1. Follow topics not friends: If you are attending with a colleague from the same department or even school as you, divide and conquer. While learning is social and attending sessions with your BFF can make for a good experience, it might not be the most meaningful or efficient one from a learning perspective. If you have a common goal, think of attending as an opportunity to gather resources, after which you can compile later.
2. Follow the Event Hashtag: Often the best things you walk away with are the little tricks, tips, videos, quotes, ect which spark further exploration and insights. These can also be found on the digital platform of many conferences, Twitter. It’s amazing what 140 characters can provide. While you may only be able to attend 7 of the possible 100+ sessions offered any given conference, you can still learn from many of them. Take the time during down time or after the event to peruse the conference hashtag for hidden gems shared by attendees from other sessions. These can easily be compiled by liking or retweeting them on twitter, or by creating a Storify feed. This is also the first place most conferences post updates, so if you want to avoid showing up to an empty room, follow the hashtag.
3. Have a plan of attack: There is nothing worse than arriving to a conference and deciding on the spot where to go, arriving at your session to a full house, having to find another, only to find that one is full as well. Preview the schedule prior to arrival, arrive early, and have a second or even third option for each timeslot. I promise it is time well spent and will help alleviate anxiety on the day of the event, as well as help you focus on learning.
4. Vote with your feet: This is a common approach to Unconferences but needs to be adopted by all Edu Conference. If at anytime you are not actively learning during a session, get up and leave; vote with your feet. During Unconferences this is not offensive as all participant and presenters understand we all have different areas of interest, needs, and are all there to learn. Move to where the learning is happening, FOR YOU.
5. Build the fire: Often we attend conferences to light a fire, pack our schedules while there trying to fit in as much as possible, then return back to our lives as educators where we rarely have the time to feed that fire. Great inspiration, insights, and learning that took place have to wait for the next break to be developed. By this time, the landscape may have changed and you have forgotten application opportunities. Take a break during the conference to develop what you have learned. This is not skipping class or wasting your school's money; it is making the most of the moment. Don’t let great insights slip away. It’s better to come away with 1-2 great ideas or concepts that can change tomorrow, than an overload of information that has to wait. Launch early at the event.
6. Seek your Discomfort zone: Try attending a session or two that are out of your area of expertise. A couple of years ago I attended an IT strand at the massive EduTech Conference, and during sessions I felt as though they were speaking a different language. Throughout the event I was googling, asking simple questions, and felt lost the whole way through, but I learned. I threw myself in the deep end and may not have learned to swim in the IT world, but I at least I learned to tread.
7. Make a friend: We are social creatures, but often as educators we don’t get to make connections with others outside of our departments or divisions. Networking is common in business, and often critical to continued success and employment, but in education we retreat to our classrooms of isolation. Make a friend and open the door to collaboration. In 2016 it is possible to connect, as our friend Jeff Utecht promotes “across space and time”, so make a friend and start connecting.
8. Attend in Analog: There is nothing less engaging an audience behind laptop screens. Often, in the same day, I will run sessions that are techy with most people behind screens, then transition to facilitating a Design Thinking workshop where no laptops are present and attendees are up moving and thinking on their feet. Which sessions do you think people learn more from? Most conferences provide presenter’s resources on their website, or presenters share afterwards, so you don’t have to scramble to record or find everything being discussed. Attend with a simple notepad and pen and truly be present during the sessions. Even techy sessions are going to go at breakneck speed and you are going to feel that you are drinking from a firehose, so listen attentively, and jot down insights to follow up on later on your laptop.
9. Hack Monday: In each session, approach with the mindset of “Hacking Monday”. Ask yourself how can I apply this to something that can make meaningful gains in learning on Monday. Launch early, start small, and iterate throughout. Too often we wait to make a change until the conditions are perfect, or until we have more time, and that time never comes.
10. Bring a Water Bottle: Bottled water is wasteful and conferences tend to facilitate this consumption all too easily. Staying hydrated is also essential to being attentive and staving off fatigue so make sure you are ready to maximize your Edu conference experience in optimal condition all while making a minimal impact on the environment
I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to present at various Edtechteam Global Summits featuring Google Apps for Education and am continually impressed with the willingness of teachers to commit their weekends to learning for their students. They arrive with smiles on their faces and model what engaged learners look like. The most rewarding thing for me, though, is the opportunity to learn as well, and this reinforces my belief that learning is social. In efforts to remain social and collaborative, I am going to share my biggest takeaways from these events.
