Monday, June 10, 2013

Taking a Risk to Redesign Learning

In two days, we will launch our inaugural Student EdCon in LASD focused on increasing student voice and encouraging students to act on ideas that will improve learning experiences at school.   After months of planning, we will have sixty-five middle-school students fully engaged in using design thinking to re-imagine learning. We know students are full of ideas about how learning can be improved, but the success of this student conference will depend on our ability to create the right space for these students to be inspired, heard and encouraged to act.   With only a few days to go and lots of preparation underway, I am excited and nervous!  

Launching Student EdCon is a risk that I am feeling both personally and professionally on behalf of our district.  It feels risky because we are sharing our learning publicly.  We are vulnerable because we are asking questions we don’t have the answers to.  It’s scary and a little intimidating.  What if we don’t like what students have to say?  What if their ideas aren’t what we anticipate?  And yet, this is exactly what we have asked our teachers to do.  All year, we have talked about the importance of taking risks, shifting ownership and facilitating meaningful learning experiences.   If this is what we expect of our teachers, then it is only fair to expect the same of our administrators and our organization.   

Reflecting on the origins of Student EdCon and the underlying foundation of why we have created this conference helps minimize the risks.  Whatever the outcome, this conference was created with the intention of engaging middle school students to be more active in helping our district define what it means to “revolutionize learning for all students.”  

Back in December, I attended Big Ideas Fest with a few of my colleagues.  Big Ideas Fest is not a sit and get type of conference, it is organized with a bias towards action and requires participants to fully engage in being a part of a solution.  A fantastic and inspiring experience, but one that left us questioning why we weren’t engaging students in the same way. After lots of brainstorming, Student EdCon was born and the real planning began.

We began by researching student leadership opportunities, student conferences and students who were already invested in these ideas globally.  We met incredible people like NIkhil Goyal, and Zak Malamed, two young adults who have made a real impact on inspiring students to speak out.  We connected with other educators via Twitter and Skype, building our personal learning networks along the way.  After several months and a lot of learning, the risk we took is already paying off.  Our team has learned an a tremendous amount that will positively impact the learning experiences we provide to our students.  This learning has already been shared with our Student Ed Con facilitators, all of whom are LASD teachers and administrators.  So while I will remain slightly nervous until the Student EdCon culminating event Saturday morning, I already know that taking the risk to improve student learning is the right thing to do!

A big thank you to Kami Thordarson, Innovative Strategies Coach & Karen Wilson, STEM Coach for helping to plan Student EdCon.  Thank you also to our amazing Student EdCon facilitators:  Ricky Hu, Karen Kehlet, Aaron Kerns, Vicki Lombardi, Raquel Matteroli, Sandra McGonagle, Cindi McLaughlin, & Lisa Waxman.  

Contributed by Alyssa Gallagher, Asst Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction

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