Tuesday, August 07, 2012

#mtasummer 2

A Beautiful Day in Williamstown
Day two at the MTA Summer Conference led me to an unconference led by Dan Callahan (co-founder of the edcamp movement), Laura Beals D’Elia and Diana Marcus, a trio of energized, innovative Burlington educators who keep the focus on what’s best for students.

Similar to an edcamp experience, the unconference is a rich, collaborative learning experience that one can tailor to his/her needs and interests. The day began with a few unconference protocols: post “conversations” you’re interested in, join groups that are focusing on topics you want to discuss and learn about, and “vote with your feet” which means that you may leave or join a group at any time. We introduced ourselves and our interests, and then we began posting topics and joining colleagues in a number of concurrent conversations.

I began the day discussing awesome iPad aps with a few educators.  Dan Callahan introduced his iPad app book, student projects and examples of many wonderful apps including:

  • Book Creator: Great app for making books.
  • Doodle Cast: Screencasting app, great for young children.
  • Toontastic: Cartoon maker which is engaging and applicable to many curriculum areas.
  • Explain Everything: Another great screencasting app.
  • Skitch: screen pics and adaptations, useful to use with Google maps for regions study.
  • Drawing Pad: drawing tool for young children.
  • Artrage: more sophisticated drawing tool.

During the discussion, Patricia Piekara explained that she uses the iPad for speech work with children. Patricia lets students record their speaking, then she plays the recording back and points out ways that the student is successful.  She uses the story builder app as part of her engaging work with children. Callahan’s school will move to one-to-one with iPads this year.

At the next session math teachers from elementary school to college discussed math education and many strategies for obtaining grants, collaborating, completing project work and meeting current standards. In the afternoon, teachers from Plymouth and Holden shared wonderful “flipped classroom” science videos, websites and lessons. For the final session, teachers discussed school culture and events related to innovation, change and collegiality.  The concept of “reciprocity” and the need for professional collaboration, advocacy and mutual support were focal points of the discussion.

Throughout the day many more tech venues were introduced including the following:

  • evernote
  • symbaloo: saves and provides access to one’s links.
  • thinglink: linking app.
  • crafter: Easy app for QR code creation
  • twitter widget to post "favorites" on websites.
  • Google widgets

The day left me with many apps and venues to play with and explore in the coming weeks. The experience also left me with the desire to support our tech integration specialists’ idea of hosting a staff-wide unconference or edcamp as part of our overall professional development offerings at school. Unlike many traditional professional development events, the unconference and edcamp events encourage teachers to take the lead when it comes to collaboration, setting goals, sharing ideas and synthesizing those ideas in efficient, responsive ways that benefit our work with those we teach.