Saturday, January 28, 2017

Educon 2.9 Friday Night Panel

It's always a pleasure to learn in beautiful places such as
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
As usual, Educon's Friday Night Panel at the Science Leadership Academy did not disappoint. It's always wonderful to learn at The Franklin Institute and to attend an event that is organized by students. SLA student, Ella, gave a wonderful introduction, one I asked her to share since it exemplified why The Science Leadership Academy is such a wonderful school.

Jayatri Das, Chief Bioscientist, at the Franklin Institute led the panel discussion with amazing questions. The panelists, Dr. Michelle Johnson: Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania, Christine Knapp: Director of the Office of Sustainability of Philadelphia, and Keven Werbach: Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School of Business positively challenged everyone in the room with so many wonderful points about innovation and sustainability.

I offer a few highlights that I hope to bring back to my efforts to teach well below. With each idea, I added in italics how I might reflect that idea in the classroom.
  • Robots are being developed as smarter tools, and robots are currently used and will better be used in time to help with rehabilitation as well as so many other uses. Students in our school are using small robots to learn, I need to access these more and integrate this into math study.
  • Passion matters when it comes to sustainability and innovationIt's important to innovate by connecting to something you're passionate about. We need to make time to let students share their passions with us, integrate those passions into the learning day, and tell students how important passion is with regard to their choices. We can demonstrate passion through story, current events, and projects too.
  • There's incredible richness in digital gaming. In elementary schools, the gaming experts are typically the students. We need to hear them and find ways to integrate this into our learning menus. I believe Minecraft would be a good first step.
  • Gaming motivates because it accesses main attributes of intrinsic motivation via competence (interesting challenges), autonomy (you're in charge), and relatedness--games are surprisingly social, and when you play games you become part of something bigger than yourself. When we design learn with and for students, we have to keep these attributes up front. 
  • Who wouldn't want to be part of the amazing potential that tech innovation was and continues to be. Tech should hold a firm place in every classroom, a place that is integrated or blended with the many other ways we learn and work together.
  • Becoming an expert and advancing human knowledge are good goals as we think about our own development and that of our students. Currently students are becoming experts at a subject of choice during their library time--we need to let them know how important this is and the ways that people work with their passions and expertise later in life. I look forward of sharing the panelists' personal stories with my students as examples of this. 
  • How can we make teaching/learning more game like? I will continue to think on this with colleagues and throughout the learning today and tomorrow at Educon.
  • The line between online and off line has merged. Uber is an example of this. The blending of online and offline increases and becomes more sophisticated. Our continued efforts to promote a blended learning environment and efforts exemplifies this.
  • Innovation pushes boundaries, solves real world problems. Rather than contrived learning events, we can build learning up from the problems students face in their lives, communities, and schools. Making good decisions about the local environment and how we live in environmentally friendly ways is a good fit for this and fifth graders. 
  • Lifelong learning is essential--we need to be constantly reading, learning, building on each others' ideas, and reading about parallel fields, innovations, research, and ideas. Learning is cyclical or spiraling. Students need to understand that with learning you're never done it's a journey, and learning community efforts should reflect that.
  • It's important to be flexible and open to new ideas. As learners we all have to be open to both sharing and entertaining ideas. Too often, in schools, there is no vehicle for good share and discussion with regard to new ideas. 
  • Most companies are looking for things to scale, and scaling requires people who can lead the scaling. Managing the use, share, and growth of new ideas is an area that should be openly discussed in schools--everyone should have a good idea of what we are doing when it comes to ideas. 
  • Maintaining and sustaining innovation requires a willingness to look for new ideas and challenge. Share ideas with others. The intersection of ideas and perspectives is often where innovation begins. We should be constantly looking at our teaching/learning efforts in the classroom, at the grade level, within a system, district, and more to grow and develop our work in ways that matter. 
  • Game makers think of the player journey. I hope to enlist this language with students as they complete their midterm reflections and portfolio. We will talk about the fact that learning is much like a video game, and that similar to a "player journey," there is a learner's journey. 
