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Stories from NICEminicon 2016

Congratulations to the 300 - 400 educators who made a choice to sacrifice a Saturday morning for networking and professional learning. Yesterday's NICEminicon (Northern Illinois Computing Educators - mini-conference) was a shining example of how impactful a well-executed conference can be. A welcoming breakfast, engaging sessions, and attention to detail, our hosts, the folks at D219, deserve a pat on the back. In addition, the events don't effectively happen without the generosity of sponsors. It was terrific seeing so many of my PLN friends in attendance. Here are my takeaways and reflections from yesterday's outstanding experience.


Originally, I planned to sketchnote my thoughts and backchannel my session experiences. Fortunately, the level of activity and engagement prevented this from happening. I used my phone to capture and share a few highlights to Twitter, but credit the session facilitators, our lead learners, with keeping the activity and interest level high. There was good variety offered in the scheduled sessions, and I appreciated the organizers efforts to save paper by delivering conference information digitally. Following a chocolate muffin, and two cups of orange juice, my day began with making stuff out of cardboard and tape and ended with a discussion of authenticity through problem-based learning.

  1. Session One - "Building a MakerSpace out of Practically Nothing" - Katie Budrow kicked things off by asking us to suggest everyday problems that could be simplified or eliminated through innovation. She offered us a collection of cardboard, masking tape, string, rubber bands, and paperclips. We were tasked with "making" a device capable of mechanically stirring our breakfast oatmeal or morning coffee. It was interesting seeing the variety of iterations from the maker teams. We discussed the merits and challenges of classroom makerspaces, and there was time for a question and answer session. The hands-on lesson provided immediate engagement. Like many learners, my mind activates more readily with physical movement and collaboration.
  2. Session Two - "Game On: A Beginner's Guide to Gamifying Your Classroom" - Carrie Baughcum, besides being one of my favorite PLN pals, is also an excellent teacher. She personalized our experience by offering both digital and analog materials, she clearly stated the objectives of the session and peaked our interest by sharing a story of how gamification has evolved in her classroom. We discussed the "why" of gamification, and after seeing Carrie's examples, we were asked to come up with our own gaming themes. It may take several iterations before arriving at an ideal structure, and even then student interest and competencies will dictate a degree of adaptability. Having clear objectives, flexible experience points, and a leaderboard, help amplify the gaming experience for students. I could have spent the rest of the day working on my gamification ideas. If Carrie ever offers either a half-day or full day, gamification workshop, I will be one of the first to register!
  3. Session Three - "Authentic Learning for Authentic Audience" - Tracy Crowley and Sandy Mills did a commendable job of sharing examples of student projects, program materials, and references from experts in the field. I find the subject personally appealing. It's a challenge to attain much depth in fifty minutes. To their credit, they fielded questions skillfully, and the discussion grew organically. Once again, I could have spent the rest of the day learning more about their program and how to implement it in our own schools. Examples of student work, including videos, helped drive home the passion of their message. I believe the future of education will be based on the solving of authentic problems, and personalized collaborative, experiences. This was an interesting session that energized my thinking.






Total disclosure, I skipped the closing keynote because I wanted some quiet time to process all that I had seen and experienced. I've recently being doing a lot of conference organizing and presenting, so it was nice for me to enjoy the day from a participating learner's perspective. My intention with this post is to transparently celebrate our learning, reflect upon my experiences, and keep the conversations going. 






Learning is great, learning with friends is even better! NICEminicon was a masterfully run conference experience, and a great teaser for the upcoming ICE Conference in February. I am looking forward to re-engaging with my PLN friends as we work to transform teaching, learning, schools, and education.


Comments

Carrie Baughcum said…
Thank you so very much for your words Robert. Your reflection on my session held everything I had hoped a learner would feel and experience. I hope so much and it is my goal that workshops are in my future for gamification. Thank you for your words and thank you so much for the passion you bring to education and that I got to share with you!!!
Robert Schuetz said…
Thank you Carrie. I thoroughly enjoyed your gamification session, and I look forward to learning more about this with you. Your comment and passion for connected learning are appreciated. Talk soon!
Bob

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