Sunday, September 18, 2016

Things Learned at the Singapore #GAFEsummit with @EdTechTeam

I'm sitting on a flight fro Singapore to Tokyo at the moment with one of my best buddies, Adam Bellow, right next to me. This is the first leg of a 23 hour trek home. I assumed I would be so tired after a weekend of presenting and countless hours traveling to be part of the Singapore GAFE Summit, but I'm not. My mind is racing with possible ideas and future projects with educators on the other side of the world of me. I wanted to share some takeaways from this trip that I think can be helpful to those that are considering attending any EdTech Team Summit.

1. A very special shout out to my district for letting me attend and present at this conference. I had to miss class and that is never a fun thing to do. However, I have made some amazing connections, got some great ideas from the Singapore American School's library and Makerspace that I would love to see implemented in the space at our school. For admins out there that are hesitant to send teachers out of the classroom to attend conferences, know that the short term investment of a sub and lost teacher instructional time is easily made up in the long term benefits of new ideas, innovation, connections and so much more that can be brought back to your school and/or district.

2. Meeting new people that I'm angry it has taken me this long to connect with over edtech and nerdy culture. I was able to connect with Jessica Loucks. Stop everything you are doing and check out her Twitter account and follow her. Besides being super funny, a pop culture wiz, and filled with great energy, she killed an Ignite talk at the end of the conference. She compared improv to teaching and I was struck at how accurate the analogy was. I was annoyed that I never saw that connection myself. I look forward to connecting with Jessica on future projects and silly events in the future. I know that this connection will make me a better educator.

I also connected with teachers from Singapore and Vietnam. Two are expats from Michigan and are Language Arts teachers. I look forward to finding ways to connect our students through some sort of project. I already know who I am going to connect with regarding a 4th grade class for some fun projects and writing.

These connections are so important as we stress the need for global connections in learning. We need students to stop seeing just "me" when it comes to world, and start thinking "us" more often. Attending this summit is going to help me do that.

3. I learned so much about cultural awareness during these few days of travel and engagement. I had never gone further east than San Francisco and I have never travelled further East than Prague. This was the furtherest away from home that I have ever been and it was amazing. I would like to think that in my travels I strive to understand the culture I'm in and learn as much about it as I'm there, but diving into the Asian Culture is something I have never had to do before and I was uncertain of what to expect.

Talking to teaches at the Summit really showed me how similar their teaching environment is in some ways, and how different it can be at times. No matter if the students are one district over or 13 hours in the future, learning is still learning and sharing what works transcends most cultural boundaries. Sharing teaching strategies with teachers from India, Singapore, China, and other schools was a nice view of the teaching profession and how much we all strive to provide the best education we can for our students. I think it so important to have as much diversity in cultural experiences to help create more well rounded learning experiences.  

4. Taking risks is so important in teaching and attending a conference outside your comfort zone is a huge risk that can pay off in huge ways. Whether it was trying new things to eat (Jellyfish head, soft shell turtle, chili crab, deep fried tentacle, various mystery items), changing your Ignite session last minute to focus exclusively on Zack Morris, navigating Tokyo or Singapore without any electronic support, etc, is really exhilarating and can impact you as a teacher. Taking risks to do something you thing will be fun and engaging for yourself will allow you to try that for your students.

5. Relationships are always key. I had some amazing conversations with people during this trip. They were deep and thoughtful. Sometimes they were about education as a whole and how we are going to change it, other times they were about presenting at conferences and the impact it has on the classroom. Sometimes we just quoted random movies, had nerd arguments over specific fandoms, and just bonded in a way that lets me know these people are there for me if I need anything. Adam, Jennie, Jessica, Mark, Molly, Jay, and James, I could not have asked for a better group of people to spend time with in Singapore, or any country for that matter. You are all amazing educators and I feel truly blessed to have presented with you. I hope I get a chance to do this again.

Traveling to conferences is not an easy thing, but if you can find a way to do it, I encourage to take a risk, pack a bag and see the amazing things that can happen if you are willing to open up and try.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Have you heard of TeenLife? They are a great directory for afterschool programs for teens, that your students would be interested in and highly benefit from. Check them out!


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