Thursday, September 8, 2011

Redefining "Awesome!"

On August 29, noted education author and speaker, Will Richardson spoke to our staff at the district kick-off event.
His talk, "Learning In A Networked World: For Our Students and Ourselves," is one I have seen a few times, but his message was new to staff here in Edina. Prior to his talk, our Superintendent, Dr. Ric Dressen, shared many of the positive things that have been happening in Edina. Our district has been recognized by many National and International organizations for excellence in education. Our district administers more AP exams than any district in a 5 state area, and graduates saved over $2 million in tuition costs through their success on those tests. The word of the day was: AWESOME!

After a brief story about how his children learned how to use a program via Skype from an 11 year old in Scotland, Richardson asked a question of the audience:
How do we define learning?
Richardson shared this definition from Seymour Sarason:
The great thing is.."We now have an easy connection between one's passion to learn and the resources to learn it."
Soon there will be 2 billion people connected on the Internet. This represents 2 billion predators, or...

The next day, at our high school professional development training, several staff commented on that slide.

They understand that "It's not 1985" but they were uncomfortable thinking about connecting students to these "potential" teachers. I reminded them that Richardson didn't say that there were 2 Billion teachers. The key word is "potential!"  I think one of our new roles as educators is to assist students in connecting with the good content AND good teachers who can assist students in the learning process. I've used this video in the past to illustrate this idea of "connectivism."

So how do we redefine "Awesome?"
At the evening talk with parents, Richardson mentioned the inquiry based approach used by the Science Leadership Academy of Philadelphia as an example of a school that is being successful at this.

Then yesterday, during a Twitter conversation, Richardson referenced this school:

Last week, while visiting Valley View Middle school, I learned about Peter Kivimaki, a 7th grader there. Last year, he and fellow student Caroline Harmening started helping with the daily announcements. Over the summer, Peter was bored, and decided to create a Daily Announcement Website. So he logged in to Edina Apps, and collaborating with Caroline, did just that. He initially thought maybe the site would contain the text of each announcement, but then wondered about adding the audio. With the help of principal, Shawn Dudley, they learned how to record the announcements using a Web based tool called AudioBoo. Now each day, they use Audio Boo to record the announcements, and embed them on the building Website! Awesome!

I think this story illustrates a student following his passion, collaborating with others, and having a truly authentic learning experience to redefine "awesome" here in Edina. I would venture to guess this is an example of what Richardson is talking about.

So, how do YOU redefine "AWESOME?!"
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