Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tomorrow's Classrooms Today: My ISTE "Expo"

If you've ever competed in a running event you know that once registration is complete and you've (hopefully) done your training, the next step in the process involves packet pickup and, in bigger races, a race expo.

As a runner I have experienced quite a variety of packet pickups. Smaller races usually include the collection of your shirt and your bib (the number you pin to your shirt during the race) the day of the event; if you're fortunate, there may be other "swag" by way of bags, coupons, samples, and other items that have been donated by race sponsors. Bigger races tend to open packet pickup a day or two prior to race day, but the process is similar to smaller races. Still larger events (for me the Trenton Half Marathon and the Disney Princess Half Marathon) hold a race expo. Typically held in a large hall or convention center, race expos afford participants the opportunity to see what's new in running-from gear, to fuel, to other accessories.

For me, expos always add layers to the excitement that starts to build days before the main event; they allow for you to meet and mingle with fellow runner, get an idea of what the course will be like, and offer other valuable information. In so many ways, the expo can be even more exciting than parts of the race; it is certainly an experience that should not be skipped.

So if you skipped the title of this post, you are probably thinking that my first Race Report for ISTE 2015 is about the ISTE expo-not quite. My "ISTE Expo" the event that raised the level of excitement and heightened my ISTE experience was Tomorrow's Classrooms Today (TCT).

The inaugural TCT was a one day event held on Friday, June 26, two days prior to the first keynote of ISTE. Created and planned by Evolving Educators: Brad Currie (@bradmcurrie), Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), and Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco), TCT boasted a schedule that included keynotes with Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1and Rich Kiker (@rkiker), a brain break with GoNoodle, and four amazing and informative sessions jam packed with presenters. Perhaps, best of all, all six members of the #EdJusticeLeague were in attendance (but more on them later)!

Rather than make this a bed to bed story (that's first grade writing talk for a story that starts with waking up and ends with going to sleep), I'll focus on the highlights of TCT. And there were many!

Session 1 The first session I attended was with the amazing Chris Aviles (@TechedUpTeacher). Chris' session topic, Gamification, was a new one for me. In essence, gamification is the use of video game elements (level ups/status, HP, AP, badges, special powers, special items) to teach and assess learning. What it means in a practical sense is that students are engaged and motivated to learn in the same ways that they are engaged and motivated to advance in a video game, in other words-the classroom is the video game and the kids are the main characters.

So much of what Chris shared in our hour long session (which ended much too quickly) has turned my thinking on its head. As a teacher trained in the guiding principles and practices of Responsive Classroom, I am a firm believer in intrinsic motivation. I questioned how gamification, with its extrinsic factors (special items, badges, etc.), fit with this approach to teaching. I have reviewed Chris' presentation, my hand-written notes, and the collaborative notes taken during the session by the Ed Justice League more than once, and I am still working through this conundrum. After all, he had some truly eyeopening points: we live in a gamified society. Not sure what I mean? Do you have a rewards card you use (think Panera, Dick's Sporting Goods, Starbucks)? Even if it's not on your person, don't you share information with the cashier to makes sure you earn your rewards? Case in point - I will make more than one transaction at Starbucks so that I will earn extra stars, getting me closer to the requisite 12 stars for a free food item or beverage. I even love that my Starbucks card is gold! As Chris stated, "It's all about status, access, power, and stuff."

I still have a lot to explore before I dive into gamifcation and this will certainly NOT be my last post about the topic. From a practical standpoint I am processing his session on two levels: first, how can I use the concepts of gamification with the teachers I support? Second, how can I relay Chris' message and ideas about gamification to my teachers in a way that will be beneficial to their students? There is no easy answer to either of these questions. What I know for sure is that I will be having a follow up conversation with Chris in the near future and I will work with him, my PLN, and my colleagues to design a game that will be right for all of us.

Session 2 The second session I attended was a timely one, as it has me focusing on my blog (this blog) in a new way. Meghan Everette (@bamameghan) shared her expertise as a Scholastic blogger. Her presentation included advice on topic generation - favorite lessons, local problems, national problems, something you love, something you are an expert on, and conferences/PD (this one sounds familiar), to name a few. Other advice included the length of the post (400-700 words), the length of the title (8 words with colons and semi colons), using short paragraphs, and remembering your audience.

Meghan's advice was inspiring. My greatest takeaway from her session was the use of an editorial calendar - which acts as an outline and plan for possible posts and topics. I love this idea and will certainly be using it. In fact, I will be using all of her advice!

Sessions 3 and 4 After an extended lunch, members of the Ed Justice League decided to forgo a formal session and spend time in the Makerspace. There we played with pre-assembled catapults. Once we were redirected by Meredith Martin (@geekyteach) to create our own, the competition was to create the catapult that would shoot the farthest marshmallow. Once we had a winner we moved on to trying to get a marshmallow in someone's mouth and being the first to land a marshmallow on a light fixture...s'mores anyone?

Our intent was to spend only one session in the Makerspace, but we were stood up by the final presenter and we headed back to the Makerspace. This time we decided to work individually and I devoted my attention to a light up, pop-up card. With so many projects to explore, we were not at a loss for inspiration.

During our second session in the Makerspace we also had time to play with Raspberry Pi, a fun little computer that had been programed to be a fast paced game. Our time spent with the lovely folks from Raspberry Pi and other shenanigans (ie tossing marshmallows into Cybraryman's mouth) made me happy that we had a double session in the Makerspace. It's fun to act like a kid!

Overall, my ISTE "Expo" experience, aka TCT, did exaclty what race expos are meant to do: I was introduced to some amazing PLN members: Dan Whalen (@whalen), Jerry Blumengarten, Billy Krakower, Brad Currie, Denis Sheeran (@MathDenisNJ); I reconnected with other PLN friends: Meredith Martin, Chris Aviles, and John Mason (@jhnmason); and had another meeting of the minds with the Ed Justice League (I promise to reveal their secret identities soon enough!). I also had the opportunity to inquire about ISTE and get the information I needed to have a wonderful first ISTE.

I know that ISTE 2016 will be in Denver next year, but I look forward to returning to TCT next June. I wonder if the Evolving Educators will bring TCT to Denver so that others can experience my ISTE Expo.

Related Posts:
I Conqured The Beast That Is ISTE!: A Running Reflection Series


This place was very comfortable. Restrooms were decent. Coming to LA venues with my friends was an amazing experience. This is my favorite place now, because of its excellent food, perfect lighting, vibrant atmosphere and great ventilation.

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