A Review: BCASA/EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit

There is such a wide array of educational conferences available that you never know what to expect when you walk through the door. Some conferences are filled with "Sit and Get" PD for educators, some are un-conferences where you can choose what you want to learn throughout the day, and some highlight best practices in schools.

On Friday, February 26th, teacher leaders, school leaders and superintendents from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, gathered together at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ. At this event, we were able to look at educational technology that could immediately benefit our students, classrooms and schools.

As educators, we want to be on the cutting edge of what is best for our students. Over the past few years, the focus has been on technology integration and the tools that we can use to allow our students to find success. The problem however becomes filtering out what is best for our students since there are so many amazing tools available.

At the Tech for Schools Summit, we had the opportunity to meet a variety of vendors and choose tools we were most interested in. This is different from other conferences because the vendors were there for us to meet with, explore their product and learn about what makes them standout from the crowd.

Here are some highlights from this outstanding day of learning:

1. Tech for Schools - While other EdTech conferences have a lot of technology represented throughout the day, many attendees don't choose to meet with the vendors. At the Tech for Schools Summit, the goal was to walk around and find the tech that best fits your classrooms and your schools. As attendees of the conference, we chose the technology that we were interested in and had the opportunity to meet with vendors to hear more about their product.

I was impressed with a variety of the ideas that were shared between the vendors. There were a number of vendors at the conference who were demonstrating technology for the math classroom, improving the writing process, bringing an interest to reading with new techniques, and individualized professional development. As I walked around, I wanted to make sure that I met with a variety of the tech vendors so that I could find something that I would use in my classroom, or find ideas that I think would benefit other teachers within my building, district and online learning community.

My favorites for the day: Kids Discover - teachers can find and share non-fiction reading materials to use in their classroom. The best part about this service is that you can find a number of great titles and change the reading levels based on your grade or student needs. Kyte Learning - an online service where you can find Professional Development that is interesting to you. Kyte Learning is adding new material quickly and the best part is, you can complete different programs at your own pace. Turnitin:Revision Assistant - students are given a writing prompt through Turnitin and as students write, they can turn in their work and have the revision assistant check over their work to match it to specialized rubrics for the prompts they are working with.

2. Student Involvement - The best part of the day was absolutely the Student Panel. We had the opportunity to listen to a variety of high school students from various Bergen County schools discuss their passion for tech, how they use technology in their lives and what is happening within their classrooms. The students were taking questions from the crowd and were very truthful and straightforward with their responses.

What made this special was the fact that the students were helping the teachers and school leaders better understand what they expect with technology. As educators, we think that just by putting technology in our students hands they are happy, however what our students want is for us to use the technology better. Students don't want the tech to replace the teacher and they don't want the tech to be the center of the lesson. Students were saying how much they enjoy using the tech for different learning experiences, but there are too many times when the tech becomes too much of the focus and the content is missing.

3. Creative Conversations - As an educator, we need to be able to meet, collaborate and share ideas about what we do in our classrooms and schools. We had several opportunities throughout the conference to meet with people from different districts to discuss what works for our teachers and what we could do to better support them. It was the amazing conversations that left people excited to get back to their schools, and share the new ideas that they learned.

While technology is great and will help improve instruction, it is the collaboration that occurs between educators that makes the tech integration more meaningful for our students. Putting technology in their fingertips is only half of the excitement. The other half is seeing what our teachers can do with it. It is the passions that our teachers are sharing and their new experiences with the technology that makes their teaching more effective.

I am already looking forward to next year's Tech for Schools Summit, where we will have the opportunity to learn about more technology and listening to the success stories from our students and teachers.  Additionally, the opportunity to collaborate with teachers and school leaders, so that I can learn new and exciting ways to bring innovation to my students and school has me counting down the days.


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