What to Expect When You’re Attending…ISTE 2017

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. –Alexander Graham Bell

The highlight of my year begins in about 3 weeks. I passed being excited a long time ago. I was excited last October when I purchased my airline ticket. It became real when I got the hotel reservation confirmation. When I first heard about ISTE, I knew it was a place I had to be. I had no idea how I was going to get there; I just knew I had to be there. My first ISTE was in Atlanta in 2014. I was unprepared. I had just been hired as an instructional technology coach, and I had no idea what to expect. I was a little better in Philadelphia for ISTE 2015. ISTE 2016 in Denver was much better. I plan to totally rock ISTE 2017 in San Antonio!

Make A Plan

Here’s how my colleague Robin Harris and I navigate ISTE. Without a plan, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and miss out on events and opportunities. Since it is such a huge financial investment, having a roadmap helps. We used Google Sheets to create

ISTE 2017 Schedule

My ISTE 2017 Schedule

schedules for ourselves and then we shared with each other. We listed everything we had to do (our presentations, volunteer obligations, and BYOD sessions) and filled in what we wanted to do (sessions, meetups, and exhibit hall time).  We also decide ahead of time what our focus will be for the conference. I am trying to learn more about STEM, and Robin is adding to her blended learning knowledge base. Once we identified our focus, it made it easier to build our conference schedules. Of course, we may change some things once we get to San Antonio, but it sure does take away a lot of anxiety knowing that for the most part, we have planned what we will do.

Limit Your Gadgets

I know. Die hard tech people love their gadgets and travel with as many as possible just in case. Who knows what you will need, and who wants to be unprepared? I have been guilty of taking too much to previous conferences. Every time I do, I regret it. Extra technology means extra scrutiny going through airport security. I understand the need for airport security, but I hate having to pull all of my devices out of my bag. In the past, I have carried a laptop, iPad, a Chromebook, and two cell phones. I used all of the devices but could have made do without some. The last day of the conference when I had to store my luggage, I did not feel comfortable leaving my devices unattended, so I carried everything in my backpack. My back was so not appreciative. I was not appreciative when I was pulled aside for extra screening on the return flight home. I even had to go to a separate area to retrieve my laptop. It’s not worth the hassle. This year I will have the cell phone, the iPad, and the Chromebook. That’s it. I don’t need more.

Protect Your Wallet

Hi, my name is Leslie, and I purchase too many t-shirts. It never fails. I say I won’t, but I do. I buy one or two conference shirts, shirts from the city, and at least one sweatshirt. I also purchase other souvenirs. Why is that bad? Well, for one thing I never have enough room in my suitcase and I also don’t need most of what I buy. I have way more t-shirts than can be worn in my lifetime. Really. Just ask Robin. Save yourself some money. If you want a shirt, go to the exhibit hall and ask. A lot of the vendors have shirts to give away. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Also, you can get a free conference one if you volunteer to help out. I am a Conference Volunteer and will get a cool shirt to add to my collection. Plus I get to talk to other attendees. That’s a win-win for me.

Might I also mention food. ISTE is a conference held at a convention center. Eating at such may require a second mortgage on your home. Seriously, plan ahead so that you don’t spend a lot of money eating at the conference. There will be a free continental breakfast in Exhibit Hall 2-4 on Monday and Tuesday. It’s usually pastries and coffee. Vendors will also have events in which they provide hors d’oeuvres. Find one or two and go. You will no doubt have to listen to a sales pitch, but free food can be worth it.

Being Mobile

The conference itself is huge. You will do a lot of walking in the convention center and outside of the convention center. To help combat foot issues, please wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated. There will be water stations located throughout the convention center, so you can fill up your water bottle. There will also be a lot of places where you can sit and rest your feet for a bit and talk to other conference attendees. Don’t pass up the opportunity to meet new friends.

How to get around San Antonio? In the last couple of years, I have tried a couple of different options. The first year in Atlanta, I drove my car and parked it at the hotel. My hotel was not on the bus route so I had to take a cab every day. I was concerned about my safety, but my concerns were unfounded. There were other conference attendees staying at my hotel, so I was able to share a cab with someone every day. If you are staying at a hotel not on the bus route, ask around (Twitter, Voxer, ISTE 2017 Network). Somebody else is looking just like you are.

