Opinions Reflections

#MACUL14 coverage

Friday, March 14, 10 PM
I learned a lot this weekend. Thank you, MACUL! I can’t wait for Detroit next year. But now, this dog is tired.
Now it is night. Now is not a time for play. It is time for sleep. I will sleep all night.

Friday, March 14, 3:30 PM
MACUL 2014 has come to a close. The event wrapped up with an awesome keynote from Rushton Hurley (@rushtonh). It got me thinking about differentiation, but not so much in the traditional sense of giving my students different projects so that they are engaged and can all meet the same standard. The current educational system is so wrapped up in this idea that every student has the ability to learn the same content at roughly the same pace. As educators, we know this is ridiculous. This comic–one that all MACUL attendees saw at one point or another–clearly illustrates that:

From http://www.fragilexfiles.com/
I’ll admit: I suck at differentiation, but I think I know how I can improve: I need to start zeroing in on my students’ interests and challenge them to create SOMETHING that helps them grow as learners. It’s silly for me to expect them to all create the same exact end product (i.e., a five-paragraph essay). If I can get one student to argue a point in a video using support–something he or she has never done before–I should celebrate that just as much as the honors student who excels at writing a college-level essay.

There is so much pressure placed on teachers to push our students so that they can all somehow magically arrive at the same ability level by the end of the school year. But darn it, we know that this logic is fundamentally flawed. And it most certainly isn’t what’s best for our kids. It’s time for us to push back and vocalize how asinine this educational philosophy is, even if it entails risk. If we truly want what is best for our students, it is time that we start fighting for them.

Photo be Brad Wilson (@dreambition) on Twitter

Photo by Brad Wilson (@dreambition) on Twitter

Friday, March 14, 2 PM
There are some great teachers in Michigan. People who are passionate about the craft of teaching. People who believe that their students aren’t just pieces of data that help schools get high marks in state evaluations and generate positive press in the media. People who hope to connect with their kids because they know that outside of school, those kids don’t have anyone giving them the support and love they need. In five minutes, I think Trevor Muir (@TrevorMuir), may have made one the biggest impacts on me at MACUL in regard to my thoughts about curriculum (poetry doesn’t have to suck!) and student relationships. Awesome, awesome lightning talk.

Friday, March 14, 12:45 PM
Time for lightning talks! I’m so curious to hear what is on the mind of Michigan educators in a series of rapid-fire mini-presentations. I’m hoping for some angst, rebellion, and anarchy!

Friday, March 14, 11:25 AM
I’ll admit that I’ve been a little jealous of all those Twitter profiles that announce “Google certified trainer/teacher/life coach” (okay, I threw that last one in there). John Sowash (@jrsowash) is about to give me all the info I need so that I can become even more of a Google geek.

Friday, March 14, 11 AM
I’ve heard a lot about “gamification,” but I’ll admit that I haven’t had the motivation to dive in and figure out what it’s really about (maybe that’s what happens when you sell your PS3–the gaming desire disappears). Fortunately, MACUL has offered a couple sessions to introduce us to how we can incorporate a video gaming mentality into our classrooms.

I’d be remiss to point out that gamification is totally not what I thought it was. My assumption was that it was more about turning your classroom activities into some type of project-based competitive game. Not so much. It’s more about rethinking grading strategies and encouraging competitiveness by rewarding students with experience points and badges when they complete activities. It requires the use of a web app (3D GameLab) was suggested, but there are others.

I don’t know if gamification is for me, but it will be something I explore this summer. Thank you, Liz Kolb (@lkolb). I don’t feel like so much of a newb anymore.

Friday, March 14, 10 AM
Time for my introduction to Gamification. Chomp, chomp!

Friday, March 14, 9:45 AM
Great morning keynote with George Couros (@gcouros). I consider my ELA class pretty unique since it’s already so “working world” skills-focused, but there is so much more I can do to encourage student creativity. I have kids with some great skills who are finding their voices, so I need to encourage that more in my classes (are you ready to show us your knowledge, BAY_SHORE1701?). George really drove home the point that we need to encourage creation and become creators ourselves (if we teach it, we should be doing it ourselves). On top of that, I walked away very inspired to work with Mr. Daum to start creating our own TCAS tweetup. Exciting stuff!

Friday, March 14, 8:15 AM
Mission accomplished! Thanks, Todd!

Friday, March 14, 8 AM
My mission today: learn! Oh…and to find a #MichEd t-shirt. @blocht574: I’m looking for you!

In all seriousness (because that’s the kind of guy I am), here is what is on tap for me today:

8:30-9:30 AM
Keynote: Innovate. Create. Voice.
Thinking outside the thread: Creative ideas for student discussion

10-11 AM
I am PAC-MAN: Learning through gamification
4-dimensional teaching: Engage your students like never before!
Student creativity and high expectations

11:30-12:30 PM
Getting Google certified
Friday Night Lights, classroom style

1-2 PM
Lightning talks
How video production, HS sports, and the Common Core can create your district’s own ESPN

2:30-3:30 PM

Closing keynote: Rapid changes and the world of teaching

Today is going to be awesome!

