Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Weekend with #CUENV17

This weekend, CUE-NV hosted the Silver State Technolgy Conference at Western High School in Las Vegas.  Nearly 150 people took time out of their weekend on Friday night and Saturday to attend dozens of sessions, keynote presentations, a student panel, and attendees to meet educators from all over the country (and Canada, right Jennifer?).  As a board member of CUE-NV, my team and I spent months planning the event and could not be happier with the outcome.  

Friday night kicked off with three featured speakers, Dr. Jesse Welsh, Mr. Pat Skorkowsky, and Mr. Jon Corippo.  Dr. Welsh and Mr. Skorkowsky addressed the importance of incorporating technology and professional learning into the craft of teaching, citing how the world will leave students if teachers do not prepare them.  Mr. Corippo spent his time demonstrating how teachers could be more innovative and engaging with students, showing attendees tools like Socrative and Quizizz and how they could be used on a daily basis to promote student learning.  

Jon Corippo congratulating the student panel on a job well done!
Mr. Corippo followed up his rousing session with a student panel.  Six students took to the stage to share their thoughts on education, such as what their teachers are doing well and what they could do to improve their practice.  The students were as young as 4th grade, up to senior in high school, but the theme for each of them as similar:  too many teachers do not engage students as effectively as they could, and technology could go a long way to engage students better.  After each student was given the opportunity to speak, the panel was asked questions by the audience.  The students did an amazing job speaking to over 100 adults and answering questions that they were not prepared for prior to taking the stage.  I look forward to this session at future CUE-NV events! 

After the student panel was completed, attendees had the choice of various sessions to attend or vendors to visit.  Some of the sessions, such as Dr. Welsh's technology tools, were an hour, while most of the sessions were quick-fire 25-minute sessions offered twice for the final hour of the Friday night schedule.  Because my district is fully integrating G Suite for Education in 2018, I presented a session titled "What Do I Do With This Google Account?" that outlined how to log into the district account, introduced Google Drive, and highlighted the various tools offered by Google with the account, such as Docs, Slides, Gmail, Calendar, and Keep.  I had never presented a session so short, and even though I had practiced ahead of time, 25 minutes goes by very quickly!  However, I was able to complete the session and feel that it went very well.  

The conference wrapped up on Friday evening at 9, so it was going to be a quick turnaround to Saturday morning, as the doors were to open for attendees at 7:15 AM.  Ben Cogswell, Saturday's afternoon keynote speaker, stayed with me, so we decided to meet up with two other friends from the edtech world, Michael Jephcott and Tom Covington, for a beer and catching up.  Over the course of an hour or so, the four of us watched football, at pizza, talked about education, and "shot the bull" over a beer at Tenaya Creek Brewery.  Over that hour or so, we solved the world's problems and planned how to execute the plans while looking forward to what the conference would bring on Saturday.  After leaving, Ben and I retired to my house where we reviewed his keynote presentation and finally got to sleep around 1:30 AM.  

Ari Flewelling explaining her thoughts on #TechEsteem
Saturday morning kicked off on a tremendous note with an inspiring keynote speech from Ari Flewelling.  The theme of Ari's keynote was the concept of #TechEsteem.  What is #TechEsteem you ask?  This is the idea that in today's world, technology is all around us and it is not going to go away, so we need to catch up to the times.  However, that can be very tough, especially if you are a tech newbie.  At the same time, if you are a math teacher, would you allow a student to tell you that they just aren't good at math or that they are a math newbie?  #TechEsteem is about taking the initiative to learn something new, incorporate it into our teaching, and have the confidence to work with it.  What if the technology fails us?  Do we get frustrated and give up?  No, because we would not expect our students to give up if they are struggling or "failing" at something.  #TechEsteem is also, in my opinion, about having a sense of humor and a sense of adventure to try things, no matter what may happen.  You wouldn't have known it because she did such a phenomenal job, but the keynote was Ari's first ever keynote, and she absolutely killed it!

After Ari's keynote, attendees were treated to dozens of sessions of varying educational technology, from hyperdocs to Google tools, social media to blogging, makerspaces to coding, and digital citizenship to podcasting.  Many presenters, such as Joanne Schmutz, Heather Nail, and Keith Thomsen, hail from Las Vegas, but many others like Amanda Haughs, Tom Covington, Michael Jephcott, Randall Sampson, and Jennifer Casa-Todd hailed from California, Ohio, and even Ontario, Canada!  Each session ended with a 15-minute break to network and move on to the next session, and the looks on the faces of attendees were of pure amazement, as you could see in their faces how they would begin to implement what they learned.

Ben even dressed for an after party!
To close out the day, Ben Cogswell held his keynote... er... AFTER PARTY!  Ben was very adamant in communicating that it wasn't going to be a keynote but an after party to a weekend full of fun and learning.  The theme of the after party was thanking teachers and recognizing what teachers are going to be recognized for long after their students have moved on.  What was also interesting about the after party was that in closing out a technology conference, Ben had attendees color a bookmark that he created with a crayon!  The focus behind that was how a stained glass window is made of tons of small parts (in this case, the teachers that made a difference) and Ben had attendees color part of their bookmark a different color to represent a masterpiece.  It was a very fitting end to two days of learning prior to the raffles, in which numerous people walked away with great prizes, like admission to future CUE-NV events, signed copies of various books, and Chromebooks.

When I started my reflection piece on Sunday, my mind was buzzing from the weekend and I was trying very hard to be quick and concise so the post didn't get too long.  About halfway through writing, I decided to think a little more about everything and pick up where I left off on Monday afternoon.  However, everything changed when I woke up on Monday at 5:30 AM.  I woke up to a text message from my brother/best friend/roommate from college Brandon, asking if I was okay and that he needed to hear from me ASAP.  Confused and still half asleep, I groggily text back, "I'm fine."  I realized what he meant when I ambled out to the living room to turn on the TV news while I got the coffee going.  After I had gone to bed on Sunday night, a crazed gunman changed my city of Las Vegas forever when he rained terror down from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay on over 22,000 country music fans at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.  As of this writing, 530 people were injured, with 59 people killed in this cowardly, senseless, heinous, gut-wrenching, disgusting, and horrific act of violence.

If you are able, blood is in short supply,
please  consider a trip to your local blood
bank to help the victims of the Las Vegas
Upon learning of the events the prior evening, I immediately was sick to my stomach.  My second thought was that there was no way that I was going to work, not until I knew that people that I know and love were safe.  On top of that, I knew that help was going to be needed in numerous ways, including blood donations.  I woke up my wife and told her what happened, and we sat glued to the TV for two hours.  When our five-year-old daughter woke up, we explained to her what happened, because as a kindergartener, she was going to hear about it; best she heard it from her parents.  My wife got ready for work, intending to join me later to help, but things are her school were chaotic, so she couldn't leave once she arrived.  I got to a blood donation center around 10:30; so many people came out to donate that I did not get through the line until after 6:30, eight hours later.  It was the least that I could do to help, I only wish I could give more of my blood.

While so many lessons were learned this weekend with the #CUENV17 Silver State Technology Conference, so much of it pales in comparison to the lesson that I already knew, but was reiterated with the events on the Las Vegas Strip: don't ever take any moment for granted, hug your kids and spouse, tell people you love them, and in general, be a great person that is willing to help.  If we can all live our lives this way, the world will overcome hatred, bigotry, and violence.

Until next time...

The CUE-NV Board and friends look forward to seeing you at future events!