Tuesday, March 22, 2016

CUE16: Download complete, installation in progress

There is something special, almost magical abut the CUE National Conference. Each year, it brings something new. New to learn, new to explore, new to share, new people, new faces, new friends. This is something that gets people really excited about what they are doing as educators. Going into this year's conference, I was already thinking that I may skip next year. The National Conference overlaps my birthday and next year is a significant one. By the first 24 hours into CUE16, I was already figuring that I should probably go next year. By the end of the conference, I had already determined a good way to commit myself to attending Fall CUE, too. This year's conference was that good, and some!

When a conference opens amidst times where fear and anger are what we hear daily on the news, whatever that conference brings as reprieve will certainly be welcomed, but this was more. This year's CUE offered more than a reprieve, it offered a clear alternative. This alternative is one that we, as educators, need more of in our lives. This year's CUE Conference had a definite theme of HOPE, JOY, and STEAM(punk).

Fewer attended, but I experienced great joy in being a part of the kick-off event on Wednesday afternoon. Those of us who arrived on Wednesday, had the opportunity to view Underwater Dreams. This documentary shows the journey of a small group of high school students who brought together a collection of Home Depot items and created an outstanding underwater robotics project. This group from Arizona accomplishes things they could have only dreamed of and helped lead them to great successes. It was their teachers who helped guide them, but the boys did the hard work and earned every bit of what they experienced as a positive result. This is an absolute must-see for teachers and I suspect many students would feel inspired by it as well. I strongly recommend it. You can view it at home, but what our group on Wednesday night got that you will not have is a panel discussion to follow viewing it. Plus, I got my first (Google) CUE Cardboard and it is pretty cool. (Ok, it's really cool and I showed it off to sixth graders today.) I left feeling on cloud nine and the best part is, I left with HOPE. (Note: If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can check this documentary out right now! Go...after you finish reading this blog, of course.)

Thursday's opening keynote featured Brad Montague, co-creator of Kid President. My son was at school and I was sending him messages through Google Hangouts (I LOVE Google Hangouts, by the way) so that when he got home Thursday, he could see what I got to experience, and hear. I sat on the floor of a crowded overflow room as seating was at capacity in the main room. I was only slightly familiar with Kid President before this. Robby Novak sent a great message to CUE attendees with Montague and Montague spread a wonderful gift: JOY. He shared that gift of JOY by spreading other important messages.

"Treat everyone like it's their birthday," Montague said. He went on to talk about love and sharing love, being love, giving love.

Two important pieces of advice he offered:
1. Choose awesome.
2. Choose to hug the haters.
Wait. What?! Hug the haters?! No way!

But, YES! YES! He recounted a social media story in which he chose to hug a hater and it worked. As it will. I've often thought of the idea, "kill (them) with kindness," but I think I like this even more. After all, it has a much more positive sound to it. HUG THE HATERS. He also says to DANCE and to take chances with what we have.

The general keynote of Friday morning was what I had most looked forward to and by the time it arrived, I was already full of HOPE and JOY. Hadi Partovi, founder of code.org was to address this group that included nearly 7,000 educators. (Remember the overflowing overflow room from Thursday?) I arrived earlier and planned ahead. I excitedly found a seat and got settled in, ready for the big keynote address. The interesting thing about Partovi's address was that it was about far more than teaching kids to code. I received my introduction to #CSforall during this keynote. When you stop and think about it, we would have a hard time teaching everyone to code if they lack the resources on which to learn. I think at times teachers forget that not all students have access to the Internet, let alone a computer. Admittedly, this is something I know I sometimes forget.

I was among the first in my generation to experience the advantages of having a computer at home, thanks to my dad. I practiced math with a special game that my dad had programmed especially for my brother and me. (The things my dad introduced us to with computers growing up was simply amazing!) I started testing out of computer classes in eighth grade and proudly took an old Kaypro (a gift from my uncle) to the dorm with me for my freshman year of college. Computers are wonderful tools for learning. Other technologies take it to bigger and better levels, when used correctly and incorporated effectively. It has now been 25 years since I tested out of my first computer class and if you had told me then what I would be witnessing now, I would never have believed you. Two years ago, I realized I was less of a front-runner and trendsetter and more in a position of playing "catch-up." Full STEAM ahead, I went! There are some who still lack a basic computer and Internet access at home. There are some companies and organizations looking to bridge that piece of the digital divide. There are advocates and lobbyists. Partovi is among them.

