For the purpose of

What is my purpose?

Here are a few session titles from some recent educational technology conferences:

  • Google Apps in the classroom
  • Free and easy screencasting tools
  • Creating a classroom website using Weebly
  • Edit video online for free with the YouTube editor
  • Classroom blogging
  • Google+ and Hangouts
  • Minecraft in the classroom
  • Video on the iPad
  • Podcasting
  • Let’s go for a (Google) Drive!
  • QR codes in the classroom
  • Creating Google Sites
  • Student online newspapers
  • Fusion tables
  • Digital storytelling in the elementary classroom

These are very tool-focused. I know that we only have limited space for our session titles. But somehow – in our titles, our descriptions, and, most importantly, the sessions themselves – we need to keep a primary focus on the learning purpose(s), not the tools:

  • Minecraft in the classroom for the purpose of ___?
  • Free and easy screencasting tools for the purpose of ___?
  • Creating Google Sites for the purpose of ___?
  • Classroom blogging for the purpose of ___?

Next time we plan a workshop or a conference session, can we try to make for the purpose of ___? the primary focus of our session, its title, and its description? I am pledging to do a better job of this myself. Will you join me?

take the pledge

[see who’s taken the pledge to focus on learning first!]

16 Responses to “For the purpose of”

  1. Exactly. You nailed it! Why? That’s the thing. Let us not forget the purpose and let’s hope it ties directly to the bottom line: student success. Thanks for a great post.

  2. Spot on, Scott. In addition to educators taking this pledge, I’m wondering how we can specifically share this message with conference committees charged with recruiting and approving conference breakout sessions. I’m specifically thinking of ISTE at the national level and ITEC here in Iowa.

    • For the Iowa 1:1 Institute each April, we specifically tell all presenters that 1) presentations should be discussion- and activity-focused, not ‘sit and get;’ and 2) the focus should be on learning, not the tools. I don’t think every session hits the mark every time, but I believe this is the right idea and should be what is in every conference’s call for proposals AND evaluation rubrics.

  3. Brevity is easy if you start with the purpose and leave off “for the puropose of…” For example:

    Social Learning with VoiceThread
    Increase Discussions by Flipping with Screencasting


  4. Excellent. And a follow-up will be “and how will you know?”. Your work with Julie Graber and Trudacot will be vital to this process as well.
    Great work!

  5. We started renaming all of our tech classes/workshops to add the learning purpose/pedagogy to the name. For example, instead of saying “Google Forms” we call it “Formative Assessments and Surveys through Google Forms.”

    We always want to point out the purpose of the tool and when/why you’d use the tool for better learning/teaching.

    Big impact on perception and making connections, with little effort. Win!

  6. On the other side of the coin there are the workshops that are so flowerily titled you have no clue what the objectives of it is. I’ve gone to many workshops where the title somewhat alluded to …something and I’ve had to leave because it was something entirely different.
    Titles could be: Using TOOL to meet/reach LEARNING OBJECTIVE or Using TOOL in CURRICULUM AREA.
    Workshop description should then layout the itinerary and what attendees should leave with.

  7. Good point. I wonder if they named sessions this way 20 years ago?
    – Easy Chalk & Blackboards
    – Lego in the Classroom
    – Sitting Circles
    – Binders & Filing Cabinets
    – Videos in the VCR

  8. Ha, I was HALF right with my sessions for next week. My other session is Google Apps for Formative Assessment.

  9. This reminds me of Jurassic Park. We are so focused on whether or not we can do something that we don’t stop to think whether we should. Though I love technology in the classroom, I do think we aren’t doing enough to highlight the why and the reason. I’m not saying the reasons aren’t there but in some cases they may not be obvious to some teachers… which is why we end up having smart boards used as screens for projectors.

  10. While I’m with you 100% the truth is these games of titling sessions are something we have to live with. I met someone who I know is a great presenter and had a wonderful workshop lined up but because the title didn’t have those key tools in them, had almost no participants. This has happened to me often when i want to spend time focussing on the why.
    This same person renamed the exact same workshop and put IPad in the title and had a full house.
    The challenge is that learning how to use a tool and going to a workshop/presentation with someone you don’t know is intimidating if the focus seems too deep. In a one hour workshop it’s a difficult thing to get very deep.

    I also think people’s expectations of workshops are to learn a couple of things they can use in their classrooms on Monday. “QR codes in the classroom” seems doable. “Using Augmented Reality to Transform Learning” seems daunting.

    I’m probably rambling but as someone who does a lot of workshops and hates focusing on the tools, I’ve been trying of late to cater to the tool lovers with titles and descriptions that don’t seem too intimidating or overwhelming. I still do a lousy job and am never sure I’m giving folks what they want.

  11. Interesting! Having just presented twice in the last month, I never thought about how the title of the workshop makes a huge difference!

  12. Jessica (@TriSciCurious) Reply October 27, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I agree to an extent. When I read that list I wasn’t at all focusing on the purpose. What I noticed was look how technology focused/geared these sessions are. And that’s awesome! As a teacher, I feel it is my professional job to make a tool fit an objective when pertinent. I can say that learning about the tool would be beneficial to me because I have the expertise to know how to use it with purpose in my classroom. I know my methodology, situation, and students better than anyone else and, therefore, don’t need someone to tell me how I should use it.

  13. As someone who also does a lot of presenting, I can honestly say that the title is definitely something that has to hook potential participants. I feel the onus is on us as presenters to ensure that we are talking about the why. I know that the focus of our presentations have been less about the tools and more about how the tools impact student learning. As Dean mentioned, many participants are looking for the nuggets they can take back and use immediately. My job is to ensure they take away the “why” they should want to go back and implement right away. I do agree with your premise of focusing on the purpose, and think we can still accomplish that with a catchy title.

  14. SO true it not about the tool it is about the process of learning. The why of implementation and how it captures a purpose for learning.

  15. While I totally agree in principal, we only have so many creative outlets for punny titles. Technology provides us with many opportunity with puns in our titles “Learning in the Palm (pilot) of your hand” or “Get SMART – more than just a bad TV show”

    Personally I think we can make our focus more “why-based” but while making our description embedding of tools to get to the why. I’ve been shifting our PD away from this, but like Dean says, our best attended sessions are “iPad 101” type sessions.

    The good news is, teachers are starting to shift. At our last iPadpalooza (shameless plug and tool-based title rolled into one!) our most consistent feedback was a want and need to dig deeper into how kids learn with the tools more than how they teach with them.

    The shift is coming…we just need a clever title for it.

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