Monday, June 30, 2014

ISTE 2014 Day 3: What should we be doing here?

Many educators are using approaches such as blended and flipped learning to maximize instructional time and increase opportunities for learners to interact with content, with the instructor, and with one another. At the heart of this movement is this question: What is the best use of classroom time? 

If you feel that students should be engaged with tackling authentic challenges during class time, collaborating with one another, and purposefully using available resources, then you may agree that technology can allow you to maximize learning opportunities by putting more static teaching and learning tasks online or moving them outside of the regular school day.

So what I'm wondering today is this: If we believe that student learning happens in interactive, collaborative, and authentic environments, why don't we apply that same thinking to professional learning? We are still learners, after all.

With the abundance of technology we have available for professional learning (just take a look around you at ISTE 2014), we have tremendous opportunities to put static professional learning tasks and resources online and make better use of the time we spend together.

This week, there are roughly 20,000 educators in one building with similar passions and purposes. How often does that happen? How are we using our time, and is that the best use of this time? I see many missed opportunities in the way we could be structuring our professional learning experiences and engaging with one another (here at ISTE 2014 and beyond the conference).

I've talked to several attendees throughout the conference about their best conference experiences, and most them have expressed that the interactive workshops, playgrounds, and poster sessions have been their most amazing learning experiences. Why? Because they were given opportunities to talk with other educators, explore resources, and apply ideas and resources to their own contexts. Kudos to presenters like the Iron Chef crew who are giving conference attendees opportunities to interact with each other and tackle difficult challenges.

P.S. I'm sitting in a lecture session right now as I write this post because I am completely checked out mentally. At ISTE 2015, I will be more purposeful about attending sessions that are explicitly interactive and authentic. I also hope that conference planners will design more opportunities for attendees to engage and play.

ISTE 2014 Day 2: Connecting with other teacher educators

For me, day 2 of the ISTE 2014 conference was all about connecting with other folks who do what I do. One of the most powerful aspects of conferences like this is the opportunity to connect face-to-face with other folks who serve in similar roles, share similar passions, and have innovative ideas they're willing to share.

I had the awesome opportunity to present an interactive panel session with my friends and colleagues Bethany Smith, Dean Mantz, and Lisa Dabbs. We shared strategies and resources we use to engage pre-service teachers, including developing a PLN, using the TPACK framework to make sound instructional technology decisions, developing digital citizenship skills, and blogging. During and after the session, we connected with several teacher educators who are doing this same work in their courses and are interested in sharing ideas and resources and connecting our pre-service teachers with one another. Throughout the day, I was also able to meet up with colleagues who belong to the ISTE Teacher Educator PLN (#tepln). I love making face-to-face connections with other teacher educators I've interacted with online who have been a tremendous resource for me. 

One piece of advice for #iste2014 attendees: Take advantage of opportunities to sit and have a conversation with someone. Don't feel guilty for missing a session to make time for a valuable conversation. There is great value in these connections and conversations, and you never know where those connections may lead. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

ISTE 2014 Day 1: Authentic and Engaged Learning

My friend Melissa Edwards and I have challenged each other to write a blog post for each day of the ISTE 2014 conference. Today was an amazing first day of the conference for me. I was honored to attend a luncheon where this year's Making IT Happen winners were recognized. It's inspiring to hear stories of educators who are doing the hard work it takes to bring about change in teaching and learning with technology.

The highlight of my day, however, was participating in a thought-provoking conversation with Steven Anderson, Thomas Murray, Beth Still, and Kyle Pace as part of the ClassFlow EDULounge. We talked about what engaged and authentic learning looks like, the role of assessment in learning, and the future of educational technology. I had several take-aways from the conversation, including:

  • Engaged learning is authentic learning. This applies to both teacher learning and student learning. 
  • Teachers need to shift the focus away from allowing a tool to drive the learning toward meaningful uses of technology for specific teaching and learning purposes. 
  • Administrators must align their expectations for teacher evaluation and teacher support with innovative teaching and learning. 
  • Sustained, authentic professional learning opportunities are necessary for teachers to develop fluency with purposeful technology integration. 
As with my ISTE 2013 experience, I am again realizing that the power of conferences is in the conversations. I'm looking forward to the conversations that are in store tomorrow.