Monday, October 15, 2012

Edscape: My Choice; My PD

On Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Edscape 2012 Conference at New Milford High School in New Jersey. The annual conference was hosted by Eric Sheninger (you can follow him on Twitter @NMHS_Principal and read his blog to learn SO MUCH every single day) at his beautiful school. The event was sponsored by Teq, who offered some great workshops too.

I had the great fortune of starting my day with the live #satchat hosted by my friends Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco), Brad Currie (@bcurrie5) and Bill Krakower (@wkrakower) - even though Saturday was the first time I met these gentleman in person, they have been my friends and active members of my PLN for months on Twitter, which once again shows the power of SM. The live #satchat revolved around Global Leadership and how we can move our schools, students and communities forward in this day and age when being a citizen is no longer restricted to one's physical environment; instead we are all digital citizens and citizens of the world. The chat, as it does every Saturday morning at 7:30am EST & PST, was inspiring, motivating and extremely positive.

As if that wasn't enough to get the juices flowing, we then had the great privilege and honor of hearing our Keynote Speaker, Ms. Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher). Vicki is the author of the book Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds and she maintains one of the richest and most engaging blogs I have ever encountered. This was my first time hearing Vicki speak (and I got to meet her, which was pretty cool) and throughout her keynote speech, I found myself shaking my head in agreement with everything she was saying. Her passion and dedication to her students and craft were infectious and inspiring. She reminded me about the fact that the only person I could control and change was ME! I couldn't worry about those people down the road who didn't want to change or grow or try something new - NO, I had to focus on ME! I had to focus on MY growth; MY evolution; MY exploration; MY passion because a healthy and fulfilled ME can have a tremendous impact on those around ME! Here are some of the nuggets that Vicki left with me and I think are worth sharing...

  • In our schools, there are transmitters and transformers. We should all avoid being transmitters of negativity and instead focus on transforming the situation!

  • As an educational leader who strives to support those he serves, it is my responsibility to help remove the obstacles - not become an obstacle! (this one really resonated with me)

  • Even when we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed because another thing has been added to the load of expectations, we must say the following to ourselves, "I can't do everything but I can do something!" YES - we can all do a little something each and everyday!

  • Instead of blocking things out of our schools, lets focus on the things that are worth letting in to affect our community in a positive way!

  • We must involve our students in the creation of everything! If YOU build it alone, they will NOT come; if we build it together and engage our students, give them voice and empower them, they will come!

  • As educational leaders we must be knowledgeable, trustworthy and generous with our time - YES! These are critical elements to being a successful servant leader!

  • We must teach our community that online behavior has offline consequences!

  • And the one that really stuck out in my mind... our children are NOT numbers; we must love them and show them that they are important because in our schools we aren't making copies, we are making originals! BOOM!

Although my little post does Vicki's keynote speech no justice, I think people get the idea about her overarching message... I can only control ME and I must never forget that my students deserve love, respect and support while in our school! THANK YOU VICKI!

Afterwards, I had the chance to attend four different workshops and each one presented me with some great ideas and resources that I am ready to put into play over the next few weeks. First up, I took a workshop called Evernote, Edmodo, LiveBinders and QR Codes with Elissa Malespina and Melissa Butler from South Orange Middle School. I learned so many things in that hour with Elissa and Melissa. First off, I learned how to use to create my own QR Codes, which can be used in so many ways. The are a wonderful way to amass a bunch of different resources, links, photos, etc. in one little spot that someone could access with the snap of a picture on their phone or iPad - POWERFUL STUFF! I have seen the QR Codes for years and wanted so badly to learn how to create one and within minutes, Elissa had walked us all through how to create an account and create our own QR Codes. It is so easy and extremely user friendly - I have already started thinking about the QR Code I want to create to embed as part of my email signature - oh man, the possibilities are endless! They also showed us how to create a Livebinder (can't wait to do this so I can throw out all those gigantic three-ring binders taking up space on my bookshelves). The LiveBinder is a wonderful way to digitize all those things we have sitting in binders all over our buildings and they are so easy to create, modify and share! We also discussed how to use Evernote, which I am already a huge fan of and use both for personal and professional purposes. Evernote could literally change the way we do things as educators - we can collaborate on notes, keep running records on our students and embed handwritten notes that can be searched - awesome stuff! Check out this blog post I wrote about using Evernote with Balanced Literacy. Finally, they introduced us to Edmodo, which is a great resource and social media tool for teachers (like Facebook for school) that I have not fully wrapped my head around yet! You can access their whole presentation here - it is definitely worth checking out!

Then I had the chance to spend an hour with Beth Holland and learn about powerful 1:1 iPad integration in schools. What I loved most about Beth's presentation was that it was not all about the different apps we should download and let our kids use. Instead, she talked a lot about using the iPads to empower the students - she repeated that it is not about what the iPads can do, it is about what the STUDENTS can do with the iPad. This is so important because although our school hasn't even considered a 1:1 iPad implementation, if we ever do, this will be at the root of our philosophical approach - WHAT CAN THE STUDENTS DO??? Additionally, Beth spoke a lot about apps and how we must not mistake just using an app for being creative especially when many content area apps are just another form of drill and kill - this is so true! I hadn't thought about it but that is exactly what we should want to avoid if our kids do have access to iPads in school - let them create not just practice something they can do with pen and paper! Beth also shared that every iPad based project should go through four phases...

COLLECT - web links, videos, audio files, etc.

RELATE - make connections - your own, with other peers, with the world, etc.

CREATE - use the technology to create make something new (like using Animoto or the Book Creator app to create digital book guides)

DONATE - after our students are done with their projects they should give them back to the world- share them online or through SM!

After this workshop and a delicious lunch (thanks Jersey Boys Grill) I had the chance to attend the Home & School 2.0 workshop hosted by my friend Joe Mazza, lead learner at Knapp Elementary and a must follow on Twitter, and Gwen Pescatore (Home/School President) - check out their presentation. They talked about taking that home and school connection beyond the school walls in an effort to connect with as many families as possible. Joe has always spoken about the importance of meeting parents where they are an empowering them to be involved in whatever ways work for them. To that end, he hosts a weekly Parent/Teacher Chat (#ptchat) on Twitter on Wednesday nights at 9PM EST - everyone has a voice in this chat and it is definitely worth checking out! They also stressed the idea of turning the solid walls in our classrooms into glass walls so that parents can see in and feel connected to everything their children are experiencing - SO IMPORTANT! I left that space with so many ideas that I want to try with our PTA in our school. Finally, during their presentation, they also discussed some key points we should always remember when schools and homes successfully work together...

Relational Trust
Implemented With - there must be a partnership between families and the school
Finally, I attended a workshop that spotlighted various apps and resources that could be used to enhance the learning experience. The presenters, from Teq, gave us some very hands-on experiences and showed us how to use things like Scribble Press, where kids can make their own digital books, and TagPad, which I am still learning how to use!
Overall, it was an amazing experience and I left at the end of the day feeling inspired, reinvigorated and motivated to try a bunch of different things. I think those are all the markers of a successful conference. I learned more on Saturday in one day than I had in attending various 2 or 3 day workshops. Bravo to Eric, Teq and their whole team for orchestrating this powerful learning experience - it was the best $35 I had spent in a long time!


  1. So happy that you loved our presentation! And Edscape was an amazing conference where I also learned so much! If you want more info about Edmodo let me know. We can teach you and your teachers all about it. It is a really great tool.

  2. I just gave a standing ovation to Vicki's remarks that you've bulleted! Thank you soooooo much for sharing this inspiration today. Great read!