Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Best education conference #YourEduStory

This week's topic was generated by the fabulous +Krista Tyler

What is your favorite education conference you've attended? Why should others attend?

When I'm asked about my favorite anything, I often first think about the things I do NOT like. Forced connections are a pet peeve. Perhaps it is because I am naturally an introvert and the sound of a room full of people talking to their "neighbors" is overwhelming. And, I don't know how many connections are built that way. This is something I try to avoid when going to conferences, delivering conferences, and delivering sessions. Authentic connections can be made; we don't need to force those connections. 

2013-2014 were some of my best years educationally. I became a Google Certified teacher and co-founded the Google Ninja Academy. The Google Teacher Academy was a life-changing experience. It changed me as an educator, as a learner, and as a person. I became more confident. I became more of a risk-taker. And, I found more success. However, I don't attribute that to the academy itself. It wasn't the content. It wasn't even the format. It was everything else. It was the people. The people...that's what stuck with me. It was the experience of going to another city like Chicago. It was the experience of being around Google for two days. It was learning of the person.

And, that's the idea that has stuck with me. It goes back the he hierarchy of needs. Students won't learn if their basic needs like safety aren't met. Likewise, it's difficult to go to a conference that doesn't meet those basic needs. We crave connections. We crave humanity. We have to educate the person. 

A the end of last school year, I went to Playdate Austin. It was only from 8AM-noon. Short and sweet. There was no key note. There was no real agenda. Instead, student leaders were featured in open classrooms. Learners could come and go to the different rooms as they pleased. And, at the end, the kids came to the cafeteria to do a small showcase. I left that day with a new perspective. I didn't learn any new tools and that was great. Rather, I learned practices. And, students were empowered. I made connections on my own. They were not forced. They were necessary to learn. 

Last summer, I attended ISTE in Atlanta and, though ISTE is large and more traditional,, it has some great non-traditional spaces and sessions. I saw EdTech Chef on the agenda and decided to give it a try. At the time, I did not realize it was a three-day commitment. From day one, we sat down in random groups. Those became our teams for the next two days. And, better yet, no one stood at the front of the room and instructed. Instead, it was three days of creation. Yes, I went to a conference and actually worked. I wasn't able to check emails or stay half-focused. I had to be in attendance - mentally and physically. I was able to bring back this session to my group of instructional technology specialists and several campuses, including my own. Creation is a huge. We are used to just sitting so getting educators and students to create doesn't always come easy.

Lastly, makerspaces are my favorite. I have attended several maker faires throughout Austin. At every one, I have made something new, linked past and present knowledge, and have been engaged. It's cheap too. Throw in some coin cell batteries, card board, LEDs, old technology, legos, and SmartPhones and you can make your own stop motion videos of robots. Tell a story. Recreate a period in history. The options are endless. And, what's best is there is no set outcome. Learning is authentic. 

What are  your favorite conferences? 

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