Thursday, March 13, 10:00 PM
While I didn’t have a chance to bond with my #MichEd buddies over dinner or hang out with the MACUL attendees at the Grand Rapids Public Museum (I wanted to play with some Legos), I still walked away from my first day of sessions feeling a little more inspired, encouraged…and, well…a little frustrated. A conference like MACUL makes you yearn for educational reform. The problem is that so many people in power are shortsighted and lack the vision (you got that, right?) necessary to bring about change.

I leave with this: How many of our school districts claim that their mission is to become state leaders in education? Seriously, how do they expect to do this if they keep following the exact same “school improvement” roadmap that every other districts follow? It’s time for our schools to be innovative. That’s the sign of a true leader.

Good night! See you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 13, 3:30 PM
Great wrap-up to Day One of MACUL (at least for me, as I had to jet off to bring my oldest son to a dentist appointment): Some of the big edu-leaders sat down for a little Q & A. Most quotable: Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby), who was visiting from New York. He’s no spring chicken, but he refuses to turn a blind eye (how many idioms can I pack into a sentence?) to technology. Case in point: he called out teachers who claim they are technology illiterate and asked, “Why would we want them as teachers?” But here’s the real zinger: “Years ago, if a teacher said he or she was ‘reading’ illiterate, would we have hired him or her to be a teacher?” Awesome.

If you’re a teacher, it’s your job to model to your students that learning is a lifelong process. We can’t become complacent in our methods just because it’s easy.

There were a lot of us nodding our heads in agreement throughout this session as they discussed topics such as personal electronic devices in the classroom (allow them), social media filtering (don’t do it), and digital citizenship (teach it). Our schools have a long way to go, don’t they?

Thursday, March 13, 2:30 PM
It was about five minutes into this session that I realized something: I sat in Kim Powell’s (@powell4thgrade) Skype session at MACUL last year! Duh. If anything, it was a great reminder about some of the cool tools we have available to us to connect our students to people outside of our classroom. Considering that my students will soon be researching careers, tools like Skype in the Classroom, Google Hangouts, and Talky (my own little recommendation) could be used to help connect students to career professionals. It’s really amazing how technology makes our world smaller!

Thursday, March 13, 12:30 PM
Now this is cool: students from area schools have come to MACUL to share the various technology projects they have created at their schools. I’m blown away by the elementary students who speak with more confidence than my high schoolers about the way they’re using technology. One young man showed me his “digital portfolio” and how excited he was to have created hyperlinks…something no one else in his class did. Rock it, kid! And check out the group above: these Kent Innovation High students have created a dynamite rap video sharing their research about the 70s and 80s.

If you haven’t checked out Kent Innovation High, do it. This project was created in an “ELA-History” class. This is the future of education. What do you think, @Teach_Abest? Maybe we should give it a try at TC!

The beautiful thing about conferences: if a session isn’t “working” for you, vote with your feet!

Thursday, March 13, 9:45 AM
Awesome opening keynote from Adam Bellow (@adambellow). I absolutely loved hearing his criticism of “boxed” curriculums like the Common Core State Standards. His description? It’s like serving our students fast food: It’s not nutritious. We need to really think about what we’re doing when we adopt prepackaged educational materials and determine whether it’s really what our students need.

This past week, we learned that our district is moving in the direction of adopting the MAISA units. Of course, we hear the typical arguments: The units can be adapted to allow education freedom! The units allow a lot of room for personalization and customization! Really? Then explain to me how a two-month unit on poetry “writer’s notebooks” fits into the real working world skills my students engage in daily.

Keynote addresses are supposed to get you excited for a day of learning. Nice job, Adam. I’m excited. I’m also angry. Maybe that can be the source of some inspiration!

Thursday, March 13, 9:15 AM
Isn’t it inspiring to see how many educators are truly passionate about learning? This is one of the reasons why conferences are so great: you realize that you’re not alone in the world. There are others that recognize the need for educational reform!

Thursday, March 13, 5:30 AM
MACUL battle cry or 5:30 AM yawn?
Even though I’m still half asleep (doing two days of lesson plans after the kids go to bed will do that to you), I’m very excited about MACUL in Grand Rapids this year. It’s only my second time attending, so I would still consider myself a newbie. I can’t believed I overlooked such a great conference for my first 11 years of teaching. If I had attended all those previous years, I’d probably be a much more sane person than what I am now!

So here are all the sessions I’m thinking about attending today:

8:30-9:30 AM
Opening keynote: Crossroads

10-11 AM
The Charge for Teacher Leadership
Digital Tools to Support Reading and Writing
Ignite Digital Organization: Learning Networks Model
Using Infographics in the Classroom
What Makes Teachers TIK? Using Teacher Integrated Knowledge in 1:1 Classrooms

1-2 PM
Creating a Genius in Every Hour: 20 Time Education
Connected Classrooms
Empowering your iWizards

2:30-3:30 PM
8 Steps to Engineer Your Classroom Brand
Flipping the Classroom in the Classroom

Any sessions that stick out to you that you think I need to attend? Leave your suggestions in the comments. I better start getting myself ready!

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