20- Learn, Discover, Share

The HAPS Strategic Plan
The HAPS Strategic Plan

Who would have thought that a meeting about a Strategic Plan could be remotely stimulating???  But after a day of inspirational update speakers and HAPSter-ific camaraderie, listening to people discuss the vision, value and history of HAPS was a nice cap to the day.

I’ve been a member of HAPS since 2011.  I was originally drawn to HAPS because of its amazing list-serv and through the list, was delighted to discover that HAPSters focus on TEACHING.  But  I didn’t realize that this was actually the original reason why the society was created.  The HAPS mission is epitomized in three words: Learn, Discover, Share.  This annual conference is staying true to that mission so far.

The conference started with a Welcome Reception on Saturday night with drinks and desserts (really yummy desserts).  You couldn’t walk more than a couple of feet before running into people talking about teaching and learning.  Folks are excited to share their methods and results, and learn from each other while discovering new things to do in their classrooms.  And the social connections and collaborations continued the next morning at the First Timer’s Breakfast (at the ungodly hour of 7:30am).  Then began the update speakers and poster sessions, and a wealth of new ideas were discovered and shared.  Top it off with a stroll through the exhibitor’s hall where every step makes you wish you had a million dollars in your pocket…and you already have an incredible conference experience.

The incredible thing is that this is only HALF of the annual conference. Tuesday and Wednesday are filled with workshops that will make you drool.  Really.

I better get some sleep before another ridiculously early morning with the HAPS Foundation fundraiser at 7am: The Fun Run in the Sun.  (And just in case you were about to, don’t forget to follow #HAPS2014 on Twitter!)

19- Get the Conference APP!

The HAPS App!  We can do THAT!
The HAPS App!  We can do THAT!

I’m super excited about the HAPS Annual Conference APP.  This little app, which can be run on your computer OR phone, is a fantastic tool to ensure you make the most of your Jacksonville adventure, which begins next weekend.  (It isn’t too late to decide to crash the HAPS party next weekend…online registration is available until May 26!)

The APP is a power-packed wonder of a tool to keep you organized and informed at the Annual Conference.  And even if you can’t attend next week (we’ll miss you), you can use the app to keep up with what’s happening at the conference.  So let me just tell you a few of the cool things I can do with my app:

  1. I can build a personalized schedule of conference events using the amazing app!  While this will certainly keep me organized and efficient, I am already finding the process to be particularly painful, especially as I attempt to figure out which workshops I plan to attend on Tuesday and Wednesday at Florida State College.  This process is painful because during most sessions, there are at least 5-12 workshops I really Really REALLY want to attend.  Last year I found it extremely challenging to narrow down the workshop options during each session to ONLY ONE. I am optimistic that the amazing APP will help me sleep in peace as I maximize my professional development potential.  (I wonder how many times I will revise my personal schedule on my app???)
  2. With the app, you can set alarms to remind you to get where you want to go.  This will be particularly helpful for the morning sessions, because I am NOT a morning person.
  3. We can TWEET!  There is a Twitter part of the app that lets us follow the Twitter-ific commentary from other HAPSters. Just tag your tweets #HAPS2014.
  4. Have a question?  The app can do that!  There are maps, exhibitor lists, sponsor information, and even a link to this fabulous blog.

So download the app and get ready for FUN TIMES AHEAD.  See you in Jacksonville!

See you there!
See you there!

HAPS Leadership (#27): Thursday tripping to St. Augustine

The 2014 HAPS Conference in Jacksonville, Florida runs May 24-May 28, ending (officially) Wednesday with the last workshops. However, the incredible adventure is not over.

140514 (1) Saint AugustineWe always plan an optional Thursday adventure for those able to stick around and interested in continuing the incredible vibe. This year, we’ll be visiting the city of St. Augustine – a breathtaking location with so much to see and do. I asked Lourdes, our annual conference coordinator for some details.

Buses will depart from the Hyatt Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. and then depart from St. Augustine at 5:00 p.m. With a transit time of 35 minutes each way, that gives you an entire day to explore the oldest city in the nation. You need to register and pay an additional charge, so – if you haven’t yet – DO IT! It’ll be a blast. A word of advice; have a water bottle and sunscreen with you. A camera is a must, as well.

Some suggestions for the day include:

140514 (2) Rhett's Piano Bar1. A stroll down George Street to show and eat. I recommend lunch at the Columbia Restaurant. Call to make reservations, as it gets busy at lunch. Make sure you get the house sangria and the 1905 salad with your meal. You won’t be disappointed (if you cannot get into the Columbia, there are lots of great eateries around St. Augustine).

