The room is blank. I needed something to match the title

I just returned home today from a few days at a large technology in education conference in Wisconsin, known as SLATE, or School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education.  This was my third year attending, and it is interesting to see how things have changed for me over that time period.

To start with – the biggest reason I attended this year was due to having a presentation proposal accepted. Not only was it accepted, but it was a pre-con, which is a 2-hour session prior to the main event. My topic was on coding and you can check out my slides here. The session itself went well, and as usual, I feel like I learn more than the attendees when I present.  It is pretty apparent the things that work and the things that don’t work, so I just need to bring a lot more energy and get people doing and moving more.  But, this post isn’t about that, so I digress…
The opening keynote, Scott Mcleod, inspired me.  I was set on fire and ready to go, even though his presentation wasn’t as well received by everyone.  I was hoping to keep that energy going.However, my struggle this year with SLATE was that I had a challenging time finding sessions that really met my needs.  Sure, there were lots of topics that were interesting to me, but ultimately I wasn’t learning anything new, or more importantly, wasn’t being inspired.

See, the thing for me that I am over are the tech tool dumps. I have nothing personal against them, and they are certainly valuable for many people, but for me, that doesn’t help me grow where I’m at right now. The other struggle is when I find a session that sounds interesting, but then ends up being a lot of theoretical stuff without practical examples of how to utilize what is being presented on. What helps me grow are sessions like the one Dale van Keurenhad, where he was energetic, giving examples and reasons for why he did what he did with personalized PD at his school. He really helped connect the dots on some struggles that I’m having and suggested solutions for those.

Pictured above:  one awesome dude

After his session we had lunch, expo center time, then session 2. Because I was busy networking, I was late getting to the room of the one I wanted to get to, so it was overflowed into the hallway. It was about a 1:1 path and I was really interested, since I want to move my school that direction. However, I couldn’t really hear them, and didn’t have any links to follow along, so I stayed as long as I could and then left. I gathered a few notes for my reference, but ultimately didn’t leave feeling ready to roll, nor did I have the opportunity to talk to them afterwards like I always do when I’m really curious.

The real reason I was late – my fixation with the hashtag lamp!
The other two sessions were decent. One was on Digital Book Clubs with Matt Renwick – very humble guy with big ideas and an even bigger heart for kids. The other was the way one school does their weekly announcements. Ultimately, I learned a few new things I could potentially use down the road, but nothing that really impacts what I do now, although I did enjoy both presentations.
The best session of the entire conference happened that night. No, it wasn’t a concurrent session, it was a brew pub hangout session until past midnight with Jason BretzmannKenny Bosch, and Mr. #Wischat himself, John Gunnell. These two brilliant educators had so much insight and ideas to share that I wanted to run back to my school and try them immediately.  I loved Kenny’s approach of asking what part of a teacher’s day they hate most and how I can help them get rid of it (I’ve heard the approach before but appreciated how he phrased it).  We also talked about idea sharing and successful personalized PD and flipped classrooms and toast. It was truly a great time.
Jason and Kenny – the pride of Muskego

Wednesday brought a couple more sessions, my favorite being Joe Sanfellipo and Melissa Emler jacking up the crowd to #gocrickets and really hammering home not just why we need to share our story, but how we can do it efficiently and work for us (such as meeting Danielson domains).  Honestly, this was the most fired up I’ve ever seen presenters in my life. The passion was flowing and it is contagious. I can only hope to be that passionate when I present and is always something to strive for. Thanks Joe and Melissa!

So, after gathering my thoughts and trying to get them down before I left, I really am left with a lot of things to ruminate.  The combination of a couple key sessions and the late night conversations helped me get what I needed from this.  Then again, for the sessions I did not get a lot out of, maybe I should have taken this advice from David Theriault.  Next time man! Thanks should also be given for my former colleagues from Denmark School District, who ate dinner with me both nights. It was a ton of fun getting to catch up and keep the friendships alive.
Probably the biggest takeaway from SLATE, synthesizing my thoughts from all the sessions, is how I could be doing things so much more effectively. What I really need to do is clean the SLATE and start over. Start over with my approach as a tech integrator. Start over when I think about how to move my school 1:1.  Start over when discussing technology professional development and including more key stakeholders (thanks for the push, Corey Hansen!). Start over when planning how to run a workshop or conference session. I can’t stay stuck in the old paradigms of how things have typically been done.  Sometimes, to move forward, you have to kill a few sacred cows along the way. Not everyone will like it, and it will be hard work, but anything worthwhile is. Time to get back that sense of urgency. Our kids need us to be better yesterday, so we have no time to waste. Let’s clean the SLATE, start over, and move forward to where we know we need to go.
Sorry Bessie, your days are numbered