NETA 2011 was a great conference. Great ideas, tools, and presentations were shared. It is incredible how empowering talking to others in your field can be. Here are some of the main themes that I took from the conference:
1. Do Something
Too many times in education teachers get bogged down with all the technology they could/can use. Often times teachers end up doing nothing for various reasons. The message that many teachers were giving this week was to do at least something. Give it a try. If you don't at least try something you will fall even farther behind. When you at least try you will begin to see how to use at least some technology. This experience that you get from trying at least something will build and sometimes even blossom. Pick a site you like, use a tool your school already has, download something cool you have seen some other teacher do and play with it. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it is something. You will never get anywhere if you aren't at least willing to try.
2. Narrow your focus
There are so many tools out there. Between all the sessions this week, I think I may have at least 200 links to tools I could use. That's just insane, and there is no way that you can ever use every one of them. The best strategy is to choose a few (or even just one) that really interests you and stick with it. Develop things with that tool, and continue to use it. You will be more comfortable with that tool, and also with integrating things into your classroom as you see what works and what doesn't.
3. Share with each other
It is so easy to get down on yourself when it comes to technology, because things move so fast. The important lesson that I learned is just to have teachers talk to each other about what they are doing in class. Even if they think that it isn't much, that may spark an idea in another teacher that they never thought of before. This time can be powerful and doesn't need to even take that long. 30 minutes at a time, maybe once or twice a month will make a difference.
4. The students can make the difference
This lesson/idea was perhaps my favorite of the conference. Some schools actually rely on their students to teach their peers and then the teachers about the technology in the classroom. They work with a group of kids that learn how to use different tools and then they run with them. I think this idea is brilliant. Students are the ones that need the technology to be engaged and succeed, and teachers are the ones with the knowledge. One way to limit the technology hurdle is to just...walk around it.
5. Be yourself on social media
Up until this weekend I had two twitter accounts. One for personal and one for work. After one of our discussion sessions at NETA I realized that I wasn't really being "me" on either of those accounts. The people I was following and the things I was tweeting were both "me". Being you is important on social media so the people you are having conversations with and connecting with truly know who you are. Social media conversations aren't make believe. They are real conversations with real people. I guess it took me meeting those people in person to realize that I wasn't treating it that way. Just be you when you are on social media sites and you will succeed.
There were a lot of other great things I took away from NETA this year, but these will make the most impact in my district by far. I can't wait for next year to meet more friends and get more ideas!