Spring TIS Regionals Overview

As I sit here and write this post, I can’t help but to feel a bit sad. This past week I attended my last TIS Regionals meeting, most likely for good. TIS Regionals are held twice a year in West Virginia, and each of the RESA regions hosts one. My district is part of RESA 8. I started attending TIS Regionals last spring after I found out about them. They aren’t only open to technology integration specialists (TISs), but to any educator who wants to attend and receive technology training and updates. Typically this is one of the first places new movements soon to occur in West Virginia related to technology are announced.

This spring, the meeting was held at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in the basement of Seaton Hall. I walked in to find we had a nice group assembled, and quite a few familiar faces. I settled myself in and set up my Surface Pro 3. While doing this, we were each given a packet of Legos. Ours must have been based on a Halloween theme, as each bag had witches hats and white cats.

To start the meeting off, we were instructed to use the Legos to build something that was a favorite of ours. It was up to us to figure out what we wanted to do. All we knew was that after everyone had finished their build, we would share our work. I ended up creating a exploration scene from Minecraft as best I could. As I worked, I talked to my neighbors. One came in late, and opted to merely observe everyone else building, but my other neighbor was finding a way to show the death to spiders that had come in the kit.

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My Minecraft exploration scene. It’s supposed to be a cave underground. I have found spiders… unfortunately my ax isn’t going to cut it!

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Robin’s (@themfoxes on Twitter) spiders roasting scene. She and a friend are eating ice cream in celebration.

I believe we spent about 20 minutes building, using part of the time to let stragglers settle in. Then we each went around and talked about what we had made. Some people made family oriented scenes. Others made hobby-based ones. Every single presenter talked for at least a minute about what they had created, and described extra little details. The goal was to show us that Legos make great story starter prompts, or ice breaker ideas. Instead of just having a student tell their favorite thing (often a one word answer), they build it with some Legos. Ideally they will delve into their design, providing details to their classmates that they would not have otherwise.

Once everyone had presented, we were relaxed and ready to tackle the session. Our first presenter was Margaret Miller from West Virginia Public Broadcasting. She wanted to share resources with us from WVPB. Her first goal was to showcase some of the upcoming events on the WV site. You can check it out:  http://wvpublic.org/education-community-events

Her main goal, however, was to demonstrate the educational value of PBSLearningMedia. Myself, I had never heard of the website, but I was surprised at how much could be found there. We took a look at the West Virginia-based site, but there are sites for different states. We were also told that if we wanted to also join another state’s site, then we would have to sign up with a different email address and the zip code of a school in that state.

Here’s the link to WV’s site

Pictured above are some news and content related items, some meant only for WV.

PBS Learning Media has some great resources for teachers. In addition to supplements that can be used for classroom lesson plans, there are also actual lesson plans to be found. Once an account has been created, users can search by subject and national standard, but NOT by WV standard. Still, much of the Common Core stuff aligns to what WV has done in the past, even though we are now moving on to a different set of standards.

We were cautioned when doing a search for any particular material: if you see something you like, favorite it so that it’s saved to your account, otherwise you may not see it again. This is because PBS does their search differently. Every time you search the same topic, STEM, for example, the results are returned in a mixed up order. This is so that a variety of sources are seen, and there aren’t any “favorites’ being shown first.

A sample image of what the screen looks like during a search. Note that you can filter results on the left side.

Teachers can easily take the items they have favorited and place them in folders later on. I sorted through most of what I favorited and created folders based on the topic. A lot of it I plan to go back through later on when I have more time to explore each resource.

The final section of the site we took a look at was the Tools section. There are a few options here- Lesson Builder, Quiz Maker, Storyboard, and Puzzle Maker. Since we only had so much time, we were walked through Storyboard, and then instructed to create one for any topic we might use in the classroom. I chose to focus on the engineering design process, and created a storyboard that used images and video footage from the site, as well as questions of my own design. Here’s an image of the storyboard I created:

We took a break for lunch at this point, and I went out with a few colleagues. Upon returning for the afternoon session, Jason Jackson took over to present on Common Sense Media. For anyone who doesn’t know, Common Sense Media is a website that can serve a great purpose inside the classroom or out. On the main website, parents can find ratings for movies, games, TV shows, and more. West Virginia uses the lessons on the education side to meet E-Rate compliance. Common Sense Media also has Graphite, a website for teachers to find reviews on websites and apps for the classroom. Everything is reviewed by teachers, which makes finding new resources a lot easier. Not only that, but teachers can also find lesson plans that incorporate a variety of tools and apps in one lesson. Again, these are created by teachers for teachers.

Jason Jackson presenting on Common Sense Media

Teachers can also become Graphite certified by completing a series of tasks. The best part is that once a teacher completes the initial task, they then get paid to complete more tasks. I am Graphite certified, and this year I am hoping to write up a series of lesson plans to get the most bang for my buck. I can earn up to $300 just by writing them… aka $50 a lesson plan. Not too shabby at all!

The very last task for the day was an update on the LMS that West Virginia is working to create. Valerie Wilson told us as much as she was allowed to. There are currently 4 vendors in the final bidding for the system. It is hoped to have the system in place for next year. One downfall is that each district will have to purchase the system for use. This is a drawback for the districts that are having issues currently with the budget. Hopefully more news and updates will be available at the technology conference this summer.

Valerie discussing the LMS

Before ending any TIS Regional session, there’s always the Smackdown during the last half hour. Attendees share any new resources via a Google spreadsheet, and then are able to discuss them with the group. If you’re curious about some of the resources that have been compiled, check out this link.

Overall, a very good session, and I was glad for the chance to be able to catch up with some colleagues. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to attend anymore, but if you are a West Virginia educator, please do consider attending future sessions! There’s one every Spring and Fall for each RESA. Any educator is invited to attend.

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