Tag Archives: education

Inspired Conversations on Teaching Practice at Educon 2.4

Though innovation was the theme of this year's Educon conference in Philly, for me the conference is about inspiration. Educon is a conference hosted at the Science Leadership Academy , produced for educators by educators–ranging from primary school teachers to university faculty. I sought and gained new perspectives on teaching and learning in today's hyper-connected, always-on, digital world. Why should higher education folks be interested in K-12? As Jeffery McClurken explained in his Educon summary on the Chronicle, our educational missions overlap.

The axioms of this student-centered conference provide the intellectual framework for the recap of the free flowing conversations that follow:

  • Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members
  • Our schools must be about co-creating – together with our students – the 21st Century Citizen
  • Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around
  • Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate
  • Learning can – and must – be networked

As the Director of Distance Learning at NYU, I'm always interesting in new experiments in online learning. I've watched with great interest about the experiments at Stanford and MIT. Though I'd read about these courses I hadn't spoken to anyone who had taken one–until Friday, when I ran into Jeff Elkner, a colleague from past Educons past . His take? He learned quite a bit from the course–the materials were of a high quality, but the format may be too self directed to be useful for everyone. Chris Walsh, the Director of Innovation for the non-profit New Tech Network , peppered Julie Cunningham, Chris Fancher, and I with questions–from what a second dream career might be, to how to invent the ideal, free-to-student school. These interactions reminded me about why I come to Educon–though the sessions are amazing, the conversations between the sessions are just as inspiring and informative.

Paul Alison, founder of the YouthVoices project walked us though a writing activity where we read and commented on student work. These students are learning to write in public and get an authentic understanding of how to connect with an audience. The theme of learning in public –which Alec Courous and Dean Shareski discussed. We discussed his experiment on how he wound up with a global youth band of guitar tutors –and how making oneself vulnerable as an educator makes you a better educator. The idea is that teachers are modeling how to be learners for students in a world where the tools we use to learn are always changing.

Educon Philly 2012


Jonathan D. Becker , Meredith Stewart , and Bud Hunt asked us what teacher research is. Every session had it's own content, but also modeled different instructional approaches. This session had a guest co-presenter, bud the teacher, joining us from Colorado. At approximately 50 participants, when we all went to collaboratively edit a google doc, we managed to break it–but that spirit of experimentation, collaboration and a willingness to fail and learn is a model in itself.

How Many Folks Can Edit?


I have had the privilege of helping co-design the online section of a Critical Thinking and Writing Course for NYU AD's Summer Academy The lead instructor, Lisa Springer and I led a conversation about the approaches we are using to teach these students online. Will Richardson joined the conversation and asked provoking questions about our approach. He wondered if the learning experience would be more compelling if the students wrote in public. Other participants suggested letting students pick their own texts. We're thinking on how we might introduce these ideas. Paul Alison offered that our students would find an audience for their writing on YouthVoices. The perception was universal that there's an audience for what our kids have to say.

Kristen Swanson, a newly minted PhD from Widener, lead a 5 minute presentation how to make better online courses –she echoed the kinds of themes that we stress in our faculty development program–an instructor being present, offering lots of feedback, and seeking out course guests. Though I've come across Carol Dweck's research on mindset, Liz Davis' 5 minute presentation made me want to revisit it. 

Were you at Educon?  What conversation most inspired you?  Have you made any changes to your teaching practice as a result?  I tinkered with providing video feedback in discussion forums instead of text to reinforce my presence in the classroom.  

I'm grateful for an inspiring, idea filled weekend.

First Reflections on Educon 2.2

Educon 2.2 is something of an un-conference.  Instead of presentations, facilitators lead conversations. The conference is hosted at the Science Leadership Academy,
a public charter school in Philadelphia, led by Chris Lehmann.  Over
500 educators from primary and secondary schools, a handful of school
administrators and higher education professionals attended.  Largely,
this group self-selects.  Many pay their own way, all give up a weekend
to be there.  It's one of the best educational gatherings that I've had
a chance to participate in.   

My head is still spinning, but
I'm going to highlight three areas:  1) the overall participatory
environment at SLA and the conference  2) Jeff Han on Multi-touch
interaction experiments and finally, 3) a conversation that I
facilitated about online teaching and learning.  

1) Students
managed all of the logistics from tech support, to checking bags to
helping people find sessions.  They also joined sessions and shared
their experiences.  That students were central to the conference
permeated all of the sessions and made the experience authentic in a
way that few conferences are. Chris Lehmann spoke about how he and his
colleagues create this community on a session he facilitated about
leadership.  I'm a bit in awe of Chris–it's great to hear about it AND
see it in action at SLA.

2) Jeff Han presented Pixel Perfect, a spin off of his "multi-touch interaction research." 

More on Jeff and his work here: http://cs.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/index.html 
Jeff was eager to hear from us about how we could imagine the data
visualization tool used in education.  It's worth looking at the videos
of Jeff showing how the touch screen works–but it feels like something
out of a movie, where instead of interacting through a keyboard we
manipulate data with our hands.  At a glance, one might think, oh, it's
an interactive whiteboard–but it's much, much more than that.   Many
people can be on the board at the same time, it's as sensitive as an
iPad's touch screen and it's wicked fast.  Jeff argues that we have
plenty of processing power, but that we're not making enough advances
from the interface side.  He also envisions a day when the technology
is as cheap and ubiquitous as wall paper. From an educational use
perspective, we imagined ideas for collaborative writing projects,
virtual dissections and geographic analysis, but somehow I wished that
we picked a few specific curricular contexts and started with
educational goals.  Nevertheless, it was an amazing conversation.

3) I facilitated a conversation on online teaching and learning best practices
I was struck by the deep and broad interest in online learning as a
means of both student engagement and continued professional development
for educators.  Barbara Treacy, the Director of EdTech Leaders Online
a capacity building program for K-12 organizations, among other
educators, joined in the conversation, along with other teachers who
are designing educational experiences.  Barbara posted their checklist for educators designing their own online courses  as well as basic tips for online facilitation.    Sean Musselman posted a podcast summarizing the session

I am still processing the event, but I am glad that I was able to have conversations with educators about our open Educational Technologist  opportunity, want to check out the mind map that David Warlick posted http://www.xmind.net/share/_embed/dwarlick/sunday-morning-panel/ 
would like to thank all of my peers at Educon for making it such a
wonderful event, to Chris Lehmann, and the teachers, students and
parents at SLA and of course, Kristen Sosulski and the NYU-SCPS for
giving me something to talk about.