I was fortunate to be able to attend the ISTE conference in Philadelphia. There were over 15,000 educators there, so you can imagine the passion, excitement, and learning that happened! I will share the tools I learned about over the course of the summer, but in this post, I want to reflect on the presentations that had the most significant impact on me. Perhaps it is because I have been focusing on digital leadership and student voice in my own work, but the big idea which seemed to be an over-arching theme at ISTE for me, was the notion of student agency which I heard a few times at ISTE and which is articulated nicely in this post. The idea being that when students are given autonomy and power over their own learning, they are in control of their own development and therefore more invested in the process of learning. This is not a new idea in Education–it’s been a buzzword for a long time now, but it’s one thing to talk about it, and another to see examples of this in action. Below are the presentations and the examples which made this idea come to life for me.
Jennifer Scheffer, Panelist for ISTE 1:1 PLN — Challenges and Solutions for Large-Scale PD
Jennifer Scheffer (@jlscheffer), a Technology Integration Specialist/Mobile Learning Coach for Burlington Public Schools, located in Burlington, Massachusetts spoke about a unique course she created in which students run a Help Desk to assist other students and teachers. This was perhaps one of the most significant examples of the power of student agency. Students are not only assisting other students with tech applications at their own school, but they are interviewing industry people, and using social media to create a powerful digital footprints. They are true Digital Leaders! Check out the link to the Burlington Publish School Help Desk Site for a glimpse into what this looks like.
Here’s Jenn’s ISTE Ignite where she encapsulates the BHS Help Desk program in 5 minutes/20 slides:
What is the impact of this program? This powerful video reflection by one of her students says it all.
I’ve reached out to Jennifer, who has been amazingly helpful, and hope to explore what this could look like in our District. Surely, there is potential for the Help Desk idea to happen anywhere?
Shannon Miller, ISTE Librarians Network Annual Breakfast Keynote.
A Teacher-Librarian extraordinaire, and Tech Integration Specialist, Shannon Miller (@) has made connecting students a priority at Van Meter in Iowa. She engages students in opportunities to connect with experts and other students around the world and advocates that it is important for students to have access to other people in the world. One of the most powerful testimonials came from a young 6th grade student whose school experience was transformed when she connected with an author on Skype. Meridan has gone on to create her own blog, Meridan’s Little Voice, in which she showcases tech tools and inspires other students. Check it out here.
In her keynote, Miller focuses on the many ways in which connecting students and giving them a voice is not only rewarding, but should be a priority for educators.
(Fast forward to 10:15) The quality isn’t the best, but it the message is worth the effort.
Miller’s blog can be found here.
Chris Lehmann and Diana Laufenberg: Transforming Schools into Modern Learning Environments
I was completely inspired by the way in which inquiry-based learning has created a place for students to take control of their own learning. One example Lehmann & Laufenberg showcased centered around the inquiry question, “How are local communities shaped by history?” Students were to create a hypertextual narrative telling the story of a building within their zip code. They selected a building with a name on it and had to research the origin of that name. The results? Incredible and meaningful. Check out their CAPStone Project in which students explore the questions, “How do we learn?” “What can we create?” and “What does it mean to lead” through a self-selected and designed independent project.
I am excited about exploring the potential of Inquiry-based learning in secondary schools in our District and Diana has offered to lend a hand!
George Couros The Innovator’s Mindset
George (@gcouros), whose presentations are always so dynamic and engaging (in fact people were pressed up against the back doors to hear his talk), speaks to the Innovator’s Mindset, which is intricately connected to giving students opportunities to not just “do school” but to become participants in what that school could look like. He advocates that leaders spend time in schools to listen to students and what they have to say. To me, Couros’ focus on relationships & the innovative leader are the essential ingredients: only by establishing a context of trust by leaders in Districts and schools can innovation flourish as in the examples above. Each of the presenters had Superintendents & Principals that were champions for them so that innovation could happen. Couros resources can be found here.
Everyone who attended ISTE brought their own context and experience to the sessions they attended. I’m sure that what I got out of these sessions, may be completely different from the learning of others. Feel free to peruse the #ISTE2015 hashtag for other perspectives and check out for post-ISTE reflections at Tech & Learning.