Reflections on the final Lorne ELH 2014

imageIt’s refreshing to take a moment within an intense conference such as ELH. The reasons I love ELH are multi-faceted. But one of the important reasons is that because of the amount of people, the location and the session organization, we educators are like bacteria spreading in a petrie dish. Everyone begins to catch the same vision and work towards the greater mission of educational reform.
At this point, I ask myself “What now?”. I wonder whether I will allow myself to go back to my institution (for want of a better word) and then allow my fervor to gradually fade where suddenly I’ll find myself slipping back into the same old stream. Conversely, I wonder whether I might just choose one idea that I’m going to make happen and whether I have the tenacity to persevere with the journey of innovation.

Strangely, the 3 main projects I want to take back have not come from the key-notes or even the presenters. One idea came from a participant in a session, another from Twitter and another after one person asked “what next?”.

See what I mean by a Petrie dish?

One project I’ll begin to formulate is around authentic assessment. One participant courageously told us how she assessed her students following a study on cyber-safety. She set up a fake FB profile and proceeded to “friend” her students under a false identity. She told the students that she was a new student coming to the school and wanted to know as much about them as possible in order to make friends. Now that’s authentic assessment! It began to dawn on me how many pencil and paper assessments I currently do. It is unacceptable. Why would we have a paper and pencil assessment on 3D shapes after we’ve just made 3D shapes? The idea has become ludicrous to me. My first project aims to change this starting from tomorrow.
I couldn’t help but squint in on the system’s current ideations around cyber-safety and digital citizenship. I loved hearing about the work at Newington College, especially their integration of student voice. However, I couldn’t help but begin to wonder whether we’re looking at this from the wrong perspective. Most of what I’ve been teaching has become about control and fear rather than harnessing the power of the internet to create a positive legacy (or digital footprint). I have already written an article about the ‘Spinning Wheel Effect’ in which we try to protect kids by hiding the online world from them instead of giving them the tools to handle online situations. It is actually pointless attempting to hide the internet. This is a future-project that I want to research further. Maybe I’ll visit some schools who are doing this well. Know any?
My final idea is regarding Skype Classroom. I’ve recently attempted Mystery Skype a couple of times without having much luck… time zone issues. Nevertheless, I really want to persist in collaborating with the wider world of students and teachers (and perhaps this will be one step towards idea #2). I’m trying it imagine a form of the flipped class that utilizes a collaborative online environment. I’m not sure how it will look but I’m keen for input.
Here’s what I love about blogging… This now keeps me accountable to these ideas. What are you going to do to be accountable after #elhst14?