Educon 2.4 was a unique conference experience because it’s more a conversation than a typical conference of presentation after presentation. Many of our conversations continued at lunch, dinner, during breaks and on Twitter.
The backdrop was the Science Leadership Academy, an inquiry-based, student-centered public school that has an extremely diverse and eclectic student population. The word “community” is an obvious part of the school’s culture and the students were very much a part of the Educon experience as they served as guides, conversation facilitators, and tech crew.
I spent quite a bit of time reflecting about my three days at Educon and have come away with several key takeaways to think about:
- Ask “what if?”– We often have the case of the “yeah, buts” when new ideas are shared instead of thinking about possible ways to make something happen. Have you ever said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea, but…..” followed by a list of reasons why a particular idea won’t work. Creativity and problem solving are stifled before given a fair chance to cultivate into something meaningful.
- “Why should I use it?”-When sharing a new web 2.0 tool, such as Twitter, Diigo, or Google Docs explain how it can make one’s life easier before sharing what it is. We often get caught up in the excitement or “cool factor” of a new tool and leave out why and how the new technology can increase efficiency and productivity. Time is at a premium for everyone these days and there are a number of tools we can learn to use in the classroom and share with our students to capture time. The more we share with them and explain “the how” the more prepared they will be to thrive in an ever changing future.
- “Culture matters”– Innovation is a not a “flash in the pan experience,” but a process that occurs over time. We have to create and maintain a culture at GLHS that makes risk taking and failure safe for our students and each other. A part of the learning process is failure with a chance to recover and reflect.
- “Be Resilient!”– Resilience is defined as the ability to cope with stress or anxiety. We live in a pressure cooker as educators and the release seems a far way away.Therefore, we have to review our systems and ask how we are adding to our own stress and students’ stress. For example, we assign projects, papers, presentations, and performances at the same time and expect quality work from our students. We have hard deadlines because we are teaching responsibility. Yet, do we take into consideration the scope of a student’s entire day at school? I constantly push my staff to “try this new tool,” “read this article,” “review your grading practices…” on top of the other general demands of being an educator. It’s no wonder we are so tired and on cognitive overload. What in our system, that’s within our control, can we change to provide time for us to talk with one another and give our students time to work, breathe, and decompress?
- “Tech Savvy”-Being a tech-savvy educator is more about a willingness to learn, share, fail and reflect than mastering a particular tool. Embracing technology is an example of one’s desire to learn new ways to make learning more engaging and relevant to our students. The phrase, “I don’t do technology” is not only unacceptable, but it’s a declaration that “I’m done learning.” If we are not willing to learn then we are not willing to help our students learn. It seems we see new tools daily, so mastering a tool is maybe not the best approach.
- “Laser-like focus”– Upon entering the Science Leadership Academy, the mission, core values, guiding principles, and rules were posted everywhere and recited by every member of the school community. More importantly, they were evident in the way the school functions. “Recite” is not the best word choice here because it conveys a message of memorization as opposed to belief. They believe in what they are doing. They not only share a common belief, but a common language that provides clarity of purpose. Whether talking to the principal, Chris Lehmann, a teacher, freshman tour guide, or senior facilitator, each spoke confidently and clearly about what the school is all about:
Mission-How do we learn? How can we create? What does it mean to lead?
Core Values– Inquiry, Research, Collaboration, Presentation, and Reflection
Rules-Respect yourself, Respect Others, Respect the Learning Environment
So, I had to ask myself, “If someone asked me what our core beliefs are, would my answer match that of a department chairperson, first year teacher, secretary, or student of any grade level? It’s something we all should think about and discuss within our school communities.