2. A tour of the Castillo de San Marcos is interesting and worth the small entrance fee of $7.

3. If you want to try deep-sea fishing or inshore fishing, there are many charter businesses to accommodate any level of expertise (they usually cover you with a fishing license and gear for the day).

4. I enjoyed the pirate museum; they have some interesting original artifacts.

5. The trolley tour is also an easy and fun way to get around the city and learn some history.

6. There are a variety of water tours that go through the St. Augustine bay area. Dolphins have been commonly spotted when we’ve gone in the past.

7. There are eco tours, boat tours, pirate tours, and graveyard tours. Ripple Effect Eco Tours has naturalist guided kayak tours ($55/adult)…no experience needed.

8. If you have a car, you can go out to Anastasia State Park for swimming, surfing, hiking, shelling, fishing, and archaeological searching (for fishing, remember to get the license).

9. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park is really neat (lots more than just gators).

140514 (3) El Galeon and Nao Victoria10. The Nao Victoria will be at the City Marina while we’re there. Nearly five hundred years since becoming the first ship to circumnavigate the world, the Nao Victoria has been reconstructed and is now touring the major ports of Florida in 2014. You can also get a combo ticket to tour the Nao Victoria and the El Galeon (a full-sized replica of a 17th century Spanish galleon).

11. Peter will be there with his binoculars, taking advantage of a great opportunity to go birding.  Ask him nicely and I bet he’d love to share his experience and skill with you.

There are lots of great ways to wrap up your day:

We'll find a flavor just for you!
We’ll find a flavor just for you!

1. How about a gourmet popsicle from the Hyppo? With flavors like champagne mango, key lime, Datil strawberry, and pear Riesling, it’s a great spot to cool down and relax (70 Saint George Street.)

2. Whenever we are in St. Augustine, my kids beg for gelato from Café del Hidalgo (across from the Columbia Restaurant).

There is so much to do, it is hard to decide where to start, but your day promises to be fun filled and memorable! Looking forward to seeing everyone at HAPS in a couple of weeks.

Lourdes140514 (6) Lourdes Norman

18- Let’s Share

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Teachers share. It is what we do.

Information is cheap.  Teachers are no longer holders of ALL knowledge.  Instead, we help organize the massive quantities of information that are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  Our task has clearly shifted from “Let me TELL YOU everything I know!” to “Let me show you how to understand all this information that is available to you RIGHT NOW.”  We do this by creating a path through the information that ultimately helps students build their own understanding inside their own brains.  The way the information is organized cannot be copyrighted…it cannot be “sold.”  And maybe because of this, many teachers are eager to share their ideas and methods.

I think by nature, teachers are a generous bunch.  The HAPS email listserv is an excellent example, as are the contributors to the Life Science Teaching Resources Community.  I know that I am extremely complimented when someone is interested in using my teaching resources.  It somehow adds additional validity to my work, making the investment feel more “worth it.”  And I think we all remember what it is like to teach a class for the first time (or to TEACH for the first time!)  We start out with nothing…but if someone shares with us, we start out with a glimpse of their experience and perspective, which can be invaluable.  This is what is so great about the HAPS Annual Conference.  It is an amazing opportunity to SHARE!

I do understand being shy to share…because it is easy to feel like our materials aren’t “perfect” yet.  But I know someone else’s imperfect materials are STILL a start for me!  (And I’m sure many of you are like me and don’t ever use anything AS IS.  We always have to tweak things!)

For most authors,
the greatest risk is not
piracy
but
obscurity.
-Tim O’Reilly

Sharing makes us all better educators.  What a lovely thing!

HAPS Leadership (#26): Steering Committee preparations for JAX!

We're here to serve you!
We’re here to serve you!

Seventeen days until the 2014 HAPS Conference in Jacksonville, Florida and the Steering Committee is busy making preparations for our 28th annual conference. As usual, there are so many things to do at the conference, and the Steering Committee Chairs are busy getting ready for all of them.

You too can earn this much bling for your ID badge!
You too can earn this much bling for your ID badge!

The conference starts off Saturday evening with the Opening Reception. It’s a great chance to renew friendships and meet a lot of new people. Many of the Chairs will be out in force, welcoming people to the conference. They’ll be a great resource if you’re curious about the events and attractions in store for the week. As usual, Tom Lehman – president-elect – will be there with his tie-dye shirts, ready for the Shirt Swap. Bring your school gear and be ready to find something to take home and treasure.

