In their shoes

I’ve got to give a big shout out to Stephen Downes for sharing this story in his OLDaily.

Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked at what she learns

It’s an older story so I would not have read it in the normal course of doing things, I suspect.

For you, make time to read it and then pass it along to colleagues.  It may be one of the more insightful reads that you’ve had in a while.

I’m writing this in the context of the “day after” the OSSTF Technology Conference.  I’m still exhausted from the 4.5 hour drive home.  But, at least it was in a car with adjustable seats.  That was necessary for the slowdowns/crawls through construction on the 401.  I couldn’t imagine doing it on a school bus.

And yet, I still remember sporting and school events where the standard school bus was the way to travel.  I also remember how special it was for longer field trips where we got the nice buses with the padded seats and television.  Talk about your double standards!

Anyway, as I think about this, I’m remarking how the conference organizers did everything for the adult learner in us.  The goal was obviously to ensure that we had the ability to learn and the planning most certainly showed.

I’m thinking of the day and all that it offered…

  • a chance to meet the night before and have a discussion/meetup with friends.  It was unsupervised except for the waiter who wanted to know if we needed another refreshment
  • the day started with a very nourishing breakfast with eggs, bacon, all kinds of breads, pastries, yogurt, cereal, juice, tea, and of course, coffee
  • an inspirational call together with a morning exercise and then an inspirational keynote address for about 60 minutes
  • a break of 15 minutes with more coffee and the ability to have even more pastries if you were so inclined
  • a breakout session of 75 minutes that was our choice and we were encouraged to get up and move if we felt that the session wasn’t meeting our needs
  • a break of 60 minutes for lunch with a huge selection of offerings, including coffee
  • another breakout session of 75 minutes like the above and the ability to move.  This session ended early so it was nice to go outside for a breath of fresh air before coming back in for another 15 minutes break (and more coffee).  Thankfully, we didn’t have to remain seated until the end of the timeslot
  • a final breakout session preceded with an acknowledgement that some folks had travel plans that might cut into the session
  • all day long, there was unfettered internet access and the opportunity to chat online with folks and do social media updates
  • throughout the conference, folks were encouraged to share pictures and images and status updates using the hashtag #OSSTFTech
  • when all was said and done, it was exhausting.  My day was a bit longer than others since I went down early to help the keynote speaker get set up.  But, for the regular attendee, it was a full day with a respectable 9:00-4:00 event time

Bizarrely, and fitting into the point of this post was a conversation with a new friend – wouldn’t it be nice if a regular school day was like this?  I had to nod.

Hopefully, by now, you’ve read the article referenced above.

I’d like to pull out the three observations and comment.

Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.

  • it sure is.  You do sit for the keynote as everyone’s in the same room at the same time and there’s nowhere else to go.  Engaging as it was, it was so nice to get up and stretch at the end
  • I do fidget at times.  Thankfully, my computer was there to take notes so I did have a little bit of movement
  • I sat next to my friend Peter who helped break things up with a comment or two.  We didn’t get shushed once

High school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90 percent of their classes.

  • That would be true for half of the sessions that I attended.  The others had time for discussion and some provocation for table talk
  • Everyone had a data projector and an awesome sound system.  Three of the four sessions included a number of movie clips specially chosen to complement the learning.  Tech support was there in case there were problems
  • Two of the sessions gave us links to the presentation and resources online so I could follow without having to be presenter paced.  I could look ahead or spend some time backwards to get caught up
  • When sitting became tiresome, I could get up and walk over and lean against the wall to give myself a bit of a break
  • During one of the sessions, I plugged my phone into the charging station at the back so that I wouldn’t be caught with a dead battery

You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.

  • I didn’t feel that way but could think that some people might.  The event was truly a BYOD event.  I think I saw every platform and every technology from phones to tablets to personal laptops to school laptops.  Folks wanted to join along with the technology referenced by the presenter.  You’re not going to stop a presentation to a big crowd for these problems.  Peter and I became the “tech table” and did our best to figure stuff out on the fly.  I’m an even bigger fan now of web-based resources or at least a consistent look and feel between applications on devices.

After reading the article, and thinking back, the comment “Why couldn’t school be like this” takes on importance.  We probably don’t want to encourage a society addicted to bacon and coffee but there were lots of great takeaways that could/should be implemented or have an impact on design.  The presenters and organizers had all kinds of insights about how to make things great for adult learners.

Are there not lessons there for the regular classroom and school day?

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25 Replies to “In their shoes”

  1. I really agreed with your point on how you feel like a nuisance all day because most kids do. The need to ask something or do something but they don’t wanna waste time or look weird about asking.
    – Hope

    I really like the fact that you thought about students perspective and that sitting all day is hard! If we had the chance to get up, have longer breaks and discussions like you did we could have a better time during school.
    – Danice

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know that I cannot sit for 75 minutes without fidgeting and wanting to move so why would I expect that of participants at a conference or students in my class. It’s not that hard to incorporate movement into a lesson with activities like value lines, mix and mingle, gallery walks, and so on. I think sometimes teachers are afraid that if they let kids get up and move, they might lose control of the class. But I think they would actually have much better results and students would learn more because they would be engaged. They could focus on learning instead of focusing on trying to sit still and counting the number of minutes till they can leave.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A response for Gauge: I’m interested in your comment! I noticed that you said that students are “told by the educational system how to think…”, and I wondered about the difference between “how to think” and “what to think”. Do you think there has been progress made in this respect?

    Like

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