iEngage: An Inspiring Event Every Educator Should Experience
Have you ever been inspired? I mean truly inspired to do something different? A quick check of the word “inspire” in Dictionary.com reveals the following four definitions:
I was witness to all of these the past two days at the first annual iEngage-Berwyn event in that took place in the suburbs of Chicago. Event organizer Shannon Soger (an inspirational person herself), calls this a mash-up of all the best parts of conferences she’s attended in the past. Take the site visit portion of EduCon, the playfulness and interaction of iPadpalooza, the story sharing of an EdCamp, and sprinkle in some engaging Keynote speakers and you have iEngage.
Here are some of my favorite moments from the conference:
There’s nothing like seeing learning in action. At Berwyn South, they use the moto “Teach Above the Line” (re: SAMR) and they mean it. So much so I actually saw this sign in one of the 4th grade classrooms. This school is 80% low-economic and ALL of the students take their school-issued iPad home with them. The students were extremely comfortable sharing their stories and Shannon mentioned to me they get site visits almost weekly to see this magic in action. During my site visits I saw students creating projects, interviewing guests, solving problems, collaborating on concepts and learning how to read in two different languages…..all on a random Friday at the end of the school year. Incredible!
One of the schools we visiting (Pershing Elementary) had really done a great job of using what I call “dead spaces” in the hallways and stair wells to utilize the mobility of the devices to expand the learning beyond the classroom walls. One student actually interviewed myself and Brad Waid in one of these alcoves with some pretty hard-hitting questions, the hardest of which was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer: I don’t ever want to grow up 🙂
The MyON Dream Big Film Festival
On the first night of the event we got to watch 15 incredible student films centered around a favorite book they read and how it inspired them to dream big. Co-sponsored by MyOn (an online reading tutorial program), these students each shared their tales about how reading about a hero like Harriet Tubman or Jackie Robinson had opened up their mind to a greater cause. I love the use of mixed media to not only show the books they loved by but also using video to express how they were inspired by them.
Saturday morning keynote speaker John Antonetti said it best when he said, “Engaging without cognition is really just having fun without achieving anything.” The technology usage during the two days was engaging, but also extremely meaningful and encouraged learning. From the APPmazing Race to the outstanding sessions shared by teachers, leaders, and students, learning was interactive and it was everywhere. Closing keynote speaker Kevin Honeycutt‘s always entertaining and poignant words were the perfect wrap-up for this event. One of my favorite sessions was by Pershing Principal Marilyn McManus and all the ways she uses social media like Twitter and Instagram to share the story of their school. As a leader, I found it inspiring to see someone modeling the very things she wants her students and staff to do. Here’s a sketchnote of that session:
Lastly, an event like this isn’t possible without a tremendous crew of dedicated people. One thing is for certain, these people LOVE their jobs. This amazing group of educators are all working together for a common goal…to truly celebrate higher-level learning with technology. Jordan, Meagan, Jim, Ramona (“Mona”), and the iEngage posse were extremely open and candid with the struggles they overcame to make this work. It was obvious to me that their dedication and passion for the schools in which they work really drove this initiative to the success it has become. The fact that there were 50+ students on a Saturday volunteering and sharing their story really drove home the point that this was in fact a complete “learning community.”
I thank you all for letting me be a part of your community for the past two days and hope that others will get to experience your event in the future!