Posts Tagged ‘conference’

(CCO Public domain image) My driftwood pile is already getting mixed in with my rocks and shells from elsewhere.

(CCO Public domain image) My driftwood pile is already getting mixed in with my rocks and shells from elsewhere.

So, I’ve been thinking more about the Project Zero conference (Learning Together: Leading Together) I attended a few weeks ago in Washington, DC. (I already wrote a brief post about this conference.) One of the final speakers,Project Zero researcher Tina Blythe, talked about finding your driftwood–that piece, that nugget to take back to your classroom and your practice. Well, I brought back a lot more than that. I will admit that I am a collector at heart and bring things back from pretty much anywhere.

Here’s a list of key ideas I am holding onto. The list got kind of long, once I started writing. That’s the way it is with a good conference.

A GLOBAL  PERSPECTIVE

The global outlook at the school and in discussions about art was noticeably different. I am thinking a lot about the potential for being more global, or maybe just more outward looking, as the ‘why’ for the interdisciplinary work my school is investigating. I’m not sure why it felt so different; it’s not as if we don’t discuss the world at my school. We do. I suspect that a lot of the difference was the international participants. Even though this is an area that is hard to quantify, I was struck by it almost immediately. Plus, I am definitely going to look into the Out of Eden Learn project where “walking parties” join journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek as he walks 21,000 miles retracing the spread of humans across the planet.

SLOW LEARNING

There was a lot of talk about the need to slow down and recognize the time it takes to think and wrestle with ideas. (David Perkins from Project Zero spoke about this, but others also referenced this need to slow down to think.) Thinking critically about complex ideas is easier said than done; we need to recognize this and help students enter and identify parts of the thinking process. In addition, we need to be aware of when we are taking thinking shortcuts (which we will need to do sometimes in the interest of time and return on investment), and what those shortcuts mean. One of the things I am thinking about with this is homework and quantity of homework. Are we assigning thoughtful work or just work? If it’s just work, what’s the point? All it does is get in the way of spending time really wrestling with something that is substantive. 

UNDERCURRENT (in a good way, not in a creepy way) of USE OF TOPICAL WORLD EVENTS

While this wasn’t THE focus for any session I attended, it a given in a lot of the work showcased. This connects with the global piece above. I saw a lot of evidence of effective use of very current events (spread of Zika, refugee crisis, etc) to focus class investigation. This kind of study necessitates an interdisciplinary approach as well as slowing down to learn about the issue from many vantage points. Victory! In this area we also saw evidence of student directed learning. Maybe this was in connection to events that were being studied, but there seemed to be a lot of this. It dovetails nicely with a lot of conversations we have been at my school.

VISIBLE THINKING ROUTINES

This is a big Project Zero thing (Making Thinking Visible) and something that really interests me. As a former elementary/middle school teacher, using graphic organizers, color coding information, making charts and graphs is right up my alley. What I notice is that this kind of work often fades away in high school settings. These strategies are frequently seen as the supports that are used until students can just write about all of this in a paper. However, with complex ideas, it’s important, at any age, to break pieces apart, gather, group, and regroup information. The tyranny of text is real, in my opinion. Text is not always the best format or at least not the only format. The idea that we can support students in deep, slow critical thinking without helping to make thinking patterns visible is unrealistic. This works directly in support of deeper, more interdisciplinary, global study. 

STUDENT AND TEACHER DEMONSTRATIONS OF LEARNING

At conferences there is often a feeling of teachers as a learning community. The people who attend are there to learn. However, another thing that was on display at the conference was schools hosting Exhibitions of Learning. These might be students displays but also might be teacher displays. I loved this idea that learning was on display by all members of the school community. In the session on teacher displays, the format was that teachers made 3-fold science boards, just like students do for science fairs. Teachers share an idea that they tried to implement, their results, and reflections. Others give them feedback on their work as the tour the learning fair. This was a big take away for me. I love to talk with colleagues about teaching ideas. However, I have my regulars with whom I talk. This exhibition of learning is a great idea for sharing across disciplines and promoting a culture of continued growth.

