Friday, June 20, 2014

3 Simple Rules For Attending Any Conference

As the end of June approaches that means the annual ISTE (International Society for Technology In Education) Conference is around the corner. ISTE is one of my favorite conferences because I get to catch up face-to-face with those I haven't seen in the past year, I get to learn with some incredible educators and I get to see the latests gadgets and must haves for the classroom.

If you are a social media user or a blog reader you may have seen several posts related to getting more out of ISTE. Many who attend have loads of great ideas to maximizing the impact you have while you are in attendance.

Some of my favorites for ISTE 2014:

These are just a handful of posts related to ISTE with loads of great advice.

In reading all these posts, I was reminded something was missing.

I think there are 3 things to remember, not only for ISTE, but for any conference or learning event you attend.

Put Your Thinking Cap On And Push The Boundaries Of Your Thinking-It is easy to attend conferences like ISTE or any conference and only go to the sessions lead by our friends or go to sessions where we already know a lot about a specific topic. While there isn't anything wrong with that, are you doing the most with your conference experience? Push your self. I am still a skeptic of flipped classrooms. So I make a point to attend at least one session where its discussed so I can widen my perspective. Try to find those gems of sessions that you might just walking away thanking yourself for attending. Make a point to attend at least one session where you disagree or are a skeptic about the topic. Go in with an open mind and make the most of your experience.

Reflect, Often-Because you are going to challenge yourself and your thinking, it will be important for you to reflect on your learning. Review your notes at the end of each day and write down your thoughts. I love Evernote for this. I can compile everything there (notes, drawings, pictures and handouts) and have it on all my devices. If you don't have a blog, attending a conference can be a great time to start so you have an audience for your reflections as well.

Don't Be A Hoarder, Share Your Learning-Speaking sharing, do it! Think about if you shared what you learned with 5 people and those 5 people shared with 5 and so on. The learning becomes so much more valuable. Find many ways to share both at the conference (social media is great for that) and when you get back to your school/district. Did you go as a member of team? Have your team take 5 mins and share all the resources with those that couldn't attend. Flying solo? Post your Evernote notebooks to Twitter or to your blog. How ever you decide to share, just be sure to share!

Combining these tips with the others that are out there you can have a very rewarding conference experience.

What about you? What tips do you have for doing more and getting more out of conferences? Leave some comments below.

photo credit: zo-ii via photopin cc

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Quick Collection Of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Resources

More and more districts are realizing the power that Bring Your Own Device can have on teaching and learning. Students get the opportunity to use the technology they are familiar with and be exposed to how technology is being used by their peers.
But while students are embracing BYOD with loud applause, educators are taking a step back and thinking about the impact BYOD has on their teaching.
I recently worked with teachers on a BYOD initiative and the first questions I would get asked centered around how they were going to utilize all the different devices at the same time, how they would see what was on each screen and how did their teaching need to change now that every student had a device.
These were challenging questions to answer. While we spent a great deal of time working through to find solutions, inevitably they would ask for more resources.
This week I am thinking about BYOD resources. Even though we might be at the end of the school year, these sites have compiled some great tools, tips, tricks and more around BYOD for you research over the summer. Whether you’ve been doing BYOD for a number of years or just starting out there is something for everyone to learn.
Depending on where you are, the letters B Y O D together can mean "powerful impact on learning" or "another bad technology policy." There are many truths and many myths out there in the BYOD discussion. THE Journal lays out 7 myths and 7 truths around BYOD. And you might just be surprised.

Over at Edudemic, they’ve assembled a solid list of sites and apps to use in the BYOD classroom. These are great because all the tools here work on any number of devices (which is important in BYOD) and they almost all are collaborative. So if you have students working on a PC, iPad and Windows Phone they can all still work well together.

Edutopia has put together a very comprehensive list of tools, apps and sites to use in the BYOD classroom. There is a little overlap here with the Edudemic list but what I like here is the breakdown. Not only do they provide the tool but a category to which it fits, like Formative Assessment or Expression or Electronic Notetaking. Each resource comes with a small explanation which is definitely helpful.

