Toot your horn…

This past April I was asked to be the Technology Chairperson of the Northeast Regional Conference on the Social Studies.  It is a three day conference and when my request to attend was approved I was blown away.  I was surprised that a conference and a job with no direct connection to test scores or school goals was approved…for THREE days!  In short, it was a phenomenal experience. This is what was published in the paper about us:

Moran Middle School Students attend 2012 NERC
“Highlight of the Conference”

Teacher conferences are usually places where hundreds of teachers go to talk about students.  There is usually one thing missing from these conferences…students!  8th grade teacher Paul Bogush was selected as the Technology Chairman of the Northeast Regional Conference on the Social Studies held in  April.  He brought with him 14 students from Moran to assist in the running of the conference.  The students performed jobs such as registration, setting up the AV for the presenters, and ran sessions for the teachers on how to use Social Media tools such as Twitter to provide constant professional development throughout the year.  A major responsibility of the students was to digitally archive the conference.  Students attended sessions and tweeted highlights, photographed each session, and conducted interviews, streamed  live, with conference attendees who ranged from the Connecticut Secretary of State to film makers to leaders of the region’s historical museums, and of course the many teachers who attended from across the Northeast (http://www.youtube.com/nercss).  The students were also able to attend the sessions as participants and interjected a voice and perspective that moved the conversations in unforeseen ways.  At the conclusion the conference’s first day,  the students had already so impressed next year’s organizers, they had been asked to repeat their performance in 2013; organizers calling their participation the “highlight of the conference”!

The above is from a press release that I submitted to the paper.  It is something that would have gone unnoticed by every single person in my school and town, so I decided to toot my own horn a bit.  I really don’t care about getting attention for what we did, but with all the negative press on teachers, and especially in CT where the new teacher evaluation system is based on standardized testing, I just wanted to share with the community that we (teachers) do more than test prep.

After the first day of the conference we were asked to come back next year.  My number one concern was how in the world would I get approval for this again? So I decided to give a summary of a few things that we did this year to the board of education at the last meeting of the school year, and then pass in my request to attend the conference again.  Yep, decided to toot my own horn for totally selfish reasons 🙂  After speaking to the Board of eEducation I realized that they probably have never heard a teacher simply give a summary of “here is what we do in my class.”  Yes, there was a TAG group showing their special projects, but is the Board of Education even aware of what you can do in a class besides test prep?? I think I will make this an annual event.  Toot my own horn once a year, except next year have the kids come and they can toot their horns as well.  Not a “special project” demonstration, but “here is a year in our life,” what we have done, what we have accomplished, how we have changed, how we have made a difference.

Below is what I said at the meeting…maybe you should considering tooting your own horn as well(??) — Beep-Beep!

My name is Paul Bogush.  I am an 8th grade social studies teacher at Moran middle school…I would like to share a few things that my students have accomplished this year, a few of the ways my students have made a difference.

Many of the units that we do end with presentations…or in education jargon…”authentic performance assessment tasks.”  This year my students have done live performances to people and classrooms from across the country, and have recorded and published over 200 videos.  These performances have been viewed by almost 45,000 people and influence what occurs in classrooms around the world.  We will often get comments such as this one:  “Please let your students know that their work makes an impact and influenced me to plan this into my UbD units this year.”

We also collaborate with businesses who – based on seeing our digital footprint — seek out our advice.  One of the companies sent us a set of iPads on which to test their product in our classroom. At the end of the test periods, Conde Nast published a piece that stated that our kids “exceeded their wildest expectations.” Writing about our work they stated “ we were also blown away by the incredible creativity the classes demonstrated… We’ve had very smart, talented and creative people using Idea Flight, but this use of the application had never surfaced to us before and we were blown away…”

The kids got to use some of newest and most innovative tools to create social studies products and in return received access to the development teams.  The changes we suggested are now being implemented by the companies.

Another group of students worked with the Library of Congress in creating a digital archive that reflect teens lives today.  We were one of 9 classrooms in the country chosen to do this.  In  3, 300, or 3000, years from now when researchers are examining life in the early 21st century they will use the work these students have produced.

When I present at conferences, I have been showcasing how our kids incorporate technology into our class.  This brought me a invitation to become the technology chair of the Northeast Regional Conference on the Social Studies.  At conferences, there is usually one thing missing…students.

I brought 14 students to assist in the running of the conference and set a mighty precedent.  The students performed jobs such as registration, setting up the AV for the presenters, and tutoring teachers on how to use Social Media.  They digitally archived the conference by attending sessions and tweeting highlights, photographing each session, and interviewing conference attendees on a live stream — interviews that included Connecticut’s Secretary of State, film makers, leaders of the region’s historical museums, and of course the many teachers who attended from across the Northeast (http://www.youtube.com/nercss).

The students also attended sessions as participants and interjected a voice and perspective that moved the conversations in unforeseen ways.  Next year’s organizers have already asked to us to repeat the performance in 2013 — with plans to do an entire “teach the teacher” fairway where teachers will receive one-on-one instruction from the students on a variety of tech tools. I am handing in my request to attend the conference again this week…hopefully it will be approved so that my students…can make a difference.

If you were to name a tech tool more than likely my kids have incorporated it into a classroom by using it and using it to create something powerful. Technology is not something we use only to consume, it is a powerful tool for creating. It is not something used only to be prepared for the future, we use it to create the future.  Students with experiences using technology in the ways we have been using it will make a difference solving the problems of today and the ones not even yet discovered.

Thank you for your time.



  1. One thing that you did & failed to mention is that you had open communications with the local community access station and as a result got some video presentations distributed locally (TV) and had community eyes on student blogs, reinforcing digital media literacy. I sure would have loved haveing the BOE hear that — it would have gone a long way. In the scheme of things it was a blip in your year – but I hope it is a connection for the youth in years to come.

  2. I think a teacher as resourceful as you, as inspiring and humble should not be in the position to tweet own horn. I have been following your blog for two years now and never left a comment – which I regret. I watched your work with students, your openness, even viewed some of your class live conferences and never let you know how impressed I was and am.
    This kind of blogs should go “viral” – because they have substance.
    I am not even in the US so I have little influence on how your work is perceived and shared. But I do want to let you know that I admire your dedication, focus, transparency and ability to change things.

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