Finally, I was impressed by the seriousness with which WISC (Washington International School) went about incorporating Project Zero ideas and work into their community. Once they decided this would important school-wide, they committed to spending serious money and time with PZ researchers in their school for 2 years. They view it as a significant commitment; one they acknowledge they are still working to realize. 

Phew. That’s a lot of drift wood.

Public domain image from Pixabay.com

Public domain image from Pixabay.com

So, I’ve been thinking about going to some new conferences.

@TeacherDebra and I were talking about this the other day. I am a regular attender at some solid events. I’ve been a regular EdCamper for years and attended the very first one in Philadelphia. EduCon and I are well acquainted. I’m not a stranger to ISTE. We go to various local events through ADVIS or other organizations. You get the idea.

Anyway we were talking about how we need to get out of our bubble. We love the events we attend, share what we learn, and present at times. We also see a lot of the same people and sessions at the events. And, while these are topics we love and people we are always happy to see and talk to, we are looking to break out. We are wondering what we are not hearing about? Who we are not meeting (I’m not great at that part)? What we are missing?

Then the other evening, I was making a cake and my husband was reading to me from a NYTimes article by Frank Bruni while I mixed ingredients (a slight variation on this grapefruit cake from Saveur). So nice, right? He was reading about how Facebook, or whatever other boogyman we might accuse, is not to blame for the various bubbles we put ourselves in, but rather we are the makers of our own bubbles.

We’re the real culprits. When it comes to elevating one perspective above all others and herding people into culturally and ideologically inflexible tribes, nothing that Facebook does to us comes close to what we do to ourselves.

No one is keeping this ‘other’ information from us, we are not seeking it out, or not seeking it out forcefully enough.

This is what Debra and I are going to do–intentionally go outside our self created bubble. No unseen force signs us up for conferences against our will. We sign ourselves up, we make the choice to look, or not look, for new options. Well, next year, we are busting out.

Any recommendations for us?

So, I’ve been thinking about digital portfolios for years. In my last two years teaching 5th grade, my students each had a wiki with a page for each major subject, and I tried to build in time to reflect on work after each unit or so. Great, but it was a project that stayed in my grade.

Fast forward a few years. In my new administrative position, I’ve been talking to anyone who will listen mentioning digital portfolios here and there, and the idea has gotten some traction. Over the summer I went to a  two-day workshop by the EdTechTeacher group in Cambridge devoted to digital portfolios with a multi-division team from my school. There were 6 of us in total, teaching 4th-12th grades. What a gift to have the support and time to do this as a group!

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery: http://flickr.com/photos/usnavy/6754890247

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery: http://flickr.com/photos/usnavy/6754890247 My team did not do anything like this, but we are still an impressive group.

I went with some fairly strong ideas as to what I believed we should do for our school. I felt, and continue to feel, that our version of this portfolio will be more about self-reflection (a la the portfolio assessment of old) and student voice than a showcase for very polished work. (When the expectation is that this work is “ready for publication” I think there is a strong temptation for the work to be overly corrected or edited by teachers.) My vision stresses authentic student commentary on progress and areas for improvement. My vision was a little fuzzy on some of the details of what platform to use, how to make this work at various age levels, and how to get more people on board. That’s where the workshop came in handy.

Attending the workshop with my school group meant that we were our own think tank. We all heard the same information. We all talked about how this new learning would and could help us understand more deeply the possibilities and the rational behind our portfolio project. Each of us thought about what this might look like in his or her own classroom, subject area, grade level. This kind of dedicated time to think, talk, eat, talk about other stuff, come back and have at it again the next day is what going to workshops allows teachers to do. The value of that time and the extra space never ceases to amaze me.

The workshop also gave me new ideas about formats for reflection. It does concern me that we are creating another way/time/place that will prioritize written expression. We’ve got plenty of those in school already. Learning about some quick ways to incorporate audio into reflection was a good reminder that the bigger goal is communication of ideas and does not necessitate writing. This was a big take away for many members of the group. However the biggest take away in terms of moving this idea forward was creating a group who has bought into the idea, has some extra information, and can speak up for our project.

Win, win, win.

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?

