Guest blog by Kelly Dowden, M.A. Adjunct Professor Purdue Global University and Technology Applications Teacher Martha Reid Leadership Academy in Mansfield ISD.
TCEA- The Texas Computer Educator’s Association. It sounds like an elite club for computer geeks but in reality, it is a very well-known educational organization that supports all learning areas with the use of technology. In fact, the annual TCEA Convention is one of the BEST places to see up and coming classroom supports and technologies to support student learning. This is why you will see people from other states and even countries in attendance. I highly encourage any instructor or administrator to attend. If you missed it this year, I wanted to share a little of the great things that I see coming or continuing.
Getting ready to attend the TCEA Convention brings about a sense of excitement. When you first log in and start perusing the easy to use the app of all the breakout sessions and see all the excellent speakers, you can’t help but get enthused about the possibilities. As I searched and bookmarked my “playlist” for the three days I attended, I was excited to see many new things and also new uses for older technologies.
Here is a little view into three topics that got a lot of attention during the convention:
MERGE Cubes– The world of AR and VR is still alive in well. In years past it was about the experience for students to travel to faraway places like Egypt or The Great Wall of China. Merge Cubes are now partnering with many new platforms that allow students to create their own experiences. I love this change in the technology because now it is not just a fun adventure, but as a tool to explain Shakespeare, demonstrate a connection between solids and liquids, or create a character that looks like themselves to build social-emotional skills. Perspective XR was also a cool organization I found that has many lesson ideas and is focusing on the humanities when many things in AR and VR are focused on science.
Student Voice and Choice (Boards) – Student-driven classrooms are not a new concept. The way that we engage students’ needs to change along with what students are engaged IN. Digital choice boards were a topic I saw several breakout sessions on. Allowing students the ability to choose their own path and still demonstrate competency of a topic seems difficult. Choice boards have been around a while in paper form but putting the digital content in the hands is a great spin on being relative to today’s students. The key is clear rubrics- focusing on what they are showing mastery of knowledge in, instead of how they are choosing to display it. The digital aspect can also help teachers in the collection of data for grading these projects through submission tools. Giving students voice through Podcasting got a lot of space also. There are many ways to do it, but giving a voice that has a student perspective is a great way to hear their leadership.
ESports– I am new to the concept of using E-Sports in the classroom or school. I had seen a little on TV but I am not a big gamer, so this really intrigued me. Apparently, this is a big deal. There were even live E-Sport demos going on each day. It is more than just playing a video game. Students are building character development knowledge, strategy, collaboration, learning about careers, understanding coding, artistic expression and even more. I just dipped my toes in a little but it was exciting to think about the possibilities of use even in the elementary classroom.
Some other great things to look into:
Tech Teams– Student-led problem solvers and leaders at the elementary age all the way up to the high school students who perform HELP Desk tasks.
Microsoft TEAMS– If you are an admin you want to look into this. With the new Texas Laws on communication amongst your staff, this is a fantastic communication tool you won’t want to miss. It is free for any educator and really builds collaboration among professionals. Many are using it like they do Google Classroom with their students. Teams have been used in the work world and I see this as the next big thing in education from Microsoft.
Genial.ly– Just a fun program I found in a session. It is like a combo between Thing Link and Adobe Spark. Free version and paid. Can create fun student activities and projects along with great teacher presentations to engage students.
Coding– It is still gaining ground and there are many companies jumping on the bandwagon. Discovery Education is going to release a new coding part of their platform. Code.org is always a hit and grows with new things each year. Robots are everywhere and for every age. Jump in if you haven’t and help expose your students to future careers in a fun way. (Don’t worry, you don’t even have to know how to code yourself to teach it.)
Single sign-on for students- There are a lot out there, but as a technology teacher this is becoming a must-have for our sanity and student attention spans.
SEL– This is a topic that has been around the block and is swinging back into focus. Whole child-focused learning in all areas is important. The ever-growing space of technology in student life needs to address the social-emotional aspect also. At the convention, it was addressed in conjunction with Digital Citizenship many times. Social-Emotional Learning needs to continue to help us connect our students to healthy ways of using the internet and social media outlets and how to deal with unhealthy experiences. I hope to see more and more developed on this topic in technology.
Metacognition– I know, strange thing to see a conference on at a technology convention. I was intrigued. My intrigue was soon followed by joy that my school is really reaching for this. Getting students to think about their thinking. The speaker focused on goal setting and reflection with students. Having students set, track, and reflect on goals in any subject will develop that self-thought, focused achievement, and just plain GRIT that students need to succeed in life.
It is always like drinking from hydrant because of all the great sessions. There were many I didn’t get to attend and others I wish I could have dove deeper and will need to do some personal development in. At the end of the week, after you sit back and digest all the goodness you just learned, you realize there is always more. To me that is encouraging. There is always next year…