Reflections from NETA 2023
Refuel, reconnect, and relaunch. The NETA board delivered on the 2023 conference theme with a well-rounded speaker lineup and many opportunities to interact with peers from around Nebraska and the midwest. Westside teachers had the chance to attend the conference on Friday due to its conflicts with parent/teacher communication day on Thursday.
Two tools stood out to me as ‘trending’ with attendees – Google’s Looker Studio and the impact of AI in education.
Google Looker Studio
Google’s Looker Studio is a great tool that helps businesses analyze and visualize their data. It’s similar to a dashboard where you can see all sorts of critical metrics and insights presented in a user-friendly way. And the best part? You can customize it to fit your needs!
But it’s not just for businesses – Looker Studio can also be used in education to help teachers and administrators make data-driven decisions. By analyzing student performance and enrollment data, educators can determine which classes are popular, which students need extra help, and which teaching methods are most effective. This helps them identify areas for improvement and make better decisions to improve student outcomes. Overall, Looker Studio is a cool tool that can help schools and universities use data to make better decisions and help students succeed.
AI in Education
The second topic that appeared throughout the conference was AI or artificial intelligence. Despite its name, AI is more akin to a search engine that, rather than providing you links, creates paraphrased summaries of results.
While there are a lot of thought pieces on the ills of AI, it would be helpful to share some ways that it can positively impact the classroom.
- AI such as Parlay Genie can generate higher-order discussion questions for topics and text you feed into it.
- ChatGPT can generate lesson plans, computer code, and summarize the inputted text. It’s a quick way to summarize a long article.
- Dall-E can create original art for use in presentations and posters.
- You can have Chat GPT generate a video script, complete with scene selections from the text.
- It can even write the Google Looker Studio summary shared above 🙂
With all the major companies, including Google, Microsoft, Grammarly, and others incorporating generative AI into their products, AI is here to stay. We will need to learn to productively engage with it and teach students to do the same.
The main purpose for me attending NETA this year was to present. My presentation, titled “Using Spheros to Introduce Programming and The Design Process,” focused on the teachers who were looking for a way to creatively begin the process of integrating computer science into their curriculum to help them meet the new Nebraska State Statute 79-3303, in which students must complete at least one course in computer science and technology as a graduation requirement.
Following my presentation, I also attended Kristeen Shabram’s presentation titled ” Creating Apps in Code.org’s AppLab.” During this session, attendees learned about and then had the opportunity to create their own app. AppLab is another great tool that can be used as a means to help meet the new state computer science requirement. In less than 30 minutes, participants had created their own functioning app that could be downloaded and accessed on their own mobile devices. As a robotics teacher, I can see using this app as another way to begin getting students immersed in the programming and computer science mindset.
Westside High School has employed me for only nine months, so this was my first opportunity to attend NETA. I have learned a lot about the iPads that our students and staff use in the short time I have been employed as technology support here and, in my personal experience owning an iPad and iPhone. Regardless, I decided to attend a session led by Apple Education. The first session I attended involved Tips and Tricks and AR. I learned so much in those two panels that I decided to stay in that room most of Thursday, learning only about iPads and Macs.
I saw two sessions about augmented reality (AR) and learned just how advanced AR is. I learned that there is a lot of premade content that is free. For example, JigSpace and Insight Heart were highly detailed, premade, and accessible. I could see what a heart looks like when it is in heart failure, which was quite unnerving based on how realistic it looked floating in the air in front of me. In JigSpace, many “how to build” tutorials are laid out before you. I could learn how to plaster drywall, take apart and rebuild a ventilator, and even how a lock works inside. I plan to show my mom this app because she is a Respiratory Therapist.
In two other panels, I learned many tips and tricks on using iOS and macOS more efficiently. The most exciting part was learning about the verbal translate app on the iPad and how completely closing an app by swiping up all the windows when viewing all apps open at once drains your battery more. The app doesn’t run in the background like on an android phone or tablet. A snapshot of it is taken of where you last left off so that it can reopen when the app is in use. When you completely close the app, you drain more battery by constantly relaunching the same app repeatedly. This feature should be taken advantage of, and you should see multiple apps open at a time on the screen that views them simultaneously.
As always, NETA allows, first and foremost, the chance to connect with and share ideas with colleagues from other districts who do similar jobs to mine. It’s valuable to find out who’s experiencing the same things we do at Westside, how they might deal with issues differently, etc. The sessions this year were also valuable. I took away many ideas I’ve already been discussing with others here at Westside and how we might implement some of them to improve network security and performance. Contact and discussion with vendors are also beneficial and can spark ideas and options to consider. All in all, NETA 2023 was very worthwhile.
Several things stood out to me at this year’s NETA conference. Of course, there were plenty of “new apple products and features” and “x number of apps to help you address y problem” sessions, but some bits in keynotes and other sessions have stuck with me. I’ve been a part of numerous strategery planning sessions with groups and have always been frustrated at trying to set a 5-year plan. Dr. Hinojosa’s use of strategic thinking instead of strategic planning strikes a chord. For a small organization, it makes sense to develop 12-18 month goals. The number of sessions on Social Emotional Learning this year was also appreciated. As a society, why are we willing to spend millions of dollars on things like “improving school security” but not address the issues where students might feel disenfranchised, alienated, and disconnected in the first place? Making the curriculum mainstream will remove any stigma. However, with all the additional sessions I’ve seen over the years on addressing teacher burnout and overwhelm, setting boundaries, and feeling comfortable saying no, we could all use some additional training on SEL topics, not just the students.
