Northwestern Educators Are Starting Their Engines at #NCCE2014

Tech-savvy educators have converged in Seattle, Washington this week for the 2014   Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) Conference where the theme calls for attendees to “Start Your Engines.” And as the first day of this three day professional development event closed, conference-goers were primed for continued innovation and learning.

The day’s schedule consisted of a number of summits, workshops, and sessions. However, the general consensus in the corridors of the Washington State Convention Center was that value was offered by all.

Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager hosted an all-day summit teaching others about the maker movement and what that means to education. “We have to trust that learners are capable of doing this on their own” says Martinez. Participants in this summit were not only told this by the two authors of Invent to Learn, but experienced it for themselves as they tinkered to develop an understanding of project-based learning and powerful ideas from the Reggio Emilia Approach.

Down the hallway, Jeremy Macdonald (@MrMacnology)introduced instructional coaches to practical approaches for professional development. Utilizing the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, Macdonald had his workshop’s attendees identify their professional development preferences and reflect on them in the context of research-based cognitive strategies. Big ideas that were discussed include designing instruction with both experts and novices in mind, chunking related concepts to lessen cognitive load, and engaging working memory in learners to bridge the gap between short and long-term memory.

In the afternoon portion of the conference, many found themselves learning about reversing instruction with Jeff Utecht (@jutecht). Similar to the flipped model of learning, the emphasis in this class was on supporting students’ independent acquisition of information before engaging in social learning and contextualization of knowledge as a class. Utecht repeatedly affirmed the importance of transitioning from asking our students to perform the lower level tasks in Bloom’s Taxonomy to the more demanding higher order skills required of 21st century learners. At the core of his message was a call for educators to focus on teaching students how to evaluate information found online. Utecht said, “If the half-life of knowledge is 18 months, Wikipedia is a more accurate informational source than textbooks are.” Having participants engage in research-based activities, Jeff illustrated his point by constantly asking others how they knew their resource was valid. And simply responding with “because it was on Google” didn’t suffice.

As the day wound down, some found their way down Pike Street to the pier to watch the sunset over Puget Sound. Others got together to grab a bite to eat and talk about new learning from earlier in the day. Still, others continued their professional development at the NCCE Tweet-Up. Roughly 50 educators found themselves growing their learning networks in an amalgamation of elevator speeches and speed dating. The idea here was to meet as many people as possible, swap stories about the day along with your personal background, and most importantly exchange Twitter usernames. Among those to follow was Heidi Rogers (@Heidi_NCCE), CEO & Executive Director of NCCE who helped to create a welcome atmosphere of friendly collaboration and networking for all.

There’s no question that educators at #NCCE2014 have started their engines as this conference gets underway. Overheard conversations alone allude to that. But with two more full days of learning and networking along with two highly anticipated keynote addresses by Eric Sheninger of New Milford High School and Gary Stager, the concern is whether or not this group of Northwestern educators will have enough gas left in their tanks to return home at the conference’s end.

Dave Guymon

Dave Guymon is a public online middle school teacher, edtech blogger, and the author of If You Can’t Fail, It Doesn’t Count.

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