Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Write This Down


“Write this down."


A month from now it will be two years that my PD (Professional Development) has taken place primarily through interactions with K-12 educators. I started participating at EdCamp in September 2013. I became a card-carrying member of TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) around the same time. My learning through CUE conferences and CUERockstar happened this year. It's time and effort well spent.

A few days ago I attended an Explore Teaching session at Rio Salado College. The experience was designed to give pre-teacher students a glimpse of what being a teacher is like. It was quite different from what I expected: the application of pedagogy and technology and engagement. No. It was basic stuff, some of which I had missed during my own K-12 educational experience. Though I had heard that “Being a student doesn’t qualify one to be a teacher." the deeper meaning of the phrase had escaped me until now.


My K-12 experience took place in the nineteen sixties and early seventies. I would have liked to have learned about Cornell Notes back then. That’s one cool way of note-taking. I liked learning how to use them as a study-aide too. It’s a more structured way of taking notes but I can see its value.

Beyond learning about note-taking tools I was a little surprised to find that not much else had changed. Teachers still stand at the front of a room pointing and talking. I was a little shocked when the presenter would say, “Write this down.” That was my first aha moment.


The EdCamps and CUE conferences I’ve attended have been dynamic learning experiences. They are heavily focused on educational technology. But the presenters always share how to apply technology to facilitate learning and enable student success. CUERockstar, the most recent K-12 learning experience I completed, was in many ways a capstone where everything came together: creativity, innovation, technology, learning experience. But what about the basics? The teachers I learn from have the basics down. Even the new teachers have student teaching and observation experience.

This was my second aha. Funny to think that it took me almost two years to figure it out. I don’t think I would have gotten it otherwise.


Since CUERockstar Las Vegas, it ended a couple weeks ago, I’ve tried two things. The first was creating an infographic and using it as a talking point with a subject matter expert (SME). It was amazing. It took my usual design thinking approach to interviewing, something I learned via EdCamp, to a whole new level. The ideas flowed. The SME ended up doing the initial workshop outline for me. This is a big deal because usually I create the outline and the SME reviews and approves it or kicks it back for edits. This saved us a LOT of time.

The other thing I tried was the Breakout Box experience. We, the SME and I, didn’t actually have a box. I explained how it was a box with several locks that needed to be opened and how problems had to be solved to unlock to locks. The SME and I were together for 90 minutes. It was at about the 25 minute mark I mentioned Breakout Box. We hit flow-state a little after.


The learning experiences I design are meant to enable learners to be better at solving problems. But what’s a problem? When the SME heard about the Breakout Box the problems all of a sudden seemed to become simpler. They weren’t problems at all. They were puzzles to solve. We could make the workshop a game. I learned from a podcast, I think it was with Jon Corippo, that rigor doesn’t mean harder. It can mean challenging. The SME said it before I did. “How about if we make it so the first activity is easy. They (learners) will have lots of time to solve the puzzle.” Yes. Each iteration of the activity learners have less time to solve the puzzle.


A week and a day after CUERockstar Las Vegas ended I earned the Rockstar Badge. Going forwards I have to approach projects using a simpler frame. I can already imagine how to make learning more engaging while consuming fewer resources by getting back to basics. I think I’ll enroll in the teacher program at Rio Salado College. Not to necessarily become a teacher, but to enrich my understanding of how instructional design can teach.


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