1. This was shared at the demo slam via +Jamie Greason and instantly caught my attention. Mix Max “makes email awesome.Track, automate, and enhance your emails with the essential productivity suite for Gmail and Google Inbox.”
- Track emails accurately
- Set up meetings in an instant
- Save time with email templates
- Schedule emails to be sent later
2. Trying is Winning: I finally had the chance to experience Breakout Edu, facilitated by +Mark Hammonds, which is the brainchild of +James Sanders and applies the concept of Escape rooms to education. This was the only session which was run during every session slot at the GAFE Summit Bakersfield, and every session it was full. As you can see on the @BreakoutEDU twitter feed, everyone has a blast. The collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking needed to complete the challenge is exactly what our students need to prepare them for the real world. Immediately I ordered two BreakoutEdu kits to start exploring the concept with our teachers and to start developing beta kits.
3.Community is King: Whenever a group assembles, a community is formed and in the world today these are created and dissolved almost at the same rate. What is remarkable, though, is that like-minded people can connect and learn from each other immediately. Furthermore, through social media, we can continue the conversation beyond the time we're together. Although I am aware of this, and this is not a new concept, it is quite easily lost when you are presenting and participating at a Tech Conference with educators who are interested in the next big tool which will redefine their practice.
Although the approach may seem new, Design Thinking has been around for quite a while in the private sector and in schools in Europe, and now seems to be just the right time for more integration into education. Once run through the process, many educators are surprised with how familiar it is and how they have been practicing similar Design Thinking principles without even knowing it, as well as how easy it can be to make slight modifications to existing practices which dramatically increase the relevance and quality of the creative process.
As an International Baccalaureate Higher Level History Teacher, I was continually amazed with how the process transformed the learning environment to one of reproduction of representations of learning, projects, essays, videos, etc, to one of continual growth and exploration. The mindless experience of marking 120 versions of the same projects year after year became a thing of the past and transitioned to a mindful experience of facilitating students’ exploration of history beyond the narrative towards learning that we could not have outlined in content focused curriculum. They found forgotten, neglected histories, denied histories, and their history as it made sense to them. I found the same approach to be just as rewarding with the same unexpected results working with the Tech Crewsaders. They continually used Design Thinking to solve community problems
Over the past year I have been running 60-90 minute Design Thinking Crash Courses at various Education Conferences around the world and I cannot tell you enough how engaging and unique each session is. This is because Design Thinking acknowledges that everyone has a different perspective and, therefore, will have different solutions to everyday problems. For example, I have facilitated hundreds of participants through the redesign of the wallet experience and not once have I seen the same solution. More than that, participants are genuinely committed to improve upon their prototypes and leave enthusiastic about making a change to their educational practices immediately. More so than other sessions I run on various Educational Technology Tools integrations, or pedagogical approaches, for some reason, it clicks immediately, and educators are excited, not intimidated, to implement the process.
If you haven’t had the chance yet explore Design Thinking, check out my YouTube Playlist and try implementing one aspect with your students on their next project. You will be amazed with how easy it can be and with how much of a difference it can make. For example, when I first refocused student mindset towards quantity rather than quality of ideas during the Ideation phase (Brainstorming) of project development, I was amazed with how quickly they started to come up with better ideas and how much more willing they were to take risks. Too often they would come up with a few ideas, commit to one, develop that, then realize too late that the concept wasn’t meeting their needs, and they would have to start all over. Starting over was frustrating and deflating, as they often spent much time and effort on the project. Once “fail fast, and recover quickly” became our mantra, we started to see more ideas emerge that were creative, unique, and meaningful. Through implementation of this practice, students and teachers exemplify that slight adjustments lead to large change and invaluable impacts on learning.
Connected Educator Month #CE14 has been a very rewarding month so far at #ASFMTech. My favorite resource thus far has to be the "Grab the Mic" session with @OriginalMisterC. Would love to see students take hold of this approach.
Of course children are spending too much time "plugged in". Of course students are distracted by the web and have trouble staying on task. Of course the web is filled with inappropriate content that is not good for children of any age. However, if you give your kid access to the internet without any guidance, guidelines, or restrictions, you are somewhat responsible if they are irresponsible online. This article will help put your mind at ease, and it will help in guiding your children towards a safer digital experience.
