Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Learning Facilitators

I am blogging from the SXSWEdu conference. Wow! Such a wonderful gathering of creative, committed, and passionate educators in one place. I have been hearing many amazing things--mostly being plugged into the conversation happening around student voice. On twitter check out #StuVoice and #studentvoice to catch up.

Highlights include:

  • The Pearson Foundation's announcement of Project MASH: a social network that brings students, educators, and research together in a place that leverages the best of what we know about new pedagogies. Be the source!
  • Being part of a webinar on Student Voice with Zak Malamed, student voice champion, and Adam Ray, of the Pearson Foundation. It was a privilege to be part of an ongoing dialogue dedicated to the expanding movement that is student voice.
  • Learning about Next Lessons from CEO Dion Lim--a website filled with best practices aligned to common core for all grade levels in all subjects.
  • Brainstorming with educators from Eanes ISD in Austin who, knowing they already have a very successful school system, want to take things to yet another, higher level. I was inspired by their willingness to continue to learn and grow despite their 98% college enrollment rate.
  • Meeting Adora Svitlak and Nikhil Goyal, whose videos and insights we share in the field as outstanding examples of the thoughtfulness of young people calling for change. They are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today!
  • Attending a panel discussion with Zak, Nikhil, Adora and four other students. They led an interactive session that drove towards solutions for several of the challenges in education today--including having more young people at SXSWEdu in the future!
At this last session, I met Tom Rooney, Superintendent of the Lindsay Unified School District in California. He didn't sugar coat it or pretend that they weren't still a work in progress at five years into their change efforts, but from the little I heard about LUSD, they get my vote for being on a short, yet growing list of schools that are getting it most right. Visit the website and judge for yourself.

I want to make note of one thing they do that is subtle, but extremely significant and easily adoptable: They have turned away from the term "teachers" and refer instead to "learning facilitators." As someone who loves language and words, I love this shift. I also know it is not mere semantics, but a reflection of an approach to education I believe we all need to accept if schools are going to be engaging and relevant to today's learners. 

In other words, the truth of the matter must become that the only thing that distinguishes the adult learners in a school from the young learners is that the former bear a responsibility for organizing, encouraging, supporting, and resourcing educational experiences. This simple change in words implies that LUSD is not teacher-centered or content-centered, or even student-centered, but learning-centered. It communicates that learning is life-long, that even the most educated among the adults are not finished learning, and that together young people and adults can be partners and co-creators of educational experiences.

Thank you to all whom I encountered at SXSWEdu this week for facilitating my learning!

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