Live From TCEA…Sorta

tcea17

I am currently at the premier technology education event certainly in Texas, and possibly in the world.  This is my 5th such event in as many years and so I am not exactly a newbie to this environment.  I have seen a great many changes, some good and some bad, but the one constant ingredient I find is the caring demonstrated by the educators here.  While we may not all agree on what is best for our students, we can all agree that we want the very best for our students.  I am proud to be surrounded by such professional and caring individuals

Having said that, the other draw to this incredible meeting is the amazing amount of technological innovation being displayed here.  The leading technology players in the world gather here because they know that teachers are an excellent source of sales and we seem to be drawn to toys.  Perhaps we like toys because we like kids.  Who knows?  All I know is that I am exhausted and off to bed.  Hope to see you tomorrow in Austin.

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TCEA 2017 is a GO!!

I just got my acceptance letter to present a premiere session at TCEA 2017 in Austin, TX tbusyhis year.  I will be presenting Arduino and the Internet of Things on Monday, Feb. 6 at 8:00 am.  You will need a premiere admission to attend as this is a half-day “hands-on” session.  I would LOVE to see someone there who is also a blog reader.  Speaking of which, I know I have been remiss in posting but this year has been incredibly busy.  I have nine (NINE!!) preps this year.  Seven classes, two of which run two classes concurrently.  Needless to say I am very overloaded.  Also, my fledgling music career is moving forward.  Fifth Sparrow completed their summer tour of West Texas and also played the Whitesboro Peanut Festival.  So before you chide me for inattentiveness, please be aware that I am not just being lazy.

#TCEA16 Reflections

tcea2016I just got in from unpacking the car after an exhausting and thrilling week at TCEA’s state-wide convention in Austin, TX and now I have a moment to pause and sort out my thoughts before I go take a nap.  (As you might suspect, this will be a short post.  I really need the nap.)

First let me say that there is a great deal of talent, passion, and enthusiasm for technology in education in Texas.  I have spent the week with several thousand people who genuinely care about educating YOUR children.  Public school teachers in Texas are not lazy by any stretch of the imagination.  They are not uncaring.  They want nothing more out of life than to see your child succeed.  They work in the face of impossible odds and with very little in the way of appreciation, either financial or social.  They don’t need a lot.  Texas teachers will teach your kids using old fashioned text books, pen and ink, or the newest SMART board and laptop.  They don’t need a lot but they make use of anything and everything.  This week I saw people using computers and robotics and I saw people using rubber bands and paper clips.  Each was just a excited and committed as the other.  Both groups are now home and reinvigorated and ready to teach on Monday, or at least they will be ready after a good night’s sleep.

To all the teachers who have spent the last week at TCEA I have some suggestions that will make the experience a bit more meaningful…

  1.  Sit down ASAP and write down your impressions and thoughts about the past week.  Don’t let all that experience go to waste.  If you met someone interesting or who offered worthwhile information, write down their contact information and enter it into your phone or email address book.  Make a committment to contact them and continue the relationship.
  2. Recopy any notes that you may have taken.  Use OneNote or some other organizational aid to put what you learned in order.  Don’t let all those brochures and handouts get wadded up into the bottom of a suitcase and tossed out with the trash.  Organize what you brought back.
  3. Commit now to work next year.  We need volunteers.  Every member should spend at least one session as a facilitator or a worker at the TCEA booth or something.  Much of the work for this convention is done by a very few people.  Be one of them.  Besides you get a really cool T-shirt that is different from everyone else’s and it is not one that can be bought or given as a door prize.  The only way to get an “I can help you get connected” T-shirt is to earn it (or you could mug someone else who earned one but that would not be very nice).
  4. REST this weekend.  Sleep late tomorrow.  This convention stuff takes it out of you.  Be ready to get busy on Monday.  Get some sleep.  Take a break tomorrow.
  5. Pick three things that really impressed you and implement or involve them in your classroom.  Don’t try to cram everything in your notes into your daily routine but do incorporate three things.  If one doesn’t work, choose another but you should be able to add three tools to your belt that will make your job easier, better, more effective, or more fun.  Write the other things down and keep them for later but make sure you add three things when you go back to work.
  6. And finally, the most important thing you can do is go back to school and share what you learned.  This is the purpose of the convention in a nutshell.  “Learn and then Teach”.  You have been given a great many opportunities, tools, and tips; share them.  Give a class on something that impressed you.  Build a document that all the teachers from your school can access.  Just don’t waste what you’ve been given.

Well that is my take on it anyhow.  I am going to start organizing my notes while I can still keep my eyes open and I will see you in the classroom on Monday.

Thoughts on TCEA 2015 #LearnAnywhere and Technology in General

tceaHaving just returned from the Texas Computer Educator’s Association Convention and Exposition, held in Austin, TX, I have garnered some insights that I think might be worth sharing.

1. There is very little in the way of “Computer Education” going on in the state of Texas or anywhere for that matter.  We use tablets, phones, and just about anything else, but the traditional computer is sorely lacking in representation.  This is unfortunate because, while the previously mentioned devices allow us very convenient access to online resources, they are very difficult, if not impossible, to create new content with. Programs like Visual Studio, Eclipse, Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects, Autodesk Maya and Motionbuilder are not available.  The resources and hardware accessible to tablets and phones is not able to run these applications.  In short, don’t declare the humble desktop dead just yet.  Most of the digital content developed in this world today still comes from a desktop PC or Mac or Linux system.  (Even laptops can be a pain to create on.)

2. There is very little content creation education going on in the state of Texas or anywhere else at the secondary level or below.  We use “educational” programming languages and tools like Alice or Scratch or Turtle.  While these platforms have their place.  They are great for teaching programming constructs like IF/THEN statements and Loops and variables, They do not, however, scale well into the real world.  Why not use real languages like Java or C or Python to teach the same concepts, and at the same time, provide students with information they can use post High School.  There are not so many calls for Scratch developers in business today.  We can use the same time and resources to teach kids Java syntax as well as general programming structures and theories.  We need to be generating lines of code and pixels of video, all sorts of content, that we are not doing.

3. If we DID choose to create content, there is a TON of resources available for free or nearly so.  Nearly every major software creator offers educational or academic pricing.  3d modeling programs like Maya and 3DS Max can cost a movie studio thousands of dollars per license but a student or teacher can have access to the same program for a pittance.  Programs like Microsoft Dreamspark, Adobe Academic Pricing for Creative Cloud, and Autodesk software provide professional tools for academics for essentially free.  Add to that lot the Open-source programs available through Linux, as well as third-party developers who just want to create something and you can build an excellent program for the cost of hardware.  (Now we just have to get the cost for THAT down to a reasonable level.)

4. We tend to waste opportunities like this.  We don’t take advantage of what we are given.  The Whitesboro contingent of teachers who went gathered a great deal of information but if we don’t do anything with it then it is wasted.  I am trying , as we speak, to collate my notes and materials for distribution.  I know some of our other attendees have already posted their findings in a shared folder for free access by all faculty members, but we need to make sure that what we learned is not just lost.

5. Austin traffic is dreadful.  I am used to Dallas rush hour and there are a GREAT many more people in Dallas than in Austin.  I suspect it must be the fact that Dallas is so much more spread out and the freeways there are more modern than in Austin.  For whatever reason, I would not like to commute in the Austin area.