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Sunday, July 8, 2012

New beginnings after ISTE 2012

First things first. I titled the blog after one of my favorite phrases that I use in class. It is the basis of my teaching and who I am. I have great passion for this profession and have always wanted to do my best at everything. I am hoping this blog will serve as place for me to put my thoughts and ideas. A place to discuss what I am doing in class, how it is working (or not working), and how it can be better. I have always liked the idea of reflection and see this blog as a great starting point. I also want to collaborate and discuss with the world the great ideas that are out there. We live in the age of world wide sharing and connectivity. This is lesson #1 learned from ISTE and where I will start my thoughts.

As a first timer I was in awe at the grand scale of ISTE, I had never been a part of something this big and this powerful. There were people from 63 different countries represented at the conference. But what was most impressive to me was the collegiality of everyone and I do mean everyone that I spoke with. At every session I was in I met other talented and like minded people from all over map who all were happy to meet and greet. It was like being in a big family reunion where everyone was totally interested in meeting everyone there. It was beyond refreshing. However, it wasn't just about politely meeting and happily greeting everyone. It was about sharing ideas, collaborating, listening, and reflecting on a scale I had never seen. It was as if I had been living in a tiny cave in Utah and didn't know that there were others, so very many others who thought like I did and wanted to share and learn as much as possible. It became my biggest takeaway and made we want to be more connected. As a quick aside I started using twitter to follow the conference and others and realized how great a tool twitter can be in getting the word out. I have read other's reflections from tweets that influenced this undertaking. One thing I love about educators is that they have passion and compassion, a willingness to help others and share ideas. This has never been more evident in my life than at ISTE. The world wide web has created world wide community.

The next takeaway is that information means nothing. We live in the information age. Information is more readily available now than at any other time in history. Not only is it readily accessible and available, but more people than every before now have that access. Adam Bellow stated that since last year's ISTE there have been 49,000,000 new websites put up. When I want to know something I will go look it up. I can get the answer within minutes, sometimes seconds. I can continue perusing sites until I am satisfied that I have the answers I want. I may be directed to an article, a video, or a message board. I can read other's opinions or reviews on any subject. Technology has allowed us access to unprecedented volumes of information, some better than others, but information nonetheless. The issue isn't getting the information, it's what to do when you get it. How do you use it? It is what you do with the information that matters. Getting students to think critically and evaluate the information is what is important.

Takeaway #3 The coach doesn't have to be better than the players. I am fairly tech savvy and able to figure most things out. That being said I have never used a wiki in my class and plan to implement on this year. Before the conference I was very hesitant and felt that I had to be the expert and know it backwards and forwards before I could introduce to the class. I wanted to be the coach and the star player. After ISTE I realized I not only needed to just be the coach, but it is okay if the players are better at it than me. My job, like any good coach, is to get them to play to their potential. As teachers we don't have to know a given program better than the students. What we need to do is know how to get them to organize ideas, determine importance, evaluate and synthesize information, and critically think about what they find. Today's teachers need to move from behind the desk and worksheets to moving around the class and pushing kids to their potential, challenging them to question and evaluate. And plus if you can't figure something out go back to takeaway #1 and go to the world wide community. Someone there will help you.

There are other smaller takeaways but the last one is that if you are teaching today's student as you did yesterday's you are robbing them of tomorrow. Because this is the information age we need to get away from teaching in lecture style and move to inquiry and project based learning. The following graphic shows what I mean.

We need to take students from the passive learning (most boring and meaningless) to the active which is more meaningful and exciting. I am going to move to more project based learning this year. How? I'm not really sure. My next post will be more about what I have found, my ideas, and how I plan to do it.

ISTE was great. I enjoyed it a lot. I felt connected to world wide community of like minded and bright educators. I felt empowered to implement better and positive changes in my class. My ideas to change the world seem more realistic, as is always the case, just gotta figure out how.

Feel free to comment and join the discussion. My email and twitter handle are to the side. If you follow me, I'll follow you ;)

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