Reflecting on NCCE 2018 

Review Notes from NCCE 2018 – Presenter & Attendee

I was fortunate to be both a presenter and attendee at this year’s Northwest Council of Computer Education, a regional conference focused on educational technology, held in Seattle.

I presented three sessions, all on the first day, which ultimately turned out to be good. I had a chance to get my presenter nerves out and over with on the first day, and then I could enjoy the rest of the conference as an attendee. My sessions focused on classroom technology associated with Office 365, connecting the classroom to enhance student learning. It is easy to present on technology that you use every day in your classroom, which is precisely the point – not everyone does this. I was pleased every session appeared to either inspire the educators in the room or to answer their questions. The questions they asked were specific to their needs and we had answers. Just as it is for me, I am ever so appreciative of a presenter’s genuine understanding of the technology that works, as well as what doesn’t work, in a classroom of active student learners. If you’re interested in my NCCE 2018 sessions, please see the links below:

  • Connected Classroom – Foster Student Learning with Teams, OneNote, and Flipgrid


  • OneNote Avengers Panel Discussion (team presentation)


  • Yikes! We’re 1:1 – Now What? Maximizing student learning with 1:1 devices in your classroom (co-presented)


What did I learn as an attendee?

Reflecting on my recent attendance at NCCE, I could answer a few essential questions. What did I learn? What were the noteworthy moments? Who were the people who made an impact? I learned a great deal about a variety of educational technology tools, apps, and processes. A few of my highlights were the following:

  • Art of Arduino – These little devices are super cool, providing students a platform to link physical devices and to write basic instructional coding to create “something” that will spin, count, move, or tell directions. The computational thinking combined with physical components is both delightful and necessary for developing problem solving skills.


    Setting up a Spinner, Notes on Surface

  • Computational Thinking & Digital Learners – Code.org provides a wealth of resources to help teachers bring coding and computational thinking into their classrooms. Teachers don’t have be “computer science” teachers to introduce the basics of coding to students. Often it is restructuring teacher’s own thinking to incorporate computational thinking lessons for students.
  • Microsoft Teams (from the Microsoft side of things) – As a Teams user, it was interesting to ask questions and listen to how the backend of Teams is being supported for schools. Microsoft is listening to educators’ questions and their needs to make Teams a one-stop communication hub for the classroom.
  • Tech Tools & Rethinking Response Modes – A good reminder that one way to increase student engagement is to step outside of the norm of “question and response” discussion in the classroom. Using technology to capture students’ attention and providing a venue to explore allows students to showcase their understanding. This session highlighted using Google Maps, Screencast-o-matic, and Canva to locate, broadcast, and produce infographics.
  • Wild Goose Chase – Super fun scavenger hunt app provides a plethora of potential buy-in for student, parent, and school community engagement, learning and collaboration. The presenters shared how they built lessons for a school tech night to a field trip to the zoo.
  • Web Accessibility – Truly an eye-opening introduction to making any classwork, lessons, and newsletters we share on the web accessible to all. There are a variety of tools to check accessibility, which when used promotes an understanding of the importance of utilizing format and text. There is so much to learn regarding accessibility but this introduction built an awareness is a great start.
  • ISTE standards for Administrators – The ISTE standards for educators were published last year and now is the next round of feedback before publishing for education leaders. The rationale for Administrator ISTE standards is to promote a common framework for school leaders to ensure accessibility of technology for all, thus enhancing the learning for all. The process is ongoing and the discussions are important work.
  • Micro:bit & MakeCode – Once again, fun with coding and building. Micro:bits are similar to Arduinos, they are small microprocessor devices that can be programmed to do just about anything (well, almost anything). The devices can be programmed to play music, count, turn on a spinner, motor, or determine compass directions. Microsoft MakeCode is the app that can be used with both Micro:bit and Arduinos to write code to instruct the device to do what you want it to do. Easy to use, fun to build.
  • Power BI – An awesome introduction to the power of visualizing data. The ability to use Office 365 to survey with Microsoft Forms, analyze responses via Excel, and then move data to a visual form was powerfully informative. The highlighted school use case, where a music teacher used Power BI for tracking instrument checkout all the way through to fostering peer evaluation of performances, was outstanding. There is a learning curve for Power BI, but it appears to be worth the investment for the wealth of data visualization it can produce.

Noteworthy Moments – Conference Keynotes

  • Toni Townes-Whitney, Microsoft Executive, spoke of the transformative mind-shift that is required for our future world. A smart, funny and engaging speaker, she shared her background from a family of educators and so naturally stated there will be, “a quiz on quantum computing” at the end of her keynote. Describing technology on a continuum of mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing illustrated that students today need to apply data, not just know facts. Our students, at the end of their schooling, need the ability to be agile, seeing new ways to make sense and understanding from their learning. This mind shift moves away from old the pedagogy of “know it all” to facilitating “what can we apply” or use in the classroom, or ultimately in the world.

