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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Educator as Learner Conundrum, Thoughts From ISTE '13


Here it is, mid-June, and school has been out for a few weeks for our teachers in Manor Texas.  Since that time I've been able to select books about being a better instructional coach , I've attended Ipadpalooza, and now I'm at the ISTE Conference.

There are educators at this conference who I saw at Ipadpalooza and some of them had gone to another conference a few days before that. These guys are geeking out in the education world and their enthusiasm and excitement for being in these learning environments is contagious.

So why aren't all of the teachers at my school rubbing shoulders with me at these events?  Well, some are teaching summer school and their summer really hasn't begun. Some are spending much needed time with their families, spouses, or besties. Many are just recharging their batteries from 10 months of being "on" 5 days a week from the early hours until bed time with instruction, paperwork, phone calls, and preparation.

Still, I feel that it is my job as an instructional coach to encourage our teachers to take the time to learn about their craft during the summer "vacation" time.  There really is no better time to learn, share, and collaborate with other educators in a non-threatening environment. Allow me to describe the awesomely geeky day I'm having, today, which actually started last night.

I'm at the Hack Education at ISTE 2013 , (#hacked13 ), day which is a free event prior to the official first day of ISTE. I drove down last night and spent the night so I could roll out and be close to the convention center. Did I mention that today is free? After my arrival last night, I was able to meet up with friends from Twitter. Some I had met several times and others I was meeting for the first time. Imagine seeing someone who you have interacted with for 6+ years on Twitter for the first time. After the requisite hug we were able to roll right into small talk, deep conversations, and really funny inside jokes. Really. They were funny but you had to be there.

The morning and afternoon sessions, today, feel very Edcampy - and that's a good thing. We met and mingled for a wonderfully long time which gave us time to meet those twitter friends we had never met face to face (f2f).  Then we all took the time to write down topics that we thought were worth discussing.  There was everything from how to use Minecraft in the classroom to global collaboration to 1:1 rollout. The group then voted on each of the topics and the top dozen or so were set up on a 1 hour rotational schedule.

I attended Global Collaborative Classrooms (which was the one I wrote down so I felt I needed to attend) for the first break out session.  Imagine 30 or so educators in a room talking about classrooms connecting with other classrooms all over the world.  There were experience levels from "never done that" to people who are connecting their students via Skype and Google Hangouts on a routine basis.  Discussions roamed between allaying parental fears to sites to find other educators wanting to connect. We had to stop our discussion, that felt like it could have gone on for hours, so we could go to our next session.

The second session was on creating a "maker space" in your school.  There were lots of people interested in the maker movement and some had experience in creating space in their schools so there was a wealth of knowledge in the room.  It helped to have Sylvia Martinez who had just written the book Invent to Learn and I shared a great article on make spaces and education. Whenever I think about Make Spaces I think of electronic gizmos and robots. This conversation helped me think of making in a new light with spaces set up for writing and poetry or spaces set up for creating artwork and music. There was a nice discussion on getting parents and the community involved as well.

After lunch, a group picture, and the requisite Smackdown (people sharing apps that they considered valuable), we had the afternoon sessions.  Since I'm writing this during the first session, this post is my report from that time period. I did attend the last session, however, and it was on Minecraft in the classroom. It was moderated (not her choice) by Diane Main who shared what she had done in her classroom and what she has seen students do with Minecraft. My take away was that this is another way we can give students voice and choice but that we need to educate teachers on how creative their students are being when they do choose to present something they have made in the Minecraft world.

Unfortunately I had to leave San Antonio after the closing comments. But I'll be back on Monday morning ready for my second day. Such a great day of learning. Just think - if all, no half, heck if 4 or 5 of my teachers had come to this. The conversations could have continued throughout the summer and into the school year. I need to keep telling the teachers about learning opportunities throughout the year.   With time,  I'm hoping edcamps and other learning days will be days of excitement for the whole staff and we can continue the learning on our campus.