January 22, 2018

Vote Alpha Squirrel Session Proposals to ISTE 2018

For the first time ever, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is asking you to help pick session topics for its annual conference and expo in Chicago!

The People’s Choice contest allows anyone to vote for their favorite proposal ideas. ISTE will include the top vote getters in the final conference agenda.

We’re proud to announce that we have 10 Alpha Squirrels in the running to present at ISTE 2018, as well as Squirrels director of professional development Becky Shiring. 

Vote now through January 26 until 5 p.m. Browse proposals and vote for as many as you like. As Cady Heron from the movie “Mean Girls” would say, the limit does not exist!

Click the links below to vote for Alpha Squirrel sessions.

Phil Hintz (co-presenter Carl Hooker, Leo Brehm, Adam Phyall)The 4 Horsemen of the APPocalypse
Phil HintzCoding Across the Curriculum: Building a Culture of Coding in Elementary Classrooms
Travis LapeEliminate Grade Levels and Empower Learners to Drive Their Learning
David LockhartBuilding it up with Bloxels
David LockhartThe Super Spark: 60 Tools to Start the Fire
Natasha Rachell/Felissa Ford/Melissa Dandy WalkerPeanut Butter and Jelly, Google and Microsoft, You Don’t Have to Pick
Natasha Rachell (co-presenter Aleigha Henderson-Rosser)Facebook/Twitter Took Over Our District and We Couldn’t Be Happier
Tricia LouisIs Your District Web Content Accessible
Billy SpicerSmart Video Creation to Empower the Student Broadcaster, Reporter and Reflective Learner
Rosalyn WashingtonElevating Student Voice with Hip Hop and Instructional Technology
Jason Davidson (co-presenter Eric Bennet)Pod Save the Classroom: Podcasting in Education
Angie Kalthoff (co-presenter Diana Fenton)Beyond the Hour of Code
Raymond Africa - Empowering Student Voice Through EdTech Apps
Becky ShiringIt’s Getting’ HOTT in Here: Promoting Higher Order Thinking with Technology

Get ready. Get set. Get voting! This is your chance to help shape the 2018 ISTE Conference and Expo. 

Attend the winning sessions starting Sunday, June 24, at ISTE 2018 in Chicago.

July 11, 2017

That’s a Wrap! Our ISTE 2017 and EdTech Karaoke Roundup

We spend plenty of time planning and prepping for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference and Expo, and for good reason! ISTE is the largest education technology conference in the United States, providing 21,000 attendees with access to workshops, sessions, keynotes and nearly 500 exhibitors. It’s hard to believe this was our fifth time exhibiting.

Our fifth experience as an exhibitor was unforgettable. We wanted to thank you all for the memories and share our key takeaways. 

Here are six points to note about ISTE 2017:

  1. ISTE continues to grow every year! The number of educators from ISTE 2016 to ISTE 2017 grew from 16,000 educators to 21,000 educators – and it showed! The expo hall was packed with educators ready to learn, connect and discover everything and everyone in the EdTech world. This enthusiasm is what makes ISTE a can’t-miss event for exhibitors like Squirrels.
  2. The expo hall had a variety of products – there wasn’t just one that ruled the floor. ISTE had it all - from device-management solutions and interactive whiteboards, to cases for student devices and flexible seating.
  3. EdTech Karaoke is VERY important to us. So much so that we were one of the main sponsors this year. More on that in a minute.

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  1. Putting together and taking down our tree booth will always be taxing, but it’s a great team-building exercise….literally! How could moving 800 pounds of wooden walls for 10 hours not bring our team closer together?

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  1. Our Alpha Squirrel EdTech experts ROCK! We were lucky enough to connect and meet with more than 30 Alpha Squirrel educators who use and love our classroom products. If any of you stopped by our booth, you may have seen one or two of them presenting with our COO, Andrew Gould, or our Director of Professional Development, Becky Shiring.

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  1. The Squirrels team loves Mexican food, and Texas has some of the best. We hosted our second annual Alpha Squirrel Social at the Iron Cactus, located along the San Antonio River Walk. The margaritas were cold, the queso was hot and the company was delightful.

