#GREAT13 Tech Conference, Galway, Ireland

As if I weren’t already receiving plenty of professional development from MSU, MAET this summer, today I had the chance to attend a Tech Ed conference presented by the Year Two Students in the MAET Overseas Cohort. It was entitled Explore Technology: Set Sail Toward New Horizons.

The afternoon began with key note speaker Dr. Tony Hall, who works right here at NUI, in Galway. Dr. Hall spoke of the importance of storytelling as a means to engage students in learning. He linked this to the idea that stories are very important in many cultures, and that it is a way to make strange ideas familiar and familiar ideas strange. This notion stayed with me, as yesterday the year 1 students were visited by Dr. Punya Mishra, who challenged us to connect our outside interests with what we teach. In this case, the first thing that came to mind is sharing stories with students. Sharing experiences and linking them to content and skills anytime I may. Therefore, the relevance between what both researchers were speaking to, resonated with me.

The first session I attended was based on the idea of Student E- Portfolios. I am familiar with E-Portfolios for older students and professionals, as a way to document growth, and to use as a platform to display the type of work you’ve accomplished. However, I was curious about how this might work for a younger student. The presenters discussed how the process of creating a portfolio follows 5 steps. 1- Selection: what type of work is going to be used for this portfolio, 2- Collection: gathering work samples to display, 3- Reflection: practicing metacognition and determining how well you’ve done, 4- Direction: creating goals based on feedback and reflection, and 5- Connection: publishing and receiving further feedback. This past year I attempted E-Writing Portfolios with my class, and it was semi-functional. I am looking for a site or platform that is easy for students to use and takes away pressure on me for managing and keeping it updated. From the session, I took away the possibility of trying kidblog.com.

The second session was called AppSlam. If you aren’t aware of what a demoslam is, check this out. The presenters shared 6 different apps in approximately 12 minutes, providing attendees with a mindful of information- mostly app affordances and a few constraints. While I had already used  5 of the 6 apps introduced, I did hear of a few features from each that I was unaware of before. I did think the movement of this session was a bit quick, yet I appreciated the time we were given to share a few apps in small groups- as we “speed dated” their use. An additional tool I found extremely useful, was a rubric to use for determining the functionality of an app, when considering to purchase it. ASFM does have a scoring system, however I like the lay out of this form better.

Between the second and third session there was a “working break.” As refreshments were served, you had the opportunity to go on a Tech Tools Tour. Here, we scanned QR codes, and listened to a YouTube video describing different tech tools. I thought the idea was great, and though it was difficult to hear the videos in a hallway full of people, there were individuals willing to share their expertise. My QR scanner also stores the history of my scans, so I could go back and listen to the tech tools later!

My third session was called, Smooth Connections. This was about using online tools to keep communication open between teachers, parents, and students. The session started off with a presenter discussing the use of Instagram and Tumblr to display photos of student work and activities going on in class. While there was the need for parental permission, this is something that administration and parents would disapprove of at ASFM (considering culture and cliental), as those sites are both open for public viewing, and are not password protected. A second presenter displayed the use of a classroom website. I have something similar to this right now, that students and parents use daily- however I am interested in something that is more collaborative in terms of contributing to the page. Classdojo, was mentioned here again, and while it provides feedback regarding behavior it is still not as collaborative as I’d like. Even though the tools that were presented didn’t necessarily speak to me, a few suggestions for parent involvement did. The idea of training parents to check the class web site in the beginning of the year, then later sending them email reminders with a link, to finally backing off and allowing them to be self-sufficient was a strong idea. If a parent emails asking for information, simply email the link to the site which holds the answer. These suggestions were most helpful for me in this session.

Dr. Sharon Flynn was the second keynote speaker, who brought closure to the day. She began with connecting the use of technology with pedagogy and content- which was reassuring to hear, as it’s been the heart of our discussion around TPCK the past two weeks. After making that connection of how important pedagogy is, she went on to discuss  the role video can play in education. Dr. Flynn mentioned how video can be used as support for teaching as well as a tool for engaging students. She went on to discuss how some younger students do not even use Google, that they go directly to YouTube as their source for a search engine. She claimed her 13 year old son and his friends will search YouTube for instructions on how to do something, watch the video, and go out and try to replicate it.  I immediately reflected on this, as I used YouTube as a search engine for some of my Makers Project, and did not find it as useful as Google. Having to watch the whole video (even if it was only 3 minutes long) to find out the content I wanted wasn’t there, was frustrating. I found it easier to skim an article or piece of text to locate what I needed. Either way, it was interesting to hear of other perspectives and compare them with my own. Dr. Flynn ended with a brief discussion on the Flipped Classroom, which I appreciated as I created my Buzzword Remix on the Flipped Classroom.

After witnessing the amount of work that goes into creating a conference, it left me a bit intimidated for next year. However, after seeing the results of the labor that went into planning this event, it also left me looking forward to it. #GREAT14 anyone?

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