    NCCE TTW Keynote

    Toni Townes-Whitney

  • Dan Rather, former CBS News Anchor, shared his own top ten list of leaders, observations from his years of reporting the news. A rambling speech of history, anecdotes, and quotes, both funny and poignant, to apply as a teacher in today’s classroom. He shared his magic words “if it is to be then it is up to me” meaning keeping the responsibility where it needs to be. He also spoke of humility, gratitude, and heart, that we must listen by heart and the best teachers/leaders are excellent listeners.

    NCCE DR Keynote

    Dan Rather

Who were the people who made an impact? Many people, but mainly my MIEExpert network family. I was fortunate to reconnect with familiar and meet new MIEs from around the country. Educators who present and attend an ed-tech conference have a passion to move our classrooms forward, to inspire innovative thinking and problem solving. The people who make an impact for me are those who share how and what they do for their students. Their sharing helps me make an impact for my students.


Mindshift, Embrace, Imagine – Flipgrid

Classroom Mindshift

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the educational shifts happening in our classrooms, reflecting on how to foster the growth we want to see in our students. Although sometimes “old school” still has its merits, old school style classrooms should truly be a thing of the past. I was recently listening to the Mindshift podcast– Be the Change You Want to See, where the teachers were flipping how student work is evaluated. In this podcast, students were an integral part of driving what they were learning in their integrated English class. They were also front and center in evaluating their own work, reflecting and rating the quality of their work. My focus in this blog is not about evaluating student work, but rather the shift in our classrooms to foster student academic understanding, and later their reflection and review of their work.

Embracing the New

While preparing for a Microsoft Education TweetMeet about STEM topics, I had a conversation with a few innovative thinkers, the types who seek to embrace the new. Feeling inspired, I was left with two key ideas:

  1. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to be willing to try something new
  2. If you’re a little freaked out to do something new but also excited to try, then you’re good to go

Listening to their stories, I learned about their perspective and the challenges they have overcome. As I think about our students, I also realize they have stories to share, perspectives that can help us to understand their thinking and point of view. These two key ideas apply to all of us, students and teachers alike. If we update our classroom modes of teaching, it can freak us out, it is new. For our students, it is comfortable to be passive learners, and it is scary if the classroom style changes. If we’re willing to be the change, we change how we become an expert and this is exciting.

Igniting Imagination

As educators, we must be willing to embrace the new, shift our mindset to foster student conversations and reflection about the quality of their work and hence their own understanding. As we change our classrooms to fit a more modern style of education, it will look different, it will be noisier and more chaotic. This “new school” classroom is more reflective of the future world our students will be entering. If we want our students to embrace innovative ideas we must provide a venue for students to try, to fail, to try again, ask questions, and ultimately learn. We must ignite imagination, both as teachers and students. We need to reimagine our classroom teaching style as well as helping our students ignite their own imagination to be their own learners. As teachers, we can facilitate, monitor, and jump in with direct instruction, when needed, to help our students understand content, as it is applicable to the learning. We also need to support our students to become their own best teacher.

Innovative Ideas and Conversations

My 6th graders recently finished a fantastic egg experiment, where they learned how water passes through the cell membrane. They initially observed how vinegar dissolves the egg-shell, and then how the egg changed size when placed in a container of different liquids. Students recorded their observations and posted egg “selfies” in OneNote over a course of a week. In class, we discussed and asked questions about what they observed. After the experiment, I provided direct instruction about diffusion and osmosis, to better explain what they observed happening with their egg. The overall goal of the experiment is for my students to apply their new-found observational knowledge to understanding human body systems. The egg experiment is a bit “old school,” as they followed directions and observed what happen. The change will come when my students begin applying what they observed in another scientific context. The exciting (and sometimes scary) part comes in when my students share their observations and experimental questions in a Flipgrid conversation. Utilizing new technology to reflect and explain their understanding in a video response is the first step in becoming a confident science student. While we may not become experts, and we don’t have to (yet), we just need students willing to learn and share what they learned with others. Sharing the learning often leads to questions with innovative ideas. We want the willingness to try innovative ideas.Flipgrid Egg Exp

Next Steps

As I reflect on my more noisier and wonderfully chaotic science classroom, I think “how can I apply what I have learned and become the change I want to see?” Flipgrid is one tool, of many, that allows for this change to begin, a change in conversation of me talking about the science to my students talking about the science they learned. Part of the change might be for educators to listen more and let students do more of the talking.

Living Life on the Beta Edge

This school year has been a preponderance of pilots and beta testing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tech geek and I’m very appreciative of my forward-thinking school district. I am also extremely appreciative to have the freedom and flexibility to beta test new technology that may positively affect my students’ engagement in learning. This year, by my own choice or district curriculum options, I have been introducing, testing, or using a multitude of new tech or curriculum.