As far as getting to and from the airport, we have done it both ways. In Philadelphia, we took public transportation. It was cheap and gave us a chance to see the city while riding the train to the hotel. In Denver, we split the cost of a cab since there were five of us. It was pretty easy to grab one at the airport on the way into the city, and we had the hotel secure one for us the day we departed. We had a little extra time in Denver that Wednesday after ISTE ended, so we chipped in and rented a car. Robin, Will (our network administrator), and I wanted to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. We only spent about $25.00 each and had time to get out and explore. Make sure to leave some time to see something. I am not sure when I will be back in San Antonio, so I am taking full advantage of the time I have during ISTE.

Get Connected

Even if you are going by yourself, you are not by yourself. I am saying this as a shy person. Talk to someone. Talk to someone else. Keep talking to a new person every single day. Share whaIMG_5410t you do at your job. Ask them what they do. I know it’s hard, but it will be so worth it. I promise you will be glad you did. People talk about the power of the PLN. It’s real. It’s as real as you and me. My go to PLNs are #Edumatch and #ETCoaches. My involvement with Edumatch resulted in my becoming a published author. I did not know any of my fellow authors before I got connected with Edumatch. Now I have a global group of friends that I can go to with any question and get an immediate answer. Working with the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches has given me a group of fellow coaches who constantly push me to do better and be better. We all need someone in our corner who will help bring out the best in us. Having a PLN will help you be better at whatever you are doing. I promise.

I do not profess to be an ISTE expert. I am just someone who has been a few times and wants others to have a good experience. By no means is this list all-inclusive of what you should and should not do while at ISTE. It’s a starting point. If you have questions about anything else, please reach out. I can be found on Twitter, Voxer, or good old-fashioned email leslie.fagin@gscs.org. If you are wandering around the convention center and want to talk to someone, send me a message on Twitter. I would be glad to meet up with you and chat.

One last tip: Have fun!

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GSCS Prize Patrol

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Mrs. Amy Brown, staff members from the GSCS Instructional Technology Department,  and her 3rd grade students the day of our announcement!

As a child I dreamed of the day when Ed McMahon would knock on my door with a giant  check from the Publisher’s Clearing House. Once I got a job, I even bought magazines thinking that would increase my chance of winning. I know. I wasted my money on something that was never going to happen for me. All that happened was that I spent money on magazines that I am sure I never read.

I never got a visit from the Prize Patrol, but I recently had the chance to bring joy to someone’s day. At the beginning of the school year, our Instructional Technology Department decided that we wanted to give a teacher in our district the opportunity to attend the ISTE Conference. Going to ISTE is a wonderful opportunity, but the cost of registration, housing, and travel is prohibitive to many teachers.  We knew that by giving one of our teachers the chance to interact with other educational technology enthusiasts that our students would be the real winners. My colleagues, Lonny Harper and Robin Harris, and I sat down and discussed how we wanted to give away a trip to ISTE. We did not want to just give someone a free trip nor did we want to put names in a hat and do a drawing. We strongly felt that if we were going to invest nearly $3,000, we wanted to do it right.  After much discussion, we came up with a plan. We would have a competition, and the winner would be the recipient of the trip to ISTE.

Win a trip to ISTE Application top

In order to maximize our return on investment, we came up with some requirements for the scholarship recipient. Since ISTE is all about effective technology integration, we wanted to make sure that whomever won the contest already had a strong history of effectively using technology in class. We drafted a list of instructional practices that we thought should take place in class and came up with a Google Form for the applicants to fill out. We advertised the contest in our weekly Tuesday Tech Tips newsletter and made announcements during our professional learning training sessions. It was officially announced in October.

Win a trip to ISTE questions 1-3

Win a trip to ISTE questions 4-7

Win a trip to ISTE questions 8-11

Win a trip to ISTE questions 12-13

Not long after we announced the contest, we began to get a lot of interest from our teachers.  They had questions and wanted to schedule time with Robin or me so that they could knock out that requirement.  Having the teachers get excited about the contest was refreshing for both of us. We both know the power of ISTE, but our teachers do not. Knowing that one of our teachers would be at ISTE AND able to mingle with other ed tech enthusiasts AND see student presenters AND explore in some or all of the many playgrounds available at the conference gave us reason to encourage as many teachers as possible to apply. I will admit that I was a little jealous because I remember wanting to attend ISTE when I was a classroom teacher. I knew I could not afford it even when it came to Atlanta in 2014.  Looking back, I suppose I won the jackpot when I got this job because I ended up at ISTE 2014 as a brand new instructional technology coach. Going to and fully taking advantage of opportunities at ISTE can be life-changing for the attendee and the recipients of the shared knowledge.

