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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Post-KySTE 2015 Wrapup

It's a week of transitions and reflections here at Edtech Elixirs.  Yesterday, Shelby County kicked off its Thinking Strategies Institute, being held at our brand new Learning Center (the same site where our March 26 Edtech Share Fair will be held . . . hint hint, plug plug).  Today marks my last day at Wright Elementary, and I begin my embedded stay at Heritage Elementary tomorrow.   And last but not least, I have a chance to catch my breath and reflect on last week's KySTE 2015 conference.

As always, the conference was full of affirmation, inspiration, and new edtech tools, and I'd like to share some of it with you.  The following is not meant to cover every beat of every session I attended, but simply a highlight of memorable moments and tools.

Wednesday, March 4
Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Thomas Nelson High School and learning about their fantastic school culture and staff-wide deep use of Google Drive from Wes Bradley (principal) and Heather Warrell.  (It tells you a lot about Heather and TNHS when you find out her title is "Vice Principal of School Culture and Instruction.")   On KySTE's opening day, Heather had a session about the various innovations of her school. Although I already knew many of the technical ways TNHS is excelling and impacting learning, I still learned new facets at Heather's session.  For example, when the school opened three years ago, they decided not to buy any filing cabinets for teacher classrooms.  The reason was twofold: to encourage teachers to start fresh and not use the same lesson plans from years ago, and to embrace Google Drive as a digital repository, sharing and creation space.  (The integrated use of Google Drive at TNHS is remarkably dense; to take just one example, teachers create lesson plans in Google Slides saved in department shared folders, which can be commented on and viewed in real time by administrators, and are actually presented by the teachers to classes of students for "Scholar Starters," share agendas, and a guide through the day's activities.)   Heather and Wes encourage their staff to #flycloser to the sun -- to dare to dream and not be afraid of lofty goals.  Their academic performance reflects their passion; their composite ACT average has grown from 18.6 to 20.9 in just three years. But their culture is more than scores.  Every Friday they take time at a faculty meeting to celebrate staff accomplishments for the week; college acceptance letters adorn hallways; astronaut pictures (often with teachers' faces Photoshopped in) and aircraft carrier murals make the launching of learning obvious and inevitable.  In short, Thomas Nelson is a fantastic place and worth a visit if you can make it.  If you do, say hi to their purple cow!

Leslie Fisher shared new Web 2.0 tools.  I learned of a few sites I had not heard about before. Quizizz is a formative assessment tool that is similar in flashy style to Kahoot but with one important distinction: the question and answer choices are pushed directly to the device, so a projector is not necessary.   Publicly shared quizzes are available or you can create your own, and reports of student results can be exported.  Screenleap allows you to easily share your screen with others for free; students would only need your "share code" to see your broadcast. Educators can get up to 2 hours a day at no charge, but the free account is limited to sharing with 8 students at once.  (For $15 a month, you can broadcast up to 8 hours and share with 30 students.)

Leslie also pointed out that TodaysMeet now has "Teacher Tools" for $5 a month that puts teacher's posts in a chat room at the top (easier for students to see and follow), and allows password protected chats.

Bret Foster is the CIO of Anderson County, and he discussed the recent upgrades of the school libraries of his district.   (Read the Kentucky Teacher article about the county's renovations.) His goal is to make the library used by students all of the time.  Bret shared a tip to make more space: run a report on checkouts, and donate any books that have not been checked out in five years.  After one of his libraries did this report, they gave away 65% of their books!  Many of the upgrades were inexpensive, like making the tops of some tables dry erase boards by installing shower wall, and adding casters to table legs to make them easy to move for collaboration. In the future, the libraries plan to house their own Minecraft servers for students to locally and privately build their own virtual worlds.   Bret's session really made me think on how we use (and misuse) learning space.

Thursday, March 5
Well, there was this little snowstorm that happened.  Maybe you saw something about it on the news.  I was desperate not to miss sessions as well as scheduled to present one of my own, so I dug out the driveway and backed out into the street . . . where I immediately got stuck and needed neighbors just to push my car back into the garage.

So I tried to temper my disappointment by participating in the marathon 24 hours of #KyEdChat, a side event to the KySTE conference.  After being a participant, I was the moderator later that night on the topic of augmented reality tools, and I was very grateful for the co-moderation help of Jennifer Cox.  It was exhilarating, exhausting, and fun!  We were also extremely thankful that a separate group of Indiana educators joined us who usually use the hashtag #INeLearn.  The party responsible for reaching out across the river is Michelle Green, who was fantastic enough to archive our chat as a Storify here.

Friday, March 6
Half of my final day of KySTE was spent being a presenter.  First, I was able to host my augmented reality tools presentation after all, thanks to someone else having to cancel their session.  Secondly, I took part with a group (Tommy Hurt and Susie Burkhardt) to discuss Shelby County's tech initiative and how the construction of Southside Elementary fits our 21st century goals.

I also sat in on a session by KDE's Marty Park, who shared some of the basics of how to set up Google Apps for Education (GAFE) / Google Classroom with our network sign-in structures.  (For the slides and other resources from his sessions, Marty created a special page for KySTE 2015 on his website.)

Last but not least, what visit to KySTE would be complete without going to at least one session of Donnie Piercey, the Google certified educator and eminent Eminence educator?  He focused on tips and tricks of Google (a well as other useful sites) that were geared toward the K-5 crowd.  I encourage you to check out Donnie's Google doc with more, but here are my top five of his shares:

  • If you type an equation into Google's search box, you can not only get the answer, but an interactive calculator will appear.  (You can just Google "google calculator" as well.) Google can even recognize order of operations and do higher math functions like an area of a rectangle or plotting a line graph.
  • Do you have a class economy with cash, salaries, and jobs...but hate keeping up with the paperwork and the photocopied currency? can create a virtual economy for free for up to 50 students.
  • In a Google document, you can Insert > Image > Take a Snapshot and use your webcam to take a picture.  Donnie gave an example of students answering a math problem in a shared doc, but if you want them to "show their work," have them take a snapshot of their pencil-and-paper computations.
  • Peanut Gallery Films uses your spoken text and incorporates it as titles in a silent movie.  The final short film can be shared via URL.  Perhaps you can use it for teacher reminders (they would have more fun hearing about a project deadline if a movie is telling them), or for students to do short captures of their understanding ("What did you learn today?" "What was the key facts from today's content?").
  • I knew that Google was archiving thousands of newspapers for accessing online.  (Reminds me of my student days in high school when I went to the library to look at microfiche.)  However, I didn't know this trick: after you find an article, click on "Link to Article" on the right.  Next, click on a headline, and you will get a URL you can share that will take students straight to that newspaper article.

I look forward to KySTE 2016.  Except this time, there better be no snow.

If you attended KySTE this year, share your thoughts below in Comments!  What were some of your favorite sessions?  What new tool are you excited to try out?


  1. We are honored to be featured in this piece Adam. I am so lucky to have you as a fellow member of my PLN to learn and grow with. See you in space, Heather PS- you are one heck of a writer!!! YES.

    1. Thank you, Heather! I love your enthusiasm and look forward to your tweets. TNHS is definitely a model of innovation.