Educon 2023: Where Conversations and Dialogue Are the Heart of Education

This year my students and I returned to Educon, the national education conference focused on progressive conversations about how we might improve education for all people. We had planned two conversations and both were geared to have high levels of student engagement.

Transparent and Dehydrated: Innovating with a Minimum Viable Curriculum

Our first sessions was geared towards opening the curriculum document for NOVA Lab and having members of the audience help us suck out some of the curricular water that had bloated the system. (I’ve written about that before and finally decided to take my own advice.). While the attendance was small, our troop of students had ample time to present their projects, both present and past, and create awareness for the good things they are doing. Our audience engaged us in frequent questions that helped us not only explain the methods and content of the class, but which also helped us understand the privilege it is to be able to have a class like this. Challenging the staid and standard curriculum is not something allowed, it seems, in most inner city districts. This opened an entirely new perspective about how systems suppress innovation in order to maintain dependencies and suppress upward mobility.

Gradelessness & Microdocumentation of Learning: Assessment through Learning Journeys

This session saw our largest audience ever at Educon, about 11 people. Ok, so that seems small, but with about 15 different conversations running during each session, it’s not easy to get a huge audience. Regardless, the attendees were engaged, asked hard questions, and received a huge amount of documentation via the sliidedeck we’d constructed. Students again had a huge role, culling data from “Big Paper” recordings of initial readings, creating a list of discussion topics, and also helping to describe the different ways we have attempted, in both my English and Innovation classes, to capture student Learning Journeys.

This session also allowed us to explore how we’ve been using Unrulr.com to capture learning journeys throughout the year so far. While my system for pulling in Unrulr is not where I want it to be, the success I’ve had with it has allowed me to showcase the beauty of cultures of commenting and communities of feedback like nothing else.

In the decade or so since I first started attending Educon, I have had the pleasure to meet with like minded educators who have helped shape my own learning journey. It is my hope that, by bringing students to Educon and allowing them to discuss their learning, the systems of both my own classes and the school in general, we are able to influence others and learn from others in ways that not only question why things are the way they are, but empower us all to make them better.

STARTedUP At Fluxspace: Feb. 17

On Wednesday, February 17 at 7PM, the Central and SE Regional Chapter of the STARTedUP Foundation will be linking you to the national discussion on Changemakers and the Entrepreneurial Spirit.

The BIG ANNOUNCEMENT here is that our guest speaker will be PayPal cofounder, David Sacks! Please join us via Zoom

STARTedUP is a National Foundation created by educator Don Wettrick to help spread the wealth of learning that comes from youth entrepreneurship. Don’s work as an educator in Indiana has garnered national attention, and he’s leveraged the power of his good works there to bring the excitement of entrepreneurship to students all across the USA.

In our February 17 meeting Don will be discussing the importance of reaching out and netrworking with people whether you know them or not. He’ll drop some tips on how to do this, and we’ll be voting on a Changemaker we’d like to hear from at our March meeting. Here’s a brief overview.

STARTedUP Central and SE PA is affiliated with the National Chapter. All meetings can be attended through Zoom, (Contact gheidt@startedupfoundation.org for the link); however, we have also negotiated the use of the Fluxspace.io Learning Accelerator in Norristown, PA to host our meetings in person for those who are willing to attend. (Please click the link for directions.)

If you are interested in attending in person, you will need to register via Eventbrite. Space is limited.

Fluxspace is affiliated with Corbett Inc. An interior design firm dedicated to improving working and learning environments for businesses and schools around the world. They have the following protocols:

“Corbett Inc/Flux is following CDC and PA State guidelines for businesses, please do not enter our campus if you are feeling unwell or have a fever, if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive, has had symptoms within the last two weeks, or if you have tested positive within the last 2 weeks.  Face coverings to be worn at all times, except when eating.  Maintain a 6-foot social distance.  Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer.”

If you have questions about our live events at Fluxspace, please contact Garreth Heidt at gheidt@startedupfoundation.org

Only Connect at Project Wayfinder: Purpose, Meaning, and Human-Centered Education

Wayfinder Canoe

Polynesian Voyaging Society “Voyaging Canoe.”  http://www.projectwayfinder.com/why-wayfinding/

(Following is a blog post introducing a series I’m posting at plusus.org based upon my attendance at Project Wayfinder’s Summer Teacher Institute.  I’ll be posting once a day about my experiences at Proj. Wayfinder and links I find to design and design thinking as well as to education in general.)

In a few days I will be among 50 educators from around the world attending the Project Wayfinder Teacher Institute at Brown University.  Based upon the navigational techniques of ancient Polynesian sailors, Project Wayfinder’s vision is “that all people have access to tools to create lives of meaning and purpose.”

