Saturday, 19 April 2014

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference

     This week was the MTS Awakening Possibilities Tech Conference and my head is still spinning over how amazing it was! Starting on Wednesday the 16th, approximately 600 educators got together to discuss educational technology in regards to:
- implementation
- policy
- potential tools
- project options
- and much more!
Here's an excerpt from the official MTS Awakening Possibilities website:

     This conference was exciting for me for a lot of reasons. I remember attending the MTS Fab 5 Conference in Brandon in the fall of 2012 and seeing a banner advertising for an upcoming technology conference. At this time there wasn't any information about presenters, there wasn't even an official date picked other than 2014, but I knew I would want to go due to the theme. Then in the spring of 2013, much to my surprise, I received an email asking me to present at the conference in regards to my work with educational blogging! Fast forward another year and the conference was finally here!

     I drove the 3.5 hours into the city after school on Tuesday, officially ending my shortest teaching week on record (the conference was held Wednesday-Thursday, and we didn't have any classes on Friday due to the Good Friday holiday). While many attendees/presenters chose to stay at the Victoria Inn (the location of the conference), I opted to stay with family as I am very rarely in the city.

     When I walked into the conference Wednesday morning I felt very overwhelmed. I hadn't come into the city with anyone that I knew and while I knew people who were in attendance, I had only meet approximately 10 of them in person.... wait... what?! Its true! Many of the people in attendance are educators that I connect with on a weekly basis through Twitter, Email, or my Blog but many of them I had never met in real life. Luckily for me, however, there were many members of the ManACE Board present who have been doing this type of thing longer than me and helped show me around and "introduce" me to the familiar strangers I was meeting for the first time.

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference
A panoramic pic trying to get a sense of how many educators were in
attendance; this pic does not do it justice.

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference
A panoramic pic of the front of the room from my perspective (I sat right up close!)

Building Bolder Schools
Steve Dembo - Keynote

     Steve serves as Discovery Education's director of social media, is a former Kindergarten teacher, and is recognized as one of the first educational podcasters. He opened up by sharing a story about his son who had recently finished Kindergarten. At the end of the year, when Steve questioned his son about what he liked the best out of Kindergarten, his son replied that his favourite thing all year was when he got to be line leader... when he got to be in charge and lead his classmates in various activities around the school. He spoke about how as we grow up the thought of line leader moves from exciting to terrifying... adults tend to fear the unknown and don't want to be responsible for being at the "head of the line".

     Interestingly enough, many of these educators are online through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, Podcasts, etc and are ok sharing their ideas and thoughts with the world, but are not necessarily playing that leadership role in their own schools. Steve mentioned that it is as is, "the teacher lounge is not a subset of the whole world," teachers can share with the world, but not within their own schools. I found this really neat graphic, shared by Edutopia, that I think does the perfect job at visually highlighting this idea:

the pencil metaphor for educational technology, the pencil metaphor and ed tech, steve dembo awakening possibilities, steve dembo discovery education, steve dembo building bolder schools
The Pencil Metaphor. (2014). Uploaded to Google+ by Micheal Parent. Available online at:
     Steve's presentation was the perfect fit to kick-off the conference as it was the perfect blend of information, inspiration, and humour. In fact, I enjoyed Steve's keynote address so much that I actually moved my original session choices around so that I could attend his second session at the end of the day as well! Here is a short improve clip captured by the Manitoba Teachers' Society in the middle of Steve's session:

Follow Steve Dembo through:

Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades
Kathy Cassidy

     Going into the conference, I think I was most excited to listen to Kathy Cassidy's presentation as I have looked up to her, and the work that she does with her students, since I became involved in educational technology in my B.Ed degree. Kathy is a Grade 1 teacher out of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan who utilizes classroom blogs, twitter, and Skype with her students on a regular basis to connect her students with the world and expand their learning opportunities.

