Monday, April 29, 2013

Reflections on Day One of edJEWCon!

Yesterday, we enjoyed our first day of edJEWcon, hosted by Jon Mitzmacher and the amazing people of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School. Here are some of our thoughts from the day, but stay tuned for more of our reflections:

Greetings from Jacksonville, Florida! RealSchool is so excited to be here at edJEWcon learning, sharing, reflecting and planning with others.

Opening Keynote Speech by Andrea Hernandez from Martin J. Gottlieb Day School: The conference began with a fantastic keynote speech by Andrea Hernandez. Andrea spoke about the goals of the conference and what we, as participants, should do to get the most out of our days here. It was exciting to see that the concepts Andrea mentioned as key to maximizing the experience at edJEWcon are core RealSchool values. For example, Andrea talked about the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things and meeting new people, because that is how success and growth really occur. She also stressed that curiosity is a key to authentic learning, and she mentioned that babies naturally learn because they're curious. They're also not afraid to experiment and fail and try again.

]Andrea Hernandez delivering her opening keynote speech Andrea Hernandez delivering her opening keynote speech

In RealSchool, we aim to push students to do things they may not be comfortable with but we know they can do. Reawakening the curiosity that lies innate in students, that sometimes gets dampened by an endless cycle of tests and due dates, is also central to RealSchool's ethos. At RealSchool we also stress that failing is safe, acceptable and even -- gasp! -- a positive part of the learning process. Of course, self-directed learning is at the heart of the RealSchool model, so we were excited when Andrea included it in her list of key ingredients to learning success.

Breakout Session One: We went to the Speed Geeking session where fourth and fifth graders taught us about some great edtech tools (more on that another time!). The students kept referencing their blogs and the assignments they're always posting on them. One presenter even taught us how to appropriately comment on others' posts. After the session, we were given time to reflect and share our reflections with you.

4th and 5th grade MJGDS students answering questions about the technology they use 4th and 5th grade MJGDS students answering questions about the technology they use

Our Takeaway: So far, RealSchool has been an extra-curricular activity, but next year the model is also going to be applied to an elective. In that venue, we'd like to implement the ideas edJEWcon is stressing about giving time to learn, reflect and share. It's clear that the student blogging at MJGDS gives students that time, and here we are, after the session, typing away with fellow participants Ken Gordon from PEJE and Sarah Blattner from Tamritz Learning nearby, reflecting on our experience and sharing it with others (This is all so meta!)

Next school year, then, we're going to build into the Frisch RealSchool elective class reflection time. The students will have time to share their reflections with their schoolmates and the world on their own blogs, where they can post not only text but also short films, videos, and audio and visual presentations that reveal their impressions of the events and projects they'll complete. In fact, with the edtech tools we learned at the Speed Geeking session, we'll be well equipped to suggest many ways students can share their thoughts and ideas. Right now, RealSchool has a blog that is a shared space for all the teams, and we plan on continuing to update that blog. But RealSchool is about giving students a venue to develop their own passions and interests with the world, and personal blogging fits neatly into that key goal.