As word got out about the contest, there were building level administrators who wanted to know if they were eligible. Although we feel that having administrators onboard with technology integration is vital to a successful endeavor, having teachers exposed to the all the educational technology offerings is a better investment for us in the long run. Teachers are the ones who are in the classroom day after day working with our students. They are the ones who need to know what is out there and how best to maximize opportunities for our students. Teachers have the biggest impact on student achievement. Sending a teacher to ISTE is part of our effort to get our teachers exposed and involved with effective technology integration which in turn will enable our students to be global learners with unlimited potential.

The contest ended and our judges had a very hard decision to make. Robin and I did not want to be the ones to make the decision because we are too close to the teachers. We were able to secure outside judges who admitted that it was a close competition, but ultimately they selected Amy Brown the winner of the Win a Trip to ISTE 2017 Competition.  On April 11, 2017, Lonny, Robin, and I paid a visit to Jackson Road Elementary School where Amy is employed as a third grade teacher. In front of her students, co-workers, and administrators, Amy was announced as the winner of the scholarship.  She was quite thrilled to find out that she would be attending the largest educational technology conference in the world.

Not long after the announcement was made, Robin and I sat down with Amy so that we could familiarize her with some tips and tricks to make her first trip to ISTE successful. Robin and I create our own schedule for the conference so that we can fit in as much as possible yet not be overwhelmed. We always share our schedule with the other. We have done that for this year and shared our schedules with Amy. Once school is out, and she has time to breathe, she will make her own and share with us. We also decided to have a shared Google folder to put documents in that will link resources from the conference. Part of winning the trip means that Amy will have to re-deliver to our teachers next school year. Having everything in once place and having a plan means that we won’t waste time replicating what someone else has done. We each have a focus for the conference. Robin is looking at blended learning, I am looking at STEM, and we aren’t yet sure of what Amy is looking at. She’s kind of busy with the end of the school year. Did I mention that she is our current district Teacher of the Year?  She is a phenomenal teacher who engages her students each and every day, so we are quite pleased and anxious to see what she will do with her new-found ISTE knowledge next school year. During ISTE, we will periodically met and share what we’ve learned.  We are also planning to take Amy to the #Edumatch Meet-up  on Sunday so that she can get involved with that awesome group of globally connected educators. Monday’s plan includes the ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Meet-up. Amy has indicated that she would like to join our ranks down the road, so we want her to make connections with others in our #edtechvillage.

I hope that we are able to offer this opportunity again. I would also like to see some of our building administrators budget money for one teacher (or more!) to attend ISTE or even the Georgia Educational Technology Conference in November. Our teachers crave professional learning opportunities, so why don’t we give it to them. Stay tuned for more updates once we get Amy to San Antonio!

Until then…

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Google Expeditions

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. –Saint Augustine

My motto is, “Have suitcase, will travel.” If I could spend the rest of my days traveling, I would. However, I do not have access to unlimited funds, so I work. I work as an educator and encourage all of my former students to see as much of the world as they possibly can. I travel bitmojiknow that not all students are able to explore our country or the world right now, so to me, being able to use Google Expeditions is a way to expose them to as many experiences as possible so that maybe, just maybe a spark will be lit and later in life they will take off on grand adventures and do great things.

When Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions hit the scene, I desperately wanted to get my hands on a headset. When I had the opportunity at ISTE, I was absolutely amazed and felt like our students would be just as awestruck as I was. I begged my boss, but because of budget limitations, it was not possible at the time. Finally, right before Christmas this year (great gift, I know), we found a way to build our own kits that would be put in the hands of our teachers. This is how we were able to expose our students to the world beyond their classrooms and our city.

Our Process – Phase 1

We initially purchased 15 Kxox V2s from Knox Labs. Instead of purchasing the Google Cardboards from Google (strictly a financial decision), we went to a different retailer. This is a pilot project and we want to make sure that it is feasible to move forward before we make a huge financial investment. Making a decision on what kind of device to use for the kit was a harder decision. After doing some research and not getting a conclusive Google Expeditions kit Contentsanswer as to the suitability of an iPod Touch, we made the decision to utilize iPhones. In our district, all building administrators and central office administrators are issued iPhones. Some were eligible for an upgrade, so we upgraded them and retrieved their old phones. Once the phones were reset to factory condition, my colleague Robin Harris and I set up the phones with the appropriate apps. We also disabled the features that would allow the students to add or delete apps.  The only apps that are on the phones are the ones for virtual reality. Everything else is hidden, and all of the apps are in the same location on each phone.   We also put a pass code on the phones.

