About two weeks ago, I was able to spend the day in Franklin, Tennessee. While at Battle Ground Academy, a few of my colleagues and I attended the TAIS Innovation and Tech Institute. This event opened with a keynote speaker followed by several blocks of engaging sessions surrounding innovation and technology. Each session presented a unique look into some intriguing, relevant topics for today’s schools, educators, and learners. After having some time to reflect on this professional development experience, I’ve found a few of the sessions making their way into my mind throughout my daily routines.
This session was led by Pete Dunlap, former teacher and current author and speaker. He shared some fascinating data related to our consumption, use, and management of social media. Pete provided us with some great suggestions for guarding our time from the vacuum that social media can become (by the way, please like, share, and follow this blog). He also encouraged us to consider our own social media habits. What are we proud of? What are we ashamed of? By thinking through these things and truly considering our uses of social media, we were able to walk away with a few ways to empower others, specifically students, with some healthy strategies for technology use. Here are a few takeaways from this particular session:
- Socially, face-to-face wins every time, as opposed to the superficial, temporary feelings social media can provide
- Consider whether or not validation comes from the likes or retweets
- Develop – along with our school’s Director of IT – a social media session for our fifth grade advisory program
Breaking the “Bad Tester” Claim
Bonner Williams is the Data Analyst/Test Prep Specialist at Hutchison School, a role that is relatively new. In her session, she shared about her work with the Upper School students at her school. Much of her analytical efforts are spent breaking down the single number attached to a standardized test and helping students realize the layers to that score. She then develops a plan to shape and focus their preparation as they seek to improve their future scores. I left, however, most encouraged by her approach to communication with her students. The students at Hutchison are not only fortunate to experience the practical benefits of this feedback, but the focus on growth and improvement – as opposed to the fixed thinking of I’m just not a good test taker – will be monumental for them in more ways than any test score could ever hope to measure. These are the key points that stood out from her session:
- Start with instilling in students a belief that they can improve – this has to take place before content mastery, strategies, or tips and tricks can ever be employed
- Focus on a growth mindset, especially when analyzing standardized test scores
- Remind students that they are more than their score – whether the score is or isn’t what they’d hoped
Quality professional development opportunities like this one are always enjoyable, and I find the follow-up conversations with colleagues just as beneficial. For me, it’s exciting thinking about action steps moving forward. I hope that – whatever your field, profession, or role – you are able to take part in experiences that push, challenge, and stretch you.