Thursday, March 17, 2011

Things I Learned at MACUL11

So, today I got to go to the MACUL Conference, courtesy of our Teaching with Technology class. Here are some things I learned:

  1. You can do really individualized, project-based, interdisciplinary learning that is driven by each student's interests, meets the state standards, and reaches kids who would otherwise drop out physically and / or mentally. But you may have to blow up the traditional school structure to do it.
  2. Using the annotate feature in YouTube lets you and/or your students put commentary on videos and make interactive "choose your own adventure" video sequences. Also, youtube is fun, and making youtube videos can make school more fun. And sometimes it can be educational too.
  3. Universal design for learning (UDL) is about giving kids access to the topics in multiple ways, giving them multiple ways to demonstrate their learning, and giving them choices so they can use the ways to learn that work best for them. There are lots of resources on the CAST site.
  4. Project-based learning is cool, and there are lots of resources for it here and here.
  5. You can use a combination of Google Sites and Google Docs to enable your students to collect their work over time in an e-portfolio and to enable you and your colleagues to share and collaborate on curriculum resources. There are resources and how-to's here, and it looks reasonably straightforward.
If there was a theme to my day, it was how to use technology to engage students in individualized, self-motivated, creative, project-based learning, and thinking about what constraints need to be shifted within the traditional model of school to make it work.

It seems like the most critical element is team-based teaching or some other way of solving the problem of "I want to study the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from a scientific, mathematical, political, literary, and foreign language points of view but my students all have five different teachers for each of those subjects, and that's a lot of cats to herd teachers to coordinate."

Also helpful: One-to-one computers. So your students can access your UDL-based electronic texts and interactive assignments, collaborate with each other even when they're at home, and get to their project and e-portfolio sites whenever they need to, regardless of their family's economic resources.


  1. Wow - I think I will let you design my conference attendance next year. I saw a WAY presentation that had my head full of questions but the rest were less memorable than I had hoped.

  2. I was kind of ruthless in leaving sessions I didn't find engaging or helpful or thought provoking after the first few minutes. (You'll notice I have five different sessions' worth of reflections up there, and there were only four sessions on Thursday, since I didn't get there in time for the keynote.)