Everyone Can Code, Create & Graduate
In the late Fall of 2018 I handed an iPad to a student of mine and asked her to try Apple Education's Everyone Can Create Drawing resource. I did so after noticing her passion for drawing and illustration. What happened next was an eye-opening experience. After just one class of work into the dense but engaging program the students asked if she could take my precious iPad home at nights and on the weekends to continue working on the program. I reluctantly agreed as these iPads represented the first full-sized iPads I had ever had in my career and the smell of "New" wasn't yet off of them, It was the best choice I ever made.
Eleanor returned day in and day out with new creations inspired by the chapters of the iBook simply called Drawing. She would start by showing me her designs and then when I asked why I was seeing what I was seeing she would explain in depth the concepts she learned and mission established in the chapter. The program gave real flexibility as to what she chose to draw while keeping her focussed on the goals of the skill at hand. She blazed through the work with her added nights and weekend effort and gripped the iPad firmly when I said "Okay, you're done. Can I have the iPad back please?"
It turns out that Eleanor had an idea. As she was working through the program and due to the season we were approaching, she identified a real problem that she wanted to solve, Eleanor wanted further enrichment. She wanted to finally, for the first time to her knowledge, bring to life the toys for the Who girls and boys from the classic story How The Grinch Stole Christmas. YES! The HooWhunkers, Trum-Tookers, Tar-Tinkers, and even Zoo-Zivver-Car-Zay! Even though the toys were imaginatively named there was never any visual evidence illustrated for each of these favourite Who Christmas Activities. She was going to communicate her understanding of these toys to the world!
Using the Apple Pencil and new iPad she drew a full collection and using the Werble iOS app the drawing came to life with something a little extra. Her she is introducing her work and below are her rough work sketches early in the process. This will truly be a project she remembers years from now and I hope she remains inspired by the process as she chooses her post-secondary education life. All of this success caused me to created a new program at my school called Everyone Can Graduate where ALL of our students complete one or more of the Everyone Can Create programs and of course the Everyone Can Code program. I teach all of the students so in a way, Everyone Can Create and Everyone Can Code have become graduate requirements at Caledonia Regional High School. I can't wait to see students develop skills through engaging learning content on the iPads. I hope to have much more soon!
Chicago was destined to be the largest ISTE crowd yet. The Midwestern charm mixed with a heavy fun-loving Irish population set the stage for a welcoming education event in the Windy City. Chicago represents education actively and you can't turn a street corner without bumping into a college, library or museum. Next to Lake Michigan ISTE 2018 was more like an ocean of participants, exhibitors and ideas. Chi-Town was an absolute treat to visit and ISTE 2018 the best learning experience yet for teachers!
Microsoft and Google dominated the entrance to the Exhibitor's Hall and it felt comforting to see the big fish supporting the event even stronger this year! Surrounding these big fish were "Partners' who provided many rich EdTech applications linked to their respective big fish's mission. One wonderful example was Lifeliqe joining the Microsoft STEM area and sharing their vision of a future without textbooks involving interactive 3D, AR, VR, and MR content for learners. Soundtrap (recently acquired by Spotify) were frequently spotted in the Google ecosystem sharing the future of collaborative music and podcasting creation. It is obvious for both of the big fish that partners make the world go around and that they are actively encouraging smaller companies to thrive with their guidance in the education space.
With Martin from Lifeliqe
Moving past the big fish presented visitors with a sea of exhibitors each trying to be as inviting, colorful and as genuinely helpful as possible. I was particularly happy to meet the team from SAM Labs, SXSWedu, and WeVideo. Regardless of the booth this year I found it impossible to find alone time with any exhibitor. There were always multiple teachers looking to learn more about the services and get hands-on experience. Sphero always has a booth that makes you stop and engage. The teacher bait this year in the ISTE tackle box included the use of cars, motorcycles, virtual reality campers, HUGE high definition displays and even an entire School of the Future tour from Powerschool! The exhibit hall was bountiful with its learning opportunities and everyone left at the end of each day with sore feet rather than sore bottoms.
Outside of the exhibit hall in the weeds was a thriving communication zone from the ground floor to ISTE Central which acted as the heart of the event site. Music greeted the 24,000+ coffee seeking teachers each morning in the lobby and there were sessions in every single available space that started days before the official first keynote on Sunday night. Certifications, hands-on training, poster sessions and playgrounds were seeing hundreds of interested teachers each hour. Apple held a playground that had crowds waiting for their 9am opening. Just feet away the Collaborative Classroom playground allowed teachers to discuss Sustainable Development Goals education and Skype outreach benefits for students and communities. I originally felt disappointed that I didn't take more advantage of the opportunity to present some of the things I do in EdTech, but after the days of learning and meeting new and old friends, I'm glad I just used that extra time to relax a bit. Though the conference hall closed nightly that didn't stop teachers from continuing the professional and social development well into the nights.
