Reflections from Tech Forum (Chicago, IL) - 4/23/10

It was about this time last year when I attended my first educational technology conference, Tech Forum.  I clearly remember bringing my new netbook (good ol' Samsung NC-10), taking notes, and just thinking "Gosh, I'm going to love this job."  One year later, my first as a Technology Staff Developer at Evanston Township High School (ETHS), and I'm back for Tech Forum, excited to wrap up a successful first year and begin plans for year 2, and more importantly how to best position ETHS as a leader in technology integration in education. 

From the keynote, I was reminded of the importance of asking the questions,

What do your students need to know in a decade?

What are we doing to help them get there?

I think that these questions provide an excellent foundation for many a curriculum discussion.  For our upcoming Technology Demonstration Classroom summer project, I'd like to open up with these questions to make sure we provide the appropriate framework for where technology fits into the curriculum and how it can help make it stronger. 

The next session involved a professional development program that has received accolades at nearby District #37 in Wilmette, IL.  I was amazed to hear that teachers at Avoca West (K-5) receive technology training once a week, every week.  The technology team consists of several teacher trainers for 700 students, compared to my position for close to 3,000.  Aside from this large difference, the remaining structure (technology coordinator, network systems manager, technicians) seemed similar to ours.  Jealous of the amount of interaction that their teacher trainers get with their faculty, it made me consider reaching out on a more regular basis to PLC groups, potentially offering to help work with these small clusters of teachers 2-3 times a year with a specific technology integration goal. 

Another component that impressed me was their "Tech Bytes" program.  Similar to a 23 Things concept that I heard about when bumping into a former colleague at ICE, "Tech Bytes" offers new teachers a chance to learn about a technology tool, receiving training and support on integration.  I would like to implement a similar program at ETHS, and given the fact that next year's cohort will be a large group, it might be a perfect time to establish and work with a pilot group of teachers on this new initiative.  I envision meeting with the group, discussing current planning and curriculum materials.  Then, we'd discuss individual technology goals for the year, and I'd follow up with each new teacher throughout the year, ultimately culminating with an in-house showcase or presentation of their achievements. 

After discussing some hardware bits with the folks at Turning Technologies (new Response XR cards are on the way, I was told), NEC (3D projectors are available at the same price as 2D ones, but the glasses are a whopping $80 a piece), and AverVision (most likely on our short list for a bunch of document cameras), I met up with Scott Weidig to talk more about professional development experience at Schaumburg High School.  He was very gracious with his time, and I was pleased to hear that he had pioneered an initiative similar to what I want to start at ETHS with the Technology Demonstration Classrooms.  He called his group of teacher tech trainers "Technology Trailblazers" and his program has a leg up on mine in that his group gets a common planning period.  I'm hoping to instill enough excitement and encourage true sharing with my group, and if we can get teachers motivated and excited about the prospect of influencing other teachers through their work, I think the program can be a lasting success in technology professional development.  Details to come starting in early June.

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