Archive for May, 2014

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by kjarrett: http://flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/14210111121

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by kjarrett: http://flickr.com/photos/kjarrett/14210111121

So, I’ve been thinking about conferences. I didn’t go to EduCon this past January. Now that it’s gotten more popular and you have to register sooner; I keep missing out. This past weekend I went to EdCampPhilly, which was also at SLA this year. I’ve been to many an EdCamp.

Anyway, I was chit-chatting with some folks when Hadley Ferguson appeared. Hadley is an EdCamp Original and a great person to have in your PLN. If you don’t follow her already, you should go to that now (@HadleyJF). Hadley, Philip Cummings (you should also follow him @Philip_Cummins), and I all presented together at EduCon several years ago. Our session was about Making Thinking Visible and we demonstrated and modeled a number of strategies from the book by Ron Ritchhart. It was a bit nerve-wracking initially, but it went pretty well. I wrote about it before.

One of the folks in our session was Brad Campbell. (You should follow him too @BrdCampbell). He was also at EdCamp on Saturday. And, of all the wonderful things, he came up to Hadley and then to me to say that he still uses strategies that we shared and thinks about our session. I was so flattered. How lovely of him to tell us. And, how many times should I be saying something similar to someone else myself! Hadley and I both admitted that we needed to remember our own session highlights a little more in our own teaching.

This got me thinking that you just never know what will stick. I mean I thought that our session was pretty good. I was very proud of us. And, I’m sure a lot of the folks who were there don’t remember it. And, I’m sure that even people who thought the ideas were good at the time have forgotten or not used the information. This does not offend me. The same thing happens to me at conferences. When I think back to all the sessions at the many EdCamps, EduCons, NAIS, ISTE, etc I have attended, it’s not always the ones that wowed me in the moment that end up having the biggest impact. It’s really hard to predict what will stick because it’s really more about what is relevant now. Relevant could mean I can use this idea in class on Tuesday, or relevant could mean I’ve been thinking about this topic recently, or relevant could mean I’ve been thinking about something else entirely, but somehow this other idea brings it into better focus. So, since I can’t predict what will be useful, what should I do? Wait for the perfect session title, conference theme? NO.

My best bet is to go to the conference, go to the EdCamp, go to the session that might be good, because in the end it might be what sticks. I just read in my Alumni News from college that one of the things that makes people happy is good conversations (An hour-long lecture version also available, conversation part starts at about 30:00). Well, this makes total sense to me. I find most conferences totally invigorating. Seriously, I come home wound up and taking a mile a minute. Things get done; blog posts get written. And the thing is, I don’t actually even have to learn anything new. Since there is a limited amount of information that I can keep in the front of my brain, I appreciate being reminded of stuff I technically already knew, but may have filed a little too far back. It’s the great conversations at the conference that make my brain spin, in a good way.

So this Saturday, Brad reminded me of something I shared with him. How great is that? And then, I went to a bunch of good sessions and hit the jackpot, I think, with the last one. (More on that later.) Several great conversations, one happy me.

What do other people expect to get out of conferences?

 

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creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Matt Peoples: http://flickr.com/photos/leftymgp/7828909452

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Matt Peoples: http://flickr.com/photos/leftymgp/7828909452

So, I’ve been thinking about victories–small and large.

My school is in the process of transitioning to a 1:1 learning environment. Our middle school went 1:1 this past fall, upper school (high school) will be 1:1 next fall. One of the things I am responsible for is preparing our faculty and students for this transition. Really, faculty members are responsible for themselves, but I’m responsible for helping them help themselves. As you might imagine this is not all hearts and rainbows. However, I have a success story to share. It is not my success; it’s another teacher’s success. I am so excited for her.

She sent me this email:  . . . that was my first use of the computer that changed the experience for the classes!

So, here’s what happened. She tried something and her classroom was instantly transformed.

HA! No. That’s not how transformation happens, silly. Think again.

She has been testing out some new strategies and tools for a awhile. She has wanted to try things, and sometimes I have had to say, “No you don’t need another tool here. You need to think about your classroom goals first.” We have spent a lot of time talking about classroom teaching about writing, about whether google docs will make students better writers. (Spoiler alert-it won’t.) We talked about my class too, which has been really helpful for me.

It was mid-March when I got this email. This conversation has been going on since last school year. This year she really committed to making some changes from the beginning of the year. She has taken charge of her own professional learning–summer work, meeting with me, trying things. Most importantly, she has kept at it. Initially, we were talking substitution, maybe augmentation on the SAMR model *(See below for more info.) And, that was fine. Totally fine. Using technology is not always wow-y. Wow-y is possible, but it takes time to get there. A lot of time it’s not even possible to imagine wow-y at first.

If you look at the SAMR model, transformation is the wow-y level. Transformation consists of both the modification and redefinition levels. Modification is defined as tech allows for significant task redesign. Redefinition is defined as tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.

So, if we go back to my colleague, she didn’t get to start above the line in the transformation zone. No one does. She had to start down there at substitution and augmentation. Looking back, she may even think she had to spend more time that she would have liked wading through those levels. I would say that part of what wading around does is provide time to get used to each step. There isn’t a set amount of time you have to spend at each level before moving on. It’s all personal. So, the more you engage in that thinking, the more you have those conversations and begin to be willing to look at your discipline differently, the sooner it is that you will get to transformation. You can’t get there by hopping on the train and waiting for the stop to be announced. Just like our students, we must work for it.

I think there are a lot of ways in which we aren’t that different from our students. Who doesn’t like a victory?

 

* The SAMR model is a framework developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura that helps teachers evaluate technology use. There are four levels of technology integration. First is substation, then augmentation. These are both in the enhancement group. Next are modification and redefinition. These two constitute the transformation level. Check out Kathy Schrock’s website for more info and a good image.