Today was a whirlwind day of learning for me. I've spent the last hour or so trying to collect my thoughts and think of what I wanted to share and the one one word that kept coming to mind was change. Change not for the sake of change, but for sake of the students in our classroom. Here are the various sessions I went to and my thoughts on them.
Keynote with Daniel Pink
Before the conference, I really did not know much about Daniel Pink. I had heard about him and knew he was an author. Other than that, I really didn't know what to expect. I have to say that I was very impressed with his speech and motivated to make some changes.
The part that stood out to me was when Pink talked about creativity. A study was done with artists. They were asked to create art. Some of the art was whatever they wanted it to be and the other art was very specific commissioned art. After all of the art was made, art experts were brought in to evaluate the pieces of art. It turns out the experts ranked the non-commissioned art higher than the commissioned art. The commissioned art was equal in technique and skill, but the non-commissioned art had that extra something. The results did not really surprise me. It seemed to make sense that people perform better when they feel ownership over their work. This seems like common sense, yet we seem to expect less from our students. It really made me think.
I am a big fan of project based learning and have seen the positive impact it has had on my students. However, the projects are still based on the curriculum. The kids do not get to choose the topic of the project, just the project. What if I gave the kids the chance to spend time exploring the topics they want? What if I used the Google model and gave students 20% of the week to work on something that is important to them? Would I see even better results from my students if they felt like they owned every aspect of the learning process? This is something I really want to explore this year.
Another part Pink talked about was that Merit Pay doesn't work. Duh.
Building a Professional Learning Community at Work - William M. Ferriter and Parry Graham
This was a great session. One of my favorite things was that Bill starts out with telling the crowd what the outcomes of the session are going to be. It's a very simple thing to do and I need to add it to my presentation tool box.
We talked about emotions in PLCs. When Bill asked for some emotion words in their school regarding PLCs, the word frustration was mentioned. I would have to agree with word. I feel the biggest thing I have experienced in the PLC process that has been going on for 8 years in my district is frustration. Nothing has been accomplished in using PLC time in 8 years. Thing that have been accomplished have been tossed aside for other ideas. We spent 8 years on common assessments and do not have one because they are changed year to year for "tweaking". We have no data and things seem to just never get better. We are currently working to renew the PLC process in our building, so we will see where it goes.
Back to the session, the expression of emotions made me feel better because I did not feel alone in my frustration. PLCs can work, but everyone needs to have buy in and the little bits of progress need to be celebrated. That is something that I feel was great to take away. There will be times when it feels like a PLC is sitting in neutral and the smallest bits of progress need to be pointed out and celebrated to encourage the groups to keep working. I really look forward to bringing that idea to my building. No matter how small, progress is progress and needs to be celebrated and encouraged. I was very happy that I attended this session.
Mobile Learning Devices with Kipp Rogers
I'm getting a class set of iPads in my class in the next week or so and I wanted to see if there were some cool things I could get from Kipp. I met him the night before and he was such a nice guy. That might seem random, but I feel that people that I have met that are nice in person tend to give awesome presentations. Kipp gave the best presentation of the day for me. He was engaging and used the tools that he was talking about. He had us using Poll Everywhere and scanning QR Codes from the projected screen. I learned that you can text Google any question and Google will text you the answer. Crazy! Some of the ways he suggested using cell phones were not new to me, but I'm sure they were new to many people in the audience. The session was engaging, light and a good time. The 45 minutes blew by and I was sad to see it end. I recommend picking up his book Mobile Learning Devices if you are using them in your class. You will not be disappointed.
Teaching the iGeneration with William M. Ferriter and Adam Garry
I've already raved about Bill (@Plugusin), but he deserves another shout out. He talked about engagement in the classroom and admitted that his tests scores where lower than the teachers down the hall. I do not know of any person, especially someone speaking to educators who he needs to trust him, that admits to that fact. What it showed me is that he is dedicated to his work and does not judge himself by test scores. I admire that. I have felt the same way with my projects, but it was something different to see someone stand in front of a packed room and say it.
Bill uses Kiva.org with his students to show them the difference between developed and developing nations. Kiva is a site that connects people with developing nation citizens who need loans for their business ideas. Bill's students formed a club, made presentations and have raised over 4K for Kiva. I tweeted that it makes me smile on the inside when I see students passionate about projects involving social good. I was talking with Eric Sheniger in that session during one of our breaks to discuss what was covered about what kids are learning. The presentation showed story telling skills and understanding of music and audience, but there was something else. Empathy. I feel this is something students need more and more. Caring for others outside of their bubble is something all people need to do, but it is something that needs to be instilled in kids at a young age. I feel that could really help solve many of the problems we see later in school. This was another excellent session where I felt empowered to make a change.
I said the word change at the start of the post and it is still in my mind. I do not want it to just be a word. I want it to be an action. I want to do something. Daniel Pink said that it is not possible to change an entire school district or state by yourself. However, it is possible to make something a little bit better every day. That is my goal. I want to make something a little bit better every day. Who's with me?