  • People stay engaged when they feel like they are moving towards mastery. Using the language of "mastery" is important. We can say to students: How will you master this? What steps will you take? Where is the evidence of your mastery? Why is mastery important here?
  • Building something helps people stay engaged. We can ask students, "As a community of learners, what are we building and why does that matter?" This is a good question for any team of educators too. 
  • Ideas for innovation can be found in our complaints, problems, and needs. This would be a great focus of a STEAM Lab. . . .let's start with what we don't like, problems we have, and needs. 
  • Sustaining innovation requires reflection, revision, responding to new data, connecting to something organic. This is a process well supported by educational research, but still a process not embraced enough in school settings. I want to continue to foster this with my team and students.
  • Successful practice is contagious, and it's often advantageous to begin innovation in places where you have control. Then you can invite others in. This is where prioritization comes in--it's a big world with zillions of great ideas, but when you focus on a few important ideas at a time, you can really grow those ideas with strength. 
  • Find your choir, point to others who are making the change, and collaborate to make good change. The need to seek out and work with allies is integral to student and teacher success, inspiration, and confidence. 
  • Collaborating with government agencies, local agencies, other departments and educators can help everyone achieve the vision they're looking for.  Schools need to look beyond the school community to partner with the many amazing educators, agencies, and organizations that exist and can provide support, motivation, and inspiration for quality learning and teaching. 
  • Define what success looks like with questions such as What is success for us? and What does success mean for us? This conversation should happen regularly with all learning community members. 
  • When reading, researching, and creating curriculum ask, What do I want students to get out of this?
  • Rapid innovation is often positive as it wastes less time. Also good innovation paths where you innovate some at a time, test, then more can also be helpful. It's important to analyze the innovation systems in place. Those are are too slow and cumbersome as well as not thought out will halt innovation. 
  • Pilots, if done well, can be a way to try out a new pedagogy, but pilots have to lead beyond the pilot, not stay stuck there. Pilots need support and need to be taken seriously.
  • Create a culture where making mistakes is accepted. Too many schools are afraid to encourage responsible risk and mistake making, and this holds school communities back. 
  • Problem/Project base learning is an ideal way to learn. The research points to this, but many school districts are not listening. 
  • Budget and maintenance costs are looked at as a burden by some when it comes to sustaining innovation, but this is an important consideration. How we spend money with regard to supporting innovation is critical--systems should include innovation budgets. 
  • Innovation that's easy, cheap, and helpful is ideal. I can see this helping us to improve our school "greening" efforts, we can find inexpensive and easy ways to promote this. Right now it's too difficult for many reasons, reasons that could be explored 
  • Often there are costs to keeping up the infrastructure that supports innovation--this part of innovation is not the shiny part, but it's a necessary part of innovation. This is an important consideration of any innovation work 
  • Old informs new and new informs old--sometimes we look back to find ways to innovate today. The example of Philadelphia's greater attention to soil and greening was noted as a less expensive and probably more effective way to solve the some of the city's problems related to sewerage. Currently this is another way to better inform and promote our school's greening efforts. It's also a way to elevate our efforts related to social-emotional learning and teaching.
  • Contests support inspiration, innovation. A colleague employs contests often to encourage students. I will look at ways to do this that involve teamwork and project base learning in math and science.
The panel was terrific, and as I think about it, I wonder how we might use this approach to increase student/educator share in school. Also the fact that The Science Leadership Academy fully integrates their student body into this conference is inspiring too. We need to look for more ways to put our students out front with regard to the daily teaching/learning events. If we adopt the new schedule we've proposed for next year, it will give us more time to differentiate and that could mean more time for student teamwork and leadership. For example, I could imagine a team of students publishing our class news each week.

The panel concluded with the question, How do we create and sustain innovation in K-12 education? This is a question that will be the focus of today's presentations and conversations. I'm sure I'll write more in the days ahead.