name is Jennifer Calderon.

My life as a teacher started roughly 10 years ago. I was on the verge of graduation from Biola University, and had no prospects of a job in sight.  I had discussed my career goals with my Professor, and to my surprise he said I would be an excellent teacher. (Well, if I’m being honest, I knew I was meant to be a teacher, ever since I was in third grade. Not to sound sure of myself, but I put my passion on the backburner to pursue a job as a Doctor). My dream of being a Doctor was thrown out the window when I experienced health issues during my Junior year in college.

So here I was a girl with support, passion and no job. Upon conversations with my Mom, I decided to apply at my Alma Matter in Hesperia Unified. My interview was perhaps the scariest experience I had ever been through at the time. They asked me questions regarding State Standards, teaching strategies and questions I had never even thought about. I knew that only having a Bachelor’s in Science, I was ill prepared for a job in Education. I owe it to a past Principal and Assistant Principal for giving me a chance of a lifetime. They offered me a job that same day. Ecstatic, I accepted. Saying “yes” was the best career choice, I have ever made.

My first few years were rough. Being fresh out of college and fully immersed into a classroom where finding my pedagogy, defining my classroom management skills and dealing with rowdy students  was overwhelming. It wasn’t until my second year teaching that I finally felt, like I kind of knew what I was doing.

I say all that to bring you here in my story: I’ve always had a interest in learning. My mom always tells me the story of being a curious little girl who carried a notepad and pencil behind my ear. This story always makes me smile, because it literally describes my outlook on life. I no longer use a notepad and pencil, but a laptop and my cellphone to discover many facets of the world, but specifically how I can become a more effective teacher in the 21st century.

Learning is something that resonates with me deep to my core. In the years I’ve been a teacher, I have always had the desire to learn more. To never stay stagnant with teaching strategies and ways to incorporate new fun and exciting technology in my lessons. I am so grateful for the passion that was placed in me at such a young age and that has continued to burn presently.

Currently, I am my school site’s Team Technology Lead. I want to take my passion for education and share it with my colleagues who in turn can share it with their students. I will continue to use this blog to document stories within my classroom and a place to create tutorials for my fellow teachers.

I leave you with this: Our students deserve the very best everyday. We make the choice to go to work and be teachers, so let’s give it everything we have. Step out of your comfort zone and take a journey with me to educate our students in the 21st Century.