Saturday, November 30, 2019

10 Reasons Why People Are The Best Part of Conferences


I've recently been to two education conferences, back-to-back: the AMLE conference in Nashville, and the IETC conference in Springfield, where I was fortunate to be named a featured speaker! I was thinking back on these experiences and how much I enjoyed it... and it dawned on me that although the sessions are full of information, useful tips, and new strategies to try, my absolute favorite part of conferences = the people!

As I reflected on why I felt this way, I came up with 10 reasons why people are the best part of conferences. And then I sketchnoted it, because that's what I do. :) Here goes:

10 Reasons Why People Are The Best Part of Conferences


1. Selfies!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It's fun to document all of the people you meet via selfies. Beth told me that I always make the same face. She's not wrong:


2. Social media does NOT equal real-life.

I know a lot of people solely from social media, so it's extra awesome to get to meet them IRL. I mean, it's always awkward for me because I'm terrible at small talk but I'm truly excited when I see them in physical form and try my best to be exciting and interesting back.

3. People can be energizing.

So, I'm actually an introvert IRL (hence the awkward first meetups) and I do need to go hide in my hotel room/back at home, and I'm exhausted at the end of the day, but it is also really energizing to get to meet people who are excited about education and have fun new ideas to talk about. It's good to be around other passionate educators who think like you do!

4. It's your extended support family.

People will come to your sessions because they're your friends and will sit in the crowd and just be a positive encouraging presence. I remember being super nervous to present at ISTE this year, and I looked out at the 140-ish people in the audience... and then I saw Alicia! She smiled and waved and it made me feel better.

5. Cheering on your friends!

On the flipside, you get to go watch your friends' sessions and cheer them on! Depending on how well you know your friends, you can holler at them and crack jokes. Or sing along at karaoke before the session starts (looks at Adam and Mike)...

6. Travel BFFs.

Either traveling with or meeting up with a friend (or friends) that you can tag along with for the experience is extra cool. In the case of IETC, my travel BFF was Terence. We got to present together, we had automatic lunch table partners, and we had a buddy to peruse the vendor hall. Also, during evening festivities, it's always nice to have a friend looking out for you and making sure we all get "home" safely.


7. Expanding your network.

When I meet someone IRL that I previously only knew online, it feels really cool when they're super nice and act like we've been friends for ages! I had an experience at EdCamp not too long ago when my husband and I were asked to go to lunch with a bunch of friends - some brand-new, some previously acquainted - just be brought into the fold was so amazing and welcoming! I hope to pay it forward - my #LAX18 family can meet my #ILSTOY family, and the network grows.

Shawn models the exclusive "Mrs Leban on a beach ball" sticker. :)

8. Personalized PD.

Talking to folx at a conference - those informal conversations - are the ultimate in personalized PD! You find commonalities and expertise in areas that apply to your specific situation and are super relevant. Sometimes you'll have a conversation with someone that sparks an idea - or connects you to a friend-of-a-friend that can help you out with a project!

9. The unexpected!

Meeting people and making connections are great, but it's often the things you learn that are completely unexpected that leave some of the biggest impacts on you! Some of my conference experiences are a direct result of being introduced to someone else by a friend, and weeks later we connect for a future project or event. Even the most casual conversations had in the evening over drinks can spark inspiration for something else. Just keep your mind open and you'll be amazed at what you can find!

10. Gains beyond the sessions.

I guess all of the items above technically qualify as gains "beyond the sessions," but interacting and networking with people at conferences has really helped me with my social anxiety, awkwardness, and given me lots of practice in a super welcoming and relatively safe environment. Teachers are rad, and they understand (and put up with!) my weird awkwardness, but also passion and excitement when it comes to education.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

How about you - what's your favorite part about going to conferences? Do you get to go to conferences? I know a lot of schools won't pay for teachers to go (mine typically won't - but that's a conversation for another post!) - but sometimes you get that once-a-year opportunity... what do you most look forward to? 


- Mrs L.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

5 Reasons I Love Classroom Q!


I've known about ClassroomQ for a while, and when I finally tried it out with my 7th grade class, it was a beautiful thing! I teach all kinds of tech things: GSuite for Education, Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship, video production, digital imaging and graphic design, tech toys and robotics, and coding/beginning computer science concepts.

In 7th grade, our computer science/coding experience is using Scratch. Students create mini games according to a set of criteria. Although they enjoy the end result, the journey to get there is often filled with frustration. You see, because I am an elective teacher, the skills that my students walk in through the door with are extremely varied. I will have students with special needs and below-grade-level math skills in the same group of 25+ as students enrolled in math classes 2 or more levels above their grade. It's honestly a really frustrating situation, because many people seem to think that an "elective" class = an easy class, or one without too many "academic" skills necessary.

Absolutely not true.

So, when I teach Scratch, I get a lot of questions. A LOT. OF. QUESTIONS.


