SXSWedu Takeaways, Day 1

First of all, I apologize for any typos and other errors in this post.  I am currently trying to type it on my iPad as I can’t seem to “catch” the elusive hotel wi-fi here in my hotel in Austin, TX.

I am attending SXSWedu this week.  I was fortunate to go a couple of years ago, and the innovative ideas that were shared are still used in my classroom.  I missed last year, and pined for it while it was going on, so I promised myself I would make it a priority this year.

On Day 1,  Temple Grandin spoke, and she reinforced everything I believe in education: that students need to do things to learn, that we should build on their strengths instead of berating them about their weaknesses, and that we need to recognize the different ways people think.  She also feels, as I do, that we need to expose students to many different experiences so they discover the interests they may not have known they have.

I also went to two sessions on “Innovative Learning.”  The first was designed to help us create a culture of innovation on our campuses. There were several articles we got time to read that gave me some ideas, including this one about the “levers” for redesigning a school. I particularly like the idea of “assumption storming” where the group lists all of the assumptions that might be blocking innovative thinking.  I need to sit down and fully digest this article as it’s full of resources and ideas that look very useful for developing an innovative climate in schools.

The second session I went to was about “Rethinking Assessment for Innovative Learning.”  We are about to embark on a three-year journey to implement standards-based grading at our school, so we are looking at multiple types of assessment.  I loved the structure of this session, as it was all about the different ways to tell a student’s “story.”  We discussed the importance of allowing the student to tell his/her story of growth in addition to the teacher reporting it.  Too often, test scores and report cards are relied upon to tell the students’ stories, which can give very incomplete pictures.  We talked about different ways this can be done, such as students self-assessing with emojis, drawing graphs to reflect their change in growth over time, and using portfolios with photos, videos, and student writing.

I have about 50 sessions in my SXSWedu app that I favorited for tomorrow, so it will be a challenge to narrow those down to a few that don’t overlap!  I hope to have many more exciting things to share after listening to Tuesday’s dynamic speakers.

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