I had lofty ambitions for ISTE. I wanted to learn as much as I could while capturing it all in blogs and podcast episodes. The hope was to use these items to share with those who could not attend and provide a record of my learning so I could further reflect on it and work to create learning opportunities and better coaching experiences for the teachers I work with. I had a plan. I came armed with the new state Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies to help provide some focus for the sessions I chose, a notebook to scribble down ideas and sketch out flow charts, and multiple devices to help me type, record, and organize my thoughts.
I will say that the planning and preparation did help to provide focus.I felt that I was able to choose some effective sessions and that I was doing a pretty good job of capturing my learning through private notes, blog posts, or audio recordings. Even though every goal was not completely met, I felt that I was gaining a great deal of insight into topics I was not as familiar with and I was gathering some fantastic resources for myself and my teachers. My focus was all consuming and I was laser focused on my goals.
But on the morning of day three, I hit a wall and I hit it hard. To be 100% honest, I was a bit upset with my self come the beginning of the third day of the conference. I had pushed myself the first two days so much that I was exhausted and overwhelmed. That morning seemed to be so much less productive than any of the time I had spent in the two days prior and I started to focus on a number of things that I did not complete which I had intended to complete, like blogging about each session I attended as a way to provide record and a beginning to a reflection.
After a discussion with one of my virtual PLN members I felt a great deal better. I am not sure if it was the fact that I had actually sat down and talked in a relaxed atmosphere as opposed to spending that time taking notes, thinking, and working, but the discussion seemed to fill me back up with the enthusiasm and energy I needed to continue on to my next session which, probably because of my drastic attitude change, went so much better than the sessions I had attended in the morning.
While I did not reach those lofty goals that I had set for myself when I left for the conference, I did get a few blogs about specific sessions and experiences, and a few interviews and reflections recorded to share out on my podcast. I did not meet the standard I had set for myself, but I am okay with that because I still have all of the learning I gained. But even more importantly, I have the connections that I have made and solidified with other educators from all over the country, and one really nice teacher from Australia who I met while standing in a line for coffee. Those connections will continue to benefit me and my learning goals for years to come. Besides, I have time to continue reflecting, writing, and recording because learning doesn’t just stop when the conference does.
I have been a gamified education hold out. I am skeptical of using games that portray themselves as learning tools because I have seen a lot of them that are really just worksheets which reward you for getting the answer right. Now, these may be good for review, but not for really teaching concepts. There was also this fear that as a high school teacher I would delegitimize what I was teaching by using games.
Because I try to keep an open mind, I decided to sign up for a gamified session at ISTE.
The presenter, Jon Spike, was an engaging presenter with a great deal of nerdy humor. He made the case for using games during lessons and throughout units. However, the most effective thing he did with his presentation was not the fun contests or simulations which he demonstrated, it was the ability to align the games he discussed with standards, blooms taxonomy, and digital learning competencies
I learned a great deal during the session and while I still believe that there are a number of games out there that masquerade themselves as educational, I have found value in gamified lessons.
I had the chance to go to an ignite session at ISTE 2017. I originally went to support my friend Kyle Hamstra in his presentation, but I got so much out of these short presentations. The most impactful share was a student. He is a young student who spoke about how he is a connected learning in an unconnected school. He highlighted all the great things he does and the hashtag he uses to promote digital literacy and digital citizenship, #bethatkindofkid. He promotes the idea that students should be able to share their voice, solve problems, and empower eachother.
The part that got me in his presentation was the fact that he did all of this outside of school. He stressed the fact that he was not able to do these things in school because his school did not support this type of learning.
Another student, an 8th grader, talked about how he felt like a failure when he was in the traditional learning environment. It took going to another school with a flexible environment and a maker mindset to start to realize that he wasn’t a failure. He even shared that when tested he had a reading level that surpasses the 8th grade.
These stories demonstrate the need to move away from traditional learning models. Those that require students to sit in rows of desks and complete worksheets or just Google information. Why do they need to memorize dates or facts that can be found on their phones? They need to explore, create, and push the boundaries of what we already know and do.
I don’t understand why we hold students back in these ways. Humans are social beings who learn more through collaboration than they ever do just by passively listening to an expert. We have to be able to create schools that are flexible for students and allow them to explore their interests. Where they can build and learn the skills that will actually get them hired to their dream jobs because most jobs want innovators not repeaters.
Our students want more from us, why can't we give it to them?
If you want to see these student presentations for yourself, they were live streamed to the #passthescopeedu by @braveneutrino (Stacy Lovdahl).
This is my first trip to an ISTE conference and I am excited at the opportunity that I have to attend. I did not think I would be able to make the trip and had planned to follow #NotAtISTE17, but my district was able to send a group of us for which I am more than grateful. In the process of planning for this trip I have started to really think about why I am going and what I hope to accomplish. The overall goal for me, is to bring back as many great things as I can to my teachers and my district as a whole. I also feel that it is important that I align that learning and sharing with the new Digital Learning Competencies that have recently been introduced in North Carolina.
One problem I often have when I attend a conference is the overload of information. There are a great number of ideas and strategies being shared and I often walk away from each day determined to implement or share many of them. Yet, when I get home I have only been able to really come up with plans for a few items. Now I know that taking away a few key things is great and the suggestion at these types of conferences is always to pace yourself and take away those few items and implement them well. Of course, as an instructional technology coach, I want to get something for everyone I work with (No, I don’t mean swag). I want to be able to share with all of my teachers regardless of what grade or subject they teach.
