AP Summer Institute 2008

June 25, 2008 at 2:20 pm 3 comments

Today is the third of five days I will be spending at the AP Summer Institute in Plano, Texas.  It’s been an interesting few days.

First of all, I would like to say that the longer I am in this profession – more specifically, the longer I teach at my school – the more I realize how great I’ve got it.  Most of the teachers here have little (if any) access to technology in their classrooms.  Case in point: two days ago, post-lunch discussion revolved around how great ELMOs are.  Really?  ELMOs?  I only know of one on my entire campus.

At this very moment, I am sitting in a computer lab where I’ve been since 12:45 and will remain until 4:00 – THREE HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES IN THE COMPUTER LAB!  We are supposed to use this time to look up websites to use in our classes.  There are several things I would like to say about this.

  1. Coming from a district with 1-to-1 laptop implementation at the high school level, believe you me, I have more sites to use in my classes than I’ll ever actually be able to use.  It’s not that I don’t want to look for more, or that I think I already have all the answers.  It’s that when I’m at school and not doing something directly involving students, I’m searching the internet for sites I can use in class.  This is what I do, people.  I am expected to use technology in my classroom.  It’s part of my job description.  I do not need a random three-hour block of time to do this.
  2. I actually feel like this is a little bit of a cop-out on the part of my instructor.  It’s like he didn’t have anything planned for this afternoon, so he just decided to send us to the computer lab.  To be honest, an hour – maybe 90 minutes – would have been plenty of time.  Three hours and fifteen minutes is ridiculous, and I’ll tell you how I know this:
  3. I’m blogging right now instead of doing my assignment.  The girl in front of me is looking at maternity clothes on Target.com.  The woman next to her – and the woman next to her – were on Facebook a few minutes ago.  I’ve already checked two email accounts, both my Facebook and Myspace profiles, and Google Reader for new feeds about a million times.

I am a little disappointed by what was supposed to be “some of the best training [I’ll] ever attend.”  I thought we were going to have lots of time to share best practices and that I would be given – literally handed – tons of lesson ideas for my AP Government class.  Instead, I have viewed umpteen PowerPoints, all with blue backgrounds, and all of which have literally been read to me.  This must be the “do as I say, not as I do” method of teaching.

I knew I was in trouble on Sunday evening when I received an email informing me we would have a guest lecturer on Monday morning from 9:30 to 11:30.  Okay, here’s the thing: I don’t care who you are; there is no such thing as a “good” two-hour lecture.  You might be good, but you’re not two hours good.

I don’t understand why, despite all the studies showing it’s basically the worst possible way to learn, educators continue to force us to sit through hour after hour of lectures.  If you’re going to attempt to jazz it up a little with a PowerPoint, please – I beg you – do not make a PowerPoint that consists solely of one ginormous block of text on a slide.  Please try to break up your text into several succinct bullet points.  When you have one bullet point and so much text that it’s auto-formatted itself to 6pt. text size, I get overwhelmed and tune you out immediately.  sigh.  I’m just saying.

And also, please understand that I do have a college degree and can, in fact, read it for myself.

One more gripe.  We’ve paid (or our districts have paid) $450 per person to attend this weeklong funfest.  The food at these things is legendary; we’ve heard of participants being fed breakfast and lunch as well as a morning snack and an afternoon snack.  And at lunch, we’re talking four-course meals, burrito bars, and all sorts of deliciousness that boggles the imagination.

For our lunch Monday, we got to assemble our own sandwiches with bread, deli meat, and cheese.  Today’s snack?  Animal crackers.  I’m telling you: they’ve spared no expense.  🙂

All complaining aside, there are some positives here.

The first is that I’ve met a couple of really nice people who seem to be really, really good at what they do.  Since I am the only person on my campus who’s taught this course, it is very reassuring to know that there are other people locally that I can turn to for help and/or lesson plan ideas when I need it/them.  They are chock-full of fabulous activities and I am excited to try a few things this year.

I have also been able to share with them some digital resources that they can use in their classrooms.  One girl likes to have her students volunteer a few hours for both sides of a given political campaign and create “scrapbooks” of their experiences.  Today, I referred her to Scrapblog, an online scrapbooking site that students can use to put their pictures, videos, and text together in a digital format and share with anyone in the world.  It’s kind of fun to introduce others to the concept of digital storytelling, and for them to see that it doesn’t have to be difficult.

When one teacher lamented yesterday that she’d love to have her students make video “documentaries” of presidential candidates, but that she couldn’t because she didn’t know how to use MovieMaker, I suggested she just have a student show her.  She looked at me like she’d never considered that idea before.  I followed up with, “They’d love to show you how to do it.”  And she said, “You’re right!  I bet they would!”  Of course they would!

My mom tells me, “The learning is in the conversation.”  I am starting to see just how true that is, and in so many ways!

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Entry filed under: Education.

“That book will scare the hell out of you.” Young Blogger in Kenya

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kwyrick  |  July 1, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Yours sounds a bit like my experience at an APSI. We too spent about two hours in a computer lab looking at websites. We also watched the US World Cup match (although most of us weren’t too upset about that one) and were lectured to over PowerPoints. I even got a notebook full of shoddily photocopied handouts. Like you though I did take away a few good ideas, but often I felt it was more of a waste. The best parts were the conversations with other teachers.

  • 2. Miss A  |  July 1, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Conversations with other teachers are always the best, especially those who share their ideas, rubrics, etc! Thats why I try to be generous with my materials. And I suppose thats WHY Love blogging–hearing other’s ideas and sharing my own. And that type of learning environment is the best ever!

  • 3. Beth Bradley  |  August 10, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Ick. Sounds like you had a terrible experience. Next year, see if you can catch an AP institute at TCU. I got some great stuff for AP World History, more than I can use. Also, sign up for the Saturday one day workshop – round about February, I think. The one last year was excellent. There is one problem with all of these institutes, though.The problem is, as you mentioned, that we are spoiled in our 1:1 school. I have learned and implemented more tech in the last two years than in all the other years I have taught put together. Most other schools have one or two aging computers per classroom and a few computer labs that you have to reserve ahead of time. The APSI must take all this into account when they present the institutes. Consequently, you get a lot of “traditional” teaching, which doesn’t have to involve powerpoints, I might add.
    That being said, I took a look at Scrapblog as you suggested. I am going to use it somewhere this year, certainly in APWH. I’ve already used Smilebox and I think Scrapblog may be more suitable to classroom uses. Thanks for the tip.

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