Friday, March 25, 2016

Learning Together at #MACUL16: MACUL - More than just a "Tech" Conference

I have been attending MACUL now for five years and each year I notice that the conference morphs more and more from a solely technology-focused event to a conference that focused on teaching and learning with technology.   I see this as a valuable transformation.  Our next guest blogger, Kevin Luteyn - Fourth Grade teacher at Moorsbridge Elementary in Portage, models this blended focus on instruction and technology with his takeaways from his second MACUL experience.
"This year was another great year at MACUL.  There was yet again so many different ideas on ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.  What I thought was most intriguing was the fact that most of the sessions were not total technology-based.  They shared ideas that they used for learning and showed how you could use technology to enhance the learning, which is exactly what needs to be done.  It really felt like the main idea is still that technology doesn't replace teaching, it is used to offer alternate avenues of learning when applicable.  I had a few sessions that really peaked my interest. 
I went to MACUL with a goal of working on setting up a Genius Hour.  I wanted to pick up some ideas of how to use technology to help present information for the projects that the students would work on.  I attended a session or two that gave several different ideas for presenting work digitally. I didn't get to see some of these sites in action, but I figure I can give some a try.  I would like to try Seesaw which allows you make videos to present.  They also mentioned screencastify which is another video website.  IMovie was mentioned, as well, but may require other technology, like an IPad.  These tools, at least, gave me a direction to work with.  There are also web creation sites like weebly, sway, and that students can use.  I also learned about several sites for digital storytelling that students could use for book reports or whatever else that is needed.  Those were Photopeach, animoto, and storybird.  If you want cartoons, you could try Powtoon, wideo, or makebeliefscomix.  I felt I came away with some ideas to try with the students.   
I also attended a genius hour session to see how another person set it up in their classroom.  It looks like it will take some time to create the atmosphere and expectations, but the students love the freedom.  I put some notes in the MACUL share folder about the set up that that particular teacher uses for his hour.  I think that will be a good project for next year.   
I saw a blended learning session where two teachers described their switch.  They used youtube to create videos for lessons, which allowed them to be available to move around the room during their blending learning activities so it was more student driven.  They did not have 1-to-1 tech, however, so they had to think outside the box for their time.
One other session which I was impressed with was BreakoutEDU.  This is a fantastic way to promote teamwork and problem solving in the class all while covering benchmark material.  It is based around solving puzzles to unlock other puzzles to get to the end.  Moorsbridge is already in the process of gathering up our breakout boxes and kits so we can start next year with some games.   
In all, another great conference that makes your head spin with information and ideas.  Thank you tech team for allowing us to attend again on the district dime so that we can better incorporate the tech that we have access to.  I can't wait to try some of these new ideas!" ~Kevin Luteyn
Thank you for sharing, Kevin!  I look forward to coming over and problem-solving with you and your students!

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