Sunday, May 31, 2015

EDCAMP US DOED Reflections

 EDCAMP US DOED Reflections from the Day
EDCAMP US DOED Session 1: We Need to Stop Pretending in EDU
I have been blessed this school year by a number of amazing professional learning opportunities, one of them took place over the course of a couple of days in our nation's capital - EDCAMP US DOED. You can click on the link to learn more about the nuts and bolts of the experience, read session notes, and learn about the edcampers, whom collectively represented many aspects of education, from across the United States. To read some of the takeaways from this EdCamp, and to connect with the edcampers check out the hashtag #edcampusa on Twitter (I will warn you that at points during the day we were trending, so be wary of the posts by some trolls.)

There are so many things that I could write about from these two days, but I have chosen to focus on the critical elements of people, relationships, connection, and conversation.

People. Relationships. Connection. Conversation.
  • Edcamps are about people. People that are passionate about learning; their learning, and that of their students and colleagues. People that are lead learners in every sense (regardless of their official position or title).
  • The people that come to an Edcamp drive the learning of the day. There are no prearranged topics, presentations or expensive keynote speakers. It is an opportunity for individuals to drive their learning, to actively participate in meaningful discussions focused around the critical work that we do. Edcamp US DOED had topics such as: What We Need to Stop Pretending in EDU, Gamification and Badging, Bringing Edcamp to the Classroom and Equity and Social Justice. The session board represented the desires, the questions, the expertise, and learning objectives of the larger group.
  • There are many folks that can attest to the fact that at larger conferences some of the most meaningful learning doesn't take place in the formal sessions at all, but out in the hallway between the sessions, and while sharing a meal together. This can certainly be true of Edcamp as well, though I would argue to a lesser degree because sessions at Edcamps are highly interactive and discussion driven. And while some of the most amazing conversations we have are the more intimate ones, without the larger conference (the reason to get together) many of those opportunities for more intimate conversations would not exist. And in the case of Edcamp US DOED, some of the pre-edcamp conversations on train rides, shared cab rides, trips up the elevator and over dinner, led to session proposals for "the board" and an opportunity to engage in an even more diverse and nuanced conversation.
  • Edcamps connect people and ideas. As a result of Edcamp US DOED I was able to meet for the first time many of the folks that I engage with regularly on Social Media. It was an opportunity to tell these people, in person, how much their friendship and leadership has meant for me both professionally and personally. It was also a way to expand my PLN. I am now connected to individuals involved in education from Wisconsin to Florida, from rural schools to the Department of Education. For me the connection to people, the building of relationships and sharing of experiences is one of the most important aspects of Edcamp.
  • Edcamps are a grassroots driver for change.  They are a beginning, and not an end. People from different backgrounds, locations, with varied experiences will go back to their home districts, schools, institutions for higher ed, and communities inspired, challenged and inspired.

This day would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Kristen Swanson and Hadley Ferguson of the Edcamp Foundation, and their team working behind the scenes. It also would not have been possible if it weren't for the support of the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan and the Director of the Office of Educational Technology, Richard Culatta. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this amazing opportunity to connect, to learn, and to engage.

Photo Courtesy of USDOED

Monday, May 25, 2015

5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending

I was challenged by my friend, and fellow educator, Scott Bedley to add to the growing number of posts dedicated to the 5 things that need to change in education. You can find links to the thinking of others by researching the hashtag #makeschooldifferent and you can read Scott's post here. Trying to narrow my own list down to just 5 things that need to change in education was challenging; here are the 5 that I came up with, in no particular order.

1. That one size fits all (or even most) learners. 

  • This goes equally for the students in our classrooms, as it does for our colleagues in professional learning environments.

2. That education will cure all of society's ills.

  • It would be awesome if having access to high quality education alone would cure many of the issues we currently face, but education alone is not the answer. In many ways we have forgotten that we belong to one another, and that we are bound to one another. We have forgotten about the common good.

3. That quiet compliance is an accurate measure of engagement.

  • When we are actively engaged we wrestle with ideas, we challenge current thought, and engage in discourse. Learning is often noisy, and messy.

4. That the homework most of us assign is meaningful.

  • It's not. The students that complete it without difficulty probably don't need it. The students that need it often need more structured, and directed reteaching opportunities. Children are naturally curious, and have a desire to learn, but I fear we squash that with redundant and meaningless tasks that are assigned as homework.

5.  That improved test scores are indicative of improvements in learning and opportunity.

  • Test scores are a single snapshot, and tend to focus on things that are easily measured. Yet, the skills and capacities that institutions for higher education and employers claim to be looking for are those that are not as easily measured. 

In keeping with the pattern of these posts I'm supposed to challenge 5 other educators to share their lists of things. Well, I'm not going to tag 5 educators, partly because I have lost track of those in my PLN who have already responded, and partly because I just want to read a wide range of responses. So if you have a list of 5 things of your own, pop a link to your post in the comment section, so we can continue the conversation.