Thoughts on #ConnectedEDU Conference


I’m sitting in a classroom on a Saturday morning…learning. That’s right, while all of the #satchat people are busy tweeting, sharing, and collaborating online, I decided to take it to the next level and make the trek to Jackson, Michigan to participate in a casual, participant driven conference focused on connecting educators, not just lecturing to us.

The following are my notes, reflections, and thoughts on the day; my apologies for rambling and “stream of thought” composition. Updates throughout the day will hopefully occur.

9:53 am


Typically I’m busy watching Saturday morning cartoons or getting ready for the weekly grocery run, but today I’ve already been introduced to GoSoapBox, an interesting Socrative clone that looks to offer a much more robust set of tools for student discussion response. Students can be directed to respond to reading selections, be given polls in class, and even submit questions and participate in quizzes in real time. I enjoyed the ability for Gary Abud (the BYOD session facilitator), I noticed that the while the tool is amazing for quickly generating rich classroom conversations, it’ still limited by your students’ literacy skills. I’m not the world’s best reader (or writer for that matter), and I found myself lagging behind the rest of the group when Gary gave us a short reading assignment to respond to in the workshop.

Of course, typing up these notes is hindering my ability to focus as well, so I was glad when Chris Stanley brought up a great point of being able to revisit conversations points throughout the GoSoapBox “event”. Sure enough, Gary followed up with a simplistic tool that GoSoapBox has to offer in that participants can simply use an “I’m getting it” or “I”m confused” check in poll (it’s persistent throughout the event) that only the teacher gets to see. So in a way, even though students might be struggling based on their own limited cognitive abilities, the teacher still gets at least an indicator beyond the “vacant stare” as to how well the classroom is getting it. A participant in the session brought up a great point about need the granular knowledge of which students aren’t “getting it” to which Gary responded with a great response; it’s not really all about the technology, you’ll still need some simple “thumbs up/thumbs down” or other face to face strategies to gain better fidelity of where students are at.

I’m sure the last two paragraphs sounds like an advertisement for GoSoapBox, but it’s just me trying to work through the tool, finding some interesting features and applications for the teachers I support. It looks like GoSoapBox isn’t so much a Socrative clone as it looks more like an advanced and feature-rich application for learning.

Gary went on to share a few more applications for helping students organize their learning (Evernote, Google Drive, InFuseLearning), but I was more interested in the elegant was he framed his BYOD session. Far too often school districts are focused on making a myriad of devices work on the school’s infrastructure, interoperate with shared resources, and make the tech “hum” as best they can. Gary’s BYOD workshop focused on the learning and tools that can happen across a wide number of devices (laptops, iPads, Android, etc.). I’m going to call it “Gary’s” ways to incorporate BYOD.

Gary Abud’s 5 Ways to Incorporate BYOD

  1. Facilitate Class Discussions

  2. Share & Take Notes

  3. Interactive Instruction

  4. Collaboration

  5. Assessment

That’s a much simpler framework to build a BYOD program atop. Focus on the instructional practices that need to happen first (something that I’m always advocating for), and then find the technical solutions to help make that happen. Starting with devices is a recipe for “tribalism” and conflicts that won’t get you nearly as far as starting with the instruction first.

10:44 am

sid-the-science-kidGary finished up his workshop elaborating on the “interactive instructional space” that he’s created through blending his face to face instruction and conversations with digital tools. Socrative helps anonymize student responses, alleviating peer pressure that stunts curiosity in the classroom. I agree, and subscribe to this theory. Creating discrepant events for your students helps capture curiosity (Gary did a couple of simple physics demonstrations for us, having us pretend to be high school students), but that interest can quickly be squelched when the possibility of incorrect responses could potentially be used to “judge” anyone’s ability to learn. Finding the right “mix” of tools to help create this environment, but still deliver the type of individualized student responses and data we need as educators, can be difficult. Should we focus our scant time and resources into pushing students to use a single LMS like Edmodo or Moodle, often pushing those tools past their intended uses? Or should we find ways to blend some of the tools mentioned in this brief reflection (along with face to face learning opportunities) to create a much more flexible, yet slightly scattered, learning environment?