Partovi points to the accomplishments of mathematician Ada Lovelace. She created what was essentially the first computer program (1843), 100 years before the existence of the very first computer. And, it turns out she was Lord Byron's daughter. (There's a little tidbit of trivia for you today.) The biggest challenge we face is the gap, the "digital divide," if you will. We all need to work together to bridge that gap. If we are going to effectively use technological tools to educate, then we need to make sure that those we are educating have access to what they need. And, thus, the existence of the hashtag CSforall is essential. We must spread the word and do our part. Computer Science for all = #CSforall. I took this to Google Classroom and created discussions for my seventh and eighth grade students. It required them to go find information and to form an opinion. Then, they had to write it up in our online discussion thread. One thing that our school has done nicely this year is that we have made computers and technology more available to our students. For the first time, the technology lab has regular after school lab hours. Additionally, students can schedule time by appointment for other times during the day, including lunchtime. This helps in part, but there is more to do to make sure that students have access to that which they need in order to be successful in the 21st Century educational environment. We can link back to where CUE started two days earlier. If the boys featured in Underwater Dreams can be successful, then there really is hope for so many. We must remain hopeful, keep joy in our hearts, and pursue all aspects of STEAM.

All aboard!

Later Friday, I would finally venture into the STEAMpunk Playground where there were robots and Minecraft, and coding exercises, moviemaking, and even a Double. I'll admit, getting to check out the double was almost as cool as meeting LeVar Burton two years earlier. Why? Because I totally geeked out. "That's the thing Sheldon used on a episode of The Big Bang Theory," I exclaimed. The representative from Double, a wonderful young man named Justin, confirmed. I wore my favorite Steampunk costume to play in the STEAMpunk Playground. I have already set up an Amazon order to pick up a couple of items for our upcoming STEAM Fair and I am more anxious than ever to get our MinecraftEDU server going. (I have a good number of students asking on a regular basis too.)

The closing keynote on Saturday featured Pearl Arredondo. Listening to her fascinated me. She's from the San Fernando Valley, close to the San Gabriel Valley I once called home. The areas are similar, but she and I definitely had different experiences growing up and we had different backgrounds. She presented her story and the best part included seeing how well she turned out, AND what a difference she is now making in the lives of students back in the place she called home. Arredondo talked about "the four Cs": Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. The point she hammered home was that "it's not about the hardware." We can have the biggest and best technology and yet without hope, without a teacher who will hold onto that hope, without educators who will invest in students, that technology will do little.

"We are the cultivators of intellectual curiosity," Arredondo said.

If we take Partovi's CSforall and combine it with Arredondo's "It's up to us to find that little bit of hope," imagine what we can accomplish. Our students deserve our best.

The keynote addresses, beginning with Underwater Dreams on Wednesday night, threaded the entire CUE National Conference together with HOPE and JOY and STEAM(punk).

The Exhibit Hall was full, as always, with vendors, educators, and cool stuff. I picked up information on programs I am researching, I asked questions, I shared ideas, and met new people. And then I went back a couple of other times. Three sessions especially stood out for me: Girls on Fire, Rockstars on Tour, and To the Podcast and Beyond. To the Podcast and Beyond was the last session I attended on Saturday. Once again Ryan O'Donnell and Brian Briggs shared some creative and inspiring ideas. Added to that were questions asked and ideas shared from others attending, including Ben Cogswell. I took back some tips and tricks from this session and led a mini-lesson with the fifth graders today.

