TETC 2014: My Take Away

Photo of a sticky note on my iPad

photo by Andrew Atkins 2014

TETC for a First-Timer

Earlier this week I had the chance to attend TETC (Tennessee Education Technology Conference) for the first time. I jumped at the chance to go because I like going to conferences and I like technology. The only other conferences I have attended have been for the NCTE and NWP. Those were big national conferences, so TETC was my first time at a state-level gathering. It also gave me a chance to see the new Music City Convention Center for the first time.

Overall I thought the conference organizers did a good job putting everything together. I never expect any of these types of events to go off without a hitch, so the 1 or 2 changes to session topics didn’t bother me that much. The first session I had planned on attending did have an unannounced change, but I just found another session to sit it on.  I guess my biggest complaint was having to wait so long for the schedule to come out–the Thursday before the conference. I was getting a little antsy by then because I really wanted to plan out what to attend.

My Take Away from the Day

As I plotted out which sessions to attend, I made a deliberate effort to avoid any vendor sessions because I really didn’t feel like sitting in on an hour-long sales pitch. I was looking for ideas I could use in my classrooms right away without having to beg my administrators to buy something. While I didn’t come away from the day with a notebook full of mind-blowing, game-changing new tools or techniques to use, I did come away with 3 or 4 ideas on a list that I felt made the day worthwhile. Here are some of the items from that list:

Google Apps

The first idea that made my list is that I need to go back and really look at, evaluate, and learn more about all the various Google apps that are available. I have been a big fan of Google since almost day 1. I even had a friend in IT hook me up with Gmail before it was available to the general public. But, for some strange reason, I haven’t used many of the other tools they offer. As I sat in the first break-out session of the day, the presenter was talking about Google Forms and some of the other apps and I decided that there are lots of ways I can use those in my classes. As she was talking about Google Docs being used for collaborative writing–which I had before and read tons about–it dawned on me that I could use it in my journalism class, along with Google Forms. I don’t know why I hadn’t realized this before, but when it came to me as I sat in that session, I decided that I needed to look at all of Google’s apps and maybe think about them again, or in new ways.

Remind101 and Celly

I don’t remember which session I was in that introduced these apps, but I immediately liked the idea. Both of these apps allow a teacher to send out group text messages as reminders or alerts for students and parents about tests, assignments, or anything else. The reason that I plan on using this type of app is that neither one of them require that any phone numbers be exchanged. All i have to do is give out the instructions for signing up to my groups, and whoever signs up will get those alerts. They don’t get my phone number and I don’t get their number. Additionally, people cannot reply back to the alerts, the whole thing functions as a 1-way broadcasting system. Celly looks a little more advanced because it allows you to alter the appearance of the website interface option. Remind101 seems like it is a little simpler to set up. At this moment I think I am going to try Remind101 for my classes because it doesn’t require anyone to make an account when they opt in for the alerts. Celly does. I plan on trying remind out with one class to finish out this year and then roll it out for all of my classes at the start of next school year–if all goes well.

My Last Take Away from TETC2014

The last bit of take away I want to address here is blogging. I have used blogging with most of my classes for the last 3 or 4 years, but I think I need to reevaluate how I approach it. I don’t think I have done a very good job with it when it comes to my students. I want their blogs to be more than just a “OK, now that we have read this story, or novel, write something about it on your blog.” I would really like for the students to have a more authentic experience of writing a true blog. I probably need to devote some of my summer break to exploring some possibilities in that area.

 

How do you use technology in your classroom? How do you use blogs with your students? As always, feel free to leave comments or shoot me a question.

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I’m Back…with an Apology

My Bad

 

Well. I’m back. I took “a bit” of a break from blogging…if you can count almost 2 years as “a bit” of a break. Why did I stay away for so long?  Hmm…basically, I think I burned myself out in a rather short period of time. At the time I was becoming obsessed with trying to post more and more stuff in order to drive up traffic numbers.  So, I started following a lot of the advice out their from “professional” bloggers–schedules, post types, post lengths, best times to post, etc. etc.  The result? I sucked the fun right out of writing. I was turning this space into a job and I wasn’t really ready for that.

