CAIS – an unconference retreat

There are two conferences that are equidistant from where I live and teach, and they happen to sandwich (or bookend) the school year. The first, NEIT, took place in New Paltz, NY in November, and the second, CAIS, concluded yesterday afternoon. We spent a delightful two days along the banks of the Housatonic River at the Trinity Conference Center in West Cornwall, CT for the CAIS Academic Technology Retreat. (Last year I had the pleasure of presenting at this retreat, but was unable to stay beyond lunch due to having to present that evening at my school’s grades 6-7 and 7-8 transition meetings.)

The operative word for this CAIS event is “Retreat” – an opportunity to step back from our hectic tech lives and think about what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Thursday morning began with the ever-zealous Justine setting the tone in her upbeat introduction, including taking care of details such as explaining how an unconference works. (There is no pre-planned agenda; just lots of time for people to post topics about which they would like to share or learn, and then we all join the groups that interest us. On Friday morning I shared a session on PLNs <Personal Learning Networks> using Twitter, isenet.ning.com and Posterous.)

Justine had us introduce ourselves by noting something we are doing now that we never expected to be doing when we signed on for our jobs. Her request gave me a good chuckle as so much has changed since I started out as a “computer teacher” in 1982! And for the record, we (my husband and I) returned from this Retreat reenergized by the friendly people, relaxed learning, and entertaining activities. Thanks to Ruth, here are a few people pictures. Thank you CAIS!

While Thursday afternoon and Friday morning consisted of unconference sessions, Tom Daccord kicked off the retreat with his opening keynote Thursday morning. I have seen Tom’s name multiple times over the past few years, and have come to think of him as a “mover and shaker” in the world of educational technology, so was eager to finally see and hear him in person. Tom’s topic was Nurturing the 21st Century Teacher (which he crafted with Prezi, a web-based “zooming presentation editor”).

Tom’s talk seemed just right for faculty at my school who teach in grades 7-12, the grades in which all of our students have their own laptop computers. He didn’t try for a hard sell; he simply used solid research and anecdotal evidence to make his points while engaging us in some conversation. (For my taste, while Tom made phenomenal eye contact with each of us throughout his talk, there could have been even more interaction; sitting still and listening, with some conversation, is not my preferred mode of learning.) He organized his talk into three components: Framework – where we are and where are we going in terms of students, technology, and learning; Culture – the world of technology into which our students are born; and Leadership – ways in which teachers can teach, including the C-R-C-D Framework.

All through college I was a copious note taker during lectures because it helped me to remember the content. It is now years later and I am trying to train myself to listen more intently and only take notes for those items of specific interest. I am not a fan of tweeting during talks, having determined that it both distracts me and seems rude. So, I’ve made peace by tweeting those items I want to recall, promising to keep the tweets to a minimum, and keeping my laptop cover 4/5 closed except for when making those few tweets, which serve as my note-taking reminders. Here, then, are my tweets from Tom’s talk.

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