Saturday, February 28, 2015

Already Thinking About #ICE16

Wow! Just woke up from a power nap after coming home and "crashing" the couch following one of my favorite conference of the year: ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) at the Pheasant Run in St. Charles Illinois.  This years theme was "Make the Difference" in honor of the maker movement.  Not surprisingly the culture of making and creating was front and center! The poster sessions were moved to an area previously reserved for the PLN Plaza in favor of a "mini-Maker" Faire where we got hands on experience with Squishy Circuits, the 3Doodler, the Makey Makey and a whole bunch of other tools that allow you to create and invent.  Many of the presentations were themed around the concept including "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" from the truly Super Awesome Sylvia Todd.  I even got in on the act with my latest experiment "Gubbins Glass" (an action cam attached to a baseball cap).  More on that in a future post perhaps.

But here's the thing, educators have always been makers.  Students have always been curious.  This is nothing new!  Sure technology has allowed us to change the landscape a bit by allowing us to make flashier things - but who remembers Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and LEGOS.  Of course, today, we can build LEGOs that we can program to do some pretty amazing things! My point is this all these fun and innovative tools that let us create and demonstrate conceptual knowledge are just that - they are tools. No different than the plethora of online resources apps and extensions that bloomed with the dawning of a new millennium.

Here's the deal - the "Difference Makers" are the amazing educators who inspire and innovate by allowing these tools to enter the classroom.  Here are just a few that made my conference experience just that much better.

Tara Linney who connected coding to CCSS with "Coding in the Curriculum".  Her 7 habits of effective coding take the fear out of trying something new in your classroom.

Speaking of coding Jen Gilbert's poster session "Kids Can Code: Computer Programming for Kindergarten and Up" attracted a lot of attention.  But beyond that, in speaking with Jen at breakfast both Wednesday and Thursday, it became obvious that she has a genuine passion for being innovative and is willing to take risks to make her learning environment a better place!

Josh Stumpenhorst who is leading the "Teacher Revolution" gave an empowering, inciteful and much needed talk that shared heartfelt stories and offered sage advice which resonated with truth.  After spending time with Josh, it's difficult not to feel inspired to do great things!

David Tchozewski and David Fischer once again packed the Zanies Comedy club with The Return of “Hi, I’m David and I’m an APPoholic!” sharing tons of valuable resources.  It's so good to see "resource sessions" are still being well attended and when "the David's" share a room it's easy to see why.  I'm looking forward to going back and reviewing what they shared!

It was great to finally meet Nicholas Provenzano after his Digital Tools to Support Reading and Writing session.   He demonstrated how tried and true tools like Tagxedo, Storybird and KidBlog can still be used with purpose.  We don't always have to jump to the latest flashy reource.

And these were only a few of the many sessions I jumped in and out of throughout the week without even mentioning amazing keynotes from Slyvia Martinez and Jim Sill! You can find the resources and shared notes at visit to access my liveblog of the event.

Of course, my favorite part of any conference is getting to hang out with amazing educators and to get swept up in the culture of learning.  It will take me days to process and reflect on everything I discovered about education, technology and myself over the past few days.  I am absolutely blessed to be a part of an amazing community of educators who lead, inspire, innovate and make every single day! Thank you for giving me an opportunity to learn from you.  You are all amazing and truly Make the Difference!
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