What a weekend! I’ve barely been able to sleep since the Learning 2.0 Conference started because my brain has been in overdrive – just being around so many like-minded people in one place was absolutely the most inspiring experience I’ve had in years. Over the summer I was jealously following the tweets from NECC and BLC bemoaning my decision not to go to any conferences (due to our move from KL to BKK), but now I finally feel all caught up and back in the swing of things – just in time for the K12 Online Conference!
The presentations were amazing, of course (more on that later), but the best part of the conference for me was connecting with past colleagues from other international schools and online colleagues that I’ve been working with for about a year now, and meeting some of my edublogging heroes. Who would have thought that I’d be sharing a glass of wine with Wes Fryer, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Will Richardson, Clay Burrell and Jeff Utecht this weekend? Definitely not me!
What a gratifying experience to meet someone face to face who you’ve been conversing with online for almost a year (or in some cases, after you’ve been lurking on their blog for ages). Friday night I was chatting with the wonderful Susan Sedro, when, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a very familiar face… Just a second passed and I turned fully around to see the 1001 FlatWorld Tales creator and edublogging superstar, Clay Burell. At exactly the same instant I say “Clay?” he says, “Kim?” And, thus begins our first face to face interaction, after working together on a variety of projects over the last year. What’s that they say about not being able to develop real relationships online?
There was so much going on at each presentation and unconference session, it’s going to take me days to digest, but there were a few big nuggets that really made an impact on me:
I’m not sure how I missed this specific term in my reading, but clearly it’s the phrase of the times and I am definitely going to start using at ISB. Blending online learning with face to face interaction is somehow very nonthreatening, it feels more like a term teachers can understand and relate to, like another facet of differentiation, which most teachers have already accepted and adopted as an essential method of instruction. Wes described how to blend learning in his Inventing the Future session on Sunday: allow for differentiated models of learning and creating work, create multiple paths for learning and assessment, and utilize multiple modalities of instruction – basically allow students the opportunity to learn and create in they way that they enjoy.
In his Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning session on Saturday, Alan November talked a lot about the core values of a school and how so many schools claim a core value is face to face interaction – but then they send students home to read for homework. How does that embody the core value of face to face interaction? Alan said “it’s not about the loss of f2f – it’s the shift of control.” Online tools deepen the f2f relationship because you can connect with kids when they’re not f2f (just like Clay and I were able to develop a relationship, never having met until this weekend). Powerful stuff, but clearly intimidating for anyone entrenched in an old school perception of a face to face core value.
The Importance of Teacher Modeling:
This is something that I’ve been saying for the past year only because I didn’t realize before how much blogging (reading and writing in collaboration with others) would change my life – not just enhance my professional development like reading a journal article, but change my life – the way I think, the way I interact with people, the way I work, the way I look at the world. It’s impossible to understand the impact of these technologies unless you are using them yourself.
As Will said in his The “Big” Shifts in Learning session on Saturday, “Educators must model learning in a networked world. Teachers must be learners too, they need to implement these practices in their own learning.” It doesn’t matter what topic they choose, but they must start utilizing these tools as tools for learning themselves. “My teachers are everywhere. Learning is 24/7/365 and it’s global. Everyone who comes to my blog has the potential to be my teacher.” Imagine that environment compared to a class environment (no restrictions, no time, space, or teacher frame to it). I totally agree with Will when he says, “This kind of learning is much more powerful than any classroom learning I’ve ever done.”
Will and Sheryl co-presented the Overcoming Obstacles in a Web 2.0 World / It’s Their Future: Making the Case for “Problem” Technologies in Schools session on Saturday and explained it’s essential to understand the environment that our kids are experiencing – teachers need to model appropriate use. We use scissors in the classroom, we teach them how to drive – if we can manage those tasks, we can certainly figure this out.
Doing New Things in New Ways:
This idea came up in the Apple seminar I attended last year in KL, and I was so excited to hear Alan November reference it during his Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning session on Saturday. He gave the great example of a teacher blog, with ideas, pictures, and topics posted by the teacher just being an online version of a teacher produced bulletin board. What we need to be doing is new things, new ways: giving every student a blog and then feeding their posts into the teacher’s blog. So many things that Alan said just resonated with me, and I love having quotes to share with teachers and administrators that so eloquently express exactly what I mean:
- The technology is relatively insignificant to your ability to apply and solve problems
- I would rather teach my students the courage to create their own community around the world for presenting their work to an authentic audience than for me to correct their work
- I believe my students should walk out of my classroom with relationships all over the world
- Being overwhelmed is part of the deal – you have to learn how to manage information
- There’s too much to unlearn. If you can’t unlearn DON’T GET IN THE WAY.
- People who understand how to manage information and deconstruct it, will have more power than those who don’t.
Developing a Culture of Creativity:
Whether or not they will admit it to us, or to themselves, we know that a huge portion of our teachers see technology as a passing fad. We have all watched the experienced teachers that have been through plenty of other educational trends pass them by, sit back and thinking “I’ll just wait this one out too.” During Wes Fryer’s Inventing the Future session on Sunday, he made crystal clear why we all have to understand that this is not a passing fad. The Read/Write web is not just a trend in education, something affecting on our line of work, these tools are affecting every level of society. Our culture is changing and we have a choice: to participate or to fall behind.
“We have a tremendous opportunity for students to share their voice on the global stage, to receive global feedback, not to just be receivers of knowledge, but to be active creators of global knowledge and thoughts.” Meaningfulness and learning comes from connectedness – we need to allow our students to share and connect. We need to create a supportive educational climate for creativity, failure and sharing – it’s OK to fail and to safely share our thoughts and ideas and build upon the ideas of others. Our kids can’t wait – they need for us to be making changes today, the world has changed. These technologies are their world – why would we want to completely separate education from the world they live in?
Teacher as Advocate
Every presenter emphasized the need for teachers to see our role as advocates. It is our responsibility is to prepare students for the future, so we need to be able to show people why these tools are worth it. As Sheryl said in her Virtual Learning Communities of Change session on Sunday, “in the future it won’t be what you know, it will be what you can create – ideas and storytelling. The new economy will be who you know and what you know – building relationships.”
We need to be visionary as educators because we are the first generation of teachers who don’t know what our students’ future looks like. Clearly, it will be essential to know how to create relationships, team-building, being able to work in teams with people you’ve never met before, and to understand that out of diversity and conflict come innovations.
During the roundtable discussion, Wes Fryer asked every teacher to:
- Blend the opportunities for learning that you give your students.
- Invite students to create knowledge projects with media, which creates a different dynamic when their audience changes fundamentally – students are no longer producing just for their teacher.
- Change your identity as teacher – view yourself as a connector – meaningfulness comes from connectedness.
In all honesty, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I will post my session notes here as well (so I can selfishly have them all in one place) and I really hope the conference Ning will continue to grow and become a true learning community for everyone – not just those of us that were lucky enough to attend. The combination of the momentum of this conference and the global scope of the K12 Online conference next month will be unstoppable!