The average experience is having a student walk up to me, thrust their Chromebook into my face and say, "It's not working!" To which I had to decipher (through conversation or close inspection of their code) WHAT exactly wasn't working, what had gone wrong, and how to fix it. This was not a 30-second process. Trying to figure out what a student had done vs what they were trying to do was mentally exhausting! I wished that I had the luxury of taking a nap after class.

I was racking my brain about what to do. The whole point of this project was for students to do the problem-solving, to investigate, to try and fail, to retry a different way, and to analyze their code!

THEN, I remembered ClassroomQ!

ClassroomQ is an online tool where students can ask the teacher a question and get a "spot" in line to get help! Here's how it works: a teacher generates a special code for students so that they can join their session:


During this session, students enter their name, and they may begin to submit questions. I require students to write their question in the comment box:


Once they press the "assistance needed" button, they can see their place in line, and their question shows up on the teacher's screen:


I always opt to project mine so students can see how many students are asking for help, and what they need help with. Once a student has been helped, the teacher can click their name to remove them from the queue!


The Basic (aka free version) of ClassroomQ will give you five spots in the queue. This might not seem like a lot, but I first used it in class with the Basic account, and I fell in love! Here's why:


1. Students had to articulate their question!


Using ClassroomQ forced students to have to write something down in the comment area, and they quickly realized that "it won't work" wouldn't cut it. Having to articulate what the problem was often caused students to figure out the solution on their own without asking! 


2. I can help multiple Ss with the same question at once.


Teachers are very familiar with answering the same question, over and over again. I could look up at the board, and if 2+ students had the same question, I'd call them all over together as a group and save myself from answering it more than once!


3. I can answer “easy” questions quickly to shorten student wait time, and sit down with tougher issues.


I can look up at the screen and quickly knock out "simple" questions (even if they're out of order) so that students can get back to work, and spend more time with students requiring extra assistance.


4. I can send students with questions I’ve already answered over to other students I’ve already addressed!


When a student asks a question I've already addressed, I can easily send them over to that classmate for assistance, saying, "Oh, I just showed Emily how to do that! Go ask her to show you!" - not only can this free me up to help others, but it gives the student helping the opportunity to deepen their learning by teaching it to someone else. 


5. Students can also see what questions are being posed, and can help each other when they see a question they already know the answer to!


ClassroomQ allows me to harness the power of my experienced students, who often complete the work faster. They typically love to show off how much they know, so when a question comes up on the queue that they know the answer to, they're often quick to jump up and say, "Oh, I know this one!" and rush to help out a classmate. It's a beautiful thing. :)

I was so excited about ClassroomQ that I had to tweet about it!


And then, something even MORE awesome happened, and I was invited to be a ClassroomQ Ambassador, which means I'd love to (officially) help answer any questions you have about the service! If you love ClassroomQ like I do, you may even decide that a Pro account is for you!


A Pro account not only gives you an unlimited number of spots in your queue, but you can also export data from each session that lets you know who asked what (and how many times!) during class! What an awesome way to gather data for formative assessment purposes and evidence for standards-based grading!

Have you tried ClassroomQ yet? What do you think? Tweet at me, @MrsLeban!

(And just in case you're wondering... nope, I don't get any kickbacks if you sign up! I just enjoy talking about edtech tools that I truly love and use in my classroom!) 


- Mrs L.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

2020 IL State Teacher of the Year Finalist!


Something really amazing happened to me over the summer, and I've had to keep it a secret for so long; I'm happy it's finally out there!

I was nominated by my awesome principal, Linda Fehrenbacher, for a State of IL "Those Who Excel" award in the classroom teacher category. This alone was an incredible honor... and a lot of paperwork!

I completed my application, which included about twelve pages of writing, plus letters of recommendation from my nominator, a fellow teacher, an administrator, a parent, and a student! It was a lot of work, but I was really excited to be selected from a whole bunch of truly awesome teachers in my district!

Over the summer, I received a phone call from my superintendent, saying that he had "good news to share." Imagine my surprise when he said that not only had I won an Award of Excellence from the state in the "Those Who Excel" awards, but I was a finalist for Teacher of the Year! Holy cow!

Last week, I took a solo road trip (three hours each way!) to Springfield, IL to be interviewed for the final selection. It involved a videotaped interview, and a conversation with a couple of really awesome past Teacher of the Year winners. Intimidating, yes, but I think I did ok!

I know whatever the turn out is (we find out on October 19th!), it is an amazing honor to have made it this far, and I am so grateful to be given this opportunity, and listed among this awesome group of fellow educators.

...but it also would be really sweet to win. :) Fingers crossed!


- Mrs L.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

ISTE 2019 Recap + Ambassador Questions?


Last month, I was extremely fortunate to attend ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia, PA. I won a spot to present through their "People's Choice" session vote after initially being rejected as a standard session. I gathered all of my session resources (including the presentation itself, into one Wakelet collection, and you can find all of the info from my session, regardless of attendance at ISTE, here! My session was about digital storytelling and visual literacy through the use of video. I outlined the steps of Design Thinking and how they apply to the process of creating a digital story.

