There are quite a few things that I love: Coca-Cola, zebra print, Sonic chili cheese fries (with extra cheese), Red Velvet Cheesecake...oh yeah and the Upstate Technology Conference (UTC). This is a FREE conference that is held each year in Greenville, SC. It was also the next to last stop on my conference mini-tour (Heading back to Spartanburg in late August for Edcamp Sparkle). This Blog Is Why UTC is the best conference in SC. I am looking forward to being a part of it again next year.
Before I begin my reflection on UTC2016, allow me to take you down memory lane for a while. This is the conference where I learned all about Twitter. UTC is the reason for my quest to become a Connected Educator. If memory serves me correctly, the session presenter was Chris Beyerle (@cbeyerle). In the computer lab, he walked us through setting up Twitter accounts. He also shared with us educators to follow, explained chat groups, and displayed our tweets using www.visibletweets.com . Now, even though I was not completely new to Twitter, this information gave me a new understanding of the nuances and how to manage it more effectively. Since that day, I have never looked back! If you have ever attended a session with me, you can see many influences of what I learned that day.
So, you can imagine my excitement when my submitted proposal to present at UTC was accepted. Of all the conferences I presented at and/or attended this year, this one was the most special. Here, I must admit that my experience was bittersweet. UTC is a two-day event. I was pumped and ready for two full days of learning and fun. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. Life happened. My trip had some unexpected twists and turns. My attention was focused on making sure that my loved one was okay. On Wednesday morning, we left the ER headed to Greenville so that I could fulfill my commitment to UTC.
Upon arrival, after checking in, I was on my way to a find a quiet spot to sit down so that I could gather my thoughts for a minute. But, I noticed people heading into a room---auditorium---I turned and noticed a familiar face from Twitter. It was Nick LaFave (@NFLaFave). His session was one on my list of sessions to attend, so I changed course to follow the crowd. Yes! I am glad I had that moment of clarity. The session was 50 Free Tech Tools (in an hour). That was a roller coaster ride that I would gladly go on again. He included tools in the following areas: communication, formative assessment/student response, review & study tools, observational assessment, planning, content sharing, video, animation, storytelling, interactive timelines, and visual media/design. You can learn more and get his weekly tech picks by clicking on the link below (and subscribe).
Nick's Picks for Educational Technology
The only other session that I was able to attend was presented by Kelly Hines (@kellyhines) from Discovery Education (@DiscoveryEd). The topic was creativity, collaboration, & STEAM. She demonstrated some ways to use the website and its resources to foster creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and content in the STEAM (or STEM) classroom. Some of the options included: Paper Slide videos, Virtual Field Trips, Lively Lessons, Educational Partners and Spotlight on Strategies. If you are planning STEAM lessons for your classroom, you may want to check out Punkin Chunkin--have your students create a way to propel their punkin as far as they can; Chase the Race in 2016---follow the upcoming Presidential race with student-friendly coverage; Good Egg Project---teaching students how food makes its way from the farm to the table. One of the most exciting resources that came from my time with Kelly was learning about the EA Sports Virtual field trip and how they incorporate STEAM as a career option for students interested in football/sports. Take a look by clicking on the link below.
Madden NFL By The Numbers
Discovery Education (full website)
Finally, I ended the day by presenting two back-to-back sessions focused on blogging. When I got to the room for my session and began to set up, I realized that I was not as prepared as I thought. My tablet was not compatible with the projector. Luckily, I met the wonderful, Mrs. Avis Canty Duck (@iThinkHighDef) who allowed me to use her laptop for my sessions. What a lifesaver! I knew there was something special about her when I saw her zebra-accented attire. Although I did not get the full experience of UTC2016 and my mind was a little preoccupied with concern for my loved one, I am grateful for the time I was able to spend sharing at the conference. The icing on the cake was reading a blog post from one of the participants at my session Matt Johnson (@MattJohnson10). Welcome to the #tribeofbloggers!
Teacher Geeks Unite