Melissa ISD has announced what may be a first of its kind event set for August. Droid University will be an Android-based education conference centered on the use of the Android operating system in the classrooms. With teachers already utilizing Android tablets in the classroom, and students expected to join them in the fall, MISD has taken the application of Android-based teaching to a new level.

The genesis of Droid U, as it is known, lies in a Texas Computer Education Association conference a handful of MISD staff members attended in February. Noting that conferences were being held for Apple systems, the group began brainstorming ideas that would benefit their district and others that use the Android system.

"I had attended an iPad conference. That’s where it came from, we decided we were going to do our own conference," said Dr. Brian Brown, MISD Technology Services Coordinator.

The logic is sound. MISD is one of many districts across the state — and the country — that is using the Android operating system. Van Alstyne, for instance, has integrated it into the classrooms, while Anna ISD is beginning to dabble in the Android tablet world, as well. While there are plenty of Apple conferences around, there were apparently none with the Android system as its primary focus. Brown searched nationwide for any such conference and came up empty-handed.

"We didn’t want to limit it to just this campus. We wanted to open it up to the rest of the campuses, and why stop there? Van Alstyne ISD is using Android in the classroom. Let’s invite them. Community ISD, Anna ISD…let’s all put our heads together and talk about this," said Brown.

MISD got the ball rolling by putting Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 seven-inch tablets in middle school teachers’ hands at the end of March as MISD Superinendent Dr. Jason Smith and MISD School Board President Bruce Minchey personally handed out 18 devices to teachers. This was the first step in fully integrating the tablets into the middle school campus and beyond.

"When we went to the conference what we learned is you have to put these tablets in your teachers’ hands," explained Kim Boedeker, Melissa Middle School Principal. "Our goal here at the middle school is hopefully to eventually have one-to-one initiative [in] which every kid has a tablet. To do that, we had to put [them] in our teachers’ hands now."

MISD Middle School teachers have been getting their feet wet with the tablets with the expectation of students getting them in the very near future. The school board has approved the purchase of tablets for eighth graders in the fall, with seventh graders to receive theirs sometime after Christmas if all goes to plan. The district will be purchasing 145 devices for the eighth graders, and there will ultimately be between 300-400 devices in the building once all is said and done. The money to purchase these devices comes from local funds and the instructional materials allotment as supplied by the state.

The learning curve for these teachers has been a steep one. Every Friday for the past four weeks teaching have been attending Lunch and Learn, going over the tablets, the operating system and new and innovative ways to use them in their teaching models.

"What we’re finding is [that] a lot of our teachers are probably going to present our Lunch and Learns now because they’re getting in there and learning, ‘Wow, I can do this,’" said Boedeker, who added that she wants some of her teachers to present at Droid U.

The one-day conference will feature presenters on various Android-related topics and vendors in line with the Android-centric event. Those vendors will be present as sponsors of the event. Though released to the public less than a week prior to this writing, the event already has a sponsor signed on as TeacherTube, an educational, pre-filtered take on YouTube, has committed to Droid U.

In addition, teachers within the district have signed up for the event, organizers have received commitments from as far away as Honey Grove ISD and Winter ISD and even community members have asked to attend.

This event is planned to be recurring as Brown said he would like next year’s event to be even bigger. Even at that, Brown said Droid U is getting noticed.

"There are people that come up to me and say, ‘I’m really excited about this event.’ It has generated quite a bit of excitement," said Brown.

The one-day event will be held at Melissa Middle School on August 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free for all public educators. Community members wanting to attend can do so for a $25 conference fee. Lunch is included.

To sign up for the event, or for more information, go to droiduniversity.org.