Saturday, March 15, 2014

Reflections on #MACUL14

by Michele Corbat

I attended the 2014 MACUL Conference along with some of my colleagues.  There were countless, amazing technology tools shared and I have an Evernote document loaded with these tools.  However, the tools were not my main take away from this conference.  My take away was the importance of establishing relationships and connections with one another.  Every keynote address and every session that I attended included stories about the power of connections and relationships.

My eyes welled with tears during  Adam Bellow's mind-blowing keynote address when he shared this video clip of John Berlin's emotional appeal to Facebook to unlock his late son's account. After his son passed away, John wanted to watch his son's "Look Back" video, and thankfully got the opportunity.  The technology enabled John to connect with his son one more time.  Adam reminded us that technology allows us to capture the meaningful experiences in life and to create the big ones.

Then I heard more stories from Todd Nesloney, better known on Twitter as TechNinjaTodd,  Todd shared his journey in creating a flipped project based learning classroom.  One of the first statements he made was, "Relationships are number one.  If you are not building relationships, then nothing I am saying will work in your classroom."  AMEN!  Todd told us about the Math Fair he does with his students and how it has been the highlight of his career.  I was inspired listening to him explain how proud the students were of their learning because they could choose their project based on their passion.  Todd understands the importance of establishing relationships with students and making his classroom a place where students want to be.

At the end of the first day of the conference, my last session was on Game Changing Apps by Drew Minock, Brad Waid and Todd Nesloney.  Once again, the power of connections came up.  One of the game changing apps the guys shared was Cargo-Bot.  Brad shared a story of one of his former students who was a mute.  This student talked to no one for years.  However, once this student was introduced to Cargo-Bot, he became inspired.  After several weeks of working with Cargo-Bot, this student spoke.  He was the first to volunteer his group to do a presentation to the class on Cargo-Bot.  He even led the presentation!  Brad explained that you never know what's going to impact, inspire or engage one of your students.  It could be a connection with technology.

Throughout the second day of the conference I continued to hear stories about the importance of relationships and connections from George Couros.  George told us about how his father, an immigrant from Greece, learned to use Facebook and FaceTime.  Why did he choose those tools?  Because he knew that was the way he would connect with his children and grandchildren.  He told the story of Alyssa, a seven year old girl from Australia whose father helped her start a blog.  Alyssa posted a video to her blog that George took at a Justin Bieber concert and her father tweeted it.  Teachers around the world commented on Alyssa's blog and she would rush home from school each day to read the comments.  The power of connections using technology inspired and motivated this child to write more blog posts.

An idea was also born out of this conference.  An idea on encouraging other teachers and administrators to become connected.  Some of the #michEd crew including,  Todd Bloch, Jeff Bush, and Mike Kaechele connected with me at the end of the second day to ask if my #COLchat team would be interested in joining them in submitting a proposal to present at the 2014 Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals' Conference.  We set up a Google Hangout with my administrators and #COLchat co-moderators, Adam Hartley and Rodney Hetherton.  We are working on our proposal now and the focus will be how a culture of learning can be created through relationships and when educators are connected. 

George Couros said, "To inspire meaningful change you must make a connection to the heart."  It's about the relationships and connections that we make NOT about the technology itself.  We need to be sure that we are not missing the best part of the internet--the power of connections.  This is the big idea that I want to share with my colleagues when I return to school this week.  This is the big idea that will continue to be my focus with my school community.  I will take what I learned from MACUL14 and put it into action.  I will focus on relationships and connections. 

Thank you to all who spent countless hours organizing or preparing presentations for the MACUL14 conference.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have connected with so many passionate educators from Michigan and across the world!