On March 9th after a busy day of connecting with several schools and six authors for World Read Aloud Day, I flew to Chicago for an exciting event. I was going to the first Follett Software User Conference being held at the Fairmont Chicago Millenium Park. Over the last few months I had connected with many people from Follett and others who were attending the conference, so I was very excited to get to Chicago.
The morning of March 10th Don Tapscott opened with an inspiring keynote speech. As I participated in the #FSC11 Twitter stream, a few of my favorite quotes to share were, "We need our students to LOVE learning. We need to be PASSIONATE, creative learners ourselves" and "School should be like summer camp. It should be fun." Everyone in the audience left the ballroom knowing we could all create a change in education and in the future of our young people.
The day was filled with breakout sessions covering a variety of themes such as Data Driven Decision Making, Curriculum & Instruction, IT/Technology Leadership, Library & Resource Management and Product Support Center.
I was asked to present at the conference about social media being used in education. I was very excited to share my story about how I am using social media with the students, teachers, and school community at Van Meter. I told stories about the connections at schools such as Merton in Wisconsin and Grosse Pointe South in Detroit.
There were two highlights for me in the session. First, my friend John Schu traveled from his school in Oak Brook to join me that afternoon. John and I met at the School Library Journal Summit last October in Chicago and have become amazing friends and teaching partners since. This was only the second time we had met in person but collaborate and communicate almost everyday. Also, we have used Skype, Twitter, Edmodo, YouTube, Animoto, Blogger and other resources to connect our students to several incredible projects over the last few months.
John and I created the Two Libraries One Voice blog to share our experiences with students, teachers, parents and others. During the presentation, we spoke about not just our relationship but the one that we have created with our students and schools. He even brought a whole envelope of the sweetest hand made cards that his students created that morning. It was so nice having him there with me to share our incredible connection.
I didn't want to be the only one to share Van Meter's story, so I Skyped in four of our students from Iowa so everyone could hear their voices too. Julia, Michael, Maddy, and Emma told stories of using social media and how it had changed their education and lives. They spoke about how social media gave them a voice and a place to connect to their passions. I was proud as I listened to them tell their stories.
The day before the conference they videotaped one another and created a short iMovie just in case Skype failed us the day of the conference.
Below you can find the SlideShare of my presentation.
Social Media in Education
After a day of learning and connecting, everyone headed to Aria in the hotel for a Tweet Up. Brandi Heinz and Carly Anne Molstad greeted John and I with fun t-shirts and conversation. They did a great job coordinating the Tweet Up and getting everyone together to continue the connections.
The next morning offered more breakout sessions about a variety of topics. I loved Elaine Roberts, Director of Professional Development for Follett Software, presentation about project based learning. We had a great conversation about the topic which lead to many ideas for all of us in the session.
The highlight was when she Skyped in Ginger Lewman's students at the Turning Point Learning Center in Emporia, Kansas. The students were excited to show us a Viking Ship which they created together and a phonograph powered by a Lego's robotic piece. They reminded me of my students at Van Meter and definitely had a voice in their education and future too.
At lunch Susan Patrick, President and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online learning (iNACOL), spoke about the future of education and importance of global online learning. After listening to the keynote, I was anxious to go back to Van Meter armed with new ideas about online learning within our school.
The Follett Software User Conference was by far one of the best learning experiences I have been part of during my career. The people at Follett are incredible and really made sure they created an experience all of the attendees would enjoy.
As I left the conference on Saturday, I picked up my program to pack it in my bag. On the back it said, "Thank you for attending A New Leaf in Learning Follett Software User Conference". I smiled as I looked at the logo they had developed. The different colored leaves on the tree represents not only the various types of knowledge we gained but also the lasting connections we were lucky enough to make throughout those three days. When a variety of people come together for a common conversation, we all leave richer and more diverse than before. To me, this was the best part.
Thank you Follett for bringing us together. I look forward to coming back next year.