Skip to main content

#SchoologyNEXT 2015, Reflections and Takeaways

Schoology NEXT 2015 was a fantastic celebration of learning and connecting. Wednesday afternoon following the conference I was reflecting from the back of a limousine. Not my usual mode of transportation to a meeting, but it was only a 45-minute ride, and parking in Chicago's North Loop can be quite expensive. So, I saved money by riding in style.

The ride home gave me a chance to check in on social media (#SchoologyNEXT) and thank those folks who hosted the event, as well as, those who had impacted my learning during the previous three days. My head is full of new ideas, practices, and questions sparking further investigation.

Suffice to say; there were many tantalizing takeaways from Schoology NEXT with the most significant being the overwhelming generosity of the presenters, attendees, and Schoology team members. Shared lessons, shared courses, shared experiences, impressive signage, amazing swag, and terrific food dominated the scene at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. 
It would seem then, that transforming what's possible begins with sharing. You don't need to be a Schoology user to appreciate the impactful experiences generated at a great conference like Schoology NEXT, but in this case, it certainly helps.

Here are a few more of my takeaways that may help you transform what's possible.

Attention to Detail - Credit the Schoology Events Planning Team, namely Jen Robustelli, Bridget Heaton, and Christina Berrios, with creating an atmosphere where there were numerous ways for attendees to engage and share their learning experiences. A sign-in wall, Twitterfall, and a helpful conference app were just three of the many ways participants could experience real-time communication and engagement during the conference. All of the session materials were available within a purpose-built Schoology Course. Attendees tweeted shared resources and created online documents for "live blogging" collaborative notes.

Used with permission; Ben Mountz 2015

Informative, Transformative Keynote Addresses - Schoology executives Jeremy Friedman, and Ryan Hwang kicked things off by presenting a company roadmap highlighting Schoology's growth, and sharing a vision of how Schoology is growing and transforming. Their talk drew applause as data dashboards, updated user interface, and fifty additional app partnerships were promised in the coming months. 

Tuesday morning, Dr. Fareed Zakaria captivated the audience by presenting a mixture of interesting research findings, and funny stories. His primary message, don't believe all of the hype surrounding test scores. Courage, creativity, and confidence will propel a "start-up" American economy. Being able to provide personalization on a large scale is the challenge being met by educationally-based companies such as Schoology. It's up to educators to integrate these tools into their schools and classrooms. Ken Shelton inspired the audience on Wednesday by sharing examples of learners using technology responsibly to share their learning and project their "voice" across the web. He challenged us by asking if we were teaching the same things the same way year after year. 

"Are we preparing students for their future, or for our past?"

Photo Credit; Bridget Heaton SchoologyNEXT 2015

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst - Learning can get messy, and even best-made plans can get derailed. My "hands-on" Portfolios workshop was attended by a packed house of learners excited to start building digital portfolios in Schoology. Poor wireless connectivity brought those plans to a screeching halt. However, on the advice of the event organizers, I had a backup copy of presentation slides to share with the patient participants. 

Like a flat tire on your bicycle, technology will fail at the most inopportune time. Have a backup plan ready to go. As it was, the room was so crowded the maker space activity (building and flying paper airplanes) originally planned would have been a crazy, funny, free-for-all! (My kind of learning!) Other presenters experienced challenges with inconsistent connectivity, and to their credit they adjusted, adapted, and shared incredible interactive presentations. I was blown away by Nichole Carter's presentation on Tech Gurus. Be sure to check out her post, she did a terrific job curating material from the conference. It will take me some time to sift through all of the helpful resources, but at an early glance, the strategies and resources are top notch. Schoology will be sharing an archive of this event in the coming days.

** It should be noted that the connectivity issues were not Schoology's fault, and yet their team worked feverishly to make immediate improvements that were evident by day two of the conference.

  • What does this accompanying picture from our workshop suggest about our learning places? Does this look like innovative, empowering instruction? How many mobile electronic devices would you guess each attendee has with them? How important then, is connectivity to the learner?

You may notice there are approximately 150 educators in this crowded room, yet only a couple appear engaged with their technology. This was not due to any masterful showmanship, or presentation style. Instead, credit the participants with asking relevant questions, discovering personal meaning in the topic, and helping each other through insight and experience. #LearningTogether 

Congratulations Kellie Ady, and Nichole Carter, for being named 
Schoology Ambassadors of the Year, 2015

Congratulations Tara Amsterdam, for being named
Schoology Educator of the Year, 2015

One interesting observation from SchoologyNEXT, sketchnoting (visual note-taking) is becoming increasingly popular. Notice the sketchnote from Ben Mountz above; I can only dream of having such artistic aptitude. More importantly, these images align perfectly with our keynote recollection. What an excellent way to capture thinking visually! 

Another observation that Joe Young, an impressive Schoology Ambassador, and I discussed, was how many people were live-tweeting, or live-blogging the conference sessions. While this isn't unheard of, it was interesting to see how many conversations were occurring through social media. Asking questions, sharing resources, and seeking immediate clarifications, if not solutions, were relatively common during the conference sessions. It was interesting to see, and feel, learning happening right before our eyes; transforming what's possible.

Related Reading

Schoology NEXT Resources and Reflection - Nichole Carter

In Defense of a Liberal Education - Dr. Fareed Zakaria


Popular posts from this blog

What Teachers Can Learn From Effective Coaches

In my educational world teaching and coaching involve the same processes. The people that impacted my own learning most significantly were coaches. Could it be that great coaches were ahead of their time with respects to instructional best practices? Let's take a look at ten coaching practices that thankfully have found their way into the classroom. Standards-based Grading - coaches aren't concerned with arbitrary measures of success such as letter grades. Great coaches identify a requisite set of skills that are necessary for advancement and success. Promotion and achievement are based upon clearly identified levels of skill mastery.  Authentic assessment - coaches are looking for their athletes to demonstrate their skill mastery under game-like situations. The best coaches incorporate game simulations and competitive, game-like drills into their practices. Winning coaches will use the contests as assess

Board Games in the School Library: 3 Reasons Why It's a Winning Play

"Play is the highest form of research."  - Albert Einstein “Play is the work of the child.”  – Maria Montessori In our recently remodeled school media center, we have a space dedicated to active engagement in fun learning activities. Part maker space, part literacy lounge, board games are being incorporated to promote a culture of joyful learning. Whether it's a game of Rummy , Yahtzee , or Scrabble , family game night serves as a communication elixir and solidifies our domestic climate of togetherness. Shouldn't similar opportunities for interaction, challenge, and fun exist somewhere in our schools? Broken families, cultural fragmentation, and poverty are impacting opportunities for children to play. As we unpacked and tagged our new media center games, I was more disappointed than shocked by the number of students who had never played Monopoly , Boggle , or Sorry . One skeptical teacher commented, "Oh great, now we're letting students pl

Self-Directed vs. Self-Determined Learning; What's the Difference?

"We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves." - Stephen Downes In this age of abundance of information, shifting classroom pedagogy isn't nearly enough to make learning in school more relevant and authentic for the learner. Self-directed learning ( andragogy ), and self-determined learning ( heutagogy ) are the ideals necessary in making students " future ready " to live and learn in a web-connected world. While original research applied these concepts to mature learners, it has become apparent that even young children have an abundant capacity for recognizing and directing their learning. Anyone who has observed toddlers learning how to walk and talk understand the motivation and skill development that quickly develops during these processes. Considered by some to be on a learning continuum, self-directed learning, and self-determined