Apple EDU's Playground at ISTE 2018
The nocturnal among us were treated a wide range of night events. ISTE Karaoke usually is the highlight but this year Soundtrap and WeVideo encouraged two young staffers to plan the most epic nightclub VIP event ever. Over 120 teachers were treated to a private nightclub event in Chicago and the event communicated a message of success and thanks at the same time. A long-running CanAm celebration was put on by MindShare Learning at Buddy Guy's Legends Blues Club and after a night of celebrating all things EdTech and innovation in Canadian and American classrooms, Buddy Guy actually showed up and played the night away! Finally, Microsoft Education held their Hack the Classroom the way Microsoft always does.... Big and Empowering! After renting out the Museum of Science and Industry for the evening live guests were treated to the biannual EdTech update, a reception among American space artifacts and the great company of intelligent and risk-taking professionals that share similar career and life goals.
PowerSchool Reception - Museum of Science and Industry
The schools of thousands of teachers had every opportunity to find direct contact with EdTech companies, hands-on learning sessions, extended social networks, free swag for themselves and students and to see the wonderful and inviting city of Chicago! ISTE membership fees are huge especially when converting the currencies to lesser economies. I'm not saying they should go any higher but I can say that I am fully aware now about where each and every one of my registration pennies are going. The ISTE organizing committee is doing a wonderful job choosing Keynote Speakers like Andy Weir and organizing everything right down to shuttle systems, schedules and food provision. I'm proud to be a Canadian ISTE member! See you all again in 2020 Disney! My son's birthday and wedding anniversary happen during ISTE annually :)
Carmen Sandiego would be proud as I hid out in Singapore for a week with Microsoft!
It has taken me over a month to fully process what E2 Singapore was like personally and professionally. Microsoft's Education programming is both generous and modern in their approach to offer professional growth opportunities for educators of the world. Canada's Education Team builds on top of that making sure their educators have the experience of a lifetime. To both the Worldwide and Canada Microsoft Education Teams I say a genuine thank you for this opportunity.
Arriving in Singapore it was obvious that this city could challenge Dublin for the right to own the colour green! Green was everywhere and like Ireland it felt completely natural and comforting. I arrived at the hotel just in time for the welcome reception which took place next to the river and featured music, amazing food and educators from countless countries complimenting each others' efforts in education and sharing jet lag stories. The night ended early for most due to the effects of travel but because of that most, like myself, were awake way before dawn. I capture some great shots of the city both before bed on the first night and at 4am when I woke up!
Once everyone was awake it was showtime and Microsoft didn't disappoint with some of the most real and passionate keynote speakers I've seen. They weren't selling books, producing videos or even looking for Twitter followers. These speakers were there with heartfelt thanks, valuable information and inspiring stories that the global audience could appreciate. I immediately found online friends and made the relationships much more concrete. We were given our challenge groups and Computational Thinking competitions (Easier than figuring out the hotel bathroom light system) and I couldn't be happier! I got to work with an American, Russian, Uzbekistan teacher and New Zealand team leader. But the countries were the least important part. Each of these teachers were world-class when it came to intelligence, creativity and technological abilities. I didn't feel like the smartest or most capable person in the room at any point at this conference! Team 5 was alive and we began to work with smiles! Minecraft Education was offering a session and although I was sure I would know the content delivered I wanted to see how to deliver the content in a fun and engaging way and one of the best MCEE presenters in the world was a great example for me to see. At night Team Canada organized a wonderful walking tour of Singapore!
Day 2 - Starting to feel like home!
Day 2 started with more wonderful demonstrations of Microsoft Educational Technology which included Minecraft Education Edition, and powerful keynotes from teachers. When Meenoo battled through tech difficulties and made a pig fly due to chemistry I'm sure Minecraft sold thousands of more account licenses at that moment. It was awesome! I hit some Microbit training with Minecraft Mentors, worked even harder in our challenge team (Still Smiling) and we took a river cruise that I recorded in full and can't watch enough. Thanks to Mario of Team Canada I look back now and love the fact that E2 was the correct balance of tourism and learning for me. We even scored a sweet backstage tour of the ballroom where we got to geek-out over the technology involved in putting on a show like E2!
Learning Marketplace - Building a Better Future in MinecraftEDU with Sustainability Shuffle!
After a failed elevator pitch with Anthony Salcito (Acutally passing each other in an elevator doorway) I was determined to be ready at the marketplace. Using Twitter to request a redo I was pleased to see Anthony respond and confirm he would stop by.
Anthony didn't disappoint and even though he was extremely rushed he gave me the time I needed to communicate Minecraft Education's largest international project ever and its purpose to teach the United' Nations' Sustainable Development Goals around the world! The Sustainability Shuffle had its early day in the sun and the eventual hope is that the students' solutions can be seen by the United Nations!
Celebration Time - More than just a badge!
