Thursday, July 28, 2016


Ready with coffee in hand!
Earlier this summer I attended iPadpalooza in Austin, TX. This was my second time to join this learning festival and it did not disappoint. I wrote my reflection after I completed day 1 (here) but the remaining time I was there my spare time was spent working on grad school - so I've had some time to process all that I learned.

Even better to learn with a friend!
Looking back, I gained a lot from the sessions but it is even more about the experience. If you have not yet attended any sort of education conference, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know it takes you away from your family for a few days or may take spending some money (however you can write a grant, ask PTA or your administrators) or hotel points... but the energy that radiates from being surrounded by eager educators ready to learn, share, and connect makes it such a wonderful experience. Yet, iPadpalooza is different. Yes, it is about technology but also about mindset.

So entertaining... I had an 'eye-phone' as a kid, too!!
To get things started they gather everyone together and have students do this incredible light and sound show. Y'all - these students are so talented!! Then the godfather of iPadpalooza (Carl Hooker @mrhooker ) gets things started. It is like a Pep Rally!! This year there were mini-Key Notes and I loved it! They were entertaining, funny, emotional, cute, and also made me ugly cry... right there on the 2nd row, big tears and crying.

Before it was a hashtag, it was the 'octothorpe'!
Band playing in the background

I have to mention one of my favorite things is the Food Trucks! Every day there are several Food Trucks in the parking lot for lunch. I know, it's not educational but everyone has to eat and Food Trucks are FUN! Plus there is always a band playing or karaoke. They have massage chairs, cookies, and free breakfast! Some of my favorite time is coming into the cafeteria and just sitting to soak it all in.

One of the most rewarding things about attending a conference with learning buddies and coworkers is you can divide and conquer. A few of us used a Google Doc to share what we learned in each session. There are so many sessions I wanted to attend but this allows us to view what others experienced and learn from those as well. Plus when you get home a few weeks later and attempt to remember everything you learned, it is all in one location.

The sessions are incredible and there are so many to choose from, plus the times are staggered. So, I would stay in one for a while, move to another, find some quiet to reflect and process, then move to another session. The schedule is relaxed and people are constantly moving from one place to another. As I walked in to one session (Connect with LEGO Education) I found a seat at a table with two Smurfs. Yes, you read that right - SMURFS! So, that's another thing that makes iPadpalooza fun - I mean, HELLO, it is in Austin! There are themes and people dress up and contests - I don't participate much but it makes for a fun time!

We worked together with LEGO StoryStarter sets to recreate an ending to a popular movie. We had to sketch the ending together, then create the movie set with LEGOs (plus we used a notecard to draw). The new ending had to be 1 minute, but no longer than 2 minutes. We could record the ending with any video app we chose, then had to upload it to Youtube and tweet it with the hashtag/octothorpe #iplaz16 We recreated the ending to Pretty Women. It was so much fun! The possibilities of using LEGOs for engaging work are endless. Plus, it was super cool to experience it for ourselves.

There is so much to share but really you need to experience it! Some of the topics we attended include Google use, Maker Spaces, GIFs, Digital Footprint, Genius Hour, Google Classroom, Twitter Chats, Fresh Grade, literacy apps, youtube, the selfie center, and more! One of the sessions that made a great impact on me was with April Requard @AprilRequard as she shared about her SWAT team. SWAT = students working to advance technology. THIS! It was amazing. You can read all about it on her blog (here). To sum it up, she facilitates a group of elementary students who are passionate about leading others to integrate technology, not just in the classroom but also in the community. I would love to do this. Amazing.

Part of attending any learning opportunity is connecting with others. Whether this is at a campus faculty meeting, district-wide professional development, or conference - this is a great time to connect! The introvert in me has to get super brave to speak with others but everyone is so friendly, it is easy! Plus, finding people from your PLN (Professional Learning Network) from Twitter is awesome. I was able to speak with a Twitter learning friend from Louisiana face-to-face! Another PLN friend came up to visit with me - it is so fun forming friendships with people from all over then connecting face-to-face at conferences. The best part was meeting up with a friend who I have known since I was five. We went to the same schools and I always knew her because we were the only people we knew named 'Erin' (not a common name at all in the 80's here). Here we are:
 And you can see this is the extent of my 'dressing up' for Retro Day! HAHA!

A nice thing about getting away to learn is your time away from sessions. It is perfect for continuing to connect, reflect, site see, relax, or in my case... complete some homework. They were so nice at the hotel, since my learning buddy and I sat in the lobby late every night working and drinking Starbucks!

One of my most rewarding times this visit was presenting. I was able to share how my students and I integrated robotics into our learning. It was fun to share plus make some connections with others that attended.
My room spinning around from the performance hall.
As educators, we are constantly learning. The world around us is changing by the second. In order to best meet our students' needs, we must be learners ourselves. Expand outside of your comfort zone and explore to find what is out there. There are incredible people with super cool ideas just waiting to share with you! Try a conference. Some of my favorite conferences are EdCamps, TCEA, iPadpalooza, and anything Google. What are your favs? 

Dig in. Get connected. Find an awesome learning event. Give it a try!

iPadpalooza 2017 info HERE

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