Click here for Gary Abud’s presentation slides about BYOD.

11:46 am

Photo on 4-20-13 at 11.46 AM

Lunch time…and trivia! Go team Imagination Dragons! We bombed out, but we had a great time doing it, and I got to chat more with Anthony DiLaura and hear about his work at Zeeland schools (a recent one to one iPad district).

12:27 pm

Nap Time

Saturday afternoon, a time to finish up chores around the house, catch a quick nap, wrestle with the kids, and do a bit of grading for the online class I’m instructing currently….usually. This afternoon I’m headed into another round of sessions before leading my first ever Video Story Problem workshop. I’m a bit nervous about what participants will be able to accomplish in an hour and 15 minutes. I’m going to quickly re-hash my Video Story Problem presentation that I put together for the K-12 Online Conference, and then move into “lab time”. I’m hopeful that participants will be able to capture some video, and still have enough time to edit it to the point of “ready to share”. My ultimate goal is to have at least one video that someone feel good enough to share out to the wider audience of the internet. As an added bonus, Michelle Dubois, one of the awesome Michigan teachers whose great student video story problems I mentioned in a previous post, is here at the conference! And she’s brought a few teachers with her to start working on their own!

12:37 pm

MacGyver's Multitool

I’m sitting in Andy Losik’s session on iMovie, Keynote, and MacGyver. For those not familiar with the television show, MacGyver is a DIY mastermind, capable of turning a few scraps from your average workshop junk drawer into a torpedo. This was a great session choice right after lunch, when my capacity to engage in serious intellectually rigorous conversation is typically at a low point for the day.  Not that Andy doesn’t have a lot of great to talk about in the instructional arena.

This session was more focused on the mechanics of creating some fun and engaging media. In addition to showing off how to create your own custom “video” titles for iMovie using Keynote, he also showed up the PopcornMaker tool from the Mozilla foundation. It’s a fascinating web-based video editing tool that lets you add your own custom overlays, “pop ups” and other media to your videos. He used it to create a fantastic lip dub video in the style of VH1’s old “pop up” videos. Check it out here or watch it below:


2:28 pm

I led a rousing workshop about Video Story Problems. Well, I led a small workshop at least, with some good conversations. Not so sure about “rousing”. It was an interesting experience as I got to work with some language arts and social studies teachers (a group that I would love to start exploring video with). They had some wonderful thoughts about how to bring in elements of the real world into their classroom via video to help illustrate concepts, and I was excited they saw ways to incorporate video into the classrooms that wasn’t just “flipping”. Not there’s anything wrong with flipping, it just takes up a lot of the edtech conversation space that it’s difficult to make inroads with other forms of instructional practice. Here’s to “widening the plate”.


2:41 pm

And now I’m no longer in the dark on the “Pep Talk from Kid President” video. I have no idea why I hadn’t watched this video before. I had seen it go past my social media streams, but just never clicked on it. I’m glad I finally saw it. Share it widely!


    1. I really tried to treat this conference as something for my own edification, and not just one that I happened to be leading a workshop at. It paid off quite well for the time I sat in Gary Abud’s morning session; even picked up some new tricks in Andy Losik’s mini iMovie session.

      I feel as though I’ve become complacent lately, lost that “hungry” feeling to grow and learn by just soaking up what my colleagues across the state have to offer. I’m glad that post served you well, even if it wasn’t an entire overview and exploration of the conference. A shame you couldn’t be there, but glad that you’ve got a great start on your new journey!

  1. Ben,

    This was a lot of fun to discover from the #ConnectedEDU stream today! I appreciate being able to experience the day “through your eyes” and that you took the extra energy to contribute. Thanks again for coming!

    1. Thanks Brad! This was sort of a “stream of consciousness” so it’s still a bit rough. Going to try to dedicated some time this evening to putting a more polished final reflection at the end. It was a great day that you, Dan, and Kim put together!

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