Reflecting on my learning – Day 1 of the Birmingham Learning Conference
I’ve just returned from the first half of a two day conference held by a district in our county. Put simply, it was tremendous. The day opened with one of the brightest leaders in our profession encouraging everyone to “think, imagine, and create.” There were so many lessons learned, it is hard to summarize all of them, but I’ll do my best as I reflect on my day.
Lesson #1 – Be creative with PD resources and “look in.”
In the past, Birmingham has spent a considerable sum to send representatives from their district around the country to learn about the latest in professional development and resources. This year, they took that money and spent it on bringing in some leading minds and putting together a conference that allows more people to grow beyond those they would have simply sent away in year’s past. As a leader, this lesson is critical, take the money you have and find ways to spend it in your district/building to promote the collective learning of more people.
Lesson #2 – Build time in during a PD day to reflect and talk.
A central component of the day was the time between sessions, a room set up for those who would like to meet with others from their district, as well as the scheduled “café conversations” where people with a similar interest could meet in a large space to sit and talk. These opportunities to process what was learned about allowed many attendees (myself included) to move from idea to action. It took the material that was presented and allowed for thinking, imagining, and creating. In addition, this time allowed for tremendous synergy as ideas were exchanged.
Lesson #3 – Schools need to foster a sense of wonder.
Today’s keynote speaker, Dr. Michael Wesch, pointed out that when students wonder, everything begins to matter. A sense of wonder opens doors to new ideas, creates new questions, and shows learners the significance of the work they are doing. Dr. Wesch argued that schools need to create safe, inspired spaces where questions are asked, vulnerability is embraced, and students are on a quest to learn and grow. He also shared this video, which I found very profound:
Lesson #4 – Schools can and should use Facebook.
A breakout session I attended showcased the power of Facebook on a school community. This media connected educators with families in new ways and pushed them beyond e-mail. I found it particularly interesting that their experience showed that more low SES families were engaged through Facebook than they were through e-mail, websites, school handouts, or direct mailings. They shared a video about the power of social media that was very interesting:
Lesson #5 – Visible thinking pushes students to see the big picture and ask questions.
A thinking culture is active and engaging. Using strategies to foster thinking, then encouraging students to share their views, and following up by asking “what makes you say that?” will lead to the outcomes we want for our students, to be lifelong learners.
It was an outstanding day of PD today in Birmingham. I’m looking forward to more learning tomorrow!