In 2014 I started Canada's first K-12 Dronorgraphy Program. I was watching a local tragedy unfold when a drone pilot took it upon himself to show up and help RCMP using his drone. At that moment I realized that the career and social good potential for drones demanded that our students begin to learn and apply them in their studies. Brilliant Labs supported us with our first DJI Phantom drone and our modest attempt at drones in school evolved and became Canada's first official K-12 Dronography program. CTV News was there to cover the story months later and ironically the same pilot who helped the RCMP on the day the idea was born had become our industry partner.
We were clear from the start. Safety and learning were to always trump fun. We were the first program which means if we messed it up others would also have a tougher time launching their programs. Immediately after this news story launched we had calls from Alberta, Ontario, California, Atlanta, Nova Scotia and several other states asking how our tiny rural New Brunswick school had succeeded launching such a program. The answer is I took a risk and was supported by my administration and school district. Every great idea deserves a risk being taken and great partners willing to support it. Our industry partner Marc was instrumental in the training of our students. Brilliant Labs was instrumental in getting us our first drone. Our administrators were instrumental in allowing me to teach relevant courses in which we could apply drone technology. The system supported us and that is how our program launched successfully. Over the years our students would not disappoint as they used the drones in some innovative ways. First, and to practice flight we focussed on creating a videography project called "Autumn in Albert" which is the name of our New Brunswick county. Here is the result of their flight training and videography application of drones.
We then practiced industry applications such as structural inspection and promotional videography.
As pilot crews became more familiar with the drones and I was more comfortable with their capabilities we stepped up our game. We surveyed local flood damage for victims when our mighty river overflowed its banks. We started practicing disaster first aid delivery via drones and search and rescue techniques. We followed Amazon's lead and tried our hand at package delivery by drone. Drones became a tool that students had at their disposal to solve real world problems.
New years bring new batches of pilots and each follow the in-class and flight training that the previous pilots experienced. This year on the first day of flight training Department of Education officials showed up unannounced and the students flew perfectly. Check it out!
The group of pilots that started in 2016-2017 were more attracted to the drone racing industry and applications of drones and their studies tended to go in that direction. This lean towards drone racing happened to amplify when they came in one day after the IRIS+ drone had taken a hard landing and needed extensive repairs. Repairs of course are also the pilots' responsibility as the school pays for parts and students repair the drones. Here is some footage from Drone Racing training in the Fall of 2016.
I am confident that the risks I took to launch this program have benefitted our students and school community greatly. I am appreciative of the support I received as a classroom teacher when I wanted this wild idea to become reality. This type of program is possible everywhere in our great country and all schools need to do is adopt the slogan "How can this work?" Our future looks bright if we can sustain our drone fleet and continue to expand on the applications. As a tiny rural school funding is an issue but we believe that if we keep working hard the funding will sory itself out at the right time. One real benefit is our school is in one of the most beautiful locations in our province and every day the footage is reviewed we are shocked at how amazing our place on Earth is.
A picture says one thousand words while a report card says less than half of that! Fresh Grade is a free and secure online student portfolio service with apps for many devices. Their goal is to "Make Learning Visible" and they succeed very well at that goal. This blog entry is a personal reflection on my first sixty days of using the service.
Modern assessment practices demand higher quality information sharing with parents and students. No longer is an 87% or B+ sufficient feedback for learners and their guardians. Modern assessment insists that students are informed of their strengths and weaknesses specifically indicated in a snapshot of their learning. New Brunswick along with many other provinces and states are getting rid of grades in K-8 education and replacing them with scales of mastery (sometimes from 1-4) for each skill area in each course. For teachers this results in parents and students asking a lot of questions. "What does a 3 mean?" "How can my student get from a 3+ to a 4?" If teachers aren't prepared these questions can take a lot of time to answer and sometimes may never be resolved.
