Saturday, February 6, 2016

“Shut the Front Door” Experiences at TCEA ‘16

TCEA 2016 is in the rear view mirror. As I reflect on my week, there were several experiences that really made an impression on me. These blog-worthy moments will be a source of inspiration as I set goals for leading learning in the next several months.

Adobe Mobile & Leslie Fisher
I’ve been a huge fan of Adobe products for years and use Adobe Creative Suite on my Mac. I don’t use CS that much but when I need it, I need it. I knew there were several Adobe apps out there but I really didn’t pay much attention since I already had CS and Adobe products tend to be pricey. Much to my chagrin, not only was I completely blown away by the functionality of the Adobe mobile apps but more importantly; that they are free. These products are simple to use beautiful in form and function and accessible. This opens a whole new creative component for students.

“Adobe Gone Mobile” was presented at TCEA ‘16 by Leslie Fisher. Despite the fact that she presented eleven workshops throughout the week, this was my first time seeing her. At 8:00 am on the last day of the convention, Leslie surprisingly roused the crowd; many of whom I suspect partied to the beat of the Spazmatics the night before. She is a high energy, humorous and knowledgeable presenter. If you ever have the chance to go to one of her presentations, you will not be disappointed! Leslie followed her Adobe workshop with a packed session on the Apple Watch which was equally engaging. I will definitely be referencing her website.

Emily Connelly
@EmilyTCEABound is a high school freshman. The description for  “Student PD: Passion Driven Technology Integration” began with “ My name is Emily. I’m 14 years old and in my first year of high school.” Her workshop had me at hello.

We hear a lot about student voice and here was a real student offering it up. The audience of educators were rapt. She was such an eloquent speaker and although nervous, quickly assumed the demeanor of a pro. She shared with us the tools that she likes to use for learning as well as some of the annoying realities that digital natives have to put up with from “seasoned” educators. She recounted a situation where a teacher required them to handwrite notes to study for a test. Involvement in sports meant that there were many evenings of homework on a dark bus, making it difficult to hand-write note cards. In fact, she would use the flashlight app on her phone so she could write out her notecards by hand. This task seemed completely pointless since creating her note cards in quizlet would have been just as effective for her learning and much less cumbersome.

Not all students are able to articulate their learning needs as well as Emily but I think part of our job as teachers is to help students find their voice and advocate for themselves. We can improve our craft by listening to those we serve.

George Couros, Leading Innovative Change
George is always and educational crowd pleaser and he never fails to engage and inspire his audience (and it was a large one). When he announced that the entire ballroom was going to play rock paper scissors until we only had 2 people competing in the entire assemblage, I couldn’t envision it. Two by two, partners squared off with the loser becoming the cheerleader for the next
Conversations we should be having with IT
 departments regarding decisions which impact
 by George Couros
match. The number of cheerleaders increased exponentially as the competitors decreased and soon the entire ballroom was a cacophony of shouts and cheers. In the end there was one winner but we all benefitted from the energy this activity created. I think the point George was making was that when we are transparent in what we do as professionals others witness our successes and not only rally behind us but also imitate, modify and iterate. My additional take-away from this is that when we all join together and support each other for a common goal, the experience is positive and powerful. Even when we are not successful we feel supported and are more likely to continue to take risks and improve our craft. Through this process we build a supportive community with a goal of continuous growth and improvement.

A final note
TCEA 2016 was a great experience. This was my first year as a presenter and although I was nervous it was gratifying to know that I was able to share some ideas that will benefit others. Rather than trying to cram everything in this year, I selected fewer workshops to attend and allowed myself more time for conversations and reflection. I think these things combined with great presenters made this one of the best TCEA conferences I’ve attended!