Why did I decide to come back now and try again? I guess that could be chalked up to guilt. I attended a tech conference for teachers today and in a couple of the sessions I attended one of the messages was how our students should blog and how we should blog. That hit a nerve with me because that was a thought or feeling I had in my mind ever since I abandoned my blog here. I had pushed that thought to the back of my mind as best I could, but it came roaring to the forefront today. So here I am.

How are things going to be different this time? Well, the main change I am going to do is to only write and post when I feel like I really have something to say. No more scrambling and scratching to try to come up with ideas for 3 or 4 posts a week. Maybe some day–but now for awhile. My goal as I write this is to shoot for 1 post a week. Having said that, I would like to write another post this week with my thoughts about the conference I attended today. We’ll see. I’m not going to stress about it.

If there are any followers out there who followed the blog before, I truly apologize for such an extended break. I will try to do better going forward.

Something Completely Different

ABC Award

For some strange reason my colleague over at awritablelife decided to throw an ABC award my way. So, I will begin by thanking her for this undeserved honor.  It seems that the honor comes with a bit of a tradition which requires that I compose a list revealing information about myself using the letters of the alphabet.

I forewarn you now that I am not very good at these MEME type activities. So, with that in mind, here we go:

I am/I am a

  • Andrew
  • Brother
  • Christian
  • Dude
  • Exiting the building
  • Frequently in need of a nap
  • Gamer
  • Homebody
  • Incoming
  • Joking
  • Killin’ it
  • Large and in charge
  • Musician (once upon  a time)
  • Ninja wannabe
  • Old-ish feeling lately
  • Photographer wannabe
  • Quicker than you would think
  • Reasonable (most of the time)
  • Son
  • Teacher
  • Uber-excited
  • Viable
  • WINNING!!
  • Xbox hater
  • Yearbook adviser
  • Zero losses, all wins (riiiight)

There. First part of the “tradition” or “requirements” completed. Now I just have to pass the award along to some other unsuspecting blogger. This will require some research on my part before I pass the award along to some blogger who is far more deserving than me.

Blog Link of the Week: Neil Gaiman

Pens and pencils on my desk

Pens and pencils on my desk

I spend a lot of time reading. Big surprise big surprise since I am an English teacher. One thing I have noticed since starting this blog is that I read more and more material that is online. Whether it is surfing around looking for inspiration, or information, or interesting blogs, the list of blogs and sites I like to revisit continues to grow and grow. With that in mind, I thought I would start sharing some of my favorite links to various locations around the web. This post is the first in what I intend to be a regular, weekly feature.

As a reader, English teacher, and wanna-be writer, words hold a special power over me. Well, saying that it is the words that have the power is probably a bit misleading. The real power comes from the ideas–and the transmitting of those ideas from one person to another through markings on a page, or screen. It should come as no surprise then that writers grab my attention rather easily. Some more than others. Professional writers who give us a glimpse into a life filled with writing usually make it into my bookmarks or favorites folder. And that is where I am going to start this new weekly feature, with the author Neil Gaiman.

Here is the link to Gaiman’s blog: Neil Gaiman’s Journal. His official website can be found here: neilgaiman.com. I must admit that I didn’t really visit either of those two sites until I started following Gaiman on Twitter.

Gaiman frequently tweets and updates his blog. So, getting a glimpse into the life of a professional writer is pretty easy and entertaining with his tweets and posts. He covers just about everything–from his current projects to things that inspire him.

So, whether you are looking for inspiration, insight,  or entertainment, visiting Neil Gaiman’s blog is a sure win.

Which writers have blogs that you like to visit? Which authors do you follow on Twitter?

As always, please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, give some advice, or tell me to shut up. If you like this post, or blog, please follow it on Facebook or Twitter, subscribe to it, or share it with a friend. The more, the merrier.