Friday, July 06, 2012

ISTE 2012: Large-Picture Take Aways

The learning that took place at the ISTE Conference (at least for me), took place everywhere: in the exhibition hall, the various sessions, the lobbies, outdoor patios, meeting rooms and shuttle bus, not to mention our Avi Chai sessions each evening.  There are a lot of great teachers and administrators out there and I found myself trying to absorb as much as possible throughout.

That being said, the experience was also overwhelming, especially when I stopped to think about the work ahead and the feeling that no matter how pro-active we are, the risk of treading water or falling behind the eight ball looms heavily in my thoughts.  How can our school, or any school, implement all of the tools, applications or educational approaches that were presented at ISTE?  How can I possibly follow and learn something from all of my new twitter connections?  How many of the various tools presented in the exhibition hall can any one school adopt, even if budget were not an issue (which it is)? 
Then came my AHA moment…provided by a wide variety of my ISTE “teachers.”

§                     Take away one or two terrific ideas, tools or implementation ideas from any given session or discussion.
§                     Don’t worry about the tweets you miss.  Rather, be excited to learn new ideas from the tweets you were able to read and process.  Whatever you DO read and learn is more than you would have discovered only a few days ago. 
§                     Share, share, share.  Do you have a great idea that worked in your school?  Don’t be proprietary…why shouldn’t students everywhere be able to benefit from your spark?  I met a young Spanish teacher who decided that she could not teach 11 year old kids using a 13 year old textbook.  So she created her own online textbook using weebly, which anyone can view and/or use.  Take a look at this:
§                     Don’t be afraid of failure…your own and those of your teachers.  That’s how you learn.
§                     Put the education process in the hands of your students…let them own it.

So what am I going to do this summer to prepare for the 2012-13 school year as a result of participating in the ISTE Conference?

First and foremost, I am going to develop a number of action plans for the upcoming school year, focusing on:

1)      Establishing a resource wiki or site for our teachers suggesting various web tools and providing links to some of the wonderful projects and tools I learned about at ISTE.  I look forward to having teachers add their resources to the reference site as well as feedback from others who have tried new approaches or tools.
2)      Outlining a course of professional development for our faculty for the 2012-13 academic year.  The plan will include a combination of peer mentoring, online professional development,  as well as discussions, demonstrations and presentations on curriculum development and technology integration.
3)      Widening my own personal learning network – this was one of the main messages I took away from the ISTE Conference.  In order to grow professionally and impact the learning culture at our school, I must expand my PLN and learn from the experience of others.  I am awed by the quantity and quality of dedicated education professionals who are willing to share their ideas, knowledge and skills with anyone.  I intend to take advantage of their openness and smarts (and in turn share my newly acquired knowledge with colleagues at our school).  I will encourage our faculty members to establish and/or widen their own PLNs for the same purpose.
4)      I will investigate the concept and implementation options of blended learning to see if and how our students can benefit from this educational model, both in their secular and Judaic studies.

This is a great beginning and I am excited and grateful for the opportunity provided by the Avi Chai Foundation.  I hope that other members of our faculty and administration will be able to attend ISTE in future years.

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