We purchased boxes from Office Max. In each box, we put 15 cardboardGoogle Expeditions Checkout Form headsets – they are numbered, two power strips, and charging cables. There is also a checklist in the box indicating the contents of each box.  Robin created a Google Form that we use to keep up with the location of the boxes. Once the boxes were finished, they were ready to be put in use.

Another Box – Phase 2

After we had some success with the first set of boxes, we decided it was time to do another set. We purchased 15 more Google Cardboard headsets and upgraded the phones for the maintenance department. We again reset the phones and added the apps. Now we have 30 headsets and devices that can be checked out by our teachers. This time we added a release form that must be signed when the boxes are checked out and in. Teachers will be held responsible if something happens to any of the devices or accessories. Upon completion of the lessons, Google Expeditions Teacher Agreementteachers are asked to complete a short Google Form to reflect on the experience and also to give us feedback or suggestions. We are also working on creating a list of available expeditions for the teachers to use. As we make plans for next school year, we will offer additional trainings for the teachers. We want to make sure that they know how to successfully lead an expedition and seeing it from the student’s perspective will help tremendously.

Future Considerations

Going forward with this project will mean making some changes. For instance, we purchased the cardboard headsets. They will not withstand the wear and tear inflicted by constant student use. In the near future, we will have to purchase sturdier headsets. I would like to encourage more schools to purchase some and have us provide training and curricular support. If more schools purchase kits, then more students will have access. I am hoping that at some point, Google will enable features that allow teachers or students to create their own expeditions. Talk about 21st Century Skills! I am looking forward to having them ready for the next school year. Having two kits in use will give us good data to analyze. Also, I am eager to get my hands on an iPod Touch to see if they work or not. If they do, I think that we may be able to get more kits because we won’t have to worry about having cell phones. We can purchase iPods for much less money.

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Connections and Reflections

Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we are not alone in this world. –Jonah Berger

Blogging Buddies ImageThere are times that I think that I am stuck in a time warp. Although I find myself thinking about what the future holds, I spend a lot of time thinking about what has happened in the past. I guess one could say that I like to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. I suppose that’s true. As we wrap up another school year and my third year as an instructional technology coach, I have a lot to reflect upon.

I started this job with a few instructions on things that would need to happen in our district, but I did not have any idea of where to go to get answers. Lucky for me, there were two of us hired to serve as instructional technology coaches in the district. My colleague and now friend, Robin Harris, felt the same way I did. We were just a little lost that first year. However, things changed for us. Two weeks after I  got hired, I was in Atlanta at  the ISTE Conference (International Society for Technology in Education). Talk about brain overload! That fall, we went to GaETC and presented. I think that’s where the shift started. Our session was entitled, “From Tin Cans to Twitter: Maximizing Your Personal Learning Network”. We talked about Twitter, Voxer, and Google+. People listened, and we started making connections with people across the state and region. As my circle grew, so did my level of knowledge. I began reaching out to others to get and share information.  I took advantage of my ISTE membership and joined the online communities, started lurking in Twitter chats, and stumbled upon #Edumatch. Realizing the power of being a connected educator, I attended a few edcamps and actually contributed to some Twitter chats. Oh my goodness! Who ever knew that there was so much useful knowledge out there on social media?

Fast forward to May 2017… I was recently named the ISTE EdTech Coaches PLN Award Winner for 2017. I co-authored #EduMatch: Snapshot in Education 2016 with 19 other phenomenal educators from around the globe. I have presented at ISTE 15, ISTE 16, GAFE California Summit, GaETC 2014, GaETC 2015, GaETC 2016, G Suite for Education Southern Summit, and was selected to attend the Google Geo Teachers Institute in 2016. Oftentimes I am participating in #Edumatch Tweet and Talks discussing important topics in education and moderating Twitter chats book studies, and I am currently in the process of writing my own book which will be released in 2018. All this is possible because of the connections I made via social media.

I would love to see more educators connect via social media. Amazing things can happen. My part in making connections will continue to happen as I move forward into the fourth year of my job as an instructional technology coach. I am excited to participate in the ISTE #ETCoaches Blogging Buddies project. I am part of a group of educators who have committed to blogging at least once a month and commenting on the blogs of the people in my group. My group consists of Katie Siemer, Tara Helkowski,Rahila Mukaddam, and Knikole Taylor. I am looking forward to this blogging journey with these ladies. So many good things have already happened as a result of my connections on social media. I cannot even begin to imagine what will happen once we get going. Having a group of people to help hold me accountable will no doubt help me improve my craft. It will be nice to be a cheerleader for them and for them to cheer me on. We all need people in our corner to be there for us. I see these ladies being part of my #edtechvillage. Let the journey begin!

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