ICE 2018 – Highlights

The end of February is one of my favorite times of the year. No, not because of the unpredictable weather, it’s because of ICE. Not the hard water kind of ice, the Tech kind of ICE. The Illinois Computing Educators kind of ICE! The best kind of ICE.

ICE 2018 ran from Feb 26 – 28 and brought together educators, students, and vendors from across the state of Illinois and beyond. I love this conference. Every year, ICE is my chance to see old friends, meet new ones, learn about new tools and talk to and learn from inspiring educators. It is a place where I get to recharge my ed tech batteries. It is amazing. This year was even better. Three days instead of two and a brand new shiny venue. Amazing times two.

Let’s take a look at my highlight reel.


Gillian King-Cargile and me sporting our STEM Read pride.

This year I had the pleasure of doing three presentations. Two snapshot sessions (really like this format) and one breakout. Monday, I focused on personalized PD and the Illinois OER website (IOER). On Wednesday, my partner in crime, Gillian King-Cargile (@gkingcargile), and I spread some STEM Read cheer. We had a great time telling everyone about the program and how they could bring it to their students. It was great to hear stories from teachers who have been to our field trips or who have used our resources in their classrooms. Thank you everyone for sharing your stories!

You can view the slide from all three presentations on the ICE Conference Resource Symbaloo or here in my Google Drive.

My favorite presentation of the week was from the very funny and energetic, Steve Dembo. His presentation, The Viral Video Effect: Storytelling for the YouTube Generation, made my day. It was packed full of ideas for integrating video into all classrooms. Even the littles. He shared video inspiration from favorite viral videos and discussed how to recreate the magic in your classroom. His message – don’t over complicate video production. Have fun with your students and show joy! Amen to that, Steve! He also shared what will become my new go to site for all things digital storytelling – The Digital storytelling DS106 assignment bank. Find it here – This is a huge list of video assignments. Check it out. I know I am going to dig in.

Shout Outs – Friends and Favorites

One of my favorite parts of ICE is that I get to reconnect with so many of my educator friends across the state. It is like homecoming week. This year was no different. I also get to see what some of my favorite ed tech products and services are up to. Here is a quick list of shout outs to a few of my favorite products and services. If they are new to you, I strongly suggest you follow the links and check them out.

zSpace, BrainPOP, CG Cookie, Common Sense Media
Love them! zSpace, BrainPOP, CG Cookie, Common Sense Media
  • zSpace – I first encountered zSpace a couple years ago (before they had a bus). This is a twist on AR/VR that is truly interactive and collaborative (which I love!). There is also a growing bank of learning resources.
  • BrainPOP – If you are not using all of the games, videos and resources on BrainPOP, stop what you are doing and go check it out. Go do it now. I’ll wait….
  • CG Cookie – CG Cookie is an online art education platform. Through their courses, you can learn 3D production, game design, clay sculpturing and more. Pricing is reasonable for access to all the amazing content.
  • Common Sense Media – Common Sense Media has valuable ratings, reviews and resources for parents, educators, and advocates. They are one of my first stops when I’m researching a new app or game. I also LOVE their Digital Citizenship curriculum. It is fantastic! If you have not explored their FREE resources, you need to.
  • IlliniCloud – They are not pictured, but I need to give them a shout out. IlliniCloud is a co-op of school across Illinois focused on providing tech solutions for K-12 districts. They always have cool projects in the works, such as eSports but I’ll get to that shortly.

New Tools to Explore

ICE is where all the latest and greatest ed tech struts their stuff. I always come home with new tools to explore and this year was no different. Here is my list of tools that I will be digging into over the next few weeks.

  • Empatico & Participate – I’m listing these two together because they shared booth space and are some how related. However, they each have very different purposes. Empatico is a free tool for teachers that will help them connect their classroom to other classrooms around the world. Looks like a virtual pen-pal program with tons more interaction. Empatico is supported by the KIND Foundation (yes, the healthy snack bar company). Participate on the other hand, is focused on teacher PD and learning communities.
  • Nearpod – OK, so I’m a little late to the Nearpod party but it sounds like the party is still going strong. If you are new to Nearpod, like me, it is a platform for developing and managing interactive lessons across multiple devices. It includes a wide variety of content from both internal developers and 3rd party content providers such as Flocabulary, iCivics, PhET, and more. I was really excited to see their new college and career materials that even include virtual field trips to college campuses. Nearpod is definitely on my list of tools to explore in depth.
  • Bloxels – OK, now this one looks like a blast and I may need to invest in a kit. When I walked by the booth it looked like a simple black board with little cubes to create pixel art. That caught my attention so I decided to stop. What this is, is a kit that allows students to create their own video games. They create their art using the boards, snap a picture, and use the app to create their game. (See the image below.) This looks like a super easy way to do game development and one I’m excited to try.
Bloxels - How it works.
Bloxels – How it works.

The Buzz – The rise of the gamer!

Every year at ICE there is something that is creating a buzz. This year, you could not go anywhere without hearing about playful learning, gaming, and eSports. From board games to video games, the art of playing is hot right now.

Sample of games from Red Raccoon Games.
Sample of games from Red Raccoon Games.

In the Playful Learning Space (read more about it here), Red Raccoon Games, from Bloomington-Normal, IL, had a fantastic selection of board games that you could stop and play. I played a spirited round of Codenames, with a couple cool teachers and talked about all the ways you could use it in the classroom. They had everything from Settlers of Catan to Happy Salmon there for you to play and discuss.

I’ve added quite a few games to my wish list.

eSports made a big splash this year. The eSports session on Monday kicked things off with a few high school teams playing some head to head League of Legends. We heard from Illinois coaches and students about what they are doing with their eSports clubs. We even heard from one student who has an eSports college scholarship. Wow! There were several other eSports sessions and a gaming center set up in the Playful Learning Space. The push is to get schools out there to register their club on the IHSA Emerging Sports website to make eSports a recognized sport in Illinois.

eSports teams talk about their experiences and play League of Legends.

For all you young gamers out there…this is your time. Grab it by the controllers and have a blast!

So, we say good bye ICE 2018 and all the old and new friends we connected with along the way. As always, it was a fantastic conference. I loved the new venue and longer time we spent together. Well done, ICE planning committee. Well done!

Now we start the countdown to ISTE 2018 in Chicago, baby!! See you all again in June!

Speaking ISTE

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