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#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


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