My colleagues and I were fortunate enough to attend IntegratED 2016 this past week. This is my fifth year of attending this conference and I always walk away feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the things I want to bring back and implement right away. Conferences like this one offer a multitude of workshops with a wide range of topics. They implement teaching principles that make learning engaging and often remind me of strategies I should be using in my own teaching. This year did not disappoint. Here are some of my major takeaways after attending the two keynotes and several different workshops.
1. Digital tools can make old lessons relevant and engaging
Tried and true lessons, do not have to be dumped, rather we can bring them to life by engaging our students with digital tools that allow them to bring the lesson to a previously inconceivable space. The lesson still revolves around the critical content, but now students can demonstrate learning by using digital tools such as YouTube, Drawing, Hangouts, screencasts,Google Apps, and blogs. The SAMR model and "The 4 Cs" (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking) are useful guides in implementing digital tools and help us to"amplify" (more on this concept below) student learning.
2. Just do it! Teach the content, show the tool, step back and watch the learning!
As we contemplate the "new" classroom and try to move away from the teacher centered classroom, we take on a new role. Teachers provide avenues for students to access the content and information, we provide the tool that will elevate the learning, and then we sit back and watch the learning go beyond what we imagined. Often teachers are hesitant to try new tools we haven't mastered. Isn't it true that if we teach the basics of a digital tool, embedded in the curriculum we teach, students will soon be teaching us how to use it? We become the facilitator and inquisitor as we guide learning and provide a safe environment for risk taking, discovering, "edventuring" (as Jennie Magiera put it), and creativity.
3. "The future isn't an accident. It's not something that happens, it's built every day by
the actions of people." -Brian David Johnson, Futurist and Keynote
Educators must empower our students to be the change; to recognize that if they don't like the future in front of them, they have the power to make it what they want. With technology where it is today, the only thing in our way is our own imagination. Empower students to question, find solutions, create, ponder, discover, fail, and learn.
4. "Failure is not failure, but the First Attempt In Learning." -Jennie Magiera
As Jennie pointed out in her keynote, students should be given ample opportunity to FAIL. In fact, we should make sure they FAIL, so they have the opportunity to SAIL: Second Attempt In Learning. "If you FAIL and then you SAIL, the success is so much sweeter." This also develops grit in our students. When students develop determination and problem solving skills it builds confidence in their ability to learn. Let's give our students opportunities to FAIL, so they can SAIL!
5. Students need makerspaces in their libraries and classrooms.
Makerspaces are great opportunities for students to create, problems solve, "FAIL and then SAIL", and to do some serious critical thinking and collaboration. Makerspaces can be created from cardboard, paper clips, tape, toilet and paper towel rolls, and any other scrap materials you can get your hands on and are a good way to get students creating. You provide the space, materials and the challenge, then stand back and watch as students shine! Student Library Journal is offering this online maker workshop starting March 9th. I've been so excited about getting a makerspace set up in my library, I signed up for it and am excited to learn.
6. Amplify student AND teacher learning.
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have allowed teachers to develop personal learning networks (PLN) which allow us to connect with teachers across the country and around the world. In a motivating workshop presented by Kristin Ziemke, she urged educators to connect across the world through personal learning networks, and also encouraged teachers to help students connect with each other across the world to create their own student learning networks (SLN). What a fantastic concept! She has a padlet board filled with great ideas on how to get started. Ziemke suggests starting small with connecting through social media across the school first, then the district and once our students have a good handle on social media etiquette and are savvy users (practice sound digital citizenship), they can begin connecting around the world. I was so excited about the things I learned in this workshop I bought Ziemke's book, Amplify, and can't wait to start reading!
7. Blogging brings learning beyond the walls of the classroom. It's instant
amplification and makes learning relevant!
When we provide an avenue for our students to share their learning beyond the walls of the classroom, we make their learning relevant and give them a voice. This can motivate students once they realize others are reading their work, commenting and connecting through learning. Blogging helps build student learning networks, provides opportunities for students to learn from others, and builds confidence as students realize their voice matters. Kidblog and Edublogs are both great places to start. I've decided to start a library student blog using Kidblog. When I searched the internet for other student library blogs we could connect with, I couldn't find one. I even asked for help via Twitter for anyone who might know of elementary libraries that have a student blog, but have yet to hear of one. I'm going to give it a try. I have to wrap my brain around teaching students to blog in the limited time I have with them, but I really want to give it a try. You can visit our blog and follow us. I'm hoping to get our first posts up soon as kids blog about March Book Madness (Have you heard of it? It sounds like a fun way to get kids talking about books and reading new ones.). Let me know if you have any ideas or tips.
8. Multiply the teacher.
This year I have been using centers to help teach digital citizenship, information literacy, library and technology skills. I've always been a little nervous about using centers, as it seems like the teaching I'm doing at one center is always interrupted by students asking questions while groups work "independently" at other centers. Despite the front loading, reteaching, and written instructions provided, it seems that when students sit down to do the work, questions always arise that they can't seem to figure out on their own. Kristin Ziemke's idea to "multiply the teacher" is brilliant. By creating videos or screencasts of the lessons at each station and having an iPad prompt to the recorded lesson, I've provided students with a resource to find the answers to their questions without interrupting the lesson I'm teaching. This will take a bit of work on my part initially, but it will pay off as students work independently and the recorded lessons can be fine tuned and used each year.
If we want students to question, seek, go "edventuring" (yes, this is my new favorite word), and become problem solvers, we have to model these things ourselves. Modeling is not a new concept. Teachers do it all the time as we demonstrate lessons. But let’s also model what it looks like to be stumped, question, seek answers and even how we FAIL and then SAIL. I don't know about you, but I do this all the time in teaching. Lessons flop, I mess up in dealing with a certain behavior problem, or I forget something critical, whatever it is, we model what it looks like to turn the FAIL into a SAIL.
I have a confession. I got the idea for this blog post from Julie Hembree at bulldogreaders.edublogs.org. She doesn't know it, but she is a mentor of mine via the internet (that's going to change now that I am newly inspired to connect with my PLN, I have been more of a "lurker"). I was reading her blog this weekend and she attended the NCCE (Northwest Council of Computer Educators) conference this past week. Her blog post was a reflection of her learning from the conference. I liked the idea and decided to give it a try. I have to say, that it has been a bit of a process, as I had to dig through my notes and decide on my ten biggest takeaways. The process, however, solidified my learning and helped me to make a plan for implementation. Reflection is something I don't take the time to do in my professional life often enough. The process has helped to identify areas of improvement, successes, and ah-ha moments. I'm feeling inspired to move forward and am excited to inspire students and share my learning with my colleagues.