Wednesday, February 24, 2016

OTEN Conference

I was unsure of exactly what to expect at the OTEN conference.  The more I read about it and learned what the drive is and all the knowledge and power behind it, I became more and more intrigued.  What an amazing event!  I really feel like I took away so much new information and ideas and got an image of what stages our classrooms are in through this ongoing technology shift that’s happening around us. 

            The first session I attended was Nikole Hartman’s who works in FGSD.  She walked us through multiple apps and websites she uses in her classrooms to do everything from formative assessments to prompt classroom discussions.  Answer Garden was the first one she presented.  It was quite brilliant.  Like all of the others she discussed, it is interactive so the student can be an active participant in whatever the teacher is doing - whether it be an exam, survey, or just note taking.  Answer Garden focuses more on one question to get an idea of the class response.  This would be a great way to practice vocab or brainstorm for creative writing topics, among many other uses.  As the students answer, their responses appear up on the main screen where everyone can see.  Padlet was another similar tool, used more as a piece of scratch paper that you never have to throw away.   It could be used as a discussion forum, or just a large note pad.  She also uses Socrative, Kahoot, and Quizziz, which are variations of ways to assess their learning, or how well the teacher is doing at delivering material.  The competitive spirit keep the learning fun and engaging.  I truly think it's one of the most brilliant ways to keep the students engaged in the current material.  

Next i attended a session by Terry Alexander about coding, which was mostly out of curiosity because it's something i don't have a lot of experience with.  She brought attention to the importance of coding in the early years of school.  Today's students have to make choices about their education and career paths starting in middle school and starting computer science early is only going to increase their equity and diversity when looking for jobs in the future.  Students are beginning coding as early as kindergarten, with short 30 minute sessions creating unplugged games.  This helps their critical thinking skills, gives them hands on tech practice, and teaches them to plan steps ahead when carrying out a task.  I was really thankful i attended this presentation.  Terry made it even more clear how helpful it will be for these upcoming students to be proficient in this area.  
The last presentation i saw was also about innovative technology and had some overlap with the first one, but also introduced some new tools, including Plickers which includes a card with an image on it that is scanned by the teacher with their phone once the student holds it up (meaning they have answered the question.  He also talked about how all of these new forms of technology can be used for flipping the classroom, which is becoming more common.  
A big take away for me  at the OTEN conf was this - technology is advancing at a rate that some classrooms aren't keeping up with, and there are some who are.  Students are going to be submerged in the advancement in everything they do, inside AND outside the classroom.  The more our schools try to keep up and set the pace for the kids, the more organization and participation they will have in the classroom.  If the teachers make it a place they want to be, it will change the environment drastically. 

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