A Look Back- CUE 2017 National Conference (Plus Puppets)

Looking back on CUE 2017, I am struck by the number of small moments in a venue so large it requires maps and guides. With nearing 8000 attendees, how could I possibly compose a reflection post that accurately describes CUE?
 
For those readers who have attended in the past, but didn’t make it this year,  I need to capture the energy of the hallways, report on the wifi, and assure them that Sherman’s Deli is still doing a booming trade. For readers who have never been to a CUE conference, I need to provide an experience they can relate to, paint a scene they can see themselves in.
 
The conference had 501 sessions: 501 individual learning experiences crafted by members and supported by the amazing CUE organization. In many ways the CUE national conference is a giant pop-up school. Like a school, CUE serves a wide community of learners. In this post, I have tried to include a range of voices beyond my own, so the loose theme behind this post is the line from Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
 
For a sense of the multitudes, let’s tune in to a few of the songs of experience that have been shared from #CUE17. In the social media marketplace visual images command more attention than ever. At this conference I saw an amazing use of both infographics and Sketchnotes.
 
By the Numbers, an Infographic PowerUp
Ryan O’Donnell helped us all understand our conference “By the Numbers” He created an infographic template in Goolge Docs and empowered many other teachers to create their own infographic and share their experience.

This is the essence of CUE, an awesome shared experience and open source tools. Be sure to check the #cue17 hashtag for other infographics created with this template, then create and share your own. Visual summaries can be a powerful meaning making tool, even for yourself. Of course, once you see that you can make one, your students won’t be far behind. Here’s some more data and infographics, if you’re interested!
 
Palm Springs in SketchNote

A joyful surprise in my conference experience was Misty Kluesner’s SketchNote session. I had walked to the Hard Rock and my first choice didn’t work out. I took a seat in the front of the session even though I came in late. I loved how she framed sketch notes as a meaning-making tool.

The session was practical and inspiring, but I am still not ready to share my notes. I am happy to share a couple of great notes that illustrate the powerful potential of the medium.
 
Beth Heyden’s reflection sketch note of the conference makes me think of my own journey.

Nancy Minicozzi’s SketchNote of Jo Boaler’s inspiring keynote clearly summarizes many of the points I saw on social media during her speech.

There are MANY more great sketches on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. Search #CUE17 to see them all.
Blogs
In many ways Lucie deLaBruere’s conference experience was like my own. We both spent several hours in the unconference space learning about toy hacking with Jeff Branson from SparkFun. We each made it to some great sessions and also took time out for amazing conversations. 
Megan Albright, a 4th grade teacher at Valhalla Elementary School, shared her CUE experience session my session, preserving impressions as well as resources. From Keynote to affiliate dinner, Megan’s blog has everything from her CUE edventure.
 
From my Colleagues
I was lucky enough to share my conference with colleagues from my school. We lived “big brother” style in a rented house and got to share our learning in a quiet space each evening, so any reflection on my conference experience needs their voices.
 
Elaine Wrenn, Assistant Head of Echo Horizon School
Upon returning from my 27th CUE Conference, I find myself as recharged as I did after my 1st conference for similar reasons.  At my first CUE, I was so excited to have found a group of educators who shared a belief that technology can give kids opportunities to learn and express themselves in ways that are not otherwise possible.  At every subsequent CUE, I have enjoyed sharing with and learning from new colleagues and longtime friends who inspire me to continually evolve my practices as an educator in order to help kids develop as independent, creative, and confident learners.
Jimmy Smith, 5th/6th Grade Math Teacher at Echo Horizon School, first-time CUE attendee
CUE was a wonderful and inspiring few days of learning and growing professionally. From Jo Boaler’s keynote on promoting the growth mindset in schools to the vendors in the exhibit hall helping me to understand how to use their products, the greatest takeaway was not only a renewed sense of gusto in crafting my teaching practices but also the fact that I was able to start off the following Monday with tools in my belt to teach my lessons. With so much learned during the conference, I have plenty of ideas to not only finish off the school year strong, but to start off the following year with a bang.
If We Aren’t Crying, We Aren’t Trying
I know that most of the people attending CUE weren’t hauling puppets around or hacking into toy dinosaurs, and the great thing about CUE is that we can all carve our own path. Events like the CUE Keynotes allow us to “sync-up.” As we travel our different paths, this shared experience aligns and allies us. We cry together. I have to thank Ryan O’Donnell again for putting the cry stat on his infographic. I cry in each keynote and I look forward to it. There is something amazing about crying with a crowd for all the right reasons.
This year, the keynote speakers did not disappoint, relevant, genuine and inspiring. You will be able to find almost all of them on the CUE Live playlist and CUE 2017 National Conference playlist on CUEtube.
Ed. Note- No post by Sam is complete without a companion post by his ever present companion- Wokka.


Sam Patterson, M.F.A., Ed.D. is a Makerspace teacher for PreK-6th grade students at Echo Horizon School in Culver City California. Dr. Patterson is an innovative teacher using puppet building and computer programming to inspire kids to create and share. His shares his work through his blog MyPaperlessClassroom.com and his book “Programming in the Primary Grades: Beyond the Hour of Code” at BeyondtheHourofCode.com.

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