Last week I was able to attend the NCCE (Northwest Council of Computer Educators) conference in Seattle. It was by far the best conference I have been to in years. Here are my top reflections from attending the TeacherLibrarian Summit, the Keynote sessions with Kevin Honeycutt and Cheryl Strayed, and the numerous sessions I attended.
- Try makerspaces with your students
One of the major topics of the conference had to do with the makerspace movement. What strikes me the most is that anyone can have a makerspace and you can make it your own. There is no perfect way to start – no perfect way to have one in your library or classroom. You have to find what works for you, your students, and budget. Have no budget? Start with donated items, cardboard, tape. Just let the kids create and make. Stand back and watch their genius shine.
- Wikipedia is not your enemy
I think probably most teachers have said it at least once, “No you can’t use Wikipedia as a source in your paper.” Yet, did you know that every article in Wikipedia is rated by a strict rubric, which you can view? The highest rated articles achieve that rating because they have been reviewed by experts and academics. Open any article, click on the talk tab next to the article tab. Scroll to the article rating, and open quality scale. You will be able to view the rubric. Be prepared to be surprised.
- YouTube works in the classroom
Why not YouTube? Videos are engaging. You can teach content with them. Students can create their own content and publish on YouTube. Plus, with websites tools such as Zaption, you can turn videos into interactive assessment tools that engage students and deepen understanding.
- We need to be global educators
Our students can’t afford for us to keep learning within the confines of our classroom walls. We need to open connections with the world around us. Try out International Dot Day, Talk like a Pirate Day, World Read Aloud Day. We can’t teach students to be global citizens if we never open the world to them.
- Share your story
Kevin Honeycutt and Cheryl Strayed, author of Lost, along with nearly ever presenter at the conference said it numerous times. Share your story. Share what you are doing in the classroom with others. By others I mean, people outside of your school and district. Again,we can’t ask our students to be global citizens, if we don’t model it ourselves. Blog, write, share.
- Persist through the blisters
Often the best learning comes from the mistakes we make from taking risks. Kevin Honeycutt talked about how students who want to learn to play guitar often quit at the blister stage. They quit when the learning gets hard. We all need to risk, and learn through the blisters. We need to model persistence and help our students develop the tenacity to push through the hard muck to the reward on the other side.
- Meet the new Office tools
If you haven’t tried some of the new Microsoft Office Tools, now is the time. Check out how you can flip your classroom with Office Mix, and PowerPoint. Create dynamic presentations with Sway where the content is the focus and Sway takes care of the design. Use OneNote Notebooks to save teaching content in digital notebooks that you can access from any of your devices.
- Start using Social Media
If you aren’t on social media yet, what is stopping you? Don’t want to read posts on what a friend had for dinner or see their latest baby photos? Have professional accounts or classroom accounts. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter classroom or library accounts open the world of global citizenship and connections for your students. Here is where you can share what your students are doing with the world.
- Teach digital citizenship
Our kindergarten students were born into a world with technology at their fingertips. Many were learning to swipe a phone or iPad before they could walk. What our students don’t know is how to be a responsible digital citizens. We need to teach them. Common Sense Media, Mike Ribble, Craig Badura, YouTube, NetSmartz and iKeepsafe all have materials you can use in your classroom.
- Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts –
We no longer have to think we need to be the experts. With the speed in how everyday knowledge changes, we can’t be. So, bring the experts into your classroom. Use Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts to talk with experts, authors, or take virtual field trips. Bring just-in-time learning into your classroom.
- Primary coding for young kids
Coding isn’t limited to the older high school, computer nerdy kids and teachers anymore. Students can code at any age, and the younger we start, the more skills they will have by the time they graduate.
- Don’t marry the tool
Sometimes we get hung up on whether Apple, Google or Microsoft is best. Hello? – can we all get along now? It’s not the tool that matters, it’s what you do with it to make learning better. If that means using a Surface in the morning and an iPad in the afternoon, then do it. Use the tool that makes the most sense for what your students need to learn.
- Empower Students
We need to empower our students by sharing their voices. Publish their work and open up the world to them. Andy Plemmons talked about how he has a Student Book budget team who is given a set budget and then is empowered to decide the books they want to buy for the library. Kevin Honeycutt emphasized that we need to honor the work of kids by helping them publish or sell their work. We need to let them inspire the world with their ideas on how they can help others.
- Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
Cheryl Strayed and Kevin Honeycutt both emphasized the risk taking theme.
“Innovation is all about risk raking and being willing to fail.” Cheryl Strayed
“Wanna make change? Break into the classrooms and burn down the file cabinets full of lesson plans.” Kevin Honeycutt
This blog post has helped me reflect on what struck me the most at the NCCE conference, so I can narrow my focus to some key elements and bring them into my library classroom. We teach our students to reflect, but we also need to do it ourselves. When you take a risk and it flops, ask the hard questions. What happened and why? Learn, adjust and try again. Don’t quit at the blisters, develop the calluses and keep moving forward.