The Direct Network

Lessons from ICE: Create a Culture of Learning

Posted by Carrie Watkins on Mar 2, 2016 4:30:00 AM
Topics: professional development, trade shows

In February of last year, a conference outside of Chicago lit up my Twitter feed with interesting ideas and inspiring speakers. After following the #ICE15 feed, I added the Illinois Computing Educators conference on my travel list for 2016. ICE16 was this past week and I was not disappointed. Not every conference will have a Bon Jovi sing-along as part of the keynote.


Here are a few of my takeaways from the conference as well as some links to resources I thought were interesting.

Lesson 1: Make professional development personalized

Step 1: Start PowerPoint.

Step 2: Talk for 60 minutes about a new process, tool or policy.

Step 3: Wake people up before you leave.

I’ve been guilty of this. I may have the best looking PowerPoint on digital content options, but it doesn’t do any good if I have my audience thinking about lunch instead of eBooks.

Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera) led a workshop specifically on making PD more interesting, or at least not a four-letter word. I also attended a session on mini-games by Michael Matera (@mrmatera), which were easily extrapolated to professional development. Here are a few ideas:

  • Speed dating: Set up a few stations with websites, tools or apps. Let everyone try it for five minutes before moving on. Have a different person lead the discussion each time.
  • Play Dates: The second date if you will. Ask a few more questions, get to know each other a little better.
  • Mini-games are great for brain breaks, checking for understanding or just making sure people are awake.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring in some game-night staples. Think Pie Face or Crocodile Dentist to make learning checks more interesting.
  • Poker chips are a trainer’s best friend. Learners can redeem them for prizes, extra credit or more chances to win.
  • Weekly Challenges: Instead of getting everyone together for 60 minutes each week, have them work independently on challenges you create. This is great for an ambassador tech team.

Lesson 2: Be a model for learning

There were so many tweetable moments from this conference. Some of my favorites were from keynotes Jennie Magiera, Adam Bellow (@adambellow) and Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) around modeling life-long learning for students. This is equally true for trainers. If I’m not excited about ways to get better, no one is going to be excited about learning from me.

Lesson 3: Try something nuts

Toward the end of her keynote, Jennie Magiera had us all take out our phones and email ourselves the sentence, “Try something nuts.” I keep looking at that email for the inspiration and the intestinal fortitude to try something that might not work. That people might not find as interesting as I do. That might need to be tweaked before it finally clicks.

The ICE 2016 conference provided several ideas on a few things to try. Steve Dembo’s (@teach42) presentation on memes talked about how they are social commentary, synthesis and creativity all wrapped in to one. Perhaps I let my next training session loose on to tell me how they really feel about digital content.

One of the most popular elements of ICE 2016 was the BreakoutEDU rooms. I was not fast enough with my mouse to get registered for one of these sessions to experience it first-hand, but the overview session gave me a bite-sized version. With the collaboration and strategic thinking around opening a few locks and getting the treasure inside the box (or escaping the room), this might be a great team activity. Or, when the problems are tied to a specific theme, it could be a fun way to hit home complex ideas from a training session.

ICE16 was a great experience with a lot of new ideas. It also starts this season of conferences. Follow me on Twitter @CarrieJWatkins for live tweeting from SXSWedu, ASU GSV and APSCU. If you will be at any of these conferences, contact me. I’d love to connect and possibly feature you on our podcast.

Random Resources from ICE16

About Carrie Watkins

Carrie is a former digital consultant for MBS Direct, who specialized in traveling around the country to learn about new products and services MBS Direct can provide to partner schools and bringing those ideas back into the office to work on with the digital solutions team.

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