"Triangulation of Data" is one suggestion with huge traction in modern assessment practices. It recommends that teachers form a final consensus mark based on Observations, Conversations and Products. This is where Fresh Grade becomes the saviour for all teachers. Fresh Grade allows a teacher to quickly and securely capture images, audio, video and text notes specific to a student's work. Audio can be used for conversations and conferences. Observations can be captured with text notes and pictures. Video can be used when reviewing products submitted by students, perhaps even as the assessment rubric is being used. Fresh Grade has a built in grade book that allows a teacher to assess and store grades for each student. It also has a sharp multimedia presentation option that allows teachers to create music-backed slideshows of students' exemplar work for parents. The real gem of Fresh Grade is how it builds school communities by giving students and parents unprecedented access to the learning experience.
Students and parents (through the web or separate apps) can view, add and comment on content added by teachers. Students feel empowered by being able to see what teachers have gathered in their snapshots of learning and by being allowed to upload examples of their own work to their portfolios. Parents are appreciative because for the first time ever the school has invited them to share in the learning experiences happening in classes in a way that feels natural and least invasive. Finally, parents can receive updates weekly (or even more frequently) compared to the standard 6-15 week printed report periods. Fresh Grade gives families topics to discuss over dinner and removes the mystery of what happens in school each day. Here is an example of a student finishing her robotics project on a day I was away on professional learning. She shared it to her private and secure portfolio, I commented and then her mom commented as well. Fresh Grade is strengthening school communities every day and taking the pain and confusion out of assessment and feedback.
I teach over 200 students weekly from grade 6-12. Some classes I only see once a week for 50 minutes and learning student names becomes nightmarish. Fresh Grade has allowed me to take the needed time to conference with each student and my ability to really know each of my students has improved dramatically. Fresh Grade gives me a specific reason to touch base with students as much as possible about their learning which is just solid education practice.
If your district is making the move to modern assessment practices there is no reason to fear thanks to Fresh Grade. The navigation allows for very fast learning evidence collection which you will truly appreciate come feedback and reporting periods. Encouraging mass adoption of this service among your peers will lead to stronger school assessment practices and stronger school communities once you allow parents to participate with students in the learning. After 60 days of using Fresh Grade extensively I can see clearly my students' weaknesses and strengths and come reporting time weeks from now their entire learning journey can be recalled for a more accurate assessment of their skill mastery. Also, I have visual evidence of learning for each parent and for those already involved in Fresh Grade we have something specific to speak about at parent-teacher conferences! Substitute teachers love the class lists I provide via Fresh Grade complete with student pictures which I obtain primarily from the previous years' yearbook to save time and to be ready for the first day!
Fresh Grade has a great Champions Program so when you experience the benefits of Fresh Grade reach out to them to join the team.
Minecraft Education Edition can be used to teach many 21st century skills outside of standard curriculum documents. Empathy is a powerful skill for our students to develop and projects like the "Extreme Minecraft Makeover Home Edition" help!
In this project my students randomly draw a scenario involving a Minecraftia family who have experienced difficult setbacks or barriers in life. Students are presented with some information about the family's hardships, interests, members and other pertinent details. Minecraftia families like "The Enderson Family" below are introduced with this information and a family picture or two.
Every family in Minecraftia has a story that tugs at the heart strings. Students genuinely want to help these families and critically and creatively design solutions to help. Some families may have lost their jobs (Librarian and Blacksmith) and with many kids in the family they need a larger space to live. Others have suffered injuries (Creeper Explosion or Spider Bites) and need homes that consider accessibility. Allergies, fears, loss of jobs, crowded homes, aging in-laws, and physical or mental illnesses as seen with "Steve Sr." below plague the village and students must design Homes and Surrounding Amenities in a charitable way to help these families.
The homes students build are only limited by their creativeness. With this unlimited budget project terraforming and the finest materials are all covered through charitable donations from Minecraftia Corporations such as "Acacia Hardware." Students can focus on what really matters and that is listening to their families and providing them a solution that makes their lives easier in an enjoyable way. The homes that can be built are incredible. Fenced in security yards, access ramps, novel bathroom design, large pathways throughout the home and other accomodations really help. Take a look at these potential dream homes.
