The Spring CUE conference brings educators from all over California (and beyond) to the desert in Palm Springs every year. Over 5,000 teachers, TOSAs, administrators, and other stakeholders, invested in learning how to improve the education and engagement of students, gather to do just that: learn. Of course, they have another equally important motive: connect. Educators know that we are smarter and more powerful when we work and learn together. But there’s a problem with 5,000 people in the desert. How do you get them to connect with each other?
I’ve heard it said the CUE community is like a family. I consider it MY family. The people I have met have become not only friends, but my brothers and sisters. I can reach out to them anytime with problems work-related, but also with news, good or bad of my personal life. They are my tribe, a group of like-minded, innovative and incredibly fun people, whom I love to simply be around. However, looking around the huge conference hall during the opening keynote of this year’s conference and seeing the sea of hands go up of “first-time” attendees, it really got me thinking about how I ended up finding my CUE family. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t at Spring CUE.
For me, the answer to finding your tribe is not flying to Palm Springs and renting a cute AirBnB. Don’t get me wrong. It’s incredibly worth the learning and fun, but it’s not the way to find your tribe. In fact the answer is in your backyard. Your local affiliate.
Four years ago, I decided to drop in on a CapCUE (Sacramento affiliate) planning meeting for their annual event: Techfest. I saw an invite on Twitter, and decided to stop by. There, brainstorming at a large table, drinking beer and bouncing off ideas, was my future family.
Sitting at a hotel in Palm Springs late one night this past weekend, I looked around at a similar table. At least five of those CapCUErs from that original meetup were hanging there with me. I didn’t find my family sifting through 5,000 educators in three days at a desert conference. I found my CUE family only five miles from my house. These connections have led to meeting other amazing educators that reach far beyond my home, but the core of my tribe started with CapCUE. Of course, I wouldn’t miss connecting and learning with any of them wherever they may be, especially each spring in the southern California desert.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting in a workshop led by the legendary Ralph Fletcher. When I first started teaching, his book What a Writer Needs transformed the way I taught writing in my classroom. Giving students choice and time to write about topics for which they are passionate is a lesson I have carried with me since my writer’s workshop inception over 20 years ago. This weekend, sitting with members of my local Writing Project (Area 3 in the house!) Fletcher reminded me of the power writing has on the individual. And I’m not just talking about my students. I’m talking about me. I love writing, but I rarely do it because there are always so many other things to do: Laundry, grading, that new series on Netflix…
Since May, I have embarked on a writing journey, unlike any other. When CUE asked for applications to be a regular contributor to the OnCUE blog, I was so excited, I filled out the questionnaire within minutes. Then the doubt set in. How was this going to fit into my already busy schedule? Was my voice one that people even wanted to read?
Soon, though, I was in a groove. I explored areas of teaching pedagogy and educational technology, where I always wanted to learn more, but never chose to spend the time on follow through. I reached out to friends and acquaintances, asking for expertise and publishing their voices. It wasn’t hard to find the time. I gave myself deadlines, made plans and hit every one of my goals.
Looking back, I know it was a lot of work, but that’s not what stands out. What I remember is how easy it was to sit down at my computer and get my thoughts out. I remember how good it felt when others reacted to the content I chose to publish. Honestly, it was an amazing ride.
My Instant Gratification Monkey shirt always comes out to play! Each year I show my students Tim Urban’s Ted Talk: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator. We discuss how procrastination is a very normal thing and how all of us have our “Instant Gratification Monkey.” It’s a great lesson for us all, but what strikes me every year is how Urban ends his talk. He references times in people’s lives where there are no deadlines. That’s when we can miss out on trying something new. Taking risks. Challenging ourselves to become more than we ever thought possible. He says, “We need to think about what we’re really procrastinating on, because everyone is procrastinating on something in life.”
I took a risk and went on a journey with CUE. It may have been a small trek, but it helped me grow in ways I couldn’t have imagine. How are you procrastinating and not living your best life? Take a little advice from Tim Urban and me. Don’t let your Instant Gratification Monkey take the wheel. Make a plan and do it!
Oh, and if you want to apply to be a part of the Social Media Champs for CUE the deadline is October 31st. Go to http://blog.cue.org/smc/ today. Well, maybe not today.
Want to know how to incorporate Artificial Intelligence in your classroom? Why not take a class designed for an educator, while earning professional development hours and even college units. ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, has announced that they will be offering online courses to fit the innovative curious teacher in all of us. ISTE U, ISTE’s new online learning platform, has a menu of options that is not only cutting edge, but constantly changing for the latest in technology.
No more outdated tech classes at your local university. The best part is, you can earn hours (and even credits through Dominican University of California) on your own time, at home, in your pajamas if you choose. Check out the options and find a course that satisfies your learning needs. Finally, technology focused learning from the name you trust.
