Today I was tasked with submitting a “short list of the key findings or suggestions” I developed as a result of attending ASCD. At the moment I have 21 pages of notes from the conference. By far, it was one of the most amazing conferences I have ever attended and I am elated it will be in my “neighborhood” next year at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. So to accomplish my task I developed a “Top 5 List” of take-aways from ASCD. Over the next few days I’ll post them here. So, starting from the bottom…
#5 Seamless Technology
After leaving CUE for ASCD one of the things that struck me the most was that every presenter at ASCD used technology seamlessly – in many ways better than at CUE. Yes, you read that correctly. At CUE I noticed many “shiny objects” being presented with very little thought about learning goals or whether a teacher should even be using it. For example, during a session on iPod Touch educational apps I learned about the “Wheels on the Bus” app and another app that teaches students how to write numbers with their fingers. No joke. While these apps would be great for little Johnny to entertain himself on the way home in the back of dad’s car I am not so sure they are exactly worth a school purchasing an iPod Touch lab. Meanwhile, at ASCD technology never seemed like an add-on. Instead, it was used to enhance the lessons and workshops I attended. For example, multiple presenters used PollEverywhere to actively involve attendees in their presentation through cell phone-based surveys or quizzes. Many speakers provided links to online handouts and resources and since the San Antonio convention center had fairly robust wireless most of the time I could download the presentation on my own computer to follow along. Debra Pickering led a phenomenal session on formative assessment, feedback, and peer instruction using Activexpressions. During her session attendees could truly see that technology allows teachers to implement powerful instructional strategies in a manner that is nearly impossible do without these tools.
Finally, since the wireless worked well during ASCD I was able to participate in back-channel conversations during sessions via Twitter. Skimming the thoughts of others in the same session as me helped to solidify concepts and link me to additional information. For example, in Heidi Hayes Jacob’s session she quickly mentioned Langwitch’s Flickr page where graphical representations of education texts are posted. She moved so fast I wasn’t able to find the link online. However the Langwitch creator was in the same session (along with 900 other people), through the Twitter back-channel conversation we connected, and she sent me the link. After I tweeted out the link colleagues in San Antonio, Palm Springs, and Sacramento reviewed this amazing resource and repeated my message to their Twitter network.
In terms of future practice, the seamless use of technology to engage participants and leverage instructional strategies in professional learning workshops has convinced me that we need to develop a Technology and Professional Learning Institute for the professional learning team in my district. During this institute we can focus on how tools like PollEveywhere, Promethean Activinspire, Google Docs, social networking, and Twitter can improve our ability to deliver professional learning opportunities.