Students create their own marking criteria when they determine what solutions best fit the family and then set out to provide these solutions. Much like a science teacher would assess the scientific method, teachers should be looking for evidence of critical thinking, creativity, communication skills, collaboration (when allowed) and of course empathy. Developing the tremendous citizens of tomorrow is in part the responsibility of the school system and through projects like The Extreme Minecraft Makeover Home Edition we can say we are doing our part to help. Consider running your own version of this engaging and important project and I would love to see/hear how it went via Twitter or email!
Cyber Security is a topic lightly touched on in K-12 education. Maybe we talk about password strength, maybe online footprint, maybe cyber bullying, but we hardly ever explore the skills in the field that translate into lucrative and important careers for students. Salaries in the industry can easily and quickly reach over $100,000 annually and with the scarcity of talented workers it is said there are two or more jobs available for every single employee in cyber security. I was privileged to be asked to take part in our province's first ever attempt at digging deeper into these skills that will help students fill an industry pipeline demanding over 1500 employees locally per year!
The Cyber Patriot National Youth Education Program offers engaging explorations into cyber security skills at all levels of K-12 education. There is the main grade 6-12 cyber security competition, Air Force Association Cyber Camps and an Elementary level cyber education initiative. I got to see first hand how the competition works as I watched my team from Canada enrolled via Cyber Titan complete an authentic practice round recently. What I witnessed was incredible.
The Cyber Patriot Competition has both a middle school and high school component. Students can choose between Microsoft Windows and Ubuntu Linux operating systems. The sponsors for the event include The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defence, Cisco, AT&T, Microsoft and of course Facebook. This is not only engaging competition but the biggest names in the business are supporting the event in I'm sure a talent hunting capacity as well.
Teacher (coaches) download an image file for a virtual machine which has numerous vulnerabilities security wise. in teams of 4-6 students use ample resources to fix vulnerabilities scoring points as they go. Executing solutions that further complicate the image result in penalties which can be removed by correcting the error. The fixing takes several hours as students troubleshoot what could cause a Windows or Linux platform to be less secure than ideal. Some user accounts may have weak passwords, the firewall might be off or a whole other range of issues can appear on the virtual machine. In the end students receive a score out of 100pts and submit the score before the image times out.
The competition begins locally with 2 rounds before expanding to state and region finals and winning teams are brought to Maryland to compete in the finals. If you are a teacher who wants to offer a deeper cyber security education for your students because either they want it or you recognize the immense opportunity for student success in life please consider becoming a coach for a team in the competition rounds or exploring the AFA Cyber Camps and Elementary School initiatives available. If there is nothing there for you please consider sharing this resource with a teacher who may be interested! This contest looks to be worth every cent of the $200 entry fee per team and the organization showed major class by allowing Canadian schools to have an extra day for round #1 in order to avoid National Remembrance Day.
You can visit the Cyber Patriot website HERE and follow them on Twitter @CyberPatriot as well as New Brunswick's CyberEDU.ca site adding educational content often.
Since the invention of the computer there hasn't been a device ready to empower students in their learning like the Microsoft Hololens. The Hololens is wireless device designed like a pair of oversized sunglasses with attached halo. It has two speakers built into the halo and tracks a user's glance perfectly while searching for simple inputs like the pinching of a user's fingers. The fact it is wireless and has several hours of battery life per charge makes it ideal for learning environments around the globe. After a fast mapping of the learning space the Hololens sensors determine walls, floors, ceilings and even flat surfaces like tables and couches. Using this information the device can run programs that use the entire space while executing learning experiences. From revolutionary field trips to aiding students with exceptionalities the Hololens is primed to be the device of the future classroom and the movement is starting today.
Microsoft has been a leader for years in the virtual field trip category for education. Skype Virtual Field Trips allow teachers to take their students around the world visiting locations (and more importantly people) that they normally would never have the chance to experience. Microsoft, though still enjoying this success, has taken field trips to an entirely different level with the Hololens. HoloTours empower the learner by holographically placing them in the real life setting of a moment in history or current geographic location. Star Trek fans will see similarities to the HoloDeck on the Starship Enterprise! Here's a video demonstrating HoloTours. It is exciting to imagine the possible content that will be made for learners using Hololens over the next decade!
