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Connecting the corners of the globe for Monday night professional development

March 26, 2012

Tonight, on twitter, I saw this tweet:

Evan Weingberg is an outstanding math and physics teacher teaching halfway across the world in China, so I thought, why not?

And once we got a few technical bugs worked out, Andy Rundquist and I got a private screening of Evan’s excellent talk on Geogebra, which showed me so me great ideas for using Geogebra—who knew it had both a CAS and a spreadsheet built in with very easy to use notation?

Here are a few thoughts about this:

  • How cool is it that a teacher can just send out a tweet to get some feedback on a talk he’s giving at an upcoming conference and get a college professor and high school teacher from the complete other side of the world to join in for the rehearsal?
  • How much better would conferences be if all presenters did this?
  • Better yet, wouldn’t conferences be even better if these presentations were practiced and recorded in advance, and then we used precious face to face time for real collaboration? Yep, the flipped conference.
  • How cool is it that when I want to learn a more about Geogebra, I can learn serendipitously from a teacher in China?

Remind me again why I should sign up for that expensive conference 4 months away that is going to tell me more about how to use some technology tool in the classroom?

Professional development is changing from the ground up. Who’s going to tell the conference organizers?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2012 1:11 am

    How cool is this?!?! I saw this on twitter, but came too late. How very giving of you and Andy to give up precious time to watch and help. I know it was insightful, and you gleaned come really cool information from it, but really, how very kind and giving of you both to do this.
    I LOVE your idea of the flipped conference. What an awesome conference it could be! It would require a lot of leg work, and I’m not entirely sure everyone would be willing. But is that a bad thing? Better yet, they could make it available to EVERYONE. So, if you cannot make it to a national conference, (like I can’t 90% of the time) you can still virtually attend at some level. And that level isn’t so bad, it is exactly what we would be getting in person currently. It would be a way for the conference to make more money too if they wanted to charge a minimal fee for those attending the conference virtually. Hey, how about twitter feeds for those attending the conference virtually? Maybe displayed on a side board. People at the conference and at home could ask questions of the presenter. You could really be on to something here John! I hope someone from AAPT is reading your blog. I really like your ideas!

  2. March 27, 2012 6:49 am

    John, who is going to tell the conference organizers? I believe you just did.

    The flipped conference – a good concept.

    Having said all this, I still like the idea of occasionally getting out from a familiar venue and gaining not only pedagogical but geographical (cultural) perspective.

    • March 27, 2012 7:34 am

      I absolutely agree about the need to change venue from time to time and connect face to face in a different location. One sad thing I find about national level conferences is often in the desire to package everything up into a nice convenient bubble for attendees, participants can lose this geographical and cultural connection to a place, and every conference ends up the same—another big conference center connected to a big hotel. Here again, conference organizers could probably leverage social media and technology to help attendees better connect with the local community.

  3. pshircliff permalink
    March 27, 2012 7:30 am

    Sorry I missed it. We use Geogebra in Geometry class (have not used it in Physics). I have never “seen” someone present on it so would be interested in how they use it.

    • March 27, 2012 7:38 am

      Evan said he would try to record and share his presentation, so I’m looking forward to seeing it. Based on what I saw, there really isn’t anything else out there that offers such a wide range of tools (spreadsheet, graphing package, CAS, geometry package) in such an easy to use package as Geogebra, and it really seems like the website doesn’t do the best job of touting all of its features.

  4. March 28, 2012 12:45 pm

    Some interesting questions arise here:

    If the purpose of a conference is to impart knowledge, then once we have watched and participated in the presentations online, then why would we meet in person?

    If the purpose of the conference is networking, could we do the networking online, and not meet in person? Is the face to face experience necessary?

    If the purpose of the conference is to ensure that people have a working knowledge of the material so they can use it in context in their classrooms, why aren’t we hosting the conference in classrooms (so people can see it in the same context as the knowledge will be used)?

    If the purpose of the conference is to be inspired, could we replace the conference with TED talks?

    • March 29, 2012 2:11 am

      The value of a conference is in the combination of several things: new knowledge, meeting people (and reconnecting with old friends), simultaneous focus of many people on the same thing, being away from the routine distractions of one’s job and one’s life.

      I don’t attend many conferences (too expensive), but I’ve found that being away from one’s normal routine distractions is essential to getting anything out of a conference. Having one’s laptop open and reading e-mail prevents almost all the good stuff from happening.

      I fear that virtual conferences are likely to be mostly unsuccessful, as people will find it too hard to get away from distractions if they are in their normal place. Distributed conferences (with groups of people meeting in classrooms in different parts of the world) might work better—there is still some face-to-face meeting and being out of your usual space avoids a lot of the usual distractions.

      • March 29, 2012 8:16 am

        Agreed. Virtual conferences won’t (and shouldn’t) replace real ones, but if we make better use of tools like virtual meetings, I think we can make real conferences much more productive.

        • March 29, 2012 11:08 am

          I’m sure that real conferences can be made more productive, but I’m not sure that virtual meetings are necessarily going to help. They’ll probably improve the oversized megaconferences, but the small, focused workshops (which are probably the most valuable conferences) are likely to be hurt by a growth of virtual meetings.

  5. March 28, 2012 12:53 pm

    I do find it interesting that people can learn things from half way across the world in the comfort of there living room or wherever they happen to be with the way technology is growing there wont be a need for expensive meetings. Having to fly and get a hotel room everything can be done over the internet with such software as Skype, and Google Plus people can have conversations, meetings, class and various other things with out leaving there city or maybe even there own house.

  6. March 31, 2012 4:03 am

    HI all,

    I again want to reiterate my appreciation for the time that Andy and John spent with me talking about the presentation. I have great respect for them both, particularly having read much of their stuff before ever getting the courage to contact them directly.

    I am one of a two member math department at my current school. Previously, I had nearly thirty other math teachers I could bounce ideas off of, and this makes a huge difference in the iterative planning process to decide how to approach teaching a particular topic. My colleague currently is as busy as me, and we have great conversations about teaching and content. If I want to travel to another international school to share and get ideas, I have to travel at least 100 miles.

    The ability to share and get feedback instantly through twitter and blogging is incredible. The intangibles that come out of meeting with others by being physically present at a conference can’t be ignored, but in the absence of that opportunity, the second best option of connecting with others is through virtual contact. I made it a full year (and a month) teaching in relative isolation before learning how it could quickly make me a better learner and teacher.

    There’s no going back for me!

    I have posted a video and a post of my presentation here:

    Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think. I’d love to chat about it with anyone interested.

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