What is relevant?

I’ve enjoyed reading the reflections post-Educon2.2. There’s been much food for thought. So much that I couldn’t quite pin point what my big take-away from the weekend was. I had Tweeted on Saturday that “mentoring, leadership and individualized learning” seemed as if they were going to be big themes on Saturday, but when I opened my little notebook today, here’s what I saw:

To who was I referring when I wrote this? Was I writing about the students or the educators? I am not sure. It should absolutely be both. Here are my thoughts from Saturday (Sunday is another post in the works).

Disclaimer: I’m putting this all in my own words and not in the words of the articulate conversation leaders.

Session 1: Subversive PD: Creating a culture of collaboration to bring educators into the 21st Century

Danja Mahoney, Michael Springer, and Beth Knittle got us to talk about how to make professional development not suck. (Please see disclaimer.)

Three shared concepts from this session were:

  1. make sure you have achievable goals
  2. encourage your attendees to leave with something tangeable
  3. plan for time to play

These three facilitators did an excellent job in creating an environment where we truly had a conversation. We talked in our small groups as well as a whole group.

I left the session in agreement with many in the room. The best type of PD is individualized. It’s also the toughest, most time-consuming and most rewarding type as well.

Session 2: Taking the load off a learner’s mind: Cognitive Load Theory in Education

First of all. Chris Craft is an excellent storyteller. Second of all. Chris knows a lot of stuff I don’t know. I want to know more.

Cognitive Load Theory:

(We can design instruction that prevents overload.)

  1. intrinsic – our natural level of load
  2. germane – this is what we want for our students
  3. extraneous – what we don’t want

Chris shared that the goal of learning is to effect a change in long term memory. He spoke briefly about what the brain is capable of remembering (chunking) and of  automaticity. The conversation lent itself nicely to Universal Design for Learning and how to reduce extraneous loads for our students.

Session 3: Improving Professional Development with Online PD

Barbara Treacy and  Chris Champion began this conversation with the question “What can and can’t be taught online?”. I really thought my group would come up with a specific list, but instead we began a wonderful conversation about designing effective professional development. The idea is that with the tools available to us today like Screen-cast-o-matic and Scribd, it’s all about the facilitator and the participants networking and using the resources effectively. Ultimately, we can teach anything online.

So, how do we make it relevant for our students be they children or adults? How do we teach with rigor?

I honestly don’t have the two sentence answer. I don’t think it exists. I’m not even working on coming up with it. I am, however, taking pieces of these three sessions and embedding them into my plans for the upcoming weeks hoping for improvement. There’s always room for that.

8 thoughts on “What is relevant?

  1. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for a thoughtful reflection of Saturday. It’s nice to read others’ thoughts.

    Incidentally, you are too kind when you say “Chris knows a lot of stuff I don’t know.” Truth is, I say the same thing about you.

    I also appreciate your questioning how to provide rigor. I wonder if there’s not something to be said for rigor being defined as a fine balance between a task that requires too little load (too easy) and a task that provides too much load (overload). I think rigor would be in the germane level because it requires the right amount of load for each learner.

    Now how to do that in practice? That’s another story, and one I may not be apt to tell quite yet (still learning).


    1. Chris – I still envision providing the right cognitive load level for each student student (say 25) such a challenge. But then again, I thought the same about setting up your classroom and lessons around the framework for Universal Design for Learning. Though it is a challenge, it makes such a difference for the kids. So worth it.

      Thanks for the comment and as always, it was great to see you again!

  2. […] What is relevant? « Thumann Resources I’ve enjoyed reading the reflections post-Educon2.2. There’s been much food for thought. So much that I couldn’t quite pin point what my big take-away from the weekend was. I had Tweeted on Saturday that “mentoring, leadership and individualized learning” seemed as if they were going to be big themes on Saturday, but when I opened my little notebook today, (tags: educon blogs professionaldevelopment) […]

  3. Lisa,
    First, I never got a chance to meet you at Educon, but I’ve been an admirer of your writing and thinking for some time. Second, the question you ask is a great one and one that I have thought for some time. But, your handwritten note spoke to me. More specifically, I wonder if the key to rigor is relevance. In other words, perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive in that you can’t have (true) rigor without relevance and you can’t have (true) relevance without rigor. I’m familiar with the rigor/relevance quadrants, but as I struggle with how to sum up the passion I saw at Educon, I can’t help but think that part of the struggle is found in the fact that because the discussion so important (relevant) to Educon attendees, we truly struggled (rigor) with finding the “right” answers.

    1. Tony,
      Thank you for such a nice compliment. We must make the effort to meet at Educon 2.3 then.

      I’ve read in a couple of posts that we have to stop talking about making change and just do it. I think that the discussions we had were very important and that there were a number of change agents there that can find the “right” answers you referred to.

  4. Joe says:

    Hi Lisa:

    This was interesting to read – thanks for summarizing. Also, thanks again for the classroom visit – I quickly did another survey with “moo” after you left for my science class! It’s so easy… once you know what to do. Many thanks…

    1. Joe – The best part of my job is working with you all in your classrooms 🙂
      How did the students respond to the word cloud the next morning? Was it effective?
      How would you change the lesson for the better?

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. I loved meeting you and appreciate your enthusiasm for digging into the hard questions. I also appreciate your long-term view. The questions are not easy, and s you say, the answers are not simple or static. They emerge and evolve over time, as we collaborate, discuss, implement and keep the conversations going. Thanks for the insights and reviews of the sessions I did not get to attend.


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