Wow. It’s been almost 3 years to the day since I’ve produced a blog of my own, not related to graduate work. So, before I dive DEEPER into this post (see what I did there?) a quick recap of the last 3 years, in of course, no particular order:
- We added a daughter, Olivia, to our family. She keeps life interesting. Her big brother Carter loves her to death.
- I graduated with my Masters in Educational Technology from Boise State University
- I became a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.
- I’ve won about 6 grants to further my programs, LEGO robotics, and those of colleagues.
So I’ve been busy. Not much time for blogging. But here we are, in BEAUTIFUL San Diego (my first time!), and I went to the wrong session. I wanted to go to “Making ‘Making’ Make Sense.” Instead, lunch must have got to me and I ended up going to “Inquiry All Around Us: Using Data Collection to Inspire Authentic Engagement in Mathematics.” Somehow, I was sucked into it and only realized it was the wrong one halfway through. So I left (of course after I knocked over someone’s water bottle…). I am sitting outside writing this (disclaimer: I didn’t finish this that day. We’re over a week later. No wonder I haven’t blogged in 3 years!). In my mind, doing this will give me time to decompress what I’ve already experienced and begin to put my thoughts into words.
We had a few amazing Keynote speakers to welcome us in. Ron Berger was one of them, and was first introduced to me a few years ago during a PD session at the high school. I believe this was the video that we watched. It was really cool listening to him explain that everything is beautiful. Meaningful. Amazing.
Following our Keynote addresses, we were tasked with trying to come up with our own Keynote that summarizes what we experienced. We went through the revision and sharing processes in an attempt to craft something meaningful. Here is what I came up with:
What do we do with the stories that we keep inside? Through all of our life experiences, what are the stories that we hold close to us, that define us? How do we let those stories out? Deeper Learning allows us to put a human, emotional, and intentional spin on our learning, making it real, honest, and worthwhile. Aaron Maurer, an aficionado of all things makerspace, says “Each day, are we experiencing ‘Déjà vu or Deja poo?’ Are we enjoying what we do, or are we doing the same crap everyday?” Are we teaching or are we learning the way we want to? In order to do that, we need to know our students and where they come from; their likes, their dislikes, and what motivates them; THEIR stories. From that, as educators, we should be designing meaningful learning experiences that are authentic, motivating, and create a feeling of wonder. We want to design experiences that will ignite a passion for learning and assuring students that while they may not have all of the answers, we hope they have the desire to search for the answers. Let them make mistakes, because from those mistakes, comes learning. Even Phil Collins said, “In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn.” This cycle should push Deeper Learning into an evolving force that will transform student engagement and help them be better prepared for the outside world.
I also learned a new way for students to offer suggestions to their peers using the “Rose/Bud/Thorn,” technique.
Rose-What you loved
Bud-What you’re excited about seeing more of
Thorn-what could use some more focus, confusing
I’ve used the Grow vs. Glow statements with the kids before, but this was something different that maybe the older grades might be able to connect with.
I did learn some things in the session I wasn’t supposed to be in. It wasn’t all bad. I was able to connect with an assignment that I know my son has completed in the past. It made me think how we could re-energize a worksheet as simple as having students count tally marks. Instead of giving students the data, showing them how it’s organized, and asking them the questions, how can we have students, even as young as kindergarten or first grade, own their learning? How can they generate the data and the questions and determine how to organize it? That’s what we should be working towards. The Engagement Checklist outlined should ask 5 questions:
- Is the data interesting
- Did the student collect the data?
- Did they generate the question?
- Is the context real and/or relevant?
- Is there a potential for a “Rabbit Hole” occurrence?
