This past Thursday and Friday, I had the pleasure of attending my second Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA) Conference, which also happened to be the 25th anniversary. Dedicated and passionate educators from all over the state of Nebraska, as well as surrounding states, all gathered to learn how to better their craft.
Here are some of my takeaways from the conference:
– Kevin Honeycutt is an amazing speaker and had everyone in the audience, overflow room included, hooked. Know why? Because he is an incredible storyteller. Kevin openly shared his own experiences growing up and how educators in his life helped shape the man he became. He challenged us to love kids, no matter what. While this certainly isn’t life-changing, it IS. Too often, we get caught up by the labels that kids bring with them – ELL, below-grade level, Sped, HAL, Free/Reduced Lunch – and we simply forget to LOVE them. We can make the biggest difference in the lives of our students if we just LOVE them.
– The Conversation Strand in the menu of session offerings is by far my favorite. While this is only the second year of the conversations, it is the most like an EdCamp session, which is so dynamic because there is no set agenda. There is certainly a topic that is addressed, but who knows where the conversation will lead. What better way to present, than to facilitate an honest dialogue and not just learn from the presenters, but everyone that’s present?
– The title “Rocks or Sucks…Your Call” is scary to some, but appealing to others. For those that dared to see what this was all about, we had a great discussion on hot topics in education, including no zero grading policy, year-round school, BYOD, and the flipped classroom. I’m thankful to those that participated in this conversation and weren’t afraid to vocalize their opinions.
– Travis Allen, founder of iSchool Initiative, is a smart young man with a bright future. I appreciated that he did not have a formal presentation on “Going Paperless”, but rather had ideas that would lead to a discussion. He started the discussion by showing his idea sketch, which highlighted the various areas that going paperless would affect. As a visual learner, this was fabulous!
– School districts like Lincoln Public and Bellevue Public are doing some great things in regards to training their own staff on how to integrate technology and empower teachers with the skills necessary to teach students 21st Century skills. We are just starting down this road in my district and are open to ideas and models to see what works best with our staff. I look forward to helping us get there.
– I love getting to interact with my PLN face-to-face! So many of my interactions are through Twitter and Facebook, that I often forget how great it is to just hang out with people who share the same passions. Over the past year or so, I’ve learned that there are some incredible local educators that are becoming more active online and I’m so glad they’re making their voices heard. It’s people like this that are continuing to move education in the right direction.
– Some may have questioned why I, as an ELL teacher, would be attending an educational tech conference. To them I say, how could I NOT go? My students are different only because of the languages that they natively speak. To be honest, I don’t see how the two could be separated or compartmentalized, as if they have nothing to do with one another. All students deserve to learn with real-world tools that they will see and utilize in their future. What better way to prepare them for their future, than to have all teachers that are involved in their learning know best practices to engage them and help them along the way?
Overall, it was a great conference with new tools, apps, and ideas to take back. Can’t wait for NETA 2013!