Conferences, Connections, and Culture, A Conversation

I attended theice-logo Illinois Computer Educators (ICE) conference from Wednesday, February 26 to Friday, February 28. You might be wondering why? Why would someone who is only a substitute teacher pay all that money to attend one of the best technology and teaching conferences in the Midwest? Well, for this veteran teacher it comes down to relationships and building lasting relationships.

For the past few years I have not held a full-time teaching job (except for a little jaunt into North Carolina for a semester, but that’s a completely different story). See, I am a teacher. Teachers enjoy being around others who are passionate about kids, teaching, and technology as they are. I was totally blown away by the fact that I was able to meet many people who I have had online relationships for a couple years face to face for the first time. These education rock stars keep me striving to be the best teacher I can be.

On Wednesday I attended a workshop lead by Steve Dembro (@teach42) and co-author of Untangling the Web. He shared with the group many gadgets and devices that made many people salivate. Now I must confess that I am a gadget geek, and it sometimes drives my wife batty, but I just can’t help that when I see a new gadget I also see possibilities for how that gadget may be used to teach my future students better. I ask myself how can that gadget help improve me as a person? How can it help improve my teaching, and how can using the gadget improve relationships with other people? Just having a new gadget in and of itself sometimes helps spark people’s curiosity and brings alive conversation. Witness the fact that if you ever ran into someone wearing Google Glass that they look like Mr. or Ms. Popular. It’s not a popularity contest at all, because people are generally asking the wearer all kinds of questions and they are engaged in conversations.

I also learned about many uses for Google in education that I wasn’t aware of. I attended a session lead by Molly Schroeder (@FollowMolly). She shared with the group many different ways that teachers can learn from and with Google all in an effort to help aid communications, connections, and understanding today’s culture. It is truly amazing the possibilities that exist for all of us to build lasting relationships that are focused around improving ourselves, our teaching, and our society.

The last workshop I attended on Wednesday was lead by none other than my social studies hero, Mr. Dave Burgess (@burgessdave). Dave is the author of the great book Teach Like A Pirate as well as founder and moderator of the #tlap twitter chat. (Don’t know what the pound symbol means or what a twitter chat is? You are becoming an illiterate. Find out now! Don’t even finish reading this post. FIND OUT! If you have not heard of the book or read the book, then you haven’t been having the right conversations with other teachers. The book is full of ideas and idea starters all geared to pump a teacher up and sustain energy to make teaching and learning matter for kids. I consider Dave a friend and the most important part of our friendship is that we communicate regularly about how to become better teachers. Meeting him in person made my day and had me grinning from ear to ear which is difficult for me as I am in the dumps about not being in the classroom again. But, meeting one of my personal teaching heroes made me feel giddy and like a first year teacher again. If you ever get the chance to see Dave in person and present, run for the opportunity. You will not be disappointed.

I almost forgot. I attended my first #EdCamp on Wednesday evening. Teachers getting together all on their own, discussing the things that matter the most to them is an experience every teacher should have. ICE After Dark is an experience I will never forget and It makes me look forward to #EdCampIowa this coming weekend.Print
As teachers, we can become very isolated in our classrooms, hence the importance of professional conferences, connections to others, and creating a culture of life-long relationships and learning. In this post I do not have room to write about the other two days of the conference. I did however meet face to face and/or learned from the following great friends of mine: George Couros (@gcouros), Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz), Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu), Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher), Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr),  and Maria Stavropoulos (@mstavi3). Yes, I consider them friends, because we learn together, support each other, and when we meet face to face we get to enjoy the company and knowing that comes from connections to the profession of teaching and doing what’s best for kids.

If you have read this far, please look at or pass along the link to my resume at the top of my blog. Thanks 😎