Front load concepts. Establish foundational knowledge. Make connections. Plant some seeds of inspiration. All instructional practices we as educators work to weave in prior to the start of a lesson with our students. In our classrooms, we seem to recognize the great power that "laying the groundwork" can have to support deeper and more personal understandings of new ideas, but how often are we applying this to our own learning as adults? When designing learning experiences for educators, are we building in that extra intentional pause -- the time that allows teachers to catch their breathe, come prepared, and become present and in the moment of learning?
For the team at the International School of Brussels (ISB) organizing the Learning by Design conference (14-16 February), that start of the conversation was one that they were dedicated to cultivating and contextualizing well before the day that everyone was set to arrive onsite.
By leveraging innovative communication technologies, educators in the ISB Learning by Design community were invited to join in for an #ISBLbD Twitter chat. Held weeks before the February event in Brussels, educators from around the globe came together for a 30-minute inspired online conversation to begin exploring the question of "What should school be for?" And, true to ISB's mission of "Everyone included. Everyone challenged. Everyone successful." the chat welcomed in not only expected attendees, but also anyone from anywhere who was interested in jumping into the discussion on re-imagining school and learning.
For me, the chat served as that perfect pause -- a moment for us each to reflect on current conditions, to begin thinking on questions we hoped to explore together, and to have a few "nice-to-meet-you, see-you-in-Belgium" moments as we all looked ahead to when we would be together in person.
Here are a few of my personal take-aways from the #ISBLbD chat:
#1: Educators love being with other educators!
60 minute countdown. 30 minute countdown. 10 minute countdown. The excitement leading up to the chat was contagious! From Belgium to England to Singapore to Chicago, educators from everywhere it seemed were joining in and gearing up to chat. And, regardless if they were on the campus of ISB joining for the live Tweet-Up ("Twitter chat meet up") or if they were countries away joining from a train or a classroom or, like me, from home (with just my laptop and two puppies), it was evident that there was excitement around the idea of togetherness. Educators just love being with other educators!
#2: Educators want students in the conversation.
As we dove into answering big questions in our chat around "What should school be for?" it seemed we all knew right away that what we needed to help us work toward our collective answer was really less about "what we needed" and more about "who we needed"--students! As André Henry, IB teacher at ISB shared, "The opportunity to have students help shape the curriculum needs to happen."
#3: Learning should be purposeful.
One theme that really stuck with me (and, one that I hope to explore more with everyone once I arrive at LbD) was this idea of purpose -- the deep and explicit work around purpose. "I believe that students sometimes look for straight answers and sometimes don't get them from us." ISB Advancement Director David Willows shared. "Like when they ask, 'Why am I learning this?'" This got me thinking--why are we in education not leading with answering this for and with our students. How might school look if we always did?
#4: Change is here.
As chat participant Benoit Pernechele expressed in the #ISBLbD chat, "Change is happening." Sometimes slow and sometimes lightning fast (and, oftentimes messy)--change is here, and it is now. We recognized that change is a process--one that will require us to take inventory and together determine how we can keep and build on what is working and move away from what is not.
#5: This was only just the start to the conversation...
...and, we have LOTS more questions to think on. With bags packed and my mind filled with "sticky note reminders" for exploring with my new #ISBLbD friends, I am set to fly out tomorrow and ready to immerse myself in the moment with 500 other dreamers and doers at Learning by Design. Yes, I am ready to break down and tackle this feels-oh-so-big-to-me question of "What should school be for?" Get ready to see what we come up with!
Follow all the learning and sharing from the Learning by Design 2019 Conference by joining on Twitter with the hashtag #ISBLbD. For more information on Learning by Design and the work of the International School of Brussels, visit https://www.isb.be and follow on Twitter at @IntSchBrussels.