I am attending FETC in Orlando this week. If you have never been I’d encourage you to give it a go if your school/district can send you. Bring a team if you can. Get your district leadership to attend. There’s lots of great learning and many great people to connect with. However, this post isn’t just about why you should attend a conference.
From now all the way through summer is when the in-person conference opportunities really ramp up. We’re hearing more and more about personalizing learning, creating innovative learning opportunities, devices, coding, 3d printing, makerspaces, and the list can certainly go on and on. Many of you will be at these events. My question is, however, “Are the right people attending?”.
When anyone attends an event like FETC, ISTE, etc., there’s going to be an over-abundance of information coming at you. What’s important to do though, even before sitting through one session, is to identify one particular area that you want to begin with to change teaching and learning in your classroom or school. If you intake all this information (don’t get me wrong these events give you lots of great information) without a plan of what you’re going to do after the event is over, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but you’re doing kids a disservice too. Create your plan of where to start before the learning even begins.
My job is to support teachers with technology integration. Sometimes it’s technology that they’ve learned from me, and sometimes it’s technology they have sought out on their own via a conference, Twitter, a colleague, or some other avenue. I really enjoy sharing new tech tools with teachers. It’s important for teachers to be equipped with a reasonable amount of options for how they can infuse more technology into teaching and learning. The end goal is to positively impact student achievement. That should be the #1 driver of anything we do with technology. I want to help build teachers’ capacity so that they leverage technology to bring innovative learning experiences to students.
I’ve discovered through my experiences being the provider of support and a facilitator of learning opportunities, that teachers don’t like to feel overwhelmed any more than students do. That is certainly the last thing I want a teacher to feel. A barrage of too many edtech tools will leave teachers feeling confused as to which one is best and without a clear plan of action going forward. It can feel like you’re trying to take a drink from a fire hose. In my role I follow a simple rule: If I’m sharing it with you, that means I’ve vetted it and it’s worth your time.
If a teacher is initially overwhelmed with this firehose style delivery, it can cause real damage to that teacher’s willingness to try out new tech. ~Kerry Gallagher
Why do so many conferences and other professional learning events offer so much of the “firehose” style experience? You can easily see it with a quick glance over any conference program. We see so many sessions like “842 edtech tools in 60 minutes” (I admit this is exaggerated) or “72 ways to use Google Forms in your classroom”. I sincerely appreciate the willingness to share, but is that what’s best for teachers that want to become comfortable with new ideas?
If you’re leading professional development you have to be cognizant of your audience’s needs and make sure to have adequate sandbox time sprinkled throughout.
If you were having students create a multimedia presentation we wouldn’t throw an unnecessary amount of tool options their way. We’d give them a few and if they find others and want to give one a go that’s great too. I’m all for options and not being locked into just one way to show mastery, but I think an overabundance of options doesn’t make for a good learning experience for teachers either.
Another school year has begun or it will begin soon. This is my 13th year as an instructional technology specialist/coach. I am sitting here reflecting on the teachers, students, administrators, parents, and other staff members I have had the honor of serving. It’s such fun meeting people here in my new school district and also when I get the opportunity to travel and speak in other places around the country. What many don’t realize is that while they might be coming to learn from me in a formal setting, I am enjoying learning from them just as much. I learn new ideas for how teachers want to have their students learn with technology, I learn new ways of providing students more opportunity to learn outside of a traditional classroom space, how to redesign classroom spaces, how technology can level the playing field for learning opportunities regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status, and new ways to provide meaningful learning opportunities for educators and other staff. The list can go on but I think you get the idea.
The really cool thing is, I’m getting to help people and learn at the same time. Helping them is my passion; to help educators grow in their use of technology by providing meaningful learning experiences for them and the students we serve.
These are all opportunities worth seizing. I want to take as many as I can within reason whether they’re local, national or international. Sure, there are limitations on how much I can be gone from my full-time job and family, but that doesn’t lessen my desire of wanting more opportunities to grow. Sometimes I want opportunities I can’t have for one reason or another. Maybe the timing isn’t right or I’m just not the right person in a particular instance. I can always respect that but it still bums me out from time to time. When that happens it’s a missed opportunity to help others grow and an opportunity for me to grow as well.
As you start a new school year, what opportunities are you going to seize? Sometimes they’re right under our noses, and sometimes we have to see bigger and shoot for the moon. Either way, don’t stop seizing opportunities to bring growth to yourself, your colleagues, and your students.