Thursday, March 15, 2018

Up, up, up, and away...The first 24 hours at CUE18

I arrived at the Ontario Airport yesterday afternoon and grabbed my rental car so I could get myself to Palm Springs. I arrived earlier than hotel check-in, but they happily accommodated me and got me into my room. Everything has been smooth so far and for that, I am thankful.

A Groovy Kind of Love

I am thankful to once again have the opportunity to attend the Spring CUE Conference. Every year has provided a different experience for me and I knew coming into this year that this would be a unique experience in itself, and it is far more than the fact that the weather is cool and drizzly (though now the rain seems to have finished and moved on).

I very nearly decided to skip CUE this year. I've started looking at ways to reorganize my schedule and maximize my time. I want to be selective about when and where I go for PD while making sure that I am bringing back the best of everything I can for my students. If you've read my posts before, you know that I firmly believe that in making myself my best me, I will make my students their best selves as well. I love this conference, and I think I was looking for a "reason" to attend, a "sign," if you will. And then, the signs started popping up and I knew I had to be here. Matt Miller speaking at the opening keynote made me want to make the trip. Becoming part of the Central California CUE Board gave me a sense of obligation. I had made my hotel reservations last summer, so I was in good shape there. Then, I secured my slot, made my reservation for the conference. In the meantime, my class and I submitted a project idea for the 2018 Leroy Finkel Fellowship AKA Leroy's Big Idea. In February, I received notification that my idea had been selected as a finalist and now, I NEEDED to be in Palm Springs. And so, here I am.

I feel more connected this year than in previous years. The first year I attended, I came by myself. I ate by myself, I wandered the exhibition hall by myself. I slowly started talking to people, but for the most part, I was a loner. At the end of the conference, a friend met me and we spent the final evening celebrating my birthday before I returned home the next day. By the following year, I knew a few folks, but still traveled alone with the exception of my friend making part of the trip with me. We got an AirBNB and grocery shopped and settled in for the weekend. When she suddenly left after the first night, I was on my own. We did celebrate my birthday before her departure, but I spent most of the conference solo. Each year, though, I have made more contacts and worked on connecting myself with other educators from whom I can learn, but also with whom I can share. This year, I feel more myself than before. I spend time with people and take a few moments to myself.

Did I mention, I love this conference and love my CUE PLN? This year, CUE turns 40. It seems pretty groovy to be 40 and helping CUE celebrate its 40th anniversary. Of course, upon my return home, I will cruise over the line to 41.

Making connections and nurturing edu-relationships

Over the past few years, I have connected with more people. I have attended local education events and participated in education Twitter chats. Coming to CUE alone, yet feeling connected is such an awesome feeling. Dare I say, "eduawesome." It is here in Palm Springs that those relationships are nurtured and then allowed to continue to grow in other areas throughout the rest of the year. Now being a member of our local affiliate board has given me new insight to the importance of these edu-friendships. This year, I reached out to more people ahead of the conference and worked to make sure that I would connect with people once here. I am thankful I did that. My participation in the DitchBook chat (Thursday nights at 7 p.m Pacific Time) was a large part of my WHY for this year. Getting to meet Matt Miller could be seen as a "fangirl" moment, but what I realized was that I was excited to meet him for some of the same reasons I am excited to meet anyone from my PLN with whom I had not previously connected. Having these face-to-face moments with people I have collaborated with is important to me because the things we discuss, the ideas we share, and the benefit to our students are all very important matters.

Badges? We DO need stinkin' badges, trust me

For the second year, CUE is running a game where you can earn badges. Last year, I felt highly competitive and sought to WIN the game. This year, it was more about earning the badges and moving forward, connecting with people, and enjoying the conference on the whole. Let me tell you, I am not alone in enjoying gathering stickers and actually earning badges takes it to the next level. I have started digital badging in my class this year. I look forward to expanding my use of digital badges and hope to one day have stickers to go along with them. I started working on my CUE game accomplishments before I even got on the plane to come to the conference, as did others. I wrapped up a few accomplishments today and it felt good. Setting aside the competitiveness and focusing on a more well-rounded experience felt even better. I also got nurture relationships that were established last year, in part, because of this game.

If you haven't started the game yet, it's not too late. Give it a try. You may find some fun in it as well.

