This past Monday, I had the privilege of facilitating a day-long workshop around YouTube and the power of video in the classroom. I had found out beforehand that my audience was going to be half teachers, half students. I had certainly worked with students before but I think this was the first time they were truly “attending” something I was leading. I felt good about the workshop going in, but I did have in the back of my mind a bit of nervousness (I always do, students or not) about how it would go with students being there. I love teaching on this topic so I wanted to make sure what I was sharing was applicable to teachers and students both.
The high school students that joined their teachers were outstanding. Not only did they fully engage with me by asking great questions and participating, they felt comfortable enough to help me out with helping their teachers throughout the day. It made me wonder, “What if we did this more often?”. What if we allowed students to sit down and learn alongside teachers? What if we allowed students to actually lead professional development? Many of the edtech topics I frequently see presented could be equally as applicable to students and I’m sure students could come up with some great topics to teach us too. How about we create more opportunities for them?
Last week I had the pleasure to attend FETC in Orlando. I mean, who doesn’t love going to Florida in January right? However, Orlando is not the word in that first sentence that I want to focus on here. The imperative word in that first sentence is attend. I did not present once at the conference, which I discovered was a big surprise to many of my colleagues when I answered, “Zero.” or, “I’m not.” to their question, “How many times/What are you presenting?”.
It’s not that I didn’t want to present; I love getting to present to teachers and teacher leaders. FETC is an awesome place to present. This happened to be a trip that my district sent me on and I chose to be 100% an attendee. It was fantastic not having to worry about getting slides ready, making last minute tweaks and changes, and just the general stress that comes with presenting at a conference. It was a refreshing change of pace (no pun intended).
The more this came up in conversation as I visited with friends, the more I thought that I really don’t do this enough for myself. Then it made me think that more presenters (especially the well-known ones that present a lot) should make time for themselves to just be an attendee. So many of us speak about being lifelong learners and having a growth mindset, but do we really walk the talk as much as we should? I know an in-person conference isn’t the only way to learn. We have blogs, books, YouTube, etc. to help us “sharpen the saw” too. For me, though, there’s still high value in an in-person event and just attending. I feel like I will not only be a better tech coach (the sessions were awesome and I learned a lot) but a better presenter because of it. It’s a choice I would encourage presenters to make more often. It’s re-energizing!
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.