Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Some Reflections on ISTE 2015

When I returned from ISTE I immediately started writing a blog post as a way to share my experience.  I wrote about  some of the great things I got up to while I was there both at the  convention center and in the community (I love Philadelphia if you were wondering).  Things like heading to a Phillies game with people I'd never met in person and having a really great time, or heading to a party where someone was so supportive of me and tried hard to get me networked and more known by others.  There were many highlights. But the more I typed the more I felt like I was trying to make more of my experience. Yes, I did have many incredible experiences while in Philadelphia, and I'm thankful for each and everyone of them, but I'm not so sure my take away was as incredible.  ISTE was so much more about my own personal self reflection this year than all the good that I was surrounded by.

For me ISTE is about the face to face meetings of "My People".  It's the ability to share what I have learned and to learn from others doing similar and different things.  It's about the hugs, the smiles,  the conversations and the multiple opportunities to connect with people who get me.  ISTE brings together a large collection of people who understand my work, my purpose, and my passions.  It's a place where I can truly be me, floating around with the people who get me.  It's these same people that push my learning, and make me really think about my why and my purpose.  It is through them that I am a stronger educator, a more reflective educator, and hopefully a better educator. For me ISTE is far more about the face to face interactions with people then the sessions that I'm able to attend.

This years ISTE was different for me though.  I took on way too much and so I ended up being pretty stressed most of the convention.   I had sessions every day and between the workshops I was giving (three 3 hour workshops) , the Ignite and 1:3 adventures and the rehearsal time they required, I presented over 15 hours over the three and a half days of the conference.  I didn't get even remotely enough time to connect with many of the people I wanted to connect with. When I saw someone in the convention centre I'd often be able to offer them a little more than a couple of sentences of small talk, but in most cases my reality was that I was off to get to my next obligation.  I missed events I was really looking forward to attending but I also needed a lot more time for me.  As extroverted most believe I am, I get drained by people and need quiet time to recharge.

In addition I felt like I was being pulled by too many people and constantly letting people down.  Despite my logical brain saying "you can't be everywhere with everyone at the same time"  it bothered me  and  made me feel guilty.   Eventually I did get stronger at listening to myself and what I needed.  I also realized that others were feeling just as I was, being pulled in various directions, wanting to do more than was possible with so many great options happening at the same time. I learned a lot more about myself this year at ISTE.  I learned that I love to share with others, but when the sharing takes so much time (and causes me so much unnecessary stress) that I don't have enough time to connect with people who matter most to me,  then something is wrong.  This year I barely connected with anyone beyond the surface level and that's not something I'm proud of.

However despite feeling extremely stressed most of my time at ISTE, constantly running from one place to another, and feeling awful for having so few quality interactions with people, I did manage to sneak in some highlights.  One of the highlights  was my IGNITE session on the first day of the conference, but more specifically the support I had from my friends and district AND the luxury of time that I had with the people who I shared the backstage of this Ignite with.   I can't even begin to thank the wonderful people that I was back stage with. While our conversations may not have gotten deep enough - there is still so much more I'd love talk to you all about - we had a special bond behind the scenes.  I love how supportive the group was.  What most of you don't know is that when we finished our ignite the "team" was waiting backstage to congratulate one another.  I will admit it took me a few ignites to join the ritual but I think that was just the  fact that it took me a while to come down after my Ignite.   

The Ignite also scared me a lot and  required me to dig deep to keep calm and be brave.  As nervous as I was about going first, in the end it was probably a blessing because I got it over with first. And the thing is when you try something that really scares you, you get stronger as a person to try something frightening again and no one can take that confidence away from you.

The room for the Ignite
(I stood in front of the little screen in the middle)

If you're interested, here's a recorded copy of my Ignite. Thank you Petra for capturing and sharing this with me.

Other ISTE highlights included...
  • attending a ballgame with a great crew of people
  • connecting with friends from my part of the world
  • reconnecting with far away friends from my various learning communities
  • meeting on-line friends in real life for the first time!
  • connecting with  brand new friends 
  • sharing meals or drinks with people near and dear to my heart  
  • attending sponsored social events 
  • connecting with developers creating products I'm very interested in
  • eating all types of  food from Reading Market
  • visiting the String Theory School 
  • running up the "Rocky Stairs"
  • visiting  historical sights
  • and learning - about coding, robotics, makerspace, minecraft , STEAM, and so much more!

I have already reserved a hotel room for next years ISTE in Denver. I just need someone to remind me that I don't need to submit or be a part of so many presentation proposals.  And the Ignite and 1:3, I'll let others give those a try next year. I'm not sure anything can top going first on the BIG stage at ISTE.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Is Your Formative Assessment Really Formative? I've Been Thinking...

Lately I seem to be sticking my nose into conversations around assessment, and more specifically formative assessment.  These include apps or websites or favourite activities such as exit tickets or creating screencasts. My hope is that the ideas about "formative assessment" being shared by fellow educators are ways that their students are showing what they know.  But here's the thing, it seems that these conversations rarely seem to go beyond the tools students are using to share their learning.  Isn't formative assessment, or assessment for learning, way more than just seeing what a student knows, AND actually taking that knowledge and creating an action plan to help push the learning forward?

I wonder sometimes if people are so wrapped up in the tools to collect student knowledge, that they forget one of the most important reasons why this knowledge is being collected in the first place.  With formative assessment in mind, aren't we collecting our students thinking so we can help guide/support/facilitate  the nexts steps  to move their learning forward? Sometimes those next steps come from the student themselves through their personal reflection.  Sometimes those next steps come from their classmates during peer assessment. Sometimes those next steps come from the teacher. Sometimes those next steps might come from all three sources.  But isn't  the main point of formative assessment to see what a student knows and where they could/should go next?  The where to next is a key element to formative assessment and in my opinion the biggest difference between formative and summative assessment.

Maybe I'm way off base here around formative assessment.  Maybe I'm not acknowledging the growth that has occurred during a lesson or a unit or a school term. Maybe I'm missing the celebration of learning that has happened between the beginning of a unit and the end of it. In no way do I want to devalue that.  That is also a key factor in why we assess work but I think that falls under the "summative" form of assessment.  But if we are just looking at what we've achieved, and we aren't looking for or suggesting next steps then our assessment isn't formative anymore.  In my mind the purpose of formative assessment is to review knowledge and help guide/support/facilitate next steps

How are you supporting formative assessment  practices in your teaching environment? Are you just discussing tools, or are you discussing what you are learning from what your students are sharing via those tools and how you can help support and push learning forward.  Now that's something I'd love to talk more about.