EdTech Karaoke 2017

Remember when we said that we were a sponsor for EdTech Karaoke? It was certainly a night to remember as our team serenaded the theater with “Sweet Caroline,” did an EdTech Karaoke Twitter takeover and threw stress-ball microphones into the crowd. Our singing may be out of tune and our aim might be off, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time!

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EdTech Karaoke Winner Interview

EdTech Karaoke isn’t just for fun. A champion is crowned. We were lucky enough to speak with the winner from the night, Susan Grigsby. Grigsby is the District Media Specialist from Forsyth County Schools in Atlanta.

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We actually knew her before she was karaoke-famous because earlier that day, she stopped by to check out an in-booth presentation on our awesome new device-management solution. Talk about a brush with greatness.

Grigsby started out the competition with her rendition of “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi and won with the crowd favorite, “Proud Mary,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Good move, Susan. Good move.

Turns out this wasn’t her first time at ISTE, and it wasn’t her first time singing at EdTech Karaoke either.

“I’ve been coming to ISTE since 2014,” Grigsby said.

When asked if she has been singing at EdTech Karaoke since 2014, Grigsby responded modestly and with a smile, “I sang in 2014, yes.”

But, she didn’t just sing in 2014, she also won that year. Clearly Susan is no rookie when it comes to EdTech Karaoke. So how does this new accomplishment make her feel?

“It feels amazing! I’m going to Disney World,” Grigsby said.

Grigsby may be going to Disney World, but her EdTech Karaoke title also won her a trip to ISTE 2018 in Chicago. All the best, Susan, and we’ll see you there!

Stay tuned for our next big conference (or EdTech Karaoke) adventure. Until then, enjoy all the songs performed at EdTech Karaoke – ISTE 2017 edition -- with this Spotify playlist.

June 20, 2017

ISTE 2017: Squirrels in San Antonio

The Squirrels team is traveling to San Antonio next week for the 2017 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference & Expo. This year marks our fifth consecutive year at the show, and it’s already looking like it will be the best one yet. 

Things you need to know about Squirrels at ISTE

    1. We are sponsoring EdTech Karaoke on Tuesday, June 27th. If you’ve never heard of EdTech Karaoke, you might be thinking that we’ve been duped into helping a nightclub that didn’t save any of its budget for a DJ. EdTech Karaoke has become a legendary event at education conferences around the country, and there’s no bigger education conference than ISTE.

      If our years at ISTE have taught us anything, it’s that EdTech Karaoke is one of the great highlights of the week. Be sure to get your tickets to the event at Aztec Theater soon, as EdTech Karaoke sells out quickly. We will also have additional EdTech Karaoke tickets to give away at the Squirrels booth (#626) in the ISTE expo hall. We’ll take entries all day Monday and randomly draw the EdTech Karaoke ticket winners on Monday night.

    2. The Great Redwood of ISTE is back for year two. The 18-foot tree that was built by Squirrels attracted the gaze of ISTE attendees from all over the expo hall like a field of moths gliding toward a distant garage light at night. Come see it. Take your picture with it. Tell your grandkids about it. Just know that nobody has actually ever called it the Great Redwood of ISTE.3k1a3659.jpg
    3. Our brilliant team is hosting ClassHub demos every hour on the hour. Our new classroom device management and monitoring technology will be on display and at work for you. This is a great opportunity to see it in person. We created ClassHub to address a number of needs expressed to us by educators and improve the ability for students to collaborate, share and learn with the devices they use every day. We think ClassHub is a home run, and we can’t wait to show you.Schedule Print.png

    4. Our classic education technology Reflector 2, the Reflector suite of companion apps and AirParrot will be on display as well. Our team can also tell you all about using Ditto, our smart and unlimited screen-mirroring technology, in K-12 education.

    5. We have a number of Alpha Squirrel EdTech Experts presenting at ISTE. These presenters are some of the best and most knowledgeable individuals in their profession. We can’t wait to hear what they say and have them join us at the Squirrels booth.

      Get the full list of Alpha Squirrel session times and topics at ISTE.

