Thursday, June 28, 2012

ISTE 2012, Expanding Horizons-Beyond Engaging Our Students, It's Time to Empower Them!

After sitting through a few sessions at ISTE 2012 (International Society for Technology in Education) here in San Diego, I realized that the theme of the conference "Expanding Horizons" certainly resonated with me....it is time for me to truly expand the horizons of my thinking as an educator and life-long learner.

Throughout the conference, I was impressed with the fact that the presenters were focused on the learning process for both students and educators; in fact, the word "ubiquitous" was often was paired with technology, despite the fact that this was a technology conference, the focus was on being the best educators we could possibly be. My goal as an educator should be to empower the students I serve to transform their thinking through a variety of meaningful, authentic, learning experiences and to work with my colleagues to ensure that these opportunities are occurring on an ongoing basis.

One of the "aha" moments for me was when I was listening to Chris Lehmann's presentation on using technology to build a culture of inquiry. Chris is the principal at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He pointed out that technology should not be merely a means of engaging students in the learning process, but it should be the means for empowering them to take ownership of a life-long process of learning and growing. The projects that the students create at Science Leadership Academy rival the work of many doctoral dissertations. The depth of the students' thinking is phenomenal.

I also had the opportunity to attend a session presented by Lisa Parisi and Brian Crosby regarding the incredible connections their students have been making throughout the world through their classroom blogs.  I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the writing that these students are producing because they are engaged in authentic, meaningful experiences that motivate them to learn more as they delve into the content. What's more, the students' work is being read by thousands upon thousands of viewers, and even being cited on websites such as BrainPop.

In addition, I am so impressed with the work that Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay have spearheaded through their Flat Classroom Project, which provides students with a variety of opportunities to work collaboratively with other students throughout the world in projects that provide solutions to real-world problems and issues. Students use a variety of platforms, including wikis, as a means of collaborating with one another.

My take-away from this conference is to do more blogging myself and to hopefully encourage and inspire my colleagues to provide their students with as many opportunities as possible to take ownership of their learning by being engaged in the inquiry process, then providing the students with the opportunity to publish their findings to a wide variety of authentic audiences, be it blogs, wikis,  classroom websites, or other presentation tools.

Additional Resources:
Science Leadership Academy (Inquiry Based Instruction)
Making Connections with Blogging by Lisa Parisi and Brian Crosby
Flat Classroom Project-Vicki A. Davis, Julie Lindsay
Project Based Learning Meets STEM Presented by Michael Gorman