So, I did my presentation at the NSTA conference yesterday. Truth be told, I was a bit bummed about things leading up to this. I knew I had the last time slot on the last day of the convention. Even if it's been a few years since I've gone to one of these events, I remember getting "Conference Fatigue" all too well. By the last day, you're ready to just go home. Meanwhile, I also discovered that my presentation was scheduled way off-site from the conference. Anybody who wanted to sit in was going to have to schlep their way over from the comfort and convenience of the main convention. So, I made 25 handouts, but figured that 10 people sitting in would be a worthy turnout.
That isn't what happened, however.
Instead, I had well over 100 people crammed into the room---sitting in the aisles, up at the presentation table and standing in the doorway straining to listen. I'm not sure how many others turned away when they saw the throng...and I know the fire marshal wasn't poking around because the number of people was well over the posted room occupancy. Wowser.
The experience was very validating---not so much for me personally as for the topic itself. Grading has arrived. When I talked to a few of the attendees about their "hardcore" attitude of staying to the end, they said that this was an area of need for them and I was the only one on the schedule talking about it. Others who chose to stay after the presentation to talk to me mentioned that they were trying to do some of these things at their schools---but it was a lonesome experience. It is indeed hard to implement something like this on your own. I got asked about presenting at other schools. Would I come? Would I talk to more than just science teachers? Would I answer the phone/e-mail if there were questions? Of course. But how sad is that people are all out there struggling on their own little islands of grading.
I had a friend mention earlier in the week that leaders should always be up ahead, peeking around the corner. From my experiences yesterday, I got a good look around the corner at two things in particular. First of all, grading practices are about to reach the tipping point in secondary schools. I expect a lot of growing pains. Secondly, the role of data visualization in all of this is going to play a major role. Every time I pull out microcharts, dashboards, and other tools, people go nuts. I can see them spark---you can see the epiphanies happening all over the room. Makes me smile every time.
What I had to share---and what people needed---does not fit neatly within a one-hour session. An hour is barely enough time to scratch the surface...and, of course, the more resources and knowledge I accumulate, the more I want to share and support. If the economy was better, I would seriously think about hitting the road as a consultant. After all, I can see what's around the next corner.