This is an unsolicited advert for the Teach21 Conference at The School at Columbia. I have not been paid for my testimonial.
For a third year in a row the cohort of tech-savvy proponents of progressive pedagogy from The School at Columbia are offering a stupendous professional development institute. The institute is organized into single and multi-day workshops that span the range of disciplines and ages. The focus is not wholly on technology in the classroom, rather the organizing principle is as the name suggests, 21st Century teaching. Technology is at the heart of the institute, but its multitudinous limbs and organs include: collaboration, essay writing, fitness, assessment design, social networking, co-teaching, design, cultural awareness, and something called "algebraic thinking"-- which sounds scary. I cannot imagine a day spent thinking algebraically, but the workshops I have attended continue to positively shape my work.
Two two-day workshops stick in my mind; I most remember the GoogleDocs workshop from 2011 and the Personal Essay workshop from 2012. Here is why they stick, and I hope you are ready for this revelation: time. I was allowed (given even!) the time to sit in a room with two Google certified experts and learn all about the Google Apps and then more even more time to explore and create. My Googlexpertise expanded exponentially (I think I'm using that word correctly) in those two days and a year later I went back to grow my writing chops. Eve Becker walked us through a speed version of her unit on personal essay writing. With Eve, I was forced to take time to draft and shape my own personal essays. She insisted that we dig deeply and then write honestly. As is typical when I'm challenged, I resisted. I couldn't figure out why I was so cranky though. After much internal Sturm und Drang, I realized I was just scared to write -- that is when I started writing. I saw the position of my own students who may be resistant or cranky when offered a challenge and that empathy and the skills Eve presented are going to be a lifelong lesson. This two-day workshop was the kind of whirlwind where you spin, spin, and end up dizzy but in better shape rather than battered.
Highlights of these weeklong institutes are the daily keynote speakers. Sitting in a cozy library with three dozen teachers listening to Howard Gardner chat amiably for an hour about his writing process will continue to be my "happy place" during stressy times. The invited speakers are as varied as the workshops offered and last summer we heard chef Bill Telepan proselytize the power of produce in children's diets. Not a topic any of us would have argued against, I assure you.
All of these wonderful things are ready for you at Teach21. I plan to go back this summer for workshops on conferring with students, co-teaching, and a refresher on GoogleApps. I hope you'll consider coming along. Follow them on Twitter for updates and info:
[Ah! I forgot about the food! Breakfast and lunch are included every day and they are well done.]