I am long overdue my reflections from two very different professional development opportunities I experienced in the month of October. My only major excuse is that I got a new dog and have lost all perspective of personal reflection while I make trips to the dog park and enjoy some good snuggles. Please meet Parker, to your left… (I think he is a great excuse not to blog…)
Experience #1: Edscape Conference, New Milford HS
I am so glad that my colleague and I attended this conference run by the coolest school leader since Horace Mann, Eric Sheninger. The best part of the day was the change in keynote. Chris Lehmann had been delayed and was unable to attend so he was replaced by his amazing colleague of TED Talk fame, Diana Laufenberg. She inspired the audience to think beyond technology for technology’s sake and to speak the language of our digital age students by integrating technology into problem-based learning. She encouraged us to build learning experiences for kids where they would be challenged to be critical in their work and learn from mistakes. What an amazing start to the day.
I found myself floating between sessions feeling unsatisfied by what I was hearing from presenters. It wasn’t new, it was stuff that someone with an active PLN should already know. I really wanted this question answered: “how do we move teachers who don’t engage in professional development and struggle with the pedagogical shifts of the 21st century forward in a way that allows us to best serve kids?” Any easy question right? Where is the divide between encouragement/coaching and evaluation/mandate? These questions were not answered on this day but I did have light at the end of the tunnel when this quote was presented in my last session.
Aha! Yes. This was the reality check that I think I needed to hear (see) someone else say out loud. We are past the point of excuses and must move forward….but again…how?
I’m glad I attended Edscape and connected with a few new PLN folks as well as meeting some of my tweeps in the flesh. My attendance also afforded me the invitation to participate in the Dell Edu Think Tank the following weekend in NYC.
Experience #2: Dell Education Think Tank, NYC
It is not every day you hear my name and the words “Think Tank” in the same sentence. It was an incredible experience to sit among 20 0ther education professionals and the education leaders at Dell to discuss the shifting paradigms of education. We greeted each other, some known, some unknown, at the headquarters of Scholastic and our conversation, also live-streamed, began. Our moderator, once again the forward-thinking Eric Sheninger, culled our open thoughts and synthesized them into five main topics:
All day, we participated in dialogue, debate, reflection on these five topics, as amazing art was being created to aggregate and illustrate our conversation. As an independent school educator, I found myself intrigued by the contrast of our struggles for implementation as compared to those within public frameworks. For my school, resources are blessedly not a hurdle and we are not bound to standardized curriculum and testing requirements or ridiculous evaluation systems that stifle all creativity. We face a challenge of autonomy. This may not seem a challenge to those who face such great hurdles of resource, access, and curricular lock-down, but it is very real. Autonomy in educational practice is a great gift, but it has the potential for abuse and acceptable complacency.
Which leads me back to my question from Edscape: “how do we move teachers who don’t engage in professional development and struggle with the pedagogical shifts of the 21st century forward in a way that allows us to best serve kids?” I have drank heartily from the web 2.0 kool-aid. I am an evangelist for balanced use of technology within the curriculum. I am a profound proponent of professional development. But I struggle when the answer to my question is, “Time and Patience”. I have buckets of patience in my ageing years. I don’t have time; neither do you. We cannot miss an entire generation of kids because our fears and comfort levels can’t be challenged.
So while I continue to seek an answer, let us begin small, using technological tools to support global connections in the primary levels. Let us, as the educators, use technology to promote greater communication and collaboration within our own professional practice. Hopefully time will move slow while we lead the way.