VSTE Recap

In early December I attended (and presented at) the VSTE Conference – Virginia Society for Technology in Education. My presentation was about Flipgrid, and along with a co-worker who teaches Reading we shared uses and suggestions for using Flipgrid in an elementary classroom. Yes, blogging about Flipgrid is also on my list of things to do!  Many people asked what a music teacher was doing at a tech conference, and that’s a fair question. I really enjoyed my time there, and here are a few of my take-a-ways.


Symbaloo is a really neat tool to curate web links. Each link is stored in an icon, which we are so used to seeing everywhere. I just made this sample, Music Webmix, which includes links that Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 8.43.43 PMmy students/parents might use. The presenter, Michael Wesley, shared one he created containing Tech Tips. I think this tool definitely has multiple applications, whether it’s to curate important links for students, or create a place to easily access student digital portfolios. Wesley shared how he created a Symbaloo for himself with links to portfolios; the icon for each link was a picture of the student. That would definitely make it easier with 150+ music students!

Google-CardboardVirtual Reality has made its way into education, and Google Cardboard is an easy and inexpensive start. I purchased a Google Cardboard viewer from Amazon and plan to play with Google Arts and Culture more over the next few weeks to see if there are any applications for the music classroom.

Eric Sheninger talked about BrandEd, and the importance of developing your own brand both personally/professionally and as a school. He said that true leadership comes from communication and sharing a positive message. Social media can be the key: it’s transparent, open for feedback and dialog, reaches people where they are, and has a high return on investment. This session helped me remember how important it is to share, both through this blog and on twitter, to further establish my own personal brand.

Google is something I know a lot about, but there is always more to learn. As a Google for Education Certified Trainer I feel like it’s my responsibility to know as much about Google as possible!  Patrick Hausammann was an incredible resources for what he called, “Hidden Google Goodness.” For example, I was aware of using goo.gl to shorten urls, but I did not realize you could also use it to create QR codes and analyze click data. That is going to be useful. I also had fun learning about Smarty Pins. The best way I can describe it is trivia with Google Maps. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it!

While there were obviously a number of other take-a-ways from the conference, one of the greatest things was the mindset. People weren’t talking about using technology because it’s technology. They were using it to enhance learning experiences. The learning goals were the first priority. That’s something we have to remember no matter what the subject area. In my classroom, the first priority is the students learn to play their instruments along with finding passion and purpose in making music. What I do with technology needs to support that goal. In addition, people talked about the amazing things we as teachers can empower students to do. With technology we are no longer bound inside the four walls of the classroom. We can and need to break down those walls to connect with students, teachers, and professionals around the world. While the theme of the conference was “SuperEmpowering Kids and Learning,” I walked away feeling like a superhero, ready to start my epic adventure!

I truly loved having the opportunity to connect with colleagues and new friends over the three days. Learning from and with like-minded educators is something powerful. My wheels are turning, ideas are formulating, and I am excited to continue sharing this journey!

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