Here’s my report on the final day of ISTE 2012:
You’ll Flip Over This! Classroom Flipping: How We Did It
This session was marginally useful because it provided a very basic overview of the traditional model of flipped classrooms. The two tech facilitators walked through their efforts to flip learning at some elementary schools in Virginia. Most of this stuff was very basic or was already covered my previous workshops.
Even More Google Geekiness
This was a fun if disorienting workshop. The presenter, a hyperkinetic guy who was one of the founders of the Google Teachers Academy, ran through a total laundry list of new features in Google Apps that users might find cool or interesting. The list was so long that he had to rush through considerably, but I still found the session entertaining and productive.
Besides that, I had an underwhelming day. Two of the four sessions ended in walkouts with no makeup. I did have a chance at the end of the day to sweep the exhibit hall and talk with some of the LMS vendors that I had not yet connected with. It will be good to return home to Hotchkiss tomorrow.
Here’s my report from Tuesday’s sessions:
This annual meeting does not usually produce a lot of thought-provoking content for me, but it is a useful time for networking with colleagues. We independent school educators are such a small minority of the teachers in the world (and at ISTE) that it can sometimes feel rather lonely. It was nice to hear that there are other schools grappling with some of the same issues that Hotchkiss is (Google Apps, 1-1 programs, iPads).
The Many Faces of the Flipped Classroom
This was probably the best session of the day for me. It was a rapid-fire set of panels organized by Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann, the two “godfathers” of the movement. Like my Sunday session, it was interesting to see that everyone seems to have a different take on what exactly “flipping” means. There were definitely people there who take a more orthodox approach, and then there were other panelists who openly condemned that approach as bad teaching. It was also interesting that Jon said the majority of teachers who express interest in flipping are math and science teachers. It occurred to me in this session that perhaps English teachers have been using the flipped model for years. I mean, the students read the book at home (the new content) and then they discuss it in groups (the processing) the next day. Isn’t that a quintessentially flipped class?
Mobile Devices + Social Media = Engaged and Empowered Learners
In this session, the people behind the Speak Up project presented their findings from their annual survey, this time focused on mobile devices and social media. The moderator presented her slides so fast that I felt I missed a bunch of crucial information. I hope that I can find those slides somewhere else for later consumption. Overall I came away feeling that most technologies can be put to productive use by teachers if they are creative, and it is better to embrace them than it is to ostracize them.
Google Certified Teachers Share: What’s New from Google for Educators?
This was a fun end-of-the-day panel. There were 11 Google Certified Teachers who each presented something cool from Google for about 5 minutes. Some of the things they presented seemed immediately applicable to our Google Apps installation at Hotchkiss. I was particularly interested in the Research feature that is built into Google Docs. The idea of giving students the ability to do quick research right inside a Google Doc seems like an instant win.
Here’s a recap from Monday’s events:
SIGTE Forum: Adopting Mobile Devices in PK-12
Sadly, this was another pretty low-value session for me. There was a hodgepodge of panelists who covered a very cursory overview of various aspects relating to integrating mobile devices into a curriculum, but mostly from the very high level of a district or county. Then there was a period set aside for peer discussion, which I skipped.
I managed to make contact with the folks at MoodleRooms and they showed me their Joule system, which is designed for K-12 schools. It seemed fairly promising and at least worth having a demo of in the fall.
Standards for Us! The new NETS*C for Technology Coaches
This session was more useful. ISTE has developed a set of common standards that technology coaches (a fairly amorphous term that would apply to my new position) can use for evaluation. I find this to be useful, if for no other reason then it would seem to add credibility to the position. I will have to investigate these further as they get rolled out in the next year.
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could report after this morning session because I was crippled for the rest of the day with a virulent stomach condition that forced me back to my hotel room. Fortunately I recovered for Tuesday.
Here’s a quick recap of the sessions that I attended on Sunday:
Successfully Implementing Google Apps for Education
This three-hour workshop was divided into two parts. The first part gave an overview of the Google Apps migration and setup process, and the second talked abou best practices in using GAFE. Since Hotchkiss had already been through the migration process, the first half was not as useful for me. But I did appreciate in the second half where they talked about different ways that they were currently using Google Apps in the different grades at their school. It was also interesting to see how they were using Sites to create the school intranet. If we abandon Blackboard (or even if we don’t), we will probably look at a similar solution.
Flip Teaching Secondary Mathematics — Best Practice in Action
This afternoon workshop was illuminating for several reasons. One was a fascinating trick with coffee creamers that I can’t wait to use as an icebreaker with my math department colleagues. But more importantly, Jason Roy’s approach to flipped classrooms is very different from the stereotypical “video at night — work during the day” model. His technique does share the fundamental tenet of flipping — getting the lecture out of the classroom — but he doesn’t necessarily reserve out-of-class time for content delivery. In fact, it seemed as if his students spent as much time doing work out of class as they did in class. I was left wondering where exactly they learn new material. I also found it interesting that he uses the Exeter problem sets in his teaching — should we reasonably conclude they are everywhere if they have made it to the American School in Bombay?
This year, unfortunately, I found the keynote to be very underwhelming. After the obligatory 30 minutes of speechifying and public thank-yous, there was only 45 minutes left for what was supposed to be a four-person panel discussion. I don’t know about you, but 45 mins / 4 people = 10 minutes = not a really productive use of time. I would have preferred if they had just chosen one or two of the panelists and had them present to us for the full time period. In the past, I have enjoyed hearing from dynamic speakers who were not necessarily directly connected to education. Malcolm Gladwell and James Surowiecki spring to mind. Sadly, there was nothing memorable about this year’s keynote.
Like last year, my annual pilgrimage to the ISTE conference has been my inspiration to start blogging. Here’s my schedule for this year. You will notice a preponderance this year of sessions about Google, mobile devices, and flipped classrooms. I’ll try to write a recap post for each day. Here’s my weekly schedule:
At long last, I’m attempting to resurrect my teaching blog and start using it again with my job at Hotchkiss. Last year the blog fell into disuse. Part of the blame for that must fall on the complexities of my job, but the lion share simply resulted from lack of effort.
Now in my new job as educational technology facilitator, it seems doubly important that I re-establish my presence on the web in the conversation about technology in education. I’m not sure if I have a lot to contribute right now, but perhaps when I get back into the swing of things I will be a little more prepared to share.
In any case, I found with my family blog that things seemed to go better when I established specific days to blog, so let’s say for now that Tuesday and Friday will be my blogging days for this blog. On Fridays I will try to give a recap of the week’s events, and on Tuesday will be an observational post about some issue that is concerning me at the time.
In addition to restarting my blog here, I am going to try to restart using my Twitter handle, which I have just changed to @rwistar so that it is easier for people to remember. Hope to see you online somewhere!