Sunday, August 14, 2016

Professional Growth Just for Me at SMARTee Summit 2016

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Teachers are the worst audience."  If you have a bunch of teachers in the audience and you find that they are chatting away, it's most likely because they are not finding the speaker or activity very entertaining or relevant to their professional learning and growth.  The same thing applies to our students.  If our students do not find the learning to be relevant, they're not going to enjoy learning either. But what about when the professional learning is custom designed to meet their needs?

And that's what the SMART Technologies Global SEE (SMART Exemplary Educator) Summit 2016 was all about.  After a hard year's work of teaching - and everything else that we do in the field of education, teachers need time to recharge.  It's important to receive professional learning in a way that not just enables us, but encourages us, to collaborate with others in our field.  Sometimes, those of us who work in the field of Educational Technology feel alone or isolated,  as if others do not understand what we do or why we do it (which is an entirely separate discussion). And as much as I love the use of technology, it's never going to replace face to face learning in terms of social interaction.  It's for this reason that SMART brought 57 educators from around the globe to its headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

So what did we do during the five days that we were there?  The theme was "Teachers are Superheroes."  This is something that we educators know in the back of our minds, right?  Yet, it's important that others acknowledge this as well.  In addition, it's nice to feel appreciated.  Therefore, many of the activities revolved around the theme; from the superhero dinner, the decorations, icebreakers, and more. Of course, this was just the beginning.

Throughout the school year, I am often in contact with developers of various software at different companies, including SMART Technologies.  I appreciate the fact that these developers value what we educators have to say.  It's great actually being able to visit them in Calgary at HQ and meet them face to face.  The entire SMART family - the Executives, developers, engineers, and everyone else in between, was as welcoming as could be.  They truly value our input and put education at the top of their list.

And then there's the "Hackathon"...... (For those of you who don't know what a Hackathon is, click here.) Imagine that you are given the opportunity to be innovative, creative, and/or transform something from better to the best.  That's what the Hackathon at SMART is all about.  Currently in its third year, we SEEs have a chance to sit and collaborate with SMART developers and engineers.  It could be a piece of hardware or software that we are looking to develop.  Or, it could be taking something that is already in existence and transforming it to be even a better product.  It's the chance to say that  ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is possible.  This is probably my favorite part of summit.  So this year, we developed a... Oops!  I can't tell you that - sorry!

I have to mention the Superhero dinner too at the Calgary Zoo.  I don't think I've ever seen so many superheroes together at once in all of my life!  So many superheroes including but not limited to: Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and let's not forget Minnie Mouse, Pippi Longstocking and Santa Claus!  The spirit in the air was contagious!

It was also refreshing to take some time to learn offsite at Calgary's beautiful Heritage Park.  We spent part of the afternoon on a scavenger hunt learning about what life in the 1800's was like in western Canada.  Some of us took a boat ride on the S.S. Moyie while others went on a horse and buggy ride.  Just be sure to watch out where you step!

We were told time and time again, that we are the "Best of the Best of the Best," but I can honestly say that we educators only become great superheroes when we have sidekicks and superpowers that support our daily challenges in education.  We could not have done it without you, SMART.  So thanks for helping us defeat our challenges and make what seems impossible, possible.