Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Presenting with Students

Photo by Billy Krakower as we took our morning brain break at #TCT15
This past Friday, as teachers from all over the world started packing their suitcases for the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference held in our own City of Brotherly Love, a group of excited and passionate teachers were getting up early, having scheduled their trips to arrive a few days in advance of ISTE in order to participate in the inaugural Tomorrow's Classrooms Today conference organized by the amazing team of Evolving EducatorsBilly Krakower, Scott Rocco, and Brad Currie. The opening keynote by Cybraryman, Jerry Blumengarten (who really does have a web page for everything), and a crowdsourced lunchtime keynote by my friend Rich Kiker helped to frame an afternoon of learning that was filled with sessions on gamification, flipped-learning, project-based learning and assessment, blogging, and innovations of all sorts.

Christy Brennan's sketchnotes of Jerry Blumengarten's keynote
And perhaps my favorite part, presenting with my colleague and friend Christy Brennan and three of my students!  I was fortunate to present with Christy and a few of my students at this past January's EduCon in Philly, and it went so well that we though, let's do it again!  One of my former students, Jenna, who presented with us at EduCon, joined us again on Friday for our session on Mentoring Passion. Two other students, Kristin and Emily, who had just finished 10th grade English with me also joined to talk about what they each had learned when Kristin surveyed the student body to design an new elective course and Emily interviewed and worked with learning space designers to propose (and have accepted by our school!) a new design for our upstairs library space. And because we had a small group of teachers in our session on Friday, there was time to talk more collaboratively about passion-based learning, fostering mentorship opportunities, and for my students to share their experiences of what worked and what didn't as they pursued their inquiry. The teachers that joined us for Friday's session were able to ask my students about their process undertaking our #HavPassion research.

There are so many, many positives that come out of asking students to present at conferences. Perhaps the most obvious reason to encourage student participation in education conferences and workshops is that as a group of teachers sitting in a room talking about educational philosophies and practices we're not getting a full picture of what is happening in the classroom if students aren't also seated at the table.  For all our talk of student-driven learning and student-ownership, there are very few students presenting their work outside of the classroom. If our goal is to innovate, to change what is happening in education in order to help support more critical and creative thinking, students need to be involved in our conversations about what that looks like. My students showed up on a Friday during their summer vacation to present to a bunch of teachers. Hang on. Let me repeat that.

My students showed up on a Friday during their summer vacation to present to a bunch of teachers.

The students were not getting any points for showing up. There wasn't a grade involved. They were not getting extra credit. So why did they want to present? Because what they undertook in our classroom, authentic research that included contacting and conducting interviews and primary research, that involved finding mentor texts and becoming a mentor, that involved a lot of blogging, and time, and effort, was something they want others to hear about. They are passionate and proud of their work. So passionate that they took time out of their summer vacation, arranged their own transportation, and volunteered to talk in front of strangers about what they had learned. When was the last time a student got that invested in a multiple-choice test?

So here's a little more about what they presented. Below you will find our slide deck on Mentoring Passion. Be sure to check out the speaker's notes as Christy and I loaded them up with links and information.  Beneath that you will find the recording of our presentation shared live via Google Hangouts.


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