Sunday, May 20, 2012

Winding Down? Gearing Up!

This week begins the last full week of the school year for students.  Five more days of classes, a three day weekend, followed by two more days of instruction and tests before students are released for the year.  Both teachers and students are counting down the days...  Some post these on their bulletin boards, others cross out days in their calendars and still others send out those celebratory countdown emails announcing to any who will listen.

I'm growing excited as well I'll admit... but for a completely different reason.  Summer time is my opportunity to stop being the teacher for a few weeks and get back to being a student.

During the school year, it's a challenge to find the time to attend training workshops, surf learning related blogs or plan and practice those important techniques and tips I learned through the professional development opportunities I attended.  No, during the school year, there's not enough time with all the grading, lesson planning, parent emailing, meeting attending, and all the other daily minutia that pulls on me.

But the summer, oh the summer, is my opportunity to really make learning (at least for myself) the priority.  And for those teachers looking into integrating technology into their curricular practices, there's no better time than now to dedicate a few odd hours here and there into picking up a few new tools to go into your teacher technology tool box.

Looking for a educational technology/e-learning/21st century skills conference to attend near you?  Then look no further than the annual lists of conferences document curated each year by Clayton R. Wright.  In it's 27th rendition, this listing of workshops and conferences spans 4 continents and an entire years worth of Professional Development in every flavor and shade one can imagine.  This list is all over the web. Simply searching Clayton R. Wright using Google will produce pages and pages of blogs and websites sharing Clayton's list.  For time purposes, I've decided to locate the list on the "eLearning Technology" Blog by Tony Karrer.

If you can make one of these conferences, I say, "Good luck, have fun, and don't forget to come back and share with us what you've learned!"

But what about those of us unable to get to San Diego, Boston, London or Rhodes Island in Greece?  What is there for us?  We'll quite a lot actually...

See more and more often, many of the larger summer conferences are also providing access to their keynotes and break-out sessions via live streaming or tape delay.  Some of the conferences are even completely online and digital.  Some are free, some require a fee for access, but no matter which one you choose, they'll still be cheaper than the hotel, airplane and taxi fares you'll have had to pony up to make it to any number of conferences this summer.

So which one should you choose?  We'll here's the break down of my favorites, which I'll be doing my best to catch, from the comfort of my living room:

July 7-8th, 2012
Brunel University, UK
Cost: Free

The eLearning 2.0 international conference held at Brunel University explores Technology-Enhanced Learning and Web 2.0 technologies including Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Wikis and YouTube.  The conference format includes keynote speakers and session speakers who's presentations are given over the web, recorded as screencasts and re-posted for the viewing audience.  While there is a physical conference, a great majority of the presentation are done in different locations throughout the world and then viewed in many more locations throughout the world.

The Flipped Conference
June 19th & 20th, 2012
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Cost: $99 per person

For educators looking for more information or training on "flipping" their classrooms, this conference has it all.  Created by Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann, the Flipped Conferences focuses on helping teachers find alternative ways to introduce classroom content outside of class time to enable the better use of that time for student-teacher interaction, activities, and assessment.  Each conferences session will be broadcast and available afterward.  For more information, visit The Flipped Classroom conferences website.

ISTE Conference (International Society for Technology in Education)
June 24th - June 27th, 2012
San Diego, California, USA
Cost: $199

The premier summer time educational technology conference in the United States lands again in San Diego.  Hundreds of workshops, vendors, and resources await those planning to attend in person.  For those staying at home, the conference is also broadcasting a variety of keynote, lecture and break-out bring-your-own-device sessions.  Not only do you get access to the live streams, but you 'll gain access to the entire video archive for up to 6 months afterward.

Finally, while the last conference doesn't have a dedicated virtual slate of workshops, the Building Learning Communities Conference is July shares what it can...

BLC '12 (Building Learning Communities Conference 2012)
July 18th-20th, 2012
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Cost: Free (however, only certain content is filmed and aired.)

While the other conferences have dedicated virtual passes, the BLC conference website only shares highlights (especially from past conferences) including keynotes and special sessions.  Out of all of the conferences listed above, this is the one I would not want to miss.  Somehow, the BLC finds a way to pack in the greatest presenter from all over the globe.  The conference is small enough to be able to rub shoulders and meet a many dedicated educators but large enough also to fill the grand ballroom.  All those who have gone have attested to the amazing presentations and culture that has sprung up around the BLC conferences each year.

So there you have it, a few references on how you could spend a few days this summer sharpening some tools while learning how to wield  a few others.  While not a definitive list by any means, this is a simple grouping of suggested summer time take-ins for those looking to learn something new that will have a huge impact on your practice and the students learning this next year.

What do you have to lose?

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Aloha and Welcome to the iDEAS Lab blog for Sean Connors - instructor at Le Jardin Academy in Kailua Hawaii. Please be sure to leave a comment for the author. As soon as the comment is moderated, it will show up on the list! Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback!