Reflections on TCEA 2012

February 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’ve been going to the TCEA conference for 7 years now. The last couple of years a lot less than when I first started going, but this year, I went for 3 days, and next year, I’d like to spend the extra money (or have whoever is employing me at that time spend the extra money) and go for some of the paid sessions on Monday and Tuesday.

I actually learned quite a bit this year, more than in previous years, but as always, you run across a couple of stinker sessions. Here’s the thing, though. My attitude toward those has changed a bit. In one of the sessions I attended, I tweeted:

Which in hindsight sounds a bit snotty, but it’s exactly how I feel. Especially when I see people who aren’t progressive presenting and watch others nod their head in agreement. But I was determined to take away something from each session I attended, even the ones I walked out of early. And I did.

More than anything this year, I got lists. A vast majority of the sessions I went to were lists. They were simply people throwing out a list of apps or web sites that were simple to use. I like that because it’s so open ended. They weren’t telling you what to do with the things they were showing you (OK, maybe just a quickie demo) but there were providing resources, and letting you make up your mind about how to use it.

That’s part of the reason I’ve decided against post all of the session notes I took this year…most of them are lists, and most of the people who presented them have their lists somewhere online, so really, all I’d have to do is link back to the lists.

I have posted my thoughts on one presentation, though…the BYOD session presented by Katy ISD, which I think was my biggest “a-ha” moment of the conference.

The one recurring thought I had as I wandered (or sometimes speed-walked) my way through the convention center was, “We are not sending the right people to this conference.”

Now, some districts do this very well, and send administrators, teachers, etc., and those are exactly the people who need to go. I can name four principals off the top of my head who could have seen how technology is supposed to be used that would have completely changed their mindset about how technology is being used on their campuses.

That shift HAS to come from the top. It has to be a priority at the district level, not just a talking point. You’d better believe that I’m going to push for some curriculum folks and campus administrators to go to TCEA 2013.

The biggest thing I took away this year, though, was the connections. I’ve been on Twitter for a number of years, and have been gradually growing my numbers of people I follow. A lot of those people are Texas Ed Tech folks who were at the conference. Many of the people I’ve had conversations with on Twitter or Google+, but had never met in person, so this year, I made it a point to see some of those people in real life, shake hands, and get to know the person behind the tweets.

Sometimes the best professional development is getting to really talk with people in your network in conversations that take place in more than 140 characters.

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Getting IT Ready for BYOD – Katy ISD #tcea2012

February 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

My full notes from the session

As you can tell, I was typing fast and furious during this session. This was the final session on Thursday before the “Meet your Area Director” sessions. I’m so glad that I decided to stay and attend this session (I was driving back and forth between San Antonio and Austin each day). This was my big takeaway session…the one that I learned the most from in the whole conference.

We’ve been talking about BYOD for a long time in my district and this session opened my eyes to what we’ve been doing wrong. If a BYOD initiative is going to be successful, it HAS to be about changing the way teaching and learning is done, and NOT about the technology.

I’ve found myself worrying about BYOD and opening up wifi to students at our campuses, and I couldn’t put my finger on what, exactly, it was that had been bothering me. The gentleman who presented this session from Katy hit the nail on the head.

Do I agree with everything he said? Heck no…I think their decision to pull their technologists from the campuses might have been a mistake. It’s certainly something I wouldn’t have done, but I can also understand why they did it. His point of “the teacher then has to rely on themselves, or their early adopters on campus because they don’t have someone to come set up the powerpoint for them,” rang a little hollow for me. In that situation, I can see a reluctant teacher becoming even more reluctant to using technology. You instructional technologists have to have the wherewithal to say to someone like that, “You’re going to sit in that chair and set this up yourself, but I will be right here, looking over your shoulder if you get stuck on something.” Patience is a virtue in those situations.

I also think they hit the sweet spot for running a pilot. When they started this, 3 years ago, the smartphone explosion had not quite hit yet. They were able to pilot with smart devices and not have the crushing demand from all of their students expecting to be able to hook up to their wifi.

I also really liked the idea of moving EVERYTHING over to the web for everyday access. This is what I’ve been trying to accomplish with Google Docs in our district. Getting people to see the same interface whether they’re on campus or at home is a huge key to success. If it doesn’t work at home exactly the same way it works at school, you’re going to have people who simply won’t take the time to learn the process they’re unfamiliar with.

In short…the way Katy ISD has done it, seems to be the right model for BYOD.

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