Leap Year Gives Teachers A Bonus Day of Learning

NVUSD, NCOE and NapaLearns Host Local EdTech Conference, InnovatEd

Peg Maddocks, PhD, Executive Director, NapaLearns
Published on February 29, 2020

100 Teachers attend annual EdTech conference

This year we all had an extra day to do a variety of things on February 29th. But impressively, more than 100 Napa County teachers chose to use this day wisely. They spent this bonus day of the year learning how to be more effective and tech savvy, and how to make their classrooms more equitable for all their students, by attending the annual InnovatEd conference. 

As Barbara Nemko, superintendent of Napa County, said when she addressed the audience, “You are the optimists. You are here because you know that the things you can control are the things that happen in your classrooms. Being here today, you are getting ready to teach the future.” 

This was the third year for InnovatEd, a free, local, education technology (aka EdTech) conference co-sponsored by NapaLearns, Napa County of Education and Napa Valley Unified School District. 

EdTech guru, Alice Keeler, keynotes event

This year’s keynote and special guest was Alice Keeler, who is a teacher, author of five professional development books, a Google Certified Instructor (Google has crowned her the “Queen of Spreadsheets”), an adjunct professor at CSU Fresno and the mother of 5. She is an expert in integrating EdTech into classroom instruction. 

In her keynote, Ms. Keeler used Google tools to make her points and to get instant feedback from the audience. Here are some of her key takeaways:

  • “Using Google Forms is almost like going to Vegas!” Keeler exclaimed. Unlike handing in papers, teachers can see student responses as they complete their work. How does this improve learning? Teachers don’t have to wait for 30+ students to hand in their work before they see the results. Consider the gap between a student finishing their work and getting feedback; the longer the gap, the less students care. Using Google Forms allows teachers to use data to inform their instruction and adjust their teaching. Instant feedback guides teachers on what to do next. Teachers can’t adapt classroom learning experiences if they don’t have feedback on how kids are doing until the next day. Google Forms is a tool that allows teachers to know if they need to change their teaching methods in real time. 
  • Kids love to learn; in fact, learning feels good. Ms. Keeler asserted, “If anyone says to me, ‘Alice, some kids choose not to learn, I’ll say ‘No one doesn’t like to learn; no one wants to feel dumb.’” Research shows that kids with low self-efficacy would rather do nothing than feel dumb to the point that they’ll get kicked out of school or have behavior problems. They are hiding the fact that they don’t feel confident. Self efficacy is student belief in their ability to succeed or to accomplish a task. Ms. Keeler went on to say, “My favorite answer is ‘I don’t know.’ That means that the student feels confident enough to ask the question, ‘can you help me?’” 
  • Today’s kids want to solve world problems; they don’t want to solve more word problems. How do we help kids feel like they are making a difference in the world? How do we help kids come up with solutions? Keeler believes that goal setting is super powerful for learning. Goals are important for kids and they need to set their own. 
  • The world is no longer ‘over there’ – it’s here.  Whether you use Google Apps or Microsoft Office doesn’t matter because by the time students get into the workforce, these tools will look totally different. The skill we need to teach is, “can you figure it out?” Ms. Keeler advocated, “When you give kids a new technology, don’t show them how to use it; let them figure it out. Kids need to explore and be curious. Ask them, what can you teach me, or show me one more thing? Thinking is fun – kids don’t have to use someone else’s way of solving the problem to get to the answer.” 

In addition to Ms Keeler, teacher participants learned from KQED, Sony, Promethean and educational leaders within the district who are using the latest tools and strategies to transform their classrooms. Topics included project-based learning, educational technology, career readiness and STEM. 

How did the teachers respond? Check out this video to hear first hand!