April 30, 2011

Rethinking Learning

This post was last updated on December 12th, 2011 at 03:15 pm

I had the privilege of presenting to 150 high school teachers in Elk island Public Schools on Friday. Keeping participants active with limited technology and  moving beyond table discussions to experience some of the themes I wanted to explore was a good challenge for me. Fortunately, I was able to work fairly closely with a great leadership team from the district that wanted to insure a day of learning that met their needs and provided opportunity for follow-up. 

I thought I would share a little about the content as well as the format and process of this workshop in case it has value and ideas that others might find useful as well as a chance to provide any suggestions for improvement. 

For the morning I decided to chunk my keynote into 3 sections and offer a chance to play and learn in between. My plan was somewhat derailed as my brand new MacBook Pro decided to have a kernel panic twice during my talk and caused me to restart. Some fancy footwork hopefully kept the momentum going and participants were kind and willing to go with the flow. I thought my presentation was synced to my ipad via Dropbox but it wasn't. The internet wasn't fast enough to get it there and I didn't actually have it on my ipad. Lesson learned for next time)

Here's my talk.

The 150 participants were sitting at tables of about 8 each. Activity one had participants choose one of three quotes that I selected out of the Great Quotes about Learning and Change. They were to have a discussion on one and record their findings in the google doc. We did some large group sharing after that was complete.

What I had hoped was there would be time and a way for groups to look more closely at what other conversations were taking place. Time was my enemy here. I was hoping for some controversial ideas to be exposed and while not everything would be addressed, perhaps if they spent some time perusing other conversations, it would not only provide more fodder but also demonstrate the power of collective learning.

The second activity is one I've used before. I've asked participants and those in my twitter network to post a photo to my flickr account. Usually this involves something very easy such as the weather outside. This time I wanted to up the ante a bit and asked folks to consider composing an image directly related to their learning. The response was quite overwhelming. This photo in particular from Amanda Dykes represented something quite powerful. I highlighted it as an example of why networked learning matters. Having someone who is directly affected by this disaster elevates the understanding and empathy that is often lost in mainstream media. Here are the entire 196 photo submissions:

This really helps to show people the power of networks as well as collaboration and social learning. The theme of social learning is one I emphasis a great deal in many of my workshops and particularly for high school teachers as the nature of most high school structures do not lend themselves to social learning because of time constraints and emphasis on content and subject matter. The playful nature of this activity also highlights an important shift for many. Reading  A New Culture of Learning is making that point very clear to me. 

Because of my machine crashing twice I was unable to get to the final activity which was to rethink curriculum by brainstorming ways in which their own curriculum might be changed using Wallwisher

The afternoon kicked off with a panel discussion that included 3 students and 2 teachers. They explored how they use technology, what they think of the current structure of school and hopes and dreams for a new approach to learning. It's always great to hear from students. 

We wrapped up the day with Show and Tell. I asked the organizers to identify 10 or so teachers that would be willing to share 1 minute of something they're doing in their classrooms as well I asked for others in my network to do the same. Here are 5 clips from those who submitted video. Andy Marcinek even Skyped in. 

Doing a full day and trying to keep people active, trying to model what I'm sharing about social learning, networked learning and access to unlimited resources when you have limited resources, space and time is challenging. I really would have liked to have participants interact more with the content that was created during the day. There are a few other things I would change but overall was pleased with the ideas and concept I attempted. Save the stupid computer crash and it was a pretty good day of learning. At least for me. 

 

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