In a celebration setting I've only seen in movies, Microsoft ended E2 putting it on ICE! Met by a giant ice carving of #E2 as we entered the venue we found a food spread and beverage offering that made everyone think "I could get use to this lifestyle." The royal treatment continued throughout the evening as we danced next to Singapore Bay in a giant air-conditioned greenhouse like no other. They love their gardens in Singapore and we were smack dab in the middle of their crown jewel of gardens. Awards were given out for the challenges and I got to see some Team Canada members win gold and grace the stage with the flags and leadership team. Mario and I snuck away at the exact moment to catch, accidentally, the garden light show which was high on my to-do list! This was indeed the end of the educational event but I believe only the beginning of many relationships for myself. There is something comforting about face-to-face interaction and Microsoft enabled those opportunities perfectly. I had to travel to the opposite end of the Earth to meet these exceptional educators and people, and for me, the people made the event something I will cherish forever. Thank you to everyone I got to meet and spend time with and I am sorry to those who I didn't spend enough time with. Perhaps we can have another chance at "E3?" Is that how the number system works? :)
This event was more than just a badge for me. Returning home I have big plans and I hope that if I get to attend E2 again at some point I will take better advantage of my time there to meet many more wonderful people!
Crafting a Catalyst
Microsoft’s Minecraft Education Edition just announced something the K-12 science education community has been needing for years. In February, Minecraft Education will become the single most engaging and relevant catalyst for K-12 chemistry education. Like a catalyst in a chemical reaction, the Chemistry Resource Pack will accelerate the process of K-12 students learning, understanding and applying the basic principles of chemistry in a safe and ultimately flexible learning environment. Students as young as 6-years-old can master the atomic composition of elements and then combine those into exciting compounds that can be used to make Minecraft tools. These tools include glow sticks, super fertilizer, underwater TNT and even helium balloons that carry mobs into the sky!
Imagine the future of grade 6-12 chemistry education when vast amounts of grade K-5 students have foundational skills in chemistry. As a Biochemistry university graduate I am delighted that this new learning catalyst will accelerate student understanding of science education moving forward. If you are looking for a tool to strengthen chemistry understanding and skills with K-12 students, Eureka! Look no further than Minecraft Education Edition! The first time your students attach a helium balloon to a pig and watch it fly away will be the perfect moment to hook them on science for the rest of their lives! Congratulations and thanks to the team at Minecraft Education.
My First Skype-a-thon
Honesty alert - Despite diving into some of the most complicated educational technology around, two weeks ago I was the guy that avoided Skype because I somehow believed you had to pay to use it. This misunderstanding was due to my Office 365 account allotting me 60 "free" Skype minutes and therefore caused my assumption that to call another user costs minutes. A fellow Canadian Dean V. in Saskatchewan cleared this up nicely for me, as a Skype Expert would, and subsequently Caledonia Regional's first Skype-a-Thon call ever was made to Dean and his students in Saskatchewan on November 28th 2017. Dean and I teach a very similar grade 11/12 math course involving financial and workplace math. We decided to list a bunch of vaguely teen-related services and merchandise and compare the costs of these between New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Canada. The call was awesome and even though time was tight it felt natural and students remarked "We should do that more often" and "That was really cool." On November 29th the students at our school analyzed the costs from both places and were encouraged to dig deeper into the meaning and global issues that might cause some of the large discrepancies. When we all went to sleep on the first night we had done our part to generate the most virtual miles ever in Skype-a-thon history. But we were just warming up!
Day two and Microsoft had already reached their global Skype goal before school started in Atlantic Canada. Today was a big day for us as my students, who had worked so hard with Microsoft HoloLens, Minecraft and on Windows 10 Game Development using Unity 3D, were set to speak with Microsoft VP Terry Myerson who runs the Windows Device Group. Students had some great questions ready about "ESports" Electronic Sports and Gaming, Minecraft's future for Multi-school servers, HoloLens for both entertainment and workplace and even which Microsoft executives were the best and worst Minecrafters. At 1:30pm local we were connected to Terry and apologized for not having a cultural piece at the start of our call because the boys had eaten all of the Tim Horton's donuts and the world had already heard enough Justin Bieber music.
For a solid 20+ minutes the students hammered away at Terry with difficult questions but he kept his composure very well. He dodged the question about the worst Minecrafter in the executive team (Although he did blink twice when we suggested Anthony Salcito?) but he gave serious props to the team at Minecraft saying they all would easily be the best. He was also very proud of his Minecraft skin featuring a cape. The students got just enough insider information from Terry to feel that they had a special relationship and he held back enough info to keep his job. When the call disconnected the students immediately reflected on how cool that type of access was and had already begun planning future Skype requests and even talked about a Skype Studio in our Innovation Lab. It looks like I'll be writing more grants after all. It was a stressful time, an energetic time and a special time for all of us in our first Skype-a-thon and we all can't imagine not being part of it every year moving forward.
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB