On Thursday, August 14, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a unique event featuring a wide-range of educational technology start-up companies. This is the second year the Educational Technology Start-Up Collaborative has held a conference in Chicago to introduce K-12 educators to new and innovative tools that are just getting off the ground. The format of this conference is simple: each start-up in attendance gets 3 minutes to pitch their product to the audience. Start-ups spend the rest of the day talking with teachers about their product, providing hands-on demonstrations, and even recruiting teachers to get their classrooms involved in their start-up project. This year, specialized workshops were offered in addition to the start-up showcase, allowing participants to explore topics in literacy, STEM, and design in a focused environment. You can view my notes on the start-up tools I learned about as well as the STEM and design workshops I attended by clicking here.
Every year I remind myself how fortunate I am as a teacher to have a summer break. But it’s about more than long days at the beach, lunches with friends, and catching up on my Netflix cue; summer break is a time to reflect on and renew my passion for education. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to leisurely pursue things that fascinate me and drive me to be a better teacher in the next school year. This summer I’ve been focused on three big areas, and I hope to utilize this blog as a means of sharing my research, thoughts, and experiences in these areas. In no particular order, here are the three things I’m obsessed with this summer:
1. Google Apps for Education Pairing my love of using Google Drive with my students with a brand new cart of Chromebooks in my classroom this year, I have become obsessed with learning as much as I can about utilizing Google tools in my curriculum. I have embarked on the journey to become a Google Certified Teacher and am currently making my way through the online testing portion. I’m excited for the new Google Classroom that will be rolled-out in August, and look forward to immersing myself in it and getting my entire staff on board with using it too.
2. Innovation and Creativity in Student Learning You can’t help but hear a few familiar buzzwords being thrown around EdTech Twitter chats and conference rooms lately: Genius Hour/Passion Projects, Makerspaces, STEM (and STEAM) education, design thinking, teaching coding. This year I’ve determined to find out what the buzz is all about by researching these buzzwords and finding ways to implement them into my classroom – even as a music teacher – this coming school year. I am already working on a plan to pilot a Genius Hour project with 7th and 8th graders this fall, and have secured a few littleBits Synth Kits (with a grant from the Illinois Computing Educators) to get started with our exploration of STEAM – that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math – education.
3. Character Education My readings on student innovation and creativity have caused me to think more about how students learn best, leading me to my favorite book of the summer How Children Succeed, written by Paul Tough. Paul explores a wide array of situations in which children fail and succeed in our school systems, proposing that it is not IQ alone that determines success but how strong a child’s character is. My biggest take away is from his references to Angela Duckworth’s research on grit, inspiring me to ponder how I can teach my students to become “grittier” this school year. Here is Angela’s TED Talk in which she describes what grit is:
As the end of summer nears, I look forward to exploring these three big ideas throughout the school year, with frequent updates on my progress and my failures. I am excited to share and welcome support and feedback along the way!