Last month, I attended the unique and energizing conference, Educon, held annually at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Over the weekend of January 25th, innovative minds in education from all over the US and Canada converged on SLA to discuss emerging trends in education, share big ideas, grapple with issues and come up with solutions. The themes permeating this year's conference were Empathy, Relationships and Entrepreneurship.
In my last post I described 10 ways to cultivate a love of reading in kids. I want to expand on that theme by suggesting 10 alternatives to the book report. I'm not a fan of book reports; I don't think they are an effective way for a student to demonstrate understanding of a book and I don't think they help students enjoy or appreciate reading.
"How is your family? Whoa! What's that on your head? Is that a wig?" "Give her a mustache!" "Great pirate!" "What did you eat for your Thanksgiving feast? Nice hat!" Between the guffaws and belly laughs caused by the add-on features of Google Hangouts, we had a great family conversation and got to see my brother's family, and my son and daughters and their families spread out all over the United States.
We hear so many negative things about public education in America -- most notably, that our schools are failing. And the reasons often cited involve educator shortcomings, for example, that colleges of education are doing a terrible job of preparing new teachers, or that the students in those colleges are not the high quality individuals we want teaching our children. We also hear that teachers unions care only about adult interests and that as a general rule the professional development teachers receive is a waste of resources.
Conference in Session? At EduCon, yes. Photo credit: Photo by Adam Provost, Educon 2.5, 2013
I pulled up a chair next to a woman at the EduCon conference at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia this last Saturday. After some brief introductions I learned her heavy Southern accent hailed from Arkansas, that she was shocked by how cold it was, and that it was her first time attending the conference. I asked her how she liked EduCon so far. "I love it," she said. "It's not your typical 'sit and git' type conference."
#EdChat Radio on author Joe Mazza's iPad Image credit: Joe Mazza
I have a 45-minute commute to Knapp Elementary School each morning. Aside from sipping on my coffee, I'll tune into Philly sports radio, some Mumford & Sons or maybe even some local news. However, in December, my commute took a more reflective turn when I discovered an edu-podcast called #EdChat Radio that is now helping me think deeper in a quiet space away from the presence of students, teachers, parents and community members. As an educator and learner, making time to reflect on where your learning community is hitting or missing the mark is invaluable.
As full implementation of Common Core State Standards nears, educators are searching for answers to three questions: 1) What are the CC State Standards? 2) How will they change what I do? and 3) Why are they here? Some of the details are frustratingly elusive as various groups -- publishers, school districts, states, and universities -- jockey for positions in the first post-NCLB initiative.
I squirmed a bit in the center seat as I responded to questions. One educator after another around the circle asked me probing questions that made me think about my actions. I knew they understood me because they often rephrased what I said. Vocalizing my thoughts helped me to see clearly what my real issues were. Even still, I was hesitant to reveal my concerns, but at the same time I was curious to see where it would lead; I was being coached!