Sunday, January 29, 2012

Educon: Day Three Reflections

Day Three at Educon was as thoughtful and powerful as the first two days.  The morning began with a panel discussion. After that I attended a session on classroom design, Dan Callahan's Conversation, What Do We Need to Know?, and a  Chromebooks discussion. 

Classroom Design
I added many images from the school design session to my classroom design ideas page. The VMDO architects demonstrated how they designed schools to effect greater learning by creating spaces for solitude, engagement, outdoor classrooms, multi-purpose cafeterias, sensory sensitivity, healthy eating, active learning, optimal light, supervision, differentiated instruction, speaking and listening. They noted that the book, Brain Rules, described the classrooms we know today as least conducive to learning and thinking, and pointed out designs from throughout the world that appeal to children's active, vibrant ways of learning. They also described the ways that signage can effect learning by naming spaces with words and phrases related to students' learning. That signage prompts students to use rich language when describing their learning environment. They displayed playground structures that serve both play and education, and furniture that inspires active learning and movement. They felt that people don't value design because they don't understand its impact.

A Chromebook is simply a chrome browser--anything you can do with a browser, you can do with Chromebooks. From a support point of view, the Chromebooks are amazing because they don't require support. They boot by themselves in about 8 seconds and have very few moving parts. I wouldn't want to purchase chromebooks as a primary tech tool, however with tight budgets, the Chromebooks could serve your school's tech needs in part.

What Do We Need to Know?
Callahan's conversation led educators in debate about what's most essential for students to know. The varied group of educators came up with a host of topics including compassion, empathy, collaboration, basic reading, writing, math, science skills, citizenry, financial literacy and passion based learning.  We didn't reach consensus, but we did have a healthy, invigorating debate about the topic.

Innovation Panel
The morning panel discussion provided educators with awesome points to ponder.  Below is a list of ideas and resources that I want to investigate further:
  • Innovation is the connection of diparate concepts.
  • The act of innovation weaves together disconnected ideas.
  • Watch the documentary, “Strangers No More.”
  • To teach students with many different languages, a school must create and utilize many different methods.
  • City Year focuses on attendance, behavior, and course performance in math and literacy to meet the needs of the students they serve.
  • Educators must foster an environment for ideas, an attitude that we will work through anything to meet a need.
  • Tech use must be meaningful.
  • Training and coaching must transform a school.
  • Innovation is ideas that make a difference to someone else.
  • We must focus on what all people bring to the table at schools, not one group.
  • Innovation is about evolution, revolution, transformation and change over time.
  • We are always changing, so process is key.
  • As ideas spread, ideas may take on many shapes and perspectives.
  • “Invention is a flower, innovation is a weed.”
  • It’s important to begin where students are, and then make connections from that place to new learning.
  • Some systems are moving from test scores to life-long learning evidence rather than a focus on standardized test scores.
  • It’s important that schools personalize approach for the community they serve.
  • The basic focus of schools should include:
    • Intent/focus: meeting the needs of students.
    • Co-teaching: students and teachers: let students teach, they know how to engage their peers.
    • Creating a culture where every person in the social space feels responsible for someone else.
    • Context: focus on context, the environment immediately outside of the school, and notice what students experience right outside the walls of the school. Find out where students exhibit the most energy and spirit, then replicate that context in school to generate passion and energy.
    • Content: Though content is often first, it should be the last focus.  No one knows everything, and teachers should feel comfortable with this and collaborate with students to learn.
  • Everyone in the school walls has a role to play with regard to what happens in the school building, everyone has to be part of the evolution.
  • School programs should inspire students to wonder, observe and apply knowledge
  • Focus on teaching places and learning spaces.
  • Embrace risk.
  • Notice the technologies that students use, then learn to use those technologies.
  • Educate parents about the importance of new teaching techniques such as the importance of imagery, visualization and imagination when it comes to learning concepts and innovating.
  • Think about ways to make innovation go “viral” in schools.
  • Ideas spread when 10% of people in the community are strongly invested in these ideas.
  • Innovation needs to be an expectation in schools.
  • Give children the permission and time to engage in their passions.
  • Humans are “makers,” they create, invent, engineer—this is what fuels us as people and educators.