Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Roar of EduCon

One of the exciting things about spending the weekend at Educon is listening to all the voices. Everyone has so much to say and so many opportunities to speak. At my school I don't really have a voice. I don't teach a core subject so I am not asked to contribute to the dominant conversations which take place. So I guess it feels exciting to be a part of an education conference where the conversations are diverse and imaginative and engaging. There is a place for everyone's voice because it us recognized that all ideas and experiences are relevant.

This past weekend I listened to and participated in, conversations about seeking better ways to assess students, about ways to allow students to demonstrate their mastery or expertise in subject matter, about building better schools. It is so refreshing to be in a place where it isn't just about ELA and Math but about learning.

Instead of rambling on about the specific sessions I attended (or wish I had attended), I am going to go right to some of the many voices I made a note of which gives a sense of the sounds of Educon. (in no particular order...and a very very tiny slice of all the conversations taking place at any one time)
  • Stop rubric-ing them to death.
  • Not all problems have solutions
  • Definition of students as thinking of themselves as innovators.
  • There are other ways to teach skills.
  • The arts should be in all schools.
  • We are not going to change the world just by being right-brained.
  • Grades are often no indication of what the student did.
  • We are an aspirational nation. Have we lived up to it?
  • They need the skills in order to do stuff. 
  • But can't innovation be part of the way the kids learn the skills? 
  • Using 2 disciplines to solve a problem.
  • If you don't expect them to succeed they will live up to that expectation.
  • A zero is a ticket out, absolving of responsibility
  • What is the purpose of a grading system?
  • A shallow way to look at school and games: if games are fun, to make school fun, have kids play games in school.
  • “Play is a child’s work....”
  • The best thing about games is that tension between failure and success.
  • Alfie Kohn “you can’t practice understanding”
  • What is a fundamental concept of literacy????
  • Have we institutionalized what we consider to be literate?
  • Writing for different channels.
  • Teaching collaboration in the digital space just as important as collaboration in the physical space.
  • Getting students to show their engagement with the material.
  • Students are not just “turning this in”; they are “turning this out”. They are turning this out to the world!
Chris Lehman tasked Educon participants to not only think about what they can take back to the classroom and schools from their Educon experiences but to  immediately act upon it when we return to our classrooms and teaching and "real lives" in the afterglow of the Educon excitement.  This is a huge challenge because many of us return to places where top down decision-making gets in the way of innovation. But surely when all these voices that were roaring from a single building on 23rd St in Philadelphia for one weekend in January head back to where they teach, or collaborate, or administrate, or coach, or parent, or write, whatever their role in education may be, we can surely try to speak loud enough so these voices are heard for those who were not in attendance to hear. And since actions speak louder than words, it should be a very exciting thing to see.

1 comment:

  1. This is heady stuff! Just thrilling and breath-taking to sort of rise up on tip-toes (to get out of the mire of deadlines and progress reports and upcoming specific evaluations) to get the head into a higher space and think in a more general and free way about the possibilities of education.
    In these terms, it doesn't matter what subject anyone teaches because the conversation is about possibilities and using all resources (and all disciplines) to make the learning happen.
    It takes real commitment to hold on to the vision of what might be done rather than get sucked back into routine and the feeling that nothing will ever change.
    Kudos to you for caring enough and believing things can change.