Sunday, October 16, 2011

Edscape 2011 - A Restrospective

When I arrived in New Milford, New Jersey for Edscape 2011 I was struggling to find a parking spot. I find this a disconcerting way to start any day, but in this case I was happy. So many people interested in Edscape that parking was difficult in this sleepy New Jersey town??? Awesome! 

After registering I was disappointed to learn that Chris Lehmann was not presenting, but, in retrospect, that worked out just fine as he sent Diana Laufenberg in his stead. Diana was inspiring in her presentation on TED and I was happy to hear her in person. She smoothly linked the 4 C's of 21st Century Education to the work they are doing at the Science Leadership Academy. I was inspired by the videos her students created on topics as varied as Voting in the USA and Pharma America. Seeing student work is always great and knowing that it was generated in an environment that promotes critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity made me wonder why you would do it any other way. 

I wasn't sure what I would get from my Edscape experience, I just knew I wanted to be there - I wanted to be around the movers and the shakers in education - people I follow in blogs and on twitter...

 When I signed up to hear Mike Ritzius speak about "Integrated Studies: Rethinking Curriculum and Schedules" - his experiences rethinking education. He spoke about how he worked with other teachers unconstrained and created an "open modern one room schoolhouse". Teachers collaborated and students created with autonomy and mastery in a setting that was both horizontally and vertically integrated. He walked us through the first three years of the program, where they realized "by eliminating the constraint of a rigid schedule, we created an environment where students have the autonomy to advocate for their own learning; the students are now participants in the learning rather than recipients of information." Hearing about the pitfalls and the successes that he described, witnessing his engagement and excitement was contagious and breathed new life into my own ideas.

I was so turned on about what he described and I was sure this would fit in with my current project that I found it hard to wait to visit other events of the day with my own innovation engaged. However, the day did not disappoint or redirect my energy. 21st Century Mobile Learning as co-presented by Verizon Wireless, Edmodo and Ms. Makeba Mccray of East Orange High School was a veritable cornucopia of information. In part, I heard about the commitment of Verizon Wireless to helping schools meet their wireless needs.(Please take a minute to check out Thinkfinity where you can find many lesson plans and great ideas)

Ms. Michelle Best of Edmodo presented about how their free program engages students, parents and teachers. At our school I have often heard it referred to as "Facebook for School". If you haven't already, check out this video about Edmodo co-founders Nic Borg and Jeff O'Hara. Finally, I learned how Ms. Mccray was able to re-think how her school was spending money and the story of how she ended up putting electronic learning devices in the hands of all the seniors at her school. 

That was the theme for me at Edscape - Re-Think- Re-Imagine - Re-Design Education! I am a fan of Dan Pink's book Drive and am curious about the connection between motivation and innovative education. I am currently drawing the line to connect all these dots and got plenty of help at Edscape this weekend.

Special thanks to Eric Sheninger for arranging the day!