I helped my district to do a tech conference this week. I remember when they told us about it a couple of months ago and they scheduled the dates and everything and I was actually really nervous. They put of a temp schedule and Andrea Cottrell said “I’m going to do Beginning Google and Google Classroom who wants to help support me?” I didn’t mind doing that because she does most of the talking and teaching and I just support her and go around and support the learners in the session. But then someone else said “hey I’d like to do coding” and I thought that coding would be interesting. However I was really nervous. I really didn’t know much about coding other than code.org. I had done a little coding with a few of my students so I signed up to do that. Patty Reetz was my presenting partner and she did most of the work as I was attending some master’s classes in Ireland for the month before the conference. It was different co-presenting, not two weeks prior I had presented at my first conference ever in Ireland at GREAT15, in a Research-to-Practice session and this was done by myself. I really liked co-presenting with Patty.
Organic Conversations, the best part of a conference! During lunch on the second day of the conference I was able to have a profound, organic conversation with several elementary teachers, they were asking me what they should go to for the afternoon sessions. One of the sessions they were debating on was Coding for the Non-Coding Teacher, this was my session. They were having a difficult time seeing how coding could fit into their pedagogy and content, let alone have to learn the technology behind it too. They thought that this was just one more thing to add to their plate. One lady said, “Oh great another trend! Is this the next hot topic in education?” It felt like too much for them and the benefit to the students was very hard for them to see. I began to explain that coding is a small portion of computational thinking. In computational thinking students learn how to take a big problem and break it down into smaller parts (decomposition), they learn how to find patterns and trends (pattern recognition), how to identify what if different (abstraction) and writing steps by step instruction to solve difficult problems (algorithm design). They were excited to learn this information, we continued to speak about how computational thinking helps students to think about and look at problems in their everyday life and across content utilizing this set of skill. The same teacher that made the “hot topic” comment earlier about coding said, “that is how you should explain your session and professional development, computational thinking. Teachers want to know how to help their students think deeper.”
Keynote speakers add mega value to a conference. I got the feeling that a lot of the teachers attending this conference were very new to technology. Lisa Highfill and John Stevens brought a growth mindset and the teachers were pushed to their comfort zone and I love this, I love that they were pushed to the edge of their comfort zone and some even stepped out of it, that’s fantastic!
My takeaway from Lisa Highfill was to get out of the crib. She showed a YouTube video of a father who couldn’t handle his young daughter crying in bed so he climbed into the crib with her and she calmed down but then he was stuck. Every time he tried to get out of the crib the baby would climb higher on her father, I still don’t know if he got out. Lisa compared this to us as teachers not liking that frustrating look that students get when given a difficult tack (it’s really ugly), however that frustrated look is the look of learning. Often we will do the task for them or give them a hint. Essentially we climb into the crib with them. We need to be able to allow the frustration and allow our students to learn. #getoutofthecrib
Assessment, what can it look like for our students today? John Stevens spoke on creating different ways to assess our students, ones that they can choose from. Students can do a rap or song, poem, make a drawing, create a comic book do a screencast. There are so many ways that students an be assessed. To me he spoke to this notion of students creating rather than just consuming. This is an area that I am extremely interested in supporting my students in, I want them to create their own learning. What do I need to do and how can I support them in creating? Do I need to teach them more technology or do they now enough tech and I just need to give them free reign?