TCEA 2016 in review

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually attended a conference. There, I said it. I’ve been to many and presented at many recently. However, I read so much in my own time that I find it hard to be surprised at a conference. And, recently, I have been presenting so I’ve been too fatigued to actually attend. 

This year, though, I attended. 

I wonder how many others who present actually attend. Most, like me, gain their information from their own personal learning. However, it’s beneficial to not always be the one leading – to be the one following. I’m so used to leading that I find it difficult to follow and I find it difficult to sympathize – at times – with followers. But, following is necessary at times. To be a leader, you have to be a follower.

So before I sum up my highlights and learning challenges, I challenge all those stuck in the presenter circuit to attend. To take a break from leading to be a follower. I plan to do it more this year. It was refreshing even though the content was not unique. It’s the act of following that is important. 

To kick off TCEA 2016, I went to the opening session of the STEM Academy. Keynotes and opening sessions are usually a lot of talk and no action. In fact, many sessions are. And, attendance in my own sessions is up when it is a lot of talk and little action. We, like our students, are trained to be receptacles of information. This needs to change.

Cindy Morris led the keynote with a fast-paced, high energy talk. She gave us about 20 seconds to turn to a partner to talk. Though, in a large room, this is a reluctant task. Again, we are trained receptacles. I argue that more sessions need to be structured in a maker format – more around creation. 

That said, I left with a confirmation. It was not necessarily anything new, but it was confirmation of my beliefs. 

My favorite take-aways included: 

STEM Academy Opening Session: Using technology to engage students in problem solving

  • Cindy Moss – @stemboss, Cindy_moss@discovery.com
  • STEM is a culture, not a class
  • It’s for ALL kids
  • 70% of hs graduates wouldn’t qualify with lowest level of military b/c lack problem solving skills – says it’s a matter of national security
  • Every 18 seconds, some student drops out of hs
  • Banks hire 90% math majors & would hire 3 times as many if they could find them
  • Stemconnector.org – sign up for Stem Daily
  • 768,000 new stem jobs in Texas by 2018 – must get kids ready for this
  • Change the equation – sign up for this email in organization
  • 75% of all jobs will be 75% stem in a few years
  • Many stem jobs you can get with little to no college jobs
    • Graduating with a ton of debt does no one any good
  • We need to be honest with kids about the job market
  • Kids aren’t afraid of STEM – teachers are, but we need to help them not be
    • Don’t pass on fears of math & science to kids
  • Be a STEMINIST! – Girls should have opportunity to go into STEM
    • Project STEM – by Duke university
    • STEM is one of few industries where women make as much as men
    • DOUBLE # of girls in STEM!!!!
  • Students make decision to go in math & science by 6th grade
  • You can’t be what you can’t see – why Google Cardboard is so great – show kids jobs they aren’t seeing
  • STEM jobs are changing – 71% of jobs that need to be filled are in STEM, million jobs open in US because we can’t fill those jobs
  • Behind music services is a whole bunch of statisticians – making at least 80,000/year
    • Algorithms – developing these for companies – makes a lot of $$
  • We need 80 hours of high quality, ongoing PD over two years – most fields have this
    • We need 160 hours of high quality, ongoing PD over three years to change culture
  • 4Cs – we need to teach these!!
    • STEMformation Continuation – standards!
  • We need these under a transdiscplinary theme – we don’t say we’re doing 2 hours of literacy, 2 hours of math, etc.
  • FAIL – first attempt in learning
    • Angry Birds creator – took 10,000 tries to get it!
  • Reading like a scientist
  • Give kids problems to solve & make them figure it out
  • STEMtastic Staturday – play being a Stem person
  • discoveryeducation.com/STEM – a whole lot of free resources – STEM Camp
  • The more diverse the people solving the problem, the more robust the solution


The Making of a Makerspace

  • Jason Harron – @jrharmon – jasonharron@utexas.edu
  • Maker movement started around 20016 – with idea that we are all makers
    • White House supports
    • Bill passed by colleges & school educators calling for need in K-12 education
    • 1200+ hacker/makerspaces around US
  • The 4Cs are what we want- these are the qualities we want in all professions
  • Tortillas/Cookies under laser printer to engrave thigns
  • Montessori schools – hands on –
    • Constructionism – different than constructivism – final product you can see, hear, touch – and learning is physical in world
  • New UT building has 10,000 sq. ft. of maker spaces available
    • ATX hackerspace – has full car lift
    • TechShop
  • Agencybydesign.org – design thinking principal – broke it down into four steps – maybe use this for maker class
  • FabLearn conference – held Oct. 14-16 – need to attend! – buff.ly/1RGcyZI
  • SX Create – Mar. 11-13 – Maker aspect of SXSWedu – don’t need SXSW wrist band & it’s free!!! At Palmer Events Center
  • Go beyond banana piano
  • Use Arduino to code teddy bears
  • Drimmel tools – more child-safe, Skill also has tools for lighter materials with guards


