What Happens at NEXT, Must Leave NEXT

Contributed By

Stephen Rao

Computer Teacher for Ramtown Elementary School

What Happens at NEXT, Must Leave NEXT

Posted in Community | August 03, 2018

If I were to tell you that the Schoology NEXT conference exceeded my expectations, that would be an understatement. The conference was an unbelievable non-stop networking event that was held July 15-18 at the Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California.

From the keynotes to sessions on custom learning objectives—especially the one by Melissa Stanton—there was information for everybody to grasp. Even when attendees had the opportunity to join networking events at night, Schoology pulled out all the stops to make sure educators were able to share and reflect on their learning every day. No one left empty handed.

Ice Breaker: Networking Events

Reuniting and Meeting

It was great to take in the views of California when we arrived at the beautiful Omni La Costa Resort. Coming from New Jersey, it is a very different landscape despite living a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. After checking into the resort, Schoology hosted their annual networking barbeque. It provided the attendees with the opportunity to meet others before the sessions began on Monday morning.

Prior to attending the barbeque, I felt the first day of school jitters from all the built-up excitement to see the crew from last year. At the 2017 NEXT conference, I met many of the Schoology Ambassadors that I became friends with post-NEXT. That is what’s truly unique about Schoology.

The learning doesn't stop after the conference.

The Schoology NEXT conference serves as a springboard for future collaboration. Thanks to these ice breaker events, I met other educators that I now talk to every day. I have Twitter chats in which I can ask my group for instant advice if a question arises or I’m looking for support.

Schoology Staff

When you attend a conference with over 800 people in attendance, you may not expect to hear or see from the leaders of the company. This is where Schoology is different than other companies I know. While at the networking events, you always saw Schoology staff networking with the attendees.

It’s great to meet all of the leaders of the company in real life. You see the four guys who founded Schoology, just hanging around blending in with the attendees as if they didn’t invent this monumental learning management system (LMS) that is changing the landscape of education. Less than five minutes of talking to Jeremy, Ryan, Bill, or Tim and you understand why they are so successful and why Forbes named them to Education's 30 under 30 in 2015.

Plaza Palooza

If you needed a break from the inspiring, info-packed sessions, you could visit the many vendors in the plaza. In addition to these vendors, Bridget Heaton and Sarah Jaffer from Schoology were signing up attendees to the Schoology Champions platform. Complete challenges to collaborate with other educators and earn rewards .

In addition to the vendors and Schoology Champions, the Schoology team was located at the product lounge. You could visit them for troubleshooting or discuss feature requests that you think would benefit Schoology users in the future. By having this product lounge, everyone could put faces to the names of staff members you may have talked to throughout the year online.

NEXT Conference Sessions

Sessions for Everybody

Schoology NEXT had sessions for everybody. Whether you were an administrator, teacher, or on the technical side of your district—there were sessions for you to attend. You may have seen sessions on Media Albums, AMP, Gamification, or how to use Schoology with elementary students.

Katie Eck, professional development specialist at Schoology, and myself delivered a session on Google Drive Assignments. It was a hit and felt amazing to see how many people were interested in attending our session. The best thing about working with Katie was that I only knew her for a few weeks online. We met in person for the first time at NEXT. We easily traded tips and tricks on Google Drive Assignments. Thank you, Katie, for being a great co-presenter.

The Musical That Broke The Internet

By far, the most popular session at NEXT was The Gamification Musical. Created and performed by Jared LoPatin and Glen Irvin, this session needed to be moved to it’s own time so that everybody could attend. The dynamic duo performed remixes to hit songs of yesteryear  that aligned with key skills taught by the gamification framework.

I am excited to see what they have up their sleeves for next year.

Personal Highlight

Digital Citizenship

At the closing keynote on Wednesday, awards were given out to the best within the community for the contributions they have made throughout the year. Connect with Jesse Buetow, Danielle Patterson, Philip Pulley, Kristie Burk, and Denise Shovlin on Twitter and find out why they were honored at the award ceremony. This year I was fortunate to win Schoology’s Digital Citizenship Challenge. My elementary unit is located in public resources for anybody to use and personalize for their classroom. I encourage you to share your lessons and join the Digital Citizenship public group.

It was my honor to speak at the Keynote on my digital citizenship unit and why educating students and staff on digital citizenship is important. Many people asked if I was nervous to speak in front of over 800 people on stage. At first I was, but once I went on stage I felt very comfortable. Before I went on, the Executive Vice President of Marketing, Ivan Casanova, reminded me not to be nervous because I was speaking in front of all of my friends.

That’s a perfect way to summarize Schoology NEXT: a network of friends learning from each other, then taking their collaborative efforts back to their communities to advance what’s possible for their students.

Check out Stephen's Digital Citizenship Keynote Address: https://youtu.be/yRof--csAZM


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