Founded by Patrick Cook-Deegan and designed through his work as a fellow at Stanford’s d.school, Project Wayfinder seeks to meet a glaring need in education:  We are turning out students who may know a great deal but lack any purpose with which to apply their knowledge. In doing so, we are denying a generation(s?) of adolescents access to a life in which they can flourish in ways beyond mere self-fulfilment or pursuit of happiness.

Indeed, if a recent survey from the National Institutes of Mental Health is correct, approximately 31.9% of adolescents age 13–18 have suffered from any type of anxiety disorder.  As Project Wayfinder points out, “while school is in session, high school students are the single most stressed out population in the US(http://www.projectwayfinder.com/our-vision/).

As an educational design consultancy, PlusUs is dedicated to a human-centered approach to our practice.  In addition to providing a full range of design solutions, we strive to keep the learners and their needs at the center of all we do. Regardless of whether we’re working with you to design a new informational mailer or to create curricular materials, we are always thinking about the learners our work will ultimately affect.

Thus, our attendance at Project Wayfinder will assist us in better understanding the needs of today’s learners.  It will also help us position our designs more firmly within a value system that recognizes the importance of meaning and purpose to a healthy, fulfilling life.

Starting on Monday, July 16, I’ll be blogging about my experience at Project Wayfinder’s Teacher Institute both here and at Form & Faculty.

Redesigning Education: Iterating towards Mastery

maker-words

(This post was originally published on the website of PlusUs, an educational design consultancy that is now named Form & Faculty)

I recently listened to a podcast with Scott Looney, Headmaster of the Hawken School in Cleveland, Ohio, and also the founder of the Mastery Transcript Consortium.  Mr. Looney discusses not only the project-based work he has introduced at Hawken, but focuses a good deal of his time on the history and philosophy around the Mastery Transcript Consortium–a group of independent and public schools devoted to shifting the high-school transcript away from meaningless letter grades, Grade Point Averages, and Carnegie Units (HS credits) to something more representative of the skills and knowledge students possess and the actual work  they can do.

Mastery as a Natural Process

Part and parcel of any movement to mastery learning is the ability of the learners in the system to chose their areas of study and begin work towards defined standards.   Their work will involve a good deal of false starts, redirections, failures, and successive attempts in order to achieve mastery.  But isn’t that how we learn in the real world?  Something strikes our fancy, we start to pursue it, find ourselves faced with obstacles, failures, and yet, we press on.  Our curiosity and often the necessity of the knowledge we seek drives us to learn.

Design as a Learning Methodology

Listening to Mr. Looney, I couldn’t help but think of the iterative nature of design and the mindset of the design thinker.  How similar is the human drive to learn to the organic process of design?  We encounter a problem, develop empathy for the users, research to help define the problem, seek out numerous pathways to solutions, iterate, test, learn from the results and try again.

It is no stretch to claim that design thinking, in any of its numerous versions (and there are many, including this one specifically created by educators) is a heuristic.  From inception (problem finding), to defining the problem/developing the right question, to developing multiple solutions and then refining and making those solutions better, design thinking is a model for learning that recognizes the importance of content knowledge, development and deployment of skills, and the use of iterative feedback loops to improve the learning experience.

Mastery for All Learners

But let’s not stop at design as a methodology for learning; its impact on education can extend far beyond how we learn.  Indeed, design has the potential to help us rethink not only what we learn, how we learn it, and the importance of such learning, it can also help us examine what is truly important to learn.  Harvard University and 100+ other institutions of higher learning across the United States have adopted a design inspired approach to examining the users of the college application system and just how that system and its demands effect the lives of our young adults.  Their findings are not only important to students seeking college admission, but to all learners in general who are poorly served by a system of evaluation rather than assessment.

PlusUs is a unique organization in that we not only employ design thinking in the work we do with our clients, but we are actively engaged in the spread of design thinking as a pedagogical method.  Our work is not simply about the design of educational products, we are devoted to designing educational experiences that engage learners in the discovery of why the world is the way it is, and which also help them realize the innate power they have to make the world better.

Why Design: Reading and Writing the World.

 

 

I was/am an English major.

The confusion in verb tense stems from a shift in how I act within the world. For years I buried my head in books. Fictional worlds allowed me to explore a myriad of human experiences I would never have had the chance to understand outside the covers of books. I spent years in college honing my skills at reading these worlds, divining the author’s deeper motives (if such is even possible) and understanding the intentionality at the heart of writing.


Head over to www.plusus.org/our-thoughts/ to read the rest.