ASCD: From Two Angles

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I just stopped into the Convention Center here to pick up my media kit, and I immediately noticed a big shift from last year’s conference in New Orleans: tech.  Flat screens, laptops, live streaming of sessions, and a dedicated Technology Corridor (that’s going to be a separate post).  All things that had they been here last year, I wouldn’t have stuck out so much sitting all by myself in session rooms because the only viable electrical outlets for people with laptops were on the fringes of sessions.

Seriously, there is a decided effort on the part of ASCD to be visible, to pull in “21st Century Skills,” a word that the world has claimed as its buzzword du jour, and if you look through the session descriptions, there is a huge focus on these topics:

  • Visual Literacy and infusion of Visual Art into the classroom
  • Using assessment wisely to allow students to show they understand
  • Web 2.0 and its use in the classroom
  • 21st Century Skills and their broad definition

Over the last few days, I’ve spent some time looking at the sessions that immediately call out to me as valuable in what I do on a daily basis.  If you’ve been following some of the thoughts here lately, especially the dialogue between Scott McLeod and on a recent links post, you’ll understand that there has to be a marriage between teaching “soft skills,” and making sure content knowledge is sufficiently understood.  There is a balance we need to strive for in our work over the next few years in curriculum writing.  Scott really hit it here in this reference:

In Built to Last, Collins & Porras describe how visionary organizations do not “oppress themselves with … the ‘Tyranny of the OR'” (i.e., citizenship preparation v. employment preparation) but instead “liberate themselves with the ‘Genius of the AND.'” As they note, yin and yang are “both at the same time, all of the time.” Why is this so hard for educators to do?

I’d like to find some examples here at ASCD that show me this is happening, or at least show ways in which I can move forward to help teachers create learning environments that are innovative for students and teachers alike, yet provide a solid academic foundation for the future.  As I have said before, it never was an Either/Or.

The second major focus I have this weekend is to leave here with more actionable content which I am taking to mean both teaching strategy and assessment strategy.  When I work with teachers, especially in light of all the buzz about the influx of creativity and innovation ideas into the NJCCCS, they often ask me how they are supposed to teach these skills.  The sessions I have chosen center around giving teachers strategies for stretching student minds within their content areas.  In my own personal practice, I always fall back on the Kagan Structures and other forms of cooperative learning (and it just so happens, Kagan is presenting on Sunday).  With that creativity in how we approach teaching, I’d like to explore some innovation in how we assess our students.

Be sure to pick up the twitter feed also, which you can find here and here.

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