The past few weeks have afforded me the opportunity to attend several great conferences where I was able to learn, connect, and share. It’s so refreshing to be able to do all of those things. Which made me question why it was so great to be able to do ALL three and not one over the other.
Learning: I love learning because I never want to stop soaking up all the knowledge and goodness of this world.
Connecting: I love connecting because my social being craves interactions with others. Tell me your dreams, your ideas, or your mistakes. I will share mine. We can learn from one another and develop deeper relationships.
Sharing: I love sharing because this world can already be such a selfish place, so I want to give back to those that shared with me and beyond. Much like Dean Shareski has said, it is our moral imperative to share. We can learn so much from sharing, so let’s do it.
I am thankful for the friends and colleagues that allowed me to learn, connect, and share at SETDA, ISTE, and Sugar Valley Tech Summit. I continue to grow as an educator, leader, and person because of you.
Reading through each of the EdCampOmaha posts and thinking about my own, I felt like my contribution would simply be another summary of the day or a rant about its amazingness and my frustration with the fact that more people don’t come/don’t know about it. So I have avoided this post for five days now. Thankfully Karl Lindgren-Streicher, a fellow Edcamp Foundation Partner Program Committee member and EdcampSFBay organizer, posted a friend’s Action Research survey all about Edcamps. As a recent graduate of a program that required an Action Research Project, I was inclined to help this person out by taking the survey. Little did I know that it would also make me finally reflect on my recent Edcamp experiences, both as an attendee and a co-organizer.
Overall, Edcamps support my role as an educator by allowing me to be selfish in my own learning. I can select sessions that interest me or have conversations about something in which I know nothing, but have always been curious. I am not required to be there or told what to learn. It is my choice. As an educator, this is liberating because the overwhelming majority of PD is determined by others.
With every Edcamp that I attend, I take away something new. Conversations can lead me to look at challenges with new perspective, app smackdowns can provide a wealth of new apps to try and apply, idea generation can lead to new solutions, and networking can connect me with other passionate educators from nearby states. Just this past weekend at EdCampOmaha, I was able to connect with educators from my own state (Nebraska), Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado and gain some support, ideas, and even evidence of things to take back to the Nebraska Department of Education as we move forward with our social media policy and guidelines. Working for a government agency can be even more limiting than a school district, which is why this policy to become present on social media is so important.
Edcamps are my happy place where I can dream big, learn from others, have deep conversations with passionate educators, be challenged to make a change, and simply feel empowered to DO something.
Now my challenge to you: find the nearest Edcamp…and GO!
The visit to UCF’s Emerging Media campus allowed us to see the intersection of many of the ideas we’ve been studying. We’ve studied game theory and design, and learning is the process that continually happens throughout the course of this program. Therefore, it seemed natural that we look at all three concepts in a unique way.
Design, learning, and games all seem to work synchronously anymore. So, as an educator, how does this look in the classroom? What impact does gaming and design have on my students’ learning? More than I can even imagine.
I often defer to Ian Jukes and Lee Crockett’s work in media literacy because of the powerful impression it left on me. The thermal brain scans, MRIs, and CAT scans of todays networked students are simply awe-inspiring. Their brains function in such drastically different manners than previous generations, that it is hard not to reconcile the fact that learning is different. But the process of learning in the form of traditional education has not! We are losing kids and their own vested interest in education before they even reach intermediate grade levels.
We need to shake it up. We need to challenge the traditional design of school and bring in gaming techniques in which students are familiar. If they are given the ability to learn through exploration and utilize just-in-time and on-demand counsel, they will be much more invested and engaged in their learning. If they are encouraged to learn from their community and work together for the greater good, they will be pioneers of collaboration that can solve problems. If they are required to assess situations, make quick decisions, and continue to work through the results, they will increase problem-solving skills and become more aware of their thinking.
Our trip inside FIEA simply confirmed the future of gaming in our lives. If it is so ubiquitous with life today, then it should be with learning as well. Small changes to the manner in which we approach learning with our students could make huge improvements. Gamifying one thing could be the hook for a student. And that one hook could make all the difference.
