Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sessions That Lead to Growth Spurts

In my recent blogs, I have discussed conferences and the benefits of attending conferences.  I have touched on the importance of your PLN and making connections during conferences that will help you grow as an educator.  I am a huge proponent of the human connections that are made during conferences.  In my opinion, educators and administrators can grow from the conversations alone at conferences.  Don’t sell the sessions and speakers short though.  There are many powerful messages and transformative ideas that can be taken away from each quality session.

A good conference session provides attendees the opportunity to learn, visualize and implement.  Let’s look at some important takeaways from sessions to get the most that you can from conference sessions:

Visualize the implementation at your school/class
Listen and learn at each session.  Obviously, if you attend a session and its not what you thought it would be, you should use your feet to help you.  Go attend another session that you were contemplating attending.  Don’t waste your time by attending a session and checking your email.

Go into a session and visualize the implementation.  Watch and listen how it happened and then go make it happen in your school.  Some may say, “Well, some things just aren’t realistic for me to implement in my school.”  I disagree.  See it happen and then make it happen.  Does it have to be the exact same thing another school implemented?  No it doesn’t.   Just use the fuel the session gave you to build your fire.

Mentally manipulate another idea
I was in a recent conference session and heard a school discuss their Freshman transition program and the different activities their students and mentors participated in.  I immediately began thinking of ways I could change our transition program at NLHS.  The ideas I had were not the same as the school I was listening to.  The session allowed me to think in a more broad sense about what would work for our students and staff.  It is important to remember that different things work for different schools.  The goal is to personalize the ideas gathered from the sessions and fit them to your building growth. 

Talk the talk
Communicate with your PLN during the session and after the session.  Tweet out ideas and important points from the session.  Your PLN will offer comments and other ideas that will help you grow.  Don’t transition to the next session mentally until you have maximized the potential growth from the session you were in.  Communication is vital in this regard.  Use personal relationships and social media to get everything you can from a session.

See your reflection
Take some time after the conference to reflect on your experiences.  Think about the sessions you attended and make a plan on how you will communicate this message to others.  Involve other people in your district.  My advice is to blog and tweet about what you have learned and what you are excited about.  Your passion will be contagious and others will help you grow by expanding your reflection.

Your professional development is exactly that, your own.  You are the person who determines how your PLN will grow. You also determine what you will take away from conferences.  For the sake of our great profession, I hope you take advantage of the great growth opportunities professional development can offer.  If you are not going to do it for yourself, at least do it for your students and your building.  They will help your visions become reality.

Monday, February 17, 2014

PLN: Tweet Peeps

Twitter has allowed me to meet many great people throughout the country.  The power of being connected has given me the opportunity and ability to grow as an administrator.  The people I connect with on Twitter are not only some of the best and brightest educators in our state, but also the country.  The real power is when you actually meet members of your PLN in person.  Meeting my PLN in person allowed me the opportunity to realize how many great minds that I have access to.  With all of these great minds attending various conferences, I began to notice a few trends.

Presenters & Speakers
After witnessing and participating in the FRed Talks at #OETCx and listening to presentations after mine, I was reminded of my younger years when I played golf in high school and college. I remember at the local level of golf, there were players who were good or really good players and I would think they could fair well against other competition outside of our local surroundings.  My perspective changed after I had the opportunity to play collegiate golf.  At the point that I traveled to my first collegiate tournament to participate (which was Division III), I got a firsthand experience on just how many great golfers there are in the world (and that was only at Division III).  They were all over the place!  And that was only in Division III!  The educators who presented (tech directors, administrators, teachers) could really hold an audience and delivered powerful messages.  I was in awe and excited about the wealth of knowledge and passion of the educators I had the great fortune of listening to.

Its the same thing with speakers & presenters in education in general.  There are many great educational presenters & speakers all over our country.  It is refreshing to be able to listen to people who are so passionate about what they do.  This passion that they exude always translates over to helping kids.  Many presenters enlighten their audience on methods and styles that help them in their buildings.  This in turns helps the educators in the audience.  But that's why we attend conferences isn't it? To gather new means & methods to help our students right? Listening to presenters and members of my PLN speak about technology, learning spaces, and learning ignited my passion in education and my desire to help people.  That's what I want to take away from conferences.

Advice & Assistance
The amount of advice & feedback you get from meeting members of your PLN is unbelievable.  Whether it is a state conference or national conference, the conversations are priceless.  Getting advice from the best in the business from community relations to tools to use in meetings & in the classroom makes your PLN that much more of a powerful learning resource.  I think Twitter should be given a lot of credit in this regard.  Twitter is the ice breaker for these types of conversations.  Start with 140 characters and get to know people in  your field, then when you get the chance to connect with your PLN, you build off of the 140 characters to get valuable professional development.

Outside the Classroom/Building
Getting a chance to meet with people outside of their professional setting is rewarding for a few reasons.  You get to see how genuine your PLN is.  Conversations drift away from education over the course of a conference.  This enables you to see the human side of your PLN and how much you have in common with them. Interestingly enough, I have a lot in common with my PLN outside areas of education.  I don't think that's a coincidence.  Education is a field where the key component of helping people is something we do all day long, not just from 7:30-2:30 pm.

It is still amazing to me and other members of my PLN on the number of educators who are still not connected.  I think it is so surprising to many of us because of how easy it really is to build relationships with people from all over the world who have the same interests.  Not only will you grow as an educator, you grow as a person.  Your Tweet Peeps are the ones who will help you grow and continue to build your PLN.  What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PLN: I'm Only Human

Educational conferences are sometimes a mixed bag.  Sometimes you will find one that looks really interesting and proves to be beneficial, other times you will go to one that is not worth the fee you paid to attend.  The best part about conferences are not the sessions and that doesn't matter what conference you attend.  It goes beyond that.  It about the connections, collaboration, and discussions.  As Tom Whitby recently stated in his blog, "Discussions of education that do not take place in school buildings can take place with educators of varied experience to share and elaborate. This is the fodder for reflection. Reflection goes a long way in changing the way we approach things. It often prompts change and promotes reform."  The reflection is the key, especially when you get the opportunity to do it with your PLN.  

Any chance you get to meet your PLN in person is something you need to take advantage of.  The human connections you make allow you to grow and evolve as an educator and as a person.  A 140 character tweet or a pin on a Pinterest Board cannot replace these connections.  The opportunity to speak with people about areas of education and/or life is vital.  Do not sell short the importance of human connections.

My next few blogs will be about my experiences at two recent conferences: Ohio Educational Technology Conference (#OETC14) & the National Association of Secondary School Principals (#NASSP14).  I will be discussing the importance of Tweet Peeps, the significance of great session presentations and how they can improve your schools, and what conferences should really be marketing.  Stay tuned.