Professional Development. It can be the best or the absolute worst in education. Some sessions result in teachers doing the things they hate their students doing – texting, checking email, working on other work, etc.

But there are times where professional development makes you want to get back to school and try something new. You see the benefit of a strategy or the challenge to help challenge a student who needs it and you are ready to start immediately! We need more of these sessions.

At the end of July, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Pete, Jen, Sam, Penny, Ken, and so many others who have been involved in worldgeochat over the past three years at the National Conference for Geographic Education in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not only was I fortunate enough to attend some great sessions, but I was able to spend time with some amazing teachers and it makes me SO excited to get back into the classroom and start!

I know that I’m one of the lucky few who was able to attend, but that doesn’t mean I should hog all the learning and resources. So, here are some takeways from #GeoEdu17!

1. Centers work for students of all ages!

#worldgeochat’s own Jennifer Garner (#therealJenniferGarner) presented on Learning Centers. She talked about what she has done in the past and how it helps students stay engaged. She has inspired me to give it a try. Take a look at Jen’s presentation and see if you want to try it out!

2. Some of the best ideas come from conversations

I began to plan centers. I feared it would be difficult, but everywhere I turned, there was inspiration. I missed my friend Quinn Rollins’ (@jedikermit) presentation on Play Like a Pirate, but over dinner one night I asked him how I could use LEGO on the first day of school. He directed me to a blog post he wrote last year not about LEGO, but rather using Play Doh. First center done. (You can read Quinn’s post here.)

3. Google Earth/Maps/Expeditions are must use tools in geography classrooms!

The Google Earth team was at NCGE presenting and answering questions about all the Google mapping platforms. One of the things that is awesome about Google MyMaps is that you can both annotate the map, and work on it collaboratively. So Center #2 will be to have students collaborate on a class map showing where we’ve been, and what makes that place special. Having them find that location on MyMaps and then see how it compares to other people’s places will lead to conversations between students, but also give me a clue of who these new students are.

I have never done a Google Expedition with students, but I plan to now. While the headsets or Google Cardboard sets are great, you can still have the experience without them. And rather than it just being a 360° video, the teacher can control a Google Expedition and show specific things to the students. We only played with it for a few minutes, but that was enough to convince me to use them more this year!


4. Sam is right about Mystery Skype

Sam Mandeville (@sammandeville) has been a fan of Mystery Skype since I first met her. Her first post on our blog was about her class using Mystery Skype. There were a few different Skype presentations at #GeoEdu, but Sam helped participants see what works, what problems you will incur, and how it’s worth it for students. I know that Ed Casey suggested in a #worldgeochat last year a day of #worldgeochat Skypes, and I’m really hoping that we can make that happen this year. Check out her slides from NCGE.

5. #worldgeochat LOVES @natgeoeducation

This is nothing new, but it can never be stated enough. In addition to us announcing that we are guest contributors to the @natgeoeducation blog, we also were able to learn about National Geographic Educator Certification and their new Geo-Inquiry Process.  I know that I will definitely be blogging about the Geo-Inquiry Process in the near future, but if you haven’t heard anything about it, get a quick look here.

I know that my post can’t possibly capture the entire experience of being surrounded by passionate teachers who want to do amazing things. Hopefully there is something here that you can use in your classroom this year.

Let me know what you think. What was the best session you attended at a conference or inservice day? Comment below and remember, #worldgeochat returns on Tuesday, August 29 at 9 Eastern/8 Central!

 

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