I did a lot of listening and not as much writing this time around at SXSWedu. In revisiting my notes and thoughts, I realize the most valuable way to reflect is to compare to my notes from last years conference. As a firm believer in the growth model vs. the mastery model of assessment, I’ve decided to evaluate the growth of the conference in comparison to itself one year ago.
|SessionsLast year, Tia Lendos’ session: Using Free Google Tools to Make Learning Magical used video-conferencing to let us hear opinions of teachers and students who are using Google tools for teaching and learning. I craved more sessions that took on a creative approach to teaching and learning, rather than a dry dissemination of information.Girls Rule, Boys DroolLast year I found myself seeking out the company of intelligent and engaging females in the field like Amy Lin of EdCanvas and Valerie Sakemura of NSVF. It is not often that females are the minority in education but as tech and finance have come to play a larger role, these conferences often feel male dominated. At the end of last year’s conference I found myself hoping for an increasing female presence in the industry and at the conference.
Perspectives that Matter
This was the peak of my frustration at SXSWedu 2012 (and at most conferences I attend.) The lack of teacher, student and parent perspectives boggles my mind. Last year every teacher I met was from Austin and they were few and far between. I am sick and tired of the excuse “teachers are in classes this week.” In other industries, people take time off to attend conferences and work events constantly and teachers should be allowed the same opportunities for professional development. Until we find ways to engage the people who matter, we are going to find it quite challenging to make real and impactful change.
Technology in Special Education
At last year’s conference, I attended one session on technology being used to support the needs of students with special needs. The session had compiled video footage of a few students using tools in the classroom but overall, did not divulge any of the intricacies of working with students of various abilities and using technology to support them along the way.
|SessionsPerhaps it was the presence of the Maker Movement, but this year there were definitely some sessions that took the route of hands-on learning. Although I wasn’t there, other attendees were buzzing about Hack Class: Shape Your Ecology, Empower Learning, which chunked the learning into sections, keeping engagement at the core of the session.Girls Rule, Boys DroolNot only did I meet more females at this year’s conference, but this year’s conference even brought about the emergence of a group called “EdTech Women,” who had their inaugural meeting at the “Edtech Women Dine” event in Austin. There were awe-inspiring women paving the way at SXSWedu2013. Betsy Corcoran (EdSurge) led the Launch event with grace and humor, Eileen Murphy (ThinkCerca) was a finalist in the Launch event, Heather Gilchrist brought the teams from her new EdTech Accelerator Socratic Labs and Pamela Inbasekaran and Lawrie Peck of Relay Graduate School engaged us in conversations around teacher education.
Perspectives that Matter
I could feel very early seeds of change in this area but there is a lot of work to be done. Nikhil Goyal brought a student’s perspective to the table, though I would venture to say he’s not the typical student. One of the sessions by Lego Education featured a high school student from a local robotics team. Though we’re making these strides, I still crave a hearty teacher panel or a parent-led session. Hopefully next year!
Technology in Special Education
I was over the moon to see a session with Daniel Yoo of Goalbook, an app to support teachers through the IEP process. It was a solid session but one is not enough. There is incredible research around the impact of ipads on students with Autism. There are Assistive Technology tools out there that allow non-verbal students to communicate through eye-gaze, and communication devices that support social growth. I know because I’ve used these tools in the classroom. Some tools help teachers differentiate content to reach their lowest and highest functioning students simultaneously. Yes the field is still emerging, but I want SXSWedu to be a place where that type of innovation is celebrated.
At the end of my reflections last year, I wrote “SxSWedu is still in its infancy and is trying to find itself. The feedback we are able to give via survey and email will be crucial for its growth in the coming years.” This remains true. We have made great strides and as a person who always takes the feedback form seriously, I did see some concrete change occur this year. That being said there is always more… Here are my hopes and dreams for SXSWedu2014.
Increased teacher, student and parent presence
In order for this to become a reality, we need some kind of funding model. Teachers, students and parents should not pay what the general attendee pays. Perhaps every entrepreneur must bring along one teacher, student or parent:) We also need to build a few teacher panels – for sessions, feedback during the Launch competition or for Q&A from entrepreneurs. It would be great to have a Betaroom where teachers can test out some tools and offer real time feedback.
Creativity of presentation style for sessions
I would love to find a way to measure the creativity level of the presentation style. It is exhausting to attend an entire day of sessions where people are speaking at you…kind of like being in school. SXSWedu can be the conference for education innovation but in order to do that, the session leaders must model innovation of teaching practices in their own work.
Technology in Special Education
We have made some strides but have further to go. Hopefully SXSWedu2014 and will have Daniel back and will welcome some practitioners using assistive technology in their classrooms to share best practices.
At the EdGrowth Summit this year, there were a series of mini-debates. This could be a useful model for SXSWedu Keynotes. I measure the impact of a session by how much it makes me think and how close it comes to making me change my mind about something. I would love to see a series of debates about controversial issues in education by some of the heavyweights in our industry.Day 1 SXSWedu 2012 Days 2 & 3 SXSWedu 2012 Reflections SXSWedu 2012
As always, I’m most intrigued by questions so I’ve decided to share some of the top questions that have come up thus far in sessions, at networking events, and in lounges.
