You’ve just been to that awesome conference. It was everything you hoped it would be; you learned more than you ever thought you would, you made new connections, your brain is overflowing with fresh ideas, you are a sponge and you soaked up everything you possibly could. You are ready to change the world!
A day or two later, you are still processing through everything and you realize, “I have absolutely no idea of where to begin.”.
It happens. Also, it’s normal.
A game plan is good. An actionable game plan is even better. I’ve started to be really intentional about what I hope to accomplish when I attend a conference – which is something I’ve purposely done more of over the last year or so; be an attendee more than a presenter. Don’t get me wrong, I love presenting at conferences; it energizes me a lot. There is tremendous value in just attending, even for the seasoned presenter. But I digress to another post for another time.
I thought I’d share some thoughts and ideas about what to do after the conference. Hopefully, they’ll help as you further digest and process your learning.
Strength in numbers – if you were lucky enough to get to be there with a team from your school or district, first off you are very fortunate! Schedule that post-conference debrief and compare notes. What were the common big ideas? What fired you up the most? Talk it out, swap big ideas and trade resources. More importantly, what are you going to try with your kids that pushes you (and them) to think differently about how you do things in your classroom? How is this a win for students? Even if you didn’t go with a team, it’s still important to do all these things.
Crucial conversations – To go along with #1, whether you attended as a team or were solo in this adventure, start thinking about the important conversations that need to happen; but more important think about who they need to happen with. District leadership, school board, principal, other teachers, and parents. All are key groups that you need to share your excitement with. If it’s caused you think about a new way of teaching and learning that excites you, they need to know about it! Your voice matters a lot and the right people need to hear it if you want meaningful, sustainable change to happen.
Try, try again, rethink, and repeat. – We all know how this one goes. You get really hyped up about something you learned about, you’ve planned and prepped to make it happen, the day comes, and splat – nothing goes how you planned. This has been happening for-ev-er in our world of teaching and it’s nothing new. Expect it, welcome it, give it a hug – just be ready to refine and repeat. You owe it to yourself and your kids to give it another go.
Open the windows to the world. – In other words, stay connected! Conference hashtags and other sharing spaces aren’t just for during the actual time the conference is happening. Keep it going afterward! Ask questions, look for feedback, continue sharing what you’ve tried. Share what’s worked really well, and what hasn’t (see #3). All are important pieces in a successful conference experience. Also, don’t hesitate for one bit to reach out to a presenter you learned from – they should be willing to help you even after the conference is over. I always say in a joking (yet serious way), “I’m not cutting any of you off after the conference. I’m an easy guy to get in touch with.”.
These aren’t the only ways to have a successful post-conference experience, but they are some that have helped me and more importantly, they’ve helped lead to bigger changes for the better. I’d love to hear what your post-conference processing and planning looks like!
I still see the debating on social media, in news articles, blog posts, and the like. Some healthy debate is good. It creates learning, it broadens horizons, it gives us those, “Oh I hadn’t thought of that” moments. I’m talking about comparing one device or platform against another and trying to figure out which one is better for kids. It feels like we still want there to be “the one” that is all encompassing and all powerful that we put into our students’ hands. Hint: there isn’t one.
It’s like how people are surprised sometimes to hear that I own Apple products. “Kyle! I thought you were a Google guy!”. Well, yes, that’s true I am but did you know that the very first computer I taught myself was an Apple Performa 550? Or did you know that I stood in line at 4am to get the iPhone 3GS? I love my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad but I also love me some Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Calendar just like I love some Clips, iMovie, and Keynote. I have different preferences for different things that I need to do on any given day. I also use PCs and Chromebooks too (cut to dramatic visual). Honestly, I don’t want to be an expert on any given one. I like to know enough just to be dangerous and then I learn more as I need to. 🙂
My point here is that yes, we need to be doing our homework when trying to decide the kinds of devices and platforms we want for students to create and learn with, but maybe it’s time we stop trying to be so locked into just one? Let’s just focus on what our students need and not make it a this vs. that thing anymore. I’m not saying throw proper planning, professional development, and financial responsibility aside, but let’s be more open to what’s possible. As technology departments and as school districts, maybe we need to be thinking bigger about what role we want technology to play in our students’ learning opportunities. We must remember that while learning is no longer tied down to happening just during school hours or just from our formal teachers, learning also isn’t tied to just one platform.
There is always a heavy stream of information on Twitter or any other network you belong to on a myriad of topics and buzz words. Skim over a hashtag as of late and we see a million and one ways to do better with technology, implementing personalized learning, project-based learning, makerspaces, etc., etc. No doubt that this is the beauty of being connected in various spaces – to learn from anyone about anything anytime you want. These topics are good as well as important, but where my mind really focuses most lately is how we’re properly (or not) preparing our teachers for these things. We can talk the talk and claim we’re going to walk the talk, but at the end of the day are we truly willing to do what’s necessary to make the talk and the walk into a lasting change?
We have to be talking a long, hard look at what kinds of teacher learning opportunities we’re giving our teachers first in order to give them successfully to our students. Wanting to give students more personalized learning? Then that’s how teacher PD on the topic should be designed. Allow teachers to experience it as a student if you’re wanting them to create it for their students. I saw lots of tweets about this very topic earlier in the week, and all were in favor of it, but no one was talking about how they’re preparing teachers for it. If they were, it was outweighed by the “personalized learning for everyone” posts.
We also have to make sure we’re providing “regular maintenance” opportunities beyond the initial learning opportunity. It’s like a car – what happens if you don’t regularly get an oil change or have the tires checked? The car is going to not run as intended and eventually wear out. Now put that into perspective with professional learning. Are we giving teachers enough time to reconvene and share or at least reflect on what worked/didn’t work? This is key “maintenance” our teachers need. If there aren’t instructional coaches in place (technology or otherwise) that teachers can work with, we must incorporate more self-reflection into professional learning and have teachers share this with each other.
Our teachers deserve this and our kids definitely do. We have to make it a normal part of the “scheduled maintenance”.