Saturday, November 23, 2013

MTA 2013 Unconference Notes

MTA invited all members to attend their unconference at Microsoft in Cambridge today. I attended with a couple of lifelong friends, teachers from Worcester. Similar to edcamps, the event served to awaken me to many great resources and perspectives related to teaching children well.

Meg Secatore and the MTA's Professional Learning Team organized the event which included a terrific breakfast and lunch, representatives from ed start-ups, wonderful learning spaces, and a well orchestrated schedule of events. Dan Callahan, an edcamp co-founder and  Burlington Tech Integration Specialist, led the event.

Jenny Leung, a seventh grade Language Arts teacher from Groton-Dunstable, shared her experience at the Smithsonian as well as the way she focuses her teaching on theme rather than content. Jenny shared a prezi and her Smithsonian project that demonstrate the way she blends multiple resources to foster literature, composition, and creation related to theme. The conversation grew as Jenny and Laura Beals D'Elia shared their ideas about optimal common core implementation which focuses on compelling questions and themes that appeal to students' developmental levels. For example, the study might focus on themes such as friendship, family, team, journey, freedom, identity, and more. They noted that we underestimate what children are capable of learning and understanding.

Later, I facilitated a conversation that focused on the connection between visual literacy, model making, and math learning. I shared a connected blog post, and the educators in the room shared many strategies and resources including ST Math, a math model making program that children enjoy, and many new ways to use Google apps for making mathematical models such as Google's new equation tool.

At the third session, radio journalist Monica Brady-Myerov shared her start-up, ListenEdition, which is a learning resource with lots of promise for developing students' listening, speaking, comprehension, and multimedia composition skills and understanding.

During the last session, I continued my focus on visual literacy and returned to Jenny's presentation to learn more about the topic. During the discussion, it was noted that Suzy Brooks demonstrated a terrific way to develop and use visual literacy to teach comprehension strategies during her 2012 ED Talk. I was also reminded of Molly Bang's book about images.

At the end of the day there was a smackdown which is a time to share great tools with a series of fast paced two-minute shares by many attendees.

This is a list of many of the wonderful tools shared throughout the day:

30Hands: Free and available on iPads and iPhones. Terrific for taking images of students' work and videotaping their explanations of the work. This is another tool that's great for building effective speaking skills, and it can be used to record students' fluency growth and development too.

Quandary: Literacy/Research Skill Development.

Narrable: Terrific free new tool similar to voice thread used for multimedia composition and share.

iPad App Doink: Great green screen app $3.00

Blendspace: Great resource for multimedia composition, learning design, or building a blended learning environment.

National Archives Experience: Wonderful site for primary source images and text.

All About Explorers: Fictional site that helps children learn about digital research and safety--at first students think the site is factual, and then after close attention realize that much of the text is fiction.

Better Lesson: Multiple common core lesson resources.

Edtrips: Nice resource for organizing all field trip info/payments (Betsy, you might like this).

Greg Tang Math: Good reminder about a great math resource.

Notability: Great site for organizing and working with notes.

Teacher Summer Institute at The Smithsonian Institute: A chance to learn about visual literacy with processes such as see-think-wonder and claim-question-support using art to reach common core standards of making a point, supporting that point with evidence, and sharing/questioning. The Smithsonian Institute has a great website with lots of art for classroom share. They will also set up a docent led videoconference with your class to learn about a painting if interested.

In summary, the MTA unconference was a full day of learning in a great space with friends and colleagues.

Note: Follow this edcamp link If you're interested in attending a similar learning experience in the months ahead.