A little late in the game, but I can't go into an amazing 2018 without covering some of the best of 2017.
If you've been around me long enough, or maybe even a minute, you know how much I love going to conferences. Going to a good professional development session or in the case, days of them, can do an educator a lot of good like rejuvenating their spirits, sparking a new interest, teaching new strategies, or helping connect with other educators. GaETC is one of my favorite conferences to go to because it helps me connect with educators around the state of Georgia and is always full of great ideas and strategies I can bring back to my library and our teachers.
Here are my top takeaways from this year:
Virtual & Augmented Reality
Virtual reality has been on my radar for a while, but I was excited to see how far it has come since buying my first Google cardboard for our middle schoolers 3 years ago! It felt like virtual and augmented reality was everywhere in the exhibitor hall and in many of the sessions. I went to one session in particular that got me super excited about how we can use virtual reality in the classroom.
#1 app: Google Expeditions helps bring lessons to life! The teacher can use Google Expeditions to bring history alive, show 3D scans of the brain, visit exotic biomes, and more. At the very least, it helps make learning more visual and engaging. Each expedition comes with a script the teacher can use to guide the students through a virtual field trip.
#2: Nearpod offers engaging virtual field trips! You can create your own or use one of the many already made virtual field trips/lesson plans. While you don't need headsets for this to work, it makes the experience more effective (after participating in a lesson at GaETC). It's been a game-changer for lessons in our library and now that I know about the VR trips, I can see so many applications to our curriculum.
#3: Google Maps and Street View helps students visualize and understand the world around them. There is so much that Street View has to offer beyond the Google Maps directions.
If you have not visited the Street View webpage, do it now! There are so many options for virtual field trips here. What a great way to introduce or expand on your lessons to make the places your students are learning about come alive! The gallery option allows students to explore on their own or your could send students the direct link to a virtual field trip through Google Classroom or by QR code (try Google Shortner for a quick QR code generator). It's a long link to type out so make sure you are prepared when sharing with students or teachers.
As part of the Future Ready Librarian Framework, though, we should be challenging students to become creators rather than consumers of information. Google Street View allows you to create street view 360 degree images as well! To do this, you can use the Google Street View app or use a 360 degree camera, which you can use to capture an image and upload at a later time. This is our favorite way of using this tool!
Suggested idea: Capture 360 images of your community buildings. Have students to write descriptions for the buildings and upload the images to Street View. We live in a transient military town so I could see this being used to help families learn more about their new community and surroundings.
Breakout EDU has come across my Twitter, professional articles, and in my PLN's for a few years, but 2017 seems to be the year that it has really taken off. At the First District RESA Media Collaborative, I was able to participate in my first Breakout and since then I have been hooked! I made sure to fit a few Breakout sessions into my schedule. My favorites were the digital Breakouts because they were much more cost effective and easier for teachers to incorporate into their classrooms.
If money was not an option, I would love to have something like Escape the Bus. In 45 minutes, you had to work together in a team to crack the codes and escape the bus. It really was all about critical thinking skills rather than knowing specific knowledge, but I can see this being able to translate to the classroom by having it as either a teamwork building activity or changing the codes to include knowledge of the subject content. Some of the Bryan County tech team and I made it out with 7 minutes and 43 seconds still left!
If you've never heard of Breakout before this post:
Breakout EDU brings critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity together as students find and solve a series of challenging puzzles that involve various locks and coded messages that ultimately leads them to unlocking a final box. The puzzles have been created to cover over 16 different subject matters, as well as giving teachers a way to customize puzzles for their own content. But what if you don’t have a Breakout EDU kit yet? Then try the digital versions that they offer! Computers are all you need as kids solve puzzles and virtual locks to complete the tasks in the allotted time. With Breakout EDU, students become the masters of their own learning as they work together to solve the puzzles, and teachers are able to observe how learners approach problem solving and apply their knowledge.
To connect with other educators who love Breakout EDU, try searching for groups on Facebook.
Some of the best moments for collaboration or conversations on education can come from networking opportunities during conferences. I've met lifelong friends and collaborative partners, local and global, through my involvement with conferences like ISTE or GaETC.
This year was extra special because I felt like I was able to connect more with our Bryan County technology team as well as meet many of the wonderful individuals who are helping to build our #GaLibChat PLN. It's amazing that it takes us going to a conference across the state to be able to connect! It's understandable considering the amount and depth of the hats we wear at each of our school locations so I appreciated the moments we could talk about ideas on how to apply what we were learning to our Bryan County curriculum or school improvement plans.
As for #GaLibChat, I was so glad I was able to connect with our GLMA representatives to spread the word of our PLN and how we can work together moving forward to help library media specialists across our great state become more empowered. Side note-all those #GaLibChat buttons were from yours truly. Another great PLN I have joined through Twitter this year is #TECHtalkGA, which has been a great resource for me learning new technology and advocating for the needs of Coastal Georgia schools.
One of the things I love most about attending conferences is presenting. I really love being able to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with other educators to show how easy (ok...and super hard) project-based learning can be BUT I also love getting feedback from others outside of my 'people.' It's always nice to see how other grade levels, content areas, districts, etc. could use the project and offer their own input to make it even better. It's the heart of collaboration as educators.
This year I presented on my experience with gamification and how I have applied it to our library. I really started to learn about game-based learning and gamification in the classroom during my specialist degree classes. Check out the presentation below if you would like to learn more about what I have been doing with gamification. If you'd like to connect to work on something together or if you have any questions, I would love to chat! Connect with me on twitter or email.
In full disclosure, narrowing my thoughts and learning from GaETC into one blog post is an injustice to the conference and its presenters. It’s like describing Disney World to someone who has never been; you can try, but to truly grasp the magic you must go there yourself. For those of you yet to attend GaETC, save the date for next year: November 7-9, 2018. I hope to see you there!
School Librarian in Metro Atlanta