This week I was glad I got to attend the New Jersey Educational Computing Cooperative (NJECC) 34th Annual Statewide Educational Technology Conference hosted at Montclair University. It was my first time at the conference, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had a really great day.

The conference actually hosted three separate days of content for educators. Day 1 featured a variety of workshops, presentations, and vendors. Day 2 was a full-day Design Thinking Symposium. Day 3 was all hands-on workshops. I was only able to attend the first day.

I was surprised at how many presentations were available and the wide-breadth of topics. Though obviously, the focus was on technology for education, there was a lot of variety in application and use. Presentations included discussions on specific apps, using technology in various curriculum settings, assistive technology and differentiation, using technology for design thinking and creativity, cybersecurity and digital citizenship, gamification in education, future careers and more.

The Keynote speaker, Anthony Stirpe, was excellent. A nationally-recognized English Language Arts high school teacher, his talk on using technology to teach Shakespeare to learners of all types from all backgrounds was inspiring. A combination of “show and tell”, practical advice and modeling educational practice, Stirpe showed how educators can use technology in really meaningful ways to enhance students’ engagement and understanding. Regardless of the subject you teach, if you haven’t yet discovered his work, now is the time.

After the keynote address, we broke into sessions for the day. I primarily attended talks geared towards libraries and makerspaces, as that’s my area at present. There were so many options! I wasn’t able to get to everything I wanted, but what I did attend was very good.

Jennifer Latimer‘s talk “Design Thinking in the Library” was great. She talked about design thinking in a makerspace setting, highlighting the popular Launch cycle by John Spencer and A. J. Juliani. In addition to the discussion, she lead us through an activity in which we had to design a wallet by interviewing another participant to determine their needs and wants. She also shared her student’s creations. It was a fun and engaging way to explore applying design to an educational setting.

I also enjoyed Jessica Gottlieb‘s presentation “Makerspace and SEL”. I haven’t delved into Social-Emotional Learning Skills in education yet, though I know it’s a hot topic. So this was a great opportunity for me to learn. I lvoed that he tied the skills into a superhero motif, because it really highlights that teaching kids social-emotional skills gives them the power to be their very best selves.

Both Rebecca Kreider‘s “MakerSpaces – Lessons Learned” and Jennifer Bariso’s “MakerSpaces with Dollar Store Items” provided lots of practical ideas and great discussion about creating and running a makerspace. I’m always looking for new ideas and chances to collaborate with other educators. These were great opportunities to do just that.

I finished the day with Chris Nesi‘s “Podcast with Students” hands-on workshop. I’m a podcast lover, and I discovered Nesi’s House of #EdTech podcast a while back. It’s fantastic. So is PodcastPD. I always learn something new when I listen and it’s fun. So of course, I had to stop by and learn from a master. He didn’t disappoint, covering everything from educational engagement to equipment needs. He shared a ton of resources as well, including his podcasts, videos, and more. His website is the first place you should go if you are interested in podcasting with your students.

So that was my first NJECC. I’m already looking forward to attending next year, learning with others and meeting new people and ideas.

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