Sunday, June 30, 2013

ISTE 2013: Is This Your First ISTE?

ISTE 2013 

This year, the International Society of Technology and Education (ISTE) conference was held in San Antonio, Texas. This was my third time attending this amazing conference. As I joined 20,000 of my closest educator friends I began to notice a distinct type of attendee.

Is this your first ISTE?....How many ISTEs have you attended?

This is often the opening line when you meet someone and as this was my third ISTE  I began to notice a trend in people when they responded. 

First time ISTE attendees have a distinct glazed-eye look that starts early on the first official day of the conference. They usually spend all or most of their time at the sessions absorbing as much information as is humanly possible, but will also skip all or some of the keynote presentations. Newbies are less likely to attend the evening social events and often have a limited presence on Twitter. As a newbie, it is hard to pace yourself and you don't make a lot of connections with others because your brain is on constant overload. 

Second time attendees are ready to reach beyond just the sessions and begin to take in one or two of the additional learning experiences presented such as the posters, Birds-of-a-Feather or networking areas. The second years are beginning to focus their attention on topics of interest and their presence on Twitter is emerging enough that other educators are beginning to follow them. The brain of the second year hits overload on day two. Second years have a better understanding of the importance of attending the keynote presentations and may enjoy an evening event or two.

Third(+) time attendees are more purposeful in their conference goals. They have learned that this conference is not just about attending sessions, but is really about building your personal learning network (PLN) and meeting fellow educators from around the world. Third+ years have learned that if you weren't able to sign up for a session prior to the beginning of the conference you can stand in line for a pre-registration session and usually get in. The third+ years attend fewer sessions, but lots more posters and networking groups. These are the people who are on Twitter throughout the conference and who you want to add your Twitter PLN. Third+ brains are on overload before the conference begins on Monday because they have learned that there are amazing learning opportunities happening on Saturday and Sunday such as HackEd, Mobile MegaShare and networking, that can not be missed. They also pack in as many, if not more, evening social events as they do daytime events and really wish the digital ISTE conference planner included the after hour events so they don't have to use more than one calendar at a time.

More than five years...I hope to someday be this type of attendee, but one thing about this conference is that no matter what type of ISTE attendee you are this conference is about being with like-minded educators and is one of the best around.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Students Learn How to Coach

I never thought that a single app could teach my students so much before What's that Word? by Itch Mania became the app of choice in my classroom.

What's That Word?

What's that Word? app is very similar to 4 Pics 1 Word in that it shows four pictures, blank spaces for letters, several letters in random order and several levels to choose from. What's that Word is better for students than 4 Pics 1 Word because students can select a new/different puzzle if they get stuck.

In May, I installed the What's that Word? app on the student iPads. It was not an app that I thought much about and didn't even mention it to the students. My thinking was that perhaps a few of the kids would enjoy the word game. The first week or two after the installation the app was hardly, if at all, used. Then I noticed a new stir in the room. During explore time in the mornings, students were talking and sharing as they worked on their iPads. What was different was that the talk was about words...vocabulary in particular. This definitely peaked my interest. What were the students working on?

Learning How to Coach

Suddenly, whenever students were given explore time all they wanted to play was What's that Word? This app became a sensation in my room. Every student in the room was using this app and they were working together to solve the vocabulary/picture connections. As a teacher, I was in awe that this one app was so engaging. Then of course, as a teacher, I began to listen to how students were helping each other and noticed that most of the time an answer was just given.

Here was an opportunity to teach how to coach rather than just give an answer. As a class we began developing strategies that could be used to help each other make connections to the four picture clues that were being provided. Some coaching tips students began using with each other were:

  • Can you think of another word for what is in the picture(s)?
  • What is the theme of the pictures?
  • Another word for _____ is.
  • It begins with the letter _____ (used as a last resort).

Coaching is a difficult skill to learn as a fourth grader (and an adult). This app was a great tool for building coaching skills and vocabulary. My students became quite good at coaching each other and continued to enjoy What's That Word for the remainder of the school year.