NETA 2023 Recap

I’ll always remember my first NETA conference in 2007. . . the buzz, the people, the energy. All these years later, I’ve changed, but those good NETA vibes haven’t. My school paid for me to attend the last two days, and I can’t help paying it forward and sharing some goodness. So in that spirit, here are some notes on NETA 2023.

Zoom Up Stuff

ChatGPT... This session, by Dr. Lynne Herr was seminal. I went to bed that night thinking about it. I woke up thinking about it. In grad school we talked about seminal teaching/research moments as places where things shift. Those spots where the furniture in your mind is rearranged forever. When I was a new teacher, I told students to go home and find the answer to some question. I don’t remember what I asked, but I remember a student walking out, Googling it on his phone, and coming back for his extra credit within 30 seconds. I thought to myself, “I’m teaching in a brave new world. These kids have the Internet in their pockets.” I had a similar experience hearing Lynne talk about ChatGPT at NETA. Lynne has been a mentor to me for awhile. When she talks, I pay attention. I had heard about this disruptive/transformative technology, but her teaching is what gave me courage to dip my toe into the artificial intelligence water. Lynne said, “With this technology you can be empowered and you can be afraid; in this session, you will probably be both.” And I was. I must have looked shell-shocked as many of the session participants filed out. As I sat there, feeling both excited and terrified, a fellow participant heaved a sigh, and we looked at each other with empathy and started up a conversation. In our discussion, I learned of our shared interests, and Kiewit Luminarium. I loved the learning in this session, and I loved ending it with something that no artificial intelligence could architect, the spontaneity of human interaction, the play that happens when we connect to someone new.

Lindsay Zilly was the keynote speaker on day two. Her secondary session had some strong tidbits for teacher sustainability. While I’m not a fan of voices that tell us teachers to take care of ourselves, she had practical suggestions around boundary setting. 1) Quit saying “no problem,” instead say “my pleasure.” This simple change in wording can communicate that our time is valuable and that we are not expendable. 2) Don’t apologize for your priorities. Instead of, “Sorry, I can’t help out; my son has a baseball game,” say “My son has a baseball game, I won’t be able to help out.” 3) Working too hard diminishes our creativity, and 4) Gripe Jam protocol – While this sounds negative, it’s actually agentive. A group shares out gripes on sticky notes and then moves them to show how many people they impact. In short, it’s a formula to help groups create intentional action around issues.

Note Nuggets

Adobe Creative Cloud Express & Canva – These two technologies can help us build graphics, fliers, posters, webpages, newsletters, resumes, and more. Adobe Spark (rebranded) is free for educational settings. As someone who’s felt the joy of doing Newspaper layout from literal scratch both on paper and digitally, some of this feels like cheating, but in today’s busy world, it’s a gift. Plus the way Adobe shows layers can help kids as young as 1st grade learn about design in a way I didn’t learn until college.

Project Zero out of Harvard (from Jenna Krambeck-Reeh) – This thinking routines toolbox is deep in the research. It’s like a free online methods textbook.

Appointment Scheduling in Google Calendar (From Jackie Ediger) – In Google Calendar, if you’re in week mode, you can create appointments (free for educational Google accounts) and share a link for open appointments.

Google Arts and Culture – Pre-made lessons, virtual field trips, interactive exhibits. Teacher playground!

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

In all of it I’m struck by the generosity of teachers. Again and again, a speaker would share something they made–no strings attached. Between sessions, I kept running into educators from previous seasons in my life. After a short catch up, I was struck again and again with their positivity, their enthusiasm for education, and their curiosity about my teaching and life. Rick Rudin (my current reading and podcast obsession) says that when we are all zooming straight ahead, it takes someone who veers left to help us realize we can turn right, or up or down. The way these teachers see life helps me to see my own with fresh eyes. I am thankful to have been at NETA, surrounded by Nebraska educators and content still full of zest after all these years.

I brought home two sticker souvenirs. A colorful one that says, “Sunset Chaser” called out to me, as did a tried and true NETA one. Tonight’s sunset is at 7:34. I’m going outside to soak in the last light of what has been a great two days. I’m thankful my district got me a sub. I’m thankful my hubby took care of all things on the home front (to the tune of new puppy and a sick kiddo). Gratitude Gal is a lot of things, one of them is a teacher. And this teacher is thankful for fresh starts, for old NETA friends and new, for days of snow that turn to sun, and for our new puppy, tail wagging, ready to welcome me home.

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