Our Stories

Middle School Tech Conference 2016

posted Oct 20, 2016, 12:08 AM by Ashley Fulmer   [ updated Oct 20, 2016, 12:08 AM ]

Last Wednesday we witnessed one of the most powerful experiences for students. On October 12th, 32 eighth grade students hosted a conference at Bourns Technology Center for about 300 sixth graders.  That’s right, they planned, prepared, and presented at their very own conference!


Sierra Middle School students were brought in at the end of last school year and presented the idea of hosting a conference.  The students that were interested began brainstorming session ideas and discussing the beginning logistics of the conference.  Then, they formed groups of two, and volunteered to create the presentations.   The sessions included Google Docs, Google Classroom, Learning Styles, Learner Profiles, Digital Citizenship, Growth Mindsets, Communicating with Teachers, and Keeping up with Your Grades through Aeries and Dashboard.   As part of the process, the students learned how to create effective presentations using small amounts of text and images to convey their message.  In addition, they were encouraged to make their presentations interactive for the participants.  Students created Bitlys, incorporated videos, and created Kahoot games to test their participants’ knowledge.  The students and a team of teachers met regularly to plan and prepare for the conference.

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In addition to the presenter group, a group of students were asked to be part of the technology team.  These students would not be presenting at the conference, but would support the presenters in a variety of ways.  Prior to the conference, they developed the schedule of presenters and created all the posters (welcome posters, signs for the different stations at registration, and door posters).  During the conference, the tech team members were assigned to a room to assist the presenters and participants with technology.   In addition, they worked with the ILE team to distribute Chromebooks to students that did not have one.  

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We invited 300 6th grade students from 6 different elementary schools.  Three Personalized Learning schools (Liberty, Hawthorne, and Monroe) and three of Sierra’s feeder schools (Mt. View, Jefferson, and Monroe).  The 6th graders registered for the conference on Sched, which is an event scheduling program used for a variety of conferences like our August PD Day, and selected three sessions that they wanted to attend.  

On the day of the event, the elementary students arrived to greeters, who brought them into the Auditorium.  Their first stop was the registration table where they received their schedule for the day.  Next, they moved to the name tag station, where they created and personalized their nametag.  Then, they got breakfast, their “swag bag,” checked out a Chromebook if necessary, and took pictures in the photobooth.

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The conference began with an opening keynote speaker, Leslie Oliva.  Leslie is a Ramona High School student and alumni of Sierra Middle School where she was a model student.  After the keynote, the elementary students went to the three sessions they selected and had lunch.  The conference closed with another keynote speaker, Brian Alvarenga.  Brian was in Personalized Learning both years at Sierra and is now a freshman at Ramona High School.  Brian spoke about the relationships he built with the PL teachers and how the program prepared him for high school.  He learned so much about himself and through that, learned how to be a responsible student.


After the conference, the students had the opportunity to speak and reflect in two different panels.  They were able to share their experiences and their feelings about the experience.  They were so proud of themselves and they felt like they accomplished something huge.  In all honesty, they should be incredibly proud of their hard work, dedication, commitment, perseverance, and grit!  They planned and thought of so much to make the day a success.  They thought of buses for themselves and the elementary schools, they thought of the different stations during registration and who would be responsible for them (both students and staff), they decided how to use the elementary school chaperones and who would be the MC to introduce the keynotes.  They collaborated, were creative, thought critically, and were socially-engaged contributors.  Every that was present that day walked away with an amazing, life-changing experience!


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