My panel Tuesday morning with Stephanie and two fantastic edtech startup CEOs - Jay Goyal of Actively Learn and Dion Lim of NextLesson - went excellently. We had outlined a careful sequence of introduction, our view of the state of the community, clearing up some specific myths about both educators and entrepreneurs, and finally giving some specific ideas for how each side can improve our relationships within the community.
Environmental education for most adults used to mean learning a little bit about recycling and planting some trees on Arbor Day. We didn't delve into ecology as much as we skimmed the surface. But things have gotten more complex since then, and the topic of climate change has brought environmental education to the forefront.
Next week the annual SXSWedu conference will be held in Austin, Texas. The conference, which is an off-shoot of the much larger SXSW conference, is still relatively new but it has grown considerably over the past four years. As with any conference (new and old), there is always room for improvement. I love the SXSWedu conference, but I also agree with many others that one of the glaring issues with the conference in previous years was the divide between the educators and the edtech folks who were in attendance. You can read some reflections on this from previous years here, here, here, here, and here.
After last year’s SXSWedu there was quite a bit of discussion, primarily among educators, about the need for sessions or other activities or resources to help address the issue. As a result of the discussion, a number of sessions were proposed AND accepted for SXSWedu 2014. If you have an interest in learning more about effective strategies for better edtech and educator communication and collaboration (at a conference or year-round), then you should check out one or more of the following sessions. The session titles are linked directly to the session pages in the online schedule so you can easily add these to your personal conference schedule.
This year will be my third year attending SXSWedu, and recently a friend of mine who is attending for the first time sent me an email asking for some tips for first-timers. Listed below are the first 10 things that came to my mind. If you have attended SXSWedu in past years, feel free to add other tips in the comments!
At A+UP, technology is the classroom. Students and teachers meet face-to-face from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., as in a traditional school, but they carry their cloud-based classroom - books, assignments, resources, collaboration areas, progress trackers - from museum to community center to coffee shop to dinner table. In this virtual environment, students master skills that today's workplaces demand: They track and prioritize their own workloads, seek and find resources, and look to peers and teachers for help in an online community.
Another component that separates ed tech success stories from false starts is the "secret sauce" all successful schools share: culture and values. At A+UP, school values pervade every aspect of the work. Developing character keeps students on task online. Emphasizing community motivates them to Skype in despite sniffles. Valuing communication ensures families are equal partners in their students' learning.
A+UP's integration of technology is seamless and effective because teachers there have made a wholesale commitment to students' paperless, networked future. Teachers drive learning through resources in students' own networks - websites, museum staff, peers, the Metro system - never worksheets or textbooks. And every day, they assess students' needs and shake up rules and plans in response, because embracing the unlimited potential of each learner is the key to success in the Technology Age."
Stephanie Sandifer's insight:
This opinion article written by Dr. Rod Paige (published 2-8-2014 in the Houston Chronicle) highlights A+UP, the mobile middle school that I helped design.
Sure, think about the past week and be excited for next year, but understand that there is nothing more important than the present. Be fully engaged in the conversations you're having. Seek out others with whom you can share. Your learning has the potential for so much more impact if you'll pass it on. Don't keep it to yourself because change happens in the now.
There are situations beyond the control of even the best teachers.
Stephanie Sandifer's insight:
"However, when students fail, blame is distributed among students, teachers, and the school and, in prior years, the family. Blame, however, hides the many moving parts and interactions that happen in classrooms and schools, the sheer complexity of teaching and learning in age-graded schools...
So in the case of Harold, William, and Victor, I brought limited knowledge and expertise to the table in dealing with these three students. They, in turn, brought to the very same table, strengths and limitations that made it difficult to find success in a complex organization designed for mass production of teaching and learning.
What does that last sentence mean?...
Teachers did not design the age-graded high school structure for 1500-plus students that puts teachers into self-contained classrooms, mandates 45-60 minute periods of instruction and report cards every nine weeks. These structures trap students into routines that seem to work for most but not all students. These structures also trap teachers into routines as well that work for most but not all teachers...
Time, for example, is crucial since all students do not learn at the same pace. Daily school schedules seldom reflect that fact. Time is also crucial for teachers to work together for lessons and students that they share."
The campus of the future will clearly still play an essential role in academic life, though it will likely transform into a more hands-on and social place than today. Which of these options do you predict for the future of education?