Last weekend i returned to the Learning and the Brain Conference in Boston (http://www.learningandthebrain.com/). Three-years ago that conference was what inspired this blog. The conference was an amazing mix of neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists and educators. The push was once again that school is changing, the world is changing and educators need to be learners and rethink how we educate. The keynotes were funny and smart and inspiring. I tweeted throughout (@avcotton) and in fact have referred several colleagues to my Twitter feed to get a overview of my take-aways from the conference (#LB36). I took a lot of notes too and have shared those with the Alternative Education Department. Learning and the Brain puts together an amazing, 650 page PDF program so I also shared that to supplement my notes. Going through the program reminds me of all the amazing ideas I heard. I hope I remember to go back through it when I need some inspiration.
My favorite connection/take-away was sharing John Bergmann’s idea to use the flipped classroom to do writing conferences with the English teacher in the Alternative Program. She is new to Twitter so it was a great learning experience to Tweet him to get the link. We were absolutely giddy that he Tweeted us back and we watched it together and discussed. John Bergmann also inspired me to visit a 5th grade teacher in our district to see how she is using the flipped classroom.
It felt good to share some concrete artifacts since there was so much information and inspiration that I felt pretty overloaded by Sunday. I love to plan and delude myself into thinking I have more control than I do so was stressed about how to bring all the inspiration and information into my classroom, luckily I didn’t need to work has hard as I thought. First, with my physics class I had them make graphs of a table of velocities over time. We put the graphs up on a bulletin board and brainstormed what we noticed. It was smooth sailing right into slope of a line and voila…acceleration. In my biology class I had a really confusing textbook image and then collected a bunch of Googled images on photosynthesis. I was going to have the students comment on the images but was inspired to have them actually create their own. One of my students asked if they could make another bulletin board (they had just created a food web at the local Massachusetts Audubon center) so voila…we made a board of those, compared them, generated a list of the components in a diagram and specifically what was important about photosynthesis. My chemistry class needed to wrap up their understanding of the Periodic Table so I had THEM use their work to tell ME what they thought was important…voila, assessment, reflection, product.
After all the notes, all the Tweets, all the discussion and phone calls I think my biggest take away from the conference was to have students be more active in their learning. Every time I thought of something I should do as the teacher I questioned it and developed an activity for the students to take an active role in making meaning and disseminating the information. Not only did the lessons go smoothly the students were really engaged and excited. They were producing good work that was meaningful to them and to me. My brain might have been overloaded but the conference was well worth it once again.