Saturday, March 15, 2014

MACUL: Thoughts and Reflections

Yesterday I was able to attend the MACUL conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan with the rest of the Secondary MAC cohort.  I was excited to have this opportunity to attend a professional conference where so many creative minds come together to talk about education and technology.  Throughout the day I was able to attend three very different sessions.  In this blog post, I will briefly talk about two of the sessions I attended and what I took away from them.

The first session I attended was presented by Liz Kolb and focused on gamification in the classroom.  Liz spoke about shifting the focus from grades to acquiring skills for her university students.  While I do not see myself "gamifying" my entire class, I appreciated that Liz spoke about the upsides and downsides to gamification.  She mentioned that while students had choice in which quest they could pursue to receive badges, students did not always like this choice.  Sometimes giving students less choice makes the learning process less overwhelming (and easier to grade!).  If I do gamify an aspect of my classroom, I will also be sure to remove the leaderboard factor.  Leaderboards were meant to act as a motivational tool for students to work harder on quests.  However, students only resented the leaderboard because it made grades too public and created animosity among students.  I appreciate hearing what worked and what didn't before I try to implement any features of gamification in my classroom.

The next session I went to was focused on using pictures and videos in science and math classrooms to create more engagement.  The presenter treated the session as an actual classroom and asked the audience to solve the math problems he provided on the board.  However, instead of using traditional math problems from a textbook, the presenter used pictures of a wedding cake and a can of frosting to understand volume and surface area.  Drawing students in with problems that are applicable to their lives outside of the classroom induces engagement and provides meaning to learning.  Throughout the session the presenter stopped and asked about the teaching moves he implemented during the session.  This reminded me of one of our MAC classes, but I appreciated the way the presenter reflected on his own practice and asked the audience to do so, as well.  As a science person, I felt that I learned the most from this session even though it was geared towards math.  I want to try to incorporate pictures and videos into my science classroom that allow students to think about the world scientifically.  It is not just about finding "real world connections", but it is about developing students' minds to see the world both mathematically and scientifically.