“If you can dream it, you can code it.” As I looked around the huge ballroom filled with eager educators, Hadi Partovi’s words began to energize and excite me. It also seemed Partovi’s words were having a similar effect on the overly air conditioned room, filled with over 500 teachers. Of course, it could have been the delicious spread of food in front of us, too. (The food! OMG.) As Partovi, the founder of code.org spoke, it became increasingly clear to me why we were all here. Our world needs us to engage, encourage and train students for the jobs of not just the future, the jobs of today.
Some interesting statistics about California:
There are 75,612 currently open computing jobs
The average salary for computing jobs is $110,078
Only 25% of high schools in CA offer AP Computer Science
Of those taking the AP test, most are white males
In 2016, the University of California did not graduate any teachers prepared to teach computer science.
CA has no dedicated funding for Computer Science Professional Development
As I finished my velvety chocolate cake and laughed with my cohort of Northern California area teachers, (thank you Sacramento County Office of Education for being our regional sponsor), I knew TeacherCon was going to be an intense five days of learning, discussing and practicing ways to promote and teach computer science. My last thought before falling asleep in my hotel room (alone–we didn’t even have to share rooms) was, “Why aren’t there more teachers here?”
Our first day, (after the amazing breakfast spread), we separated into middle school and high school rooms. I sat down in the Sheraton conference room in Phoenix along with middle school teachers from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, West Virginia, the list went on. We had gathered here with a similar goal, to learn a carefully scoped and sequenced computer science curriculum.
The problem with computer science instruction, especially in middle school, is that educators traditionally have taught programs that were cobbled together, with no clear path to the AP exam or other courses in high school. The beauty of the curriculum code.org has crafted is that each unit builds on the other from Computer Science Fundamentals (elementary) Computer Science Discoveries (middle grades) to Computer Science Principles (high school). And every bit of it is FREE for teachers to use. Yes, free.
Through the course of the five days of training, we met in groups with our cohorts from high school and middle school to discuss ways to bring more computer science to our schools, but I spent the majority of time in my Northern California cohort of middle school teachers, participating as a student in model lessons, then eventually teaching a lesson alongside a smaller group of teachers. This cohort model allowed us time to really get to know each other, building relationships beyond our own classroom of teachers we could lean on throughout the school year. We will also meet four more times this year for further instruction and collaborating. Honestly, I miss those awesome educators in my cohort already!
Oh and I forgot to mention this. The entire experience was FREE. TeacherCon, put on by code.org is well backed by some serious giants: Microsoft, Amazon, Google, just to name a few. (Find the whole list here.) While I know these companies have altruistic motivations in helping move education forward, they also have a vested interest in creating a future workforce. To the donors, it is money well spent. The need for graduates who can fill jobs in the computer industry is imperative.
The good news is things are moving forward. Trish Williams, from the California Board of Education, hosted a lunch for the California educators at TeacherCon and gave us the latest scoop. My state is expected to pass California’s first ever model K12 computer science standards next month and more changes to curriculum standards are constantly being discussed. Williams assured us that she is fighting to see Computer Science education in all schools.
As Williams reiterated to us, all students deserve to learn computer science and explore if they have an aptitude for it. Even if they don’t want to end up in a computing career, all students need to understand how the digital world they live in is made.
Wrapping up my week of intense learning (and gorging on scrumptious food), I walked away with one very important realization. I am a computer science teacher. As a secondary teacher who has spent most of her career in middle school English, I have always called myself an English teacher. Today, I took the sign off my classroom door that read, “Mrs. Allison–Language Arts.” Tomorrow a new one goes up: “Mrs. Allison–Computer Science and Language Arts .”
I am completely fascinated by augmented reality and virtual reality. I mean it is freaking COOL! Of course, cool doesn’t always mean it’s the best tool to use in the classroom. Sometimes a tool is just flashy new gadget, without any real payoff for student engagement and learning. However, I’m following the glitz, the glam, the uber cool technology and wondering, will this be the next big tool to change my teaching? In order to invest time and money, most educators need some serious reasons (data would be good, too) to use any new technology. Hype and flash can only take us so far.
If you are a Google Certified Innovator or Trainer you probably have been bursting at the seams with some serious news! Google is rolling out some amazing updates this coming Fall, and it’s time to share that inside scoop. So what is next for educators who use Google?
First, you may have heard about the updates coming to Google Classroom. A new Classwork page will give teachers more organizational functionality with the ability to group and reuse assignments in one location. Next, the Stream page will get a new look, allowing a collapsed view, so students can see more content. Google has also reorganized so all stakeholders are on one page called People. Settings will also be consolidated, making it easier to use. My favorite update, though, is the ability to create Locked Quizzes in “locked mode.” If you are interested in getting early access to these features, simply fill out the form Google provided.
