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Bring ISTE to Your Teachers: Building an Exciting Local Conference

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 124

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Technology Facilitator
Baldwin County Public Schools
Mike Johnson has been an educator for over twenty years. He has been a middle school teacher, university instructor, online course developer and is currently a district technology facilitator for Baldwin County Public Schools (AL). He has previously presented at ISTE and COSN, most recently at ISTE 2021. He has also presented at Alabama Education Technology Conference, Alabama Education Association Conference and the Gulf Regional Innovative Teaching Conference. He is a Google Certified Administrator, Google Certified Educator and a Certified Online Course Developer. Mike is the G Suite Administrator for our system of over 32,000 students.
Instructional Technology Coordinator
Baldwin County Public Schools
Jeremy is the Technology Support Services Coordinator for Baldwin County Public Schools. In his role he supervises technology related professional development and end user support. Jeremy holds a Bachelor of Science in Language Arts Education from the University of West Alabama and Master of Education in Instructional Technology from the University of West Florida. He is the eMINTS coordinator for his district and certified Cognate Coach. Jeremy started his career over 24 years as a middle school computer science teacher and has severed as district technology trainer before taking on the role of Coordinator.
Consulting Teacher
Baldwin County Public Schools
Katie Nettles has her B.S. in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Information Science and Learning Technologies. In 2014 she was named District Elementary Teacher of the Year and then served her district as an Instructional Transformation Specialist. She later became a Curriculum Coach for two secondary schools. In 2017 she joined the Education Technology Department as a Consulting Teacher where she is currently responsible for professional development, managing the district’s eMINTS program, coordinating a regional conference, and coaching teachers. She is an eMINTS Certified Teacher and Affiliate Trainer. She has presented at national conferences including ISTE.
Consulting Teacher
Baldwin County Schools
Sarah began her career in education twenty years ago teaching English Language Arts at a secondary school for Pinellas County Schools in Florida. She quickly found that she loved teaching reading intervention to underserved and at-risk students. Sarah was a site supervisor for a county-run program called FACE IT and an English adjunct instructor. In 2013, she moved to Baldwin County, Alabama, and taught English Language Arts and then Family and Consumer Science. In 2017, she was appointed Curriculum Leader at a rural Prekindergarten-8th grade school. Currently, she is serving Baldwin County Schools as a Consulting Teacher for the Education Technology Department.

Session description

If you can't bring all the teachers in your district to experience an ISTE conference, you can build your own mini-conference to bring the same excitement and learning to your teachers. Learn how to build and grow a local mini-conference that brings innovative ideas to teachers without traveling.

Purpose & objective

It’s not possible for a school or district to send all of their teachers to ISTE. Instead, we bring the excitement and professional development of ISTE to all teachers in our district with a summer mini-conference.
Summer PD used to be boring sessions throughout the summer that very few teachers went to. Many would sign up for them in May but few actually wanted to give up any of their summers to show up.
We reworked our summer PD to pack it into a four day mini-conference held shortly before school starts. This mini-conference started as a 2 day technology training but has now grown to four days of district wide professional development focused on improving teaching with a very limited budget.
The Gulf Regional Innovative Teaching Conference (GRITC – pronounced like grits) is an exciting mini version of the ISTE conference filled with engaging sessions, fun activities, contests, prizes and activities that make teachers want to give a few days of summer to attend.
The purpose of this session is to discuss the entire process we go through when planning the our mini-conference.
Participants will be able to:
- Develop a plan for their own mini-conference
- Share ideas for engaging teachers during the mini-conference to make it exciting
- Identify local resources that can make the mini-conference a success.

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Introduction – 2 minutes

Summer PD – the old way - 5 minutes
Background about how summer PD and other district trainings were done in the past
Discussion of why that was so ineffective

What is GRITC? – 10 minutes
Overview of mini-conference
Planning, organization, registration
Working with community partners/foundations
Site selection and set-up
Getting buy-in from other departments

Building Excitement and Engaging Attendees – 10 minutes
Preconference marketing to teachers – engaging teachers before the conference
Fun activities during the conference – Twitter contests, scavenger hunts, photo booth, food trucks

Conclusion – 5 minutes
Bringing it all together
Contact info for follow-up questions

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Supporting research

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Session specifications

Professional learning
Skill level:
Curriculum/district specialists, Professional developers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Attendee devices:
Devices not needed
ISTE Standards:
For Coaches:
Professional Learning Facilitator
  • Build the capacity of educators, leaders and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback.
For Education Leaders:
Equity and Citizenship Advocate
  • Ensure all students have skilled teachers who actively use technology to meet student learning needs.
For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.