Monday, June 24, 2019

Reflect: WITcon 2019

Another year in the books for the best Western Illinois educator conference! #WITcon19

First, if you haven't heard of WITcon (Whatever It Takes Conference) you need to stop what you're doing, yes stop reading, and look it up. It is an amazing conference all about the latest techniques in teaching and education technology. I have attended or presented every year since it has been established. Therefore, I can attest it is a must-attend event! So spread the word and consider attending next year. I know I would love to meet you!

So I know your anxiously waiting to hear about what happened at this years WITcon and it didn't disappoint. I mainly attended Day 2 and Day 3 of the conference. To open day two the amazing, strong education advocate Adam Welcome was the keynote. It was completely engrossing and for that hour you could hear a pin drop. He left me, with such a strong impression that made me feel confident in my craft. He had such a strong point of view that I admire, but I related to so many things he said. One in particular that spoke to so many people was, "You can teach for 25 years, but don't teach the same year 25 times." As educators, we need to change up our teaching. We have to adapt and learn the languages of our children. Sometimes that is stepping out of your comfort zone or putting students in charge, but regardless of what it we need to teach for this generation.
Adam Welcome giving his keynote

I had the pleasure of talking with Adam a few days before the conference on a Google HangOut. Honestly, it was complete luck. I saw him request some educators to brainstorm with and I just responded. It was such a great chat, I got to meet some other amazing educators and got to hear some words I needed to hear. Adam listened to my tale and left me with a great piece of knowledge. I know that as an educator we want to be liked, but do we truly need to be liked to do what is best for our kids? We want to support our students and we should do that by any means necessary. Other teachers may not like us rocking the boat, they may even be jealous, but we need to find our PLN and rock our classroom! It's funny because Adam spoke not only to teaching for me but for my life. Let me tell you a secret, I'm not perfect. I have issues like we all do and more often than not I doubt myself more than most. I have anxiety and sometimes I let the voice in my head take over. I worry what other people think of me far too much. Often times I'm my own worse critic. Yet, there is something truly amazing that we all do, we make relationships with students, we show up for them and in my case, I do it in crazy, wacky ways. I can't let others define me, nor should any of us allow others to bring us down. If Twitter and my digital PLN have taught me anything it's to be your true self and know there are people out there who will support you! Now I'm still a work in progress like we all are, but I'm going to live brave for me and for my students.
Adam and I meeting! 

Another major gain for me was meeting Monica Burns and having a chance to listen to her keynote on Day 3. She really pushed for Tasks Before Apps (She has even written a book on that concept, which I totally bought). Truth be told I know I really need to think about the end goal more and not just the apps I want to use or try out. We need to use tech, but it is truly important to sitting down and analyzing what your true goal is for the students. Apps are great and can make so many amazing things happen for our students, but we need to decide on the goal and standards first. Apps come later to make things achievable we couldn't before or allow our students to connect with an authentic audience they couldn't before. I had the amazing chance to attend two of her sessions and ask her for some advice on podcasting. She is very kind and gave me some great advice. If you haven't checked her out you really should and check out her podcast too!
Monica Burns and I after her keynote

Lastly, I got to meet an old friend who is doing amazing things. Rae Hughart graduated and started working in the district the same time I did. We even met while filling out paperwork. I could tell right away she was strong, determined, and would do anything to support her students. She ended up moving after a year after getting her dream job and has not looked back. She not only works as a junior high math teacher, but she is head of Training and Developing for the amazing professional development company Teach Better. They have so many different digital webinars and courses to help teachers #teachbetter. I was really intrigued with the Grid Method model and have always admired Rae's classroom internships in her Teach Further Model so I went to her session. After attending I knew two things:
1) The Grid Method is not as scary as I thought. It definitely will take time, but I love how it will force me to focus on the standards, ending objectives right away (Sometimes I get caught up in the pressure to teach it all that I don't take the time to plan out how I will know the student has mastered it. Knowing the problem is half the battle). I also love how students get to have more independence.
2) I was going to try out the Grid Method this year. I plan to blog about my experience and my courses so stay tuned to hear more!

Rae in her old classroom sharing the Grid Method

Now let's get to all the cool Apps!

One app I learned more about was BookCreator. I had heard about it but never really used it before. It is so easy and truth be told I was wondering why I hadn't used it before. There is so much you could do with this app and it definitely would help with students creating comic book endings to books we read in class or writing their own stories. It even can be used to create graphic organizers for students.
A Page from my Goal Journal I created on BookCreator

I got a chance to play with Padlet, Back Channel Chat, and Nearpod. I had heard of all of these, but like many things in edtech, there is so much out there that you rarely use it all or know the best way to use it. All three of these have some amazing uses. Padlet you can use for KWL Charts, T-Charts, and any other collaborative resource you want to use it for. Speaking of collaborating I loved the Back Channel Chat as a means for students to real-time chat about anything you choose. It allows students to share their thoughts with others and allows the teacher to get real-time data. Nearpod, on the other hand, reminded me of Peardeck, but it has a few different features like 360 field trips that you can add into the slides you make. Monica Burns really outdid herself with these awesome resources!
Another Great Quote from Adam Welcome's Keynote

On Day 3 I learned a lot of different tools to use with Chromebooks in my classroom. One tool I have avoided, because of fear, is Screencastify. I realize I do a lot of similar things using Flipgrid and I need to let go of my fear. This year since I want to cut down on lecture and empower my students to lead. I plan on truly using Screencastify more. I know I'm late to this awesome train, but sometimes you need to see that it's not as hard as it may seem to really let go and try something new.

On top of that, I also got a chance to play with Tour Builder, Jamboard, hyperdocs, and Animoto. All of these amazing tools have great purposes and I'm excited to play with them more. I for one have always been intrigued by hyperdocs so learning all the amazing ways to use them really thrilled me. Keep an eye on my blog to see reviews of these apps and creations I make as I go. Won't be perfect, but I know I'm definitely going to try them out and see what works for my tasks.
When you win an epic prize!

And it's signed by an amazing educator!

When it's all said and done I walked away from WITcon19 with more apps to use in my class and the spirit I need to get back up and start a new year. More importantly, I got the chance to be brave. Be open enough to introduce myself to some amazing educators, not fear attending sessions alone, and playing the confident teacher I know I can be. It's about losing the fear of trying a new app and being confident. Even if you fail, remember failure is just part of the process. It will take time but I will get there, Whatever it takes after all!

Did you attend WITcon19? How are you planning to Be Brave this school year?

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