The good folks from EdTechTeacher did it again. Another session, another success. This time they teamed up with MassCUE to present Leading Future Learning at Holy Cross. Compared to the iPad Summit in Boston, this conference was smaller in size and wider in scope. This was a great combination, one which left me wishing there was another block to see all the presenters I targeted. “Always leave them wanting more,” I guess.
Here are the six biggest lessons I took away from #LFL15:
Lesson 1) We are living in the third industrial revolution but our ed model harkens back to the first. Discussions swirled around time, space, structures and subjects. Larissa Schelkin from The Global STEM Education Center said “Technological advancements over the last decade have dramatically changed the reality of the professional world.” Schools have not kept up. Beth Holland (@brholland) talked about the three keys to the future of learning: customized, personalized, adaptable. These keys can be used in plans for future spaces, schedules, degree requirements and much more. Now, there is a tension between the interests of industry and the mission of a school. Many speakers touched on this, as they should. There is no patch and certainly there is no panacea. That said, schools and school systems would be wise to listen to educators like Larissa Schelkin who have clear understanding of the needs of industry and the nuances of education today.
Lesson 2) “School life” and “real life” must be more connected. This lesson is a logical continuation of the first. Preparedness for school and life is paramount. I think most stakeholders would agree without too much hesitation. “How?” is the hard question to answer? How to engage students in content? How to allow them to use technologies they are used to using at home? How to reimagine the use of time, resources and space? How to give students choice and voice? How to connect school communities to other communities? How to encourage learning and even encode learning opportunities outside of the school day? In the end, the key might be the fourth “R,” the most important for this generation of learners: RELEVANCE.
Lesson 3) You can’t be literate for the 21st century without being STEM/STEAM literate. This was another gem from Larissa Schelkin. It is simple to see, even for a Spanish teacher trained in the humanities. This graphic from the Economist tells a story we would all be wise to hear. Does this mean death to the humanities? I doubt it. Does this mean languages and literature will fall with the rise of coding? I certainly hope not. Does this mean all educators should think of relevant projects and real-world connections to help their students develop fluency and functional literacy for STEM/STEAM? Yes, sir.
Lesson 4) When it comes to edtech, access is not impact. We are all guilty of this one: thinking that having access to a device or product is the solution. From high profile snafus like the L.A. Unified iPad roll-out to smaller stumbles, we know that giving students access is the beginning of the process, not the final step. Educators need to define and even dare to imagine impacts. After that comes a implementation plan that works through the technology to reach an outcome. Too often the outcome is the ‘having’ not the ‘using’ or ‘using well.’ Damian Bebell from Boston College’s Lynch School of Education asked an intriguing question, “How can we measure what we care about?” There are, in fact, two questions embedded there. #1) How can we measure what we care about? and #2) How can we define what we care about? I’d argue, as did Professor Debell, that question #2 needs to be the primary push. Otherwise we end up with impacts what we don’t care much about and instruments to evaluate said outcomes that cost too much and produce little of value.
Lesson 5) Conversations about education and among stakeholders need to be more inclusive. This conference brought together stakeholders from K-12 public schools, K-12 private schools, teachers, techies, professors and policy makers from post secondary, developers, vendors, thought leaders and more. It was as inclusive a crowd as I have been a part of despite the relatively small size. Even so, there were many calls to make conversations about education even more inclusive. Whose needs are we serving as educators? Whose needs are we serving as policy makers? How can we know what the real needs are? How can we measure progress? How do we bring in parents? To Lesson #2 above, How to we bring in industry leaders and innovators? These questions were all in the air.
Lesson 6) “App…SMASH!!” Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) may or may not have coined the phrase, but he is cornering the market. Amazing stuff! He was moving video from his iPad camera roll to Google Drive to iMovie to YouTube. He had the audience doing the same, and all in 30 minutes. As he had in the fall, he really got me thinking about the fluid nature of products and platforms. It’s not about making a movie or sharing a file: it’s about leveraging the best of each platform to create something authentic. As impressed as I was by the way he smashed apps, I was more impressed by the way he laid out the process and gave students clear instructions about the process. I’ve begun to think about ways I can bring this into my classes already.