Learning, growing and connecting at #NCties17

In the midst of co-organizing EdCamp Wake and making a signifiant mid-year shift in my career I managed to attend the 2017 NCties Conference. While this was the fourth time I’ve attended the annual downtown Raleigh event I found it was just as powerful and inspiring as always.

** For the record, the first two items referenced in my opening sentence will be covered in upcoming posts in some capacity **

For this guy with ADD, the event is especially daunting. When you first walk in on day one it’s information overload from the registration tables to the vendors downstairs it’s tough to take it all in. Lights, sounds, information, left, right, back and front. Oh, and there are people from around the district, state and nation I need to talk with that appear here there everywhere. Gracious, the actual event hasn’t even happened yet — I sit down with my good friend Juliette from our district and relax a bit before the opening keynote begins.

We make our way to the grand ballroom where hundreds of educators have already started gathering. I immediately see the main speaker at this year’s conference, George Couros, who will close the event tomorrow along with giving several presentations in between, standing in the front waiting for Jennie Magiera’s opening presentation to begin to officially kickoff this year’s conference.

Of course, being my mother’s son, I encouraged Juliette to make our way to the front to chat with our blogging inspiration we met back in November at our district’s fall convergence. (See https://brendanfetters.com/2016/12/03/blogging-2-0-taking-the-leap/ ) To my amazement, George said he’s proud of the work I’m doing with blogging since he last saw me. Haven’t been that blown away in years — here is one of the most recognized faces in education today, remembering me and acknowledging the work I’m doing in my blogging infancy. Humbled doesn’t begin to explain it.

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When this is is how your day begins, you know the day, and the conference are going to be a powerful experience and that’s exactly what happened.

c58jlznuwaacmglRichard Byrne’s “Best of the Web” 2017 edition session

c5784klvaaa5x6kJennie Magiera’s “PD is not a four letter word” session

c5_u_b0wqaa1y_eBrittany Miller’s “Personalized Learning through Student Agency” session

After attending several sessions in the morning, and typing, (sidebar how did we conference effectively before Google docs) tweeting, typing, tweeting some more… student showcases, catching up and connecting with edu folks near and far it was time for lunch. By this time my head is already starting to spin with so much new information inside.

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Over a delicious BBQ lunch at Bare Bones (which is amazing and all of us in the photo above highly recommend) we had a mini-debriefing session. Our crowd was diverse – mostly from our district but folks from various areas within some elementary, middle and even one high school. Some friends, some I barely knew but we all connected over education and knowledge gained. All of us were presenting later in the conference or had presented at NCties in the past so we had that in common as well. It was especially good to reconnect with my friend Leslie Kinard from Winston-Salem who I hadn’t seen since #EdCampLDR last summer.

c57-lvouyaaxhvi  As we all made our way back to the convention center, a few more sessions, a little time in the vendor area downstairs and it was off to our first and only session of the first day. Presenting with my presentation dynamic duo of Mr. Michael Parker West and Mrs. Renee White focusing Twitter chats was around the corner.

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As educators we have to be flexible. It’s engrained in our DNA out of necessity. This presentation was no exception. Having given the basic framework of this particular presentation at November’s fall convergence symposium for our district we had a crowed very well versed in Twitter. This allowed our presentation to fly through and we ended up, on the fly, having a very powerful round table discussion about Twitter chats and the deeper meanings of Twitter as it relates to education.

At the NCties Conference it was an entirely different crowd. We had many people who had A – never been on a Twitter chat and also B – people who had never signed up for Twitter. Both of these are fine but Michael, Renee and I had to really sloooooow down the presentation and give a lot of hands on assistance to the crowd. We signed several people up for Twitter, showed them how to utilize TweetDeck while those in the crowd who were more versed assisted others too — powerful.

We managed to get through the entire session and left the presentation feeling very positive at the high amount of impact we left on so many. We managed to have a very productive “mock Twitter chat” with the entire crowd even those who did not have accounts prior to walking in the room. The three of us added value to many in attendance at NCties that day and that’s what the conference is all about.

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The second day of NCties was jam-packed from beginning to end. Two George Couros sessions and presenting two more back to back. Add to the mix I was running on little sleep and many know Brendan doesn’t function all too well on under 7 hours or sleep – a few cups of coffee and I was good to go though in this case.

