Moving Beyond the Classroom
Like many other teachers, when I entered my teaching career almost 13 years ago, I used a computer to type up lesson plans and to create worksheets. I had two computers in my classroom, and my students used them to play math or language games. I sent and received e-mails, and I researched the topics I would soon be planning for my students. At the time, I never dreamed of the countless options that are available to us today.
Today, I am proud to say that I have gone beyond the classroom in my use of computers and the internet. I tweet, blog, and communicate with my students. I conduct research related to trending topics in education, and rely on the professional learning networks I belong to in order to stay apprised with changes in digital pedagogy. I also encourage students to engage in participatory media through sites like Edmodo, and tools offered in Google Apps. I encourage collaboration, and provide students with web based tools to encourage them to do the same.
I have made slow and steady changes over time thanks to the countless professional development opportunities available to educators, guidance from the strong administrative team where I am a teacher, not to mention the explosion of professional discourse available through the social media networks I belong to. One of the professional development opportunities which made a lasting impression on me was the Connect 2013 Conference.
Connect 2013 Conference
Early in May, I attended Connect 2013 in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The goal of the conference was to connect Canadian educators in discussions about the various facets of 21st century learning in the classroom. The conference proved to be multi-faceted, covering a variety of topics related to 21st century learning and technology. The presentations I attended each proved to be thought provoking, and highly relevant to the needs of todays’ students.
I have attended a variety of professional development workshops and conferences over the years, but none quite like Connect 2013. Like other conferences, Connect 2013 had a variety of inspiring speakers, practical advice and strategies to share with attendees, and many exhibitors pitching their products. However, the buzz of excitement appeared elevated to a level beyond that of the usual educational conference. The discourse was somehow different, indicating a shift in educational pedagogy. As I listened to each presentation, I felt a combination of eager anticipation, and a sense of urgency. I felt like this conference would change my thinking, inform my practice, and probably disrupt my instructional plans and strategies.
Discourse That Inspires
I attended the following presentations:
Creating Multimedia E-Books using Glogster Edu by Mitch Lapointe
Mitch Lapointe spoke with enthusiasm about creating multi-modal, multi-media presentations and courseware using Glogster. This presentation was informative, and soon after the conference, I myself was able to easily create a Glog for students’ use. Students responded well to Glogster, and went on to create their own Glogs with my instruction. Click here to check out Mitch Lapointe’s introduction to Glogster. You can link to Glogster EDU from his page.
Dynamic Assessment by Zoe Branigan-Pipe
Zoe Branigan-Pipe spoke to the audience about how her students use a variety of tools such as LiveScribe and Evernote to participate in classroom projects. Zoe’s students are encouraged to bring their world into the classroom, engaging in projects which incorporate QR codes, Skype sessions with experts, and Minecraft. Zoe believes in group collaboration, where students are involved in solving real life problems, and seeking out solutions with input from professionals in order to learn strategies they will use well into adulthood. Her presentation inspired me to take a second look at Minecraft in Education, something I had dismissed until this time. Zoe is also a blogger who shares her ideas and classroom strategies on a blog called “Pipedreams”. Click here to check out her blog.
Blog as Portfolio by George Couros
George Couros is a principal and leader in the Edmonton education system who believes that all students need to take control of their digital footprints by curating their own online portfolios. Furthermore, he is an avid blogger, who believes that students should make meaningful worldwide connections by blogging themselves. He spoke passionately about effective uses of social media to improve student learning. On a personal note, I found this presentation particularly inspiring. George encouraged bloggers in the audience to continue sharing our views, no matter how small or large the audience. Click here to check out his blog.
Adding the 4C’s to the 3 R’s by Roger Garriock
Roger argues that in order for Canadian students to become internationally competitive, they need to develop the 4 C’s – creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. He introduces us to Destination ImagiNation, a non profit, creative problem solving/teamwork program for kids K-12, which promotes the 4 C’s though inquiry based learning. Challenges are set each year, and schools across Canada and the US can enter a group of students to compete in the challenges set in the local chapter of the city in which they reside. Click here for more information on Destination ImagiNation.
Take Control of your Professional Development
In a field that is changing as quickly as technology in education, I too expect to change. Professional development for educators can take many forms. Through conferences, additional qualification courses, workshops, and presentations, teachers must engage in learning that is relevant to today’s students. Not only do we need inspiration and motivation, but we need guidance and practice. I encourage you to attend workshops, presentations, and professional development as often as you are able. I encourage you to join social media groups such as Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr in order to learn from other educators. I encourage you to converse with your colleagues, and inspire confidence in the importance of teaching today’s students using tools and strategies that are relevant now.
For more articles about the importance of Professional Development in 21st Century education, check out these links: