An epiphany at #SXSWedu

Last year, I attended and presented at SXSWedu for the first time. I left feeling let down on all of the hype. It seemed very theory-based and more about discussions, less about action.

So, this year, I decided to come back, but with different expectations. I can’t say that I saw any more focus on action, but it did cause an epiphany in me.

I attended a session yesterday about Hacking school – creating non-traditional school models. One of the panelists had a makerspace environment for an after school club, one was a non-profit, and the other was a charter school here in Austin. They shared the success of their students – the learning successes – not the test scores. And, though these successes are awesome, they are not always able to replicate in public school during the school day.

A man sitting next to me came to the mic at the end and asked the best question of my SXSWedu experience: how can we make these ideas work in public education. He wanted to take action. He wanted to start making change.

Another participant joined him and brought up the point that we have parallel schools going on right now. Her school in South Bronx was closed due to poor performance. In its place, a charter school was opened. Her point: is this our solution to public education – tearing it down and replacing it with charter schools? Or, do we have a plan to take what we’ve learned from charter schools and implement it in public education.

This made me think and want to take action. It raised the question: do we need public education? And, my answer: Yes. In its most basic form, it is a communal space. It should represent the learning of the community. We should be able to provide our community with education. Does this get in the same argument we are always in ? Yes. However, it brings urgency to the issue.

We need a solution for public education. Another participant compared it to a pinterest project. You know all of the “nailed it” memes going around…When you start out on a project and you are trying to replicate someone else’s project, it usually does not turn out the same and you think you failed it. However, if you start a project from scratch with an open view of its end vision, you won’t have something to compare it to for failure. Let’s put this in education: when we try to make it fit something it’s not, we will find failure. When we make it open, we find innovation.

My answer: more creative environments within the classroom and school. Makerspaces and making equal the playing field. They provide an opportunity to create without a model of comparison.

My action: to work on creating maker environments within my school. Does this stop state tests? No. Does it fix every issue? No. But, it does give us a starting place. Right now, we just need to start.

And, on that note, I finally took the plunge and made my first sketch note, documenting this idea.

What action will you take as a result of SXSWedu?

And, kudos to TES Global for providing so many teachers the chance to attend SXSWedu for free. Five of my teachers got to attend and were exposed to a different type of conference and new ideas. Now, that is change-making. 3.11.15

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