It has been nearly 2 weeks since the NCTIES conference in Raleigh, but it has taken that long to take all the amazing things I learned and sort them into a blog post.  I had heard about the “big technology conference” in Raleigh for years, but never had the opportunity to go.  I was determined this year that I would go, even if it meant taking personal days and paying for everything myself.  I was told that if I submitted a proposal to present and it was accepted, NCTIES would give me complimentary registration for the conference.  I created two proposals in the hopes that one would get accepted.  To my surprise, both were accepted and NCTIES took on a whole new priority for me.  My district does a Teaching and Learning Conference in the weeks before school starts back each year, and I was asked to be on the planning committee for the 2015 conference.  I was beyond thrilled; my proposals had been accepted and I had a way to get to Raleigh!

From the beginning, the conference was amazing!  The Opening Keynote was Kevin Honeycutt, who is energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate about education.  I laughed and I cried within the first 15 minutes.  The first session on the schedule for me was my own session – Makerspaces on a Shoestring Budget.  The session was designed for elementary teachers and media coordinators who knew nothing about makerspaces and wanted to start one as soon as they got back to their school for free!

Upon wrapping up my session, I wanted to hear more from Kevin Honeycutt, so I went to his session about adding Art to STEM.  I love the idea of letting students be in charge of their own learning and allowing them to incorporate their own artistic nature into projects they complete.  I stopped by a student showcase and had a second grader tell me about 3-D printers and LittleBits.  Talk about reality-check… if a second grader can explain it & why it matters to her learning, my students should be doing it.

After lunch, I went to a session that validated my personal philosophy, then I taught my second session.  For this one, I partnered with my Exceptional Children’s Teacher, who is exceptionally amazing!  Our session, 8 Ways to Assess Without Tests, was designed to show educators that paper/pencil, multiple-choice tests are not the way to show student mastery.  Instead, use some engaging Web 2.0 tools to do formative assessments.  Each of the 8 ways we discussed has an analysis function, so teachers can focus more on the excitement of the students rather than the ‘assessment’.  Teachers can analyze the data rather than spend all their time collecting the data and scoring it.  My last session of the day was on Coding in the Media Center.  I had approximately 300 students participate in Hour of Code last year using, so I was excited to hear about other coding programs and how other media coordinators were using it.  The presenters, Robin Williams and Pam Lilley, are friends of mine from the NCDLCN, so it was great to support them and learn something at the same time.

My brain was overloaded after Day 1 of NCTIES.  I went to eat with the TLC Planning Team, then went to the Digital Jam to meet up with my NCDLCN friends and network with others.  It was a great time of card games, networking, and relaxation.

The next morning, I was geared up and ready for Day 2.  The session in which I learned the most was Teaming with Media/Technology for Inquiry in the Elementary Classroom.  These two ladies from Rowan-Salisbury Schools had terrific ideas for implementing inquiry-based, problem-based, and project-based learning in a truly collaborative fashion with classroom teachers.  I am so excited to use these ideas in the coming weeks and prepare for next school year!  Finally, I hit the Best of the Web session with Richard Byrnes and Lucas Gillispie’s EPIC Academy session on Personalized Gamified PD.  Finally, I went to Learning with a Twist of STEAM presented by Steven Anderson (@web20classroom).

Speaking of Lucas Gillispie, he created a whole new layer of fun at NCTIES this year.  In an effort to force people out of their comfort zone and meet new people, he created a Conference Quest for anyone who wanted to spice up their experience.  We did quests like “give a random stranger going the opposite way on the elevator a high-five and have a witness sign the back of this card” and “put money in the vending machine for the next person who visits the machine”.  Some required signatures, some required you to tweet a picture with the hashtags #ncties15 and #cq and some even required someone else to tweet a picture with those hashtags!  Go ahead… search Twitter for #cq and see what comes up – we had a blast!

This whole experience was a time of professional and personal growth.  When I started teaching nearly 10 years ago, I never expected I would find myself attending the biggest technology conference in our state, much less presenting sessions at it.  It went well though – I survived & met amazing people who attended my session as an additional perk, and who knows… I just might do it again.

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