Alabama Getaway: A Report from the ALET Symposium - Tech Learning

Alabama Getaway: A Report from the ALET Symposium

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This is the second year for the rebranded ALET Symposium in the very lovely (but, sadly, very rainy) Perdido Beach, AL.

Board President Bryan Phillips, CTO of Hoover City Schools, said the first goal of the Alabama Leaders in Educational Technology Symposium is to provide professional development for state and district leaders to promote the positive impact of technology in education. And the rich, diverse programming offered at the Symposium (@Go_ALET) reflected that goal.

I arrived in time to catch the end of T&L advisor Adam Phyall’s (@askadam3) opening keynote, “Turning Your Why to How.” Phyall is the Director of Media Services at the Newton County School System (GA) and he delivered an energetic and inspiring look at how districts can put their “why”s into action. He suggested:

  •  Why not ask students to help make tech decisions?
  • Why not offer resources for parents? “How can you say to students, ‘You should focus on a STEM career 10 years from now’ when mom or dad might be able to use these skills now to better support their families?”
  • Why not ask ALL of your community to support your tech initiatives? He gave an example where the district invited the communities, including gang members, to public events where they discussed school initiatives like their 1:1 program and asked the community for ideas on how to keep kids safe as they walk to and from school with their devices. Addressing these issues openly and frankly resulted in buy-in from all community stakeholders.

[A World of PBL: 25 Authentic Resources To Connect Students Beyond The Classroom]

I also attended the “Implementation Planning for the Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards” session, where the presenters explored the practical applications of digital literacy. (Find some of their great classroom resources in their presentation here). There, I met some members of the “Technology in Motion” team, who discussed their work as state-level instructional coaches who help teachers better integrate tech into their classrooms. I also met Richard Murphy, Education Administrator for the State Department of Education, who shared a link to Alex. The Alabama Learning Exchange website includes multimedia, learning activities, lessons, and unit plans that would be helpful for schools in any state. “We gets over a million users from around the world every year,” he said.

Eric Sheninger

Eric Sheninger

Eric Sheninger's handout

Eric Sheninger's handout

The lunch keynote was delivered by Eric Sheninger, who said the key to good PR started with “being a better communicator - not just to adults but with our learners.” He suggested using emotion and humor through social media, but reminded the audience not to forget old school messaging like TV and newspapers. He suggested asking teachers to make regular “brag sheets” to have positive messages at the ready and to share these good works regularly through as many channels as possible.

Eric Sheninger's presentation

Eric Sheninger's presentation

Taylor Armstrong's presentation

Taylor Armstrong's presentation

Taylor Armstrong, Technology Coordinator from Vestavia Hills City Schools, presented a related session on school branding and recommended starting this effort with the following questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are their tech/communication languages?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Who are you leaving out?
  • Who have you talked to?
Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning

Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning

Lunch keynote on the second day was Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning (@ShakeUpLearning) who presented her framework on shaking things up in the classroom. Among her tips, she cited three keys to teaching entrepreneurial learning: curiosity  

  • curiosity  
  • learn how to take risks and become resilient
  • take ownership of their learning

“Don’t ‘play the game of school’,” Bell said. “Following all of the rules and checking all the boxes is not the same as learning how to learn.”

The event closed with its signature Luau, which was moved indoors despite the mocking sunny weather outside (argh you unpredictable coastal weather!). Attendees gathered to reflect on the event, which was jam packed with plenty of content and plenty of inspiring conversations with inspiring school leaders. Thank you, ALET, for inviting me to attend!