Teachers have the best job. Work 10 months of the year, then totally bum it for the summer months, right? Wrong! Yes, I’ll admit, I’ve slacked a bit and kicked up my feet in relaxation. Yes, I’ve completely ignored my growing “To Do” list to have a movie night with a giant bowl of popcorn.

But the beauty of summer vacation for educators is that we get to reflect, revamp, and refocus.

Professional development, I feel, is the most effective in the summer. I know the main areas in which I want to focus on, so I can push myself to engage in professional development that will work for me in such areas. The best place to get a vast amount of resources to mold to those focuses? Conferences!

This summer, as Chris stated in his blog post on Monday, the WGC crew had the opportunity to attend AND PRESENT at the National Conference for Geographic Education (NCGE) Conference this summer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Presentations varied from shorter paper sessions to longer keynote speakers and celebrations. The conference offered technology workshops, online mapping workshops, visual thinking techniques, inquiry techniques and so much more! I was wonderfully overwhelmed on just the first day, and that consisted of only 3 workshops!

So here are my top 3 takeaways from NCGE: 

1.  The Inquiry Process and Taking Action

One of the most important skills that I hope to help students develop is how to generate deep and thought-provoking questions. Inquiry skills is one of the essential 21st century skills that we as educators must aid in developing amongst our students. But once students research these questions and get their answers, what next? Take action.

There were two major presentations that make an impression on me, and I can’t wait to implement some of what I learned into the classroom:

  1.  National Geographic led a session called “The Geo-Inquiry Process,” a 5 phase approach to investigating and proposing solutions to community based issues. We ask, collect, visualize, create, and act. From this session, we all received multiple resources of how to get students to develop thoughtful and actionable inquiries. One of the biggest tools that will come in handy is a map of questions to help students understand whether or not they have a strong, actionable question. It’s key for students that inquiry isn’t about what’s solvable by entering it into Google. I’m extremely excited to add this to the classroom!
  2.  Worldgeochat’s own Chris Heffernan led a remarkable presentation about taking action within the classroom. He shared his experiences with the idea and explained the good, the bad, and the “what’s next” for taking action within his classroom. He gave us the opportunity to start brainstorming ideas about what we could possibly do within our own classrooms and within our communities. Check out his slides from NCGE.

2.  Visual Literacy Skills in the Geography Classroom

Last year, I tried the “See, Think, Wonder” visual literacy skill within the classroom. It kind of worked and kind of didn’t. So when I saw that there was going to be a workshop on visual literacy, I knew I had to attend this. How do I get students to create inferences and to dissect images? At the workshop, we started out with the “See, Think, Wonder” technique, but Bridget Willis Smith, the presenter, added another question: “What do you not see?” Such a simple question that can go such a long way! We also looked at the 5 Card Flickr and “What’s Going on in this Picture?” by the New York Times. See Bridget’s slides here.

3.  Graphic Novels

One of the most exciting parts of the whole conference was the opportunity to meet Quinn Rollins and see one of his three presentations. Although I missed his Play Like a Pirate presentation, I was able to attend his session on using graphic novels in the classroom. He’s read over 600 graphic novels. I didn’t even know there were that many! He provided a list of engaging graphic novels to use within the classroom, such as “Ms. Marvel,” “The Arrival,” “Trickster” (which I won a copy of!), and “Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea.” One of the biggest takeaways from his presentation was that’s it’s okay to not use all of a graphic novel within a unit. Use segments, maybe a visual literacy skill activity, or create “what happens next?”

A bonus 4th takeaway from NCGE: I can be a leader. This was my first taste of presenting at a national conference, and I did two presentations! The first with the amazing worldgeochat crew about expanding your PLN through social media, the second by myself with the focus being on Mystery Skype. It was exhilarating to be a 26 year old, newer educator, and still be seen and respected as someone who has something to offer. I enjoy helping people expand their ideas and their resources, and I hope I was able to help someone in someway or another. As fellow WGC moderator Jen told me, “I’ve been bit by the presentation bug.” I hope that never goes away.


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