On Day 2 we got to dive a little bit deeper into solving problems. I sat in on a session called, “The Collective Genius – Unleashing Teacher-Led Innovation,” by Summer Horwath, the director of Educhange. A couple of the quotes that I took away from that include, “Done is better than perfect,” “Hope is not a strategy,” and “Drive change.” We did a couple of activities to try and map our thought processes throughout the day. One of the things that we did, she called a “Moaning Minute.” It’s essentially a session in which we were given a topic and we had to write down our vent, say it, and throw it in the middle of our circle. We wanted to get all of our frustrations out in the air during a particular time frame. We did this same thing when we started to generate ideas on how to solve a particular problem (she gave the example of how we could get Hugh Jackman to come do our closing Keynote tomorrow…there were some great ideas thrown out!). We worked in a group to fill out a Root Cause Tree worksheet that looked similar to this one:
I was able to sneak in with new found friends from Texas to work on this project. They had a problem where the data showed that so many kids didn’t like school. So we tried to create a solution to fix it. What started with a TON of brainstorming and Post-It notes turned into a really cool poster with what we thought a solution could be:
That’s Carie. She was in my group and I was just posing for her principal. We were working inside a kindergarten classroom, and the teacher of that room had pictures framed of all of her students. On it, it said, “I thrive…” and the picture was of each student holding a white board with what makes them thrive. I thought it was brilliant, and a great way for teachers to get to know their students and design learning around them. That was kind of the basis for the design we came up with to solve our problem of kids not liking school. If we know our students and let them design learning, their space, and their schedule, we’ll produce happier and more productive and proud kids. And then the cycle would repeat itself. I came up with the title. ::pats back:: But it was neat to see the design process in brainstorming and coming up with a plan. There are apparently 15 steps to this process:
One of the other solutions to a problem that someone in our session came up with was dubbed, “The Phoenix Project.” It’s goal was to have teachers select a unit, kill it, and then work towards bringing it back from the dead in newer and and engaging ways. It relates to a Phoenix, which when it dies, bursts into flames before being reborn. I couldn’t help but think of Fawkes, everyone’s favorite Phoenix from Harry Potter during this discussion.
For a conference held at “High Tech High” I couldn’t help but reflect on how low-tech this conference was. When we checked in, they gave us a journal…and I’ll admit, that throughout this conference, I felt like it was my Grail Diary.
I was able to open up my MacBook and use OneNote maybe once. I wanted to use OneNote to keep track of some stuff because I can upload pictures and things from my phone right to my Notebook. I love OneNote, and I’m not sure I can say that enough! I could also take some screenshots from Twitter:
This experience opened up my eyes to a couple of things…
- Being around our district initiative towards Deeper Learning, our teachers seem to look at project-based learning as a singular event. They’re focused on “getting their PBL done,” yet this initiative, I believe, is supposed to be almost a way of life.
- There are still many hurdles that stand in the way for a full adoption of Deeper Learning. Not everyone can be High Tech High. Between testing schedules, non-differentiated district-wide professional development opportunities, and teachers who have not yet harnessed the power to create their own PD opportunities, I feel like we’re at a standstill, at least from the elementary perspective.
- Networking will always ROCK! Being around like-minded educators, learning and striving to better their craft for the benefit of all students is just inspiring.
- It’s really not about the technology. It still blows me away that this conference was so low-tech. While technology can help break down walls, as long as teachers can create an authentic learning environment that sparks an interest in learning and applying new things, Deeper Learning can exist.
- “Ready Player One,” is absolutely fantastic! Seriously. Go read it. I need to see the movie really soon. I read the whole book throughout the course of my trip.
Interesting side note, following this conference, I flew up to Oregon to visit my sister and her and her boyfriend have an Oculus Rift system. AMAZING! It felt like I was in the OASIS, and it was something I definitely wanted to try and pack into my suitcase to bring home. Now to figure out how to write a grant for it…
To close this out, I’d like to end on a couple of thoughts that I wrote down. I can’t quote them, they just stood out to me.
- Teaching is about building relationships
- Teaching is dangerous; we could isolate ourselves, or we could learn and grow from others
- Reflection makes us who we are
- Students taking risks should be mirrored by teachers taking risks
- Education should work for ALL students
- Deeper Learning is about being an educational leader and building educational leaders
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my HH family that shared this experience with me. Thank you, Dr. Ryan Thomas, Nicole McClure, Dennis Steinly, Ralph Rapino, and Kristina Ulmer. And also to Frank, the VP of WD-40 who wisely stated by the fire pit during his retirement celebration, “You are what you are when….”
If you’ve made it this far, CONGRATULATIONS! Hopefully I won’t wait another 3 years to share my thoughts!