Every year student teams from across Michigan gather at the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, MI to present their achievements to State Legislators. The day-long event allows lawmakers, business leaders, and citizens to see how technology is used in classrooms across Michigan.
K-12 student teams representing legislative districts from around the State demonstrate best practices and how technology enhances learning for the success of Michigan students. We never cease to be amazed at how adept our State’s youth are using new technology for learning. Especially on the airwaves. Student representatives from Franklin Elementary’s 2nd grade classroom in Ludington, MI joined their teacher Amber Kowach, MACUL Executive Director Ric Wiltse, and AT&T’s Director of External Affairs Jon Peterson on Michigan’s Morning Show (WJIM 1240 AM – Lansing, MI) to talk about the event and their team. Listen here: 2011 Student Technology Showcase – WJIM 1240AM Lansing, MI
Thursday from 11:00am -1:00pm is the Student Technology Showcase. This is a not-to-be-missed event! Students from area schools share the many creative ways they are using technology in their classrooms. The exhibits last year included digital portfolios, Technology Club projects, themed videos, Power Point state reports and brochures, my own second graders sharing their Claymation Videos, and much more. It is an opportunity to see classroom technology integration first hand and hear what is going on in the classroom directly from the students. Each group spoke with great enthusiasm and a deep understanding of their work. They were happy to re-tell their story to every visitor. It was inspiring to see and I look forward to even more amazing Projects this year.
Remember to bring your digital camera to the Conference. It is a great way to easily document all that you will see!
I thought we were all set. My kids were excited and ready to discuss our powerpoint movies, created to teach about the water cycle, complete with their original water cycle song in the background. We had six laptops, four students, two parents, one teacher and no working offsite login. Ugh.
I happened to see Rick Wiltse walking nearby and quickly came over to him so I could beg for some help. I explained the situation and he led me to the Sehi booth who were happy to lend two HP notebooks for our kids to show their powerpoints. This all happened in less than five minutes. Nothing but helpful faces and people looking to make the day special for the students who have traveled to the showcase. It is evident in the way volunteers are quick to help, eager to move lines along, and providing friendly advice and it is important to remember it is the people, not the computers or latest hardware/software which make this conference work. The students were able to walk through the vendor area with me and even sit in the 21st century classroom – whom better to enjoy the setup.
Here I will pick up the typical technology story – once I brought the notebooks back and powered them up I realized my external harddrive where the files were stored uses a firewire cable – not compatible. All I could think of was the analogy of the light switch we heard this morning in the keynote, I just wanted to flip a switch somewhere and have this “stuff” work. Yet we know, it’s never the stuff – it’s the people. By this time Ren Baldwin arrived to save the day for me, as he often does, by letting me use his macbook. The kids were engaged, they were able to see other projects and they were able to create connections outside the school. Thank you Jim Wenzloff for spearheading the event and MACUL for hosting.
I got my copy of the MACUL Registration book yesterday in the mail, and was instantly drawn to the top of page 2. In dark bold letters it proclaimed that ROBOFEST (imagine a quasi-futuristic echoing voice over) will be held this year at MACUL on Wednesday, March 5th, the pre-con day. I had only been vaguely aware of the competition, but it wasn’t until I saw it printed in black and white that I started to get excited!
There will be dozens of middle school and high school teams to compete with their completely autonomous creations that will have to solve puzzles, compete in a RoboSumo contest, vie for most beautiful bot in the fashion show, and other challenges. It’s like Robot Wars, only much more creative and exciting since the students have built the robots to complete difficult and varying tasks, rather than just destroy one another. If you’re looking for an excuse to get your students and/or colleagues fired up about MACUL, consider watching a few of the ROBOFEST YouTube videos, or bring a team to MACUL and see if you can qualify for the championship rounds to be held at Lawrence Technical University outside of Detroit in April.
After you have sat in on a few sessions Thursday and your brain is bursting at the seams you can quickly feel overwhelmed. Take a breath, take a break, and enjoy the student technology showcase. Getting a chance to see projects from other schools has been very beneficial to me. Though when I was a first year participant I think I tried to go a little overboard having not seen the event before. I imagined the other schools all had enormously technical projects displaying their student work in hyper-intelligent ways. I was worried my students work would look simple and childish, misrepresenting my school and colleagues. Then I had a comforting thought: I teach children.
You can find all levels of work at the showcase and there are definitely amazing examples of utilizing the latest technology. There are also projects like the ones my students will share this year, using powerpoint to organize information, not exactly revolutionary. Not to make light and say our work is simple, but their should be a “kid element” to what an elementary teacher is showing (fifth graders in my case).
In the end I think the idea is to share projects other teachers can use. This may sound simple but I’m sure there are many in your building, like mine, who still print off emails to read. Once you’ve taken the time to visit the student showcase you are going to realize “Hey my kids can do that,” and you’ll be right. So next year sign up yourself and students to share what is happening at your school.
This brings me to my favorite reason I bring students to the showcase: the ability to connect students to the outside world. You know, that big scary place outside our classrooms. As our world shrinks ever smaller and flatter it is more and more important to provide these connections. To allow our students to be part of something bigger than themselves. Our traditional school settin often inhibits these experiences, and this is where technology can play a leading role…but that is a conversation for another day and I’m now stepping off the soapbox.