Wherever you go, there you are.

I may have missed the boat with a TEDxNYED reflection being that it is going on Wednesday and several others have already gushed about the day.  If you had paid attention to the stream of one-liners that was flying from stage to twitter during the day, you would have heard some gems like these:

Now we could donate more than just money, we could donate our skills.  Location did not matter anymore.  It is  “The Death of Distance” (Andy Carvin)

Volunteerism has been redefined and we are the ones redefining it. (Andy Carvin)

Media are not just tools, they mediate relationships.  When media changes, relationships change, and thus we change as a society. (Michael Wesch)

Teachers who are most successfully are the ones who share most successfully with the most people. (David Wiley)

A parade of rainbow sparkle ponies. (David Wiley)

The role of new media should be to increase our capacity to be generous and open.  Let’s get away from static artifacts of learning, and more towards openness and discourse and discussion. (David Wiley)

And that was before lunch had been served.  It was a day where it was easy to get caught up in the gravity of what was being spoken about, or to take what you heard and scream out an “Amen” or two.  For the last few weeks, I had been looking to this as the one big change in thinking I was needing.

It wasn’t.

The event was so well-planned, and so well-thought out by the organizers.  The speakers were right on and I took a ton out of each of them, and it would have seemed that the stars were aligned for a truly transformative event for me.  I’d built it up to that in my mind, and was really trying to make it happen as the day unfolded, but I got to a point where I just stopped it and let go.  It was at that point to that two things happened.

First, I ran into George Mayo, who I hadn’t seen in two years, and whose solid work with students has had a great impact on my thinking over the last few years.  George and I met three years ago at SLA during one of Steve Hargadon’s pre-Classroom 2.0 learning sessions.  Will Richardson spoke for about the necessity to open our own learning and the learning our colleagues and students.  Looking back, that day, meeting those people (Chris Lehmann, Robin Ellis, Cory Pepler, and Christian Long were all in attendance), it’s clear that it changed the course of my career.  From that point, the metamorphosis that’s occurred in my beliefs, my energy, and my learning has been truly astounding.  So seeing George was a clear reminder of that journey, and that was welcome.

Second, I relaxed and let the day come to me instead of placing it on a pedestal and putting immense pressure on it.  It didn’t have to be a milestone day like that day back in 2007 was, and expecting a day like that would surely ruin whatever it was I was going to take from the experience.  Yes, there were some amazing thinkers and doers in the room, but one can’t expect osmotic learning to occur.  The ideas were flying around and I was doing my best to capture them in my notes and in my thoughts; however, it’s what comes next that will prove to be the biggest difference from TEDxNYED: the changes I bring about.

Advertisement

Quite a Slate

This coming Saturday I will be riding the rails to the Upper West Side for TEDxNYED, a conference not officially affiliated with the groundbreaking TED Conference held yearly.  I’ve had all sorts of travel restrictions this year due to the budget constraints being placed on us by both the state offices and our own offices, which was the sole reason I wasn’t able to attend EduCon this year, so missing this one would have been unbearable.

The conference is organized in the format popularized by TED–short, 20-minute maximum length talks detailing the passion of the individual. This is coming at a really great time for me as well, as we are heading into the time of year where creativity and resourcefulness are key.  An infusion of new ideas and energy is sorely needed.

Here’s the schedule of speakers for the day:

10:00am PARTICIPATION

Andy Carvin
Michael Wesch
Henry Jenkins

BREAK

11:30am OPENNESS

David Wiley
Neeru Khosla
Lawrence Lessig

LUNCH

2:00pm MEDIA

TED Talk
Jay Rosen
Jeff Jarvis

BREAK

3:10pm NETWORKS

TED Talk
Gina Bianchini
George Siemens

BREAK

4:30pm ACTION

Dan Cohen
Amy Bruckman
Dan Meyer
Chris Lehmann

There are individuals on this list from whom I have stolen mightily, and from whom I hope to pull some more insight this weekend.  I’ve designed slides based on Dan Meyer’s advice, discussed school structure based on Chris Lehmann‘s ideas, created curriculum from the ideas of George Siemens, and used Michael Wesch’s videos in front of more audiences than I care to remember.

After having sat through a session with Alan November today that, although re-affirming for the group I came with, contained nothing in the way of new, motivating ideas.  I am really looking to Saturday for that to happen.  Hope to see some of you there.

Prove It.

I’ll admit it: I just watched my own session from EduCon 2.1 on video.  Granted it’s not the whole thing, but it’s enough.