Quick, there's a bulls-eye!  Get'her signature!
Quick, there’s a bulls-eye! Get’her signature!

Sunday morning, the Chairs will help welcome First Timers to the First-Timer Breakfast with the Presidents Emeriti. They’ll hand out Scavenger Hunt cards to the First-Timers, who’ll have the challenge of finding chairs of each committee and getting their initials on their card. As you learn about each committee, you’ll be one step closer to the drawing for free conference registration to next year’s annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. Look for the Bulls-eye buttons and that’ll identify the Chairs and Regional Directors (make sure you know which Region you’re from so you can get the write signature).

Throughout Sunday, you’ll find various Chairs manning the Foundation table. Learn from them what the Foundation is and what it can do for you. Several of them will be near the posters, so there’s another opportunity for learning.

Nick furiously signing cards, repping the Foundation table, and describing the Animal Use Committee!
Nick furiously signing cards, repping the Foundation table, and describing the Animal Use Committee!

Monday morning, the Chairs will be up early and bright-eyed for the annual Foundation Fun Run. Come find them out on the Riverfront, directing participants on the Run. It’ll be a great chance to get some exercise and help raise funds for a wonderful cause. After that, come to the Business Meeting and participate in the business of HAPS. We’ve had some great discussions in the past and anticipate another lively and informative meeting.

Later that day, Shanan Atkinson and Peter English will be hosting the Vendor Raffle for amazing prizes. This will be your last chance to get Chair initials before the drawing of the Scavenger Hunt cards. Be sure to have the conference App on your Smart Phone, so you can find the pictures of the Chairs to help you hunt them down.

Why, yes I do know where the Foundation Oversight meeting is.  Follow me...
Why, yes I do know where the Foundation Oversight meeting is. Follow me…

Tuesday, we’ll be at Florida State College for the Workshops. Several of the committees are having their annual meetings during lunch on Tuesday (check the Steering Committee poster for details). That’s an incredible opportunity to learn how much the committees can do and what you can get out of (and put into) a committee.

Wow, all that in less than a week. Whew, it’s going to be a busy time, but we’ve learned in the past that it’s more than worth it. See you in JAX!

Let us help make this conference as rich an experience as possible for you!
Let us help make this conference as rich an experience as possible for you!

17- The Magic Assessment Machine

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The magic assessment machine…please build it for me!

I want a magic machine that scans a student’s brain and tells me EXACTLY what s/he learned in my class.  I want the machine to accurately make all the decisions and judgement calls around grade assignment and I want it to offer rich and meaningful feedback to the student.  I want this glorious machine to be connected to the student’s brain all semester long, so it can deliver a constant stream of personalized guidance…it would be like each student would have a tiny ME in their heads!  The machine would assess the ability to THINK, so that robot-like efforts to simply check off a list of requirements would never lead to an “A.” My magic machine would be completely “BS” proof, flawlessly detecting any attempts to defraud the assessor.  My machine would not be fooled!

I really wish I had this magic machine today, because assessment is really hard.  I know that someday I will no longer feel like a “baby teacher” and I will transition into a place where I am more sure of my methods…and maybe then my classes will feel like less of a daily experiment.  But right now, as I set my sights on final exams and research papers, I am confounded by the confounding factors that blur my ability to assess whether or not my students “got it.”  Physio has been tricky this semester.  I am not satisfied with the flipped lectures, the pace of content delivery, or the in-class activities.  Frustration levels (for all parties involved) have been high and exam scores have been low.  And our culminating research paper project has been a barely salvageable train wreck (though much improved from the last time I tried it!).  I struggle between owning responsibility for the difficulties (“my fault”) and requiring student accountability (“your fault”). Many students capitalize on this ambiguity and I find lots of fingers pointing my way.  It is a fine line to walk between acknowledging your mistakes and getting pushed into a defensive corner.

Today, I think the appeal of the magic assessment machine is the way it would first shift many of those fingers away from me…but perhaps the more important value is that it would also give me confidence that I KNOW what my students KNOW and their grades absolutely reflect this.

I’m pretty sure my magic machine is a dream (regardless of how hard textbook companies are working to make it a reality!)  Maybe I don’t really need the machine at all…maybe I will someday turn into a “grown-up” teacher and find myself just sitting more comfortably in my ability to accurately assess what students KNOW.  Yeah…I think this is the more likely outcome.