Leading Innovative Change

  • George Couros – @gcouros
  • Innovation – invention or iteration – something totally new or a reiteration of something existing
  • We expect innovation in everything outside of what we work in
  • What innovation is and isn’t
    • What is it actually changing vs. changing for changes sake
      • Taking out candy of vending machines & replacing it with good stuff is not innovation
      • Saying that kids will figure it out is not always right – not all are proficient so – do need an adult guidance and the longer you wait the more afraid you’ll get – “the suspense at the top is what freaks you out”
      • Don’t fit people into job titles – find great people & give them titles
  • Competitive collaboration
    • We’re missing notion of competition – no one wants to be the weakest, but someone always is
      • We push each other to get better, though
      • We don’t want “mind your own business learning.” We want to ask – what is tech allowing us to do that we couldn’t do before – we must collaborate
  • 5 elements of leadership
    • Strength-based leadership
      • Best people to teach this are these passionate educators – and have them go to places they love
    • Powerful learning first, technology second
      • Business vs. Education – don’t base what we use vs. what makes sense for business. For instance, don’t use Office 365 just because the IT dept. feels comfortable with it
        • Ask – what is best for kids, how does this improve learning, if we were to do —-, what is the balance of risk vs. reward, is this serving the few or the majority.
        • Power is about what you can control, freedom is about what you can unleash – our jobs as teachers is to get others to unleash
    • Creating meaningful learning
      • Teachers should be responsible for their own learning now
      • To innovate, disrupt your routine
      • How do yo move people from their point a to their point b
      • How do you disrupt the routine of other
        • Stop giving meanings with handouts – if they say they have to use paper, show them how to print
        • Less is more – paradox of choice – TED talk to walk – a lot of people can’t make choices
          • Literate – adaptive – trans-formative
          • Focus on just a few and know them inside out
        • Move to meaningful creation
    • Embrace an open culture
      • When kids leave school, they should be well-Googled – you need to develop your Google footprint
      • We live in a world where everyone can have a voice – but how are we using it
  • We are data-driven – but need to think about – what are we really good at and why
  • I think, I question, I design, I create, I struggle, I collaborate, I try, I solve, I invent, I reflect, I LEARN
  • You can’t ignore change-makers – they push human race forward. The crazy ones…





Final Recommendations:

  • Registration is a challenge. You can purchase premium, basic, or exhibit only. Basic entitles you to sessions labeled as basic. You cannot get into any of the full-day academies. You also function on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you may be spending a lot of your time sitting on the floor, waiting in line. If you purchase premium, you can get into a lot of sessions. However, you are put into a pool and it’s also first come, first serve. This year, I went online immediately at the time that sessions opened up for registration, but due to technical difficulties on the conference’s website, I was unable to get into 80% of the sessions I wanted to attend. 
  • Badges – way too expensive. This year, I presented a total of 6 times. I am happy presenting. However, it also means that I spend a lot of time rushing, and not a lot of time getting to attend sessions. Since presenters cannot attend as many sessions, there needs to be a discounted or free fare. In my hurry of presenting 5 times in one day, I lost my badge. I discovered that it would be $10 to replace it. Unfortunately, you have to have it in order to get into sessions. My suggestion – make it electronic. Send the badge code to phones so they can be scanned. This will save paper, hassle, and increase conference satisfaction.
  • I love having so many presenters, but it can also be overwhelming and not all are created equal. I would love to have sessions more easily divided into tracts. 
  • Less overlapping of academies. I presented in the Google Academy, but it was at the same time as the STEM academy so I could not attend many sessions. Perhaps one academy a day would help eliminate this.
  • Keep on, keeping on. I love seeing the excitement in educators’ eyes the first time they attend TCEA. They are blown away with ideas. But, support for those ideas is critical. Perhaps a follow-through on workshops would help – plus, it would boost the conference’s image. 
Next up, I head to SXSWedu. Though, I discovered SXSW Create which I am more excited about. This year, no presenting – just attending. This is my time to listen to and follow others. 

When will you be listening again?
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