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Report from Tech & Learning Live Austin

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In The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said, "I'll be back." On September 20th, #TLtechLive Austin did this very thing, returning after an 18 month hiatus. 

The refreshed #TLtechLive added more opportunities for attendees to interact with the tech that they are implementing or plan to implement into their schools, as well as engaging learning sessions that covered some of today’s hottest topics, such as eSports, SEL, and new approaches to CTE. 

When you attend an event like this, there's nothing better than being in a room with like-minded people. You realize you're not alone in wanting to enhance your skills and bring something back to your district. #TLtechLive Austin brought together high-level educators that understood the benefit of taking the time to learn something new.   

Carl Hooker presents at Tech&Learning Live Austin

Carl Hooker

(Image credit: Future)

We saw the energy from minute one when the #TLtechLive Austin Master of Ceremony (or AmBADASSador as he called himself), Carl Hooker (@mrhooker), had participants high five and even high ten to get the energy flowing. Carl was perfect for the role of MC. In his prior role as Director of Innovation & Digital Learning at Eanes ISD, he helped spearhead the LEAP program, which put one-to-one iPads in the hands of all K-12 students in his 8000-student district, as well as launch the popular iPadpalooza (rebranded as Learnfest) conference. Carl brought his knowledge and passion to the event.  

The opening Keynote focused on how to better prepare students for tomorrow's jobs. The power of this message came from the mix of individuals delivering it. Shannon Terry from Dallas Independent School District in Texas, shared how a district focuses on students as thinkers and entrepreneurs. Jennifer Culver from the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU, explained how thinkers apply skills to build themselves and find careers. Who better to talk about the transition from high school to college to entrepreneurship than recent Westlake High School graduate and University of Texas student Rohit Srinivasan? He was passionate and funny as he shared the story of his first lemonade stand and how those skills motivated him to be creative. The skills he learned in school, Rohit shared, helped him launch his start-up company, Trashbots. Finally, Colleen Casey of Toyota spoke about the power of corporate partnerships. Click here to view the Keynote slide deck. 

Following the Keynote, seven one hour sessions took place in two conference rooms with mini breakout sessions and vendor displays in the main hall. These opportunities gave a mix of engagement, hands-on learning, and information gathering. 

Rohit Srinivasan presents Tech&Learning Live Austin

Rohit Srinivasan

(Image credit: Future)

Breakout Sessions

The goal of each mini breakout session was to facilitate collaboration while also sharing practical tools matched with innovative ideas. #TLtechLive’s shift to more engaging breakout sessions resulted in more authentic participation. These mini sessions brought together a collaboration between experts and attendees. Having the breakout sessions run all day allowed for a more personal feel. This supported participation and involvement for the participants. Ultimately, adding mini breakout sessions to #TLtechLive gave participants a choice of topics to learn more about while keeping to the theme of the event: 

  • Artificial Intelligence: Speaker: Kimberly Lane Clark
  • Coding: Speaker: Juan Orozco
  • Drones and Robotics: Speaker: Rich Lombardo
  • Wearables: Speaker: Randy Rogers
  • Virtual Reality: Speaker: Pamela Anderson

Walk-The-Walk Sessions

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In today's online environment with hashtags and Twitter chats, you'd think there would be a declining interest in face-to-face events. But when you have impactful learning opportunities like #TLtechLive, this is not the case. At #TLtechLive Austin there were many opportunities to hear about ideas and observe what those ideas looked like in practice. No better opportunity to do so occurred than at the Walk-The-Walk sessions. Educators gained knowledge and real-time ideas during the presentations while also exploring the latest technology tools. Furthermore, participants gained insight into the current pulse of education and educational technology; from the practitioners walking the walk. 

The Walk-The-Walk sessions were broad and covered current themes in education. Below is a brief review of session content and presentation materials.  

Data Privacy:  Teams from Wall Independent School District and Cypress Fairbanks ISD shared strategies for keeping track of evolving data privacy requirements which can be a daunting task. Click here to view the deck. 

Telling Your Story with Tech: Four dynamic educators (Claudio Zavala, Thom Gibson, Charlotte Dolat, and Jessica Torres) showed practical ways and tools to tell school stories and highlight educators' journeys with podcasts. In this creative session, we even created a movie with Augmented Reality using participants as "extras" and a famous dinosaur as the star. Click here to view the deck. 

Brook Park, Alfredo Loredo, and Jacob Luevano of Manor ISD present on robotics

Brook Park, Alfredo Loredo, and Jacob Luevano of Manor ISD 

(Image credit: Future)

Robotics: Not Just for After School Programs Anymore: An engaging and knowledgeable team from Manor ISD showed and allowed time to build robots using LEGO curriculum and tools. Click here to view the deck. 

School-to-Career Readiness: This session focused on how schools are working to adjust their course of study and graduation requirements to meet the evolving demands and rapid change of industry. A panel of leaders shared their stories and successes using vocational/technical education, certification programs, and computer science courses to prepare students. Click here to view the deck. 

Matthew X. Joseph, Sallee Clark and Jeni Long at Tech&Learning Live Austin

Matthew X. Joseph, Sallee Clark and Jeni Long

(Image credit: Future)

Personalizing PD: Personalization is not only for students. This session provided ideas and tools to increase staff voice and choice in individual or group learning such as Flipgrid, Wakelet, YouTube, Padlet, Twitter, and more. Click here to view the deck and all the tools. 

Social/Emotional Learning: This interactive session combined the research of Yale Center for Emotional and the actions at Westlake High School and Intelligence to show the methods they have implemented. These methods include teaching students and staff self-management skills like time management, handling digital distractions, goal-setting, habit tracking, journaling, and yoga. Click here to view the deck. 

The Essentials of Esports in K12: When I thought of Esports I thought of X-Box video games like Madden or 2K. However, Esports is a growing platform that incorporates team building, design thinking, and communication. This session shared the positive impact of Esports in schools and how to launch a successful program. Click here to view the deck. 

Khechara Bradford and Susan Pelazo deliver the closing keynote presentation at Tech&Learning Live Austin

Khechara Bradford and Susan Pelazo

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The day ended with Susan Pelazo and Khechara Bradford from Spring Independent School bringing the learning all together. A hurdle in implementing great ideas is marrying instructional technology and information technology. This session shared strategies to successfully navigate the marriage and ideas to implement ideas into your school. Click here for the slide deck. 

Coming together at an event and starting conversations with participants you do not know can sometimes be intimidating. However, Tech and Learning Live creates an environment that is welcoming and inspiring. I made some new connections and had a chance to connect with old friends too. Collaboration is a team sport and having an event that combines high-level learning, with current practices and ideas, shared by those doing the work, is a recipe for success. 

We all left Austin inspired and energized, and universally thankful Live is back. Keep an eye out for the next event and join in the learning and collaboration that Tech and Learning provides. Arnold made a line famous, but now #TLtechLive is saying it a little differently “We ARE back.”

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph is currently the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in Leicester Public Schools. He has been a school and district leader in many capacities in public education over his 25 years in the field. Experiences such as the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, elementary school principal, classroom teacher, and district professional development specialist. His work and experience focus on supporting teaching and learning. Follow Dr. Joseph on twitter at @MatthewXJoseph or read his blog techinnovation.live.