Katie's post was timely as I am on a committee that is in the middle of planning our annual spring conference in our state and having conversations about types of sessions. I agree with Katie's comment that
"Technology is a part of our world and is increasingly changing how we live, work, and learn. If we are really going to create experiences in schools that spark curiosity, ignite passion, and unleash genius as I believe we should, it’s about both the instructional practices and how we can leverage the technology to provide new and better experiences for students."
If we are to model sound instructional practices, our conferences should include different types of session for different learner needs.
ALL teachers need to see models of instructional practice that are supported or augmented by powerful use of technology.
Sometimes teachers need to see a project that inspires them to freshen up a tired unit or lesson or completely redesign it.
Sometimes educators need a HOW to use a tool that they have seen others use in powerful ways, but need to build their own confidence or fluency before they try it.
Perhaps a tweak to the way we approach these could help us refocus on the WHY and the pedagogy.
What if we changed a How to session to something like this: "How to use Voicethread to support Multiple modes of Representation (UBD).
or perhaps change the 20 apps in 60 minutes to 20 Apps to increase Student Voice.
I also believe there is value in just playing with technology in the Playground area to help us stay curious and ask questions like "How might I use this feature of this robot platform" with my students. Sessions like this lead by teachers and students can generate some amazing conversations and ideation.
Walking through the vendor areas with a pedagogy lens, curious teachers will quickly discern which tools might connect with their instructional strategies and which ones are just flashy tech.
Partnership with vendors who value the input of educators to shape their products to meet the needs of our schools are essential. There are vendors out there who truly listen and make changes to their product based on educator feedback on what works for kids and what we need to do a better job with designing learning. I still remember the day when I met a CEO from WeVideo at a conference and shared with him a barrier to using WeVideo in my classroom. He had no idea this was a barrier. The next day I bumped into him again, and he said " I contacted headquarters last night and we fixed that!" Wow! We need vendors who are responsive to our needs. They are out there. It's a win win!
I think a great conference has lots of different opportunities to meet the needs of different learners.
Planning this experience is not easy, but we can do it. Especially if student learning is on our #1 goal.