As part of the Year 2 experience, we as a class; plan, run, and present at an international educational technology conference at NUI Galway. I had 2 roles in this process. The first, as part of the communications team I organized a makerspace type “playground” at the end of the conference. This was where attendees could interact with both some high tech maker tools that they could incorporate into their classroom. Year 2 students ran the tables with various robots, apps, programs, and games showcased the fun that incorporating technology into the classroom can bring! My second role was as a group member in running one of the sessions for the day.
In my first role, I coordinated with MAET instructors to make sure that the maker “toys” were available for the day of the conference. My year 2 colleagues helped out and manned the tables that all of the toys were on. The Wednesday before the conference Sean and Candace brought the “magic box of toys” to class and everyone spent some time familiarizing themselves with their assigned maker tool. On the day of the conference, set up went smoothly and participants were engaged with the year 2 students running the tables. For over 30 minutes there were robots racing around showing how you can teach programming via robots and people learning how to build circuits! Karl Reinhardt from Corrib Village and Coder Dojo brought his son, Marcus, and one other ninja to show off Raspberry Pi and Arduino hardware. I would say that the mini maker faire was a success!
In my second role, we started planning our session and researching different types of blended learning environments in the classroom. From here, I thought that it might be best to present our information through creating a blended learning experience for our attendees. Katie and I have both used different resources in our classrooms to create some blended lessons, we wanted to introduce our attendees to these resources and give them time to explore how to use them.
From here, I did some more research to make sure I was up to date and up to speed on the different aspects of blended learning and how students can use their own devices in the classroom effectively. I put together a symbaloo webmix with various digital tools that teachers at different grade levels could use to create blended lessons in their classrooms. As well as resources teachers can have their students use to create digital products. I also created a tutorial video for attendees to watch to show them how to use symbaloo. Katie created an Educreations video outlining our research on blended learning and then imported it into Edpuzzle to offer attendees a reflective “check point” along the way.
Next, we put all of the “pieces of the puzzle” together in Nearpod. I found Nearpod as a platform to compile resources for blended lessons and thought that it would be a good way to immerse attendees in a blended learning experience. I settled on Nearpod after struggling with Symbaloo lesson plans for a little while. I had used Symbaloo lessons before and was eager to use it in this setting, but an update that they did made it difficult to work with. Nearpod offers interactive student activities within the site, but also the ability to embed other resources in it.
The biggest learning piece of this experience for me, was taking the feedback we got and tweaking our presentation accordingly. Constantly looking to improve. I know I am not perfect and welcome constructive criticism. I am typically fairly critical of myself and often am glad to get outside opinions to make sure I am doing the best work that I can.
On the “big day” we ran into some technical difficulties with Nearpod and had to import all of our resources into Google Slides. We had to roll with the punches and were honest with our participants about what we were up against. I felt comfortable with my parts in the session and was happy with how smoothly they ran. I would change how awkward I was with my hand gestures and that I played with my rings and bracelets when my partners were speaking. Some of the parts that I had to say due to some of the technical difficulties were not delivered well on my part. I repeated myself a lot and stumbled a few times. Overall, however, I was happy with how our session flowed.
The discussions that happened among the attendees were meaningful and helpful to the goal of the session. Katie, Amanda, and I were able to walk around and facilitate discussions. Ideally, we would have had more time to have even more group sharing as this seemed to have just as much of an impact as the interactive online lessons we created.