Sunday, July 31, 2011

AP Annual Conference: Was it worth it? Part 2

Hey, if you intend to enhance the lives of the next generation of teachers, let me make a small suggestion.  Wifi.  The fact that there was no wifi on the second floor of Moscone West made the sessions maddeningly incomplete due to the fact that most had Internet links to visit for lesson plans, unit plans, and primary source documents.  Exchanging materials with other teachers was impossible because of no wifi.  Presenters had Internet and displayed some excellent sites……that I could only dream of visiting.  So, note to College Board, wifi please.  Especially at Moscone Center, home of some of the most innovative technology conferences on the planet.

Session 5- Writing Historical Arguments.  Now here’s a session that has it figured out.  The presenters consisted of a past AP U.S. History teacher and a current AP English Language teacher.  What’s better than one AP teacher?  Why, one that deals in content and one that deals in writing of course.  It was a very informative and reinforced my idea that focus needs to get away from the boredom of content while reinforcing historical skills.

Session 6- Making Connections in U.S. History: Great Awakenings Across the Centuries.  I was really looking forward to my textbook author, James Henretta, “suggesting innovative methods for teaching religion in the classroom.”  When I watched a man with notes approach the lectern, I started to wince.   Then the lecture started.  I lasted about eight minutes and then realized that a Great Awakenings lecture was not going to hold me for the next one hour plus.  So I walked out and went over to the AP Comparative Government room and sat in on a presentation about international public policy.  The discussion was interesting, but the online information presented was totally vital to Comparative Politics.  I furiously wrote down information and got excited for my other AP class, and then cursed the College Board for once again, no wifi. 

Lunch Break:  Judy Woodruff.  The former CNN and current Newshour politico was fantastic.  She’s funny, whitty, and has excellent insight on what is going on in Washington.  If you ever have an opportunity to catch Judy, go for it.

Session 7- Reconstructing Reconstruction: Using Primary Sources in History Classes.  This was a combo primary sources and historiography class that was fine.  Yes, just fine.  I’ve been to lots of workshops that use Reconstruction so I really didn’t need primary source help.  Why go?  Because the other session was a presentation on the whiteboard software I already have and I’ve been through the presentation before. 

Post Conference APUSH Session.  This was Sunday, and this one actually made me angry.  It wasn’t the presenter.  Bill Shelton obviously knows his stuff and his insights into the test were interesting.  But he admitted that the College Board basically asked him to do the session at the last minute, like when he was boarding his plane in Texas.  Therefore he had a small packet of 5-6 ideas to go along with the basic APUSH handouts, and that was it.  Most of the day was talking about the AP test and debating the revision.  There might have been 30 minutes for actual classroom strategies.  When about a third of the group did not come back after lunch, I knew the afternoon was not going to be productive.

So was it worth it?  Well if your playing with your districts money, what have you got to lose?  They feed you, the guest speaker could be pretty good, and a few sessions could help you in your classroom.  But if you’re spending your own money…..no way.  Basically I paid over $50 for a session that ran one hour and fifteen minutes.  Some, that’s “some”, sessions were effective.  Some gave out materials.  Some tried to sell something.  And none of it even came close to addressing current generation Classroom 2.0  standards (wifi hello?).  Then I paid $180 for a post-conference session that gathered me AP materials that will eventually be online, and about six lessons for my class that involve worksheets.  Oh, and we had a lively debate about the revision.  In summation, I feel horribly ripped off when looking at the money spent versus the final result. 

Oh well.  It is what it is.

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