Wednesday, October 14, 2015

PSBA Conference Day 1

I'm attending the Pennsylvania School Board Association Leadership Conference for the first time this year which started today. I have been to my fair share of professional conferences before but I still wasn't sure what to expect from a conference like this. While being on the school board is a voluntary position the conference is also for school administrators as it is also hosted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. This means that it is a professional conference for folks like superintendents, assistant superintendents and intermediate unit executives. This makes for an interesting mix of folks that have a lot of experience in the K-12 education space and others of us that happened to get elected to be their bosses. I don't know about other board members but sometimes the things we talk about take a while to digest and I know that I have a lot to learn about which is one of the reasons that I decided to attend the conference.

The opening keynote was given by Dr. Heidi Grant Halverson on the topic of a Get Better Mindset. Dr. Halverson spoke about the difference between a "Be Good" mindset where we are judged based on comparisons to others and a "Get Better" mindset where we are judged against ourselves. The latter encourages self improvement and working through difficult situations. Other benefits include being more willing to innovate even with the possibility of failure.
(Tweet from Dr. Hotchkiss, the Bermudian Springs Superintendent)

Dr. Halverson cited a lot of research to support her assertions and if you are interested I highly recommend that you explore her work further.

The second session I attended was given by Dr. James P. Capolupo titled "Behind the Curtain: Tackling the Myths and Mysteries of the School Superintendent Position." His talk was divided into things you should try and things you shouldn't try. Thankfully our superintendent already does most of the things Dr. Capolupo recommends and the things that he recommended not doing but we do anyway come down to cultural differences between where he was a superintendent and Bermudian Springs.

After lunch I attended "Augmenting Reality with Aurasma: Bringing Objects to Life" presented by several teachers from the North Hills School District. Unfortunately it took them more than half an hour to get to the promised demonstration of the Aurasma app, but the talk was still very good. They have their 8th grade social studies classes create multimedia projects for each section of the class before the exam. This allows the students to demonstrate their knowledge and gives the teachers the ability to correct any misunderstandings before the exam takes place. The students create these projects using various apps on iPads which also gives them tools to express their creativity. Some of my favorite examples from the presentation include making stop motion movies to talk about the Jamestown Settlement and using an app called Book Creator to create iBooks compatible books that describe the Declaration of Independence to a 3rd grader. The Aurasma app was used to place augmented reality pictures around the school that gave information about Presidents and how they are like Sesame Street characters.

The last session of the day was presented by Blanca Duarte from LogicWing. She spoke about the concept of deep learning and how schools can use technology to encourage it in our schools. Her presentation included several small group activities which yielded interesting conversation with other school board members. One of the most important things that I gleaned from this talk was pointers to resources from Intel on using technology in education, including Intel Teach Elements which is a series of modules that teachers can use free of charge. I also learned that Intel has an Education division which provides consulting services on how schools can incorporate technology into their curriculum.

Between sessions I also visited the exhibit hall and had several good conversations with various vendors. Interestingly I found myself wearing my Dickinson College User Services hat and checking out technologies that might be useful for our environment there.

Day one of the conference was a good experience and I'm looking forward to day two.

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