The second 24 hours at CUE will take me into my Leroy Finkel Fellowship presentation. I have invited as many people as I can to come check out all of the finalists and I have shared on social media. I think it will be a great afternoon and look forward to sharing it with some of my favorite people, other educators who, like me, have big ideas.

#cue18 #WeAreCUE #wheresmsrnow

Monday, March 5, 2018

Presenter feedback tips and thoughts

Dear conference and workshop attendees past, present, and future:

If you have never before presented, you may be unaware of what happens with the feedback you submit. That feedback goes to the organizers of the event, but it also goes on to the presenters. As a presenter, I assure you, I read the feedback I receive. In fact, I count on it. As I present, I am constantly looking at how certain aspects go and making mental notes. Once I have completed my presentation, I make notes on things I want to change. Many things can factor into this: reaction to certain pieces, flow of the presentation, questions asked, how different topics develop organically, and how I feel about the information I have presented. Then, once I receive feedback passed on to me from the organizers, I incorporate that into how I make adjustments to my presentations. I never have presented the same thing exactly the same as the time before because I update my presentations each time.

As a presenter, I rely on your feedback. Other presenters do as well. What I am sharing with you here, I share on behalf of presenters everywhere who have had similar experiences.

When you submit your feedback following a session, the words you say can be incredibly helpful. I welcome constructive criticism. I need it in order to be better. I want to improve. I want the things I present to you to be the best I can make them. If something works, I need to know, just as I need to know if something doesn't work. I welcome any supporting statements to your reactions that you may offer. Please tell me why something just did or didn't work for you. That will help immensely.

On the other side of this coin, though, I have found hurtful comments that do nothing to help me improve the information I bring to you nor my presentation style. If you simply write something such as "boring and uninspiring," you have successfully hurt my feelings and told me nothing of why you felt that way or how I could do better. Just the same, if you think something is "fantastic," I need to know why.

Recently, my ten-year-old son has started presenting with me. We developed "If you give a kid a camera" originally for a (future) conference that would target parents, home-school parents, and alternative educators (think independent study, for example). We based it on our experiences as the #EdTechFamily which include family experiences, lesson designs, projects he has created as a student, and student creations from my classes. When we presented this at the end of February, he was an official presenter with his own email correspondence from the event organizers. This meant that feedback would go to him too. Ladies and gentlemen, let me say again that the feedback you give goes to the presenters for review. This time, I was stunned. The email came through and mixed in with some great feedback and constructive criticism, I found some blunt, hurtful comments. The people in the room, I assume, are educators. Before you fill out those feedback forms, whether the presenter is 10 or 40 or 70, please stop and ask yourself if you would respond to a student the same way. Ask yourself if it is potentially helpful. I was able to filter what my son saw eventually and I am thankful for the help I had with that. That said, if you would not say it to a student, then probably you should rethink your phrasing.

Allow me a moment to translate the "boring and uninspiring" example from above. "This session was not what I expected and I didn't get anything useful from it because..." "Next time, try to liven things up a little more." "The son needs some more practice, but good for him for stepping out and trying to present this." "I really would like to see more (such and such)..." See the difference?

Another tip for attendees:
I subscribe to the EdCamp way of thinking. If you're in a session and it isn't working for you, then please feel free to go check out another session. Yes, I will notice that you're walking out the door, but I won't take it personally. If my session is different than you were expecting and you need something different, that's ok. I understand. Heck, I've been there. You need to get the most out of your conference and workshop experiences that you possibly can.

Be kind and thoughtful in your feedback. Do what you need to do to maximize your conference experiences. And, please remember that your feedback can potentially help make a presentation better.

Those of us who attend conferences as presenters do so to try to offer you something. We are educators, just like you. Some things work, some things do not. Tomorrow is a new day.

As the big Spring CUE Conference approaches, I hope you will take some of what I have said here to heart. I hope you have a fabulous experience in Palm Springs! If you see me there, please say hi and, if you're so inclined, let's take a selfie. I don't have any sessions this year, but I will be presenting my "big idea" on Friday afternoon as a Leroy Finkel Fellowship finalist. Come on by and check it out if you don't have another session to attend at that time.

#CUE #CCCUE #WeAreCUE #ETC2018 #IfYouGiveAKidACamera #Eduawesome #Adventure #wheresmsrnow