Monday, March 9, 2015

#SXSWEdu Day 1

Thanks to @TESGlobalCorp, @Wikispaces, @SXSWedu and my tech coach, I was one of 100 teachers who won a badge to SXSWEdu this week. No one was more surprised than I was ... and I am delighted!

Today was Day 1. I chose three sessions to attend.

The first session didn't address the topic I thought the title intended. I know how that can happen sometimes. I did hear a few very difficult statistics. I'd like to know more about the source of these numbers! Two-thirds of students are not ready for college math. 54% don't graduate ... and only 9% of low income students graduate.

So the day got off to a bit of a slow start. In the meanwhile I had meaningful conversations with colleagues. Teaching is a tough job. We shared our challenges, talked about possible tweaks for the next year, and supported one another in our work.

The second session was awesome! The title was "Failure with Style and Grace." I knew it was going to be good when I realized that two of the three speakers were Two Guys on Your Head from KUT Austin. With Dr. Markman and Dr. Duke was Sarah Bush, an artist, artist coach, and creativity consultant.

Here are just a few key ideas I took from their presentation:
  • U.S. culture infatuated with talent and effortless success; struggle is unacceptable. How do we change this culture? Struggle is the creative process. When we reject struggle we reject
  • Process is often invisible. Make the process visible, overt, necessary. The process reframes failure.
  • Errors, rates of error, mistake making is a necessary part of everything. The only way we speak to our non-conscious selves is by doing something, getting feedback, and making corrections.
  • We gladly show off our final products but rarely show off the process of creating. The intermediate steps are hidden. We compare ourselves, our work, to final products. Make available the awful drafts so that students see the process.
One of the presenters shared a "grook" from Piet Hein, The Road to Wisdom:  The road to wisdom?  -- Well, it's plain and simple to express: Err and err and err again but less and less and less.

The take away for my classroom ... stress the process.  Share with students my own processes for solving challenging problems.  Ask them to share with one another the strategies they use - even those that end in dead ends.  Help students respect the process and realize that it is from working through challenges that we learn the most.  Failing at solving a problem isn't wasted time.  Help students reframe what they learned through the process.

My last session of the day, "How to be Curious," was invigorating and mentally stimulating.  The presenter, Sunni Brown, has been named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” and one of the “10 Most Creative People on Twitter."  She is the author of two books, and the energy behind the Doodle Revolution.  Her topic was about visual language ... making thinking visible through doodling, drawing, illustrating.  Doodling is not about art, but about visually expressive language.  In this session she connected her work to the book, Making Thinking Visible.  We did a couple of doodling exercises ... one on empathy and another on appreciation.  I am inspired to get her books, GameStorming and The Doodle Revolution.  I want to incorporate doodling in our Cornell notes at school.  I feel inhibited because I draw so poorly but as Sunni pointed out, when you learn a language or learn handwriting, the work often lacks shape.  It is with practice that we perfect a language or handwriting ... and so it is with practice that my doodles will look better!  Check out Sunni Brown's Ted Talk here!

As I reflect tonight on the day, I see that the two big ideas ... stressing the process and visualizing thinking go hand in hand!  I look forward to putting my own spin on these ideas in my classroom in the coming weeks!

Thanks, again, to those who are making this week possible!

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