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference

     Kathy started us off by brainstorming and sharing all of the various reasons why we might decide to connect out classroom using various technologies. Here is a Wordle I created of some of the ideas people mentioned:
MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference

    The majority of the session consisted of Kathy sharing the tools that her classroom utilizes most and how they are implemented into the classroom setting. Here is some of the information/ideas that were mentioned:
- bring in experts (geologists for a unit on rocks, nurses for a unit on the body, etc)
- provide a general audience (students can show off projects, practice reading aloud)
- mystery set-ups (students are matched with another classroom & they have to ask
   specific questions to guess where they are)
- Skype In The Classroom is a good tool for finding other educators to connect with

- share projects
- reflect on learning
- students have individual blogs
- Kathy uses KidBlogs or EduBlogs
- during parent-night, have parents comment before they leave so they know how to

- follow other classroom accounts
- follow experts or educational networks
- read aloud to practice reading
- use hashtags to compile conversations

     I think Kathy did a wonderful job of reviewing the tools and projects that she utilizes in her classroom. As someone who is doing this with students for the first time in middle school, I am excited that I can take her ideas back with me to share with our elementary teachers.

* View the handout that accompanied this session:
* View the Storify created of the Tweets that went out regarding this session.

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Professional Blog
Classroom Blog

Meeting the Expectations of Changing Technologies in MY-SY Science
Kris Moroski

     This year I am teaching Grade 7, 8 & 9 Science, and I assume that I am going to maintain at least 2/3 of those classes next year as well. As such, I really wanted to fit this session into my schedule because I am not very familiar with the science technology that is available for schools. While our school does have a science lab it is somewhat outdated and is not available for use this year as we are awaiting renovations (which actually start this summer, yay!). In the meantime, I have been completing whatever labs I can directly in my classroom and supplementing with virtual labs that I find through my online network of educators.

     Kris' focus was on how technology is changing so quickly and how we are moving away from the technology that frustrated us at the beginning and are now reaching a point where technological integration is much more fluid and intuitive. I think this would have been a really good presentation for those teachers in our schools who are maybe apprehensive about using technologies due to bad experiences in the past. Below is Kris' entire presentation that he showed using Prezi, enjoy!

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Storytelling for the YouTube Generation
Steve Dembo

     I purposefully moved my schedule around to attend this session after hearing Steve's keynote address in the morning and I was not disappointed! On top of Steve's engaging presentation style, I was especially interested in this presentation because I wanted some new ideas to try with my students. I was first introduced to digital storytelling in my B.Ed when I attended a session with Andy McKiel and Darren Kuropatwa and have been trying to incorporate it ever since. While I've done a few projects with my students, I still felt a little bit unsure of how to guide my students as they haven't done digital storytelling in other classes and felt overwhelmed with the unlimited options they could potentially have.

     Steve definitely came to my rescue because he used YouTube video examples to highlight different storytelling options that I could implement into my classroom such as:
- Kinetic Typography
- Sweding It
- Annotations in YouTube
- and much more!
He also shared some awesome tools that I hadn't heard of yet, including, that I plan on utilizing right away! Here is Steve's entire, comprehensive, presentation featuring loads of YouTube examples and ideas (it may take a while to load, it is a large file):

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Andy McKiel

    This presentation was the only presentation I attended on the Thursday of the conference I presented directly afterwards and I had to, unfortunately, miss the afternoon in order to be on the road in time to celebrate Easter at home.

     Andy took a step back in this session and opposed to focusing on different technological tools, he discussed the different ways in which we can implement meaningful practices into the classroom for our learners. He shared that he focuses on the 5 C's when decided to implement a project or technology; does it allow the student to
- Communicate
- Collaborate
- Think Critically
- Be Creative
- Practice Citizenship 

     He also provided us with a 10-Step Recipe for Success when it comes to incorporating practices into our classrooms:
1 ) Celebrate Learning
2) Audience Matters
3) Sharing is Awesome
4) Students as Teachers
5) Teachers as Learners
6) Perspective Matters
     - You think your lesson is awesome, do your students?
     - Is someone asked, "What is the point?" what would you say?
7) Be Social
8) Get Connected
9) Encourage Student Voice
10) Provide Choice

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I want to send a BIG thank-you out to everyone who worked hard to put on this amazing conference opportunity, to all of the amazing presenters, to those who asked me to present, those who attended my session, and the awesome educators out there working to make their students learning experience richer!

If you weren't able to attend the conference, check out #MTSawake2014 on Twitter to read through the treasure-trove of information shared by those in attendance!

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