Saturday, February 10, 2018

Reflections from #NCTCA2018

The last two days have been our teachers' convention. It's always a great opportunity for professional learning and networking with colleagues.

This year I was on the planning committee, and committee members volunteer to help out during the convention. So I started out Thursday morning hosting in the Riverview Room and a quick walkthrough of the vendor hall.

Next was my session on Getting Students Coding, followed by Student-Produced Live Video. Looking at the Sched ahead of time, over 200 people had added the former to their schedule, which made me a little nervous. About 120 showed up though. I think both sessions went fairly well.

I was also able to attend Ray Suchow's session on 3D printing prosthetic hands. The best part of all of these sorts of sessions is the discussions with other like-minded educators.

On Friday I attended some of Coding in the Math Classroom by Darryl Marchand (from TI), which was good (but I think there are better ways to teach coding in math), and Matteo Hee's Build a Robot Already. Again, great opportunities for learning and discussion.

My wife attended Karen Filewych's session How Do I Get Them to Write? and thought it was great. She shared some of the ideas with me, and I'm planning to try them out. We even bought her book.

After lunch I presented Sports for Nerds: School Video Game Clubs and Tournaments and Empowering Students to Make Things. Great interactions among participants, and I got a number of new ideas from the discussions.

One of the issues with professional learning activities is that teachers often come away feeling overwhelmed. It seems that there are always better ways than what we are doing, and other things we should be doing. We need to reinforce basic skills, cover curriculum, foster competencies, prepare students for future schooling and standardized tests, and also teach them to be good, competent, productive human beings in a world that doesn't quite exist yet. It's a great job though.

I also had a great conversation with a colleague about why we offer sessions rather than complain about why there aren't the right kind of sessions available. Teachers are often too modest, thinking that what they are doing isn't special or any different from what others are doing. And we tend to be a little reluctant to speak in front of adults. If you are a teacher, though, by all means put in session proposals for conventions and conferences. You have valuable things to share, and it's also great professional learning for you.