The 2014 NY Tech Forum at the Westchester Marriott featured a host of speakers and presenters that shared their work and views on the power of educational technology and the required next steps for schools as we move forward in the 21st century. While it’s always fascinating to attend these types of conferences, it is also a reminder of how quickly education is changing due to new technologies, resources, and the increased access to information. At DFHS, we have made incredible strides in using technology as a vehicle for enhancing student learning. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, our mobile app, BYOD, or our 1:1 Chromebook program, the use of technology as a vehicle for enhancing student learning experiences is now a given in our building. Despite the progress we’ve made, however, conferences such as this one are also a reminder that cutting edge ideas from only a year ago have quickly become old and/or “the norm” in most schools.
So what’s the latest as 2015 approaches? After an inspiring and thought-provoking keynote address by @e_sheninger on the importance of digital leadership and learning, we attended some of the breakout sessions to dig deeper based on the needs of our school. Here’s some of what we walked away with…
- Google Apps and Extensions: @careim and @ms_sardinia attended this workshop and were guided through a long list of useful apps and extensions. Some were familiar, some were new. Here’s some of the more interesting ones…
- GoGuardian: Ideal for schools that have a one-to-one Chromebook program. It is a comprehensive “all-in-one” Chromebook solution that features theft recovery, student monitoring, screen sharing, and detailed filtering. This is a worthwhile program for DFHS to investigate as we enter year two of our 1:1 Chromebook program.
- Google Moderator: Allows for “backchannel” discussions. Students can provide suggestions, vote, or export their conversations as a document to share.
- Google Classroom: This has been “the talk” at the conference. Many teachers at DFHS have already made the switch and have seen it as a perfect complement to Google Drive. @MikeMeagh will be sharing a post in the coming weeks on the benefits of Google Classroom and how it is used at DFHS.
- cK-12.org: The online textbook is actually a “flexbook” that allows teachers to create their own textbook based on the common core standards and topics. It’s differentiated, “flexible,” and free!
- Awesome Screenshot: Allows teachers and students to annotate the screen and share it right to Google Drive.
- Google Report Card: Provides administrators with a way to collect data on specific apps teachers and students are (or are not) using and can be used to direct school-wide professional development.
- Pear Deck: A tool that allows teachers to input formative assessments directly into presentations.
- YouCanBook.Me: Allows teachers and students to book appointments through Google Calendar and sends email reminders.
- Computer Science and Coding: Courses in computer science (and coding) are now becoming the norm in schools at all levels and it is an area that we continue to explore at DFHS. @MrCohn9 and I participated in an excellent interactive workshop that was led by several teachers from the Scarsdale Public Schools in Westchester, NY. They are doing a wonderful job of exposing younger and/or beginning students to coding in a fun and non-threatening way through the use of programs such as Tynker and Scratch. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the session was the power of the Hour of Code (www.code.org) and the robust website that is free and available to all teachers. In addition to an easy to follow program for beginning teachers and students, there are also tutorials on Java, Python, and app building for iPhones. The next Hour of Code is coming this December and is a great way to get started for all schools.
- 1:1 Environments & Chromebooks: It’s amazing how many districts are either in the midst of a 1:1 initiative or are on the cusp of “jumping in” and getting started. This is yet another example of a cutting edge concept from a year ago that is quickly becoming the norm. While Chromebooks seem to be the device of choice among most districts, the conversation focused in part on the available research (or lack thereof) that links the instructional value/benefits of Chromebooks in a full 1:1. @careim2 and I sat in on a presentation that was led by David Andrade, the CIO of the Bridgeport Public Schools, and we talked a great deal about this topic as well as the infrastructure needed for a 1:1. For more information, check out David’s site at http://goo.gl/F3N9s.
There were many other workshops and conversations throughout the day. Too many to list, actually. Please feel free to comment and share some of the exciting initiatives that are happening at your school!