|Iowa Student Learning Institute Website|
Breakdown of the Event:
When: October 5th, 2013 8:00am-3:30pm
Where: Waukee High School - Waukee Community School District
Yesterday, I attended the Iowa Student Learning Institute, the first event of it's kind in Iowa to bring students, administrators, teachers, local industry leaders, and secondary institutions to discuss what and how students should be learning in their classrooms. The whole idea surrounding the event was that students were going to take an ACTIVE voice in the various afternoon sessions and their learning for the day. Adults were supposed to stay on the sidelines and only interject when the discussions slowed or stopped.
Walking into the institute at 8am, I was immediately taken back by how many different groups of students, teachers, and administrators were waiting to hear the keynote speakers and start discussions over various school topics. Attending the institute, I represented many parties including; as a Waukee Community School Technology Education Teacher, a University of Northern Iowa Graduate Student, and as a STEM-based student organization leader.
The Keynote Speakers were Scott McCloud and Zak Malamed, who both spoke on various ways that students can empower themselves in their own learning and take more ownership over their courses in school. I thought both presentations added to the event and it made everything much more exciting and monumental for myself, fellow educators, and especially the students.
Throughout the event several hashtags were used, primarily #isli. I did my best throughout the conference to Tweet when I could. However, as Scott McCloud brought up at the beginning of his presentation, I tried to tow the line between paying attention to my Twitter account and actually paying attention to the people in the room. Below you can read a history of the tweets that we sent out from the #isli hashtag.
The most interesting part of the day for me was getting to be apart of the student discussions. I attended the first session as a complete observer, facilitated the discussion over Gamification in the Classroom, and contributed in the STEM discussion at the end of the day.
The first session was a bit rough, as could be expected, students were not really accustomed to leading entire discussions by themselves. It was also hard as a teacher to not try and jump in too often and instead let the students do the talking. However after a few well placed questions, the students started to pick up steam in their conversations over the keynote speakers and everything was fine in the sessions that I attended.
I facilitated the discussion over Gamification in the classroom, which I had a feeling would draw a large number of students. And it did, we were at standing room only at one point. I had a great mixture of students, parents, and teachers. I really wanted students to take a serious look at how video games could be used in the classroom, so I brought some of my examples of how I've done it and how other educators have tried it in the past. I didn't want the discussion to erupt into students just talking about their favorite games and what they have done in them.
You can see the list that the students' generate to the left and we tried to focus on these games in particular, with a few additions from me.
Student Generated List: Minecraft, Halo 3, Gary's Mod, GTA 5, Sims 3
My additions: Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, SimBuild, SimCity, Farming Simulator 2013
At first, it was very clear that a few students in the room were trying to illicit reactions from the adults by wanting to talk about some "M" rated games. They were not prepared for a teacher who also has done his share of gaming and was prepared for such a reaction...whua ha ha ha. From a facilitor's point of view, I quickly nixed the "let's be silly" vibe and got everyone back on track. Most surprising, once we began with a discussion on Minecraft, there were two middle school girls who had lots of ideas for how they could use that in several different classes. Many of the older students then followed suite and brought up some great ideas for how Minecraft, the Sims 3, and Farming Simulator could be used for various elective courses. Our discussion went over our time limit and I basically had to push everyone out to get the next session in the room started. I thought it was excellent and the students really took the discussion seriously after only a couple redirects from adults.
The rest of the day went very well, with a final presentation over some different steps that students can follow to find their inner genius. A poll was conducted over a cell phone polling service and the results were overwhelming positive. It looks like we will be expecting a second Iowa Student Learning Institute next year, and I can't wait!