As you have experienced yourself it always seems that when it gets busy, it gets really busy. January/February has been (and will be) incredibly busy for me. Part of what I’m doing has had me thinking about educational conferences, and what I like in a conference. Here is an incomplete list, feel free to help me finish it off in the comments thread.
- Expert Keynote Speakers – There should always be a speaker/series of speakers that are experts in their field and engaging speakers – this is a given.
- Choice – I like conferences that have multiple sessions at any given time with accurate descriptions so I can choose what works for me.
- Variety in Format – small group workshops with expert help, large group lectures where you sit and get, and everything in between.
I think that the discourse surrounding educational reform often becomes heated because the language, the intentions and meanings of the common phrases, are still being negotiated through the process of discourse itself. I find that when engaged in talk of reform, others are speaking about systemic change; the need to change the teachers, the physical buildings, the resources, the school boards, the funding, the students, the politics and the overall opinions of society on education. I prefer to focus simply on the process of learning that students are engaged in. The former is a massive undertaking perhaps better left to the politically powerful and ambitious. The latter is doable by me, a teacher, each and every day, in a very tangible way.
Realistically, most of us aren’t going to wake up Monday morning and change the world by Friday at 3:00 pm. What we can achieve during the week is reform for our own classroom practices. In fact this is already happening from the efforts of many individual teachers. As a consultant I see hundreds of individual classrooms through school visits. What I’ve noticed over the past year is; more student collaboration, increased discourse in the classroom (and beyond the classroom using the interactive web), creativity being honoured and encouraged, discovery and inquiry becoming common methods of constructing understandings, problem solving, critical thinking, and a general understanding that knowledge on its own is no longer power, but being able to use it in unique ways is! Phew!
While it is becoming increasingly important to look at possible systemic change in education, we need to start with change in our own classrooms. For many of us, this is already happening. We need to celebrate these individual victories, and use our own classrooms as a model for our schools, our district, our states/provinces, and eventually the entire institution of education.
For more blog posts on educational reform, please see the REBEL Education Reform WallWisher
Tonight’s #edchat and the people involved really had me reflecting on last years work. I’ve been a consultant for just over a year now, and I’m luck enough to be part of a very progressive initiative, partnered with a very progressive co-consultant, Susana. Susana and I are responsible to 13 secondary schools, and we work with teachers to promote 21st Century Literacy Strategies.
A 21st century literacy can mean many things; just one example might be using online discussion boards for a ‘write-around’ instead of doing it on paper in the classroom. The really progressive part of our work comes in the PD model though.
Susana and I started last year off by spending 1/2 a day with 40ish teachers, discussing some new strategies and how they will help with student learning. After this we, the consultants, spent a week residency in each school, working with the 40 teachers. The residency has essentially turned into Susana and I team teaching (planning stage and delivery stage of lessons) with classroom teachers. We engaged in observation of teachers, and teachers observed us. Throughout each lesson there is continuous dialogue between teacher and consultant about how things are going; how it is affecting student learning, and how things could be improved given the chance.
At first I have to admit that teachers were often apprehensive. They looked at the residency as being evaluative of teacher effectiveness. After the first class or two, teachers generally became very comfortable and in most cases quite excited about this new form of PD. The best part is, the learning didn’t stop in their classrooms
After finishing all of the residencies in the thirteen schools, and after providing various other PD sessions at school sites and district PD conferences throughout the year, the 40 teachers were brought back together. In this last session of the year, teachers engaged in dialogue about their learning. Great! Even more professional conversation was happening.
To top this off, we had all of these teachers create wikis about the many strategies used; descriptions how to implement, tips and tricks, where strategies might be useful or not. After just 1 year of implementation of the project we had a wiki library with about 20 pages of wikis each 2-4 print pages long. All this created by teachers, showing their learning and understandings of the year.
These wiki’s will live on long after the initiative is over. Further, about 120 teachers (there are two other teams of consultants just like Susana and myself) now have the know how and desire to keep these wikis alive and updated.
We’re very excited to see what comes after a second year of the project!