Curriculum Pilots

As a middle science teacher, I piloted and incorporated the following curriculum:

  • Project Guts – Code.org computer science in science
  • Amplify – middle school science curriculum
  • IQWEST – middle school science curriculum
  • Minecraft Education Edition – fostering student creativity & anything actually
  • PASTL – fostering students to think and process science visually in conversations

Technology Pilots

As a geeky tech teacher, I piloted and incorporated the following new educational technology:

  • Microsoft Classroom (will be changing to Microsoft Teams for Education)
  • OneNote – OneNote app compared to the 2016 OneNote desktop app
  • Lifeliqe – 3D models and augmented reality
  • FlipGrid – amplifying student voice captured within video responses
  • Slack – team group communications
  • Microsoft Paint 3D – making and modeling objects and art in 3D
  • Synergy – student information and gradebook application
  • Whiteboard Preview – whiteboard writing meets digital sharing technology

What did I learn?

What I learned is when educational curriculum and technology is chosen wisely, it can foster student creativity, amplify student voice, and streamline student collaboration. This is important; as our classrooms have changed, the demands and distractions on learning have changed. I believe students want to learn, but just like adults, they want the learning to be authentic and they want to have a voice in their learning.

What’s next?

We will be choosing curriculum companies that have integrated technology that easily navigates concepts, assessments, and simulations. For the traditional textbook based curriculum companies who are just transferring the text to an online format, please don’t bother… it is not worth our time. Piloting new curriculum and/or technology requires “beta” teachers to quickly assess how big the learning curve will be for both teachers and students. The more input the curriculum companies and/or technology companies listen to from teachers, the better. The demands of the classroom require an easy to figure out format for both curriculum and technology applications. Since we’re piloting new curriculum and new technology, we appreciate when our feedback is listened to. We appreciate when we see updates that reflect our feedback. We’re all wanting the same thing, we want an authentic learning platform and we want our voices to be heard in our learning.

*Stay tuned for follow up posts for specific details for piloted curriculum and/or technology

Fostering Project Collaborative Learning

My middle school science classes often just blow me away with their creativity and energy. To capture this, I strive to foster collaborative and creative projects. Specifically, this year, I have been setting up science projects that require students to productively function in teams, more specifically to shine within a team.

Project 1 – Step 1

For the first big group project, I offered students their choice of medium to create a weather “lesson.” Although there was choice in presentation, the group worked in a traditional project team. The students were excited to try out new tech for an audio-visual “Ted-Ed” style weather lesson, but without specific work to coach the soft skills of team collaboration, there were the usual pitfalls of who does what work, how much work, and whether the work was of good quality. The product of the “lessons” was amazing in the style and variety of creativity, but the downside was we didn’t work on improving how the team collaborative functions.

Project 2 – Step 2

The next big group project team experience gave us the reason for the next step in team collaboration a “Team Contract.” Students were to write a proposal for a small cube experiment to travel on a space flight. As students choose their teams, I asked them to review, discuss, and define their requirements to be a successfully functioning team. When we had group class time to work on our “Cubes in Space” projects, students referred to their Team Contract when a team member didn’t meet their work requirements. Students began to hone the essential skills of collaboration and communication that are so vital in our everyday world.

Project 3 – Step 3

Our current project, an Earth Safety Challenge PSA, takes all of the above and moves it beyond team collaboration to group creativity. Students initially completed background research on local earth science events such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Students were grouped into 3 large “company” teams based on their research area. Their task is to create a company and assign the roles of research scientists, engineers, media specialists, and project managers. Their job is to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to inform the public about the science and safety of their assigned earth event. This project is majority student designed and managed. Students are using a variety of skills, research, technology, modeling, communication, collaboration, and creativity. I am so impressed with their level of positive engagement, motivation, and the direction of each company team to produce a creative and effective earth science PSA. Although I can’t wait to the see the final products, I am already extremely proud of the collaborative learning in which these students are engaged.

Lesson Details If you’re interested in the specifics of our Earth Safety Challenge Project, please see my lesson plans here: Earth Safety Challenge Project Lesson Plan

Lesson technology – for this project we utilized the following technology;

Since we are a 1:1 school (students are issued district laptops for the school year), we are comfortable with utilizing technology in our classroom. Class notes, agendas, and group project work is all conducted in OneNote. The final Earth Safety Challenge PSA will be posted in Docs.com for other grade level science classes to review and offer feedback. We also use Class Policy to group team members and monitor technology on task time. Modeling in Minecraft is an awesome way for students to use their analytic thinking in a creative format to make a 3D model – of anything. Making use of student voice was easy with FlipGrid and Forms. FlipGrid offers accessible technology for students to video respond and reply, it is fun and informative. Forms provides an easy means to access or survey online, providing accessible data to share. My students are using a variety of tech tools to make their PSA presentations, including PowerPoint, Office Mix, Sway, and video, to be posted in class collections in Docs.com. If used appropriately, technology can enable and amplify student knowledge and voice on any project. Totally amazing collaboration.