In Indiana, a teacher must earn 90 Professional Growth Points (PGPs) every five years in order to renew her license. The teacher can earn these points in several ways, including taking college courses, partnering with a practicum teaching student or a student teacher, or attending an in-service or a professional conference. It used to be that license renewal came only by taking college courses, and in those days, I never went to professional conferences. I didn’t want to take time away from school, and when I wasn’t in school (weekends or breaks), I didn’t want to spend my time thinking about school! I know, I know. That’s not the attitude a teacher should have. But when I did have to attend in-services or conferences, I often found them to be time-wasters. Now, even if it’s a terrible conference, at least I get points toward renewing my license.
That was pretty much my mindset when I found out about an eLearning conference that a local school district was hosting this summer. It was all about using technology in the classroom. I had a rather bad attitude about it because I have seen people urge technology simply for the sake of technology rather than because it enhances learning. But it was only $50 for two days, and lunch was included both days. Plus, it would earn me 14 PGPs. Those qualities were enough to sell me.
The first session I went to was on “flipping” your classroom. I didn’t really know what this meant, and I think the presenter assumed everyone did, so I was a little behind the game. (Incidentally, flipping the classroom means basically recording your lectures and posting them online so that your students can watch them for homework, and then the practice (which is usually homework) is done in class so you can be there to help them with it. Once I understood this — which unfortunately was not until the next day — the session made much more sense.) However, since I didn’t understand flipping, this felt like using technology for the sake of technology, and my attitude worsened.
The Keynote Speaker for the day talked about how the world is changing as a result of technology. She showed us pictures and videos of lots of new ideas, including the Google glasses that are coming out, the way that classrooms can connect across the world, etc. It was all cool stuff, but again it seemed to be that the focus was more on technology than on teaching and learning.
The second session I went to on the first day was on blogging. I thought the presenter would tell me how using blogging would improve my students’ writing or their motivation to write. Nope. He told a little bit about how he used blogging, and that some kids liked it and some didn’t, and then he talked about different blogging platforms to use. (Except that he had some information wrong, and that was irritating.) Additionally, he didn’t realized he was supposed to present for two and a half hours, so he talked for maybe an hour – seeming to stretch it as much as he possibly could – and then he suggested we look around at various blogging platforms and maybe start a blog for our class. He didn’t give many useful tips about whether each student should have an individual blog or whether the teacher should manage the whole thing, nor about exactly what kind of content to put on the blog. He seemed incredibly unprepared and unknowledgeable about his topic.
That was the end of day one, and my attitude was not any better than when I started.
But check out tomorrow’s post about Day Two.