I posted a little recap of my experience at ISTE on my Reset EDU YouTube channel. You can check it out here:


I was fortunate to be able to attend ISTE thanks to WeVideo. They paid for my travel and registration for ISTE in exchange for working in their booth for the duration of the convention. Many educators are in the same boat as I am - we are unable to afford travel and registration to this convention on our own, as it is quite expensive. I have heard several educators who are critical of other teachers who serve as ambassadors for ed tech companies, and although I understand their views, I know that I could not be a part of this community and attend these events without it. So I need to be open-minded and flexible, and comfortable with the fact that I would not advocate for a company or service that I did not truly believe in and use personally. This is very true when it comes to WeVideo.

I have also made a lot of new friends and significantly expanded my PLN as a result of being an ambassador and the experiences that have come with it. At ISTE, I was able to connect with so many friends IRL, including getting to meet fellow WeVideo ambassador Bruce Reicher, pictured in the thumbnail above. (Find him at @breicher on Twitter!)

I'm happy to answer any questions that anyone has concerning my experience as an ambassador, so feel free to send them my way! I'd like to address them in a future blog post or Reset EDU episode. Is there anything you've always wanted to know?

- Mrs L.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Google Keep Customization Tricks!


I've seen this trick a couple of times now on social media: how to add cute title images at the top of your Google Keep notes. I'm pretty sure I first saw it in a tweet from Megan DuVarney Forbes, aka "Too Cool for Middle School" @TooCool4MS:

And THEN I saw a blog post and video about it again from Jordan Priestley at Mrs Priestley ICT! (Thank goodness for Wakelet for helping me save these things when I see them online so that I can give proper credit back later on!)

I knew I could take Mrs Priestley's tips for PowerPoint and make it work for Google Slides (you know, since we're 1:1 chromebooks around here...). I am IN LOVE with how it turned out, and even more excited about viewing my Keep notes within my Gmail inbox!

I'm totally going to do this with my students during the last couple days of school. I think it'll be a fun way to set up, plan, and look forward to the next school year ahead! You can check out my video here:


I hope this helps someone else out there, too! Do you have any special Google Keep pro tips or tricks? Let me know!

- Mrs L.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

National PTA + Google Be Internet Awesome Grant!


My PTA is super rad. They're very involved (in all the right ways!), and are willing to go along with ideas that teachers come up with. For example, last year PTA painted the basement hallway outside my room with green paint for doing green screen video projects! 

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that my PTA jumped on it when I saw a grant opportunity posted by National PTA and Google, and I asked the PTA to apply. Right before winter break, we received notification that we had won! With this grant, we were awarded funds to host a parent night to facilitate discussions about internet safety and digital citizenship. 

The PTA was beyond helpful in setting the event up, organizing the event, and getting supplies together for hosting. I volunteered to host by facilitating the main presentation. You'd be surprised how different it feels to present to a group of parents as opposed to a group of 6-8 graders! 

We had an awesome group of facilitators for our small groups, comprised of both teachers and parents:


We spent some of the money on snacks and fun swag for the evening, like pens, notepads, and webcam covers! We even designed our own special "Be Internet Awesome" logo for the night. 


One of our dads came and photographed the evening's events, and the results were amazing! Check out some of the shots here:


Although I was nervous about presenting, I think I got a lot better as the night went on! After our large-group presentation, we split into our smaller groups and had discussions about various aspects of digital citizenship. Each group created a poster, and then presented to the whole group:


I learned so much from this event, and I'm grateful to National PTA and Google for giving us this opportunity! I can totally see us hosting these events at all of our district schools in the upcoming years., and I'd love to help other teachers host these events at their own schools!

Do I look like I know what I'm doing? (I hope so!)

We use the Be Internet Awesome curriculum in our school at the 6th grade level. In 7th and 8th grades, we also use parts of the curriculum from Common Sense Media and EVERFI Ignition courses.

How do you teach digital citizenship and internet safety at your school? 

- Mrs L.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Work Around Podcast: EDU Tangent



Last week, I did a new(ish)* thing for me: I was on a podcast! I was contacted via Twitter by Jon Fortney of FortneyTech.com to record an "EDU Tangent" episode for his podcast, The Work Around Podcast. It sounded cool, so I said yes!

When recording my story for this episode, I was given the direction to "...share a story (or stories) of events that led up to you becoming a teacher that helped you decide to be a teacher, stories as a teacher that were influential to your practice, and lessons you’ve learned along the way."

Because my story of "becoming" a teacher isn't really that interesting IMHO, I decided to tell my rollercoaster story of trying (and repeatedly failing) to move forward in my career. Perhaps my failures can be someone else's inspiration. :)

Here's a little trailer for the episode:

If you're interested in listening to the entire story, you can find it here. I'm very honored to have been asked to be on Jon's podcast, and he says extremely flattering things about me at the beginning that make me feel like he must be talking about someone else...! #impostorsyndrome

*[Fun fact/side story: five years ago, I was on a live Hangout on Air Podcast with the LadyGeeks talking about art. Want a blast from the past? Last I checked, you can still watch it here.]

- Mrs L.

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