Last month I had the opportunity to return to the Deeper Learning conference at High Tech High. With over 1000 educators from around the world in attendance and an engaging, jam-packed agenda, DL2017 inspired and energized.
We dove head first into the topic of ‘deeper learning’ by experiencing it ourselves. Conference organizers thoughtfully crafted a 3-day agenda that was interactive, engaging, and challenged us – the adult/educator participants – to learn deeply and to share that learning. Even the keynotes in a packed auditorium had us on our feet.
Late to the sign-up process for the conference, my workshop choices were limited. For the ‘deep dive’ workshop on day 2, I took my chances on a session titled “Building Culture & Stools” and landed in a woodshop using power tools. Our goal for the day: use the materials and tools available to build a wind ornament, a picture frame or vase, or maybe even a stool – and have it done by 4pm for the conference-wide exhibition of learning. I sensed a range of responses from the 25 or so educator participants in the room, from beginner’s disbelief to the expert’s eagerness to get started. We split into two groups, about a dozen per teacher, and got started.
The arc of my day involved all that one would expect to see in a classroom and school committed to deeper learning. I learned new vocabulary, processes, tools, and techniques in a hands-on setting. I worked together with my peers. My teacher was a patient and skilled coach with high expectations and a knack for differentiation. The confident experts in our group had the autonomy and encouragement to move forward with advanced furniture designs, while others (myself included!) received lessons and direction appropriate for our level.
Meanwhile, throughout the morning there was a low-key but steady sense of urgency that increased when we returned from lunch. We knew by day’s end we had to set up a class exhibit of our products for the hundreds of other Deeper Learning participants to demonstrate our individual and collective learning. (And every other ‘deep dive’ workshop – on dozens of other topics – was doing the same.) We stayed focused. We helped one another. And somehow we did it!
Deeper Learning features 6 key components:
- Mastery of Academic Content
- Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
- Effective Communication
- Self-Directed Learning
- Academic Mindset
My experience in the wood shop last month was a vivid reminder that when we gear up to share our learning publicly, we rev up the learning. The expectation of performance is highly motivating and helps to kick into gear things like mastery of content, critical thinking, collaboration, and self-directedness. While it doesn’t show up on the official list of 6, I think an authentic audience is an essential ingredient for creating ‘deeper learning’ experiences for young people (and adults!). When we make our learning public, we learn more, we share that learning with others, and we have an opportunity to shine.