Takeaways from TCEA 2019

After three solid days of "conferencing" in San Antonio, I am happy to be able to spend a bit of time reflecting, processing, and synthesizing a few things learned.


I think it's important to have a plan or system for how to collect and share conference resources with teammates, colleagues and others. Of course, the use of collaborative Google Docs or Slides is a go-to for many of us. I've recently started implementing outline mode in my digital note-taking, and I hope the headings and subheadings will make the massive document a bit easier to manage.

Of course, I had Tweetdeck going for TCEA, but our group also created a Twitter hashtag, #R10atTCEA. It wasn't used as much as I would have liked, but I loved that others in Region 10 contributed to this hashtag, too.

A new favorite curation tool is Wakelet, and just last month, they announced the feature of collaborative Wakelets, so I thought it would be fun to try out that tool with colleagues at the service center. (Here's a post from Matt Miller that shares more ideas to use collaborative collections.) We had 9 colleagues attend the conference, and several of us posted in our #R10atTCEA wakelet (and I hope others will continue adding to it next week.)

John Bimmerle, a TCEA area director, took curation and Wakelet to the next level, and I loved this idea! He facilitated Solution Circles throughout TCEA, and he created a collaborative Wakelet for every single session AND made them public so we can see all of the session ideas and notes!
I'm always a bit bummed when presenters don't share their slides/resources, but that only happened a couple of times during this conference. Something new that I would like to adapt is a "condensed" version of the slides. I attended a 3-hour workshop from Mandy Froehlich, and instead of sharing her entire slide deck, she gave us a condensed version of organized resources. She used the same template as her original slide deck, but included only slides of the key definitions and resources. Her presentation slides were colorful and more detailed, and this small deck was mostly grey. I thought this was a great idea because it allowed us to focus on her content, but when necessary, we could click links for activities or additional resources.


The conversations in the hallways are often the most valuable! For an introvert, it is always a push for me to strike up conversations with strangers, but that was a goal that I met this year. (I even had a conversation with two other educators while waiting in line to board the plane home.) Now that I've worked at the service center for 3.5 years, the conference felt like a mini-reunion, and I ran into former colleagues and people from districts all over Region 10.
One glaring takeaway: when facilitating an extended workshop and expect interactions (i.e. "turn-and-talk" activities) take time at the beginning of the presentation for introductions. I think I always remember to do that, but when it's absent during a session, I feel it's sorely needed.

I have now volunteered at several conferences, and I think this will be a must-do for me for all future events. Not only is it a way to connect with other educators, but I feel it's a very small way to give back to all of those who worked to put on this massive event! I had a great time greeting people at check-in, and helping in the Google teaching theater is always a learning experience.

During my sessions, I was also on the lookout for content that might be interesting for others in our group. By using Twitter, it was easy to tag colleagues when I found resources that might connect with their subject area (even if it wasn't applicable to me.)
And as a bonus to show how connections help me, I heard about Tony Vincent's "Random Reflection Generator" during a session and posted that on Twitter. Someone in my PLN shared the blog post from Tony about how to create the prompts, and he then shared the script he used to make his own! (Don save me so much time on my weekend coding project!)

And speaking of reflections...my third huge takeaway from TCEA...


After several days of learning-overload, it's so important for me to process and reflect. One new thing I tried this year was to create a separate document for singular ideas and reflections. I kept one document of session content notes (resources, links, summaries, etc.) but when I experienced something that I wanted to use for my own work, I added that idea to a different document of "Random Ideas." When I saw an interesting way to format slides, start a session, survey question, or prompt, I added that to my other document. I hope this will be helpful with future work.

I'm also fortunate to work with a colleague who likes to "convention" like I do. After a full-day at the conference, I'm ready to get a super early dinner and then go back to the quiet of my room...and she wants exactly the same! Our dinners were very work related though, and we spent the majority of the time sharing ideas and information we experienced and discovered throughout the day.

I was also determined this year to find the good in every session or experience. In the past, I sometimes left sessions feeling like I just lost an hour of precious time, so this year, I was on the lookout for even the smallest takeaways. Armed with that mindset, I got something from every session. When I was completely unimpressed, I didn't feel guilty about sneaking out of the back...and my takeaway was to be extremely thoughtful to make certain my session description matches the content of my session.

My final thought and goal was to reflect and blog ASAP, and voila! (I've been home less than 24-hours, and I have this new post!) As a bonus, I attended a session with Lisa Johnson on Notable Note-Taking, and I've been a fan of her digital/analog notes, so I'm trying something I've admired in her work...my sketchnote of take-aways, along with a Thinglink.

Conference learning is powerful in so many ways! These days, I don't think I should expect (or want) to walk away from conferences with tools; instead, my head is full of ideas to try.

Always learning...


Zigging and Zagging

I enjoy January, the start of a new year, and new beginnings. During the past several years, I created resolutions, participated in happiness projects, wrote 18 goals for 2018, and distilled yearly themes to #oneword. (This year's word is heart, by the way.) As part of our work evaluations, we write and submit reflections on our past and future goals, and I really enjoy that process. (I wonder how many people like completing these reflections?) I'm currently working on a portfolio for a certification project, and the synthesis process is very fulfilling for me.

In spite of all of my thinking and reflecting, for the past several months, I feel that I lost my sense of direction, and I am zigging and zagging all over the place. I don't think I even realized I was at such a loss until I heard the discussion of "Defining Your Everest" during an interview with Dave Stuart on this podcast. Bottom line, I would like to distill my work into concise, focused goals.