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Thankfully, the two sessions I missed from Couros back in the fall at WCPSS Fall Convergence I was able to catch today. Digital Footprint and Blended Learning were both powerful sessions. So much awesomeness packed into 45 minutes. From these sessions I rushed to a breakout session with another group of my “presentation pals” for #MeetMyPLN a repeat of a session we did at the fall convergence. Mrs. Melanie Farrell, Mr. Kyle Hamstra, Mr. Phil Echols, Dr. Sandy Chambers and I all introduced ourselves along with our respective “areas of strength” within our own avenues of our PLN and broke out into small groups.

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Partly due to our session falling in the lunch hour we had a small crowd with each breaking group having 4-5 people but the conversations were powerful and intimate. Sandy talked about how she utilizes Google to enhance the learning as a building leader, Phil talked about how he utilizes social media to #BecomeBetter, Kyle talked about how he hashtags K-5 Science curriculum objectives for learning purposes and I talked about spreading positivity through Twitter and Voxer. Melanie roamed around from group to to group to provide feedback then we wrapped up with a a great scratch-off giveaway at the end with participants taking away fantastic educational books.

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Great experience – we learned from our miscues in the fall and adjusted. This session was well received by those who attended. I admire all of my co-presenters and am honored to have them in my PLN along with considering all friends. They all certainly help me #BecomeBetter.

As soon as this presentation ended, I quickly said goodbye to my friends and darted to the other side of the convention center to meet my presentation “dynamic duo” of Michael Parker West and Renee White for our “Liberating Genius within the Genius Hour” session.

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We were able to take what we did in the fall at convergence and add student examples from early elementary and middle school along with testimonials to enhance an already strong message along with adding components to the Angela Maiers‘ Liberating Genius and over-arching You Matter message.

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The first three minutes of Angela’s 2015 TedX talk  was very well received by the crowd as were the student examples and testimonials with Genius Hour. Anytime I’m able to share the overarching You Matter message, I’m thrilled as are Michael and Renee.

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All told, the 2017 NCties Conference was a success both through the lens of an attendee and presenter. Most of all I was thrilled to spend the entire two days around educators who help me be the best I can be. Always learning, growing in an ongoing effort to #StriveforGreatness and #BecomeBetter.

Adding value to others – the innovative educators all around us

George Couros (georgecouros.ca) has had so much influence on my life and career in education. Risk. Innovation. Mindset. Inspiring others. All of these are traits that Couros lives and breathes through his speeches, blogs, tweets and presentations. #OneVoice: George Couros at TedX BurnsvilleED

It’s not a secret that George is my inspiration for ramping up my blogging to the next level after his presentation on portfolio blogging at our school district’s 2016 Fall Convergence Symposium at NC State University. https://brendanfetters.com/2016/12/03/blogging-2-0-taking-the-leap/

Upon recently reading George’s book The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity it’s even more evident that in all aspects of Mr. Couros’ life as an educator of all walks, teacher, principal, speaker — he lives and breathes connections, relationships, positivity and most of all innovation.  One of the most inspirational quotes from the book to me is  “What I care about is that kids are inspired to be better people because of their experiences in my school.” How simple, yet powerful that is. So true though, right?

Recently, George Couros explained a powerful story referenced in the book in greater detail about the power of innovation regarding an Uber experience before, then after a conference. To say this example of innovation is powerful is a significant understatement. Developing “The Innovator’s Mindset” – The Connection Between Innovation and Being an Artist

I’ve been blessed to have district colleagues and members of my Professional Learning Network who have truly helped me #BecomeBetter. We all have strengths in weaknesses in not only our career but in life as well. We all fail. Learning from those failures are what make us stronger. With a strong network both near and far that’s where the growth and often “magic” happens in response to those failures. Leadership expert John Maxwell summed it up best with this quote:

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Taking risks and being innovative is one thing but it’s made easier when you have professionals around you who push to strive for greatness always and look to inspire the same out of others.

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A few times a year I gather with these significant people. All are fellow district employees from various walks. All have their own unique gifts and talents. Some I connect with on the regular more than others. However breaking bread a few times a year at least is powerful. Going above and beyond what is “mandatory” when we discuss articles and books we’ve recently read, blogs we’ve written, conferences we plan to attend, etc. and most of all what we’ve learned from the these and how we can grow together to #BecomeBetter. Powerful.

