What a week it was in beautiful Snowmass, Colorado with over two hundred educators and administrators from all over Colorado working to re-imagine our state education system. I had the great opportunity to attend the Colorado Education Initiative Showcase 2016 with several of my colleagues this past week and it was well worth it. The conversations and learning that took place were second to none.
Starting off my sessions was a presentation by David Gregory from G & D Associates and Scott Fuller, Next Gen Learning Coordinator for Colorado Springs School District 11 was quite eye opening. Their discussion about what you are communicating to your community about your school was one that left me thinking hard about what our next steps are going to be. Focusing on creating initial interest, creating a real 21st century website, and putting time and effort into the message we send with our school grounds was both simple and sort of revolutionary. Doing simple acts of making signage on your building appealing and less “mean” really struck me as I thought about our building. I left the room with a list of 15 things that could be done immediately and at very little cost to enhance the view of our school. I will write to this in another blog post.
Sitting at lunch the first day I got to engage in a conversation with some colleagues from CDE and the Legacy Grant about the changing ideas and new avenues needed in the AP world. I have been reading Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner, the Keynote speaker for the Showcase, and the ideas espoused in this amazing book conflict with quite a bit of what we are doing in AP and the standards based movement in general. It was great to have such a frank discussion about where we are going and how we need to get there. This was one of the best aspects of the conference, the meeting of the minds over the most important of education issues.
A seminar on design thinking and how that can inform the decision making process rounded out day one and left me wanting more from this amazing time. That night we had the amazing opportunity to have a screening of the hit film Most Likely to Succeed. This is something that everyone must watch. It is a great beginning of the year conversation starter. It focuses on the 21st century learning processes that we need to more towards in American education. Following students and the great work they are doing at schools like High Tech High, the filmmakers make a viable case that the system we have now is obsolete and not teaching our students the “skills” they need to be successful in the new economy. I recommend this film to every educator and suggest school screenings to take place all across the state.
Starting day two with the Keynote and a seminar by Tony Wagner of the Harvard Innovation Lab was truly inspiring. The author of several books including The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators truly lived up to his billing. He urged all of us educators to begin to re-imagine what we do in the classroom and admin conference rooms. To begin to think about the ways that our students need to learn and how to prepare them for a world where content is ubiquitous and creative skills are the new currency. I was given a new sense of passion about what we do and how we need to be pushing ourselves to think in radically different ways if we are to meet this challenge head on. Check out the video of Tony below.
Rounding out my final day at the conference was a discussion with leaders from Mesa County School District 51 who are moving their entire system towards a performance based learning experience. IT was great to talk to leaders on the front line about what they are doing to push their students into that new 21st century world. Talking to Superintendent Steven D. Schultz about their implementation phases and visioning process left me with a ton of questions and real hope that we are moving in the right direction. Ending my journey in Snowmass with a discussion about how a large scale implementation of the educational initiatives that we had been talking about for two days was phenomenal. I have thought about nothing but how we are going to implement these ideas since I have left.
So the conference is at an end but I already cannot wait to get back next year. Meeting colleagues from all across the state that are implementing real change and discussing their successes and failures left me inspired. Listening to new ideas and ways to think about our educational decisions left me anting to get back in the building and start re-imagining my school. It was a great learning opportunity. I can’t wait to see you all there next year. Keep re-imagining.