It's not like I've never done something like this before... I discovered this quote in 2006, and it continues to be one of my favorites. It suited me perfectly as a math teacher, Student Council sponsor, instructional specialist, and now as a digital learning consultant.

A couple years ago, a friend even created this painting for me, and it's prominently hanging in my office.
Starting in 2012, my students and I created 6-word memoirs. I still love this focus sentence.
I love to help find solutions.
The sentence worked in my previous job because it was very "math-y," plus I was working at the campus level to solve problems. Now I find ways technology can solve problems.

I created a 5-word GPS for the 2014-15 school year (my last year on a campus). When I look at the words now, I see my focus was so much about building a community of learners and creating psychological safety in my class...and that is all still good to remember for my professional development sessions.

Last year, I took an online class (#ClassyGraphics) where an optional assignment was to create a manifesto, and I worked for weeks to choose the right words that described my values and beliefs.

Looking at all of these quotes, words, and reflections from past years helps me understand my values and priorities, but how can I be more concise? I see a lot of similarities in my words and ideas. What I like about the Everest Challenge is the teacher says every single day in his classes, his students are working on one or more of his 5-6 broad goals. During the podcast interview, Dave said he started writing his ideas on an index card, carried it around for days (weeks?) to refine and reflect on his words.

What is my work all about? Right now, I'm thinking something like, "I want to help others see how technology empowers us to learn, connect, collaborate, and create." Hmmm... Am I able to spend the majority of my time using technology for learning, connecting, collaborating, and creating? Is this focus fulfilling for me? Suggestions?

Still thinking and reflecting, and always learning. 

PS - With "Zigging and Zagging," I'm finally ending my alphabet blogging challenge. Talk about perseverance. It took way too long to finish 26 posts, but I'm glad I did it!


YouTube for Learning?

Anyone who is around me for more than 5 minutes hears about my favorite educational book The New Pillars of Modern Teaching. The ideas in Gayle Allen's book truly transformed how I think about teaching and learning. (See this post for an overview.) So this reflection started as ponderings about YouTube, but as with most everything in my educational world, it's going to circle back to the New Pillars.

Last year, I read great advice for conference-going, which was to attend a session that was outside your comfort zone or area of interest. Find something that might push your thinking. For that reason, on the last day and the final session of ISTE 18, I found the session Teacher Reflection and Professional Growth Through Vlogging. The session description sounded interesting (except for the video part) but I didn't recognize the presenters' names. I ran into a former colleague in this session, and based on his enthusiasm (and the response in the room!) I learned that the presenters were "celebrities" in the TeacherTuber world! I had no idea that just like blogs, Twitter, and Instagram, there is an entire community of educators that share and support each other on YouTube. Check out CJ Reynolds' and Darin Nakakihara's channels to see their vlogs. Their presentation was dynamic and inspiring, and they spoke with enthusiasm about their community of learners and how they used video to learn, grow, reflect, and share.

As wonderful as their presentation was, I have not spent any additional time exploring YouTube and TeacherTubers. I am not interested (right now) in joining that community of learners. BUT because of my understanding of the New Pillars, I realize that's OK...that type of medium is not my learning preference. I also realize that vlogging might be a favorite platform for some of my session participants, so how can I provide more video as an option? Just like students in our classrooms, our preferences are not going to be the same as our students, so how can we accommodate for those differences? How can we design learning experiences that meet the needs of more of our learners?

In The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, Dr. Allen provides a brief self-assessment for us to determine our own learning preferences. She asks us to reflect on a favorite learning experience and break down the experience in terms of the four elements of powerful learning design: time, place, medium, and socialness.

  • Time: How much time did the experience take? Was it a short burst of time or a semester?
  • Place: Where did the learning occur? Face-to-face? In a university? Online? Synchronous?
  • Medium: What platforms were used? Audio, video, online, face-to-face?
  • Socialness: How much interaction occurred? Was it face-to-face or virtual?
I've reflected on my favorite learning experiences multiple times, and for our online book study, we ask participants to create a graphic to explain their preferences, so here's one of mine.

Now that I deeply understand my learning preferences, I know to look for learning opportunities that meet my needs as a learner. And because I realize my preferences differ from most others, I strive to include multiple elements in my sessions. I'm always looking for more ways to provide more choice, though! And for classroom teachers, what does this look like for classrooms where the curriculum is so tight and we have so many other spinning plates?

A couple of years ago, we interviewed Dr. Allen for our podcast, and here's a short clip of a suggestion from her.

In the book, Dr. Allen recognizes that teachers lack time to be able to do it all, and she frequently reminds us to start small. With learning design, she suggests to choose one of the four elements (like medium) and make a few tweaks. Her example above was part of a discussion about curation, but the idea applies to both of the pillars.

Understanding these elements of powerful learning design also align with the ISTE Educator standard of Designer. At first glance, The New Pillars doesn't look like a technology book, but if we are going to succeed in implementing the three pillars, technology must be part of the picture. This standard and indicator ask us to use technology to design experiences that take all of those learner preferences into consideration.

If interested, here's our entire episode with Dr. Allen.

So if a vlog and a YouTube community is not your cup of tea, I'm certain it is for someone you know. (Have any of your students declared they wanted to become a YouTuber? That's a thing!) Maybe you're extremely social and believe collaborative groups are the way to go, but is that true for all of your students or session participants? (oops!)

Have you reflected on your learning preferences? Do you use those preferences to design your own learning experiences? Would the learning preference self-assessment help your students or those you coach?

Reflecting on learning preferences and learning design...and always learning.

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