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?
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.