I first heard about iPadPaloozaSTx when I received a press release from Mark May, community information specialist for McAllen ISD. Thanks to Mark and the district’s director of instructional technology, Ann Vega, I attended the first annual event August 1 at McAllen High School.

I plan to write more about iPad PaloozaSTx in a future column, but for this one, I decided I would conduct a C & A (That’s a Q & A with questions by Chris and answers by Ann). But before I get into that, I wanted you to know I also looked up the definition of “palooza,” which I found in the Urban Dictionary: “an all-out crazy party; partying at one place with a ton of people like there's no tomorrow.” I assure you, that’s exactly what it was. But instead of BYOB, for this palooza, it was BYOiP (Bring Your Own iPad) or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

C: Where did iPadPalooza originate?

A: iPadPalooza originated in Austin, Texas (by Carl Hooker of Eanes ISD). I was a presenter at his first Palooza. (Carl Hooker was a featured speaker at iPadPaloozaSTx.)

C: Was it your idea to bring it to the RGV? When? Why? How?

A: I have collaborated with Carl Hooker over the years; he is one of my mentors. He is part of my PLN (Professional Learning Network), and I learn daily from all my Tweeps (Twitter followers) across the world. I brought Carl down to present to our leadership staff last year. I expressed to him that I would love to have a learning festival like iPadPalooza. He said areas of Texas and areas across the U.S. had also expressed interest, so he was offering a partnership where areas could use the iPadPalooza name, but they must have certain components: Keynotes, yearly theme had to have a cultural feel (This year it was Day of the Dead), offer local food (McAllen food trucks), and local music (Valley students). So my staff, a committee, and I worked eight months to bring the first Annual iPadPalooza to the Valley.

C: What made you name it "STx" instead of "McAllen"?

A: IPadPalooza is intended to bring in your (the sponsoring ISD) district employees but to offer PD (professional development) for any interested parties. IPadPalooza in Austin had over 40 states and five countries represented for their fourth Palooza. The event is intended to bring surrounding areas together. We had educators from McAllen, Edinburg, Los Fresnos, Roma, Corpus Christi, Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Miami.

C: What would you consider the highlights?

A: Our keynotes were awesome. Feedback was great with participants saying they loved the ambience, the presenters, music, and food! AppMazing race was also a highlight.

C: Who should be thanked/recognized in this column?

A: Carl Hooker for his guidance and access to his notes! All of my staff and committee, my boss Mrs. Rachel Arcaute, for being flexible. She asked why we needed a generator. I said, “For the food trucks.” She said, "WHAT FOOD TRUCKS?" I told her to trust me, and it would be okay. (And she did!) We had great sponsors that donated iWatches, GoPro cameras, and much more. Sponsors helped with everything!

C: The backpacks were a big hit. Were those provided by a sponsor? Would you like me to mention sponsors?

A: YES! Tech Repair, Wendy Gilbert, swivl, Renaissance Learning, RUG-ED, sphero, Atomic Learning, Amplify, Istation, Lakeshore, Houghton Mifflin, eInstruction®, leArnin3.com, DYNANOTES, SLG Stern Law Group, iTurity, Lopez Family Clinic, Office Depot, ALLYOURbliss.com, and Tech Defenders. (Ann is looking for even more great sponsors for the 2nd Annual iPadPaloozaSTx.)

C: Now that you've had the first one, what's next?

A: Our next iPadPalooza will be two days next year. I have my keynotes lined up for August 4-5, 2016. I learned that these great educators/keynotes fill their calendars a year ahead, so I had to book early! A year will give me even more time to plan a great two-day event.

C: Is barcode/paperless part of the whole iPadPalooza "identity"?

A: When I joined MISD 10 months ago, I asked our staff to become paperless. I practice what I preach. I want McAllen to be a paperless district, so I have to model this with a paperless tech festival! (QR codes could be found on posters in the McHi main hallway. Using a scanning app on their devices, iPadPaloozaSTx attendees scanned the codes to get the schedule of events and speaker bios.)

NOTE: To learn more about iPadPaloozaSTx, visit ipadpaloozasouthtexas.com, and to learn more about Carl Hooker’s original iPadPalooza, visit ipadpalooza.com

Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with their business communications and also works for a McAllen-based alternative certification program. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com.