Another year of ISTE is upon us, friends. Embrace it and make the most of your time there. ISTE is an opportunity for all of us – educators, administrators, IT professionals, tech integration specialists, entrepreneurs and EdTech companies – to grow professionally and improve our knowledge of our craft.

As always, stop by the Squirrels booth (#626) to see what we’ve been working on for you and to put a few faces to our unique company name. 

July 21, 2016

How the Squirrels Team Built a Giant Tree in the Middle of ISTE 2016

If you were at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio, you may have noticed the Squirrels team tucked away in a corner at a small 10’ by 10’ booth. That was our first year at ISTE, and we quickly realized it was THE place to be. ISTE is a mix of educators from around the world learning about new technology and sharing their experiences with others in the field. The people at ISTE are passionate about what they do, and they’re excited and eager to learn more. That passion drives us back to ISTE every year.

Fast forward three years… past Atlanta in 2014 and Philadelphia in 2015. Our trip to Denver this year was our fourth and largest, most ambitious ISTE yet. After attending ISTE 2015, we committed to making our ISTE 2016 presence bigger and bolder, and we did just that:

Squirrels Booth Iste 2016 Tree

Yes, you’re seeing that right. We built a giant tree in the middle of a conference hall.

HOW?!

Planning for ISTE starts months ahead of the actual show, and a lot of people don’t realize the show isn’t the deadline. Weeks before the show, everything needs to ship across the country.

Shipping steel, wood and a plastic tree is a challenge we’ll leave out of this post, but feel free to ponder…

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Shipping

In January (yes, that’s six months before the show), the creative team along with minds on the marketing and administrative teams sat down for a brainstorm. A few hours later, the walls were plastered with tradeshow booth best practices and examples from around the world. The white boards were full, and there was scratch paper everywhere. Everyone was tired, but what came out of that meeting was the start of what would become ISTE 2016 booth number 2945.

We tasked the creative team with designing five concepts that we could build on. One of those concepts was a giant tree, and obviously that’s the concept that made it through to the end.

ISTE Tree Booth Concept

In its original form, it was an actual tree. We priced out stage props, building our own and, among other ideas, bringing a real live tree. When we originally began talking about the tree idea, some of the team had the idea to create an abstract tree. After realizing a “real” tree wasn’t nearly as creative as we thought, we ran with the abstract idea.

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Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Concept

After the initial concept was accepted by the group, we needed to figure out how to actually build an abstract tree. Eventually, we realized we had the skills, tools and materials to do the job ourselves.

By this time, it was nearly May. The shipping deadline was mid June. We had roughly six weeks to fabricate and assemble a tree from scratch. Once we made the decision to build and assemble everything in-house, we had one more obstacle: Space.

We’ve got a roomy office, but it’s not roomy enough to build an 18-foot tree, walls and a presentation area. A local commercial real estate company graciously leased us a short-term building space. Whew, crisis averted.

We started with the tree. We knew what it should look like, but we didn’t know exactly how to build it. The initial concept was far from perfect, but it helped us morph to the final stages rather quickly.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Prototype

After realizing fiberglass poles were indeed the best way to create the outline of the tree canopy, we needed to figure out how to easily connect them while keeping everything structurally sound.

The initial connection pieces were printed with one of our office 3D printers. After some analysis and realization that the pieces may not be strong enough, we progressed to injection-molded plastic connectors.

ISTE 2016 Connectors

We didn’t have a plan for the canopy covering when we started. We progressed through multiple ideas including stretched fabric and polystyrene. We landed on green, semi-transparent acrylic sheets. Aka: PlexiGlass.

We purchased the acrylic material in 8 foot by 4 foot sheets. We have a lot of devices and machines that we like to experiment with here at Squirrels. It just so happens we have a laser cutter that’s perfect for cutting the acrylic material. So the triangle panels were laser cut to size in our office basement.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Laser Cut Panels

 

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To attach those panels to the fiberglass frame, we 3D printed small connecting rods that held tight to the pole-based frame and then screwed into the acrylic with tiny thumb screws.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Panels on Frame

A real tree trunk needs to be structurally sound and able to hold the weight of everything above it. This is also true for our fake tree.

