Through the generous support of the Rowland Foundation, I was able to attend the annual Future of Education Technology (FETC) conference in Orlando, Florida last week. In a word, HUGE. Everything about that conference is huge. True, this is coming from a Vermont girl, but on day one, when I had to walk from the south concourse to the north to check out a second workshop, it was literally a mile and a half. I saw a Segway at one point and thought, “are you kidding me?” By the time I reached my destination however, I completely understood.
The good thing about huge is that there were a ton of great resources, and I’d like to share a few tools that may help to make your life easier, make your teaching better, and might even inspire you.
Adam Bellow absolutely lit up the place, along with Kathy Schrock, Hall Davidson, and Leslie Fischer in their Tech Share. It was rapid fire tech gadgets and tools thrown out by these four tech gurus. Here are a couple that I’d revisit:
Google Tone: a Chrome extension that allows you to push out a URL to students in your classroom. Maybe you’re playing a game and need them to check out a site; try this instead of a QR code.
Polaroid camera: If you’re old enough to remember the Polaroid cameras of a few decades ago, this is the updated version and equally cool. Snap and print instantly. I remember it being a bit pricey, and this version is no different at $200 for the camera, SD card, and 30 sheets of photo paper on Amazon. It might be a great Donors Choose request, though. I’m seeing instant photos of students’ aha moments to share with parents, to document project work, to create an art installation in the hallway…
Raspberry Pi Zero: A five-dollar computer? For real? For real. For $300, you can spring for the full-on machine, but five bucks is a great way to get started. Makerspaces and code clubs, take note!
Breakout Edu: I have heard so much about this game platform in the last month, and it looks absolutely amazing. Open sourced, you can create the kit on your own or order one from the makers themselves. I love the idea of Escape Rooms, and so do a million other people who are out there participating in them, and this game platform brings the concept to the classroom. FUN! I can’t say enough how excited I am to get my kit in the mail. Yes, I might have ordered one as soon as I returned home from FETC. Maybe you should, too.
Smarty Pins: I am excited about the possibilities of this game not just for geography’s sake, but for my own game-making interests. The tagline is “putting trivia on the map,” which is exactly what they do. Random facts about the origins of history, people, places, etc. are presented for you to nail down on the map. I can see all kinds of ways to integrate this into classroom challenges, connecting it easily with readings about authors, events, history, etc. Their snarky responses when you miss an answer are good fun, too. Not that I missed any. Ever.
Keynote tools: Adam Bellow does all of his presentations on this platform. He shared two of the tools he uses most often: Magic Move and Instant Alpha. Magic Move is a transition tool that makes it look like an image on one slide is moving onto the next. Instant Alpha is a tool that allows you to remove the background from any image you want to use. Bellow usually posts his presentations on You Tube after he’s given them, so I’ll link it here when it’s available.
LMGTFY: “Snarky” might be Leslie Fischer’s middle name, and it works well for her. She had a slew of useful ideas to share, but I had to mention the one that allows you to have a little fun with people. As educators, we know that there are no stupid questions, but when you are out of the classroom and someone asks you a question that seems a bit too obvious, head to this website and type it in. Hand your device to the question asker. And smile.
FETC hosted some incredible speakers (Sean McComb and Leland Melvin–two fantastic storytellers–were a joy) and a plethora of resources. I was completely saturated by Friday night, but I left inspired and excited about possibilities. I also came away with an honest appreciation for the amazing things happening at my school every day, and the innovation happening just down the halls by people like Whitney Kaulbach, Marc Gilbertson, Chris Bologna, Patrick LaClair, and Katie Bryant. There were some incredible people at FETC, but our little Vermont school has some amazing human resources as well. Here’s to finding and knowing those in your school.