Here are the things I most loved from the conference:
- PechaFlickr: This was shared by Dean Shareski during his "Making Creativity Happen" session. PechaFlickr is a part of Flickr that allows you to choose a topic, and then you get a random selection of images that are tagged with that topic. Under "advance settings," you can choose the amount of slides and duration of each slide. To me, this simple, no-prep program has MANY applications. I love the idea of using it to get kids to make connections between the images and the concepts from a class period (or, for English teachers, between what they are reading and what the image shows). I also love it for brainstorming. They could talk through or write down whatever comes to their minds for each picture, and those words and ideas could become story starters for a writing assignment. Alternatively, students could be in different groups trying to pitch a product using the images, and then the class could vote on which group was most effective... So many possibilities!
- Comic Strips: I went to a session about incorporating comic strip creation into class. Jessa Henderson, the presenter, talked about how she used a comics project as a way for her AP Psychology students to make some of the difficult, abstract concepts of the class more concrete. For example, in one student's comic, the character Luna had to conquer her nemesis Insomnia to be able to get some sleep. I loved this idea, and it reminded me that comics could easily be incorporated into many class activities as a way to reach a wider range of learners. I'm still investigating which options are the best (FREE) comic creators on computers and iPads, but so far, I really like MakeBeliefsComix, and it has a free app as well.
- Coding: First, a confession. I'm a coding newbie (like so new that I often don't have the faintest idea how to even start, and often I don't know what to ask, and often I'm too embarrassed--in tech circles at least--to admit that I have NO IDEA what is going on!). I'll probably write more about coding later, but this session, led by three teachers from Portsmouth, really helped me get a handle on easy ways to get started (both for myself and for helping the students). Some great sites are code.org, which has modules that the students can select to learn coding basics, Light Bot (where the students can program the robot sprite to light up certain tiles), and Combat Code (where students write code to play a game). As students learn a little more about coding, they can look at other programs like Scratch (now online) and ALICE (download only), both of which were developed by universities, MIT and Carnegie Mellon respectively, to help Computer Science students who needed more practice. Once students get the basics down, there are many applications. Coding can be used as a way to tell a story or have a dialogue between characters, and it can be used to create a game related to content. Learning to code helps students think critically and problem solve, and it helps them better understand how computers work. Even in non-traditional settings (like a humanities or fine arts class), coding can be used to enhance instruction, and it can be an alternate way for students to demonstrate what they know.
There were so many awesome tips and tricks that I learned at the conference, but these are a few things that stood out to me as easy components to integrate into the classroom. The biggest takeaway I got from Shareski's keynote speech was the notion that we should reintegrate joy and creativity into our classrooms--and the increase of technology access in the world and in our schools is a great way to do just that. Who doesn't want to have fun while learning?