Wednesday, July 9, 2014

eRev 2014

The Summer of eLearning made its southern-most stop this week in Evansville for the eRevolution Conference. With more than 250 sessions, eRev boasted plenty of content-specific presentations and a strong focus on student leadership.

In one of the first sessions, Erinn Jankowski shared how Pinterest inspired her passion for infographics. She used a number of powerful images to demonstrate how adding visuals and color can increase engagement and allow students to absorb information more easily. Among her research, she shared that "people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations." Beyond just consuming the graphics, she shared that some classrooms are transitioning to having students create infographics as their own learning process. The experience requires them to analyze data and make complex information easy to understand. She also made a strong argument for why creating powerful data-based presentations is a much more practical skill for our students than the traditional research paper. For the hands-on portion, Jankowski guided the group through Piktochart, a free tool her students use to build their infographics.

One of the highlights of eRev was the use of student voice. Douglas Johnson, environmental science teacher at New Tech Institute High School (NTI), brought 5 of his students to talk about their project around the driving question: How can we reduce energy consumption at New Tech and lower the cost of energy? Using the EVSC's Conservation for Education Program as a model, the students adopted classrooms at NTI then worked with those classroom teachers to come up with ways to save energy. They then gathered and monitored data using Google Docs and presented their findings.

Candice squeezed into a standing room only session with Angela Maiers on Liberating Genius. The participants in this session were administrators from around the EVSC and Indiana!  Angela pushed and challenged our thinking to what it means to truly empower and value our students and their genius.  What are we doing in our classrooms to unleash the passion and talents of our students? Do you “lead out”? What are your expectations for talents and knowledge to be shared and honored? Genius will not show up if you don’t expect it. Notice It. Value It. Expect It!!

eRev's student empowerment theme was anchored by 16 year-old keynote Adora Svitak. The amazingly confident Svitak is an advocate for students to have more say in guiding their own learning. She insisted that the "student/teacher relationship must be a two-way street. We must both be able to teach and learn. We must both be creators of content." She ended by encouraging teachers to take a pledge to honor student voice in their classrooms.

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