Blog Post



Written by: Lindsay Zilly

I Came.

It’s that time of the year where we are all starting to get spring fever. Our students are getting antsy, the weather is starting to improve, and we’ve just about exhausted our innovative ideas for the year. Luckily, this time of the year also means it is time for #yourNETA, the Nebraska Educator Conference where everyone you meet is “Nebraska Nice”. I’ll be honest, my educator cup was damn near depleted; but two days spent at NETA did more than just refill my cup. From the moment I arrived I was greeted with smiling faces and warm hugs. NETA board members took the time to get to know me and inquired about me personally, not just professionally. It was so nice to feel taken care of. When coming to a conference feels like coming home, you know you’ve found a good one. 

I Saw.

From the beautifully constructed slide decks showcasing speaker and sponsor information to the bright and welcoming balloon letters on the main stage, the attention to detail was top notch. NETA uses Sched as a means for individuals to access their schedule and resources. For me, it was flawless! As an attendee, I was able to easily navigate and create my schedule. Checking on the presenters I knew I wanted to see as well as the topics I was hoping to find. As a presenter, my sessions were well advertised and shared attendee count as well as session feedback very easily.

I Learned.

The variety of session topics at NETA was so refreshing. A quick tour of the vendor hall will tell you they have involved stakeholders from all areas of the edtech world. I’d love seeing sessions on AI at a multitude of levels. There were opportunities to learn leadership skills, add some new tools to your tech tool belt and even a Dig Cit Symposium. I definitely found some clear favorites that I can’t help but mention.

  • Chuck Norris’ Secret Sauce to Sanity→ Productivity Smackdown ITEC Board Members Lynn Kleinmeyer and Andrew Fenstermaker brought down the house with this crowd pleasing smackdown. Everything was on point: 
    • The cadence of the presentation, there was NEVER a dull moment!
    • The depth of knowledge, so many new and useful tech tools!
    • The skill level, the way they navigated so effortlessly from one point to another was truly impressive!
    • The fun factor; I’ve never been more engaged!
  • Tech to Serve the World: Tech For Good E-twinz 

Brothers Mario and Alberto never cease to amaze me. In this session, they shared the work they did within their classrooms. “You can do anything for a year,” Mario said upon learning he’d be teaching first grade instead of his normal sixth grade. He teamed up with his brother and together their classes created a truly inspirational experience, one that teachers aspire to create.

  • Their presentation was not only beautiful, but so informative.
  • Their personal stories and connections made this session authentic and relevant.
  • The process was easy to follow as well as duplicate.
  • The twins were professional and able to navigate some tech mishaps (that were out of their control) with ease!
  • The Student Led Classroom Toolkit Jen Manly

I am so glad I was able to attend Jen’s session on the student led classroom. She obviously has an extensive background working in a variety of positions to serve student learning. Her knowledge of both content, implementation systems and practical applications of both technology and CS standards was very impressive.

  • Struggling with implementation? Jen has a system for that!
  • She was someone we could easily relate to and made her ideas for the classroom seem possible.
  • Her session was well laid out and organized very thoughtfully.
  • TONS of free resources in addition to her toolkit.
  • Strategies for Using PBL to Help Youth Align Passion to Purpose Jorge Valenzuela

If you’ve never been to a Jorge Valenzuela session, you are missing out! The way Jorge structures his sessions allows you to join him on a journey of exploration through technology, pedagogy and best practices. His enthusiasm and empathy provide a space for anyone to contribute.

  • The session began by sharing Jorge’s norms that he holds himself accountable to in terms of highly effective strategies.
  • He uses formative assessment strategies while presenting to determine what to share with attendees and how that information will be best delivered.
  • Jorge observes attendees before, during and after his session so that he can adapt it to their unique needs.
  • This session shares engaging and relatable stories that inspired the audience to work towards discovering their students passions with the end goal being to transform them into purpose.
  • Instructional Design Through a UDL Lens Lynn Kleinmeyer and Bridget Castelluccio

This session was *chef’s kiss*! There were so many little takeaways in which the presenters modeled sound pedagogical practices while delivering topnotch content. The pacing was just right but if you needed it to go more in depth or wanted to start practicing on your own, you were given the opportunity to do so.

  • The session began with given the audience autonomy over how they experienced the session.
  • Opportunities for reflection and collaboration were built in periodically within the session which allowed for consumption and extension of the content.
  • Quick and easy takeaways were provided as well as longer more rigorous activities allowed for any educator to walk away with something to use in the classroom right away. 
  • This session shifted your thinking about they way you design and plan your lessons without feeling like a major mindset shift.

#NotAtNETA? Here are some resources I curated from the sessions I attended! 

Now What?

You know the conference went well, when you are thoroughly exhausted at the end and even though your brain feels like mush you are incredibly happy and excited to do the work next week. Here’s is what I like to do upon returning home from a conference:

  1. I always look for what I can take back to my classroom immediately. For example, I loved the slides that were posted at the beginning of each day. I plan on making my own slides theme to use to streamline content creation for myself.
  2. I definitely want to dive deeper into UDL. I plan on signing up for a micro credential through ITEC.
  3. Reflection and feedback: writing this blog post helps me to better understand the impact the conference had on me and what I can use to impact my locus of control.
  4. Scanning socials to glean information that I might have missed.

Make sure to mark your calendars for March 2024 so you too can be a part of the incredible #yourNETA experience! Until then, take care of yourselves!