One of my takeaways from NETA this year was a new formative assessment tool called Short Answer. The tool allows students to get peer feedback in a gamified way, where the teacher can create responses to open-ended questions, compare peer responses, and provide feedback. All students construct a response to a teacher’s open-ended question. The teacher can either select a pair of student responses or have the whole class get feedback.
In the math classroom, this is a great way to wrap up a lesson where students have to explain the steps, and in the feedback round, students have to clarify each student’s level of understanding. Using the learning routine “Stronger and Clearer,” giving students multiple chances at the same prompt gives students a feeling of success in clarifying their learning each time. The presenter Adam Sparks (a former student teacher at Westside High School), gave different ways of incorporating it in history, science, and English class, as well as pairing it with other routines to make Short Answer more successful.
I was fortunate enough to be chosen to attend the NETA conference this year. I had attended NETA once before through Westside and absolutely loved it. First, the setup is impressive, with so many different sessions to join based on your interests and level of teaching. Second, NETA is like one giant toolbox for teachers to pick, choose from, and take with them. Some of my favorite sessions involved technologies I was already familiar with but were presented and used in other, shockingly great ways for any classroom. One tool that I have already started utilizing is the idea of virtual breakout rooms. Flippity is a free resource where you can enter your own breakout questions into a template for students to solve. Flippity provides many other customizable tools for teachers and instructions on how to use them and fill out the templates. Another tool that I am in love with even more is Google Forms and Google Docs. The Google platform has been amazing to use at school and is limitless in that you can use these any way you feel. NETA will always be my favorite conference to attend for professional development!
Presenter: Dr. Jennifer Davis
I enjoy learning how I could use Chatbots in my classroom. Dr. Davis recently did her Ph.D. Dissertation on ChatBots in Education and provided many resources in her presentation. I enjoyed the background knowledge she offered in her presentation on the types of ChatBots and the vocabulary associated with ChatBots. This is valuable background information that I can use in my lesson creation. I also really enjoyed her explanation and demonstration of the ChatBot Process. She recommended an application called Juji (currently blocked in our Network). The application seemed very user-friendly. I walked away from this presentation, feeling that I could implement this in my classroom.
Presenter: Lynne Herr
I enjoyed all of the resources provided in this session. Lynne did a great job explaining what ChatGPT is and how to navigate and embrace this new tool that has entered the world of education. I especially enjoyed the “Curriculum Impacts” section of her website above. She provided some informational articles that help educators see how ChatGPT impacts all education levels.
NETA 2023 Spring Conference summary by Danica Burton
The NETA 2023 spring conference started with an amazingly inspiring speaker, Dr. Hinojosa. He spoke about what has changed in his lifetime and how the schools he has been a part of made changes to reach the needs of the students. Most inspiring was how the high schools made changes so that the students saw the value of their education and made it possible for them to graduate high school with either some college credit or, in some cases, an associate’s degree!
I attended many great sessions at the NETA conference this year. Some of my favorites were on what is new for IT with Apple and their Tips and Tricks for teachers; artificially intelligent chatbots and how we can create our own for use in the classroom; how ChatGPT is changing education and how to utilize it; how to use VR in the school setting and I now have a list of some great VR apps and know which one to skip.
The vendor exhibits were delightful. I got to chat with one about an issue some of our teachers have had with their technology and created a point of contact with the company so we can solve the problem. A different vendor, Nearpod, whose sessions I could not attend, showed me how to use their product. Now I better understand how to help teachers interested in using it.
I am so grateful that I could attend the conference this year. I was inspired, learned new things, and formed contacts with vendors/exhibitors, but I also connected deeper with some of my coworkers. I hope to attend again next year.
Tidying Up: How to Make Your Google Drive Spark Joy
It’s officially spring, and it’s a perfect time to dedicate some time to tidying up not just your physical space but your digital closet (aka your Google Drive). Here are some tips inspired by Marie Kondo to help you organize your digital wardrobe so it brings a little bit of joy into your life.
Rule 1: Commit Yourself to Tidy Up
Commit yourself to tackling this project. Set goals for yourself for this journey, and know that it won’t happen overnight. Commit yourself to taking breaks while tackling this project. Remind yourself that this is an evolving project; you’ll revisit it and play with it for years.
Rule 2: Imagine Your Ideal Lifestyle
Think about what you want out of your drive. Is it so you can access files every day? Is it to serve as an archive or to house a “digital collection”?
Rule 3: Finish Discarding First
Ignore Marie Kondo’s advice; start with something other than this. Save it until you have some organization system in place. It’s not taking up “space” really just sitting there. Only delete documents you know don’t have a purpose anymore.
Rule 4: Tidy by Category, Not by Location
Create a starting point of just a few categories. My recommendation is just two categories. Throw EVERYTHING (all of your documents, folders, etc.) into a folder for each category. Don’t worry about organizing this yet!
Rule 5: Follow the Right Order
Choose one of your categories as a starting point. Work your way through documents and group them into more specific categories. Finish one category before moving on. Don’t bury the important stuff that you use frequently.
Rule 6: Ask Yourself If It Sparks Joy
Ask yourself questions like: Will I use this again? Is it relevant? Is it engaging? Does this provide equitable access?
As always, if you ever have any technology integration-related questions, please let us know. We are happy to work with you to design lessons, develop workflows and even come into your classes and work with you and your students.