So I am going to do a great deal of recording at ISTE. I have signed up for #passthescopeedu, which is a hashtag used to classify videos created on periscope that are education based. They usually share monthly, but the pass the scope crew has worked to make sure all the days of ISTE are covered thoroughly. I will jump in with my Periscope as I can. I am also going to be interviewing as many people as I can for my Podcast. This is especially true for the poster sessions where individuals will share their experiences and expertise in short bursts in a large hall filled with tables.
Finally, I want to take time to reflect and talk out what I have learned each day not just on my own, but with others. I feel I process best through talking (which is one of the reasons I started a podcast). So I will reflect privately through recordings and I am opening up my room (Thank goodness I have a fantastic roommate!) to others who have traveled from our district to reflect on each day in a round table fashion. My hope is that these recordings will provide all of us a way to take back as much as we can from this experience so we can share with those who were not able to travel to Texas.
As far as my podcast is concerned, I will do my best to edit and push out some of the best stuff as fast as I can. Again, I am so very thankful for this opportunity and the fact that my roommate is excited to participate in all of this because I’m not sure how much sleep we will get with all the great stuff going on!
North Carolina has just begun to implement their Digital Learning Competencies for Teachers. These new competencies are intended to get teachers to focus on best practices for teaching students the skills they need to work in a world that is continually changing. There are four domains of focus for these standards:
1. Leadership in Digital Learning- Teachers are looked upon to take a leadership role in the classroom, school, district, and on. Their ability to be lifelong learners should be a visible part of their practice that serves as a motivator for students and other educators to do the same.
2. Digital Citizenship- Teachers are expected to demonstrate an ability to use digital tools and media responsibly. We can’t expect students to do it if we can’t.
3. Digital Content and Instruction- Teachers are asked to create learning experiences that allow students to create their own goals, evaluate their own learning, solve authentic problems, and demonstrate a number of additional skills through the use of appropriate digital tools.
4. Data and Assessment- Teachers are asked to gather, assess, and utilize data to create a personalized learning experience that reaches students where they are and allows them to grow at a pace that is effective for them.
These are just summaries of the competencies. The link above directs you to the document released by the state of North Carolina. While at first glance they can seem relatively simple to understand and meet it will take some time to really dig in and unpack all the skills that are really being addressed in these two pages.
I will say that I appreciate the flexibility these standards provide. They allow educators to find multiple ways to grow in these areas. They also allow for growth of technology, which is always important as technology is continually changing.
This past weekend, I was able to spend some time working with a number of other educators from all over the state of North Carolina on a conference that will be traveling throughout the state late this summer. This time was extraordinarily productive as we were able to generate, work through, and begin to solidify some great ideas that will become some stellar presentations for this conference. The individuals who are participating in the creation and delivery of these sessions are all enthusiastic about their daily work and the work they are doing with this conference.
Not only did we push each other in the creation of the presentations for this event, we also pushed each other to consider different ways of looking at current problems we see in our schools and in education as a whole. The time spent together gave us a chance to not only dig into this new state initiative, but also provided a chance for reflection on how we can help our fellow educators navigate through these competencies.
I wrote in my last post that I like the way the competencies are open and allow for flexibility in how they are met, but there is also a danger in putting these out without any guidance. Teachers, especially those who are not used to using the elements that are described in these competencies, might feel overwhelmed at the idea of having to understand what they are being asked to demonstrate. This is why having strong coaches who can lead the teachers through these standards is important.
We cannot continue to throw things like these competencies at teachers without providing the support they need to be successful. Teachers are already expected to plan engaging lessons, grade and return assignments in a timely manner, serve on committees, perform additional duties (lunch, bus, testing, etc.), build relationships with their students, and a multitude of other issues for anywhere from 30 kids in elementary school to 120 kids in secondary.
Setting requirements for teachers to become more digitally competent and implement those competencies into their teaching is great, but if they do not have support through a strong coach or leader then these competencies becomes just another box for teachers to check. We have to do a better job of providing effective coaches, training, and time to allow teachers to get the most out of these skills.
One place that teachers can start is by attending the Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies Conference that is being created by educators from across the state. Here you will be able to attend sessions that are aligned to the competencies and you will be able to start to digest pieces of these competencies with other educators. Because the best way to learn is through collaboration, this one day of free professional development is a great way to get teachers together to think about these competencies and how they can be used in their classes.
Click Here to Register for the Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies PD Opprotunity
I just finished watching the movie Captain Underpants with my kids. In the movie, the principal and teachers are depicted as hating fun and humor. This is especially true for the villain, a science teacher named Professor Poopypants, who wants tmake everyone stop laughing because he is tired of people laughing at his name. My kids loved the movie! In fact, they are outside right now playing Captain Underpants.
While I watched the movie, I started to think about all the movies and TV shows that I have watched over the years that depicted teachers. Then I wondered about the teachers those characters were based off of which led me to the question, How would my former students depict me in a movie? Would they picture me as the teacher from Freedom Writers or the Edna Krabappel from the Simpsons? I am hoping it is the former.
Now, I understand that these figures are hyperbolized and often boiled down to one character trait that can either come out as being heroic or horrible depending on the trait that is focused on, but to be honest I have probably been a Professor Poopypants, Edna Krabappel, or other unflattering teacher before. We all have bad days and we all make mistakes, but as educators we have to take time to reflect on our actions and interactions with our students. We have to be willing to apologize when a student's humor rubbed us the wrong way or we handed out worksheets and disconnected because we didn't feel well.
We have to recognize these mistakes and character flaws that sometimes show through, forgive ourselves for the action or reaction that we had, be transparent with students about the fact that we are human and make mistakes, and work harder to show students that we have an enthusiasm for learning and working with them each and every day.
So how would your students depict you in a movie they write? This question can force you to stop and reflect on the things you say and do with your students in class because you never know which class clown will be the next screen writer. Give your students someone inspiring to write about.