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#NCTIES14 | Reflections from The City of Oaks

My state's annual edtech conference, NCTIES, is like a family reunion of sorts.  In addition to seeing tons of people whom I adore, but don't see nearly enough of, I always leave those 3 days feeling both sad to leave and utterly empowered.  This year was no exception.

What's more, this year was a record breaking year for the NCTIES conference which boasted well over 2,000 attendees.... many of whom were librarians! I was so heartened to see so many of my library peeps from around the state both attending and leading sessions.  The fact that these librarians made the trek to Raleigh shows that not only do they recognize their role as technological/pedagogical leaders in their schools, but their principals do too! Huzzah! Now that's what I call a win-win!

That said, the crowd at the session I led with my instructional coach BFFs Ryan Redd (Math) and Kate Tayloe (Language Arts) was AMAZEballs.  We spent 45 minutes chatting about our favorite digital tools for formative assessment, during which our participants played along, logging into each tool as though they were our students.  There was lots of laughing, learning and sharing. Thanks also, to my friend John Downs for writing about our sessionhere.  (Note that his post contains of a pic of me photobombing Richard Byrne which has become something of an annual tradition.) AND, as if that wasn't satisfying enough, the latest episode of EdGeekCast aired as a live stream of the conference smackdown. Being part of this event was uber fun and hanging out with my EdGeek BFFs +Nancy Mangum and +Lucas Gillispie was icing on the cake. Shameless plug: The next episode of EdGeekCast will air on Thursday March 11th and will be all about maker spaces in the library AND will include guest stars Stuart Annand and John Draughon - who not only led a session on this very topic at NCTIES but who have also created an amazing, technologically rich,  student centered, participatory space in their own library.  Be sure to tune in! 

For me, however, some of the most inspirational moments of the conference came from the closing keynote by Adam Bellow.  I gotta tell you, I love a good keynote.  And this was one of the best I've seen, striking the perfect balance between practical advice, idealogical flag planting and pure inspiration.  I laughed a lot, cried a little and left feeling both proud to be a teacher AND ready to kick some ass.  And that, my friends, is a great feeling. As is my habit, I live tweeted the keynote, trying to capture as many of its gems as possible.  Since then, I've been chewing on a few pearls of wisdom that I think have particular implications for librarians. Below are a few of Adam's quotes that stood out to me, as well as some ways I think librarians can/should be demonstrating this philosophy in their work: "Consumption vs creation is the difference b/t teaching kids to eat vs. teaching them to cook."

  • Create library spaces in which technology is used to connect, collaborate and create.

  • Help teachers move beyond using technology to do what they've always done and towards using technology to do what they've only dreamed of.

  • Model, in our instruction, the practice of letting students drive how the technology is used for learning.

  • Always, always, always, put the instruction first and the technology second.

"Kids love to learn when learning unlocks a key to something inside them."

  • Create instruction that is worthy of students' time.

  • Ask questions that are truly essential or, better yet, let kids find the answers to their own questions.

  • Remember, "why are we doing this?" is not a cheeky question.  It's a legitimate question. And the answer must never be "because it's on the test" or "because I said so." 

"Educators, like kids, need time to play, experiment, fail and try again."

  • Create professional development for teachers that doesn't look like this

  • Remember that play is a valid form of learning for both kids and adults. 

  • Model meaningful failure during professional development.  Allow teachers to reflect on what they've learned from missteps and help them use that knowledge to make their 2nd, 3rd and 4th (etc) attempts even better.

"We live in a time when it's easier than ever for kids to make stuff. How does teaching reflect that?"

  • Make your space a place where knowledge is not found but built.

  • Give students (and teachers!) plentiful opportunities to dream up and make stuff.

  • Support content curricula through activities where kids put what they've learned into authentic and practical application.

  • Present kids with worthy and authentic problems, and then let them loose to build the solutions.

Finally, let me just leave you with this thought. Call me optimistic, but I believe there IS a revolution taking place in education. I believe education IS being reformed.  It's just not happening from the top down.  It's not the result of legislation or education policy or Bill & Melinda Gates. It's happening, one teacher at a time, one student at a time, in classrooms and libraries around the country.  Every person reading this post has the opportunity and obligation to be a revolutionary.  WE are the change.  I know it's easy to get bogged down in the minutia of what it takes to simply get from point A to point B each day, but what we do is too important for us to forget what a marvel it is.  Every day is a new opportunity to change someone's life.  So... go get 'em, tiger! 


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