Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ISTE 2016 Live from Bloggers' Cafe: How to Survive the Chaos

If you've never attended ISTE before, you should know that it is a bit like a cage filled with 18,000+ caffeinated hamsters. This is my third ISTE conference, and I whole-heartedly admit that I learn new tips and tricks every year for making the most of my time here. No-brainier tip number 1: make labels....lots and lots of labels...prior to coming to ISTE. There is no bigger waste of precious learning and socializing time than writing out hundreds of tickets for swag.

My second tip is to generate some themes on passion areas in which you really want to grow. While not being locked into only seeing exhibits and sessions on these topics, it really helps me focus my efforts to make sure I come back with exactly what I'd hoped for and more. This M.O. has not disappointed. A couple of my areas of focus included AR and VR.

If you read my last entry, you'd know that I really felt like I hit the jackpot in terms of getting started with moving this into curricular areas. Go read it here, if you're interested. To further enhance my knowledge and get ideas, I also visited several booths and poster sessions on the topic. Nearpod offers one of my favorite VR experiences through their site/app. Their virtual field trips are phenomenal (available with a paid subscription that is well worth it)! Nearpod is also currently giving away VR headsets if you're lucky enough to have the magic touch at the wheel. (Sadly, I didn't get one, and I'm still sulking.)

Today was a burst of information in another one of my focus areas: professional development. As the technology integrationist for my district for the past 6 years, part of my responsibilities lie with preparing and delivering professional development to our K-12 staff. Because I've been in education for 22 years, if you do the math, you'll know that I've been exposed to my fair share of professional development. Some excellent. Some marginal. Some atrocious. I never, ever want to be associated with mediocre professional development. Hence, the constant learning and acquiring of new PD skills and ideas to enhance my craft.

One of the PD sessions I was most looking forward to was provided by Adam Bellow and Steve Dembo, entitled "Fear the Sitting Dead". If you've never attended a session by these two, just know that they never disappoint. Throughout the session we were able to hear of and participate in several activities that would get both teachers and students involved and excited about their learning. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for PD as delivered by these two:

1)  Fast Pass- Modeled after Disney parks, a fast pass can be something as simple as a quick survey or sticky note display done upon entering PD. Teachers select the areas of your presentation they are most interested in and you begin there. Easy-peasy. And teachers are happy because their topics of choice are guaranteed to be covered.
2) Snowball Fight- Using nothing more than paper, participants can write down information relevant to the topic (list your favorite tech tool and how you use it, for example), wad it up and toss it to another person around the room. Others then open it, add a comment or question, and give it another toss. In the end, simply post results and address questions  or share them out however you wish, and you have all-inclusive learning.
3) Rocks or Sucks- While I've used this method in the past, it was fun to hear a new take on it. In this method, a relevant  issue is displayed. For example "Is homework a good idea?". Moderators set a timer and the participants move to the designated side of the room for their feelings on the issue. During the allotted time, discussions on the issue happen.People may even change their minds after hearing others' opinions. In this case, they mosey on over to the other side of the room (or the middle for the indecisive).
4) Speed Geeking- A new take on speed dating, this lends itself to many variations. I'm already dreaming up ways in which my student tech team could utilize this in a PD setting to introduce teachers to new technology. The key is a timer. The session is only to wet appetites, not divulge every bit of information available about a topic.
5) Block Walks- Research validates that movement increases engagement and retention. Walking or exercise in any form can really lend itself to fantastic conversations when done in pairs or very small groups. We have done Walk-n-Talks in the past, which is the same concept. Give teachers a focus and let them collaborate and discuss while also burning off that morning donut.

While this is in no way an exhaustive list of PD ideas that were mentioned, it should give you a good start into super charging upcoming PD for your district. I have a lot of ideas about what makes great PD and I'm passionate about individualized learning.  PD is no longer the Ferris Beuller-style awful classroom filled with droolers and gum bubble blowers. It needs to be meaningful, relevant, engaging, and applicable. Thanks to Adam and Steve for adding to my PD toolkit.


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