Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Day 3: Flexibility & the Best Laid Plans

        After an early morning shower and a couple of cups of strong Hampton Inn coffee, I revisited my TCEA schedule and reviewed my highlighted sessions for my personalized plan for learning. Since I wasn't presenting anything today, the whole day was just for me to learn new things- for myself, my team, and my teachers. I put on jeans and packed my snack lunch to give myself the full day of time slots with no need to stop for a lunch. I checked in with my team on my way to the convention center to see what everyone was planning to see and do today. The sunrise on the downtown Austin buildings and the beautiful weather reinforced my good mood as I walked the short block to start my day of learning and connecting. 
      My first session of the day was a panel about personalized PD with a handful of my favorite Twitter follows discussing their philosophies and examples of personalized PD for teachers (and themselves.) This was my first panel to attend, and I really appreciated the insights and discussions that I got to observe and interact with through a Today's Meet back channel. It was very "big picture" and inspirational, which was a nice change from the other more practical sessions I have been attending so far. The discussions were so good that I stayed until the end, and then I couldn't find a session that wasn't full.
     I tried four rooms (getting my steps in), and then I decided that the time slot was "a wash" and that I had time to go spend some quality time in the exhibit hall. Though I don't usually schedule a chunk of time for this, I found that an hour talking with the reps and vendors of the products that my district uses (and that I as a digital learning specialist support) was actually an excellent use of my time. Meeting my Canvas guy face-to-face was good, and it scored me a fun Rubik's cube for the 14-year-old son back home. I also got to talk with a few other reps who were willing to discuss possible pilots in the near future. These discussions also led to invites to happy hours around the area, which is still an unexpected perk for me. 
       I met up with my team at the YOUniverse watching Alice Keeler, and I spotted a principal from my district and went over to check in with him. The afternoon was filled with a couple of other sessions, both of them second choices due to full sessions. On my way to my next session, I had an impromptu conference debrief with TCEA's Miguel Guhlin. As I waited in the hall in line for a session, I checked in with my teen daughter and got a quick tutorial via text on how to apply the TCEA Snapchat filter. (She works publicity for her high school Theatre department and she recently helped get a filter designed and approved for the week run of the big musical.) My TCEA day wrapped with a tool-centered (but awesomely useful) Google Add-ons session before I headed back to the hotel to put finishing touches on my presentation for tomorrow and to catch the Hampton happy hour with my team. 
       So, though my day didn't go exactly as I had carefully planned ahead of time, I had a rewarding day of learning and networking. I have new tools, new ideas, and new energy to take back to my district, and that is what I love about attending TCEA.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Day 2: TCEA2017!


       As much as I tried to fight my OCD, I woke up having to add in another slide to the presentation I am sharing this afternoon. I am resolved to leave the presentation alone today, so that I can focus on personal learning in the menu of choices I have highlighted in my program. I am in between sessions right now, waiting for my second session of the morning to begin. My first session was FABULOUS! Two teachers from Alamo Heights ISD shared a plethora of resources to encourage authentic assessment options. Some of their resources were familiar, but a handful were new to me and I am always grateful to get new ideas to take back to the teachers in my district. This team also shared class applications of familiar tools but used in innovative ways. (This is one of my favorite aspects of conferences...learning of new ways to implement common tools.)
     Yesterday, my game plan consisted of me committing myself to a few long sessions. Today, my strategy involves attending as many short sessions as I can before my late afternoon presentation. I know that I can access resources and handouts from other sessions at the website, but I still like to see things in action and meet new people face-to-face to connect with on Twitter. So, as I await my second session, I am thrilled with the takeaways that I have already gathered, and I'm excited about getting some new perspectives from the other presenter teams I will learn from today.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Super Bowl of Tech Conferences

You know you are at an ed tech conference when...

  • you pass hordes of folks in sensible shoes carrying the same conference backpack,
  • the talk while watching the Super Bowl in the hotel lobby centers around the synchronized drone light show,
  • you make friends while camping out in line for that session you just can't miss,
  • you run into no less than four people you follow on Twitter while getting registered, 
  • Peggy Reimers is walking around genuinely greeting everyone in the hall like an old friend,
  • power strips are as prevalent as Elmo lanyards.
As I wait for my first session of TCEA17 to begin, I know that this week will be filled with new information, new connections, new people, and new tools. I am grateful that my district understands and values sending our team to TCEA yearly to learn from thought leaders and practitioners from around Texas and the country. Let the learning begin!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Convention Preparations: Year 2

     After making waffles and bacon for my 14-year-old-always-starving son, taking my 16-year-old-I'm-too-busy-to-get-my-driver's-license daughter to the public library to get "research" for her One Act Play character, folding laundry, picking up the shih-tzus from the groomer, shopping for hotel room snacks, and setting up my "out of office" reply, I am finally ready to get online and put the finishing touches on my session materials. 
     A year ago, I was packing for my first TCEA Convention, excited and focused on the deluge of learning that was coming my way. Now, I am preparing to present two sessions and reflecting on the past year in my new career as a digital learning specialist and blended learning crusader (aka. coach). Preparing for TCEA this year has been different because I am presenting, but I still have carefully scoured the presenter lists and cross-referenced the ones from my extended Twitter PLN to develop a 3 or 4 tiered option list for most session times. Last year, my focus was on taking in as much information as possible and the session titles were my focus. This year, I started with the presenters first and looked over the sessions for those folks that I follow on Twitter and online through blogs. I also tagged some sessions from my TCEA friends (Reimers, Guhlin, and Benner), so I can touch-base with them briefly during my time in Austin. My team has set up the district GroupMe to keep in contact via texts during our week, as well as a collaborative shared Slides for session epiphanies. The fun after-hours events/invites are also organized on a shared calendar, so we all can get in some team bonding during our TCEA week. 
     The weather in Austin is predicted to be uncharacteristically warm next week which will influence my last minute suitcase stuffing tomorrow. My supportive family has also agreed to "preview" and give feedback on my sessions in the morning before I leave, and if teenagers are anything, they are brutally honest. My drama daughter will critique my appearance and speaking skills, while my tech-savvy son will dissect the visual presentation and tech elements. I definitely won't be lacking for advice as I head down to Austin for an information-packed, networking-rich week at TCEA. And, technology will also help me stay connected to my sweet teens via nightly Facetime sessions, Twitter DMs, Snapchat stories, and our family text chat. So, though it takes a great deal of preparation for me to leave my family for a week, the experiences and learning that await me make this convention an eagerly anticipated week of personalized professional development.