27 March 2011

Live. Nude. Notes.

Nothing is more exciting than hearing all about a conference you're not at...am I right? You're in luck, then, as I have things from Saturday to share with you. So, sit a little closer and I'll whisper in your ear.

But first, a teaser. I've been thinking about the following question: What is the role of a conference in today's educational landscape? We know that single-shot PD events don't lead to significant change. These are expensive events (as my bank account gently weeps...), so only one or few people from an institution can attend---and many times, they don't even see the same sessions. Why bother?

I think the answer to the question comes down to relationships: a foundational aspect of the classroom and making things happen in education. I have read lots of stuff by Thomas Guskey and Carol Ann Tomlinson---but there is something fundamentally different about sitting in a room where they are speaking and sharing. The accent of their voice and they way they deliver their patter...how they communicate their information when they are the ones in control. No editors. No filters. Just ideas in the buff. It's very seductive. But beyond that is the conversations that get generated. I had so many quickie discussions with people in hallways (and at the bar)---all focused on what we'd seen and heard and how it stimulated our thoughts. Speakers at a conference are not an end point: they are the beginning of beautiful relationships.

I will whip out more ideas to share later. But here is a basic rundown of my Saturday---with links to download my notes from each session. They are messy, to be sure. It's not easy to take neat notes while sitting "airline style" in rows of chairs. I also have electronic versions of their handouts/slides for most of the sessions.

So without further ado, here are my live nude notes:
  1. I started with Trent Kaufman's Beyond Regrouping and Reteaching: Using Data to Dramatically Improve Instruction. The session was a bit of a bust. I got the impression that the presenter really didn't understand how standardized tests get put together and why this is not the data you should be using for classroom level decisions. I think he also missed the boat on impacts to individual student learning when we regroup and reteach. I'll come back to this later. Click here for ppt.
  2. I snuck out of the first session and into Laura Greenstein's Assessing 21st Century Skills. I did pick up a couple of golden nuggets here. If there was anything from yesterday to take back home and directly insert into my job, it came from this session. This was another presenter, however, that made me a little nervous about some of the messages that were portrayed widely. Click here for pdf of presentation and Word file of handout.
  3. After lunch, I started with Thomas Guskey (swoon) in Fair and Meaningful Grades for Exceptional Learners. Not much new here, if you've been around standards-based grading for very long, but still well-grounded info to share. The exceptional learners piece can be really tough to navigate. Click here for pdf of presentation.
  4. I moved over to Carol Ann Tomlinson's Differentiating Instruction and 21st Century Skills. I was incredibly impressed to watch her manage a room of 1400 people. Srsly. Again, I'm not sure that I heard anything new, but I really did get a different perspective on differentiation. Behold, the power of conferences. Click here for pdf of presentation.
  5. I ended my day in Jen Orr's session on Collaboration through Technology for Assessment Information. If you read Jen's blog, then you probably have a good idea of the strategies used in her classroom. There is something magical in seeing the information presented. I did audio record this session and will give Jen the link, but for now, visit her post about the session for resources. The session was a great "bookend" to the one I started the day with. Jen provided some very concrete examples of collecting and reflecting upon classroom level data---and how to use it for regrouping and reteaching.
Lots more experiences for me to share from Saturday, but they will have to wait. I need to finish getting ready and get out the door for Sunday's events. Time to put this post to bed.  :)


polly said...

Hi Tara,
this is my first ASCD conference, and I'm enjoying it. Biggest conference I've ever attended in my 26 years of teaching.
I agree with you that actually seeing/hearing the people whose work one has read over the years is a thrill.
I attended Regie Routman's session yesterday morning at 8. Brought me to tears. Her work with schools/teachers is real, valid, consistent, and the opposite of one-shot PD.
Conference was worth it just for that. Am looking forward to seeing Judy Willis (again, saw her at Learning and the Brain conferences) and Linda D-H.

Best to you,

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Almost like I'm there! Almost... :)

Thanks for the notes, SG!

karen said...

Good post. Thanks. I too have been thinking about the role of conferences and how much $ is spent on them. They don't really model the best PD strategies and yet so many districts spend a lot of their PD budgets on them. We're going to be doing a discussion group on this at ISTE in June. If you'll be there (yes, I know...another conference), I'd love to have you join us.