PL PuPu Platter: Highlights from the Hawaii International Conference on Education

As I write this, I am making the best use of my time during a substantial layover en route to Atlanta.  Though I am tired and my body isn’t sure exactly what time it is, I had such an enjoyable experience the four days that had the opportunity to spend in Hawaii presenting and learning at the Hawaii International Conference on Education.  First of all, the complimentary breakfasts were DELICIOUS.  (Be honest, free food excites you too.)  Beyond the great food that provided a brief culinary taste of Hawaiian cuisine (for example, banana apple fritters), the people who descended upon this conference were so friendly.  Then again, all of the Hawaiian people I encountered were also very warm and friendly.  I guess it isn’t too hard to be nice when the weather and sights are so breathtaking.

Some of the standout sessions I was able to attend included titles such as:

  • P-20 Collaboration and Instruction Practices: Enhancing Teacher Preparation in Georgia, by Vicki Luther of Mercer Univeristy;
  • Indigeneity: What is it and Why is it Important for School Leaders, by Dr. Ijeoma Ononuju of Northern Arizona State University;
  • Recruit, Retain, & Respond: Addressing the Elephant in the Room-The Teacher Shortage, by Kelly Olson-Stewart and Michael Stewart of Ashford University; and
  • Decoding Disney: Translating Imagineering Tricks into Teaching Strategies, by Mick Charney of Kansas State University.

It was so refreshing to see such an expansive array of topics being discussed and researched.  Furthermore, I found that there were a number of sessions that did not stray away from touching soft spots in education, more specifically the national (and international) teacher shortage as well as the importance of strong teaching practices (a.k.a. pedagogy) as more learning goes digital.

Without a doubt, I know that I will be able to translate and repackage this information to share with my Cobb County colleagues.  Furthermore, I am excited to see what national and international partnerships teachers within the CCSD can form with educators and researchers I met while in Hawaii.

I’ve gotta admit: I am really excited to have started the year with such great information that I can’t wait to share with you as well.

STEM PLease!

Seriously, STEM is so much fun!  I just can’t seem to get enough of collaborating with teachers on STEM-y projects and I love delivering PL (Professional Learning) to share what I know with my colleagues.

Yesterday and today, I was honored to present to my fellow Cobb County educators (and many awesome educators from other districts here in Northern Georgia as part of STEM-a-Palooza 2016.  This three-day STEM bootcamp and PBL conference brought together presenters from the High Museum, Zoo Atlanta, as well as Cobb County School District, and many more.

I presented four different sessions:

  • Creating a Community of Exploration
    • Session Summary: Learn how to reset the culture of your classroom, team, and school to embrace exploration as a means for teaching and learning.
  • Cultivating Visual Literacy in the STEM Classroom (Co-presented with King Springs Elementary School STEM teacher Joannah Shoushtarian)
    • Session Summary: Learn how to construct student-driven lessons that integrate video production tools such as TouchCast as a means for developing digital and media literacy skills.
  • Genius Hour Quick and Dirty Tips
    • Session Summary: Do you want to try Genius Hour but don’t know where to start? In this session, learn how to present Genius Hour to your administration or staff and guide students (and their parents) through the process and expectations while maintaining a safety net so students feel comfortable in their exploration.
  • Harness the Power of Virtual Reality (Co-presented with Floyd Middle School 7th grade Science teacher Daniel Harbert)
    • Session Summary: Learn how to use and create virtual reality experiences to enhance classroom instruction.  Join us in exploring this new medium and come prepared to step into a new dimension in teaching and learning!

Over the next few days I will publish each session’s resources.  In the meantime, you can find them housed here.

Many thanks to the wonderful Dr. Sally Creel, STEM Supervisor for the Cobb County School District, for inviting me to participate in this event!

The Other Teacher Conferences

I LOVE professional learning!  Seriously.  I always have…even the boring sessions.  When I was a college student working as a beauty adviser for Aveda, I remember being so entranced by the fancy training sessions held in the meeting or conference rooms of a semi-swanky Atlanta hotel.  The materials, the knowledge, and the new friends all put a smile on my face.  It is no mystery to me these days of how I have ended up in my role as Digital Transformation Coach.  Learning from others, training others, traveling around and collaborating with my classroom colleagues is not too far removed from learning how to sell the Spring eyeshadow collection made from “pure plants and minerals.” The only difference is that the “product” is education, and that now I vacillate between the role of the travelling session facilitator and that of the student.  When I attend conferences, I relish the opportunity to become a student again.

Not only are conferences great for learning from others outside of your geographical community, but they also offer great opportunities to network with other educators.  I often find inspiration from the sessions presented.  The ideas or projects presented might not be what I wish to recreate in my District, but they may set off a spark in my brain of a divergent idea.

Conferences and professional learning summits/forums/symposiums also work like a great professional carrot on the stick of self-advancement.  If you are looking to expand your skill set and augment your resume’, conferences also offer you the opportunity to travel and build upon your credibility and influence within the education field.  If this is something of interest to you, go for it!

From personal experience, I have found that it helps to start small if you wish to become a presenter.  Attend local EdCamps (or plan one!), fellow Georgians of mine reach out to your RESA to see if they need someone to serve as a presenter, or even present to your colleagues at your school during Professional Learning sessions.  No matter what, keep your eyes open for presentation opportunities.  Yes, you may fail.  We all stumble at times.  But as we would tell our students, that is where learning occurs. Remember, mastery comes from the repetition of picking ourselves up and plowing forward.

Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, I have been grateful to have either present at or attend the Georgia STEM Forum (Athens, Georgia), GaETC (Atlanta, Georgia), and SXSWedu (Austin, Texas).  I would have loved to have attended ASCD, which was here in Atlanta the weekend before our Spring Break, but unfortunately, already had plans.  That is quite alright though.  I was able to attend last year and was so excited to have had the opportunity to get my brain juices going.  More importantly, some of my colleagues attended and you better believe that I will be picking their brains to see what they learned.

In the next few posts I will be sharing some of my more specific observations, thoughts, and general notes that I gathered from the conferences I have been able to attend.  Hopefully you will find these as inspirational as did I.  If so, I would love to hear how they got your brain juices going.

Until next time…

Ms. W.