The participants of the CUE Rockstar Teacher Camp aboard the USS Hornet. One of several amazing edtech events I attended this summer. (Photo from http://www.rockstartechcamp.com/)
I just came home from my last professional development of the summer. Today was the first ever EdCamp San Joaquin. This was a free “un-conference” that was sponsored by the Teachers College of San Joaquin and Central California CUE. The event, like all edcamps was free to the participants, and the program was decided upon by the participants themselves once they arrived. I had an amazing time learning all kinds of new things to try in class starting -ugh- next week!
Really the best part was that this was just one of several fantastic professional development events I attended this summer; CUE Rockstar Teacher Camp, Google Apps for Education California Summit, the Google GeoTeachers Conference and more. What did these all have in common? They were all attended by willing participants. No one (that I know of anyway) was “sent” to any of these events. They were all teachers, admins, and others who came out during the summer, on their own time, with the intention of improving their craft. And that willingness to give up their own time to learn something new really truly makes a difference.
So I want to thank all the people- those that I know and those that I do not know- who gave up time this summer and willingly, enthusiastically participated in or organized these events. You really make a difference. And to those who won’t give up your own time without getting paid? Well, you are just missing out, and so are your students.
This year has seen a dramatic change in my professional development. I made the decision last summer that I need to take more control of what I was learning and I needed to share more as a way to learn more. I really felt stuck in a rut. One of the manifestations of that decision has been that I have attended more conferences this year than I have attended in many years combined. It started with the Rock Star Teacher Camp at Minaretts High School. Talk about getting out of a rut! I also attended CUE in Palm Springs for the first time in a really, really long time. Most recently I attended the SVCUE event last weekend in San Jose. (That is a really good way to get to attend for free!) This year I also attended or presented at events in Monterrey, Napa, Modesto, and North Hollywood. And I am not done yet.
The results? I am much more comfortable presenting to other professionals than I have been. I think this is an important ability for an experienced teacher. I think it important to be able to discuss what I do, and why I do it. Presenting at conferences forces me to really think about this. It holds me more accountable.
I also am much more aware of how many really awesome teachers there are out there who have their students doing amazing things. If I hadn’t gone to these conferences I simply wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know what I should be expecting of my students. I wouldn’t know what I should be expecting of me. But I do know now. I know even more awesome teachers. I have more ideas for awesome things my kids can be doing.
Prepare for awesomeness.
I was very fortunate to attend Fall CUE this year. Well, I attended half of Fall CUE. My wife and I headed over on Friday after school, missing the first day. It wasn’t too difficult to convince my wife that we should go. “Want to go to Napa Valley for a weekend” was all the convincing it took.
I was worried that only attending one day would not be worth the time and money (I was attending on my own dime.) I need not have worried. The biggest problems I faced was in deciding which sessions to attend. Every time slot had two or three sessions that seemed to be designed specifically for me.
All of the sessions I attended were worthy of giving up a Saturday for, but the highlight of the day for me was a session led by Michael Niehoff and Jon Corippo of Minarets High School. They started off by telling the audience that we all needed to have at least two electronic devices out and use them during the session. Then they told us that we were expected to talk among ourselves during the session and be noisy. I think we met their expectations.
The part that really knocked over my cheese cart was the discussion about the use of social media in the classroom. Now I use a lot of social media outside of the classroom. I am on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, and probably a few more I can’t think of right now. But I have always kept a fine line, I don’t accept friend requests until a student graduates. I am not keeping anything from them, but I think there are a few things about my students I do not want to know. Having them in my social networks opens some doors that I am not sure I want open.
Jon said I was afraid of Facebook. I think he is right. But I am thinking about it.