This past weekend, I enjoyed catching up with colleagues, meeting some great educators and learning in the presence some of the cutting edge thinking around educational issues at the ASCD 2013 conference in Chicago.
With many sessions around educational change, with Will Richardson, Andy Hargreaves, Michael Fullan, and others, I took away from the conference an uneasy feeling that to improve student learning in the 21st century we need to do more than just rebuild the plane as we fly it.
We need to reinvent how we do learning. With online learning, MOOCS (massive open online courses), digital tools, alternate assessments, blogs, tweets and podcasts, the numerous ways students can learn is increasing at a phenomenal rate. Hargreaves and Fullan argued for the adoption of the professional capital to stick in the educational reform that is needed to help teachers become great. Richardson spoke of the need to create opportunities for students to get the skills they need, where and when they need them, in a completely different way than a physical school site and still giving them the diploma of successful completion of the competencies needed.
This left me with something no other conference has in the past: hope, possibilities and the unmistakeable fact that our way of educating needs to change. I had the great pleasure of meeting Kristen Swanson at the #ASCD13 tweet up. She is the founder of the edcamp concept of teacher learning (they even had an #edcamprogue during the conference) and at under thirty, she is definitely thinking about learning and educating in a way that might scare more traditional teachers.
I think the great take away from the conference was listening to the amazing Maya Angelou speak about how her uncle touched the lives of so many, including herself, whose influence is still felt today in the changed lives of the descendants of his students. Highlighting that teachers are the rainbows in clouds of everyone they reach out to.
The great thing about being in education today is that we all have e opportunity to build it while flying in those clouds with the rainbows.