CS First is a new program brought to educators to teach Computer Science. The curriculum utilizes block coding with Scratch, as well as lesson plans all created around themes. Check it out!
With apps for creativity, the new Staedtler stylus, and VR capabilities with AR coming this fall, Google is excited about the new Acer Chromebook Tab 10. At ISTE, Google also shared locked mode in Quizzes in Google Forms only on managed Chromebooks, and exciting admin features such as Off Hours, where students can bring their own devices and have them managed during school hours. Stay tuned for more exciting news coming this fall.
Google AR / VR
The AR functionality in the Expeditions app enables teachers and students to bring virtual objects into their physical space, bringing abstract concepts to life. Students can see and walk around the object as if it were right there in the room. Watch out for that tornado on your friend’s head!
Tour Creator is a way for anyone to easily create virtual reality tours, using footage from 360 cameras or picking from the existing Street View content. You can annotate it to provide details and facts. Then, you can publish to Poly, Google’s library of AR/VR content (https://poly.google.com/), to be viewed on the web or embed to your website. Later this year, Google will add the ability to import these tours into the Expeditions application.
Applied Digital Skills
Google is also rolling out new free digital curriculum, Applied Digital Skills. The curriculum integrates video-based and blended learning content for teachers to use to enhance their classroom lessons. Plus it has a path for students to practice problem solving at their own pace. Stay tuned for more!
There’s the Google inside scoop. Almost as tasty as a double scoop on a hot July day!
A student is sitting at his desk, face down in his lap, eyes engaged in something on his phone screen. No, he’s likely not texting. He’s probably playing Fortnite, the most popular game of its kind, a third-person cooperative, base-defense game. He’s completely tuned out all round him and doesn’t even notice you standing by his side. How can we utilize this kind of passion in the classroom? If you’re like me, you are always looking for ways to engage students even half as much as their favorite video game. How can we make learning as fun? How can our content be the subject for which a student is clamoring to get to his screen? One way is to create our own games.
While there are plenty of online games students can play, often we find the content is general or not exactly aligned with the standards we are trying to teach. This list of ways to create your own games from Free Technology for Teachers, by Richard Byrne might just be a great solution to add even more fun to your lessons. Plus, summer is the perfect time to explore. Check them out and share out any games you’ve create. Let’s make the classroom the next Fortnite!
As I settled in to relax this holiday week, I thought it was a good time to look back and reflect on the #ISTE18 or rather for me, the #NotatISTE experience. I read lots of Twitter posts during the conference, gathered some great inspiration, but like anything else, most has already been forgotten. I mean, it’s summer. Unless I write it down, these amazing ideas are not going to find their way into my classroom this August.
Luckily, as I was catching up on my my blog reading, I came across Steve Wick’s (@WickedEdTech) post on his site, Know Your Why. Not only does he offer his own reflection, but has many links to Google awesomeness! Check it out here.
And don’t forget to write those ideas down! As you’re learning over these warm months, whether it’s from conferences, posts, books, or Twitter chats, find a way to gather your own thoughts: start a blog, create a Google Doc, add to your Google Keep, or do what I do–write those ideas down on paper. I actually have a composition book specifically for this purpose. Let’s not lose amazing edu-nuggets to the summer abyss.
I’m a digital junkie. I have a phone full of apps, a browser full of extensions, and a device in my hand, on my lap and on my arm. Of course, the one thing I love about summer as an educator are the times where I don’t even look at a screen. Finding that balance of when to put down the device is something adults struggle with, but as educators we are called to teach students to do the same. I find this extremely difficult.
Reading this blog last week by Cal Newport really had me thinking. Is using tech to balance our tech habits the answer? My watch tells me when I need to stand, move and even take deep breaths. Is this what we want for the future? Is this how we teach and learn self control?
Read Cal Newport’s blog here. Do you think tech is the answer to teach us to put the tech down?
As most of you know, ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) holds a huge conference every year in a different city in the United States. Educators and vendors from all over the world gather and nerd out on the latest in education technology. This year Chicago holds the honor. Unfortunately, most of us have to watch from home, jealous of learning along side great thinkers and deep dish pizza. We hope for any crumbs of innovation that make it on to Twitter. The FOMO isn’t just a fear. It’s real. Those of us at home are missing out and it hurts.
Thankfully, to ease the pain and fill the emptiness, edublogger has put together a great list of ways that you CAN follow along at home. Time to wipe the envious tears and read all the means you can be part of the learning. Plan your virtual trip now! Watch a Cubs game, make an Italian beef sandwich, and get ready. ISTE is only a week away.