Sunday, January 25, 2015

Educon 2.7 Sunday Study

I'm on the train ride home to Boston gathering my thoughts and tweets from today's Educon panel and conversations. As I've mentioned before, the reason Educon draws me back year after year is the opportunity to learn about new perspectives and ideas in education.  I highlight the conversations I attended and information share below.

Teaching Students Well
This morning's panel emphasized that educators need to understand the culture and cultures of their schools well, and make school a place where everyone belongs. To understand well includes reading notable books, making time to listen to and learn about students' and families' stories and needs, sharing the positive news, and teaching a culturally relevant curriculum that focuses on students' interests and questions.

Otis Hackney, Principal of South Philadelphia High School, shared a powerful quote from a mentor, "The kids may not be able to read, but they read you." He told a number of stories that illustrated the ways he makes the time to respond to the needs of his student body, and reaches out to the community to form partnerships that further support students.

Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Executive Director of the National Writing Project, encouraged educators to give students time to "play" as one way to learn about each other's culture and build classroom/school culture. She further encouraged us to include the voices from the past and older generations as we teach students about culture, and noted that schools are often thought of solely with the lens of economics. In addition, she urged us to take care of educators' needs in school as well.

Melinda Anderson, activist and education writer, pointed out that there is a gap with regard to maximizing the community's role in schools. She also urged schools to hire teachers that mirror the school's population with regard to culture and race. She said that the equity gap is growing.  She encouraged all educators to read Tatum's Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, The Essential Conversation by Lightfoot, and Other People's Children by Delpit.

Vanessa Gennarelli posed questions and thoughts about listening in this digital age, and shared thoughts about the design and result of online communities.

Freedom, Autodidacticism, and Learning
The first conversation I attended essentially brought us through a number of exercises that focused on the ways we learn. Professional development was defined by the presenter, Joe Bires, as "any input that changes my output, my teaching." Bires posed a great question when he asked us how our teaching environment, scheduling, role, and content would change if all of our students were self regulated/motivated learners. That question really frees you up to think about how we might change schools to foster greater student-centered learning and design. Bires also suggested that participation with the maker culture opens the door for teachers to change classroom/school culture. Several thought provoking resources, ideas, and projects were shared including the following:
A Dynamic Math Classroom
During this session we grappled with how to create a math classroom/program where students are inspired to learn. Ihor Charischak began the session with an introduction via Google Hangout. Later David Wexsler led the discussion. Many points were raised and links shared including the following: 
Create Something Great
The third conversation was led by two educators, Linda Conway and Mary Murphy, from the Douglas County School District. They told the inspiring story of their school system's innovation journey led by the dynamic education vision of their superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Fagen. They generously shared the link to their presentation and website. As an already high achieving district, the impetus for reimagining their district was the belief: "To whom much is given, much is expected." They inspired educators to invest in the initiative by teaching them about innovation through innovation site visits, videos like the Ideo shopping cart video, meetings with local leaders, and the invitation to take part in a system-wide think tank. They flattened the hierarchy for the think tank. 

A couple of teachers from the district skyped into the conversation. One noted that change happened by empowering pockets of people, and that the students' success served as a beacon for others to join in. They fostered a sense of safe risk taking, and one way that they are continuing to build the program is by visiting other innovation schools throughout the country such as the Vista Innovation and Design Academy in San Diego and the Design39Campus. Additional resources shared by educators at this session included the book, #EdJourney and the Nueva Design Thinking Institute.

Further links and share can be found at the Educon 2.7 website and the twitter #educon. Next year's event is scheduled for January 29-31, 2016.