A High Flying Weekend at #TechRodeo

There is so much to say that I will most likely write about my own sessions and what I have learned from them in a separate space.  This past weekend I had the opportunity to be a part of something that wasn’t only a great day of inspiring learning, but an important step forward in creating a better experiences for kids across an entire region.

This story doesn’t start with my cross country flight on Friday morning, it instead starts on the train ride to the airport in Toronto.  It was there while I sat talking to Katherine Goyette (my fellow Google Innovator in our Toronto cohort).  She was telling me all about her ideas and this new big event she was planning.  She was incredibly excited to be bringing George Couros into California’s Central Valley to keynote a conference she was creating.  She talked about the strands she wanted to build and the more we talked on that 15 minute ride to the airport, the more it seemed like my coming to TechRodeo was going to be a possibility.  My Global Audience Project work was a perfect fit for her “Connected Classrooms” thread.

Two weeks later we were talking over social media and she said that in meetings with people, she had told them Google Innovators from as far as New Jersey would be at the inaugural Tech Rodeo.  We had to make sure it happened.  So less than four months later I was on a 630am flight to Fresno.  I was excited for a few reasons.  This was my first time in California (I will talk about this a soon), I was going to get to see friends from my #TOR16 innovator group, meet George Couros, and give my first ignite session for a group of over 150 people.

On Friday I arrived early enough to travel to some classrooms.  I love seeing what other schools look like, what their kids are doing, and how I can incorporate things into my own work.  On our way to the district we drove through the towns, the orange orchards, and across the valley.  I saw a big disparity between towns, I saw poverty, and I saw some inspiring things.  Visiting the Cutler/Orosi School District was a great experience.  Our schools on the east coast don’t have open campuses.  That was the first major difference.  One of the things I was incredibly impressed with was the ability of the school districts to provide fairly seamless wifi to their campus.  Students at the schools in Orosi were able to take their chrome books and work outside the classroom.  They truly were taking the walls out of play.  Another inspiring thing I saw was the recent alumni coming back and giving back.  We went into an AVID classroom, but instead of seeing exciting teaching and learning activities, I saw two first year college students that had come back to talk about their experiences with current students.  In an area where the culture of college attendance seemed to be a developing phenomena, these students giving back established for their classmates that college is within their grasp.  They may not have realized their impact, nor may the students asking questions, but seeing real people who knew 6 months before sharing their experiences brings a level reality to the college experience that can only make those students better. Finally, I saw some incredibly creative classroom designs.  Classes designed to inspire collaboration, foster learning opportunities, and maximize resources for their students were in several classrooms and epitomized by Ed Campos’s High School Math class.

On the day of the event there were many great sessions.   I choose to support my Google Innovator friends, Jennifer Shafer and Crystal Miller by attending their sessions.  During our three days in Toronto I learned how incredible these people were, but it was amazing to get their perspectives during their sessions.  Jennifer shared her incredible knowledge of Google tools.  I wasn’t expecting to learn nearly as much as I did.  I found her session remarkably informative and I learned a bunch of new tools I want to implement.  Crystal’s session was more inspirational.  She inspired me to focus on the value my PD was adding to my teachers.

The rest of the day was consumed by my own sessions, which I will evaluate in another post.

In the end I spent only two days in Central Valley.  These days included an opportunity for me to meet up with old friends and new.  I enjoyed wonderful hospitality, the fantastic classroom environments, and an incredible day of learning.  I hope to be able to return to Tech Rodeo in the future as the event was fantastic.  If you want to read more about the weekend, here are posts about George Couros and my sessions.



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