Students and teachers alike don't need to sit around waiting for content to be made for the Hololens. Using programs like Unity 3D students can author and create content that can be run on the device. This offers an even higher form of learning with the Hololens involved. Students become creators of content instead of just consumers. The ideas in their heads can be brought to life transforming entire learning spaces and education at the same time. All Windows 10 Universal Apps can run on Hololens and all Hololens programs are Windows Apps. Unity 3D offers ample tutorials on how to build and export for Microsoft Hololens and Youtube is quickly offering more and more support for students and teachers daily.
Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (S.T.E.A.M.) subjects in schools stand to benefit as much as geography, history and literacy based courses. Students will be able to manipulate molecules and chemical reactions in one class and design art on another classroom's walls. They can manipulate Sketchup 3D designs for engineering in massive sizes as a group in the centre of a learning space, or apply the Pythagorean Theorem in the real world easily.
The future of school will see students have their own Hololens and as they move class to class content can be added and removed for the given learning topic. As essential as the smart phone seems today the Microsoft Hololens will a MUST when it comes to empowering students in modern learning environments. This school program already exists with the title "Bring Your Own Device" and only the "device" needs to change! See the Media and Learn sections of www.HololensEDU.com for more examples of how Hololens will change education forever. Follow @Hololens @BBTNB for more on Twitter!
Benjamin Kelly - Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert
In the very near future students could be playing video games for homework! At first this notion sounds absurd but once you become familiar with Microsoft's Minecraft Education Edition it quickly seems inevitable.
A Canadian organization known as C21 Canada after much research has created a document titled "Shifting Minds (ver 4.0)" which details the seven 21st century essential skills our students will need to reach overall success in their careers and personal lives. These skills conveniently all begin with the letter C. The core 4 C's which have been encouraged for years include Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. The Shifting Minds document adds three additional essential skills. Citizenship, Character and Computational Thinking are skills that are equally as powerful yet not present in the core four skills.
Minecraft Education Edition (MCEE) is a classroom educational technology solution which can strengthen each of these 7 C's and prepare students for the rest of their modern lives. Let's examine each of the skills and how Minecraft Education Edition can strengthen and support teacher efforts to develop these skills.
When a school or program adds Microsoft's Minecraft Education Edition and Office 365 accounts for their students it opens a new world of learning! Up to 30 students can participate together in the same online environment before the need for additional servers. Teachers can use embedded message boards or Non-Player Characters to give directions and support while students use chat features and virtual body language to work together on a common mission. Together students create their collaborative story in Minecraft Education Edition and disagreements are often settled with agreed compromises as the team moves forward in their mission. Due to the cloud-based registration and connection students and teachers spread over great distances can effectively work together in the world.
The chat feature in MCEE is very effective. Text lingers on the screen long enough for everyone in the Minecraft world (Minecraftia) to read and react. Classroom "noise" can increase when using a collaborative world due to actual in-class student communication. This "noise" however almost always is the GOOD type of noise which indicates an engaged group of learners. Often the most powerful form of communication is the actual Minecraft character's physical "Follow me and do what I do" lead-by-example type of communication. Though "Minecraftian" facial expressions are fixed their body language is quite effective in indicating direction, pleasure, displeasure and more! To see the range of character body language on full display simply try to organize 30 Minecraftians together for a picture!
Non-Player Characters add a personal touch to teacher directions and support enhancing the communication process further. Communication can be one-way or interactive in MCEE and both skills are essential for citizens of today and tomorrow.
Minecraft is often said to be like digital Lego bricks. (However, when you step on Minecraft in a dark room you don't need an ambulance!) Creativity bursts out of this wacky world with creatures (Mobs) having strange names and the game itself having multiple dimensions, potions, mysterious gems and even the ability for your Minecraftian to fly! You can't make this stuff up! Or, can you? The first way MCEE builds student creativity is by showing students it is okay to be strange, different and themselves.
