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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Teacher Camp: MTA Summer Conference

MTA Summer Conference gives us a chance to learn at the wonderful
University of Massachusetts in beautiful Amherst, Massachusetts.
Today I'll join educators from all over the state at the annual MTA Summer Conference. The Massachusetts Teachers Association puts lots of time and effort into this annual event--there's hardly a professional event that's more sensitively or carefully executed. When you're there, it's clear that teachers matter.

While it can be difficult to leave family behind for a number of days, attending the event always results in good learning and professional growth. As with any professional event, it's good to create a list of learning objectives before you go so that you get the most out of the event. I hope to attain the following information and inspiration.

Union Organizing
Our union has put a lot of effort into organizing and making change in the past few years. There's been a dedicated approach in that regard. I will attend a couple of events related to this and I want to continue to learn about and listen to those who lead these efforts. I am very interested in the positive power that organizing holds for our work as educators and our role as citizens. Noam Chomsky illustrates this in his film, Requiem for the American Dream, which I watched this week. I continue to believe that there is room for every American and citizen of the world to succeed and live a good life. I believe that education plays a large role in that vision since education gives people positive power over their lives and the lives of their communities. I also recognize that in a sense, it's time to renew our democracy in ways that open doors for more in this knowledge age we live in. I'll be interested in hearing what organizers have to say about education, opportunity, and the work we need to do to forward a positive vision in that regard.

Collaborative Teams
I'll spend two days working with edcamp founders Mike Ritzius and Dan Callahan as they work with educators to deepen the way the we collaborate around issues that matter when it comes to teaching and learning. I am very interested in this workshop since I feel that the next steps in education involve identifying and employing better processes of collaboration, innovation, and change. If we want to move schools forward, we will need to employ successful processes of collaboration and exchange. In my own teaching/learning organization, better process will help us to better bridge the opportunity gap, deepen humanities education, strengthen STEAM teaching, create more distribute leadership models, and inspire meaningful idea share and implementation.

Maker Math
I will work with a small group of educators to discuss ideas and practices related to Maker Math. Maker Math essentially moves math learning and teaching from old time "sit in your seats, listen, and complete a worksheet" math lessons to hands-on, collaborative math explorations and investigations. The Investigations math program introduced me to Maker Math years ago, and that's when math came alive for my students and me. I noticed that when students are fully engaged in creating real world solutions and models in math, they learn more. Maker Math takes Investigations and brings it into the Maker/STEAM education movements by making use of classroom maker stations, emphasizing teamwork, and teaching math in interdisciplinary ways. Further this Maker Math matches cognitive research which tells us that visual models, real-world problems, and collaboration create more dynamic, memorable, and successful math teaching/learning efforts.

I'll also work with a group of educators to focus in on the power of reflection. We'll discuss reflection routines, vehicles, and places. We'll share how reflection propels our professional work forward. We'll look closely at the thirty-three elements of effective education outlined in the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation System, and use to reflection to come up with a draft of our 2016-2017 reflection goals.

Social Media
At another session, educators and I will discuss the impact of social media on our professional learning and share. We'll discuss and interact with platforms such as Twitter, eBlogger, Pinterest, Google+ and more as we think about our social media presence and how that presence can work to maximize our professional path when it comes to teaching children well.

Making Apps
I'll join other educators to learn how to make apps. I hope I'll be able to make one that will support my students' learning this year.

Solidarity: Learning from Colleagues
I'm looking forward to the EdTalks, a time when educational colleagues will share important stories related to their teaching/learning paths. Similarly, I'm looking forward to the many informal conversations that will occur throughout the week with educators I know well and those I'll meet for the first time. These conversations alway serve to broaden my perspective when it comes to the work I do.

It will be a full week of solidarity and share, a week that will positively set the stage for the 2016-2017 school year. If you're curious and haven't signed up yet, you may decide to look over the schedule and drive out to Amherst to attend one or more of the events offered.