2013 CAIS Academic Tech Retreat: The best yet!

Each year, the CAIS Academic Technology Retreat is the “prize” and we keep our eye on it the whole year.  It’s a time to sharecheryl tweet the great things that are happening, to learn from others, and to dive into some new technologies that can enhance teaching and learning at our schools.  Cheryl Costello summed up the feeling with this tweet:

After hearing that our longstanding venue, Trinity Conference Center in Cornwall, CT, was closing, we got a little down. It was a space we were familiar with; it was charted “territory”. Guest House in Chester, CT was recommended as a replacement, and I am happy to report that it did not disappoint.  This new venue forced us to rethink (and improve) the conference on the whole, and, because the place could accommodate more guests , new and different people were able to attend. We loved the spaces for break out sessions and the common areas were very flexible, allowing for the unconference model to work even better!

Dirk DeLo from Avenues: World School was our keynote. In his presentation, “Classroom in the Cloud”, he shared his technology journey, and Avenues’ journey, and offered inspiring words about moving our schools forward. Here are some quotes that have stuck with me:

  • “Best way to predict your future is to invent it”
  • “It’s no longer about IT it’s about TI (technology integration).”
  • On digital content creation …. “Teachers need to make their own”playlists” using tools to create their own digital resources. “Teachers should be curators of content”.
  • “iPad is the new Trapper Keeper”
  • Digital Diet. Choose a few tools. Classroom in the cloud: Stick w/ core tools. Evernote, iTunes U, Subtext, GDocs, Dropbox, Showbie
  • You have the tech tools, how do you get the teachers to accept this ‘invasive species’?
  • “You have to get the teachers to take the bait”
  • “Technology should not drive the curriculum, curriculum should drive technology . IT needs to “retool”
  • Challenge Based Learning… not about technology. Tech is the tool. What is the big idea? Essential Questions?
  • “Substitution”, “Augmentation”,, “Modification”, “Redefinition”
  • The goal of tech integration is REDEFINITION: Tech for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable!


Following Dirk, we had an “App Smackdown”, where each person attending shared their favorite website or app.  Here is this year’s list of recommendations from colleagues at CAIS schools. The second tab in the spreadsheet are twitter handles from other CAIS educators. The third tab includes resources from a session called “Bleeding Edge: Where do you hear about the next big thing? Come and share your favorite reliable sources.”

Our sessions for the remainder of the unconference were impressive! Check out the board!

I led a few sessions, including: photo 4

Twitter Maniacs (w/ fellow twitter addicts Sharon Plante and Cheryl Costello)“If you aren’t on Twitter you should be! Come talk about how being a Twitter Maniac will help you be a Connected Educator.”  The session was PACKED and we all have many new connections to continue our learning 24/7! We had a blast!
How to Poke the Sleeping Dragon: Implementing Change & Tips to Manage from the Middle (w/ Justine Fellows) A great discussion implementing change in our schools.

Instead of a “normal” social hour,  we really geeked out. Some were trying to program a robot and another group was learning how to “augment reality” with an iPad app called “Aurasma”. Awesome to think of the many ways this can be used at our schools. COOL STUFF!  In keeping with our tradition, some of our colleagues provided musical accompaniment.

We also played techie charades/ pictionary, once again.

is the archive of tweets from the conference.

Thanks to everyone who attended, shared, inspired, collaborated, and learned with me these two amazing days. It’s what true professional development is all about! 

Here are some more pics:

If these mathematicians were on Facebook…

For the third year in a row, my Algebra 1 class researched mathematicians and created a Fake Facebook wall for him/ her. einstein(See projects from 2011 and 2012 here and here.)  Each year, I reassess the project and make some changes and improvements. This year, given the number of snow days we had, I decided that introducing Diigo would be too much. I still wanted students to have a place to organize their research, and I wanted to be able to monitor it and give feedback. So, I created a googledoc Planning Sheet for their research, instead.

Here is the rubric for this year’s version of the project. 

Here is a link to the planning sheet, which included the justification of all of their photos, wall posts, friends, etc. Turns out, this was even better than Diigo. I was able to see their progress very easily using the history of the document, and I was able to have an online dialog with them about their research using “comments”. I know Diigo could have done some of this, but the kids hit the ground running with a tool they were already familiar with.

Since the online fake Facebook sites were so unstable last year, I used this JFK template I found online and taught students how to edit this to reflect their own mathematician. Even though the updated Facebook interface is different, students still were able to make this template work.

We spent a few days working through the research. Students still needed to be reminded that they would not be able to find a list of friends of their mathematicians. (See I Can’t Find Blaise Pascal’s Friends) After some one-on-one discussions as I circulated the class, students were able to figure out friends, photos, wall posts and comments for their page. They seemed to have a blast with it.

Here is a link to the peer assessment. This worked really well for us and students were able to make some connections between the mathematicians that were contemporaries of each other. That was cool!

Here are some of our final projects:
Carl Gauss
Rene Descartes
Isaac Newton