I didn’t know whether to take the athlete track or the celebrity track here: athletes do it without question, while celebs, when asked, never admit to watching their own movies.  When it came down to it, I decided that watching would be so much easier to stomach than knowing it was out there and neglecting the chance to reflect on the session.  Tony Gwynn used to do this for every at bat. Why can’t I?

After EduCon 2.0 last year, Dan and I came back a bit overblown by the whole thing.  We knew what we were walking into, but sensing the passion the presenters had and the depths to which many of these people were willing to reach to change public schooling made us really reflect on what we were doing.  What we heard was that “top-down” change was not enough.  Grass-roots change had to happen in order for systemic change to sustain itself.  We took that back and tried to make it happen through our actions.

That idea, that change had to be a marriage between administrative direction and teacher action, received yet another tweak as we learned through the weekend of January 23-25 that the student element was missing from our curriculum redesign process.  We took our two major redesigns last year, Technology Career, and Consumer Sciences and our critical thinking class called Connections, and put them through the ringer with what we had learned from the sessions we had attended at EduCon 2.0.  Now, a year later the idea that we haven’t included students to the level we need to is chasing me around as I plan to work with Visual and Performing Arts as they re-make their curriculum this summer.  What’s their role?  How much input should the greatest source of human capital in a school district have on the creation of curriculum? It’s no longer just a “top-down/bottom-up” issue, but instead it’s a “who should be in the room” issue.

Although he didn’t appear in the video of our session, Chris Lehmann popped into our session for the opening discussion.  I’ll attribute these words to him:

“If we say that we believe in something, we should point toward something in your schools that show, illustrate those values, those beliefs (and how they resonate in the school community)”

And, although he didn’t say it officially until Sunday, he implied it all weekend: if you believe in something, show me where your actions, your systems, and your decisions make it true.  We are at a point in our discussion and our study of what we know about about what works in education that we should be able to show in our own practice as educators what we are doing in light of our beliefs.  That works for everyone from superintendents to students themselves.  What are your ideals?  Where can you show me in your practice that these are reflected?  When we look at the inclusion of students in the curriculum redesign process, how does it reflect our beliefs about learning? About the students we teach?

Discussion Protocol

Of the many things I pulled out of EduCon this past year, the most useful has been a tool that Chris Lehmann asked a few of us to use as we led reflections sessions at the end of the day.  This discussion protocol has come in handy after working with teachers showing them new tools or methodology, especially those that are particularly complex and paradigm-shifting.  It’s simple:

  • What?: What did I see today that caused me to think, wonder, dream, plan, or question?
  • So What?: What are the consequences, ramifications of what I saw?
  • Now What?: What are the next steps for me?  my school?  my district?

When we are confronted with new knowledge or ideas, it’s easy for us to become overwhelmed, either by the potential positive effect of the that change, or the magnitude of changing our own or our district’s practices.  This protocol slims it down for you, paring your thoughts into three linear categories that intersect nicely in various places.

After being here for the last few days, there has been a mix of things I know about already, things I needed to see to believe, and a budding sense of practicality that was wholly necessary for me to see–it’s the reason I wanted to come in here in the first place.  Several of my conversations lately have centered on the very fact that I am ready to move away from the theoretical and land firmly in the practical and the applicable.  Sitting and listening to Darren yesterday explain in a calm, measured, and often hilarious way, how he began his journey with his students, gave me some real perspective in regards to how a classroom can be structured not around, but infused with, the tools we have all come to use in our professional practice.  I can take that back.

For now, as I sit here with about 40 minutes to go before heading to see Darren and Clarence present together, I focus on the first question:

  • What?: What did I see today that caused me to think, wonder, dream, plan, or question?

One of the first things I pulled from Ewan’s keynote was that we should view all of our teachers as researchers. I see the need to create a culture in our schools that pushes thinking and learning at all levels: teacher, student, administrator, etc.  As Ewan stated, “Everyone should be in R and D.”  I began to think what that would look like in the buildings I work in, and luckily, the principals or assistant principals are here with me to bounce those ideas off of.  What we’ve decided is that it has to begin with our own practice.  Run our faculty meetings as we want them to run their classrooms: worksessions and discussions rather than announcements.  If we want to spread information, send an email or post to the wiki, but if it’s about pedagogy and teaching and student issues, make it face-to-face, and make it worthwhile.

There is a theme running through a lot of the workshops here that incorporates the idea that we should promote the teachers that “get it.”  Which teachers get it, and I don’t mean technologically only, but which teachers will look at something new and attack it, refine it and make it their own?  Find them and ask them to show how they do it.  Let students show teachers how things work.  Have you heard Alan’s quote: “always bring a student to a technology conference.”  Let students show their teachers what they are actually capable of (from Eric Marcos‘ presentation today)

Next: So What?