Coolest New Person I’ve MetViktor Venson, Founder of rightbrainshare.us @NRBLB - Find him, he’s awesome!
Most exciting learning tools (that I’ve seen so far!)
|Lego Story Starter for Sequencing in Literacy||Monkey Jump courtesy of PBS Kids|
|More to come on this later…|
Best new tattoo
Most Creative Swag
Got questions or awards to add? Leave a comment!
A new techie-teacher group blooms in NYC. THaSIS (an acronym for Teachers Hacker Space for Independent Schools) had its inaugural meeting on Friday, February 22nd at the Dalton School. Check out my coverage on EdSurge.
When teaching students to approach paired texts, part of the challenge is actually finding paired texts to work with. I have some books from the 80′s with outdated topics and illustrations but finding current, engaging topics can prove both challenging and time consuming. Not to mention, it is hard to know how to pair texts – should it be a fiction and a non-fiction paired by topic? Should it be a poem and a narrative non-fiction paired by topic? Should it be paired by genre? It is important to expose students to a variety of paired text types so they can begin making connections.
In an effort to save you some time, I’ve compiled a short list of paired texts I’ve been using with students reading at various levels in grades 4-8.
PairsOut of the Tornado (Lexile 995)
Homeless to Harvard (Comes in 380, 590, 880) (Click the blue icon (bottom right) to change Lexile levels)
Should College Football Players be Paid?
Can you add to the list? Leave a comment with links to any texts you use – or feel free to email me so I can post them. Thanks!
Special thanks to SmartBlog on Education for the guest blogging opportunity! Check out EdGeeks featured on SmartBlog on Education today!
Supporting Struggling Readers as the Level of Text Complexity Rises
The Common Core State Standards brings about an increase in the level of text complexity. What impact does this increase have on our struggling readers and how can we best meet their needs?Click here to read more on Tips and Resources to support struggling readers.
Finding texts that are high interest at an appropriate reading level is time consuming and let’s be honest, we don’t have a lot of time! I started pulling together a list of the resources I have been using to find texts. Then I began compiling a list of paired texts, which I’ll share with you shortly. Hope this saves someone out there some time!
Scholastic Magazines Digital Resources
We all love Scholastic Magazines but they can be expensive! The one I love most is $8.49 per student, which would be possible if there weren’t 25-32 kids in each class. Some teachers ask administration for money, others ask families to pitch in, and others dig into their own pockets to order school magazines. What most teachers don’t realize is that many of Scholastic Magazines’ Digital Resources are free…at least for the time being. Each magazine has its own website and most either say, “Subscribers Only” or “No login needed for a limited time.” I’ve been using these for over a year and they are FREE! Just click where it says either “Click here for digital resources,” “Subscribers click here,” or “Click for your digital issue.” The best part is, it’s not just Scholastic News. There are a ton of magazines that are appropriate and engaging for a diverse range of readers. Many resources are SMARTBoard ready and there are often PDFs available for download.
Checkout Scholastic Magazines and find the one that is right for your students. Find my personal favorites below.
I would also like to point out that Action magazine offers a growing library of differentiated articles. Yes you heard me! That means each article comes at three lexile levels, making it possible for you to incorporate differentiation into your classroom with ease. All students can read the same content at their level. The articles are high interest too! Here they are. ReadWorks
ReadWorks is a free site, but you do need to create a login and password. The good thing is that since I signed up, I have not gotten one email from them so it’s not one of those sites where you wish you hadn’t signed up!
There are a ton of resources on ReadWorks but I only use it for the vast collection of non-fiction texts that it offers. If you click Non-Fiction Passages on the blue bar at the top of the page, it will take you to a library of texts. You can search by Grade, Skill/Strategy or Keyword. Every text has the lexile level listed for you.
Once you decide on a text, click it’s title. You can then choose to download a PDF of the passage as well as a PDF of questions designed to match the text. I create my own questions because I don’t feel that the questions always meet my target objective, but the questions are there if you want them. This site makes it easy to differentiate and to set up centers. Just click and print!Sports Illustrated Kids
I recently stumbled across this article Do Athlete’s Deserve Millions? and I traced it back to its source, Sports Illustrated Kids. That particular article was from the Kid Reporter Blog but if you click on the News and Blogs section, you will find texts that might be helpful. I find it particularly useful when I am trying to peak the interest of a hesitant reader who LOVES sports. I usually just browse the sport categories on the right sidebar and choose a sport my students are interested in and browse.Schoolwide Fundamentals
This is the most recent of my resources. It is free to create an account and you get access to a variety of resources. What I find particularly useful is the text collection. If you click on Reading Fundamentals, you are taken to a page where you choose a grade level. Once you click into your grade level, click “Shared Texts” to download free texts. The texts are organized by grade level and genre. I am still getting to know the site, but it seems like a solid find. If you try it out, leave a comment and share about the quality of the texts!
I also often find myself pulling texts from:National Geographic Kids GoKicker DoGo News
If you have other resources to share, please feel free to add to the list. I’ll publish a list of paired texts soon. Hope this helps someone out there.