I love presenting at and attending conferences, but I find it difficult to be away from the classroom at the same time. I miss the students! Having just arrived back from Minds on Media and ECOO, I can’t help but think about this incredible conference experience, but also reflect on the pros and cons of being away. For me, when I attend each session at a conference, I want a take away. I’m always looking for something that I can add or change in my classroom, and at this three-day conference, I got many take aways.
- The Minds on Media format is a wonderful way to personalize professional development. People can choose the sessions that work best for them, and each session can be customized to address the individual wants and needs of the people at the session. They construct their own knowledge, and walk away with practical ideas and reasonable goals. I want to attend more PD sessions that allow this to happen.
- Make learning authentic. I guess that I’ve known this for a while now, but I realized during these three days, just how authentic learning can be. Thanks to Andy Forgrave (@aforgrave) and Heather Durnin (@hdurnin), I’m now ready to do live radio shows with my students on a REAL Internet radio station: 105 The Hive. Students will get to discuss their learning with others and create real media works (with a real audience) thanks to Andy, Heather, and 105 the Hive. Our first radio show is already booked for this Friday (November 2nd) on the topic of Thinking Thursdays: Our Look At Deeper Meaning In Texts.
- Harness the power of the backchannel. It’s funny, as I’ve used the backchannel a lot with my students in literacy thanks to The One and Only Ivan and The Global Read Aloud Project. As I read, students use a group in the Commons (our Board blogging platform) and Edmodo to share their thinking and learning with others. While I’ve seen the power of the backchannel during my language block, until today, I never considered using it in math. Today I attended a fantastic math session called, It’s Just A Tool, But Hey, Look At the Math. While the focus was on high school math, the ideas in the session could definitely be modified to elementary school. One suggestion by one of the presenters was to use Today’sMeet as a backchannel where students could pose math questions to other students and answer other students’ math questions. They don’t provide the answer though. They answer the question with other questions that help students construct their own knowledge while assisting them as well. What a powerful learning opportunity for students. This presenter shared how she models this questioning technique and supports students throughout the process. This is definitely something I want to try!
- It’s not all about the grade. Over these past three days, I’ve been to a wide variety of workshops and presentations, and they’re targeted to a wide range of grade levels as well. Often the grade doesn’t matter though. Good teaching is good teaching, and ideas can be applied across grade levels. For example, this afternoon, I attended a wonderful session on Clic called, Let’s Play! Now Let’s Document! Clic is a Pearson product that is used in Full-Day Kindergarten classrooms, and allows for seamless documentation and sharing of student learning. The assessment possibilities with this product are amazing! During the session, I tweeted to ask if there’s a similar product in the works for older grades. When the session ended, I happened to run into one of the Pearson reps, and we spoke about this. This connection has opened up the possibility for some possible other future connections, and this never would have happened if I made it all about the grade.
- Formal and informal discussions are beneficial. While I attended so many incredible sessions, I also had so many incredible conversations with people outside of these sessions. The conversations never stopped in fact! From breakfast time in the morning to dinner time at night, we were constantly talking about teaching and learning and how to best meet the needs of ALL students. Many of the informal conversations were just as wonderful as the formal ones. Yesterday afternoon, I spent time talking to Janet Broder: this amazing special education high school teacher from a neighbouring Board. While we spoke about a lot, I especially enjoyed our discussion about the “flipped classroom.” Together, we were able to look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of the flipped classroom, and if this model could work for disengaged learners. I’ve read a lot about the flipped classroom, but haven’t done much with this model yet on my own. I think it’s time to explore this more. Thanks to one of the presenters in this math workshop this morning, I can use Virtual Nerd to look at some possible video tutorials, and see where to go from there.