Reflections on #ISTE12 – Many things learned and a summer to sort through it all

I am on my way home, returning from my 3rd ISTE conference. As in the past, I was inspired by the speakers and attendees. Everyone you speak to at this conference has something valuable to share – and I tried to take it all in. This year, however, the conference has a different tone for me – instead of gathering tools and techniques, it was more about validating my own thinking about teaching and learning with technology (thank-you #ConnectedCA for changing my focus). Now it is time to put some of these thoughts into practice.

After having several hours to ponder this at a couple of different airports, I think I’ve come away with several key ideas for next year. I hope by documenting them here, I will hold myself accountable for at least trying a few of them. I am inspired now… but the summer can be long. Someone, please remind me to re-read this post in mid-August.

  • Global Communication. Although I’ve just ventured into the world of blogging, after attending the #ISTE12 session by @lparisi and @bcrosby, I am motivated to bring this tool into my classroom. I even bought the book! Since I only teach one class regularly, my grade 7 math students are in for a bit of a change. I hope to move a lot of our ongoing problem solving into a blogging format. I like to emphasize process and documentation of thought – and blogging is just perfect. As the year progresses, I hope to make contact with other grade 7/8 teachers who would be interested in having their students work in a similar format. Having students collaborate on the same problem, across the world is a very exciting idea for me – but is also a little scary. If anyone is interested in trying this with me, please let me know.
  • Share more. After attending this conference with teachers that span from grades 1 to 12 at our school, I have realized that I don’t share enough beyond my own middle division. For example, teachers in the primary and senior schools didn’t know our middle students had online portfolios, they didn’t know I had posted screencast tutorials for students (that faculty could probably use too) & I didn’t know what the grade 1s were capable of doing with passionate @learning_teach at the helm (please follow her – she’s new on twitter). After just a few discussions with her, she has now planned and designed online portfolio templates for her students and has begun her own blog and website. Having the time to sit down and share ideas this week was truly inspirational. I need to do this more often within my middle division, across divisions and departments from K-12, and outside of my school with this blog and twitter. How to find the time? That’s September’s challenge.
  • Step out of my comfort zone. I have been teaching grade 7 math for 10 years now and although things have changed along the way, I need to mix it up again. It’s easy to fall back on the same old lesson plans – but that’s not what is best for the students. Flipping the occasional lesson, changing assessment strategies, pushing the boundaries… it’s time. After the #ConnectedCA conference in May, I did do this at the end of the school year by putting together a QR code scavenger hunt for the students to review for their final exam. At our school, cell phones must still remain in lockers. So, I put together the entire hunt, posted the QR codes around the school and then … uh oh… told the students to bring their devices to class. I had a bunch of iPads on hand for those who didn’t have a smart phone or iPad of their own. Just before class, I sent an email to the teachers at school indicating that students would be wandering the halls with their devices to find and solve math problems. I figured it was better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. It was a great success. Students were splayed out in the middle of hallways around the school solving math problems – using their devices to not only provide them with a new problem, but to help them solve it by referring to past lessons online or simply use the calculator. I need to remember this when I get into a rut next year. It’s time to mix it up – regularly!

There are more things floating around in my head about next year, but my flight is about to board… and I can leave that for another blog post once I sort through my notes and ideas.

Any feedback and suggestions are always welcome. This blog is all about global communication and sharing more – now is when I get started on next year’s goals.