Musings on NCCE, in a Nutshell. With a Bow on It.

I recently had the opportunity to attend and lead a workshop at NCCE (Northwest Council for Computers in Education). It’s a coming-together of educational innovators, teachers, tech companies, and educational leaders. It’s both inspiring and sometimes overwhelming with what feels like a firehose of information and ideas coming at you. So, I try to focus on one or two themes over the course of the three days for my personal take-aways.

This year, I focused on this concept of “The future of education.” And yeah, that’s a huge topic, but it completely aligns with the vision of Project Based Awesome and where we want to go. I’m going to wrap it up in a nutshell and put a bow on it (to completely mix my metaphors) for you in a series of topics and elaborations.

Many (but not all) of these ideas were gleaned from a Fireside Chat session with Google for Education's Jaime Casap and Drea Alphonso.


The Future of Education:

Real school innovation isn't about just putting technology in classrooms. It's culture, leadership, professional development training, coaching, and practice. Schools need to create a framework for all these things to happen.

There is no such thing as the "future classroom"; the future classroom starts tomorrow when you show up with those kiddos. Constant iteration and creating... this is today's world. This is the reality of the workforce. As educators we need to embrace this concept in our classrooms for our students.

Innovation vs. Stagnation:

What is your mission? If you ask all the stakeholders, will they know? Will it be the same from everyone? Is everyone in your school on board? Everyone in the district? Does your mission actually align with the goals of preparing students for the realities of today’s world (see The Future of Education above)?

Many times we suffer a case of paralysis by analysis when trying to decide what to do next. If we keep trying to decide where we're going to go, we get stuck and never go anywhere.

I’ve always found it’s best to just take the leap. Go. Try something new and evaluate the success after.  

Did it work? Awesome! Let’s do more of that or keep building on it.

Was it an epic failure? (that’s gonna happen) Reevaluate and move forward.  

But, the key here is to always be moving forward and trying to grow.

Which brings me to the last point in this segment. Progressive thinking = project based. This is how real life works. In life and work as adults we are faced with projects and challenges without someone telling us exactly the steps to complete it and many times, without a specific image of what the final outcome should look like. We need to problem-solve, design, create, collaborate, and make choices that will lead us to the desired final outcome. Let’s embrace that as educators. That is exactly where Project Based Awesome lands.  

Equity in Technology for Education:

Technology equity in education is a temporary problem. In the meantime: there are things we do that contribute to the inequity.  This is one that we are passionate about at Project Based Awesome.

One obvious example is the institution of Homework. As teachers, we give the students homework and grade them as if they're equals and they're not. One student might have access to resources that others don’t (resources here can range from parents’ proclivities to after school responsibilities to no access to wi-fi or tech at home).

The bottom line here is, "Homework does not work!!!" This is a direct quote from Jaime Casap. It’s  something we have discussed and will continue to discuss (by discussion I mean shouting from the rooftops) in blogs and podcasts in Project Based Awesome moving forward.  

The Role of the Teacher in the Classroom:

Another thing that Mr. Casap said in the fireside chat I attended was, "The hardest thing about technology is the idea that technology alone improves education." It's like saying the desk or the textbook alone improves education: it comes down to how it's used.

It makes sense and it’s something that we are passionate about. Our goal in our PBA work is to blend technology with student choice, authentic activities, real-world outcomes, and great teaching strategies.  

We still need teachers to help guide students. The world is at our fingertips. The teacher becomes a leader, a manager. Not just a facilitator. And for goodness' sakes, not just a “sage on the stage" or keeper of the knowledge. The teacher becomes the leader in the classroom who sets up the learning environment for Ss to be successful.

But here’s a kicker to think about: we need to move from the idea of Personalized learning to Personal Learning: Personalized = I (the teacher) give you my stuff and you (the student) do it. Personal = You (the student) create your own stuff. This moves us even further into a student-centered classroom, embracing student choice and creativity, and takes the emphasis off of the teacher being the center of the student’s learning.


Here Comes the Nutshell with the Bow on It:

So what does all this mean? Well, the best I can say is that we live in the future now. (Just blew your mind, didn’t I?) As educators we need to do our best to create a learning environment for our students that embraces the future, has a shared mission, provides opportunities for student innovation and equity, embraces the role of the teacher as a leader and moves to personal learning for all students.

Keep moving forward.

Until next time...Peace.


Chris Butler
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