Monday, June 13, 2016

Are You Addicted To Ed Conferences? I Can Help!

Although conferences go on all year long, it seems as though there are a large number of them in the summer. It seems my Twitter feed is loaded with conference information or excitement. Or, it could be that I just have time to notice when I am on summer break.

Do you find yourself addicted to conferences? Do you spend an unusual amount of time driving to EdCamps, Teachmeets and/or named conferences? Do you keep an eye on your social media feeds to see what conferences others are attending and spend way too much time reading their posts? If you think you have a problem, I am here to help! Here are seven ways to help you break out of your addiction:

1) Don't get into meaningful conversations at the conferences. The most addicting part of conference attendance is the rush of adrenaline you get when you have deep, meaningful conversations that stimulate your thinking and drive you to explore and innovate.

2) Only attend sessions that are titled '10 Best _________'. These sessions emphasize tools or methods that are easily found online without help. We all like to walk out of 'professional development' with something we can use immediately in the classroom. After all, it is these tools that keep our students engaged!

3) Eat by yourself, don't make eye contact. Break times, hallway times, and lunch times are very dangerous for the conference addict. If you try really hard you may be able to continue to be alone throughout these times and thereby avoid number 1. This may be hard for those of you who are extroverts, but in the end the effort is worth breaking that addiction!

4) Complain loudly and often about the quantity and quality of the freebies available. If you work at it hard enough, you might even be able to convince yourself that this is the real reason you attend the conferences. I mean, is it really a successful conference if all you get is to take home is a lanyard and some stickers?

5) Make sure you spend your session times reading email, checking Facebook or Twitter and surfing the net (maybe throw in some shopping on Amazon while you are at it!) These are wonderful ways to keep your brain from engaging in the session topic. Paying attention may lead to engagement which will only fuel your addiction!

6) Don't go to keynotes. Keynotes are typically made to get people emotionally ready to learn and share (both of which we identify as fueling the addiction.) You would be much better off sleeping in for that morning keynote or leaving early to go to the outlet malls during the afternoon one. That way you will beat the rush of people leaving the parking lot as well!

7) Don't go to the sessions. Your room has HBO so catch up on Game of Thrones. Head to the pool and work on your tan. Get an even earlier start on those outlet malls. Visit the local points of interest. Do anything that will keep you from the temptation of engaging at the conference.

If you have any other tips or tricks that you use to keep from enjoying and engaging at education conferences please leave them below. Remember, teachers deserve it!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What If? Reading Journals

I have been writing a daily journal since November.

Dean Shareski recently wrote in favor of schools giving students the opportunity to do Hour of Code, which is an introduction to coding. He argued, "The promise of K-12 education has always been to provide children with a broad liberal arts experience that prepares them for life."

If this is really what we believe, perhaps it is time for us to re-examine book journaling. I have read the stories of kids 'hating' reading because they have to record what they are reading and when they are reading it (book logs). I totally understand how when a 'want to' becomes a 'have to' it can suck all the joy out of it. I also understand that sometimes we 'have to' make students do what they would prefer not to do, specifically to become better community members. Is there compromise that can be reached?

Book journaling is a thing that many adults do. You can even buy specialty journals created just for that purpose. Surely it is something we wouldn't mind our students growing up to do. So, what if we have students book journal instead of just log? I realize the same arguments that I put forth before are just as valid here. I do think it could be done in the short term to introduce the concept, like the Hour of Code, but without becoming a year long, onerous task for everyone involved. 

First, start by explaining the concept of journaling, which typically is to write down what we have experienced. Then explain that for a short time, say a month to six weeks, the students will be creating their own journals specifically over what they are reading. You could then set up your guidelines (post daily, twice a week, etc) and ask them to really try to do a good job. After they have written their first entries, read a few aloud. Have the students ask questions from the writer about the book. Identify what worked well and what might have been done better. Then at the end of the time, stop.

Why stop at the end, especially if it is working? Because you said it would stop. That doesn't mean you can't continue to read the journals of those who continue to write, or even share them with the class. That just means stop the 'have to' expectation. Let them know that you both true to your word and that anything they do in class, especially stuff they don't like will have an end point. It is easier to stick it out if you know it will end. 

Finally, encourage them to journal around something they are interested in. Are any interested in writing about the video games they play? the movies they watch? the YouTube channels they love? Allow them to share those entries as well, just don't make it a 'have to', not all kids will be enamored by the idea of writing stuff down (and that is just fine!)