(Rock the Boat) Don’t Rock the Boat Baby & ISTE17 Part 5/6

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?” – Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Middle Keynote

Jennie Magiera kicked off Tuesday with an inspirational message in which she invited educators to tell their own stories as well as empower their students to tell theirs. She invited all of us in the auditorium to be wizards: 

“Teachers are fun- loving, adventure-going, exciting, passionate, human beings who are leading our kids to go on an adventure every day.”

Here is an excerpt from the ISTE write up by Julie Sturgeon:

Be a wizard. Thanks to an eccentric fourth grade teacher who led her class in hunts for imaginary dragons and handed young Jennie The Hobbit, Magiera adopted the idea that teachers are fun-loving wizards who can help you find your whole self.

So, today, if you were to meet her husband at Starbucks, he would share his love of craft beer and barbecue, but not his profession. Magiera, however, tells you immediately what she does for a living. “Because being an educator is not just what I do. It’s who I am,” she said.

You, too, can invite folks to join you on the adventures you are arranging.

Treat resistant colleagues as friendly dragons. Networking at ISTE conferences are an emotional boost for Magiera, but when she returned to the Windy City, colleagues ran and hid from the crazy tech lady. She admitted the let-down led to resentment at times. But it’s the same situation as a story from her childhood about a dragon who terrorizes villagers because he’s in pain. “Take a step back and listen to what [your colleague’s] problem is. If you have the kindness to help them with their problem first, even if it’s unrelated to your goals, then you’ll be amazed at how they can become your greatest ally,” she shared.

Kinetic Sculptures

Determined to get right to work on my wizard skills, I set off for STEAM Powered: Creating Kinetic Sculptures Using LittleBits with Jessica Holloway and Eric Landgraf. In this session we worked together to collaboratively design and construct kinetic sculptures powered by littleBits (magnetic electronics) and to learn how to teach this unit to intermediate age elementary students. This session was especially fun for me because there were a couple of art teachers there and this would be a fantastic approach to sculpture in an art program. While I don’t have Little Bits in the art classroom at this time, I’ll be looking to get some in the future to add to the options for art making by my students.

We worked with paper, markers, foam sheets and other assorted materials to create a sculpture that moves. This is ours – a tribute to Warhol, Haring, and Basquiat:

And here is the back that shows how we built it:

And here are some sculptures the other groups made:

Meanwhile, as the session was nearing its end, I noticed smoke pouring out of a duct at the Marriott Hotel next door. Sure enough there was a fire going on in the mall beneath, causing evacuation of the hotel and the mall. Everything ended up being okay by the next day, but it reminded me of the crazy microburst we experienced in Denver at ISTE 2016. We had wild wind, heavy rain that caused our workshop ceiling to leak, and pelting hail – eliciting the hashtag #whatthehail. Here’s hoping ISTE 2018 will be drama free in Chicago.

San Antonio River Boat Tour

We had a few hours available before the next conference session and we had been hoping to take the boat tour along the river (when people know you are going to San Antonio, they say, “Take the boat tour along the river”, so of course you have to). We are big fans of boat tours wherever we go, so this little tour that winds along the 3 foot deep man-made river that provides a framework for the riverwalk, was right up our alley. It was about an hour long, yet provided an interesting perspective for the  artist’s eye. Here are some photos from the tour:

Convention Center from the river
Tower of the Americas – there is a restaurant at the top of this. Gah.
Walkway to mall from convention center

Traditional, Transitional, Transformational: What Kind of School or Classroom Have You Got? 

Our school district had facilitated an interview with author and education instigator, Will Richardson (@willrich45), on May 22 in the evening. I was out at an Arts/Learning awards ceremony that night and missed the event. Fortunately it was broadcast live on YouTube and can be found here.

Will Richardson ISTE2017

Will Richardson looks as if he would be equally comfortable on stage playing bass guitar for a band like the Eagles as he is in discussing transforming education. You can see his TEDx talk here.

