Monday, March 25, 2013

OAGC -- My experience at a gifted and talented teacher conference

I recently attended a conference for gifted and talented teachers in Columbus, Ohio.  As usual, I like to document my thoughts about a conference so I don't lose them and I can share them with you.

I was sent to this two-day conference because word on the street was that there is a huge technology strain of sessions.  This is not untrue, but I was amazed at how underwhelming the content of these sessions was.  Don't get me wrong; there was plenty of good stuff shared about Google products and iPad apps, but I had already learned a lot of it through research and other conferences.  It made me very grateful for the chances my administration has given me to learn on my own.

The mood of the conference was just a lot different than what I'm used to from Ohio Goes Google or eTech.  At those conferences, you can just feel the digital world all around you. You see people on devices, watch the Twitter feed zipping by, and can get a sneak peek into sessions you're not sitting in. At this conference, I was the only person tweeting it out and wound up following another conference in Toledo.

This isn't a bad thing, per se.  It's not all about the digital connections.  People were milling around talking to each other.  The exhibitors' displays were being visited.  Learning and connections were happening.  I just felt out of place... and I realized anew the gap between techies and nontechies.  There is a huge divide.

OK.  Enough complaining.  Let's get into what I learned.

QR Codes
I went to a session on QR Codes which was very informative.  As I'm sure you already know, QR Codes are just an easy way to get to a website without typing in a URL.  I've used these a bit in the regular classroom to link to directions or an interesting site.  However, I've seen people touting things like QR Code scavenger hunts and wanted to know more.

Here are some cool ideas that I learned:
  1. A student can write a book review and print the code on a sticker.  The sticker can be put right on the book so other students can access that review.
  2. Students can write an "about me" bio and put the code on a sticker.  Put the sticker on the child like a name tag.  This can be good for introducing people or wrapping up a biography project.
  3. Record student voices explaining their art. Put the code directly onto the art.  You can have simple access to the artist's comments about the artwork on display.
  4. Use it as a writing or discussion prompt. 
  5. Use to shorten the URL and tighten up the QR Code. 
  6. You can use or to record voices that can be linked to a code. 
  7. Two great QR Code generators are and
Project-Based Learning
When you go to a PBL session led by a man with a tie that says, "COACH," you know you've stumbled upon something good.  He talked a lot about how he coaches students to learn through PBL.
  1. Start with the end in mind.  Visualize the learning objectives you want to achieve and work backwards from there. 
  2. Realize we're not dealing with a "make anything you want" model.  He talked a lot about an ancient Egypt museum project he did last year.  Students started with the end in mind.  "We are going to set this classroom to look like a museum exhibit." 
  3. Once students understand the PBL process, they can help build the rubric.
  4. Students name a handful of learning outcomes they want.  They build the project from there.
  5. The teacher approves the project and it starts to roll.  The teacher becomes the coach and students do all the work. He talked about being bored in class because all he did was sit in the middle of the room while reading and stealthily watching students. Get out of their way and let them learn!
  6. He is constantly reading body language and is able to intervene early if there is a problem.  Be proactive, not reactive.  Alert parents early if necessary, not when it's too late.
  7. Students schedule three appointments with him throughout the project: set up the project contract, check up on progress, talk about the final product.
  8. He uses self and peer evaluation, especially in group projects, to help guide the final grade.  
  9. This is sneaky.  Each student gets a top-secret number.  He charts the evaluation grade on the wall throughout the year.  Students can see the trends and realize their own personal growth on the chart.  This helps erase the "It's My Group's Fault" syndrome.
  10. He has the same students for a few years.  By the last year, they know the drill. He just posts six projects on the board.  "You work on your own pace in any order you want, but these six projects will be done by the end of the semester." 
What great conferences have you attended lately?  What are you learning? 

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