The Next Einstein

One of my all-time loves is the game of soccer, so naturally, when I became a high school mathematics teacher, I approached our soccer coach and said I wanted to coach. Up until this year, the boys played in the fall and the girls played in the spring, so I was able to coach both. I volunteered for two years with the boys before being hired as the JV coach when the previous coach stepped down, and started as the JV coach of the girls in my second year teaching.

One year, the girls' squad had a game that was an hour and a half away, so we stopped at a restaurant for dinner on the way home. While waiting in line, one of the freshmen mentioned that she felt she was a genius. She was goofy and from time to time said some interesting things, and she did have a pretty good head on her shoulders. But we all liked to have fun, so I jokingly asked her how to spell "genius."

"G-E-N-I-O-U-S!!! GENIUS!!!" she belted out as proudly as she could. Unfortunately, we had to inform her she was incorrect, and we all had a good laugh. She was slightly embarrassed, but she could take a joke (and really dole them out, too). But she followed this up by saying, "Whatever, you guys! Anyway, I'm going to be the next Einstein!"

Now this is truly a statement that was meant to say that she wanted to do great things, and anyone that puts their minds to it can totally do so. But this statement left me thinking, and I replied, "Why be the next Einstein? Why not be the first Stevens?"

She laughed, but I told her I was serious. Einstein had done his thing. Why follow in his footsteps when she could go off on her own path and forge new ideas for this world like we hadn't seen before. It's the kind of conversation that you love to have with students, but you're never sure if you get through to them or not.

Fast forward a few months, and this student shows up in my classroom with a folded up piece of paper. She drops it on my desk and runs away. I'm unsure about opening the paper, but as I unfold it, I find a photo of Einstein with "The first Stevens" written on it. This is the type of thing that I hang up on the bulletin board by my teacher desk every year along with old photos and notes of thanks from students and parents. These are the pick-me-ups that I need day in and day out, especially with the way education is changing and the frustrations that come with the changes.

It is years later, and I still have that printed out photo. Students ask me why I have photo of Einstein hanging on my board, and I tell them the story about not being the next Einstein, but the first YOU. It's one of those things that students will file in the backs of their brains, and probably won't think about for years, if at all. But I Stevens got it, if at least just for a short time.

I wonder what great thing she is working on that will change this world. I truly hope she does become the first Stevens.


Halfway through Monday of ISTE 2012

Holy cow, what a day it has been here at ISTE. Already I have met Mayim Bialik, received a free TI N-spire CX CAS from Texas Instruments, and rekindled old connections and made new ones, and it's only 2:30 (wait, I haven't eaten since breakfast)!

I started the morning In the Texas Intruments session, as I was invited as a VIP to the session for submitting a question for TV's Blossom/Amy Farrah Fowler (Big Bang Theory) and was wowed by a demonstration from two educators that work extensively with the N-spire in their classes. Jeff Lukens, a math teacher, said it great when he said, "The first thing that you have to look at on a graph is WHAT is being graphed. That is literacy." Talk about really getting it, and how he was able to use the technology to get the hook into his students is definitely a plus. Of course, Dr. Bialik had a better quote in her response to Lukens' question, "How did you get the temperature to go down?" when she said, "Took it out of my armpit." of course, Lukens had mentioned that many of his students will place the probe in all sorts of places to record temperatures just before that.

After getting my picture taken with Mayim, I headed for the vendor floor. My first stop was at the booth of my favorite find from last year, the crew from Desmos, home of the wonderful free online graphing calculator. If you still have not checked them out, do it! They also have take to the many pieces of art that users (mostly students) have created using the calculator, so if you're looking for a way to hook kids on math, look no further. Did I mention it's free? And that CEO Eli Luberoff is one of the most enthusiastic entrepreneurs you'll ever meet, and that I have the privilege of presenting with him and Team Desmos at the Edmodo booth tomorrow?

And speaking of Edmodo, they were my second stop of the morning. I learned my lesson a few years ago that if I want the new Edmodo shirt, I had to stop there early! The booth was packed, and that has to be tantamount to the great service they offer and continue to expand on. Have you been able to explore the apps that they are integrating into groups?

After Edmodo, I zipped across the vendor floor to the booth of one of the tools I have been using the longest. Poll Everywhere has finally come to ISTE! It was great being able to connect with the great people And hear about some of the new ideas they're bringing, including a wonderful way to moderate responses on open text responses. Make sure to ask them about it.

And of course I couldn't forget the amazing people at PartStock Computers. They sell reconditioned PC's as well as HDTV’s, projectors, and other accessories, but being from an Apple district, we haven't been able to give them any business. What's that?! I learned this morning that they have reconditioned MacBooks and iPad 2s (wifi only), so I have some paperwork to pass off to my tech department when I get home!

There's always a surprise on the vendor floor, too, so I was happy to run into ChromaGen, a company that Helps those of us with dyslexia and color deficiencies. And an even bigger surprise was how interested so many other attendees were in learning about them.

I've made it about halfway through the vendor floor, and I'll be doubling back to revisit all of these booths and better learn about others that I missed in the next two days. I highly recommend that everyone that can either stops by the booths for these companies or visit their sites to learn more about them. They're all on twitter, too, so you can connect with them that way, too!

For now, it's time to refuel with some food, and remind myself that I'm only halfway through the day!


ISTE 2012: San Diego

Today is the beginning of the real ISTE 2012 experience for me, even though I have been following the #ISTE12 hashtag on twitter for weeks already, and I've connected with many ISTE attendees already in airports and all around San Diego. This is, by far, the busiest and most beneficial week of the year for me on both a professional and personal level.

Allow me to explain. This morning, I browsed through the conference program (thank goodness for the new iPad app!) and have put 74 different sessions in my planner. I figure I might make six is those sessions, but I will go back and find everything I can about the other sessions online after returning home. This does not include any of the pay or pre-register sessions, as I don't need to pay the extra cash or reserve a spot I may not use when someone else might really want to be in that sesson. I'll find info about them, too.

But, basically, my ISTE plan is as follows:

1. Begin by going through the conference program and highlight all of the sessions I want to attend.
2. Almost totally ignore my conference planner as the conference progresses for all of the following reasons below.
3. Learn something new in the opening keynote that makes me want to further explore that concept.
4. Connect with old friends all throughout the conference, at receptions, at lunches, at dinners, on the conference floor, via twitter, etc.
5. Connect with new friends all throughout the conference, at receptions, at lunches, at dinners, on the conference floor, via twitter, etc.
6. Spend way too much time on the exhibit floor connecting with exhibitors and learning about the new things they are bringing to education and how I can utilize the ideas in my classroom.
7. Have my submitted question answered by Mayim Bialik at her session Monday at 8:30 AM after it was selected by Texas Instruments to be asked.
8. Co-present with Desmos at the Edmodo booth Tuesday at 11 AM on the integration of their online graphing calculator to Edmodo Apps.
9. Participate in a new learning experience that pops up on a whim.
10. (Before and after the conference) Exploree San Diego and all that it has to offer. I have already toured the USS Midway, and I plan on hitting a beach before leaving.

By the end of this week, my non-educator friends will be fed up with my twitter and Facebook feeds being filled with way too much from ISTE, much of which they often state that they have no idea what I'm talking about. On the other hand, my educator friends that could not make it will ask for more. To both groups, I wish I could give you what you want, but you'll have to settle for what I give you.

But here's to another week that goes by way too fast with way too much information. Here's to a week of furthering my craft as a teacher (what's that about summers off?) that will continue the whole way into the school year with preparation and reflection as I try out new things.

And as the week winds down, I'll begin trying to figure out how I can gets to San Antonio for ISTE 2013.


My Loved One - A Student Showcase

Today at PETE&C was the student showcase, and I saw one where the students just blew me away. The project itself wasn't all that exceptional. It was a good project, but one that I had seen variations on before. But it's never been the technology or the end product that ever truly amazed me anyway. What caught my attention was the students that were presenting. These students wanted to share what they did. They were proud of the fact that they could talk about what it meant to storyboard, create a voiceover, and edit a video. They talked about how they were preserving their family's history for the future. They compared some of the hardships their loved ones went through with what they are seeing in their lives. And these were elementary students. Boy do I wish I were in that school district! When it all boils down, we need to remember why we attend a conference like this. Yes, it helps us to build our own knowledge base and expand our PLNs. But why do we do that? For our students. Which is why it amazes me that every year, the student showcase only receives a small portion of the overall attendees. We need to let those kids know that we care what they are accomplishing, and inviting them to present is the first step. But we need to go and listen and encourage and appreciate what they are bringing: enthusiasm, engagement, and new ideas. So next time you attend a conference or have the opportunity to allow students to share, do it. You won't be disappointed. And to the students from Blue Bell Elementary, thank you. You made my conference!


PETE&C 2012

Check out the Cover It Live below to follow along with the goings-ons at PETE&C 2012!