If you’re headed to #MACUL15, it’s probably because you know they always put on a great event. There are always innovative sessions and you always leave with new ideas to try in your classroom or school. But this year, take your MACUL experience to the next level by not doing what everyone always does. You won’t find most of these listed in the brochure or the conference app, but you just might stumble upon potent possibility when you stray from the herd.
...something big. Maybe it’s a student showcase for your own district or a prototype for an idea that would solve a classroom problem. Seeing all the innovation happening in Michigan’s schools at MACUL is bound to get you fired up. Harness that. Meet up with some colleagues or connections and find a spot to start planning how you can bring that idea to life! The ShiftMich Idea Slam on Thursday night is going to be an epic gathering to showcase this movement...get your tickets for some fun and come support those willing to put their passion on the line. It's like #michED + Shark Tank...AND it's at a Brewery!!
...keynotes and featured sessions. No offense to any of these presenters, but those are usually the sessions that are filmed so if you miss anything important you can watch later. Plus, there will be plenty of people live tweeting from those rooms and the “best” stuff will rise to the top of #macul15, anyways. Big rooms with big names can be inspiring but don’t necessarily mean the biggest impact or the most innovation. On the other hand, making sure you stick around for the Lightning Talks on Friday afternoon means you are supporting home-grown innovators who are taking a big risk to tell their story (for free)...and you never know what will get dropped in these 5 minute bursts of passion and true tales from Michigan schools.
...the new (or old) Detroit. It's not just the beautiful updates to Cobo that provide a fresh perspective...there are too many cool things going on in this city now to be grumpy about Detroit being dumpy. It’s on the way up and what good does it do to focus on the past? I’ve been guilty of “preferring” the Grand Rapids MACUL, too, but once you catch the spirit of the resurgence I promise you will see and experience something that only Detroit can offer. I still have a lot to discover, but here are some recent favorites:
- Corktown! You’ve probably heard of or been to Slow’s BBQ...but what about Ottava Via, Gold Cash Gold, Motor City Wine, Two James Distillery, The Sugar House or my personal favorite nearby- Green Dot Stables? No, these don't show up in the MACUL Conference app under Local Places, but if you don't trust me..just check out Yelp. Find trendy spots for a drink, unique food options and classic Detroit dive bars all in the vicinity of old Tiger Stadium.
- Culture! When I did a walking tour during TedXDetroit, it opened my eyes to some of the amazing buildings downtown that I never would have experienced otherwise. Consider sticking around on Saturday to take in the Detroit Historical Museum and the DIA...you won't be disappointed.
- Craft beer! Atwater, Detroit Beer Co, Traffic Jam & Snug, and Motor City Brewing all make their own. The new Hopcat is an amazing space with Michigan taps for days and the Republic Tavern has a menu to satisfy the foodies in your group plus occupies a cool historic building that is newly revived.
...questions that others aren’t asking. Be curious during the sessions you’re in and the conversations you’re a part of. Don’t hold back while group think takes over. Tactfully poke around the edges and dig into the unspoken implications of “the next big thing”. Continue the conversations with others who aren't satisfied with simply talking about the tools by joining a #michED meet-up:
- Wednesday night- 8-9:30p at the Motor Lounge in the lobby of the RenCen
- Thursday evening- During the MACUL Party in the Cobo Atrium from 5:30-7:30p
...everything down. Don't succumb to information overload because you don't have a system of offloading your ideas. “Don’t worry about taking notes, everything is in this slide deck that I’m sharing”. Ignore that. Capture quotes, link trails, and half-baked thoughts. Unload everything buzzing around in your brain into some sort of searchable database. For me it’s some combination of Diigo, Workflowy and Trello. Sometimes paper is faster on the go, so I’ll pull out a mini notebook to act as a parking lot until I can digitize it. Schedule an hour where you can look everything back over to pursue the connections and patterns and go beyond simply trying out a new website or two with your class. If you're feeling generous, share your reflections with the world like Rob did last year.
....something with your hands. The maker movement is in full stride and for the first time ever we’ve got an awesome space to disconnect from the devices and reconnect with the innate creativity that comes from building and breaking and gluing and hacking. This (semi) digital detox on Friday in the Atwater Lounge can be an independent time to let all those ideas swim around in your head or can be a collaborative time to invent something as a team.
...with students at the Student Showcase. Conferences can feel like a nice little break away to be with adults, but when else do you get the chance to glimpse into the lessons from so many other classrooms in such a convenient way?? And these are the projects that are going to stick with these kids for years to come. So plan for at least an hour on Thursday between 11-1 to mingle with the kids...because they are the entire reason we are here, right? Oh, and start planning for how you can bring a group to next year’s conference. You won’t regret it, it’s a super-cool experience for all involved.
...anything interesting. And I don’t mean selfies with Twitter people. Your phone is a lens that helps you reflect and share, and this event in this space only comes along a handful of times. Find tiny moments and the big picture and everything in between. Try not to take a photo that could easily be replicated...you are looking at it from your unique perspective and the media you capture tells a lot about your story.
...the second you stop trusting the presenter to deliver something that will resonate. It might be awkward, but it’s not rude. It’s also not a judgement, it’s a decision. We all have to be OK with others finding the right fit and making the most their time. Sometimes you can make it to a Plan B session, but other times this means you have the opportunity to capitalize on some impromptu moments. It’s like an unexpected snow day where you end up tinkering with that thing you’d always been meaning to try. Maybe you end up grabbing coffee with someone else wandering the exhibits or maybe you use social media to plan a meetup. Maybe you put your headphones in and write or maybe you follow-up on those notes from the last session. Just don’t be miserable by sitting through a session that doesn’t match your needs.
...something unique and share it with the world. It doesn’t have to be pretty and you don’t need permission. A few years ago some goofballs turned app sharing into a March Madness tournament and acted like sports broadcasters. Last year Ben Rimes snuck an iPad on stage and captured a time-lapse of the keynote. Everyone has a production studio at their disposal now and this is a safe place to tinker with the power of digital publishing. Use MACUL as a sandbox to not just do a test run with your toolkit but to actually “ship something”. While everyone else is sitting in rows during a session...find a spot to geek out on your mini project. Maybe you can even recruit a collaborator. This conference is fertile ground for creative juices, so don’t be a bystander!
… a visit to see someone’s teaching in action that has inspired you. Actually find a way to visit their school! I’ve heard many teacher presenters say it over the years… “my classroom is always open if you want to see this..” but how many actually follow through on that? Especially if your district does not participate in things like classroom labs, instructional rounds or the MI Teacher Exchange, you need to get outside the walls of your building! Take a personal day if you have to. Use your MACUL connection with that person and follow-up with them within a week to set up your visit for the spring.
Whether you are heading to MACUL seeking inspiration, a few useful tools for your classroom, new connections, or all of the above…giving yourself permission to swerve outside the well-traveled lanes might lead to Eventful moments whose impact reaches beyond what you previously thought a conference could provide. Have fun! -Brad