As I prepare for FETC, I still face the dilemma that every media specialist has when embarking on a learning expedition off-campus, "But why, are you going for four days? Isn't one day enough?" This is the resounding question as I prepare to leave my media center closed for four days, since we no longer have assistants, or other staffers willing to manage the space in my absence. (This point is definitely a separate post.) To the point, the learning opportunities that are available at FETC once a year cannot be jammed into one-24 hour period. In my opinion, I really don't think 4 days is enough, but I am going to give it my best shot.
Here are the best reasons I can give for a media specialist to attend all 4 days of FETC. (Please feel free to use this post as evidence when negotiating your attendance.)
Best Practices of nationally recognized programs
1. Media Specialists live and work in a bubble, the media center. The conversations and contact we have happens when someone walks into the door of our media center, on the phone or email, or on the rare occasion that we break from tradition and exit the door into the mysterious world of the school outside the media center. If you are lucky, you have a district that provides a regularly meeting PLC for media specialists, (I do in Osceola County) but this may only be once a month or once a quarter. We know we simply can't learn everything we need to know in those few stolen moments for a couple of hours 3 or 4 times a year. We need more opportunities to be exposed to learn the best practices of other professionals working in this field. I am looking forward to Ellen Laurence's session on Library Transformers: Utilizing Technology to Enhance your Program. Ellen has been featured in Knowledge Quest and has a nationally recognized media program. While I use many of the same tools that Ellen uses, I want to know her best practices and compare them to my own.
2. Media Specialists are often asked to fix a technology usage problem after an implementation in the classroom has been attempted without the assistance of the media specialist and a failure has occurred. It is at this point that we are consulted for a strategy that will repair the breakdown in learning and a strategy for restarting the learning so that the instruction may move forward.(Yes, I just described media specialists as the auto mechanics of the instructional world, and YES we are.) So, I am happy to see that Microsoft is sponsoring a number of its fellows to give sessions on the implementation of its tools in the classroom. David Lopez will be discussing on Friday how to find More Time for Teaching with Windows and Office 365 in Education. As my district has decided to go totally cloud with student usage and has invested in the Microsoft package, I am definitely looking for strategies to add to my tool box.
3. Nearly everyday, a teacher comes into the media center and wants to use an old school technique in the classroom that requires materials that we no longer purchase.
Ida Teacher: Mrs. Tune, I am going to need 150 pieces of 20' x 30' bulletin board paper and 3 boxes of markers so that my students can make informational posters about the causes of crop failure.
Media Queen: Uhm, Ida, we no longer have markers and I am afraid we no longer have any light colored bulletin board paper for writing on. May I suggest an alternative way to complete the lesson?
Ida Teacher: Mrs. Tune, I really don't have time to change my plan.
Media Queen: No worries, how about we book some time here in the computer lab and we have students use TACKK to create informational pages. The students can use a computer or they can use the TACKK app on their personal device. I will instruct the students on using TACKK and you will have a chance to learn it, too. Did you know that it is compatible with EDMODO? Here is a some info about TACKK (handout given to teacher) and I am going to book you and your students for Thursday and Friday. See you then.
Ida Teacher: Okay, Mrs. Tune, but if this doesn't work, you owe me some markers.
Media Queen: You got it.
In that moment, I convinced a teacher to allow students to step into the 21st century and use technology in their learning. I learned about TACKK at a conference in an introduction of apps...FETC has about ten concurrent sessions introducing apps, a keynote session that will be introducing new apps, and a few workshops as well for apps in special situations. In other words, check out one of these apps sessions. It may be the best piece of learning you get and you will add to your tool box.
