Day one of the eLearning conference I attended was disappointing. I wasn’t expecting to love it in the first place, but when the best thing about a professional conference is lunch, it’s still frustrating.
Thankfully, day two was much better.
The first session I went to was called “Starting the Year off Right with iPads.” When I hired on at my school last September, I was told that the middle school students would all be getting iPads that fall. They got them all right, but I’d never even held an iPad before, and I’d had absolutely no training on how to use one, much less implement it in my classroom. The school’s tech director was fairly helpful, and we ended up getting some eBooks for kids to read, and I at least learned how to take pictures. I went to a couple of in-services, but they covered so much information so quickly that I didn’t feel I learned much. As a result, I was excited about this session so that I could get moving in the right direction with the iPads. (Really, any direction at all would help, rather than the aimless wandering I did last year!) This session taught me about several apps I could use and how to use them. (Socrative, a QR code generator, and Class Dojo were several. I will definitely be using the QR code generator and reader, and I might use Socrative. Class Dojo, however, has some of the same features as another program I already use – Edmodo – so I’m not likely to use it.) I also learned about a website called Common Sense Media which has an educators’ site (www.commonsensemedia.org/educators). The presenter was saying it was great to teach kids about digital citizenship. I’m not entirely sure that’s my job. It’s probably important, but with trying to get through all my standards, differentiate my classroom, collaborate with other teachers, make sure my SLO kids meet goals, and show evidence evidence evidence that I am an Effective or Highly Effective Educator, I just don’t know that I can spare the time to teach kids how to behave well online. However, the site also had pre-made lessons on things like copyright issues and knowing whether a website has reliable information – both of which fit my standards when teaching research skills. I’ll definitely be using that one.
The Keynote Speaker for the second day was the same presenter as my first session on the first day, but today he explained some things I hadn’t gotten the first day, and really talked about how teaching and learning are the most important things, and technology can just help you achieve those goals. He suggested some books to read and was really fun to listen to.
The last session I attended was about creating and collaborating in the classroom using iPads. I learned about a number of apps here, including Whiteboard (cool, but I probably would not use it), Animoto (I might use it, but probably not a lot), Popplet (which creates graphic organizers, and I do this often, but I’m not sure the benefit of doing it on the iPad instead of paper, except that kids might think it’s cooler), Ask3 (which I saw myself using to spice up a grammar lesson), and Educreations (which I totally love and have already used to make a presentation for my speech class in order to – you got it – flip my class.) This session is also where I learned how to really utilize my QR creator / reader (have your kids create something, post it online, create a QR code for it, and then put that QR code on your bulletin board. If your administrator wants you to display bulletin boards of stuff your class is doing but it’s not something you can post on a bulletin board, you just post the QR codes and anyone with a smart phone or an iPad can scan the code and look at the work.) The presenter also talked about the value of having a class Twitter account (your students’ parents can follow the account and see what their kids are doing in class if you post pictures, links, etc. She also mentioned benefits and drawbacks of making that account public or private.)
While the first day of the conference was a disappointment to me, the second day completely made up for it. I actually feel like I might use some of these ideas in my teaching this year, and they actually might enhance learning.
I don’t like technology for the sake of technology, and in fact, I like to unplug as much as possible. But if the tech actually helps me accomplish goals, then I’m all for it.