Making Conferences Work for You

Conferences have proven to be an enduring approach to professional learning. Given the one time approach to professional learning, it is important that each participant plan for success when attending a conference. It can be easy to become distracted or overwhelmed at a big conference. Before going to a conference, stop and set an intention for your experience.

Conferences are a great opportunity for informal learning. Take the chance to speak to people between and during sessions to expand your knowledge of what’s happening in education beyond your experience.

Conferences, especially large ones, provide exposure to new technology. Before going to a conference, make a list of the tools/resources that you are dissatisfied with or problems that you have not found a solution for. Visit vendors and demos to find out resources that may meet your needs. Also take the opportunity for hands-on experience with tools that you are curious about or have never encountered before to build your knowledge base. If you’re going to ISTE 2017, check out this guide.

Attend sessions that are connected to your professional development plan. Look at the agenda to decide what value the conference offers you, and whether to attend. It’s okay to sit out a session; this could be a valuable opportunity to process a previous session and make a plan for integrating your new learning into your context. Spend some time looking at the schedule and select sessions that tie into your goals and plans, and that will help you achieve them. Have a focus.

Meet people from your virtual learning network. I’m a big fan of virtual connections but have to remember the importance of connections in the physical work. It adds a new dimension to the connections that you’ve built online when you can meet people in the physical world.

Present something that you’re excited or passionate about. Presenting lets you add the social element to learning which provides motivation and engagement. It also lets you cater to different personality types and learning preferences.

Take time to debrief. Share resources with those who may be interested, write some blog posts to expand and share your thinking, follow up with admin to clarify some goals, and implement some processes related to your own professional growth.

If you have a growth mindset, you can create your own learning experiences in a conference, or reframe the experiences provided to meet your goals and the needs of your role.

What strategies do you apply to grow from participation in conferences? I’d love to know what excites you about them.

 

This post is reformatted and expanded from the original.

Featured Image Source: Pixabay, CC0

Emergence of the Technology Coach

The SAMR Model

The SAMR Model; License: CC BY-SA 4.0

I’m a technology coach. Well, I’m not sure what my official title is. When I started at my school almost four years ago, my official title was Digital Learning Facilitator, DLF (almost an ELF but not quite). Apparently, the title of IT Coach had been considered and discarded.

Fourteen years ago, I started out as a computer teacher at an international school in Bangalore, India. This involved me teaching high school and middle school Computer Science courses in the Ontario curriculum, IB Computer Science, and a weekly class to students at every elementary grade level. I was the department head for Math and Computer Science, and taught one semester of Data Management, MDM4U. In addition, I was the computer support person. We had a network manager, but teachers saw me for all their problems from logging on, to printing. During my two years in that job, there was no concept of co-planning or technology integration.

In Khartoum, Sudan, I was the technology coordinator. My first year, my  responsibilities were similar to those in Bangalore. Every child had a computer class with me once a week. I campaigned to change this process and developed an IT curriculum with two prongs: technology integration at every grade level, as well as dedicated computer science course offerings. This was a substantial shift for me, and for the school, but grounded in educational research as well as my beliefs. Elementary teachers started co-planning and co-teaching classes with me. Those classes happened in the computer lab, but the content and activities were governed by classroom goals. We also did some computer science activities with the children, particularly from CS Unplugged. In middle school, I taught programming classes, mostly using Logo, and some technology infused financial math courses. In high school, I taught photo editing with GIMP, web design, and programming. I later taught Adobe InDesign and Photoshop Elements for creating the yearbook. I was employed as a teacher, but did the job of a Tech Director. We redesigned the computer lab during my third year, and I led the research and decision-making about the new equipment. I worked in Khartoum for four years.

In Nagoya, Japan, I was once again the technology coordinator. I led the curriculum through the same process of redesign and change as in Khartoum, from weekly classes to trimester-long or semester-long classes in Middle School and High School. I worked much more closely with elementary teachers in curriculum planning and co-teaching. I consulted with middle school and high school teachers about using technology to augment, modify, and redefine their teaching. In addition, I lead the technology committee and the technology planning for the school, and managed the WordPress server. In my third year, I learned about TIM, and TPACK, and improved my approach to working with teachers. Before this, I used to focus on the technology, but then I started to focus on the curriculum, and how technology works within particular contexts and curriculum areas. I started looking into the affordances of different technology tools. We diversified our technology tools beyond desktops, and added some Macbooks, iPads, and Netbooks. We also invited high school students to bring their technology devices from home, and gradually implemented a BYOT program. I worked in Nagoya for four years.