Develop Digital Literacy
4. We used to say, if you want to know how to (insert knowledge point here), ask a teacher. Our society considered educators in the know of everything. Now, many will say, "You can find that on Google." Hmmm, can you really? I am sure I can find a number of tutorials that explain how to do any number of things, but which one is right for me. It could take weeks, and most of us do not have this time, to find the correct tutorial that applies to our situation. However, at FETC, when we attend a how-to session, we know we are getting information that is tailor-made for our learning environment. Administrators are unsure as to whether or not their media specialist is truly transliterate, (and you know what, I am not sure either). We need to be out there making sure we understand the basics of all digital literacy as well. I am looking forward to Steve Adam's session on Code to Learn and Michael Smith's session on Learning HTML in 20 Minutes. It is never to late to learn and refresh your skills in reading another language.
Explore Technology Across the Curriculum
5. Another hurdle that we media specialists face in providing technology instruction is the misconception that technology is not for every subject or for every classroom. We still have teachers today that believe technology, apps, computer usage has no place in their curriculum. It is part of our job to change their minds and assist them with moving to technology integrated instruction. I am happy excited to attend Shelly Kress's session on Tech-Know-Fy Your ELA Classroom. I hope I will learn some new ways to introduce tech into the ELA classroom.
Exposure to Trends
6. As a media specialist, I can say that I am keenly aware of new trends that are affecting education through the emails and literature that I receive, but are we embracing those trends in our own school environment. Are our students missing out or benefiting from what could be a new innovation in education, if we are paying attention? The maker movement has taken education by storm in the last three years and shows no signs of waning anytime soon. I am currently suffering a dilemma as Eric Sheninger's session Leading in the Maker Movement and Sylvia Martinez's session The Maker Movement are scheduled at the same time on Thursday. I may have to clone myself or find a buddy to attend one while I attend the other. These two educational heavy hitters are not to be missed.
7. Where in our day to day lives will we be exposed to some of the greatest minds of our time? There is simply no excuse to miss the genius of the featured speakers at FETC. Jane McGonigal, American Game Designer and proponent of gamer power to solve real world problems, David Sengeh, revolutionizing in the field of biomechatronics, Jenny Lawton, the CEO of Makerbot and 3D printing advocate, and Bob Wise, creator of Digital Learning Day. This is a heavy dose of motivation and I am ready.
Informal Meet and Greet Opportunities
8. Sometimes, when we attend a conference we get lost in the dazzle of the big, the new, the exciting. It is the informal meet and greets, the coffee breaks, the hallway conversations that keep us grounded and reflecting on our purpose for being there. It is our opportunity to hear what is happening and what will you and others take away from the experience. It is also a great time to share your ideas and hear the reflections of others. See you at the Tweet Up on Wednesday at 6pm and at the FAME Meet UP at the Rosen Centre on Thursday at 5pm.
9. I know many media specialists who approach the exhibit hall in one of two ways, with a mission or with a plan of discovery. You know my friends with a mission. They have taken the map of the exhibit floor and have marked every booth with a giveaway, a freebie, and a prize drawing, and they are going to hit everyone in the hopes that they will take back to their school some free piece of technology, a bag full of pens, pads, stress balls, magnets, chotskies, etc. to show that they have made the most of the exhibit floor. They navigated the big hall and they survived.
The other type of media specialist explores the exhibit hall with a plan of discovery. They ignore the booths of the products that they already use other than to say a quick hello to the sales representative unless they are presenting a new innovation. They walk the lanes to find out what products are worth the investment of time and money in which to pay attention. Trust me, the vendors are listening to you. The vendors are looking for the explorers. They are looking for the media specialist who will spend five minutes listening to their demo and who will ask questions and tell them what they want out of their product. This is your chance to make clear what is missing from the products you use or want to use. Make use of the time wisely. You won't get another opportunity and you simply don't get the same experience from a catalog in your media center.
The Leadership Experience
10. Finally, (epic closing music begins here) attending a technology conference is a growth opportunity for any media specialist and every attendee in general. You have chosen to give your time to an epic learning adventure. There is no specific destination. You have a view of the open road before you. Armed with your Road Map (conference schedule) and a sense of wanderlust, you are embarking on the great scavenger hunt that will change you and your practice. Jack Kerouac would be proud.