Dear Blake Community,
To help spark conversations about the role students should have in their own learning, our topic/question of the week is: If we want our children to be creative, resilient and knowledgeable problem solvers who take responsibility for their own learning, then at what point do we and for how long do we get out of their way?
With the cold weather certainly here I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy some sunshine this past weekend. Our weekend was busy with MCPE Trivia fundraiser Friday evening, yard work, and dinner with relatives Saturday evening, but we also enjoyed some family time. Sunday afternoon was nice and relaxed (that was the plan and it worked out - not always the case!).
The flow of school felt different for me this week with the broken up 4-day week and attending a two-day conference in Boston on Thursday and Friday. It was a good reminder for me that routines and structures are not just good for students, but they are helpful for adults (well, at least for me). Being out of the building is often a mixed blessing - getting out of the day-to-day routine is important to gain a fresh perspective, but it also comes with the feelings of detachment of what is being missed or set aside 'back at the ranch'. The conference was the iPad Summit in Boston sponsored by EdTech Teacher, and despite what the title may be lead you to believe, it is often referred to as 'the iPad conference that is not about iPads'. The reason for this is that the philosophy that permeates the sessions is that our work with technology integration should not be about the device nor the technology. Rather it should be about the learning objectives and the curriculum. We should constantly be asking ourselves questions such as these...What is the mission of our school community? What is it that we want for our students? How will we know when it is attained? How can this be measured? Once we answer these questions, we can then - and only then - think about asking ourselves about the tools we can use to work towards the attainment of these goals. One question I particularly liked and resonated came from Justin Reich (@bjfr), co-founder of EdTech Teacher - 'If iPads are the answer, what was the question?'
I would be remiss if I did not share the sense of pride I felt about Blake's representation at the conference (thank you to MCPE for their support!) - not only presenting our work/initiative with others at a session, but also receiving affirmation from colleagues and educators from other schools. I so appreciate the efforts that have been made by everyone and am excited about our progression. You have heard me say it before - I believe we have a lot to both offer to and learn from others and this experience did just that. In the spirit of modeling and sharing my learning, I have listed some of the mindsets/ideas that came to the forefront of my thinking over the two days below that I hope to be bring back to my work and the collective work of the students, staff, and school community. In addition I have highlighted a few posts that reflect the thinking that I believe will help us on our collective path.
Some conference notes/questions/ideas:
- How do we cultivate learning?
- Beware of habits; Imagine possibilities
- Myths: technology equals a 21st century environment; innovation is a step by step sequential process; we are victims of ‘the system’ and are powerless to modernize
- Start with something I didn’t know yesterday
- ‘Your Goal is to Create Lighthouses’
- Creative, academic, and empathic teaching - technology can not disrupt this
- Educators are disruptive to education - not technologies
- Getting beyond 'pockets of excellence'
- The challenge I am most interested in is...
- Technology in the service of learning
- What does awesome look like in your classroom?
- Reward teachers and students for trying things that fail
- It's not just 'How has the role of the teacher changed?', but 'How has the role of the learner changed?'
How One Teacher Changed for the Good of Her Students
by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) in MindShift
This post is an excerpt from Ripp's book, 'Passionate Learners: Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students', and I appreciate the openness and self-reflection that she demonstrates as an educator. Education and the needs of our students are constantly evolving and it is important to recognize this change and then be open to the ideas of change within ourselves. This is not an easy thing to do, but the goal is worthwhile. The second quote I note below is incredibly important - 'start where you are'.
"I believed that there was one way to do school to kids. Now I know that school needs to change, and we have to change it from within. Part of that change needs to be about including the voices of our students. School can no longer just be done to our kids, they must experience it and own it."
"The answer for me has always been: start where you are. Once you embrace the idea that there has to be something better, you are on your way. Take stock of what makes you tick and what makes you stop. What burns you out and what do you have power over? There are many things that wear my soul down that I cannot control. So I try to focus on the things I can make decisions about. What is in my control? Homework, grades, punishment, the ways information is presented, the community building, the shared ownership."
3 Reasons You Need Twitter More Than It Needs You!
by Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) in Education Week
DeWitt may be my most referenced educator/author as I feel as though he speaks directly to me and puts my own thoughts to paper. Twitter has certainly opened many doors for my learning as an educator, both individually and as an administrator, and the connections I have made have broadened my perspective much wider than I could have imagined. DeWitt's experience at the end of his post regarding connections is exactly what I have found. My hope is that we can provide experiences that are age-appropriate, safe, and structured such as these for our students as well.
"Educators are one of the fastest growing groups on Twitter. It helps them connect with like-minded educators from around the world and connects them with resources they would not normally find on their own...Too often we go it alone when we could be connecting together. There was a time when I would go to conferences alone and not really meet up with anyone new. I would fly or drive in, go to sessions, and leave to go home. That is no longer the case."
So, yes, it is a challenge to break one's routine, challenge the norm, and disrupt the day-to-day work. As a highly structured individual, this is certainly hard for me. But, intellectually I know that learning is messy and the disruption is often just what is needed - to think differently, welcome confusion, and simply be ok with mistakes. From there we must do some healthy error analysis and move forward. That is the key - being open to change, making connections, and remembering at the end of the day that the focus has to both start and end with the students. It is not about me. And, with our day-to-day struggles we must always be looking for 'the good' - in our students, ourselves, one another, our programming, and our school - because I do believe it is there...
There is Always Something Good
by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp)
Ripp shared this post the day after parent-teacher conferences - again, her reflective process is admirable.
"Yes, there are goals and challenges, ups and downs that need to be discussed. Those pesky habits we are trying to break, those strong skills we are trying to teach. The strides we have to make, the plans we have to lay. But there is also good. And goodness in every child. Every child has something positive worth sharing. Every child is worth us smiling about."
Please keep our dialogue open (with me, one another, and ourselves) - I would love to hear your thoughts, reactions, questions, and yes - push back.
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