I was one of the lucky 4,000 educator who was able to attend the annual Michigan Association of Computer Users for Learning (MACUL) conference for the past 2 days. MACUL is the largest education conference in the state of Michigan. Two days filled with session about the best uses of technology in education. Many featured speakers came in from all over the country.
The opening Keynote from Kevin Honeycutt was inspiring message that I feel all educators should hear. Make your teaching visible to the world, while focusing on the student. Kevin presentation moves at a fast pace to keep teachers inspired and engaged, just like a good lesson in a classroom. He shared stories about his childhood learning experiences and his current teaching practices. Teachers need to get to know their students and find ways to connect their learning goals to their world.
I attended many other engaging sessions ranging from blogging for education to Web 2.0 applications for learning. Tons of content was presented but the message that seemed to reappear in most session was to be a “connected” educator. Blogg, Tweet, post and share were mentioned early and often in most sessions. Just like teaching in my classroom, content is necessity but it does not drive the class, relationships do.
Teachers need to build relationships with each other. We need to talk about what works, what doesn’t. How we use a tool, pitfalls, challenges, management. How we can get access to more tools. The more teachers discuss their practice in a public forum the better it will become. Think about it if one teacher encounters a problem with tech integration , others will have the same issue. In more than one session audience members asked about how to get around road blocks, presenters shared their paths to success as did many audience members,
The conversations happening in the hallways, at the social cafe and around the food court was where the most value comes. Most presentations can be found on presenters blogs, on YouTube, or in handouts. The connections with educators that want to learn and try new things has longer lasting impact. From most conferences our take away is 1 thing to bring back to the classroom. When we take away a connection with another connected educator, we gain all of their experience. We continue the learning after the conference through tweets, blog posts, e-mails etc. One take away becomes an avalanche of new ideas.
I wouldn’t want to have missed any of the great presenters I saw this week, but my gains are in the contacts that I had discussions with, new people I will follow on twitter or follow their blog with Google reader (until I find a replacement). Every person you come into contact has experiences you need to listen to and see if the experiences relate to yours. Teachers are always learning. We learn best just like our students, with a lower teacher to student ratio and with individualized feedback.
Thank you to everyone I talked to at the conference. All the presenters that placed ideas in my head. People that I started following on twitter. Educators need to remember there is no competition in educating our youth! All of our students deserve the BEST education. We need to ban together and share all the weapons in our arsenal to make it happen.