Field trip time! Paul (professor and surfer extraordinare) took all of us to the beach to introduce our design class that we’ll be doing as part of the program. Instead of simply telling us what we’ll be doing, we were challenged in a series of activities that gave us a glimpse of how design and learning work together. One challenge involved building a functional sandcastle in 1 square meter that kept sand dry, but was as close to the water as possible. My team talked through some ideas and quickly started creating breaks in the sand and a moat. Then, our new friend Elliott walked by…
I knew that a child could build a sandcastle much better than I, so I asked him if he wanted to help us with the really important task of building a sandcastle. He quickly replied, “yeah, I got a bucket and a shovel”. I then told him we only had 10 minutes to try and build a good sandcastle, so he needed to hurry. Elliott took off in a flash and returned with his sandcastle building supplies. We showed him what we were doing and he followed up by saying, “you need wet sand”. He ran down to the water and grabbed a bucket full of water, then proceeded to fill the bucket with sand to create a cement-like mixture. While he was creating this mixture, he told me “you have to get wet sand so it can stay”. Just when I thought we were ready to flip the bucket over and create our “tower”, he stopped me and advised “you need some more sand and then push your hand down to compact it, then we turn it over”. He IS a kid, he WOULD know…Our time soon dwindled and he helped put some more sand around the castle to create the final sandcastle product. We thanked him for his help and he was back on his way with his grandpa.
Upon evaluation of each group’s sandcastle, we didn’t fair so well because we had built too far away from the water and were considered “safe” builders. I pointed out that we should get extra points because we commissioned a child to help us build and there’s nothing better than having the help of someone who knows how to build sandcastles like a kid…no one seemed to buy it..but it did start making me think…
Design is often the most simplistic AND complex when done through the eyes of a child. Children can somehow dream up amazing ideas, create a plan of attack, and most often execute their plans to craft something amazing…original…inventive…or functional in ways never imagined. To me, design and learning both involve frameworks..the foundations are laid, the blueprints are drafted, and the work begins to fulfill the said plans. What if design was truly considered within the context of learning? Would learning look different? Would kids be more willing to take an active part? Would our ideas go far beyond what had ever been considered?
I don’t know the answers yet, but I’m hoping that I learn how to address a learning problem and re-imagine its design…hopefully through the eyes of a child making castles in the sand.
As a music lover, there was nothing greater than rushing out to buy a new release on Tuesday morning, peeling the shrinkwrap off, tearing the blasted seals back (in pieces of course), popping the cd out of the jewel case, and putting it in the player to listen to for the first time. I would spend the time perusing the jacket to read lyrics, marvel at cover art and photos inside, and take in the wonderful sensation of new music. This has obviously changed with digitization of music. Instead, I pre-order my albums from various sites, hoping that a cd jacket is included so I can still waste copious amounts of time learning the words that are put to the newest arrangements of sweet notes.
As an educator, there is nothing better than mapping out how your classroom will look and feel for the new school year, moving furniture around to try it this way and that, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls to create a new mood, organizing materials for the year in a new manner, and dreaming of how this year will be different. My first year of teaching certainly looks different than this year. As it should. This change comes from my own learning, and not just because I’ve seen how I can or can’t handle little ones based on classroom design. Instead, my awareness has made me see that the notion of “school” that I know and that I even followed in my first few years of teaching is nothing to be replicated any longer. I’ve heard amazing speakers tell me how today’s students learn differently, I’ve learned the importance of relationships with students, I’ve made mistakes in front of students, I’ve challenged students to be global citizens, I’ve outlined my mission, and I’m more aware.
You see, the beginning of a new school year is much like that fated new release Tuesday in many ways. I anxiously await its arrival – usually so much that I never sleep the night before it begins. I consume it in its entirety – you know it’s bad when you stay later than the custodians, new ideas wake you from a dead sleep, or multiple evenings are spent planning and that doesn’t bother you. I hold it precious – because new is new, whether it’s a cd or a school year. I spend a lot of time with it – it never leaves my thoughts, ideas, or dreams. Lastly, I share it – because what good is it, if you don’t tell others?