Saturday, April 27, 2013

Learning with Neil Stephenson

A couple of weeks ago I attended my district's fifth of six digital dinner series sessions. The evening started in the usual way with sharing by two local schools.  The first Mme Nero from Kwatlen Park Secondary.  She has her students working through some great projects in FRENCH. (Okay that always inspires me because while I learned french in school, and I can get my very basic needs met, I love that so many can read, write, and speak french as if it was their first language). After that Woodward Hill Elementary shared what they have been doing with technology and shared a truly inspiring video. Its one of the best I've seen. It makes me so proud to know this type of learning is happening in my school district.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Neil Stephenson.  I've been following Neil for a while on twitter and  met him f2f at EdCampDelta in the fall. I like what he has to say and how he thinks.  At times he pushes my thinking on twitter asking me questions which are engaging and help me reflect on what I'm doing with my students. I need that push in my thinking and I appreciate when I get it.  To no surprise Neil's talk on Thursday night did exactly that.

Neil had me really thinking about what I am doing with my students now, and how I can continue to improve my practice.  He made me think about the balance I have in my classroom with  me being the "sage on stage" and also being the "guide on the side".  It isn't one or the other, it's a combination of both. He made me look at where my balance is with my students.

Doing meaningful work also came up with a focus on inquiry.  I like having my student read, write, and do things that are important to them, while being mindful of my ministry guidelines. Neil talked about designing learning around essential questions, foundational skills, student misconceptions. He talked about not just teaching math but teaching mathematical thinking.

Through out his keynote I kept going back to what is happening in my classroom with my students. Often it's over whelming for me to meet all the goals I want to meet for myself and for my students. I know there are many things I am doing well with my students but listening to Neil speak I also know there are so many things I could be doing better.  I also struggle a lot with who is really doing the learning in my classroom as wrote about here.

As you can see I'm having a difficult time putting into words how Neil's keynote affected me as a person and an educator.  What I do know is that  I love how Neil pushes my thinking.

Some of my take aways and how they will impact my current teaching are as follows:

  • A knowledge building classroom is about deep effective inquiry.
  • Good teaching is a balance between the guide on the side and the sage on the stage.
  • Inquiry is curiousity and wondering in learning.
  • All curriculum lives in the world some where and we need to start where these ideas exist in the real world.
  • Assessment is key and learning needs to be made visible

I wish I was able to share more of what is running around in my head after listening to Neil speak but after two weeks it's still a bit jumbled up.

I am very thankful to have had the time to listen to Neil speak and I really hope he will continue to push my thinking. I'd love to have the opportunity to work with him again.

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