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December 6, 2010 / shenweiss

Planting the Seeds of Engagement: The Opening Session of Big Ideas Fest

By Shen Weiss

Participants took their first steps toward connecting and collaborating during the opening session of Big Ideas Fest.  Participants were asked to discuss personal stories about how their personal learning experiences were influenced by the issues of access, cost, and quality of education.

Examples of stories shared include:

  • Margaret Campbell related the word “access” to geographic inequities in education:  Margaret shared that she changed schools from rural Washington D.C. to Philadelphia in order to get access to a better education.  Her personal struggle motivated her to start her own charter school in a rural area.
  • Helen Lowe related the word “quality” to student achievement:  Helen shared that switching to a school where she felt challenged took her from being an underachieving student at one school to being on the Dean’s list at another school.  She later added that the school that challenged her had a more Socratic method of teaching, and that she realized that she needed to “her herself think” in order to learn.
  • Steve Midgley related the word “access” to a technology tool: Steve shared that when he got access to a basic 8-bit computer, it changed his “whole landscape,” motivating him much more than any subject he was taught in school and eventually landing him in a career path.

The session closed with reflections from participants.  One participant commented that a lot of the stories that were shared had to do with external influences, but that her greatest hope as an educator was to inspire students to follow their own internal motivations, adding the observation that there are many students that are incredible learners despite being poor or not having access to many resources.  Another participant made note of one particular wall posting that they found interesting which read, “consequences of risk.”  Both of these comments relate to the larger picture of the kind of sharing that we hope to inspire in participants:  Sharing that takes risks and is derived from both personal and professional experience, and sharing that facilitates an open space for collaborating around solutions for today’s pressing educational challenges.

What comes to mind for you in terms of your personal learning experience when you think of the relationship between the words quality, access and cost? Please post a comment to this blog and share your thoughts.

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Pictured above: Participants tell personal stories about how the words “Access”, “Cost” and “Quality” relate to their experiences as learners.

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Pictured Above: Participants translated their stories into words and shared them collectively on a wall

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Pictured Above: Big Ideas Fest speaker, David Merrill (Co-Founder and President of Sifteo) shares a video of his company’s first product, Siftables, with participant Steve Midgley (Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Education Technology). Siftables are a tabletop game system made of active physical/graphical tiles.


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