Friday, June 20, 2014

Conference on a Couch

For their first Summer of eLearning conference, Danville Community School Corporation came up with a unique theme for their casual learning experience. Their Conference on a Couch encouraged the connective conversations that are such an important part of these gatherings. With longer sessions and clusters of comfy seating, sharing and discussions were at a premium throughout the day.

But if the mood was relaxed, the keynote speaker certainly was not! It is impossible to hear Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), and not be fired up about teaching. With so many concrete examples of how to engage students, educators leave his sessions with a real game plan to bring a new level of passion to their teaching. He talked about storytelling, and demonstrated tactics like the 'taboo hook' and 'mystery bag' that he uses to build anticipation in his students. His book, Teach Like a Pirate, guides teachers through a creative process to build engaging lessons.

For those of us who hadn't gotten enough Burgess in the keynote, we had a second opportunity to experience him in his breakout session, "Teaching Outside the Box: A Crash Course in Creativity." So how do you add creativity to your classroom? Be sure to ask the right questions ("How can I get my class outside of the 4 walls for this lesson?" instead of "Can I get my class outside of my 4 walls for this lesson?"). Have you heard of the wedding photographer principle? (Take lots of pictures and keep the good ones). Another idea is to come up with the 5 words that you want your kids to use to describe your class. Think about those words when you write your lesson and recalculate if necessary.

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Brittany Banister (@KindergartenVF) and Tiffany Copple (@MrsCoppleSES) are 'Two Techie Teachers' who shared a session on how they use technology in their elementary classrooms. They guided participants through several apps that allow students to build and create. "Student creation is key - students driving their own learning." They use Caption It! to have students annotate pictures, and Book Creator to turn those images into eBooks. The two were most passionate about Kidblog, and the powerful writing kids do when they change the audience through online publishing. Kidblog is a kid-friendly medium they use for journaling, and they appreciate that teachers can choose to have posts approved prior to posting. They also demonstrated how they create QR codes and use them to quickly guide elementary students to content, without the typing of complicated URL's. Of technology integration, Cobble says "We have to change our mindset. We have to realize that they aren't 'playing on their phone,' they are using a powerful communication tool!"

Tiffany Todd (@TiffRae2013) opened her session, Creating a Digital Toolbox, by warning attendees that she was about to overwhelm them with a bunch of stuff. And she wasn’t kidding. After covering ten tools that she described as rocking her teachers’ socks off, she literally led us through building a digital toolbox using Symbaloo. You can check out the toolbox she built for the session.

One of the tools in the toolbox was Vocaroo, which enables users can record their voice and share it as a link or QR code. Attendee Catherine Trinkle (@cattrinkle) shared how her ELL and SPED students benefit from the use of this and tools like EyeJot to give feedback on student writing. She shared how it allows students to hear their work read in a grammatically correct way with fluency. This empowers them to know that they can convey a message and gives them a means to make it accessible to others.

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