21 February 2011

Mad As A March Hare

There is still a week of February, but March is weighing upon me. It has for several months. It is, once again, Conference Season. This is not to say that I am dreading the month ahead---quite the contrary as it presents several opportunities for professional learning. But I also have several roles to fulfill and I am not one of those people who believes that doing something half-assed is good enough.

In a week, I'll be spending the day with 100 educators from around the state. They represent all grade levels, a wide variety of district sizes and backgrounds, and are depending upon me to deliver 8 (!) hours of high-intensity (and differentiated) professional development. Planning has been ongoing, with some pieces having to wait until rangefinding was completed. Things are firmed up and I'm looking at this opportunity as another grand adventure. Big groups are great---but they can also be challenging. You can't turn them on a dime when you need to change activities. Opportunities to get people up and moving are reduced and need to be highly orchestrated. It will be wonderful. Lots of very enthusiastic teachers on the way.

Two days following the big extravaganza, I'm giving my first-ever 3-hour data visualization workshop. We will play with Sparklines, MapAList, Google Fusion, Motion Charts, and more. I have some databases built and ready to play with...others not so much. I have a basic plan for things, but I need to nail down some details. I haven't taught tools before. I have no idea how many people will be in my session (though it will be no more than 30), what their ability levels are with data, or how much support I should front load. This is one of those occasions where being overprepared can only do me good. Will I have time to do that much work? I'll try.

The next day, I have two different presentations about the assessments. These should be simple enough to pull together---we've done similar ones before and will have things we can use from the big extravaganza from Monday. But it still means looking for ways to engage a large group of people for a short group of time and get them what they need.

The following week is the last round of Bias & Sensitivity reviews for the assessments. Other than getting the invitations out, I haven't done much planning for this one. I have a feeling this one will sneak up on me fast if I'm not careful.

And the week after that? Two more presentations for the science conference. My cell phones in learning will get a third round of airing and then a specialized STEM + EdTech session.

A few days after that I am off to ASCD. I have been scrimping and saving (and begging family for money) for this one for months. I am taking Amtrak's Coast Starlight down to San Francisco and back. I am very much looking forward to slowing down and traveling this way. I have a room reserved on the train and am already fantasizing about stretching out beside the floor to ceiling windows and watching the world go by. My presentation? Data Viz, natch. It isn't completely built yet---as you can see, I'm a little busy before this point---but I'll be ready. This is the one part of March I'm least worried about.

Are you heading into the full gale force of conference season, too? Will March enter like a lion and leave like a lamb for you? If you see me rushing around, mad as a March hare, I hope you'll stop me and chat. Might even be a shiny new beer in it for you.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Hey, SG, have fun with the conference and all that, but just ABSORB the train trip. There's nothing like it. And you have a ROOM! Holy Moley! Paradise on wheels.

Some of my most wonderful memories involve traveling from NY to WA/OR via The Milwaukee Road's Route of the Hiawatha (now a fantastic bike path over dozens of awe-inspiring wooden trestles through northern Idaho's wilderness mountains that my wife and son got to ride on).

I could go on, but you're gonna love it. Forget education while you're aboard and just drink in the experience.

Good Lord, I love train travel, especially the "clickey-clack" of the rails as you drift off to sleep, and then wake up as dawn breaks on the mid-western prairie and you see your first real pronghorn antelope galloping (actually, almost flying) alongside your train as you blast through the countryside that you never see from a car.

I want a full report, not just on the conference, but on your travel by rail!

Jenna said...

Train ride will be way fun... be sure to hang out in the lounge car for awhile to chat with other passengers and do the dinning car (dinner with strangers). Really interesting conversations.

Please give yourself at least 12 to 24 hours hours leeway on when you HAVE to be at your destination. Although Amtrak (unlike the airlines) will try to do everything to get you there - even hiring a bus to catch a missed connection! - they have low priority on the rail lines and often have to pull off in to sidings for passing frieght trains. It's very unlikely you will arrive on time. Plan for it and it will be a great trip.

The Science Goddess said...

Excellent advice---thank you!

Fortunately, my train travels have plenty of space on either end for delays. I'm sure I will need that.