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Edina Learning Institute Keynote: Rafranz Davis "To Learn is to Wonder About Possibilities"

Rafranz Davis, author of the book, The Missing Voice in EdTech Conversations, Bringing Diversity into EdTech" was our keynote speaker at the Edina Learning Institute.

All of us as teachers have had times where we were NOT innovative, creative, brilliant!

She is the first college graduate in her family, and comes from a very supportive close knit family.

She comes from a "Minecraft Family," as a way to create as a family, both at home and outside. She loves that she can bring that outside activity into her classroom.

As a student, in 5th grade she realized that she couldn't focus in class, as she began to day-dream. She felt like she didn't belong, and didn't have the platform to do creative things. It fueled her desire to become a teacher, to help students just as herself.

She remembers the Tandy 1000 and AOL, and the first time she logged on to the Internet. It was the greatest thing ever to have access! It reminded me of waiting 4 hours to download a picture of Shaquille O'Neil. 

Her early years of teaching were very teacher directed, with a SMART Board and tools that only she used, rather than being more student directed.

Why is Math Different? Why do we need to do these worksheets? How is this a part of our lives? 

She started with games. Play the skill, test the skill, mini-game...

Back to Basics
She needed to get to know her students. To find out what made them tick. She found there were so many things that were connections from curriculum to their real life, but we weren't making those connections. 
She shared stories of students that she is still connected to, who became pregnant at an early age, or survived a stabbing, or were told they couldn't be something further on due to low grades, or were questioning their orientation and was beaten at home.

These stories put things in perspective on how getting to know your students can give greater understanding of what they are going through, and how you can help them.

New Tech High
Davis attended a conference, where she got to visit New Tech High in Coppell, Texas where they focus on Project Based Learning and was transformed.

She encouraged people to visit other schools and 

She was transformed by the ability to connect with other teachers around the world through her personal learning network

Ask Questions that lead to more questions...
Classrooms need to be a safe place to learn. 

Empower learning through student interest
What is your students "thing?" What keeps them up at night that is of interest?
She started playing emersive games in her classroom, like SIMS build and Farmville and Angry Birds, which taught students design and application.

Emilio, loved rap, which allowed her to talk about beats per minute/measure as he used Garage Band to make music. 

Chonston, who loved dentistry, and was able to do internships in high school in the dentist office, and is close to having his degree.

Braeden, her nephew, who is 10, at 8 taught himself how to handmake puppets. He struggles with homework folders that take 3 hours per night, but taught himself via YouTube how to design and build amazing puppets. He has now presented at conferences, and even created a mascot costume, which provided great opportunities for problem solving, creativity and innovation. It didn't come from a packet or a teacher at a SMART Board. He blogs about his passion here.

Learning is fueled by curiosity and passion.
We do need to learn somethings that may not be part of that, but as teachers, we need to connect our curriculum to our student's passions!

Braxton's Story
Her niece shared in Rafranz's book how she did not have access to technology besides her phone. Her teacher didn't allow it. The teacher wanted a 20 slide PowerPoint, with paragraphs on each slide. Braxton wanted to make a video, but the teacher said she didn't have a rubric for a video, only the PowerPoint lesson that she has been doing for the last 10 years. She discussed how powering down at school was such a struggle. 

Davis challenged us to listen to what our students are saying. Learning should be happening while you are doing the homework, not after the homework.
At the end of the day, our students want to be better people, students and scholars!

At the end of the day, it isn't about the technology, it's about the relationships we build with our students!


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