Students can build castles in the sky or an underground network of tunnels. They can live beneath the oceans or in the middle of the desert. Minecraft allows for millions of creative choices to be made each utilizing unique colours and materials and resulting in different outcomes. Creativity is a skill that humans excel at compared to robots and therefore careers involving this skill are ideal targets for students.
How can I blast a mountain with TNT to create Niagara Falls' horseshoe shape? How can I live on the bottom of the ocean and not drown? Is there some way I can create a false wall to hide my treasure from others?
Every trip into Minecraftia presents students with unique problems that need to be solved in timely fashions. The Minecraft melodic music balances the frantic need to complete creations before sundown or worse... the end of class! In MCEE if students can imagine a problem or challenge they alone or in teams can solve it too!
Failure is often the first step in the road to Minecraftian success stories and students assess each critical choice they (and others) make with infinite redo opportunities. Minecraft Education Edition is the perfect tool to strengthen and quicken students' critical thinking skills.
The social emotional learning skills that support collaboration are essential 21st century skills if our students wish to find success in the knowledge economy and social environment. Minecraft Education Edition provides the ideal platform for students to practice and grow these skills. Life-long learning skills, leadership, accountability, adaptability, reliability and resiliency are all traits that make up the valuable skill of Character. Minecraft with some good teaching allows all students to hold leadership positions, be held accountable for tasks, build resiliency through controlled failures and adapt to world change. What is learned by students in Minecraftia can easily be translated to the real world with well-placed teacher guidance.
There are nine aspects of digital citizenship that create the acronym SCREWBALL:
All of these aspects that can be addressed with Minecraft game based learning. A discussion on how students should treat other Minecraftians and their belongings can easily translate to or from traditional (Non-digital) society. Establish a Minecraftian government. Create laws of the land and sea. Determine how disputes are settled or if and how voting will be a method of decision making? Claim or alter land based on debate and joint decisions. Great citizenship is the building block of great countries and Minecraftia offers the best training ground to support citizenship and digital citizenship skills for students.
You could rely on "Order of Operations" in math class to teach this priceless skill or turn to Minecraft Education Edition and its super powerful Redstone. Coding is correctly heralded as the ideal ability of the future but coding is just a small part of the larger skill called Computational Thinking. A good way to explain the skill is a sequencing of commands that are read by machines or followed by other humans to generate an intended result. Minecraft's Redstone is a powerful material capable of acting as an energy source or signal carrier and triggering intended events.
Students can spend hours building complex circuits only to find out one piece has caused the result to happen differently or not at all. This then requires they examine their "code" or sequence to find the error which is eventually repaired. Computational thinking is involved in puzzle solutions, maze navigation and coding software. Microsoft's Minecraft Education Edition with Redstone allows students everywhere to strengthen this skill in many ways.
The above skills, and quick thoughts about how Microsoft's Minecraft Education Edition can strengthen them, show how empowering this learning tool can be for all ages and subject areas. Minecraft is not just a tool best left to the technology classes but rather a technology support for every class! The seven 21st century essential skills that can be strengthened using Minecraft Education Edition must be considered equal or more important than prescribed curriculum in individual courses (in most situations). Sailing the 7 C's can help teachers empower their students and lead them to fulfilled dreams and a society filled with active and knowledgable citizens.
I have been developing an introductory resource to Minecraft in the classroom at www.SCREENAGER.ca with hope that it can be used to further encourage schools and districts to add the service for their students!
If you have thoughts about this article, Minecraft Education Edition or The 7Cs I would love to hear from you either via comment below or on Twitter! @BBTNB
I first heard of Soundtrap attending a Google Apps for Education Summit in 2015. It was littered in with 24 other apps in a session called 25 apps in 25 minutes, all alphabetically sorted. By the time we got to "S" all the apps were a blur and then I heard "This is Soundtrap. It's like Garageband but online and collaborative in the cloud." I still remember wanting to raise my hand and ask questions but the one minute for Soundtrap was over and we were on to the next app.
