On Saturday, March 1, 2014, I attended my second EdCamp Columbus, at Clark Hall in Gahanna, Ohio. Clark Hall is a magnificent facility in Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, and a great example of what a learning space can be when it doesn’t have to be what it’s always been!
The final agenda was full of great sessions and ideas!
I tried to pay special attention to Toby Fischer as the day began. If #EdCampDubC (10/4/14, at Wilmington College) is going to be a success, I knew I should learn as much as I can about starting ‘the right way’ as possible. Toby has done a fantastic job getting EdCamp Columbus to where it is today, and he also does a good job of deflecting praise to those who have pitched in lots of support along the way as well.
The sessions I attended:
1) “How do we get students to change their mindsets to take on challenges?” – This discussion was a great way to start the day. It combined two themes: student engagement, and student accomplishment. Sometimes, we can focus on one and lose ground on the other. This session drew examples from a wide range of grade levels and content areas, but it all pointed to one overarching mission in education – Give students the resources and opportunities they need to become lifelong learners.
2) “Redesigning the School Day: Successes and Lessons Learned” – This was another example of someone who had a question, and simply wanted to gather some minds to hear what others had tried and what they had learned. Some had come to that session because they had the same question and wanted to hear suggestions. Others came to the session because they had some successes and were happy to talk about them. The clear consensus within the room was that there is great value in having time set aside during a routine school day/week for a teacher to do something besides instruction for a classroom of students. Time for observing peers and meeting as a PLC (Professional Learning Community), whether along common subject or common student population, were identified as extremely useful, and worth making time for within the school day. This is also the session where Ryan MacRaild threw down the gauntlet about each participant in a PLC having a personal responsibility not to let it become “that kind of meeting” that never accomplishes anything. At the time it happened, I wasn’t at all sure yet whether that would be a highlight of the day or not. Stay tuned….
Lunch. SmashBurger. My first time ever at one of these. Props to Mikayla for helping me navigate the choices when I told her I was a “newbie”. The mushroom swiss burger (with lettuce and tomato) and Smash Fries was fantastic! And I couldn’t pass up the chance to have a Mello Yello from the fountain!
3) “Resources for Interventions (Special Ed and RTI)” – This session turned into something of a laid-back version of a SmackDown. Not everyone in the room was an Intervention Specialist, which was a big plus. Also a big plus, having Bobby Dodd to sit next to during the session, taking pictures of me while I wrote on the whiteboard! We generated a list of useful tech tools, and described the situations where we had found them to be useful [part 1] [part 2] [part 3]. This is also the session where I got a few glares for saying “You mean you can do something other than put recipes on that?” when someone mentioned the value of Pinterest. Where was @pporto when I needed her?
(By the way, I do know something about the educational value of Pinterest! I have some Pinterest boards for my Five Rules of Design Thinking workshop, as well as a few of my own!)
4) “If my class were like a video game…” – This was my contribution to the big board for the day. I had stumbled across a twitter conversation Friday evening, 2/28/14, on “Power-ups in Education“. The hashtag was #LevelUpEd. I found the whole conversation and the analogies it generated more than just interesting. It was fascinating. “Gamification” is a big deal in education these days. The whole reason seems to point back to something teachers have been noticing since the Atari 2600: “The kids will play video games for hours upon hours, but they don’t want to do anything in class.” I had typed out a few little prompts that I intended to use to poke the conversation along if needed. I was a little disappointed that Sean Wheeler (in another session) and Ryan Collins (early departure) weren’t going to be around for this conversation, but the session attracted a spectacular group of minds to discuss the issues. Definitions and analogies for things like “power ups”, “cheat codes”, and “high scores” were tossed back and forth around the room. Changes in the design of video games over the years (from Space Invaders “three lives and your done” to Mario Brothers “there’s still a score but nobody cares about it” to Minecraft “the objective is whatever you decide it is”) reflect not only the growth in what the technology can do, but also what engages the mind of the participant and gets them to keep trying. Material generated from this session is taking shape and will (hopefully) go into a teachers activity on the subject of “gamification”. Just because something makes your classroom feel more like a video game doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. “The Class of 2013 grew up playing video games and received feedback that was immediate, specific, and brutal – they won or else died at the end of each game. For them, the purpose of feedback is not to calculate an average or score a final exam, but to inform them about how they can improve on their next attempt to rule the universe.” (“Remaking the Grade, From A to D“, by Doug Reeves, The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 18, 2009).
The SmackDown – At the end of the day, everyone gathered where we had started for some answers to the question “What did you learn today that will impact your practice going forward?” Taking the time to formulate and formalize this into a thirty-second statement is a powerful exercise, and part of what makes this part of the day so important. My favorite comment during this time was a teacher I recognized from the second session I attended (on Redesigning the School Day) have the boldness to stand up and say there were things that needed to change in his school and in his PLC, and that he is going to be the change he wants to see.
Be the change we want to see. No matter what we came to learn, that is always the challenge to every one of us when we have the opportunity to learn and grow.