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These significant educators add much value to my life. I first connected with Barrett Royal (@Grade1Royal_ty) several years ago when she student taught at my previous school during my administrative internship. I had never seen such a motivated, talented and inspiring student teacher. Miss Royal was a natural. We’re blessed to have her in our district now as a first grade teacher. I’ve always believed in her and have kept in touch. Recently visiting her school I made sure to stop by and sure enough she inspired me with her “I believe in you” written and verbally stated culture around the classroom. So genuine. I’m so proud of her growth and now learning from her. Inspiring.

Juliette Kuhn (@jawkuhn) is the ITF (instructional technology facilitator) at Barrett’s school and a dear friend of mine. One of my top go-tos for tech issues in our district and also a great supporter who keeps me grounded. Both of these ladies add significant value to my life and are always innovative. They inspire me and so many around their building with their desire to grow as educators while spreading positivity.

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Two of my favorite educators in our district – Michael Parker West (@mikeaustinwest) and Renee White (@RaRaPenguin) have so much energy and thirst for educational knowledge. They both inspire me daily and I’ve been blessed to co-present with them several times sharing our collective passion and knowledge with educators of all walks and levels. They are both significant, innovative and certainly add value to my life.

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Passion, innovation and being a true life-long learner is one thing but these significant people possess that but also have the “nuts and bolts” down. Sometimes we don’t have all the answers. Whether things are coming from the state or our district or I just want to bounce ideas I might have I know my IRT colleague Amanda Nichols (@afnichols86) will always have great insight or can at least steer me in the right direction. At the central office level I can always call on Tonia Parrish or Shawn Johnson (@tonia_parrish and @ShawnJohn_1974) These friends in education certainly help me #BecomeBetter and I try my best to return the favor always. I value each of them greatly and they certainly add value not only to me but to so many educators in our district and beyond.

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I’ve learned so much from this leader. Mr. Shane Barham (@ShaneBarham1976) was principal at Wendell Creative Arts and Science Elementary for 7 years before being tapped to open the brand new Rogers Lane Elementary in our district. While he is no longer my direct supervisor, I keep in touch and certainly value his leadership. In my year and 1/2 under him I learned so much about being a reflective listener when it comes to leading and life. Wonderful person who I’m so blessed to have worked and learned from directly. I’m better because of him there is no question.

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Allison Stewart (@allisunrae) and Rachel Lawrence (@Tchr_RachelM) are extremely innovative middle school Science teachers in our district. Both of these ladies helped me get introduced to the EdCamp movement several years which I’m now a firm believer in. They pushed me when I was reluctant and have now become dear friends in education. Their passion and pursuit of greatness in their students and peers alike is so inspirational. I’m grateful for both of them.

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Ryan McLane (@McLane_Ryan) and Eric Lowe (@Ericlowe21) are two educational leaders from my native Ohio. Both of these men were doing amazing things with school promotion. I was amazed from afar hearing and seeing what they’re doing through their social media posts and videos. Their book Your School Rocks tells their story and then some and it truly kicked my school promotion ideas and innovation up a few notches. I appreciate these gentlemen. I’m lucky enough to sometimes catch up with them face to face while visiting family in Ohio — usually at Blue Jackets home games as in the photo above.

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Of all the innovative educators I’ve worked and/or connected with over the years – Chas Miller tops the list. (@ChasTweets) I was fortunate enough to teach under Mr. Miller several years and also do my administrative internship with him. One of the most global and forward thinking leaders I’ve ever met. Chas was always 3-4 years ahead of the curve. While Mr. Miller took his educational leadership talents to the state of Washington we stay connected through Twitter and beyond and I’ve shared his genius with several of my colleagues at the district level. His impact on my career is immeasurable and I’m forever grateful for his nudging me into leadership roles which I now embrace with open arms.

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I could go on for hours with many other people in education and beyond have added value to my life and career. As Dr. Maxwell says “Opportunity is a series of doors…” now how will react when opportunity knocks? It’s always better when we surround ourselves with those who are innovative and make us strive to #BecomeBetter. Don’t you think? Look around you – there are innovative educators all around us, find them. Learn, grow, share, repeat.

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Blogging 2.0 – taking the leap!

After wrestling with blogging for nearly a year I finally took the leap in the summer of 2016, when so much interest among fellow educators throughout our district and state wanted to hear my connectivity journey through Twitter. I finally decided I wanted to blog about a story I had verbally told countless times. Already an ASCD member (www.ascd.org and @ASCD) I took the next step of blogging on their ASCD Edge blog post platform – one that several friends in education, notably Dr. Steven Weber (@curriculumblog) and Mr. Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) had utilized for some time, and encouraged me to utilize.