Just weeks after the GAFE Summit 2015 I reached out to Soundtrap and told them I was looking for enough accounts for one class and that if our school wouldn't pay for it I would pay from my own salary. Our school found the budget I needed (About $190 CAN) and I had enough accounts for two of my classes. I teach applied technology to grade six through twelve so I started in the easiest way. We were going to make a class collaborative CD! (Provincial Outcomes 2.5 and 2.6) Seconds after introducing the project we realized that CDs were not ideal anymore and that uploading our album to Sound Cloud seemed more hip and practical. Students paired up based on music genre interests and the class began to write and create their music contributions to the album. Here is a slideshow from that experience!
Students loved the interface and the fact that they could find helpful loops and effects "more easily than in Garageband." We were using Soundtrap long before the powerful and new iOS and Android apps. We had Microsoft Windows with a Chrome browser as our main workstation along with one USB music keyboard and a few very cheap microphones from Staples. What we lacked in hardware Soundtrap made up for in software. The magical mix-down of songs after saving corrects levels and leaves tracks sounding even better than in the studio. Students were free to focus on their lyrics and let Soundtrap guide them in creating the perfect music. Soundtrap has amazing video tutorials, a strong support community on social media (@Soundtrap) and very friendly and helpful staff if you have questions or run into trouble. Here is an example of one of my grade 12 students recording a rap song with a $5.00 microphone and Soundtrap.
Soundtrap features Auto-Tune, Tempo and Pitch Correction, Synths, Guitar, Brass and Strings, Vocal Effects and a slew of other options that peak students engagement while helping them create superior audio products. Live video and chat collaboration are a highlight of the service allowing users to create audio projects with anyone from anywhere easily. However, Soundtrap also offers incredible security which allows teachers to control a Walled-Garden around their class keeping outside collaborations controlled. There are so many projects for teachers that can involve Soundtrap and they extend across multiple subjects and the school as a whole. Here is a list I've made of 18 project ideas that I've piloted or added to my upcoming school year.
Last year I started with just one class using Soundtrap. Those students went home and used the service in front of their brothers and sisters (Because it is cloud based) and I found myself facing peer pressure from subsequent classes demanding to use Soundtrap too. Students actually reported that they loved doing homework because of Soundtrap. It was an educational technology HomeRun! Soundtrap reached out to me to share my story in a more formal matter and the following video is the result. If you find a small budget and want to add engagement and 21st century music/audio production to your school or classroom consider Soundtrap! It is a solution for 100% of the world and with newly released iOS and Android apps it is available for everyone to experience. Maybe you will be SINGING Soundtrap's praises in the near future!
Benjamin Kelly 2016
When I reached out to Unity3D explaining that my tiny rural school didn't have $1500 for a license but were very much interested in using their software daily I did not expect the response I got. Unity3D staff responded quickly asking how many computers I had in my school. I was only looking for a discount on one license and Unity3D gave our tiny school 80 licenses so that as many students as possible could experience and create with their service. It is that type of generosity that encourages a school to dig in and produce!
We began with a focus on becoming producers not consumers of games and experiences. Grade 9-12 students immediately started to create worlds from their imagination and with the help of our school district and Brilliant Labs organization we added Oculus Rifts to make our creations virtual reality. In the above videos our students in 2014-2015 created a simple world and with the Rift get to experience it in virtual reality. From this point we changed into a larger technology room, added Microsoft Windows installs of Unity3D 5 Pro and from there the sky was the limit.
Adding Unity3D to our program has positioned our students to pursue careers and training previously foreign to them. Caledonia Regional High School has been referred to in the local news as a "Centre of Excellence" because of the Education Technology endeavours, innovative technology programs and partnerships we've made. Unity3D's generosity helped that happen. Our students had been trained for years using 3D modelling tool "Sketchup" (Provided by Anglophone East School District) and when we discovered you could import these Sketchup Pro creations into Unity3D as .FBX files our program amplified. Students can now build the game and experience assets they need in Sketchup Pro and import them into their Virtual Reality or 2D/3D creations in Unity3D.
