Today, I attended the Piedmont Digital Learning Conference hosted by Gaston County Schools. It was an awesome experience. The conference commenced with everyone walking the plank as we heard from Dave Burgess. Dave, the author of "Teach Like A Pirate," shared many value nuggets of wisdom during his keynote. Several things that he said really resonated with me. He encouraged us to "embrace the spirit of a pirate" by seeking unconventional ways to engage our students and not sticking to the status quo. He encouraged us to be passionate in our teaching. He boldly stated "If you cannot find passion in teaching, find a new job." This really hit home with me. It is imperative that educators convey passion in teaching. This will engage and capture the attention of students. I was particularly struck by his "LCL - life changing lesson." He encouraged teachers to go beyond and create meaningful learning experiences that students will remember for the rest of their lives. This is so true and just what I needed to hear again. We, as educators, must create memorable experiences that engage students using their five senses while capturing their attention. In doing so, we will create long lasting impacts on our students. I remember creating some dynamic learning experiences in chemistry in the past that truly transformed students lives. I have also taught some lessons that were probably less than engaging and frankly even bored me. To my students, I apologize for that and thank them for hanging in there with me. But with the advent of so many digital tools and devices as well as many distractions, educators must be prepared to create learning experiences that will truly impact and inspire our students. Throughout the conference today, I thought about what he said as well as incorporated many of new ideas from the other presenters. One idea that I synthesized today and hope to explore involves having students attend a dinner party where they take the persona of various elements. For example, one student may be hydrogen and another student oxygen. If the students were to mingle at the dinner party, then they would have to understand the reactions (interactions) that could occur (such as the creation of water). And of course, there would be the Noble Gases who would not speak to anyone at the dinner party. And fluorine who would be trying to steal electrons from other elements and most likely responsible for the theft of any other items. I can't help but believe that this would lead to a higher level of understanding of element behavior and engage students more. Students would research their element and determine how the element would interact with other elements (this is chemistry for sure). This would be a creative way for students to role play (a key way to engage students) the properties of elements. Students would actively use the information they gathers to determine how to behave as the various elements. This would definitely beat out the static research paper or slide show that I have assigned in the past. Given the correct expectations for students, they could really enjoy this experience while learning so much more than if they did one of the "status quo" assignments. But there is a voice in the back of my head that says "What if you fail?" Dave shared that "failure is feedback." If failure is feedback, then even if this activity did not go as planned, I would have the opportunity to change it for the better. I can't wait to try this with students. As I reflect on the keynote, I can see many of the strategies and techniques that were shared effectively capturing the attention of students and leading to higher levels of engagement. If you have not had the opportunity to attend one of Dave's presentation, I would encourage you to do so. He is energetic, funny, and witty. But more importantly, he has a message that is worth hearing as it has the power to change the learning trajectory of students. So perhaps the pirate's life is for me after all. Also great job to Gaston County Schools on being a great host and a big thank you to NCDPI for providing "Digital Learning Incentives" grants.
Note: This blog originally appeared on my school blog at http://www.cgmstech.org/whitsons-blog.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.