Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#youredustory, Week 14: Describe Your Ideal Conference

Prompt: Describe your ideal conference: What is covered? Who is present?

edcamp35, April 2014
This ideal conference for me has evolved a lot over the years. It will continue to evolve. Also, this is entirely a selfish post - this is the conference I want. It may not serve the needs of other folks, though I hope that wouldn't be the case.

There are a couple mandatory items for this conference. It has to be free. It isn't going to have sponsors. And you're going to have to apply to come. Not in an elitist way, but in a "you're going to have to submit your best unit and a panel will look it over to make sure it's up to par" kind of way. As you might be able to guess, there aren't going to be tool-based or lecture sessions at this conference.

I want this conference to bring together a group of educators that are already seamlessly integrating technology. Or are doing it thoughtfully and well. It will be cross-age level and cross-content area. I'd love to have administrators and tech coaches there as well, but the experience - as you will read - is going to focus on doing our jobs in the classroom better.

(Just a word: I don't think technology should always be used. I don't think using tech is a prerequisite to being a great teacher. I do, however, know that tech allows for student choice in a way that is hard to do without technology. This isn't an edtech conference, but I'd expect that a lot of teachers pushing on the boundaries of what can happen in a classroom would be involved. It's my belief that it is tough to push on those boundaries without integrating technology. Back to the conference...)

The first day of the conference would be focused around unit sharing. Small groups of cross-age level and subject teachers would lay out a unit they teach, from start to finish. What are the hooks? Activities along the way? Assessments? These unit plans would be laid out for all in the small group to see.

Each member of the small group would have a chance to share their unit. No formal presentations or anything like that, but a google doc or class website page that contains all this information. After each shareout, members of the small group would have time ask the sharing teacher questions to completely understand what and why they did what they did within a unit.

At the end of the first day, during the second half of the pre-dinner evening gathering (code for happy hour) teachers would be asked to share to the whole group the neatest/most innovative/idea they are left pondering that evening.

Then, everyone goes to dinner together and the conversations continue.

Day two is hardcore workshop time with like-subject and age teachers. First, these small groups share out a very abbreviated version of what they shared yesterday to make sure that folks get to see their same subject colleagues' best. Then, it's on.

The goal is to go in and create a teachable unit on day two that incorporates your collective ideas, but also ideas stolen from the cross-grade conversations the day before. In theory, given the caliber of folks in the room, these should be some mind-blowingly cool units.

At the end of day two, everyone gathers again and shares out the units that they created. Ideas cross-pollinated across groups would be highlighted. Public unit plans are shared out so all conference attendees can take a look at them and apply them in their specific context later.

Attendees leave energized and ready to implement new ideas or tweaks on what they are doing from across subject area and grade level groups in their classroom. They also leave with a unit in the bag, outlined and essentially ready to teach.

Would this conference ever happen? Probably not. But I'd love to get about sixty amazing teachers in a room with a format like this and see what we could create!

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