18 July 2011

#SchoolDidAGoodThing

If you don't follow @TheNerdyTeacher or read his blog, you are missing out.    After listening to him speak at ISTE 2011 and reading his posts, I know that his classroom is a dynamic learning environment where every student is given the chance to succeed.  He is also the type of person who looks at a negative situation and immediately begins to work out how he can spin it to work in his favor.

In some of his recent blog posts, he has charged the education world to begin to change the negative views the country seems to have of schools.  His most recent mission asks teachers to post on Twitter something positive that happened to them in school while growing up and add the hashtag #SchoolDidAGoodThing.  Inspired once again by him, I would like to share 2 stories that shaped my teaching philosophies:

The Best of Intentions
Middle school was not kind to me, as is the case for many kids.  I wanted to be an athlete, but I didn't have the coordination.  Academics came extremely easy and I was that kid who always had his hand up to answer the teacher's question.  I was not obnoxious, I just worked hard so I knew the right answer.  This led me to be bullied excessively both in and out of school (one incident actually gave me a concussion when a locker door was slammed into my head).  When I brought this information to the school counselor, he told me that I drew too much attention to myself and that I should think about not raising my hand in class anymore.  As any of my friends will tell you, I am extremely strong willed and do not let others dictate how I should act.  I ignored his advice and decided to stand up to the bullies.  Well, as most MS bullies are, as soon as I stood up for myself, they back off.  I look at this situation and wonder what I would have become had I taken this short-sighted counselor's advice.  Even worse, how many people did listen to what he had to say?  I am sure that he was doing what he thought was best, but he never considered how his words could have destroyed the confident man I was becoming.

Give a Boy a Chance
When you are growing up, you don't realize what adults are secretly doing for you to give you the opportunity to reach your potential.  I was on my HS fencing team and to be really honest, I sucked my freshmen year.  I never missed a practice, worked my tail off and ended the year 0-12.  We didn't have a large team which is why I got a chance to fence 12 times, but the better point is my coach had enough confidence in me to keep putting me in even though he expected me to lose every time.  Fast forward to my senior year.  At the end of the year banquet, I was captain of the team, held 3 school records and was on the All-State Team.  My coach pulls me aside afterwards and says, "Marc, to be honest, you were so bad your freshman year that I secretly wished you wouldn't return.  Thank goodness I never recommended for you not to come back out for the team."  My coach did exactly what he was supposed to: gave me support.  I didn't know how important it was at the time, but as I look back it was exactly what I needed to try and find out who I was going to be.  I could have given up, but instead I surged forward because I was given the chance.

Thanks to @TheNerdyTeacher for getting me to reflect on the people who helped me become the person I am today.

04 July 2011

What I learned on my ISTE vacation

Ok, vacation is not quite the right word as I live 90 minutes from Philadelphia, where ISTE 2011, was held and commuted in every day.  But, my wife commented that I was excited about going to a edtech conference as she was about attending the Dave Matthews Caravan 3 day conference the previous weekend.  Let me say simply WOW.  Hands down best conference ever!  I have already posted about Day 1 and Day 2 and while I should make comments about Day 3 I wanted to spend some time talking about all of the other things that I learned about the conference.  The things that everyone failed to mention in their advice columns for newbies.

Tidbit 1:  The conference is actually 5 days long.
When I first read about the conference, I saw that the opening keynote was on Sunday afternoon.  As I didn't want to pay for a full day that didn't involve workshops, I decided to skip and stay home.  Huge mistake!!  Apparently TEDxPhilly was that day and was closed by the opening keynote for ISTE.  That was not on the website.  Also, many educators came in on Friday/Saturday and held sessions that were indicated on the conference website, but were not emphasized.  Most conferences don't begin until after the opening keynote, but not ISTE.  So, if you are attending, spend the extra money and be there every day.

Tidbit 2:  It is impossible to do everything.
I have attended conferences before including NSTA, but this was so much more.  I thought that 45 minutes between sessions would be more than enough time for me to wander the exhibit floor for awhile and still make it to my session with time to spare.  Well, for most sessions the room was almost full a full 15 minutes before the start time.  When I went to the Flipped Classroom session, the doors closed and they started early.  On the 2nd day, I decided to just skip one of my afternoon sessions to give me almost 3 hours to wander the exhibit floor.  Well, after sitting in on a product advisory panel, giving ideas to Corel and collecting pens from just about everyone, I was literally running to my next session.  So, next time I need to put aside a few hours each day for just the exhibit hall.  The hall is absolutely overwhelming and there are so many people who are dying to get you to try out their products.  They all knew we couldn't purchase anything so they just wanted to get us excited about what their products could do.

Tidbit 3:  Don't go to the keynotes.
So the keynote was held in a ballroom that was literally larger than a few airports that I have been to.  I was crammed into my seat to watch Stephen Covey, on TV.  That's right, he wasn't even there.  Ran into someone later who said that he sat in the Blogger's Cafe and watched the whole thing on a TV there and sat in a comfy chair.  So, for Chris Lehman's closing keynote, I went to the Newbie Lounge and it was 1000 times better.

Tidbit 4:  Be an extrovert.
I am not a social butterfly (in fact I went to the Social Butterfly lounge thinking it was the Newbie Lounge and high tailed it out of there) so I had a hard time meeting people.  I was in the Newbie Lounge watching the Twitter feed and no one was talking to me.  I look up and see William King.  I have never met him before, but actually follow him on Twitter simply because I find his comments clever.  Even though he was talking with someone I interrupted and introduced myself.  As we were talking, I saw Paula Naugle playing with an ActiveBoard, yelled out her name and struck up a conversation with her, too.  As I got out of my comfort zone, I knew that I needed to just walk up to people and shake their hands.  I got to meet Steven Anderson, Josh Stumpenhorst, and Nicholas Provenzano, Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann by interrupting what they were doing and shaking their hands.

Tidbit 5:  Get on Twitter
I met several people who were not on Twitter and showed them the Twitter feed that I had running on Tweetdeck.  I was getting links and comments from sessions all over the conference yet I was not there.  Also, if I wasn't getting what I needed from the session that I was currently in, I was still learning from others as they shared their nuggets of information.  I am sure those not on Twitter learned a lot.  I just feel my experience was more varied because of it.

Now, ISTE 2012 is being held in San Diego so now I just need to figure out how to convince my wife to take a week long vacation in southern Cali.

If you attended ISTE 2011, I would love for you to share things you learned as well.