Why attend major conferences

Every once and awhile I am able to make it to major conferences either here in Canada or in the US.  Last week, I attended the FETC Conference in chilly Orlando Florida and have just spent two hours with John Sowash on Google and the Paperless Classroom.

 

FETC 1.png

 

on the first day, I attended a three-hour session on Makerspaces, MaKey Makey and eTextiles.  Later I will be attending a session on filmmaking in the classroom.  All this at the preconference!

 

my attempt at eTextiles

We really need to attend these conferences if we want to move learning in our schools.  As a principal, I am very fortunate to be able to attend a major conference every two years.  I have always taken advantage of this opportunity and I have always learned a great deal to bring back to my school.

 

Conferences also gets the creative juices flowing.  My to do list just from this morning includes learning Pear Deck, arranging a workshop on Hapara and connecting again with Discovery Education.  Not bad for the first two hours!

 

Creativity and innovation are the lifeblood of education.  Educators need the opportunity to share and exchange information as often as possible.  Twitter is a great help, but there is nothing like a real, live conference to really get the creative juices flowing.

 

This is a great place to connect as well.  Many of the people I follow on Twitter are here, Richard Byrne (Free Technology for teachers) and George Couros (The Innovator’s Mindset) are both here as keynote speakers.  The chance to see these educators live and possibly talk with them is exciting – my version of attending a Rock concert!

 

This may seem a little nerdy, but these conferences really revive my love for innovation in education.  The workshops fuel me with ideas that we can try back at our school.  Conferences fuel my desire to write and share with as many educators as possible.  I even present at some of these conferences and was briefly on the organizing committee for one in Ontario, Canada.

 

I should probably be doing more of this sort of work, but I am happy to attend and share right now.

 

As we get ready for our next workshop, I am meeting people from all over the States and Canada. I have talked to the presenter who I know can help us propel our makerspace to the next level.  

 

My job – just share everything!

FETC 2.jpg

Makerspaces in a box: An opportunity to create

The first day of FETC was great.  We had a chance to really focus on  important technical innovations that are changing the nature of education.  Google applications to make a paperless classroom, experiencing a makerspace and methods of film-making in the classroom.  A full day!

The three-hour format allowed us to try out some really interesting tools for the classroom.  The makerspace workshop had me totally engaged making circuits using play doh, metal tape and fabric.  Nothing that we were using cost more than $25.00 for a simple kit that uses play doh as a connector.  Other materials cost just pennies, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with these materials to make different circuits.  This is a good lesson for me – you don’t need to have the latest technological gadget to create something new.

my paper circuit – a work in progress

I quickly got caught up in making my own inventions, lighting up diodes and connectiung buzzers.  Each station had a differnt challenge for us and what we created was our own.  What freedom – to simply use your imagination and succeed at making something new.  

Each kit was labeled with its own QR code linking to a website expanding on the activities in the box.

The three-hour workshop just flew by and I thought to myself what would it have been like to learn about circuits and innovation when I was a student, free to invent what I wanted to invent. I never understood circuits drawn on a caulk board.

Although I have understood for a long time the importance of makerspaces as a way to encourage innovation and creativity, I have never taken the time to actually sit and work through some of these tasks.  So simple, but so empowering.

The paper circuit website

The Squishy Circuits site – kits cost $25.00, but you can buy the parts separately 

When I return to school, I will look for ways to incorporate some of these great ideas into our makerspaces.  No need to look for the newest robotics kit – kids can create with some of the simplest materials available.  The key element in all this is simply to let kids create, don’t wait to amass a huge pile of wires and diodes, just get a few simple kits and get started!

 eTextile project – again, very simple materials that kids could use to innovate