 

So, I haven’t been thinking about EdCamps recently. Then, a few Saturday mornings ago I hopped on Twitter for a few minutes and saw this:

3 EdCamps going on in one morning! What am I doing at home?

Well, it is Saturday and my family does feel that it is appropriate for me not to work 7 days a week, and I would agree. And yet, it’s been awhile since I have been to an EdCamp. I’ve been to EdCamp Philly, Social Studies, NYC, NTcamp, and a NJTeacherMeet, some multiple times. They are always long days and it’s not as if every session is mind-blowing. But, if that were the case, my head would have exploded in the first session, and I would have to go sit in some dark room to collect myself.

I’ve had a bit of a break from EdCamps by virtue of some scheduling conflicts. Now, I’m ready to dive back into the fray. In particular what I am missing is all that enthusiasm and excitement about experimentation and the willingness to get into “what if” conversations. I always leave feeling recharged. After the hurricanes and nor’easters, it’s time for something that doesn’t involve natural disasters on a weekend.

So, I headed over to the EdCamp wiki and found my next, nearest EdCamp. Looks like December 1 in NJ is the next one for me. North Brunswick here I come.

I am quietly setting a goal to harass some colleagues until they agree to go convince 1 maybe 2 colleagues who haven’t been to an EdCamp before to go with me. I’ve only got several a few day. . .Can I do it?

If you’ve been to EdCamps, how would you sell them to those who are hesitant?


So, I’ve been thinking about professional development. One of the things I credit my participation in professional development through PLP for doing for me is reconnecting me to my profession by reconnecting me to professional development that works for my schedule. I am not opposed to going to conferences (I have written about the value I find in them, and I’ve also written about how I just want a day to think about all the information I’ve gotten at those conferences, here), it’s just not convenient to attend them all the time. Yet, I could always use some professional developing.I mean really, couldn’t we all? I don’t think I’m alone here. What I learned in my first year with PLP, oh so many years ago now, was the value and ease of connecting through social networks, both nings and Twitter. I developed a PLN (Personal Learning Network).

One of the many things I have learned about through my PLN lately is the Global Education Conference that is going on right now. (If you are an educator of any kind, seriously follow the link now. I dare you not to find something of interest to you.) I honestly can’t remember where I first heard about it– someone’s blog, an email I got as a member of a ning, or twitter. Anyway, I have listened to several sessions at this point. But, since it’s a global and virtual conference, there are sessions literally around the clock. This is super teacher-friendly and Wendy-friendly. My personal kids are still young, so they actually notice when I get home, and I notice because I pay the babysitter. I also feel that once I am home, I should pay some attention to them. My kids and I are in agreement on this, mostly. Therefore, that “right after work time” is not a good one for me to be in a class or webinar. Instead, for me after 8pm is a handy time, as long as I don’t have to leave my house. My backside and my couch have a serious thing for each other that is very hard to break up. I have tried.

Global Education Conference to the rescue! It’s 8pm, dinner had been made and eaten, kids in bed, time for some learning. I even got off the couch. . . and into the tub. I got out my Mr. Bubble, turned on the hot water, and set my computer on a chair near by. I logged into the Backboard Elluminate session and then listened and watched as I reclined in the bubbles.

Perfection!

(Nail polish notes: cobalt blue color, by Scotch Naturals, is not only a great color IMO, it is also chemical free!)

TEDxNYED

Posted: June 6, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about how I haven’t been writing anything here. I don’t know what happened, except for a million things I had to do at home and school. Nothing out of the ordinary. Anyway, I have a bunch of posts partially written; a few more swimming around in my brain.

One of the things I’ve done recently is attend TEDxNYED. Here’s my photo to prove it. I took it from my seat in the auditorium of the Museum of the Moving Image. I went with a friend and colleague from school. We didn’t stay the whole time since we each had things we had to do later.

Anyway, it was exciting to be at a live event. And, it made me realize how much I appreciate time to think and process things. With one talk after another coming at you, it’s hard to take anything in. I took notes and on the ride back to PA my friend and I tried to review what each person talked about.

Even though it was too much to take in, I’m fascinated by the idea of doing something similar at my school. Wouldn’t it be great to hear from a range of teacher, students, staff in the community? I’m putting it on the list of things to do next year.