Collaboration at 5,675 Feet: A Day at Connect Colorado With Schoology
On October 14, I found myself listening to chirping birds in an area nestled between two golden mesas at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. As I sipped an early morning cup of coffee trying to decipher their species, educators and administrators began trickling in from all around Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska.
This was the beginning to one day of awesome collaboration at Connect Colorado With Schoology, a community-led, statewide Schoology user conference. Held at Jefferson County Public School's Central Office in Golden, CO, the conference laid the groundwork for education leaders around the region to share their stories and best practices.
Our CEO and Co-founder Jeremy Friedman opened the conference with a keynote presentation as attendees perked up with coffee and donuts. The rest of the day was dedicated to 16 best-practice breakout sessions, the majority of them led by educational innovators in the region, turning much of the building into a collaborative playground for both new and veteran Schoology users.
"After Schoology NEXT 2015 in Chicago, Amber Whetstine, Executive Director of Learning Services, wanted to create a similar experience for others around Colorado," explained Brian Green, Online Professional Learning Specialist for District 49 in Falcon, CO and MC of Connect Colorado With Schoology 2016.
"Not only did Amber create the title," he said, "she also supported her vision with resources to launch Connect Colorado With Schoology. We just completed our second conference and it was a huge success."
He's right about its success. I attended the first one, and this year it seems to have exploded. The conference has doubled in size, providing attendees many more opportunities to make connections with other Schoology users and staff in their region.
"The Connect Colorado With Schoology conference has a uniquely personal feel," Brian explained. "It's a partnership between Schoology, Jefferson County School District, Cherry Creek School District, and District 49 in Falcon, Colorado. It's also informed by experienced innovators of blended learning and power users of Schoology."
There's also much to be said about the quality of breakout sessions that covered a wide range of topics for both new and veteran Schoology users. Schoology and the 1:1 Classroom, Transform Your Professional Development, Personalized Learning Through Student-Pacing and Completion, and The Power of Portfolios are a few that illustrate the breadth of content.
Sarah Finizio, the Schoology Product Manager at Denver Public Schools, attended the conference along with a few of her colleagues. This was her first time at Connect Colorado and she felt that it was "extremely valuable."
"The biggest thing I’m taking back with me," she said, "is simply understanding that there are many different ways to work in Schoology, which is important to keep in mind whether you’re someone at the central office, you’re a teacher, or a you’re a student."
"I believe that it’s an advantage to be able to use the system flexibly to support everyone’s different needs," she said. "Everyone needs to embrace and accept the freedom that people have in order to truly support personalized learning and the needs of all our users, most importantly, our students."
Other attendees had similarly positive experiences. As the conference concluded, new connections were still being made and the attendees seems to have more enthusiasm than they had brought with them.
That is no small feat when you consider all the moving parts and preparation that goes into a conference like this. So for anyone considering starting their own conference, Brian had some thoughts to share.
"Developing a conference like Connect Colorado With Schoology requires a clear vision, resources, and people who are willing to unselfishly give their time and talent," he explained. "I would advise others to consider their passion and find a way to share that passion. One way to share that passion might just be on a large scale like a statewide conference."
Left to Right: Brian Green, Kellie Ady, Donette Sis, Kara Gann, Annette Romero, and Juan Young
Thanks to Connect Colorado With Schoology team for an awesome conference!