Doug Robertson led the Rockstars on Tour session, introducing Google Tour Builder. I had heard a little about this and started looking for more information on it recently. I have incorporated Google MyMaps into lessons with third and fourth graders this year and am looking forward to expanding what we do with Tour Builder. Robertson shared that it is still in Beta, and there are a couple of things that would be nice to do with it though as yet those things remain unavailable (collaborating on a single tour, for example). Still, the "OH! The thinks you can think" (Dr. Seuss) with Tour Builder look amazing! Tomorrow I will offer a first introduction to the fourth grade class and we will do some awesome things with it after Spring Break!

The big one, though...Girls on Fire. This Friday session had a panel presenting. They encouraged us to talk to those sitting nearby and pushed us to think and participate. This session focused on encouraging girls to pursue awesomeness in the realm of STE(A)M. This is something I not only do with my students, but I do at home with my daughter, as well. In fact, just before going into this session, I received word that my daughter would receive an award for her Science Fair Project. (We're going to the awards night tomorrow night and she still has no idea that she will receive an award.) This is precisely the motivation that a young girl needs. And yet, we need to be careful not to focus too much on awards. I returned home from the CUE Conference with a picture of myself as a nominee for Outstanding Emerging Teacher. It stopped there. The award went to another well-deserving teacher. So, I used it as a lesson. "I am a winner because..." I posted on Instagram sharing with my students all the reasons (they, the students are my biggest reasons) why I consider myself a winner. I also started a dinner conversation with my parents and my children and we each shared at least one reason why we each are winners. Going into Science Fair time and coming out on the other side of it, I tell my children that they are winners because they learn from doing these projects. I hammer that point home and will continue to do so. But, I will also celebrate this award with my daughter. It's the right kind of boost for her. It is an accomplishment worth sharing and celebrating. And we must continue to celebrate and share, to explore and learn. It must continue for years and years to come. The ladies on the Girls on Fire panel, shared this fabulous Verizon commercial. Yes, a commercial. Take a look:

On Wednesday night, I sat down and looked through the Sched for the CUE 2016 National Conference. At times, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of sessions. Then, one-by-one, I found the ones that fit me best. I set aside time to explore the exhibit hall and seek the information i needed, especially with a Technology Committee meeting upcoming. I even remembered to put CUE Karaoke on my schedule. I attended three sessions that were absolutely fabulous simply because of the people I met: #CAEDCHAT Live, The Tweet-up, and Let's Give Them Something to Talk About. If you've read my previous posts, you know that Twitter is a hugely important part of my PLN. The Monday night TOSA chat (watch for an upcoming blog post: #TOSANotTOSA) and the DitchBook chat give me great ideas, allow me a chance to collaborate with others, and explore ways to build on things I am already doing. I love bringing ideas back to the school and sharing them with my colleagues. I love trying new things. At CUE16, I actually got to see some of these people come out of the computer and into real life. What a fabulous feeling! Also, there were badges. All these years, I thought I didn't "need no stinkin' badges" and found out I was incorrect. I do want badges. And stickers. I earned four digital badges and a shiny gold "Social Media Mastery" sticker. Because, I rock! (And you do too!)

Now...we have returned to the jobs that are the reason we went to CUE at all. We brought back our ideas, our literature, our brainstorms, our excitement, our enthusiasm. We returned home with HOPE, JOY, and STEAM(punk) in our hearts. It is time to take this newly downloaded information and complete the install. We can implement the things that make sense for our schools, for our students, for our locations, and for the time. We can start in point A and build our way up to Point B, then C, then X, Y, L, N, Q...and on and on. (Do we really have to go in any particular order? (Now, THERE'S something to think about!)
Made with Google Draw 3/22/16 RR

Let us inspire our students. All of them!

Let us create new things. Let us step out of the way and watch out students create.

Let us go great places and try new things.

In the words of Brad Montague, "Thank you for making the world more awesome."

Let's continue to spread the awesome, the hope, the joy, and the love. Plus more STEAM! Sounds like an EduAwesome Adventure to me!

One final reminder: I believe every teacher (and many students, depending on age due to some language) should see Underwater Dreams. Please take the 87 minutes to watch it and see how it inspires you. Share your thoughts and feedback on it, or on CUE16, here in the comments. Many thanks and love!

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