Top 5 Things I Learned at ASCD13

I’m back (well, actually I am here because the conference was here in Chicago) from the ASCD 2013 Conference.  I attended sessions on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and learned so much my brain has entered a “learning coma” (similar to a food coma with less of a need to workout after).  In reflecting on the weekend I wanted to summarize a few of the things I learned.  Here are the Top 5:

5) There is a digital divide between those educators who are on Twitter and those who are not. 

Props to ASCD Executive Director Dr. Gene Carter for proudly telling the 7,000 or so attendees on Saturday that he had just sent his first tweet of his career just moments before taking the stage.  He took a big step forward in connecting with thousands of other educators around the world all working to make sure they continued learning from others.  I felt that being on Twitter allowed me to gain so much more insight from the conference than I would have if I was not on it.  From powerful quotes from Will Richardson to another colleague I follow seriously questioning where the learning was in this particular session I was engaged on so many different levels because of Twitter it made my experience that much richer.   A big shout out to Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) and Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) for putting together an impromptu EdCamp on Saturday afternoon to discuss how Twitter works and how teachers can use it.  I had a chance to walk by #EdCampRogue and it was fantastic to see so many teachers learning about Twitter.  If you truly want to continue to grow as a teacher and do what is best for your students – get on Twitter and start developing a PLN.  Not sure where to start? Following those two guys I mentioned earlier is a great place!

4) Chicago needs to build up the area around McCormick Place

Ok, so this is my only non-educational based one but seriously the only options we had outside of the convention hall were a Burger King, Papa Johns, White Castle and a few local places.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the King and his onion rings but if I had a ton of money I would build a big entertainment area right next to McCormick Place with a whole bunch of restaurants and bars.

3) Don’t follow the crowds at the conference

I was able to get into the Sandra Day O’Connor session even though I got to the conference rather late.  I saw the very long line and thought, “well, this isn’t going to work…” and dejectedly walked away (Sandra Day O’Connor is one of my heroes both judicially and through the way she was a pioneer).  I heard security telling people that the room would be full and that there was an overflow room set up on the other side of the convention hall – many people line joined me in my walk of rejection.  I met up with a colleague who was going to a session right next to where O’Connor spoke.  I decided I would join her and walked back toward the room where Justice O’Connor was scheduled to speak – except there wasn’t a line any more…and they were still letting people in.  I quickly jumped in line and was able to secure a 2nd row seat for her talk-which was awe inspiring! Which brings me to my second point…

2) Never underestimate the power of a teacher

So as I sat in Justice O’Connor’s session with the giddiness of an 8th grade boy who just got asked to dance by a cute girl, a question was posed to her about her educational experiences and the impact they had on her career.  She told a story of her elementary school teacher in 1st or 2nd grade telling her she could do anything she wanted when she grew up.  When she spoke she caller her teacher by name (Mrs. Fuhl (sp?)) and spoke of her impact.  It blew me away…here is an 82 year old woman who has seen the world, and met millions of people still remembering her 2nd grade teacher’s name because she meant that much to her.  Why? Because she inspired Justice O’Connor.  She made her feel important and more so empowered.  I sat there and pondered if we took Mrs. Fuhl out of the equation would Justice O’Connor be sitting there as the first woman on the Supreme Court? It made me realize the gravity of what we do day in and day out and inspired me to do my best.

1) Sometimes its the unfamiliar names in the small rooms that can really change your practice and make you think. 

Don’t get me wrong. I was blown away by the Justice O’Connor talk, meeting with my well known college professor Dr. Gerstein, listening to Maya Angelou, and learning more about flipped classrooms but one of the best sessions of the weekend came on Monday from Anthony J. Fitzpatrick (@antfitz) that dealt with reading and writing across the Common Core as it pertains to Social Studies.  I’ll be honest, I never heard of Mr. Fitzpatrick but I was intrigued and I walked into the small room and sat down for his presentation on how Social Studies can be SPECtacular.  His presentation style and content were awesome and made the 90 minutes fly by.  He talked about the importance of the 5 paragraph essay for about 4 minutes and then spent the rest of the time talking to us about how to engage students in the writing process – and how to get them to write about different angles (Social, Political, Economic or Cultural).  It was awesome and a relief to know if I followed his ideas I would not be reading 30 of the same papers.  I am hoping to share some of his resources with my colleagues and hope that we can use those ideas to inspire writing with our students.  Again, nothing against the big names that presented – they did a fine job and  I learned a lot – but I always like it when a session surprises me like Anthony’s did! It was worth coming down on Monday just go gain the knowledge he shared with  us.

Well that about wraps it up for ASCD for me this year.  Am I going to LA? I liked ASCD and learned a ton but I am hoping my district can send me to EduCon or ISTE next year and if I go to that it would be hard for me to get them to foot the bill to LA – especially the week before Spring Break!

Join Twitter if you haven’t already, do your best to inspire kids and never stop learning from whoever you can.

I’d love to hear of your experiences at ASCD.


About jjanczak

A secondary social science teacher jumping into the world of education technology and trying to make classrooms centered around technology the rule, not the exception in the school systems.
This entry was posted in ASCD, Conference, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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