This is a guest post by Elizabeth McDowell, @TeacherTechE
At the beginning of December, I attended the VSTE conference in Virginia Beach. I was fortunate that my administration saw the value in not only sending me, but also one of our librarians. This is not my first VSTE conference, but it is my first as an SBTS (School Based Technology Specialist… aka Tech Coach) instead of as a teacher. Each session I attended, I was more conscious than the last that I was there for the whole school. Both years, my purpose was to find resources that help improve student learning. Now that I no longer have students in front of me, the best way I could do that was to find the tools our teachers needed.
This is where conference FOMO came into play. All of the sessions looked so amazing! I knew Science 7 was planning a project that would incorporate Google Drawings for the first time. On Monday, while still at the conference, I received an email from a teacher wanting to learn more about HyperDocs. Throughout the year, we’ve been looking for ways to support both our ESOL students and read aloud needs and there were sessions for both that looked promising. Many of these sessions conflicted with each other in terms of time spots. And I wanted to get the information to my teachers as quickly as possible. Before I even made it home, I’d already sent resources from three different presentations back to specific teachers. Thank goodness for presenters linking their presentations to the schedule. Even if I couldn’t go, I could still access all of their amazing ideas.
That’s when I started thinking about a way to package this enormous amount of information in a way that teachers could easily access. I wanted to give them them whole conference. I also wanted a bank of resources that I could access when teachers came to me with specific questions, especially as we move closer to 1:1. Enter Google. My original plan was to organize everything in a spreadsheet. I started that way, but even with a sort feature, it was visually overwhelming. Additionally, some presentations covered more than one category and it was difficult to define that with a filter. So I moved everything to Slides. This allowed me to duplicate a session for each overlapping category and focus on one presentation at a time, organizing it with tables of contents to make browsing more user friendly. Fortunately, almost all presentations were available through cloud services (I even learned a few new formats in the process). All told the deck includes resources from approximately 120 presentations. Presentations that it was not feasibly possible for me to attend thanks to VSTE’s incredibly robust schedule. Presentations from amazing educators that can help enhance and expand the incredible things the teachers at my school are doing or want to do in the classroom to support our students. Presentations that teachers can now explore on their own time as it fits their needs (you know, that whole choice model).
The greatest value of a conference like VSTE is the vast quantity of collected knowledge in one place. The experience of so many people together that share a similar passion – making learning accessible, engaging, and effective for our students – is a treasure that can’t be underestimated. I hope in some small way, this helps preserve and stretch that value.