Sunday, 12 November 2017

Adventures in the US - Educational recount


Adventures in the US -  Educational recount
The following recount outlines the educational elements of our trip to the US. It does not capture the rich discussions we had as a leadership group, the planning and ideation around leadership structures, staffing, environment development and strategic planning moving forward. Over the 12 days (two days of travel) we were also lucky to have a couple of days to enjoy Philadelphia and New York at leisure, which I also haven’t included in this recount.


New Zealand to San Francisco
25 hours in total from leaving home to arriving at Zephyr Hotel in San Francisco.  Although tired, it was time to have an explore of Fisherman’s Wharf. It was during this early introduction to San Francisco that we stumbled upon Marissa at a MakerSpace, tucked away under the famous Ghirardelli chocolate factory and shop.  
We instantly hit it off with Marissa and were quickly talking the same language and educational jargon. Marissa spoke with energy and enthusiasm and expressed a personal passion for encouraging women into engineering, as well as a commitment to students with dyslexia, ADD or ADHD. We discussed our upcoming presentation and she asked probing questions and gave constructive feedback.
After our rich discussions we asked her advice on where to find more inspiration around San Fran. The recommendations provided the basis for a extremely valuable experience in the days to come.

TechShop SF.
The following day we ventured out to find TechShop SF. A must visit organisation in the heart of San Francisco. On stepping through the door we knew that we had hit the jackpot, and on talking to Tim and Mary on the reception desk we prepared ourselves to have our minds blown. After some smooth talking “we have come all the way from New Zealand to see you guys” we managed to get a personalised tour of the operation. TechShop is a vibrant, creative community space that provides access to instruction, tools, software, and use of space. They advertise that you can make virtually anything at TechShop and I would tend to believe them. Their catchphrase is “Come build your dreams”

Coco was our tour guide and after putting on the compulsory safety goggles we were off. We explored the array of tools and machines. As well being given an outline of the philosophy and organisational structures of TechShop. Welding machines, powered coating machines, water and sand blasting capable of cutting metal, laser cutters, 3D printing and more. All accessibility to anyone with a creative or a passion project.
When reflected as a team in the evening, we could come up with a raft of ideas, innovations and ponderings not only for our design production space but classrooms as well.



 Monte Vista
We rose the morning with the predicament of how we were going to get to Monte Vista a pre organised school visit roughly two hours from San Francisco. After much discussion and negotiation we eventually managed to organise a driver for the day. Our driver, Cesar was magnificent, a wealth of knowledge and a really lovely guy. He drove us out to Monte Vista, in Watsonville, the artichoke capital of the world. Eventually we arrived at this oasis, a school in the middle of nowhere.

The principal was not available to meet with us which was disappointing. However, we were introduced to Nathan, who I believe is the equivalent to a Deputy Principal. During lunch on campus Nathan asked and answered very thoughtful questions, quickly demonstrating a high level of insight into educational leadership and models of effective education.


Our tour of the school took us into all sorts of places. Many of the spaces had been developed / designed by the wife of the provocative and slightly flamboyant previous principal, who we had meet a year earlier in Sydney at the ‘I on the Future Conference.’
Learning Spaces were designed to create atmosphere to compliment the subject area. Light, sound and colour used in creative ways. Garage roller doors either opened or closed off classrooms, furniture was mobile and varied to aid student choice and encourage collaboration. Outside areas provided lovely socialisation spaces and an array of physical opportunities including sand volleyball, basketball, swimming, horse riding and huge sporting fields. The use of space was cleverly thought out and prompted many ideas to take home.
Cesar had waited patiently and was pleased to see us return to rejoin him. On our return journey we took the opportunity to visit D-School at Stanford University.




D-School (Design School) was in the middle of an extremely impressive campus which was immaculately well groomed and manicured.
It would be an understatement to say that D-School was impressive in how it was set up to deliver design approaches. The design philosophy was displayed throughout. D-School is world renown in design thinking education and although we didn’t get the opportunity to meet with a guide we got to explore the building and could get a sense of how the place operated.
Thinking processes displayed everyday. Learning spaces that could be adjusted to meet the need. Cleverly constructed signage, moveable walls, prototyping centres. Millions of post it notes covering white moveable and removeable boards.




Philadelphia
It was exciting to reach Philadelphia for the much anticipated AMLE Middle Schools Conference. We arrived in the evening and headed to our hotel in central Philly. We had lovely dinner and an early night.

After an early morning run down the banks of the Philadelphia River and run up the ‘Rocky’ stairs I was feeling really good and in a positive frame of mind to explore Philadelphia before the conference.

AMLE 2017 - Conference
(Detailed presentation notes and slideshows not included)
The conference started with the hype expected from an event in the US with an over enthusiastic presenter followed by a couple of Keynotes. Nothing mind changing or inspiring to begin and after the a couple of uninspiring sessions we started to get slightly worried. However, as the conference went on we started to hit some really good stuff, particularly content focusing on adolescents and neuroscience. Here are is a brief description of the top 6.

Julie Adams - Neuroscience Neuro nuggets
Julia outlined the key factors that make the young brain different.
The young brain is HIGHLY influenced by environment. Student success is not by chance...but by design.
We were guided through 8 Neuro Nuggets that will help middle schoolers' succeed.

Victoria Lentfer - Calm management Strategies
Victoria presented with a really calm manner which complimented her topic - CALM Management which seeks to communicate, assess, lead, and manage a positive, safe classroom.
Victoria presented multiple strategies to prevent bullying and learn proactive communication models that ultimately empower students to make appropriate choices. The techniques included learning a model she called the Redirect Behavior Model. How to effectively use your voice and how to create Positive Behavior Expectations that empower students to make good choices.


Grace Dearborn - When consequences don’t work- achieving with at risk youth
Grace passionately articulates that consequences should be a last resort and that when used they don’t resort to much. (at risk students)
Using examples Grace stated that, once teachers have exhausted their hierarchy of consequences, how then are they to proceed with students whose behavior is unchanged no matter what consequence is given?

She gave practical strategies on how to effectively and positively manage students and how to use consequences, while modeling respectful communication, teaching personal responsibility, and de escalating confrontations.

David and Gail Vawter - The adolescent Brain reaching and Teaching
This was my favourite session and this one and his one that followed in the morning were the most valuable. David was an extremely effective presenter who used a range of techniques to ensure you retain his content as well as providing entertainment.

“Some think that the adolescent brain might be an oxymoron. Yet each student not only processes an amazing brain, but a brain that is undergoing an amazing transformation.”

His interactive and humorous session translated current research including ADD, gender differences, and the impact of poverty on the brain into usable and practical strategies that would enable teachers to help each student be successful.

David Vawter - Success for all middle school students through differentiation
“Helping each student succeed is the goal of education Learning more about our students and ourselves will lay the foundation of this success.”

David defined differentiation and outlined how to Differentiated classrooms for the six area of differentiation: readiness, student interest, student learning preference, content, process, and product.
Practical application of each of these areas was also be discussed and demonstrated.

Stephen Eames & Jason Ataera - Developing T-Shaped People Presentation
Our presentations went really well. Many participants appreciated our thought provoking content. Some could make connections with the concepts and could see themselves using the tools and ideas presented. For a few, who had no choice or control of what they deliver, they struggled. Particularly those who were standards and assessment driven.







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