The Learning Isn’t Over Until…

I have been learning non-stop for the past two weeks. First Educon 2.5 and then VirtualVA2013. Lots of conversations, glimpses into innovative classrooms, and connections with other thoughtful educators. I’ve been reflecting on the experiences but haven’t had time to put fingers to keyboard. Here are the big themes that have stood out in my personal reflections…I’ll expand on them in future posts but for now, I’ll start with the bulleted list:

  • Schooling vs Learning…but also Jobs vs Work: This distinction rose out of a conversation about how happy kids and teachers were on snow days. I pointed out that lots of grown ups were also excited to miss a day of work.  There seems to be some parallel between the two worlds: schooling and jobs both imply structure while learning and work seem to imply objectives and goals. The consensus seems to be that we have put too much emphasis on developing structures that are keeping people from enjoying learning or work and really accomplishing worthwhile goals. But can we ditch the structure completely? I was particularly intrigued with an idea I’ve encountered before: that we need to talk about the whole system including the physical spaces where we learn and work. Hacking education goes way beyond a new curriculum or even a new pedagogy.
  • Doing More Than Just Showing Up: In the midst of all this learning, I’ve been reading Seth Godin and he has had a couple blog posts that add meaning experiences I’ve had, especially at Educon. Beyond Showing Up and Watching Is Not Doing address the idea of being more involved in our lives and our learning. Educon is the perfect example: you get out of Educon what you put in. There are conversation leaders who help provide some structure but you are expected to participate by offering your ideas, sharing your resources and tweeting your heart out. We had an “open mic” session during VirtualVA2013 that mimicked a bit of Educon and gave us a chance to talk about some of the big themes that had come out of the week’s sessions. Our opening and closing sessions were more about conversation than slides and the presenters willingly engaged with the attendees.
  • Entrepreneurs vs. Entrepreneurial Spirit: The panels at Educon talked a lot about how we can help kids become entrepreneurs. I just finished reading Yong Zhao’s book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students as part of an ISTE SIGAdmin book group so I was particularly interested in the intersection of the book with the conversations. Someone made the distinction between the people (entrepreneurs) and their dispositions (entrepreneurial spirit) that made a lot of sense to me. And there’s a lot more here to explore…why entrepreneurs and schooling don’t seem to mix and if schools can produce entrepreneurs at all.

I am also aware that there is a lot of overlap between these three themes…it’s part of the problem I’ve had this week trying to sort out the various strands of conversations. I think it can be simplified a bit: the ultimate goal is to provide learning experiences (spaces?) for our students that challenge and engage them in meaningful ways and help them develop into thoughtful, active citizens.

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