Friday, August 1, 2014

A SEE of Collaboration:A SMART Summit Reflection

SEE Summit Badge.pngThe SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) Summit 2014- what a whirlwind of awesome! 

The SEE Summit is one of the BEST professional development events I have ever had the privilege of being selected to participate in. You are surrounded by like-minded individuals who are passionate about teaching, technology, collaboration, and growing as professionals. 

It all started with the trip to the airport with the lovely Amanda Hensley. Amanda is a fellow teacher in my district. She has been at the forefront of SMART use and was an unbelievable candidate for the SEE Summit. Amanda's video application helped propel her to a week in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. WHOOO!

Luckily for Amanda and me, we got to travel together. From Sacramento, with a short layover in Seattle, we made it to Calgary about 630PM. Our first scheduled event was at 7PM. As we arrived in Calgary, we were greeted by some of my favorite SMARTees, Renee Fruge, Diane Reid, and Jennifer Uhl. The fun was about to begin! We talked non-stop to Hotel Alma, checked in, and headed to the welcome reception. 

My chatting with old & new friends was described like this!

The lovely Deena had already given her "welcome" speech, and fellow SEEs and SMARTians were getting dinner. It was like a reunion when I went into the main dinning hall. There were SO many friends from Summit's past and friends online I finally got to meet face-to-face. I had to go table to table to see everyone. The room was truly filled with love, excitement, and awe. Not to mention seventy-eight educators from seventeen countries! This vibe in the room truly set the tone for the week of learning and collaboration ahead. 

The week's worth of learning and collaboration theme was "It takes a teacher...." As noble as this theme is, I really think the true theme of the week was "Collaboration=Better". 

Monday: It takes a teacher to start an education revolution

Monday welcomed us with an introduction to the newest SMART software - SMART Amp, explore a fully digital “classroom of the future” that included several different models of SMART Boards and the SMART table, and we were given advanced training on SMART Notebook. Software developers (called SMARTians) met with us to discuss what we liked/didn’t like about their programs.  They were fully vested in hearing what we had to say and were so appreciative and grateful to us for our feedback!  It was refreshing and is a perfect example of why we love SMART so much - they truly care about educators and students. How many companies truly listen and take to heart the voices of those who use their products?

Tuesday: It takes a teacher to inspire amazing

Thirteen of the “SMARTees” met in small focus groups with one-on-one with SMART software developers to create new feature requests in SMART Notebook and SMART Amp. They are now forever known as "The Hackathon". The amazing thing is that the software developers listened and created within forty-eight hours! Together, they created over twenty different ideas that may come into fruition in the next software updates. Fingers crossed for my favorites!!

The rest of us participated in Amp Camp - in depth training and time to actually use amp to create projects that could be used in our classroom. Truth be told, I didn't apply to be in the Hackathon because I didn't like Amp as I had understood it's use in my own classroom. I don't like not liking a SMART product, so I definitely wanted to see and learn more. You can hear more of my thoughts here. Amanda and I were lucky enough to work with fellow English language arts teachers to create a full on collaborative lesson within SMART Amp to implement and try next year! Collaboration at its best as we are “Better together”.

Wednesday: It takes a teacher to grow global understanding

The entire SMART software development team met with all seventy-eight of us to ask AND answer questions - two way dialogue to help us ALL become better, together!
The changing world is moving toward global collaboration, and we as teachers have a responsibility to prepare our students for their place in it.  Several teachers shared how they collaborated with classrooms around the world last year and had their students use SMART software to communicate and collaborate in real time - sharing learning and experiences across the globe! We were all given the tools and encouraged to set up a plan with international teachers for global collaboration for the upcoming school year.  We are excited about our plan to partner with classes in Scotland, Texas, and Canada later this year.

Thursday: It takes a teacher to share wisdom

We met in small focus groups with various SMART product development teams to provide feedback on our experiences as teachers with their products.  Again, SMART truly listened to our feedback to truly influence what they do and the future of their work and products. Again, how many other companies do you know, actually take the time to do that?

In the afternoon, the entire staff of SMART surprised us with a reception to thank and honor us for being there and working with their company. We were surrounded by “SMARTians” giving a standing ovation to us, the educators.  It was incredibly overwhelming and honoring to be appreciated like that.  I cried like I baby. I truly couldn't believe that this company, then the entirety of SMART Technologies came out to give us teachers a standing ovation. We were given gifts from SMART as well as the  traditional white cowboy hat, making us “Honorary Calgarians” and a year’s trial of SMART Amp. A truly humbling and unforgettable experience.

What better way to celebrate?! A Thursday night SEE Appreciation Dinner - an 80’s themed murder-mystery dinner held at the historic Fort Calgary.  It was a fun time to relax and enjoy our new friendships, and run around historic Fort Calgary.....all decked out in our best 80’s garb, of course!

Friday: It takes a teacher to move mountains for students

As a final hurrah, we spent the day sight-seeing  as a group in the beautiful mountains outside of Calgary!  First, we went to the gorgeous glacier-fed Lake Louise, had lunch at the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, then wrapped up the day sightseeing and shopping in the quaint mountain town of Banff. It was a perfect and  beautiful end to the week - friendships were cemented and lifelong- memories were made.

My Final Take aways:

The joy of a conference is not simply the material learned, it is the connections made. Connections with other like minded and passionate educators who challenge themselves, continue learning and growing, and doing all they can to improve their teaching to inspire a classroom of eager students within their four walls or globally.

SEE Sumiit 2014