On October 8-9 I attended OESIS conference Boston. It was my first OESIS event and I had an overwhelmingly positive experience. The format was great, the ignite keynote speakers were wide-reaching and inspiring, and the networking opportunities were plentiful.

Here are my 10 take-aways from the event.


1) It is a great time to be a connected educator. I use connected here in the traditional sense–peers and colleagues–as well as the networked sense–online tools and virtual meeting places. Teacher are willing to share resources and contacts, sit down for conversation and set up a framework for future collaboration. Embrace this and engage in learning opportunities wherever they are available.

2) Roll deep for deep learning. There were two of us from my school at the conference, yet there were schools with more than ten. More minds means more diffusion, deeper dives and, I expect, more impact. Take your school to a conference then then make it point to bring the best of the conference back to your school.

3) Fail successfully. This was a thread throughout, from conversations about Board-level dealing to micro-deadlines within single assignments. Ideation, iteration, innovation–these concepts are built on failure. Educators need to understand, model and celebrate this idea. This means that failure will have to happen and students will have to learn what to do when it happens. When done right, failure can be inspiring, like Austin’s butterfly.

4) Language teachers rule. Bravo and “big ups” to the language teachers who presented. The main theme was flipping and otherwise reformatting aspects of the course to maximize conversation time. Perhaps I’m biased as a Spanish teacher, but I have gone on record as saying that the search for authentic content and connections has given language teachers more reasons to blend and more systems for doing so. The presenters this time around demonstrated this and moved the discourse around language instruction along.

5) The toothpaste is out of the YouTube. Online learning is not going to happen. It is happening now. Point of fact: the last time you needed/wanted to know something, where did you go? Online, the same answer our students would give.

How can educators curate and create thoughtful online content that connects to and complements their experiential classes? How can we share expertise and resources–among them space and human resources? How can we grant credit? How can we use online learning to solidify standing relationships and form new ones? How can we leverage online learning to think differently about both our craft and our campuses? These are essential questions for any institution.

6) Mission stance/posture vs. mission statement. The technological, financial and cultural realities of independent schools are changing so quickly that it is increasingly difficult to make any statement about where we will be in 5, 10, 50 years. That is not an excuse for inaction or a wedge to core principles, rather, it is an incentive to redefine those core principles and use them to inform decisions we don’t know we will have to make or establish priorities we don’t know we need to have. I was really impressed by the way leaders from Worcester Academy and Shattuck-St. Mary’s School articulated this work.

7) LTI. I have to admit the term Learning Tool Interoperability (LTI) was new to me. Conceptually the principle makes sense and fits with what I’ve done in online learning environments as a teacher and a student. Moving ahead, understanding the principles will help me evaluate learning ecosystems and more carefully search for third party tools that plug in. Thanks for Sanje Ratnavale (OESIS) and Rose Rocchio (UCLA) for describing the urgency of interoperability.

8) False conflict of ‘content vs. computers.’ This one gets me going. Some choose to point to fault lines between those who are ‘content experts’ and those who are ‘computer experts.’ Both of these groups are so reductionist, so ridiculous that they distract from the real issues and detract from the amazing work being done by educators in every possible circumstance. They are not mutually exclusive to any degree. Those content experts still need to engage kids, pace lessons, assess thoughtfully. Those computer users still ask and answer essential questions, engage in thinking that ranges from the canonical to contemporary. Let’s extend a hand before we point a finger; throw a line before we draw one in the sand.

9) Active verbs for active learning. The moniker ‘guide on the side’ can imply a passive role. Teachers should not dominate discourse, of course, but we still need to have an active role. What do teachers do? We listen, synthesize, nurture, mentor, mediate, visualize, probe, reflect, support, provide, connect, encourage, engage, evaluate, delegate, inspire, assess, trust…and more.

10) A book and a log-on. I was inspired by the work humanities teachers are doing to practice close reading with blogs and message boards. The quality of writing and the sophistication of the peer-peer and peer-text relationships were stunning. Tools like Ponder, Haiku, Schoology can facilitate debate, deep reading, and discourse on many levels. In the hands of a professional educator and an invested group, these tools are from add-ons–they allow for a wider range of learning styles and modalities. Some might say all a reader needs is a book and a log; I’ll take a book and a log-on.

Inspired by OESIS Boston yourself? Intrigued by these ideas. Feel I missed the mark? Please keep the conversation going.

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