Educon 2.5 – Gain by Giving Up
Last month,a group of new-found friends from EdCampISVA submitted a conversation proposal to Educon. The ideas flowed directly from our spawling, fractured talks at Fredricksburg Academy, bouncing off our different areas of expertise or dilettantism, reflecting decades of teaching experience.
Watching Melanie set up her Replicator at EdCamp (and print Tim’s head!) brought me back to discussions from MakerFaire with Jaymes about how poorly some of these tools fit into repeating blocks of 45 minutes. We all had stories of how long unstructured time gave rise to great learning. Sometimes grew out of unexpected moments, a boarding school snow day or a rained out soccer game. Some came from deliberatte scheduling decisions, from simple block schedules to leaving a full day every week open for spontaneous creation.
We took a week and spun those threads out into something that looked interesting to us. We had a prompt that we could talk through and hack on for days. When the conversation list was published this afternoon, we were delighted to see it on the list of selected conversations for Educon 2.5 (January 25-27th! Register now!)
Every teacher worth their salary would love to have a smaller number of students for longer chunks of time. What our conversation suggested, drawn from our experience as classroom teachers and more recently as various flavor of meta-teachers, was that these richer learning experiences were so powerful that they had positive spill-over effects for students in completely different academic areas.
Right now, this is a working hypothesis based on a small collection of anecdotes. Educon, and the remaining months of winter bloggging leading up to it, are our chance to gather more stories and build a repeatable model for creating these learning spaces within academic confines of traditional K-12.
So this is our conversation for Educon. Even if you’re triple booked for our scheduled time, which is guaranteed considering the ridiculous strength of this year’s roster, look for us throughout the weekend. This is a conversation that needs your voice.
Behind every scheduling conflict lies the assumption that academic scheduling is a zero-sum game. We reject that notion, and the tug of war mentality that pits science against humanities against arts. Join a group of educators committed to improving personal and academic learning through flexible structures and student choice.
Teachers constantly struggle with time. Behind every scheduling conflict lies the assumption that academic scheduling is a zero-sum game. We reject that notion. Flexible structure enhances student choice, yet can provide for deep content exploration; both empower students as owners of their learning.
We reject that.
We are classroom teachers, librarians, learning specialists, and teaching coaches, and we’re constantly frustrated by the pre-portioned TV-Dinner approach to scheduling and curriculum. Asserting that the 45 minute period doesn’t help students is nothing new, but it persists as the primary tool schools use to achieve equity for diverse subjects.
Our claim is that longer, less structured periods of cross disciplinary learning and exploration are not only better for student learning and engagement, but they have tangible and observable benefits for all subjects and classes. This is not just that students learn more from these open-ended projects, but that when given the opportunity for this sort of learning they learn and perform better in traditional classes as well.
This conversation will present evidence and anecdotes from our broad experience and from other Educon participants. Our session building a repertoire of repeatable experiments and best practices. If this assertion is correct, that students with access to open learning environments also perform better on traditional modes of assessment, then a compiled source of examples and information will help teachers everywhere make changes in their own environments.