Thursday, July 24, 2014

Keystones Technology Innovators STARS Summit

This week I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the week's activities at the Keystones Technology Innovators STARS Summit in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.  I had been approached by Linda Nitsche, who was helping to organize the summit.  BrainPOP was a sponsor and she knew that I love BrainPop so she asked if I would like to present with them and then on my own about globalization.  I figured it would be a fun two days in the Pennsylvania countryside and didn't really expect much out of it.  Wow, was I wrong.

First, I love the idea of the Keystones.  This group is made up of Pennsylvania educators, chosen by their administrators as leaders in the field or soon to be leaders.  They come together for, what the wiki calls "the most exhausting yet professionally and personally rewarding week of your life." These educators,

most meeting for the first time when they meet their dorm roommates on Monday night, come together from breakfast time through dinner time and co-hort time in the evening each day.  They experience amazing keynote speakers, attend sessions with forward thinking educators, learn about new and exciting ideas and tools, and create a lasting PLN of Pennsylvania leaders in education.  I wish New York had something like this.  I would love to be part of it.

My biggest surprise?  I was challenged.  I didn't expect that.  I thought I would go and share my wisdom.  I did do that.  But I learned so much more.  

Tuesday morning's keynote speaker was Philip Vinogradov.  How have I never heard of him?  He spoke about gamification and how he, as an AP bio teacher

gamified his entire year.  I was so impressed with his keynote, I went to his session for gamifying elementary classrooms.  I haven't been so excited by a new idea in a long time.  I love games but am not a gamer.  So this was all new to me.  Wow!  Makes me reminiscent of my early DOS role playing games.  I might actually try to gamify one of my units this year.  I'll be sure to blog about it, positive and negative.

Tuesday was also a BrainPOP presentation day.  Katya Hott, from BrainPOP, and I presented on the theme of gaming.  So we showed the Keynotes about GameUp.  But what they really were impressed with was the fact that BrainPOP is so much more than just cute videos.  They loved finding out how powerful a site it really is.  And I loved sharing that.  

Wednesday morning's keynote speaker was Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  I have known Sheryl for years and have had some fascinating conversations with her.  But I have never heard her speak to an audience.  I got more quotes out of her keynote than I knew possible.  My favorite, "If you are concerned that the future means we will be replaced by computers then...if you can be replaced by a computer, you should be and please leave education now."  She is not afraid of technology innovations...she looks forward to them and understands that our role as teachers is to prepare our students for this world.  I love her!

After the keynote, I presented about Going Global in the Classroom.  This is a love of mine so I enjoyed sharing.  And I loved seeing the excitement and experiencing the energy in the room as these teachers learned what is possible.

I left right after my presentation to get back to my life but the whole drive home was spent just thinking.  All that learning was exhilarating.  But that wasn't the best part of Keynotes.  The best part was the conversations at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The chats in the hallways and bathrooms.  The talks as we walked back and forth on campus.  These educators are excited about what they are learning.  Not once did I hear anyone say, "Yeah, but..."  They did speak about lack of technology in their schools, lack of support from administration, and demands from testing and curriculum.  But they also spoke about how they were going to push back in September so they can...use Edmodo for book discussions, connect on Skype with other classes, try out Google Apps useful for presenting, write a grant for a 3-D printer, and on and on.  

So I want to thank Linda and the Keynotes and BrainPOP for giving me this opportunity to meet and talk with educators who are excited and willing to push for what they know is right.  It is so refreshing when mostly what I hear are all the "buts".  Congratulations, 2014 Keystones!  Yours is the best year yet!

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