#NAISTOF Reflections: Bottle it Up and Save it for Later?

Writing a follow up blog about my 3 days with the #naistof crew has posed to be more difficult than I imagined.  Sifting through my notes, recalling the many moments that I was in awe of others, enthusiastic about a connection, or learning something really cool has led me to a place of complete overstimulation.  I often ask my students after projects to put their thoughts and feelings into a headline and so I have decided to start there.

If I could bottle up all the wonderful enthusiasm and energy from that 3 day conference, it would certainly last me for the entire school year.

The good news is that I don't have to do that.  Because while I felt that our time was short, I am almost certain I forged relationships and connections that will keep me and the 2014-2015 teachers of the future cohort energized and alive for at least the next 10 months.  

So here goes my personal thoughts, take aways and reflections....

Wednesday started off with a brief introduction by John Chubb followed by a 3 part activity led by Angela Chubb on Blended Learning.  The three part activity allowed us to learn more about blended learning through direct instruction, collaboration and independent activity.  It is clear to me that we need students to participate in a "blend" of opportunity, instruction, practice and assessment so that each student can reach their true potential.  I enjoyed learning about lab rotation, classroom rotation and flex model as applies to Angela's model.

During collaboration, we discussed a definition of blended learning, "Student is engaged in active learning at least in part online where they have control over time, place and or pace and in part at a brick and mortar location away from home", and a few thoughts came to mind.  Blended learning to me is personalized, differentiated, student centered with teacher as "coach", and integrates technology.  I continued to sit on those concepts as I moved through our day wondering how and if this is already present in my classroom.

Through Skype and in person we spent the afternoon listening about innovative blended learning programs.  I was excited to hear more about Summit Public Schools here in San Francisco Bay.  My biggest take away from Laura Finerock was being that we need to teach content, habits of success and real world experience.  Michael Nachbar from Global Online Academy introduced me to online learning opportunities. For me professionally, I looked at the site and found a coaching innovation workshop this fall among other things.  Overall take away from Michael was thinking about as we move towards blended learning we need to keep in mind that we can replicate what we are doing, but rather we need to rethink and design activities and we must do so before choosing the technology tools.  Very Cool.  I left thinking how every student should learn to take an online course before high school graduation.  Perhaps, teachers too!  Lastly, Brad Rathgeber of Online School for Girls talks about his 7 Rules of Thumb.  During a time of the day where I began to question whether an "online course" is the only way to blend learning I was able to have immediate take aways and reflections from Brad's 7 rules. Here goes:

Standards plus 2: Allowed me to forgive myself for sticking with not always getting crazy with new apps and sites.  

Time to Reflect: This made me think about my blog and the class edmodo site.  It also got me thinking about "Friday Tickets" and an opportunity to allow the boys each week to give feedback on their weekly experience.  

Being Flexible: Is my must do/can do list working?  I want to make them very intentional allowing each student to reach content success and real world problems.  

Organize with Purpose: Focus on planning the unit and the objectives before choosing the layout.  This is definitely at times easier said than done as we are bombarded by new and interesting tech tools that we want to "play" with next to our students.

7 Minutes Tops:  Keep my instructional videos short and sweet.  Plan them out with clear objectives.  

Build in Formative Assessments:  I need to prioritize this step this year.  Perhaps warm ups and exit tickets would help?

Become Comfy with Data:  As a math teacher I am comfy with data, but how can I sift through so much? 

The reflections and lessons I listed above as takeaways are certainly not exhaustive.  Outside of these formal lessons, we as a cohort 'unconferenced" edcamp style (where I personally engaged in conversation about interdisciplinary units and assessment) , wrote working goals for ourselves, talked about challenges on our campuses, encouraged one another to push forward in our initiatives and dreams, and got to know one another personally too over breakfast, lunch, dinner and even late night snacks :) 

As I push forward as a theme leader for Blended learning (August to October) I keep my classroom design in mind and open my mind to what is to come.  My middle school boys won't be following playlists for every unit, and or completing an online course in it's entirety but certainly we will be "blending" many things together.  I hope to learn new and innovative ways to do this alongside the cohort too.    

I created a simple mind in 10 minutes (as to not obsess) and to capture my initial thoughts about what my classroom looks like in terms of instruction and learning.

Thank you Teachers of the Future 2014-2015, Mentors, Faculty and NAIS as a whole.  What a wonderful way to spend 3 days in July.  I am taking all that energy and pushing forward into the upcoming school year.  Thanks for joining me!