Themes throughout Will’s work include student-directed learning and preparing children for the non-traditional jobs none of us can predict at this time. Here are some snippets:

How can we give kids more agency over not just how they learn things, but what they’re learning as well. How can we let them follow their passions a little more closely?

How we learn differently? I don’t think we learn differently at all. We still learn by following our passions. We still learn about the things we care about. No one I know is an expert on something they find boring as all get out.

90% of what we teach in school we teach ‘just in case’.

It’s easy to start a school rather than change a school.

Throughout his presentation we were encouraged to consider the 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning , co-authored by will Richardson and Bruce Dixon, and to evaluate our individual and school progress along these tenets.

The 10 Principles are based on answers to the question, “What does deep and powerful learning look like?”

And by using the 10 Principles as a guide, we can transform learning within our schools:

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to Will’s visit to our school district in August as we kick off the school year on educator orientation day. I’m also excited to see how we can work together to begin what promises to be a huge shift, a sea change, in the way we approach learning in the district.

Not to minimize these ideas at all, but they are not new, and are surfacing again at a time when we desperately need to hear them and consider their impact on our future through education. When I studied to become an elementary educator in the mid-1990’s, ideas about student-centered learning were embedded in the pedagogy we explored. This was a time of thematic units center-based instruction, and learning through inquiry, long before the No Child Left Behind act and Common Core. Reggio Emilia was touted as an important model for learning as it is student-driven, constructivist, and experiential. In 1997, we toured the Sudbury Valley school (@SVS_school) in Framingham, Massachusetts, where students from 4 -19 years old continue to conduct their own personalized education as they did then. We listened intently as founder, Dan Greenberg, guest lectured in our classroom. And I know some of my colleagues have had similar educational experiences. After finishing my course work in 1998, I spent a month teaching alongside British Educators in a primary school in England where this approach to learning was also taking place. When I first started teaching in my district later that year, I was able to incorporate a large amount of this in my classroom, and was able to continue for a few years before the state frameworks were developed and everyone was suddenly focused on MCAS. With a BFA in Painting and a Master of Ed in Art, it was a perfect time for me to switch to art education, and I did.

I sat in Will’s session feeling wistful and nostalgic about my first years in education. And also sad as I considered my colleagues in regular education today who have no choice but to be driven by state testing, prescribed curriculum, and curriculum maps. Teachers who spend their days reciting script prepared for them in math and reading manuals. They know their tightly entwined schedules so well that if you put them in a closet in the complete darkness, without a clock, they could tell you exactly when a class block is over.  I know I could. That is the rhythm by which we navigate our school days. If we truly want this transformation in our district, we have a lot of work to do. I hope we can all dig down deep and get it done. I’m all in.

My only fear is that I will refer to him as Will Robinson because of repeated exposure to Lost in Space in my childhood.

I left Will’s session knowing that his words and ideas would resonate with me further in a couple of weeks while in the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) workshop at Massachusetts College of Art just two weeks later. TAB is is generated through constructivism, intrinsic motivation, and experiential learning, as was, not coincidentally, founded in the mid-1990s. I will write about that in a future post.

Shiny Car in the Night

And so, with my mind just about blown, we had the Camaro brought around from parking and took off into the evening.

We drove toward the town of Gruene, which is a former cotton-producing community along the Guadalupe River and now features restaurants, dance halls, and gift shops. About a half hour into the trip the skies darkened.

And we had the opportunity to figure out how to pull over on the busy Texas highway and get the convertible top on under pressure. Good thing we did:

Once we got to Gruene, the skies began to clear and we had a nice, relaxing night with BBQ, brews, and music. Gruene is indeed picturesque and the water tower symbolically keeps watch over the town as the billboard eyes keep watch in The Great Gatsby.

Once we had our fill of Gruene, we got back in the car, put the top down, and headed out in our shiny car in the night.



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