Most schools have just completed the Open house/Parent Night/Parent Teacher Interview time of year, which provides a perfect opportunity to address parental concerns regarding their children's online behavior. I often wonder if the technology switch was turned back on the first day of school, causing students to binge on their devices, which results in parental concerns about school policies regarding internet usage. Or could it be, children are using technology without an academic purpose for the two month summer holiday without restrictions leading to negative behaviors which carry over into the school year and impact their academic performance? I am certain that the root of this issue is a blend of these two scenarios.
The reality is that most children do spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen and too much screen time can have dramatic consequences on brain development in youths. In Psychology Today, Dr. Victoria Dunckley reports that “internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control" (1). Hence The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not to watch any TV and those older than 2 watch no more than 1-2 hours a day of quality programming. Obviously there is a huge gap between how much time is recommended for children to be online per day and the reality of children spending large quantities of time in front of a computer screen. So what can a parent do when their kid is spending more and more time online at school in One to One programs, needs to complete homework online while leveraging technology as a tool, interacting socially with friends online, or playing video games? Here are a few tips:
6 tips to effectively ensuring your child's safety on the Internet
1. Start with a discussion: Parents makes the biggest impact on their child's safety on the internet and having an open and honest conversation about internet usage is the best place to start. The chances are that your child has concerns of their own, but they just have not had a chance to talk share their concerns with you. This is a link to a Common Sense Media Families Survey that provides a great starting place dialogue between parents and their children to help establish common ground rules and clarify areas of concern that you may never have discussed.
2. Develop a Family Contract: The most important thing your child needs to understand, prior to signing a family contract, is that these devices are yours, you own them, and you are "lending" these devices to you children for them to use. Too often parents see iPads and Laptops as belonging to their children, kids and feel powerless to control them. This is the root of many frustrations and miscommunications between parent and child. If your child cannot agree to this central reality, then they cannot have a devise in your house. You are simply not giving them the tool to hurt themselves with without guidance that will ensure their safety. Common Sense Media also provides some great resources for Family Contracts for children in grades K-5, 6-8, 9-12.
3. Keep Technology Public: Restricting the use of technology to the public spaces in your house is one of the best decisions you can make. I would also suggest you have a charging station in the living room or kitchen that the devises returns to after use, without exception. There is nothing that your child needs to do on the internet in private, quiet yes, private no.
4. Set Screen Times Limits: As a result of the discussion you have had with your child, it will be evident that there are a multitude of ways that they they use technology. Whether it be gaming, social networking, instant messaging, reading, or watching television, this all qualifies as screen time and needs to be limited. (Reading on a Kindle does not qualify as screen time as it is not a backlit screen) Splitting up the screen time into sections is also recommended with no one stretch extending beyond and one hour.
5. Parental Controls: Just as your child leverages technology as a tool to enhance their learning, so can you as a parent to help ensure their safety online. Enabling Parental Controls on Mac, PC, and Mobile Devices (IOS 7, IOS 8, Android, Windows Phone) as well as using the new iTunes feature, Family Sharing, can help prevent your littles ones from accidentally stumbling upon inappropriate content and avoid costly in-app purchases. Parents Around is an app that takes monitoring and filtering one step further by providing age appropriate templates for TV Shows, Apps, and websites, and might be worth investing in if you feel you need to do more.
6. Share in the wonder that is the Internet: The internet is arguably the most important invention since the Gutenberg Printing Press and not experiencing this amazing wonder with your children is a lost opportunity. Of course you read with your kids and pick out books for them when they are too young to do so for themselves, so take a chance and experience the web in much the same way with them. Share YouTube videos, game, surf, communicate, learn, and most importantly explore with them. The Web is central to the world they were born into, exist in it with them.
As an active parent, you are the most important filtering software available, but trust is essential. Yes there may be a rare occasion where something inappropriate pops up on your son or daughters device, but this is less likely to happen if you take the steps mentioned above. The positives of you child having access to technology and the internet far outweigh the negatives, as they are essential tools which redefine their educational experience in the 21st Century.
2014/15 ASFM 1:1 Pedagogy Intro
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