By the third day of NECC I was getting a little worn out. I had already done two days of fabulous professional development, networking, and learning. However, this was just the start of the official conference!
I quickly learned that I couldn't attend too many sessions. The sessions overlap and it took some carefully reading of the options and thinking about timing and location to plan out my day. And then I only ended up in two sessions!
I was looking specifically for sessions aimed at primary classrooms. Having taught fourth/fifth grades for many years I had many challenges switching to first last year. One great challenge was technology. I didn't have many ideas for how to help my students and how to use technology efficiently and effectively. So I was hoping to get some new ideas.
The first session I attended was Improving Reading Skills with Digital Media. This session was all about PBS kids' programs and corresponding websites. A lot of the focus was on how they develop the shows and sites. While I found it very interesting, I did not find it hugely helpful for me as a teacher. The basic message I heard was that my students should be using these sites. I'm still trying to decide what I want to do with that. We've gotten our five year old started on the PBS Kids' Island and I'm hoping to get a better sense of it through her. The Island requires a log in so that kids can move progressively through lessons. It is not obvious to kids that they are doing so as it offers them a lot of choice, but it controls what options they have to help them build reading skills. Parents can track their child's progress and there is a lot of information to help parents understand the various skills. The site was designed with low-income children and families in mind. It is possible that I will spend some time discussing it with parents on Back to School Night if it seems worthwhile. Again, it is something I'll be spending more time thinking about.
The only other session I attended was a panel discussion with Maria Knee, Kathy Cassidy, and Amanda Marrinan titled Global Connections in the Primary Classroom. I have followed all three of these women online for some time now and I have immense respect for the work they are doing with primary students. The room was full so it seems clear that there is demand for information and ideas in this area. I liveblogged this session. There were a couple of powerful take-aways for me. The issue of keeping kids safe online is always brought up when talking about elementary school. These teachers remarked that we think about ways to keep kids safe everywhere, on the playground, on field trips, in the cafeteria, etc. Keeping them safe online is our responsibility and something we are quite capable doing. The other big thing I remember is the idea that these classroom don't really look that different from any other kindergarten or first grade classroom. These students are learning to read, write, do math, and more. Various forms of technology are just some of the many tools they use for this learning.