This summer, I did not go to any major conferences. With the sole exception of the Educational Technology Leadership Consortium (ETLC ) Conference on June 12th, and the upcoming EdCamp in San Francisco Bay on August 23rd, I will have attended exactly ZERO professional development sessions this summer. That’s right: none. To further kick things off, I was in desperate need for a break from moderating a weekly Twitter chat, so I have been a little less connected than usual this summer.
Believe me, it wasn’t from a lack of desire. Running my school’s summer program, having a three-month old in the house, and not possessing enough money to fly away on a whim kept me home bound. Ironically, my situation enabled me to learn a lot in preparation for the upcoming year.
Although I only attended one conference, the ETLC, I did learn how incredibly easy it is to set up a Google Site and to embed video lessons and websites directly into the site. Jim Puccetti of De La Salle High School also taught me how students can post their assignments on their own websites and give me the link on my site via Google Forms. Once again, this is extremely easy to do.
I had also started the summer with a vague idea forming in my brain: flipped learning. I purchased and read Flipping 2.0. The revolutionary ideas of Kate Baker and the joint English class of Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson blew me away. I did realize that this could potentially be a major project, so I tried to go through an easy route of curating other people’s videos and putting them on playlists on my YouTube channel. However, it finally dawned on me that I would have to bite the bullet and create videos of my own. I downloaded Camtasia and ambitiously tried to create enough videos for the year. Although I failed in this respect, I did get a great jump start for the year.
I also struggled with the platform for presenting these videos for students. I could easily post a video to YouTube and embed it on my Google Site, but if it went through Blendspace, then all the materials for a unit would be easily accessible for students. This way, I could include other videos and useful websites (that would be optional). There was one problem with Blendspace: I wanted quiz questions to appear during the video, not to ensure compliance (that they watched the videos), but to ensure that the ideas stuck in their brains, and I was not impressed with Blendspace’s quizzing abilities. Somehow, the app EdPuzzle made its way into my brain, I tried it out, and fell in love with it. It is a user-friendly way to add comments and questions to videos.
In addition to flipped learning, I have also considered gamification. EdcampHome (an Edcamp available through Google Hangouts) alerted me to the possibility of using Classcraft as a system to provide incentives for students to perform certain tasks and to work collaboratively. This will be my first foray into gamification.
Although I did not participate in much professional development, I have truly learned a lot. In today’s world, excellent professional development is just a few clicks away.