“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
I’m just back home from two days at the EdTechTeacher ETTSummit in Boston and want to write a few lines to keep the inspiration alive that I felt there. I go to a few tech conferences each year and there is nothing like the vibe at ETTSummit. As an art educator attending ed tech conferences, I am frequently asked, “Why are you here?” as if the asker just can’t understand the connection between art and technology. But not at ETTSummit.
ETTSummit stands apart because it is a carefully curated event which includes some of the best minds in educational technology today. It is also gimmick free – no big exhibit hall, vendor sponsored sessions clearly labeled as such, and an overarching goal to share ways of using technology to increase meaningful learning for our students. The presenters, keynoters, and ignite speakers are impassioned, intelligent, clever, and fun.
Of course there are many take-aways for me to bring back to my students, including new and improved virtual field trip directories (kiddingly called “tinder for teachers” by presenter Kara Wilkins), new or improved apps and their processes, ideas for managing technology in the classroom, and creative uses of electronics and tools, such as wearable tech. This is a just a short list of many teaching and learning tips and tools out of many, because after all, it is a tech conference.
What brings me back to the ETTSummit annually, though, is the focus and enthusiasm around the unbounded possibilities for creativity and learning in education. There is tremendous enthusiasm, positivity, and damn it, there’s joy! People are not afraid to be silly or take a chance to try something new in front of everyone. Watch these:
No wonder everyone is smiling and saying “hello” and gushing about the cool things they’ve tried or want to try!
For the first time ETTSummit, I had the pleasure of being part of a presentation with district colleagues. Mendon-Upton’s Director of Technology Integration led the presentation Making that Matters: Projects for the Real World and Real Audiences, which featured projects he has facilitated with our high school students including the compost project (aka Dave’s little horse poop obsession) and weather balloon project. Second grade Spanish Immersion educator, Katie Cardamone, shared her Virtual Tour of Memorial School video project, which she and her class had created as part of a global education exchange with a school in Spain, and I shared my Game Makers project.
While watching Katie and Dave talk about their projects, I was fascinated and realized that prior to that day I never really understood what they were doing or the reasons behind the projects. I had seen snippets on Twitter, but never had a chance to listen to them share the content or processes. I’m glad to have had the chance at ETTSummit.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, I shared my Game Makers project with a terrific audience who were enthusiastic, curious, and inquisitive.
Game Makers is a project I developed for my 6th grade art students to facilitate a design thinking experience while utilizing a full range of technology tools.
For this project I adjusted the traditional design process wheel to emphasize Revision (Improve) as a necessary part of the process and to provide for an authentic audience through the Share component.
In the spirit of trying new things without fear in front of an audience, I included a couple of prompts to poll the audience using mentimeter.com. They worked out great, yet if they hadn’t, I’m quite sure someone on the audience would have helped until it worked or until we failed forward.
From an educator perspective, the Game Makers project is complex. I will write more about it in a future post. We are currently in the messy middle of it at school, and I want to combine this year’s work with what we did last year before I reflect and post. Stay tuned.
At the end of the day, at the end of ETTSummit, I drove home on Mass Pike, in my little vessel listening to Dire Straits On the Night (inspired by Douglas Kiang’s emoji duet) completely immune to the traffic jams and miles traveled, with an abundance of ideas filling my head. Having just spent two days with so many charming gardeners of the creative ed tech world, my soul had duly blossomed with enough inspiration for tomorrow’s return to school and so many school days that follow. Until then: