The 2nd annual RFV Edtech Summit was held on Saturday, April 9th and it was so encouraging to see local teachers from around the Roaring Fork Valley come together in order to share and learn about various ed-tech tools and strategies. The summits were a concept borrowed from the wonderful work done by the EdTechTeam and their various summits run throughout the country and world to bring educators together to network and share how edtech and GAFE can work for them. If you haven't attending one, I highly recommend checking one out near you and getting geeky and inspired with all the great resources available to you!
After attending several of their summits in the Colorado area, my cohort, Anita Moose, and I got together with a fellow integrator from the neighboring district (Roaring Fork School District), Ben Bohmfalk, to think how we could bring that same excitement and opportunity to our small valley. We wanted to enable teachers who might not be able to give up a whole weekend and travel away from home an inexpensive opportunity to learn and work with their colleagues right down the road, creating a network of support that they can easily access. Engaging, useful, and exciting Professional Development is always a want and need in any school district and a summit environment is a great way to deliver it. Thus the Roaring Fork Valley Edtech Summit was born as a one day event that would be put on by teachers for teachers. We worked with administration to offer teachers in-district credit for attending and presenting and approached local businesses to provide give-aways and discounted catering options.
Our first Summit was held in February, 2015 at Aspen High School with 70 teachers in attendance and over 15 presenters. We learned a lot about successfully putting that many educators together and what needs to happen in order to make them feel comfortable learning something new and working with each other. Fast forward to 2016 we were ready to launch RFV Edtech Summit #2 at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, CO. Taking feedback from last year, in addition to our presenter sessions we added a 'Sandbox' area for participants who needed time to wrap their heads around concepts/tools they just learned. The 2nd annual RFV Edtech Summit was held in April, 2016 and had over 80 participants and 20 presenters. Other improvements made were offering graduate level credit or in-district for participants and presenters. With two summits in the books we are showing no signs of slowing down. We plan on continued growth in participants and presenters and will look to branch out for sponsorship's and ed-tech partners. Here's a list of things I learned along the way:
Organizing participants/presenters- Getting your participants and presenters organized is the key to having a successful summit. If you can't get quality presentations and enough participants to attend you are done before you start. We used Google Forms to gauge interest, gather presenters and their materials and have participants register. It was great to get all the information into Google Sheets and then be able to run the add-on Autocrat to provide confirmations and completion certificates.
Keynote/Intro- Having some type of introduction to get people motivated is crucial to a good summit. Having a big name is great, but for our local summits we kept it simple by having a few tech staff and teachers speak the the group about what excites them about edtech and what their hopes for the group are. Then a quick rundown of logistics and directions and you get people off and running.
Passing time- Though this doesn't seem like an important element, it is! Giving your participants and presenters time to process what the last session delivered, time to use the bathroom, grab a snack or cup of coffee, and most importantly, network and inquire with other participants and presenters is so valuable. In my opinion 15 minutes is the absolute bare minimum and any more than 30 minutes you risk losing people.
Sandbox time- This concept was born out of feedback from our first summit. It was mentioned that there was so much great information floating around that near the end of the day it was hard to try and stay focused on a new topic when there wasn't much time to explore an earlier idea. For the 2nd summit we added a space for the third, fourth, and fifth sessions where participants could sit in a tech facilitated room to dig into something cool they learned and truly process how it could work for them.
Food/snacks- Teachers LOVE food and snacks! If you are going to have an overworked teacher give up their weekend in order to better their craft, in addition to great content you better have some delicious food, drinks, and snacks to keep them going throughout the day. We made sure to provide great local coffee, continental breakfast, granola bars, and a fully catered lunch to keep everyone's stomach full and mind open!
Sponsorship's/donations- Extra funds aren't typically laying around in an educational setting (let's not get started on this...) so finding support from the community is key to putting your best foot forward. Not being familiar with knocking on doors and asking for things I was surprised at how kind and generous so many businesses can be, especially when it comes to teachers! Great give-aways, food, and drinks were donated to our cause. Don't be shy, get out there and be amazed at the support your community can give you!
Wrap-up/give-aways/feedback- At the end of any training it's so important to bring the group back together to allow time for reflection and decompression. It also helps to have some great prizes to reward the participants and presenters for all their hard work! Having a short wrap-up is a must and giving away fun prizes ensures most of your group will come back together. This is where all the great support we had from the community came into play and once we had everyone's attention we reminded them of what needed to be completed in order to receive credit and help us make the next summit better. We combined a form to provide feedback to the organizers and presenters and turn . This proved to be such a useful set of data for planning our next summit.
There are so many good PD opportunities out there, but sometimes you need to stay local and take advantage of all the great resources around you. Find a topic that gets teachers excited and you're off and running with a homegrown PD that is really helpful. Don't be overwhelmed at the thought of organizing your own PD event, use the tools at your disposal and make something happen that benefits your teachers and students!
Tech Integration Specialist at the Aspen School District. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Former 4th grade teacher and Spartan for life! Go Green!