Where are the Flying Schools?
I’m grateful for my first Educon experience. My Twitter feed is racing with idealism and appreciation, but I this one made me laugh out loud:
I have some edufuzz, but I’m also hanging on to some of the idealism of the weekend. I went to one workshop called “I was promised flying schools: storytelling the future of public education.” We talked about trying to bring more hope and less fear to this work (note the “joy puke” in the photo below).
I’m dreaming of the future of my classroom. What would it look like to be truly inquiry-based and student driven? What new technologies can I use to get students communicating more effectively? How many of these new ideas can I get into practice this week? This quarter? This year?
I’m dreaming of the future of Innovation Academy. What if every one of our students got to travel abroad before they graduated? What if students created their own rubrics and we didn’t need to worry about MCAS?
I’m dreaming of the future of American education. What if a student’s zipcode did not determine the quality of his education? What if school buildings had room for students to work in a variety of beautiful, colorful spaces?
The people at Educon are dreamers, but they don’t stop at the dream. I hope that I won’t either. I met all sorts of action oriented people who are creating, hacking, and building.
It can be daunting, because there are many problems in our education system. Someone at Educon said, “In schools, we are trying to fix an airplane while it’s still in the air.” We can’t wait for the plane to land and then work on it. July and August are not the answer. We need to get busy making fixes while the plane is soaring.
This kind of complex thinking is hard for kids and adults alike. Many students are used to problems with right answers. Everybody knows that 8 times 8 is 64, and there’s something reassuring about that kind of concrete truth. But real problems don’t have neat answers, and that’s when we need to think about the sandbox analogy, which many Educon folks brought up this weekend. We need to take time to play and explore in the sandbox. That’s where we might dig up something magical, or build a structure never before created. That’s where real innovation happens, for both teachers and students.
It takes collaborative creative thinking to solve complex problems, but group work done well is hard. Some researchers have defined the steps of team development as forming, storming, norming, and performing. One of my presenters today pointed out that there’s a fallacy that once you get to that last stage, you just keep on performing forever! Unfortunately, collaboration has its ups and downs, and you have to keep working at it. As Chris Lehmann, principal of SLA said, “Schools would be so much easier if it weren’t for all the people.”
Another workshop I went to today was called “Mind the Gap,” and it focused on how to bridge the chasm between what schools are and what they ought to be. Fellow participants had great suggestions:
- Start with just one or two things to change.
- Look at models and get help scaffolding the steps of the change.
- Find a cheerleader to encourage you when the going gets rough.
As I leave Educon, I know that my support network has grown. Both in-person and virtual friends can be valuable. A panelist this morning, Salome Thomas-EL, suggested, “Let’s make sure we spread the gospel about Twitter!” So, here I am, doing my part. I’m going home with a bunch of new followers and friends who I hope will hold me accountable to my vision.
I know that technology is not a change agent. People are.