Last month I was at the Building Learning Communities Conference (BLC15), organized by Alan November. It was a very inspiring conference in terms of seeing the value of true student centered learning. By that I mean really trusting students’ ability to make a difference in the world “today” and by being “crazy” to pursue hard goals, allowing students to fail and still persist
At the conference, I could see how Alan November is well connected and always in search of inspiring people and teachers that follow a student centered approach. In his book “Who Owns the Learning“, one can see his perspective and how it came about with several examples.
Two keynote speakers caught my attention as encapsulating this idea of true student-centered learning. One of them was Jennie Magiera. At her closing keynote she told the story of her students’ journey on a quest involving persistence. It started when her class signed up for the White House Film Fest , where they had to make a statement about how technology transformed their learning environments.
Students worked hard to create a video, but were not selected as finalists. Ms Magiera saw that coming because they still lacked skills and a powerful message in their product. But she allowed them to move on, and fail, but still engaged with their ideas. She then showed the finalist videos to the students and they immediately started to see where they had to be better. So the students were naturally faced with their need for improvement.
In the following year, instead of being discouraged, her class took on the new White House Film challenge and decided to do it not to win, but because it mattered to them. Below you can see her class’ video created for the festival.
Another keynote speaker that caught my attention was Blake Copeland, student and developer. Blake told his story of persistence despite and outside school, as he wanted to learn more about coding. His big message was to allow students to make a difference in the world “today”. He was really inspiring as someone who was self-taught in many ways, asking all of us to support students to follow their passion and be self-directed.