BYOD isn’t all about great tools or apps. It’s about the structures in place too. Over at TeachThough they’ve assembled a 9 point checklist of things to consider when embarking on the BYOD journey. Consideration of things like looking at successful BYOD initiatives, researching policy changes can forming informational groups are just a few of the considerations here. This is a great document to those starting out but also for those who have been there to ensure they are on the right track.
One resource that might take you all summer to go through, simply because it is jam packed with awesome stuff, is this Livebinder on Everything BYOD. Everything from the planning process to policy considerations, to ideas for BYOD PD, there is lots here to explore and learn.
Those are just a handful of BYOD resources. What are your favorites? What has helped you or what resources do you turn to when planning for BYOD in your classroom? Leave a comment below.
Happy Learning!
photo credit: miniyo73 via photopin cc

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why Formative Assessments Matter

Back in my first year, I was teaching a unit on the parts of the Periodic Table. The students needed to know where they could identify elements that were typically metals, non-metals, gases and be able to identify elements based on their Atomic number among other tasks. At the time, I believed I was doing exactly what my standards said I had to. My students needed to know the organizational structure of the Periodic Table and by golly they were gonna know. 

So for a week, I stood in the front of the room while students furiously wrote down every word that came out of my mouth. Atomic number, Lanthanide Series, electrons. I could see at the end of each day confusion on their face but I chalked that up to their needing to go home and review their notes so they would "get it." No need for me to change what I was doing. They needed to catch up. 

At the end of the week was the big assessment. I was pretty proud of myself. I had imparted all sorts of Periodic Table knowledge on my students and now we were going to see them shine with it came time to recall all that information. That weekend I got the biggest wakeup call of my, then brief, educational career. Most could not recall a single thing. Some got an answer here or there but for the most part, there were no bright spots from this assessment. 

After the anger at my students subsided, I looked inward. What could I have done differently? There had to be a better way than letting my students get all the way to the end of a unit of study to have them not know anything. 

Formative assessments changed my classroom. 

That look of confusion on my students faces was a clear sign I needed to step back and look at what I was doing and how I was teaching. Had I used some kind of formative assessment I wouldn't have needed the summative at end, nor would my students have gotten to the point of utter confusion. 

Formative assessments are simply little gauges or indicators of how students are progressing towards a learning goal. It could be anything from a simple conversation to something like a clickers or response via a website. It is the formative assessments throughout learning that give us the indication we are headed down the right path with our learning or whether we should take a right turn to get back on track. The use of the formative assessments help teachers understand where their students are and, more importantly, where their teaching is. Had I used formative assessments, I would not have had to take another week breaking things down with the Periodic Table. I could made my adjustments along the way. 

How can you use formative assessments today? Simple!

1) Ticket out the door-One of the first things I did was put sticky notes on every student's desk. at the end of class they had a chance to summarize what we did that day and ask any questions they wanted. They could put their name on it or could remain anonymous. Either way I had a good indication of whether my students got it or didn't. And I could make those on-the-fly adjustments for the next class or for the next day. Now we have virtual sticky notes like on Wallwisher and LinoIt that make this process that much easier. 

2) Real-Time Feedback- I can make those on-the-fly changes by using a real-time feedback program like UnderstoodIt. By having students simply answer "Understand" or "Confused" at various times of class, you gain that valuable feedback needed to make changes to the learning. You don't have to wait until tomorrow. And you can better understand the learning needs of your students to customize the learning environment to them. 

3) Building It In- There are loads of services and sites out there do polling, quizzing or response. Utilizing these can help in the formative assessment process by building in those natural places to stop and reflect on how the learning is going and how it might need to be improved. Again, if I can make those adjustments as I go, I can catch things before they go off the rails. 

Whether you use something at the end of class or during or both, formative assessments can change your understanding of your students and yourself. After our disaster unit on the Periodic Table, I used formative assessments in my classroom everyday and never again did we have a repeat of that week. Over time the students felt comfortable enough to tell me when they really didn't like the learning style I was using or that they enjoyed a particular way I presented the content. I had a better grasp on the learning my students were doing and they had a better grasp on the content. It was a definite win-win. 

How have you used formative assessments? Leave some insight below. 

photo credit: Benjamin Chun via photopin cc