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How might we make school life more reflective of real life?

Nicole Martin, Shelley Searcy, and Alex Blumencranz — Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

While we have innovated the role of a teacher from the “sage on the stage” to a facilitator of learning, research in neuroscience and reports from the World Economic Forum point us to an even more exciting role for teachers today- teachers as activators and networkers. During this conversation, we will start with questions such as “How might we engage with experts in our communities to give students real-world feedback on projects based on real-world learning?” and “How might we incorporate expeditionary learning into projects to make learning more robust and contextual?” We believe that the most valuable coaching we can provide as facilitators is to support teachers in setting the conditions for learners to choose their pathways of learning. In order to model student-centered learning, we as presenters will prepare a series of questions and prompts that can be taken a multitude of ways by the learner. Modeling and using tools such as 4-Corners, Empathy Interviews, and User Map from Mount Vernon’s newest Design Thinking Field Guide, we will discover together what learners are curious and passionate about at all ages- from 0 to 99.

We will then work through how to do the same with our students, layering in our experiences with 21st-century habits of mind and preparing for competency-based learning. Finally, we will review case studies of real examples from early childhood/elementary, middle school, and high school to prime the pump for individualized next steps for each member of the group.

Conversational Practice

Prior to the conversation, we will create a dedicated Instagram group to archive our ideas and inspire future collaborations.

We will practice using a variety of design thinking and visible thinking routines like Four Corners, User maps, and Adventure Grid. We will experiment with conversation protocols like Havard Graduate School of Education’s “carousel brainstorming,” the engageNY discussion protocol “Back to Back, Front to Front,” and the National School Reform Faculty “Connections” protocol to discover our own curiosities and passions.

We believe in catering to all types of thinkers and contributors, so we will offer opportunities nestled in the latest neuroscience research around thinking independently before speaking, pairing into smaller groups, and closing with whole-group share outs. We will employ “three before me” conversational practice as well, showcasing when to verbally contribute to a conversation and when to lean back as a listener to allow others a turn to speak.

Our collaborative group will end our session with reflective practice using Padlet, discussing how the thinking tools we experienced together might inform project work for the current students in a class. Knowing that EduCon is in January gives us time to employ these strategies now, not waiting until the next school year!

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