TIES14 Conference Reflection- Day 1

On December 8th & 9th I had the opportunity to attend my third TIES Conference in Downtown Minneapolis. This year’s theme was “Make it Happen” a nod to the maker’s movement of learning:

Some other themes I encountered during this year’s conference were: augmented reality, student tech teams, gaming in education, and district visioning vs. realities of 1:1 integration. Like always, there were several sessions each time slot that I wanted to attend. Luckily, the online conference space is getting more robust and all the presenters shared their conference workshop materials for those who attended their session and those who could not.

To start off my two-day learning spree I attended a session presented by Sue Simonson, a Business & Technology Teacher at my alma mater, Mound Westonka High School (MWHS). The session was titled, “Tech Interns: Student Led Chromebook Repair”, and Sue modeled what guide on the side can look like as she had her students present the majority of the session. Many schools have tech interns as clubs that serve in this role as an extra curricular, Sue proposed an elective course that would give students credit for this effort modeled after Leyden High Schools in North Lake, IL. After some convincing of administration, Sue launched this course with 11 students in their junior and senior year (10 male/1 female) in the fall of 2014.


To give some background on the school district, students grades 5-12 each have a Chromebook. In the past, students paid insurance to an external provider, which posed many challenges: costly, long turnaround, lots of staff time managing repairs. To alleviate these issues the students in Sue’s “Westonka Tech Interns” (WTI) course were trained on al things Chromebook, from an external contractor, training included both software and hardware issues. Each student in the district pays $40 for insurance that is handled internally through the district rather than through a third party. The WTI students are the second line of repair after a quick troubleshooting or repair documentation with staff in the media center.


  • In the first semester alone, students in WTI fixed 90 Chromebooks, majority of which took two days or less (3rd party insurance can take up to 6 weeks).
  • It is estimated that students in this course spent 40% of their time repairing devices.
  • The other 60% is spent working closely with the IT Director with network, server, and software issues. Students also spend time focusing on Google Time Projects such as app development, learning to code, social meda, and certification.
  • With approximately 900 student devices self-insured at $40 a piece of the year. The district has only spent 10% of the funds thus far on parts and shipping. The district has not yet decided what the remaining funds will be use for at the end of the year.
  • Sue is hoping at add another section of this course next semester to have a morning and afternoon crew.

*While two of the students presented on the results of the project during the workshop, another student fixed a cracked LCD screen in 20 minutes.

Next I was off to the keynote, Yong Zhao is a researcher whom I cite a lot in my papers on technology integration. I was blown away by his stage presence; he connected with the audience and was hilarious. Not taking in depth notes, I will refer to Michael Walker’s blog on his presentation: http://edinatech.blogspot.com/2014/12/ties-14-notes-yong-zhao.html?spref=tw

Zhao told a lot of jokes and shared many points that made you want to stand up and clap. The one that stuck out to me most is when he connected some of our current economic issues with the need to create “out-of-the-basement readiness” for our high school and college graduates. I encourage anyone reading this to check out Zhao’s webpage and review his research.

After the energizing keynote, I attended Cory Klinge’s session titled “BYOD with Limited Money and Resources” because I am working with a school that is looking to go BYOD and in fact has limited money and resources… Cory modeled the use of Nearpod in his session, an interactive presentation platform, engaging the crowd in questions throughout the workshop. Most of the sessions at TIES are presented in essence as case studies; here is what happened at my school, with my students, my leadership, (the list of variables go on). Here is what I found and here are some suggestions that may or may not work for you depending on your setting. It is important for attendees to think conceptually about the information, remembering there will likely be some tweaks to implementing in their setting. Cory’s session was packed full of resources and suggestions, a few that stood out to me:

  • If students have an issue connecting to the Wifi, they may use their own network which many cause an issue if they are using too much of their families data.
  • The biggest reason Cory wanted BYOD in his classroom is to support formative assessments.
  • BYOD supported a homework free class: formative assessment, quick lecture, activity, video or reading assignment in class, skill check.
  • Do not ask students to bring extra devices they may have because they may not consistently bring them and what happens if another student damages the device?
  • Cory does not recommend that you accept PC’s due to the liabilities.

After lunch I treated myself to one of my favorite educational speakers on the face of the earth. George Couros is an experienced educator, administrator, now Division Principal for Parkland School Division in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. Some things I have observed from Couros’ workshops: 1) Very engaging, the man is a talented story teller 2) You will most likely laugh, cry, and settle on an ugly laugh/cry by the end (that might just be me) 3) He leverages digital content in a way all presenters should 4) I don’t believe he takes a breath the whole time he speaks (nor would I want him to because he has a lot to say).

The session he led was on the power of relationships, he threaded the life of his grandfather through the presentation beautifully, using childhood home videos. I can’t imagine that any presentation he gives is the same but I would encourage you to check out his past work:

I took my face full of runny mascara upstairs to an IGNITE session, a new offering at TIES that utilizes a PechaKucha style of presenting, 20 slides with only 20 seconds a slide. The slides advance automatically and you as the presenter really need to practice in order to get the timing just right. I have done this style of presenting in the past, I will admit I learned less from the presenters as I did the presenting…

  1. Given the time you present is so short, narrow your focus vs. giving a broad overview. Seven minutes hardly provides enough time, too broad of a topic leaves you wanting more.
  2. You should not be reading off your slides. This applies always but to perfectly time whatever content you have on a slide to take exactly 20 seconds is very difficult. The slide should merely be a visual that supports the 7-minute story you tell.
  3. Slide design is important… again this always applies. Just because you have limited time to get the point across does not mean slide design should suffer.

Three cheers for Sean Beaverson, Secondary Technology Coordinator at Bloomington Public Schools, MN. His slides were beautiful and his presentation was poetic, I wished I were listening to him for hours vs. seven minutes.


I closed out the day with a session titled “Data-Driven Technology Promotes Student Learning” presented by Lisa deRoy and Mark Garrison. This session was on BrightBytes a research platform that gathers school district level data and supports decision-making. I have yet to fully dive in and explore the software and questions but I do know this is being widely used in school districts across the state of Minnesota and nation.

Day one, over and out… lots of new connections and learning. To see reflections on this day of TIES from attendees get on Twitter and follow the hashtag #TIES14 for September 8th.

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