I’m now in Prague, Czech Republic. One of my intentions in moving to this school was to be in a bigger school where I could grow with colleagues. It was my first opportunity to be in a school with more than one person in my position. Over my four years here, I’ve seen a shift in my job responsibilities, and the expectation of the job. I solve problems for teachers regarding the use of iPads and laptops (tech coach as expert), do some professional development, and am involved in planning meetings. This is the first job where I haven’t had my own classes, and that sometimes feels strange to me, but I still get to work with students through co-teaching, mentoring groups of students, and leading lessons in various grades. I have more time for leading professional development, and for preparing professional learning material than I did in any of my other jobs. That has been great because we’ve more than doubled the number of devices at the school, and I’ve been able to work with individuals and teams to decide how best to use iPads and laptops for learning in different units, and with different children. The major shift for me in this job, is that the job of tech coach seems to be morphing to include being the expert/guide for STEAM, Robotics, design thinking, and for using laser cutters, and 3D printers. I’ve been involved with teachers in design challenges such as Scribblebots, Makey Makey projects, copper tape projects, etc. I also coach a middle school FLL robotics team, host after school robotics activities for elementary school students, and work with teachers to integrate robotics into the curriculum. There is a Tech Director, who I report directly to. I’m not sure what my official title is, maybe Tech Coach, maybe DLF, but the job looks very different than it did 14  years ago. Part of this change is due to location and context, but some of the change is due to changes in education.

After 14 years, I’m aiming for a (bigger) change. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year. I feel, in some ways, like I did in those days when I just finished receiving my certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, and I had no job and wasn’t sure what I would be doing next. Yet, it’s nothing like those days because I have a wealth of experience, a growth mindset, and an attitude of adventure.

 

This post was inspired by the Edublogs Challenge prompt to write a post related to the constant changes and the pendulum effect in education. 

9 Common Problems and Solutions when using iPads

I used these cases with teaching assistants at my school in August, 2016. I hope that you find it useful. If you have any examples or questions, please post a comment.

I had been meaning to write this blog post. I finally got inspired to create a slide show from the original Google Document handout by this prompt for the #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a listicle”.

Making Technology Integration Awesome

It’s a challenge to make effective, transformative use of technology in the classroom. This year, I’ve been working with a small group of teacher representatives from various grades to curate/create a list of skills for every grade level that are realized through the integration of technology. We’ve looked at the ISTE Standards for Students, and lists of benchmarks and standards from other schools. We’ve also explore the Technology Integration Matrix from Arizona and will look at the (more mature) one from Florida. We’ve talked to teachers, and explored the landscape of technology integration at other schools. We’ve discussed how technology is used in our world, and how it is used outside of school by our students. I’ve come to realize that the particular skills on the list by grade level are a direct result of our approaches to teaching and learning, our beliefs and our local context.

We’ve collected a list of skills where students use technology that teachers at each grade level think are important for students to enter a grade with, and leave the grade with. Next, we will build on those lists, taking other sets of internationally renowned standards like those from ISTE and AASL into account. We will use feedback from teachers, and consider the coherence from K-5 to refine the lists. Finally, we will decide how to share the list with teachers in a way that’s user-friendly and dynamic. We have other documents that have been created in the past, but they are outdated and never referred to during instructional design meetings. One approach would be to categorize the skills by the phases of inquiry that we follow in our classes. Another would be to group the skills by the units of inquiry. We will get feedback from teachers about this. Might there be a third approach that we haven’t considered?

As part of this work, I will engage teachers in thinking about their vision of students who’ve experienced successful technology integration during their K-5 experience of school. I’m also interested in knowing your ideas.

Made with Padlet

 

Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post about challenging situations”.