Partners make the EdTech world go round and Unity3D has shown that they are not only partners in this journey but also stakeholders who actually care about students' creations and future career aspirations. If you have a computer that is capable of running Unity3D i highly recommend reaching out to Unity3D and seeing what they can do for your school or program. Students deserve tools that can translate ideas into reality and if you add an Oculus Rift you could make it Virtual Reality!
Benjamin Kelly 2016
ISTE 2016, like the song above left my head spinning with new and creative ideas I had never considered. It is time to reflect on the experience. Let's get the negative out of the way so I can move on to all the positive. The only blemish on the entire event was the WiFi connectivity in the Exhibition Hall. You had better chances of staying connected to the Pokemon Go servers in its earliest days than connecting to the free internet "provided" by the event. I'm sure it was a case of too many people asking for internet at the same time but I've heard this is a traditional problem. Yes, that's it! That is the only blemish on ISTE 2016.
In my first 24 hours in Denver I was surrounded by a lot of people but only one of the 15,000+ souls I recognized. Rushton Hurley walked by in the Convention Centre and though he will never know, it meant so much to see a face I've actually talked to before. When asked how my first 24 hours at ISTE 2016 were, my response was consistently "Overwhelming!" I've never experienced something that held intensity for that great length of time. Survival was the goal and once Michio Kaku took the stage I was becoming accustom to the upbeat conference and challenging atmospheric impacts of being one mile above sea level. On my first ever Uber drive to my hotel far outside of Denver (late booking) I knew I was ready to not only survive but to also learn more than ever from a professional learning opportunity
My goal for the event was simple and I may have approached ISTE entirely wrong. I wanted to meet each of the companies I was familiar with and thank them while sharing my educational story of using their service. I realize there were far more opportunities to see companies and services I hadn't used but this seemed like a good start. Soundtrap, Microsoft, Fresh Grade, Kahoot, Power School, Lego, EverFi, Nureva, Unity3D and a few others I had face-time with allowed me to say thanks and learn about new features. Maybe I should have met some new companies and walked out with truck-loads of SWAG but I still think my method was worth the price of admission.
The people at ISTE 2016 were some of the nicest I've ever met. Even the security guard who couldn't understand all I wanted to do was look into the Exhibition Hall through the glass doors was kind when he told me to come back the next day for the 30th time. A forced small talk chat at the airport helped me save over $100 Canadian on a ride into the city sharing a ride with a very passionate EdTech writer. People at this event would really go out of their way to help you and even more make you feel welcome. On my last night in Denver a torrential rainfall eliminated my only shot at sightseeing in Denver and Fresh Grade swooped in to save my night with a VIP reception which I (as a service user) was apparently worthy of attending. I think in the end the people are what have me looking back at both ISTE and DENVER fondly and they have done their part to make me want to return ASAP!
Soundtrap is the reason I got on a plane and flew the furthest West I've ever flown. I never thought I'd see the Rocky Mountains and the desire to meet Soundtrap's crew and share my love of their service inspired the spontaneous trip from Atlantic Canada. The crew at the Soundtrap booth were both talented, knowledgable and very very friendly. I was there when Google announced that Soundtrap, WeVideo and Explain Everything would join together to form a powerhouse package of creative apps. Even though I work in a Microsoft district this was news for celebration as Soundtrap is an audio solution for all systems and devices and represents the future of audio production in schools. Over all the noise in the Exhibition Hall their story sang out and from what I saw they were creating quite a buzz with teachers.
I loved seeing teachers at ISTE 2016 helping companies translate their service into teacher-friendly language and share stories. This is something I would love to do at future ISTE events!
Benjamin Kelly 2016
I'm an experienced Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and EdTech Consultant. I started Canada's first Dronography program in 2014 allowing my students to use drones academically across multiple subjects. We also work with Unity3D, Minecraft Education Edition, Xcode and Swift, Soundtrap, and many other leading technologies while capturing it all using Fresh Grade and my Twitter account @BBTNB