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Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't Trust Conference Presenters: The Teacher Behind the Curtain

Recently I've noticed something about conference presenters (myself included). We're a bit phony. How so? Well, we jump up in front of poor, unsuspecting participants and show about 20% of our practice... the perfect, amazing 20%. Then we thank our audience and walk away with smiles as if to say, "Don't you wish you could do that?"

So, don't trust conference presenters. If you pull back the curtain, you'll see that the other 80% of our practice is rich with failure and - as such - important learning experiences. Moreover, don't expect to emulate what you see in the presentations - even 20% of the time - immediately. I'm not saying don't strive to set and meet goals based on what you learn at PDs, conferences and PLC meetings - but scaffold for yourself just as you would suggest for your students. At least in my case, it took me months - if not years - of experimentation with my iPads, AppleTV, Student Social Media, Chromebooks, etc. to gather the 60 minutes of presentation material to 'show out' in front of an audience. And even then, I'm still a work in progress - continually learning and growing.

As such, I've recently begun to make more of my learning experience transparent when I present. I try and show what didn't work and why - and also how I learned and grew from the experience. I do this before I demonstrate the current strategy, tool or process that is working well. My hope is that by being transparent about the real deal - the time, growth and challenges that I experienced - my colleagues can walk away from my workshops and sessions feeling empowered to rock out in their own classrooms. Because I know they all can - if I'm honest with my own journey.

13 comments:

  1. Wow! Great post! Now before I present again, I am going to keep in mind what you have shared. It is so hard to be transparent - to share all the mistakes and blemishes in my practice. But you are right, how else can others learn from us really? Thank you for sharing!
    Camille
    http://camillesopendoor.blogspot.com/

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  2. What a simple, yet powerful post... and it could not be more true. Always a fan of your work!

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  3. Absolutely true. Appreciate your honesty. I've also learned that you can't always believe everything the tweeters say at a conference. I've sometimes been at the same presentation but don't see things as euphoric as the other tweeters.

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  4. Love it. I too am a fraud and I am going to be fraudulent at the SLATE conference in WI starting tomorrow...but a lot more humble. :)

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  5. Love it--so true. Plan to use some of this to SLATE presentations. You are right that it is important for participants to hear the struggles as well as the successes.

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  6. First of all, I was fortunate enough to witness you present in Auburn, ME. You energized me and many others with new ideas and you are hilarious. I was so ready to rock and roll after those three days. Secondly, I am guilty when I present by mostly talking about what works. It makes great sense to share failures as well. Most everything I know about technology is from experimenting and failing. However, in my every day job as a tech integrator, I pray for there to be failures so that the teachers I am modeling in front of and their students can learn from how I handle the set backs and figure out how to move forward with the lesson. I want them to know that it is ok to fail. A lot of times I put it back to my audience/students as a challenge, "who can figure this out for me first?" They LOVE the challenge.

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  7. YEARS of practice with iPads and Chromebooks?

    iPad first release: Apr. 3, 2010
    Chromebooks first release: June, 2011

    I get what you're saying -- that practice makes perfect, and that everybody hits road bumps along the way (and has to learn how to deal with them. And that's where experience comes from.)

    But I do have a problem with people just "jumping right in" to new technology -- unquestioningly, in an "adopt first, ask questions later" paradigm -- and act like "they've been doing it for years" so they are somehow experts.

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    1. I apologize for not being more specific - I lumped several examples together in that sentence "At least in my case, it took me months - if not years - of experimentation with my iPads, AppleTV, Student Social Media, Chromebooks, etc." I have been using 1:1 iPads in the classroom since August 2010, so now 2+ years, and Chromebooks would fall into the "months" category. My point is that I didn't get to where I am now overnight or even in a few weeks; I had a growth process. As such, in my presentations, I want to be honest about how I learned, what my future goals are and how I continue to strive to improve my practice.

      I wonder where your concerns about people "just jumping right in" and then acting like they are experts relates to this particular post. Are you agreeing with it? I too would see that as somewhat dishonest and misleading. What I hope to see in more learning events is participant-led sessions in which the facilitator can lead a collaborative experience where people set goals and are honest about learning from their growth.

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  8. Don't totally agree with this post. It really depends on the content of the Presentation, as well as the intent of the presenter. While I think sharing our failures is important, after all we ARE human, I also think there is a distinct difference between a "How-To" presentation and one that is thought-provoking. Failure is an important part of any learning process and without taking chances we are not recovering from our mistakes, we are avoiding failure. I find that some of the bigger frauds are the ones that have not been in a classroom for a long time and tell us how it should be and what "we" should be doing. In most of those cases, I find their information outdated, flawed, and quite frankly wrong!! So your post here is a great reminder that we should embrace and share our challenges, but many presenter would never know this since they are too far removed from the classroom.

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    1. I agree completely. Failure is incredibly important; we should embrace it and learn from it. As I reflect on where I've come, I know that any successes I've enjoyed were predicated on the learning done after a failure.

      I also agreed that having presenters who are still seated in schools and the classroom are important. As I stepped out of the classroom myself this year, I have been mindful to continue to work regularly with students - both through a 3rd-8th grade student tech leadership team and through in-class supports for students/teachers. While I worry that I am still losing a lot of true credibility as I'm not currently practicing, I am able to honestly share what worked and didn't work with kids. Center for Teaching Quality - http://www.teachingquality.org/ - has a great concept of Teacherpreneurs, teachers who are the bleeding edge leaders in the education world. Not politicians, not consultants, not administrators. Practicing teachers. What an idea.

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    2. The teacher in the classroom has become a very debatable topic for myself and many of my Ed Tech friends. Too long to post here on your blog. I appreciate your post here and thanks for getting me to think more on the concept of failure and maintaining our true credibility whether we are in the classroom or not. Thanks for sharing the link to the CTQ as well.

      Cheers

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  9. So needed to read this. Thanks for sharing! I want to begin presenting at workshops and conferences next year! www.funintegratingtechnology.blogspot.com

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