“The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.”
– Steve Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
How to begin…and where? Um, I’ve been trying to write this post for days now and I can’t seem to get it off the ground. It keeps on wanting to turn into something else. From something straightforward like a list of things I don’t want to forget to something existential or ideological to a How to or like a Ten Things I learned piece to OMG, here’s evidence of my acute conference-worship. (Hi, I’m Paula and I believe in stories.) Granted, I am jet lagged. Oh and distracted by New York City, my new nephew and just having free time with no agenda, no mini-lessons to plan or L2Talk to think of. It does feel very weird not to be so busy. Did I mention I am in New York City in the fall? Hanging out on Twitter has been great though. It’s been neat watching my colleagues eloquently articulate what they have learned through/by ‘Making Change’. Sigh. Mired in my writer’s block, I admired them from afar and have been retweeting their musings all by the bleachers.
Giving it another shot now four days in, I realise that I just needed to rest, spend time with my nephew and gain some distance from this recent peak experience that has been Learning 2.013 held at our school in Singapore. I needed to let the gushing subside so I can be sober in writing about the things I’d learned sans the melodrama. I mean, when something catches you off guard, touches your life in a very deep way, leaves you different and overwhelmed with gratitude (there must be a word for that, if not I need to invent one) – that deserves some space and time. To let things sink in, right? So, yeah.
Anyway, maybe, I should start here – Oct, 2012 in Beijing. Because that’s really where this journey began.
|Learning 2.0 2012, WAB, Beijing China
A little over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to attend my very first Learning 2 Conference AND present a workshop AND see Beijing for the first time. It was pretty epic. From very special reunions, intense learning, the luge at the Great Wall with good friends, an opportunity to meet new people and present my passion for discussion-based learning, it was definitely one of the highlights of my first year at UWCSEA. I learned a lot presenting for 45 minutes to 27 people. I realised that giving a workshop at Learning 2.0 is very different from doing a regional or in-school workshop for the IB. As much as I love giving MYP workshops, there was something about having complete freedom over content and delivery. Even if I owe a lot of what I value as an educator to the IB MYP’s tenets , I felt challenged and fulfilled sharing pedagogy that aligned with best practice (which also includes the MYP), in general. Absolute autonomy over a workshop’s structure and flow taught me a great deal even if it freaked me out a little bit.
Which brings me to today and this year’s Learning 2.0.
|Learning 2.013 Love
|All these realisations became more important after needing to prepare two 3-hour extended sessions and a 5-minute keynote. I thought about what I wanted to do for months and took two weeks, a weekend with Nicki H and an hour with other amazing L2 Leaders to tighten the nuts and bolts (this is where you can find some of the resources I used to prepare). I applied what I learned from last year, like not talking too much and making sure I covered both learning spaces (physical and virtual) so that it could address as many of my participants’ queries as possible with the time allotted. I knew there were going to be participants this year who’d ask about conversations in the classroom full stop or conversations online full stop and of course, those who might ask about the blend of both. In the end, the sessions went well and from there we were able to produce this, our session’s own blog – Learning 2.013 Conversations and these …
Pretty cool, right? I am pretty pleased with how it all turned out. Everyone had a chance to traverse a virtual space with ease and engage in an authentic conversation in the classroom whether they were observing/assessing the discussion or active at the table. Hopefully, we were able to experience how both spaces collide because
Okay, so let me end this mammoth blog post with my five Learning 2.013 take aways: First, I need to trust myself and be fearless. I will never forget what Jeff P told me as I walked off the stage during one of the last practice sessions of our Learning2 Talks. He said something along these lines…”That was great but why did you look so scared? Why were you hesitant/tentative? You need to be fearless, Paula. You need to believe you belong here.” I was a little weepy after that and wasn’t sure what I was feeling but it struck a chord in my soul. That night, as I stood in front of a main hall full of impassioned educators, I still felt scared of screwing up as I got up there. But there was this calm and conviction in my voice. I will never forget the silence and the faces of people the light bounced off of as I took my time saying what was in my heart. Second, the L2Talk ruled my life for awhile and that’s okay because it meant so much. Corollary to that: If you are lucky enough to be given an opportunity to push yourself to do a keynote in front of 450 people, make sure you get Jabiz and Kim to help you make it the best it can be. And not having my notes when I practiced helped a lot no matter how uncomfortable it was. Letting go of the crutch sooner helped me jump off the cliff, hit the ice cold water face first, which then forced me to thrash around, then dog paddle, then do the breast stroke instead of well, drown. The playlist of all the talks lives here. None of them are the same but there are veins that intersect and merge when it comes to their core ideas. They were all inspiring to watch and interesting to follow in their evolution from practice to final iteration.
Third, I am glad I paid attention. Said thank you as often as I could. Took it all in no matter how surreal. Sitting with some of the best, most innovative, progressive minds in education has been a real treat. I didn’t take a moment of it for granted. I remember entering the Think Tank in the library the day before the pre-conference feeling giddy and excited but I had NO idea how amazing it would feel being in that room, listening to everyone share, collaborate, create and critique. I feel honoured to be part of this amazing community. Really. I must have done something right to have earned this privilege to commune with the Learning 2.0 family.
|Post Conference Meet Up
Fourth, trust begets trust. More than the resources on a page on my blog, the questions my participants asked and the wealth of knowledge, experience and insight they brought with them needed to have many opportunities to emerge. I really believe that empowering teachers and letting them see what already exists within them to make something work is more powerful than just presenting pedagogy. Also, all hell broke loose with the internet connection during my first session yet everyone took it all in stride, was totally chill and rose to the occasion. After feeling a little panicked at the situation and looking at how I was the most frustrated person in the room, I made a quick decision to just let it go and trust that WE would make it work. I realised very quickly that I wasn’t in it, alone in that room. I let the trust instead of the panic dictate how the session was going to go and that made all the difference. Because man, the degree of commitment, passion and integrity was awe inspiring and again, I felt lucky to have had an opportunity to share something I am passionate about and to be in a room filled with people who wanted the same thing — to talk about how we can make our learning spaces more vibrant, engaging, dynamic and authentic for our students. The conversations saved the day regardless of the technology and at the heart of the success of the workshops were the participants.
|Second Session FTW!
Finally, freaked out by it all? Share anyway. You never know who will be moved by something you’ve shared. Even if it sounds silly or useless or obvious to you, bite the bullet and just share because … watch this.
Obvious to you. Amazing to others. from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.
I was humbled by the number of kind people who came up to me during the conference– to say thank you for something I said in a session or the L2Talk or mention something that resonated with them during a conversation. It taught me to listen and it also taught me to continue to believe in my story – inside and outside the classroom. So many teachers during my session expressed their reluctance to blog or share their ideas with their own teaching & learning communities (which is what our students go through as well) and my hope is that I was able to inspire or encourage some of them to take the first step. Because really, that’s all it takes. :) Well, here we are at the end. Appreciate your stopping by, staying and reaching this point. I feel the seismic love, man. So, to say thanks let me end with this. A tribute to students’ autonomy, spring and poetry.
THE HAND by Mary Ruefle
The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers and spring is in the air.
|Part of the story now
Check out the original post here.