After that first post,  The Power of Twitter, being and connected educator and the PLN on my career, I started to blog here and there once a month or so, often after being encouraged by others in my PLN, but always on the same platform. I was enjoying the occasional blog post on ASCD Edge, but was remaining stagnate in terms of my overall growth as a learner and educator in this domain. I needed a change but didn’t truly realize it.

Fast forward to last this past week. I’m blessed to work in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) the largest school district in North Carolina and very progressive in terms of new concepts, ideas and innovative thinking within education. Every fall and spring, WCPSS holds a Convergence Symposium at the McKimmon Center at NC State University. This is a conference event held over two days with an opening and closing keynote address. The keynotes often hold a few sessions as well. Think smaller level of NCties on the state level or ISTE on the national level regarding what this conference is like. Edu tech and media services are the primary targets so every tech facilitator both school and district based is invited along with media. Additionally classroom teachers, administrators and other stakeholders in our district are often invited along with a handful of out of district guests in education. For the past two years, I’ve been fortunate to attend and also present at both fall and spring editions of the WCPSS Convergence Symposium. 15220046_10154486311260804_4758858825984773281_n

This year, I was excited to present in three sessions with some of my biggest edu heroes in our district: Mrs. Melanie Farrell (@MelanieCFarrell), the above mentioned Mr. Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra), Dr. Sandy Chambers (@DrSandyChambers), Mr. Michael Parker West (@mikeaustinwest), Mrs. Renee White (@RaRaPenguin) and Mr. Phil Echols (@PhilEchols) all of these wonderful educators in our district are vital to my PLN and certainly recommend following on Twitter if you aren’t already.

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Going into this year’s Convergence, aside from presenting material on a large level, I was most excited about day 2 out of the gate. This was the day one of my biggest heroes in education was presenting, George Couros. (http://georgecouros.ca/blog/ and @gcouros) While George was presenting three sessions Wednesday, I knew I would only be able to attend his final presentation since his first two conflicted with sessions I was presenting in. However, his final presentation before his closing keynote address was one I couldn’t wait to hear. Blogging. Yes, I knew, thought didn’t verbally admit it, I was stalling in my blogging movement and desperately  needed to hear Couros’ message considering he’s quite the edu blogger. Did. He. Ever. Deliver. A few days later, I’ve created a WordPress account, upgraded to a personal account, and have shifted from being isolated to having my own blog and domain. Yes, Couros’ session sparked all of that (along with powerful lunch conversations with many of the above mentioned plus post conference discussions all about blogging next steps.)

This is where it all began. In a packed room at WCPSS Convergence. Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 30, 2016 Throughout George Couros’ presentation on blogging my head could barely contain it all. I had moved past the fact that despite being a life long Alberta resident, Couros was far more into NFL and NBA than the NHL, hence our limited conversation about hockey, which was a bit of a downer, though I digress. So much information was being tossed around though in that 45 minute, information and energy packed session, I knew it wasn’t a question of if I was going to take my blogging to the next level but when. After his session had concluded and we chatted about the day so far over lunch with a group of 30 or so connected educators from our district and beyond over Amedeo’s down the street https://twitter.com/edtechtom/status/804017450962583553 blogging took center stage of the conversation for nearly all of us present.

By the time George Couros started his closing keynote address Wednesday afternoon, I knew I was ready to “blog 2.0” as I began to refer to this “next step” in my blogging adventure.

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His closing keynote was so strong, so empowering, I knew that my inevitable when with blogging 2.0 was coming even sooner.

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In short, while my 2016 WCPSS Fall Convergence Symposium experience was one of the highlights of my career in education thus far because of the lasting impact of George Couros’ words, message and our conversations I would be neglecting the power of my PLN both in our district and beyond if I didn’t mention their lasting vital impact. Not only the above mentioned co-presenters but also “my tribe” pictured below and all by folks I’ve connected with through EdCamps around the state, district level meetings, Twitter, Voxer, etc. Your impact on my career has been and continues to be invaluable.

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In the words of another one of my true educational heroes, Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) #YouMatter. (Which coincidentally is a central theme in one of our presentations at Convergence and will be presented again at the 2017 NCties Conference in Raleigh.)

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Here is to my wonderful PLN, George Couros, Angela Maiers and so many who have contributed in my ongoing effort to #BecomeBetter and make the leap from entry level blogging to “2.o” I truly appreciate all of you more than you’ll ever realize.

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