Further Reflections on EduCon 2.2

The conversation never stopped — even over Philly Cheese Steak

For fear of appearing to be a kool-aid drinking, rose tinted glasses wearing, disciple of the Order of EduCon, I do have a complaint about the event.  They really need a better way of storing our coats.  I had to remember that mine was just to the left of the Case 6 amplifier in the music room, just behind that Yamaha piano looking thing.  Ok, that’s out!

Traveling to the Ohio eTech conference in Columbus, directly from EduCon, I will confess to having thoughts of, “How can you go to a conference and sit still and get taught at, after the brilliant conversations of Educon?”  I had those thoughts.  They were unfair, but I had them.  Truth is that sitting and listening to Adora Svitak, the child-prodigy writer (first book at 7), was a joy, and it was useful listening for new insights from here talk.  For instance, she made a big deal of her parents giving her a laptop at six and that having the computer, and a word processor, freed her from the limitations of her six-year-old’s hand writing.  “Imagine if my parents had been afraid of the technology,” she said.

Much of what she shared, we’ve been talking about for years.  But there are many who haven’t heard it, and it is, indeed, unfair of us to believe that every educator is ready for unconferenced learning.  It is also a reality that some of the attendees of eTech were ready for unconference sessions, as with most ed tech conferences, and some people have stopped attending these conferences, because there simply isn’t enough there that’s new to them.  Incorporating conversations into the conference schedule is something that we need to be seeing a LOT more of.

Back to EduCon, I’ve done lots of school walk-throughs, but this is the only place where students are the tour guides.  I’m afraid that I do not remember their names, but our small group was led by two seniors, having attended Science Leadership Academy (SLA) for all of it’s four years.  We were able to walk into classrooms, but also ask them, from a student’s point of view, what their experience has been and how it has affected them and their view of their own futures.  They are worried a bit about their transition from a more open, student-centered learning experience to most university’s “one-size fits all” methodologies.  I believe that they’ll do fine and that perhaps this is exactly the kind of learner we need to be springing on universities to shake things up a bit.

I have to confess here that it is one of the challenges of my particular hearing problem that I often misunderstand things.  What I hear is garbled.  So I have to collect a lot of contextual information — facial and body gestures, clues from other viewers, and a lot of subconscious things — to understand what is being said.  Bonnie Mark’s husband once told me that my hardware was faulty and that the software was compensating.  Very cleaver and accurate way of putting it, but my software often gets it wrong. 

But what I saw and heard in that Literature class blew me away.  Four students were sitting behind a table and the rest of the class was sitting in chairs, haphazardly arranged around them.  The four appeared to be performing a scene from the book that the class had just read, a scene that they had added to the book, having scripted and rehearsed the scene to express some aspect of their interpretation of the book.  The class then discussed the inserted scene and students added their own insights.  This is all over Bloom’s Taxonomy — and now that I think about it, I do not recall ever laying my eyes on the teacher.

I’ve got to learn more about “Mouse.”  From what our guides said, it appears to be an elective that has some aspects of tech support for the school, but also some “tinkering” qualities.  The students spend time taking stuff apart and hacking it in some way.  I tried to get a few minutes with Chris Lehmann, Founding Principal of SLA, to explain it to me, but, as you can imagine…  Anyway, this concept is exactly the conversation that

Links on Tinkering

Brown refers to “Architectural Studio”

  • All project is made public (sharing)
  • Completed products are critiqued by master & peers
  • Distributed community of practice

Sylvia Martinez, of Generation YES, lead on Saturday, “Tinkering Towards Technology Fluency.”  It was about the benefits of giving students, and teachers, the opportunity to hack stuff.  She mentioned a culture of Bricolage in schools in Italy, where there is a room that people simply drop off their junk.  Students can spend time there taking stuff apart and remixing it with other stuff to make something that is useful — or just interesting.

Perhaps one of the most powerful exerperiences, for me, was being clued by one of the students, that Chris Lehmann’s class on modern education theory, for SLA seniors and juniors, was about to start.  For a time, I was the only adult in the room, except possibly for Chris himself 😉  But as other EduCon attendees wandered in, an amazing conversation errupted between the students and their perspectives on learning and what they were learning about education theory, and our own perspectives as experienced educators, and, perhaps even more importantly, as people who where 10 to 40 years more experienced than the students.

One of the most interesting statements from one of the students, and one that speaks well of the school, was, “I’m studying themes (here), not subjects.  I am always looking for the connections between what I’m learning here and what I’ve learned there.”

Shortly there after, Dean Shareski asked something to the effect of, “At what age have we reached the base knowledge needed?”  Some of the comments I jotted down (thumbed into my iPhone) were:

  • “It depends!”
  • “There is no test for maturity.”
  • “When a person can think for himself.”
  • One students commented on how she was able to think about her capstone project more fully now than she was last year.
  • “Maturity is about being future oriented.”

Then I suggested, as (probably) the oldest person in the room, that one thing you learn, as you get older, is how to appreciate what you do not know.  Perhaps, the sign of maturity or of the “base knowledge needed” is starting to realize what you do not know, that it has less to do with what you know, and more to do with the questions you are asking.

Certainly one of the high points was the conversations we had with each other, outside of the scheduled “conversations,” just here and there.  So many people say that the best learning at conferences happens in the halls.  One such was with Lisa Parisi and Brian Cosby.  They are working on a book about blogging in the classroom, and I grilled them a bit about their experiences.  Three ideas really jumped out at me:

  1. Students pay a lot of attention to their older blogs, what they wrote at the beginning of the year (or years ago), and they are amazed at their own progress as writers and thinkers.
  2. They (Lisa & Brian) usually do not draw attention to the students problems with grammar in their blogs, until the student comes up and asks, “Why didn’t they understand what I was trying to write here?”
  3. When I asked if their students understood the learning that they were doing, the method, Lisa said that they didn’t, until she asked them to produce a video at the end of the year that would be used as an introduction to next year’s students.  She said that when they started planning that video, they started to think about and talk about learning collaboratively through conversation.

That’s enough about EduCon.  According to Google’s blog search, 179 other blog posts that mention EduCon, have been posted in the last week.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.