Miami Device 2015 Reflection

Miami in November is a special treat: sunshine, warm temperatures, good food, and the best learning experience (Michael Jaber, I love that term!) for educators all over the world. Even more special is to be part of an event that inspires you to be that eager learner you want your student to be. Miami Device ignited a new spark in me, being an active part in some way or another of the present and future of education. The event happened a week after I presented and attended FCIS in Orlando where I heard Tony Wagner, Nishant Mehta and Christian Long, three inspiring people with a vision to transform education for our students. Play, passion, purpose, digital lockers for students, question journals, students being architects of their free time, certificates of mastery, and not to forget individual attention matters were some of the ideas that stood out to me. Now imagine coming home with these ideas, followed by Miami Device the next week. WOW! Affirmation indeed.

My heart is full of gratitude for being a part of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School, where all faculty and staff members are encouraged and given the opportunity and freedom to keep on learning. No wonder that visitors who come to our campus all notice that everyone has a smile on their face: both students and faculty. I consider myself fortunate working here! Thank you, Felix, for making a vision come to reality. Miami Device came out of many brainstorming sessions, and you realized it to what it is now: Not a learning event, but a learning experience! Happy to be part of the team!

Miami Device created a unique learning experience for each individual who attended. All keynote speakers inspired, gave hope and connected to what is important for learning: relationships. Adam Bellow mentioned the importance of creating a culture of learning. We can do that through empathy on all levels: among staff and faculty members, among students, and among student-teacher relationships. Dean Shareski mentioned Louis Gerstner’s book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?,  and how culture is not just one aspect of the game, it IS the game. What if instead of improving student achievement we worked to improve students’ well being? Maybe a model to follow is the New Zealand public school system presented by Richard Wells. I believe a field trip to New Zealand would be fun! Derek Muller left us at the end of the first day to find an element of truth about certain misconceptions having to do with science. Kids possess natural curiosity. It is up to us to foster that curiosity so they can explore, discover, create and build upon questions they might have.

George Couros further iterated the importance of always being a learner who knows how to connect to the heart before you can connect to the mind. He touched all our hearts, not a dry eye in the audience! George mentioned that the fear of adults often drowns the inspiration of youth, and he went on to show that a  measure of intelligence is the ability to change. Why shouldn’t we? It starts with courage. Angela Maiers left us with a message to encourage all of us to take that first step. And why? Because We Matter!

There were so many other sessions I could not attend that I would have loved to learn from, sessions by Vicky Davis, Wesley Fryer, Carl Hooker, Lisa Johnson, Erin Klein, Kyle Pace, Sarah Thomas, Silvia Tolisano, and, of course, Tony Vincent. Maybe next time I can clone myself! This weekend I spent both days going over my notes, reflecting, and reading George Couros’ book The Innovator’s Mindset.  I feel more than ever inspired to empower our students and teachers to take risks, foster their curiosity, never doubting they matter, and become confident leaders of their dreams. Thank you to all speakers at Miami Device.
Coming to work today, was like a kid going to the playground using swings, soaring in the sky, and jumping off and fly for a moment thinking the world is yours. I am happy to say I was able to apply a couple of things to make learning a little more innovative for our students. Students in grade 5 are working on an Explorer Unit, and they are wrapping up their presentations. A lot of them used AdobeDraw App (thank you Tony Vincent) as part of their presentation, and I added another option VideoScribe App to their choices. What brightened my day was that each student was using different apps smashed together to reflect on their learning. They have a choice and, therefore, feel empowered.

I just posted two post it notes on our You Matter board in our school. Thank you to Mercy Gonzalez for initializing the You Matter Manifesto by Angela Maiers  in our school. Knowing that John Spencer, author of Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard, was coming to Miami, Mercy engaged our fourth graders reading the book, had discussions online, collaborated with Robbin Simons to create robots during FabLab, and finally tying in the You Matter Manifesto as a wrap up for the book. Students created a You Matter board using the ComicLifeApp to show why they matter. When the author read the last chapter to our grade 4 class, you could see the excitement on each student’s face.

Today was a new day to contribute to the future of education. It is about intrinsic motivation: students learn because it is worthwhile and challenging. Innovation is the process, not the outcome. It’s not about the curriculum, iPad integration, or maker space: it’s messy. We all are a part of designing the future of learning as we go along. I consider myself lucky I can be a part of that.  And like Nishant Mehta said: “We are building the engine while driving the car.”

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