Friday, June 12, 2015

DML 2015: Day One... WOW!!!

So, here I am in this comfy hotel room at DML 2015 on Thursday evening, so exhausted but also excited from the day's events that I decided not to even try to go out to dinner tonight... I'm here in the room nibbling Hob Nobs (THANK YOU, LAURA RITCHIE!), drinking decaf coffee (because seriously, I need to go to sleep sooner rather than later)... but I wanted to write up some notes now, tonight; tomorrow is bound to be full of wonderful stuff also, so I need to write down things from today before heading to bed.

Keynote. The morning's keynote panel with Maria Teresa Kumar and Van Jones, with Craig Watkins moderating, was a perfect start. Hard, in a good way; challenging, in a good way. They are doing such great work and offered some powerful lessons for everybody to take away. Most of all I was struck by Van Jones's remarks at the end, where he talked about people's calling to do this kind of work, where you just can't help it, where you have to be a changemaker. And then he made this distinction between fate as he sees it, the things you really cannot change ... as opposed to destiny, the call to greatness that you might respond to, but it is up to you. I'm thinking that could be a theme that I could use in my classes, and so it got me thinking about having a big theme like that each semester, a way to pull students' stories and writing and their thinking about themselves and their learning into a more general and abstract conversation that we could share with each other, and also share with others. So, mental note: maybe that is the kind of shared-channel type of theme we could use for assignment-building and connection making as Kim Jaxon and Mia Zamora and Kimberley Woo and I were talking about at the #ccourses meet-up. (Note to self: I need to find out if Kimberley is on Twitter!) The keynote was streamed, so you can watch it for yourself at YouTube:

Presentation! Then we had our Open Show panel, and kudos to Alan Levine and Jonathan Worth for deciding not to do a presentation in the usual way, but instead just to have a conversation with people from the audience asking questions and back-and-forth, and so instead of a discussion of tools per se, it was a discussion about teaching and goals and strategies, which is of course the real thing, the kinds of discussions we need to have in order to then find/build the tools we need (and of course people can explore our stuff at the very nifty site that Alan and Tim put together for us). I am really excited about doing some kind of group Known site with my classes next year to see if this can be a bookmarking tool we can use together, and Ben Werdmuller and Erin Richey had some very inspiring things to say about the kinds of problems they hope to solve with Known and the directions that they are going in, and I also got some good ideas from listening to Tim Owens who shared about his experiences both with Reclaim and also from UMW. People from the audience brought up so many important topics, and I am so glad to be connected now with Rudy Blanco and to have learned about the gorgeous portfolios that the students are doing at his school. He's doing an Ignite talk tomorrow, so that will be great for sure! (He's at Dreamyard Prep in the Bronx; I need to find out if he is on Twitter... update: yes he is!) And look at this: beautiful visual notes from Cat Greim!!! How cool is that???!

Chicago: Digital Atelier. After lunch, I went to a really great presentation on a Chicago public school project, Convergence Academies, focusing especially on a Digital Atelier and also on the different ways that the project provided support and development opportunities for the classroom teachers; I was really struck by a Venn diagram showing the intersections of digital media theory, pedagogy theory, and classroom practice and how they were finding ways to find ways to seek out the intersection of all three. There was also a very good and honest discussion about funding and sustainability at the end. Apparently there are these 3-million-dollar DOE grants to support projects like this, but when you go up to the next level of DOE funding, the mismatch between the funding and the program expectations mean that the projects tend to get diluted, making it very hard to move from what sound like amazing accomplishments in the project focused on a few schools to something that is going to reach more teachers and students. Anyway, it was great stuff; I really enjoyed the discussion of how mentoring works in this informal learning space, so that the learning is very much self-directed by the students but with strong support from the staff who are there to help. They take this idea of "constant challenge" very much to heart and apparently even teachers who are were at first very committed to direct instruction ended up being advocates of project- and inquiry-based learning thanks to the opportunities this program presented. Wonderful!

Fan Fiction!!! Next was the Fan Fiction panel... but before that even happened, I had met up with some really nice people from The Harry Potter Alliance in the morning, and just talking with them was really exciting. So, the fan fiction panel featured the research conducted this year by some faculty and graduate students at the University of Washington investigating what they call "distributed mentoring" fan fiction communities, specifically in Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and My Little Pony (which does ... OMG ... have a Doctor Hooves character...!) fan fiction communities. And really, I just have to say WOW... I have never found anything that intersected so strongly with what I do while at the same time giving me all kinds of ideas for new ideas and approaches I might experiment with. I'll save that for a separate post because there is so much to say about that, and I need to do some serious brainstorming to see how I can learn from what these fan fiction communities are doing so well. And yes, it is one of my goals in life to write Star Trek fan fiction... specifically, I want to do an anthology of Aesop's fables as told by the different cultures of Star Trek, so I have purely personal reasons at work here too ha ha. Anyway, the people on the panel were so nice, with great people in the audience also. Just to take one example, I learned about - so cool I have to make sure to share that with Cody! 

Ignite! And then, one more set of presentations: Ignite Talks, just five minutes... powerful stuff, and so much stuff squeezed into just an hour: Thursday Ignite Talks. This was also streamed so you can watch for yourself at YouTube (mental note: send this to Randy with link to the part about Chicago kids as city planners!). True confession: I was not keen on the wind-up to get the talks started... but the talks themselves were excellent. They had plenty of energy going on, and we didn't need the random shouting to get that energy sparked.

Connected Courses. And then ... (aren't you exhausted already just reading about it???) ...  there was a Connected Courses meet-up which was really exciting: I had seen Mia Zamora during the day but had not gotten a chance to really talk to her, plus Kim Jaxon was there, and I also met the wonderful Kimberley Woo who is an elementary school teacher. We are plotting and planning, and I am really hoping that some great cross-connections will start happening if we can build some channels to bring our students together in different ways through some shared themes and projects (and with Rudy Blanco also... so many possibilities!). I'm also really hoping I can find some other educators who want to explore Known as a shared bookmarking tool.

So, I am totally exhausted, but in the best way possible. I will go prowl the Twitter stream for a bit to see what I missed from all the other panels that were going on (SO MANY PANELS)... and then crawl off to bed to get ready for more adventures tomorrow. Adam Croom will be presenting about OU's, Howard Rheingold will be here presenting with Mia and with David Preston (who was one of my favorite people from the Connected Courses hangouts)... oh, so much goodness, plus new things I have never even heard of before too. YES! 

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