I recently participated in my first educator’s unconference, Connected Educator Un/Conference, where teachers from across the state connected and collaborated on a range of classroom practices that focus on technology tools. Willingly. On a Saturday. To be fair, there were donuts.
Over the last 12 years of teaching, much of my professional development has consisted of an auditorium or library of teachers who sit and listen to hours of lectures by “experts” who hope to inspire, motivate, or change our instruction. There’s a lot of painful deep sighing, contemplation of life choices, daydreaming about other professions, or calling in sick on these days. I’ve even put together entire meal plans for the week, complete with grocery lists organized by aisle. On the best of these PD days, I’ve been able to take away a glimmer of an idea I can use in my classroom. On the worst of these PD days, I’ve written and edited my resignation letter.
An unconference is different in brilliant ways. After the initial panic and discomfort of being forced to move around the room (I have to what? I have to get up?), I figured it out. Teachers sign up on the spot for a slot of time to discuss something they do well and can share, or they sign up to openly discuss a topic they’d like to know more about. It gives teachers a chance to see what’s happening in rooms of other educators . . . since teachers are the experts on curriculum and lesson delivery.
The Connected Ed day had a similar format as an unconference, but specific “learn by doing” sessions were also scheduled and led by expert teachers who are using technology tools in their instruction. I was able to choose which sessions I would find most useful for my needs in my classroom. Allowing me to choose what I would like to learn at a conference was huge for me, because if I have to hear about bucket-fillers and boxes of textbook resources ever again, I’ll apply for the first position I can find as a Wal-Mart greeter. My resignation letter has already been written.
On the Connected Ed day, I went to a session on Google Drive, Bring Your Own Device, Standards Based Grading, and hacking your own textbook with iBooks Author. My head is buzzing with ways I can put GoSoapBox and Evernote to use in my room. I’m checking out ActiveGrade to see if it suits where I’ve been heading in my classroom. I’m also thinking about the unconference format . . . how it could be used similarly in the classroom with my students, maybe for review.
So thanks to the Ed Tech gurus at our ISD — Dan Spencer (@runfardvs) and Brad Wilson (@dreambition) — and to the presenters whose sessions I attended — Gary Abud (@MR_ABUD) and Anthony DiLaura (@anthonydilaura). It looks like they’ve saved me from becoming a Wal-Mart greeter.