It has taken quite awhile for me to really piece together my experience at NECC. I’ll be honest, I’ll still be piecing it together for sometime to come. I went into the conference expecting to meet new people and meet face to face with those I’ve connected with on-line over the past year or two. Both happened and the discussions that took place taught me a good deal and confirmed some of my beliefs as well.
However, what has been bouncing around in my head the past few days is my experience at the Constructivist Celebration put together by Gary Stager and the Constructivist Consortium. Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s experience that made me look a bit differently at the sessions I chose to attend and the conversations that took place throughout the conference.
Real and authentic learning in a digital world may be more important than ever
There’s a lot of talk out there. Since learning is doing, I’d personally like to see more students blogging about what they are doing, rather than what they are studying. Simply blogging or creating a wiki about a concept or topic does not prove that a student understands or is able to do anything.
The right brain, left brain war of signifigance is bogus
The interplay within the brain’s hemisphere’s is what it’s really all about. Creativity and logic can co-exist.
Most computer software available is not truly educational or built on learning theories. Open-ended programs such as the Inspiration series, Microworlds, Tech4Learning‘s programs, Scratch, Starlogo TNG, etc. allow users (this includes educators, parents and administrators) to create from a blank page.
“A good prompt is worth 1000 words”
When Gary Stager shared this point in his opening talk it reminded me of my graduate studies grounded in constructivist theory. The Constructivist theory is not solely about programming.
Constructing one’s own knowledge and skills is very personal learning as it engages emotions through doing rather than listening or simply sharing what is learned.I learned during that work that asking questions is an essential skill for teaching and learning. We must learn to communicate with our students in ways that get them thinking rather than regurgitating.
You really have to care about kids. Really.
Peter Reynolds spoke about an experience where a student reflected on how a teacher “noticed me”. Students see right through superficial “care” and the way we care for students needs to be more then just protecting them on-line or in the physical setting. Konrad and I spoke about this as well in regards to how he interacts with students in the hallway. He comments to students in the hall about their work, progress or a thought shared in class. Small signs of caring add up to a lot.
If you can’t do something well, do it well-ish
Peter Reynolds wrote a book called ish that gets at the idea that we don’t have to be experts at everything. He described this by talking about a drawing of a tree. If you can’t draw a tree draw it tree-ish. We’ve made the word “fail” too negative and halting. Learning is a process, we try things and they don’t always come out “right” the first time, we must be okay with working through stumbles.
Time to play is important
Thanks to Bud Hunt, Scott Swanson and April-Hope for the play time with the XO laptops during the day. While mine wasn’t working well at the time due to some updates needed, these three folks allowed me to play and learn from them. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make the Birds of a Feather session due to other conflicts, but I’m sure more playing and learning will go on after connecting with them here. We don’t allow ourselves to “play” with the concepts or skills that we teach and I think it’s critical that we do from time to time to remind us what it’s like to really learn.
I welcome your thoughts and push-back to further my reflection and learning here.