As a classroom teacher, I rarely had the opportunity to go to educational conferences, and so when I was asked to go the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) conference this past February in St. Charles, IL, I absolutely jumped at the offer. I was excited to go to ICE because I knew I would run into educators from several of our schools who use Mastery Manager, and I would be able to talk shop with them about the many exciting new developments on the horizon for Mastery Manager. Other than talking about my children and cars, Mastery Manager ranks right up there with my favorite topics of conversation, and so when I walked into the conference, I felt in my element ready, to talk and spread the good word of Mastery Manager. However, the talking soon transformed into me doing a little more listening, which led to learning and eventually turned into some eureka moments of the possible applications for all this new information in my current PD role at Mastery Manager.
During the two days I attended the ICE conference I was able to talk to educators from over a dozen school districts, meet reps from some tech-forward companies like zSpace and attend breakout sessions conducted by local educators. As I made my way through day one, I realized how exciting a conference like ICE can be for teachers because conferences have the potential to provide a great deal of motivation, inspiration and conversation. Within the several sessions I attended, I took the time to speak to educators, asked about their schools and classes and found that a common theme was developing. Most teachers were happy to be out of their classrooms (and not because they needed a break from the kiddos) to learn more about cutting-edge strategies, gain new ideas about collaboration and test-drive some of the great new tech products that are available. Most of the teachers were there to enhance their own skill-set in order to provide a better educational environment for their students, which to me was inspiring. After day two, my mindset of just talking Mastery Manager shop shifted, and I was convinced that the ICE conference wasn’t just a platform to talk about our outstanding system, but a chance to listen to educators and truly learn about teaching trends that I can ultimately apply into my daily routine, just like all the teachers who attended were planning on doing in their classrooms.
Although I am not a classroom teacher anymore, I know I went through a similar process as all of the teachers who attended ICE. Like my educational colleagues, I took copious notes, met a lot of great people, and learned a ton of new strategies. I took the time to reflect on the conference because I wanted to seriously learn from the experience, share the experience with my colleagues and eventually apply the experience to my current role. I learned many things in two days, but the most important lesson was that inspiration can be found anywhere and can be applied to any classroom, be it a PD session or an 8th grade science lab. Sure, I know I love talking about Mastery Manager (that will never change), but what I love more is learning. And in this case, learning to be a better facilitator to enhance my PD sessions to ultimately have a positive impact on teachers. I loved the experience, and can’t wait for ICE 2017!