I finally have a chance to sum up my experiences from spending a few days in the ‘think tank’ that is EduCon. I have been to all four so far and always leave unsettled, with many more questions then I when I came. I just can’t quite sum up my feelings. It is like having something on the tip of my tongue, I just can’t grab that fleeting thought. It is most annoying and won’t go away. So knowing I have some mystery thought just out of reach here goes.
The focus of my stay at EduCon was Vision and Change. Leo Brehm and I hosted a conversation about this topic, though as most conversations go, it did not quite end up where we thought it would, but that is the magic of the conference. A participatory, people driven discussion about ideas is never predictable, but always meaningful and worth while.
Leading up to the discussion I was asking people about their vision for education. This was usually met with a long pause, and then a response about a vision for their classroom, or school. I am not sure we really KNOW what we want education and learning to be as a whole. If I changed the question to be what is your vision for your son or daughter I tended to get a very different answer. Common themes included freedom to explore, meaning full learning, student driven, less homework & testing, more informal learning, passion driven not standard driven and learning not limited to grades, levels and classmates. Do we not share this same vision for schooling, or have we accepted this could not happen in our schools?
There was a mix of public and independent school educators at the event. I have spent more then 1/2 my teaching career in independent schools. I envy the independent school educators when it comes to implementing change. These schools are not hemmed in by state regulation and reporting requirements. I had a conversation in the library about creating “Learning Centers” a place where teachers act as facilitators and the learners work alone and in groups to learn at their own pace, in a truly interdisciplinary environment where the boarders between math, science, language arts and social studies disappear as knowledge is not neatly divided. It sound pretty interesting and then I thought about a public district trying to fill out state reports. In Massachusetts we do EPIMS and SIMS where teachers and student are linked and teachers listed as highly qualified or not. Due to the nature of the report you could not really have multilevel classes at the secondary level, you just could not make the numbers line up with students, subjects and hours. Even with our pretty standard school day with some independent study students and online learning classes, getting the data to fit the reports is pretty difficult. State reports are not designed for non-traditional set ups and innovation. Does state reporting limit how we structure learning in our public schools? It would be pretty sad if it did.
There you have it. Now if I could only slow my mind down enough to grab those elusive thoughts.
Update: Lisa Thumann wrote a nice summary of the session