On the inside, a steel truss with custom-welded connection points holds the tree canopy in place safely.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Welded Frame

The “bark” of our tree was attached to a custom-welded steel frame as well. This frame, however, didn’t need to hold as much weight, as it was only covering the internal trussing system.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Frame

Tree roots are arguably the most important part of any tree. Without roots, trees can’t withstand wind, gravity and other forces.

We couldn’t just bolt the truss system to the floor. The Colorado Convention Center would probably look down on that type of action. So, our root system is built into the booth around the tree. The base of the trunk is bolted into the stage and held in place by the booth walls.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Roots

The walls we’re talking about look like one solid piece. However, four separate pieces comprise the middle dividing wall. Trust us, one piece is heavy enough. We didn’t want to move anything heavier.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Unfinished Walls

Now is a good time to mention how talented and creative our employees are. A few of them run a custom wood-working business in their free time. They made a little extra time to custom build our ISTE booth walls! The walls are built from cedar we removed during a renovation of our current offices.

The grass we used for the presentation side is actual outdoor grass carpeting used by professionals in backyards around the United States. It was nifty, easy-to-use and perfect for our tree-themed Squirrels booth.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Grass

 

Once everything was built at our warehouse, we shipped it across the United States. Reassembly in Colorado took about 8 hours, but the result was exactly what we wanted!

That’s how we built the “tree booth!” If you want to know more, feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below. We’re happy to explain everything!

 

July 12, 2016

The Winner of our ISTE 2016 Prize Pack is...

ISTE 2016 registration: $534

Flight to Denver: $476

Three-night stay in a Denver hotel: $900

Returning home with the Squirrels Grand Prize Pack: priceless

As most educators know, spending the week at the largest EdTech conference in the United States can be a pricey expedition, and like a lot of conferences, typical “swag” consists of stickers, pens, drawstring bags and items you’ll never use. But the Squirrels team goes big.

Every exhibitor who attends ISTE has the opportunity to raffle off a large prize of their choosing. Squirrels chose to give away an all-inclusive iPad Pro Prize Pack that contained an iPad Pro, Beats Pill Speaker, Apple Pencil, iPad Pro Smart Cover, Mophie PowerStation Plus charger, licenses of Reflector 2, a $50 iTunes gift card and more. We had the thrill of watching ISTE attendees race to drop off their raffle tickets all week in hopes of being that one lucky winner who got to take it all home.

After hours of anticipation on that final day, exhibit management came to the Squirrels booth to draw our winner: Scott Silver-Bonito. The kicker? It was his first time attending ISTE. Not too shabby, Scott! He’s already put his prize to good use by taking notes with his iPad and Apple Pencil for upcoming professional conferences. We can still remember the look on his face when we handed over our most "prized" possession!

One goal we have for any EdTech conference we attend is to create a receptive and welcoming presence for educators who are unfamiliar with our company and products. We were able to successfully do that in Denver, as Scott was unfamiliar with Squirrels when ISTE 2016 began. After conducting research, speaking with our team and getting a first-hand look at our products, he is excited to incorporate Reflector 2 into his classroom.

Now that the conference is over, Scott plans to reflect (no pun intended) on what he learned while educating his friends and colleagues on the new possibilities Reflector 2 brings to the classroom.

“ISTE was overwhelmingly wonderful,” Scott said. “Connecting with tech-minded teachers across the world was a bonus! I would describe ISTE as a technologically invigorating and rejuvenating experience.”

ISTE is held in a different city each year, rotating between Denver, San Antonio, Atlanta and Philadelphia. San Antonio is up next! You can bet Scott is already planning his trip for 2017, and he even plans to take a few friends with him.

Congratulations again, Scott! Be sure to follow and connect with Scott on Twitter @SrBonito1!

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About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. We create high-quality, budget-friendly screen mirroring and device management software that’s compatible with today’s most popular devices. To date, our software can be found in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, businesses and homes. Follow our blog for all the latest product updates, Squirrels news and technology insight!