I did not choose the above nom de plume for this blog, but I readily confess that I like the ring of it. The first part of the title is a statement of fact, and the second a statement of ideal and aspiration. In the past few weeks I have had the chance to engage in considerable learning.
I wrote my last post during the visit of our accreditation team. I am happy to report that the visit was a very positive experience for our school community and by all accounts for our visitors. While we received a summary exit report, we shall not receive the full report for some time. Nonetheless I am already quite confident that we shall have much to learn and much about which to reflect based on the seriousness, expertise and enthusiasm with which our visitors performed their tasks. These new voices and perspectives will provide a lasting gift for our school community.
Last week I attended the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools in Seattle. This event is always of very high value and provides the opportunity to hear many authoritative voices that are not readily available on the local level. Two indicators of the quality and high profile of the event were that Bill Gates was the keynoter and Amy Chua of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother fame was the final general session speaker. More significant perhaps was that neither of their presentations was the highlight of the conference in my view. While new technologies’ role in education will undoubtedly continue to increase in the years ahead, I also appreciated the moments in which we were poignantly reminded that effectiveness as an educator is above all a matter of the heart: Stephen Carter advocating a continuing place for the non-electronic book in the life of every person, John Hunter encouraging one and all on the gift and privilege of being a teacher as he spoke of his invention of the World Peace Game…and Other Fourth Grade Achievements. Unfortunately I missed the single most inspiring presentation (as attested by the other All Saints’ attendees) by spoken word poet Sarah Kay reflecting on the impact of a recently deceased educator on her life.
At the same time there is something to be said for online instruction, and upon my return to campus I was inspired by the conference to dive into my first MOCC (Massive Online Open Course) taught by Scott E. Page of the University of Michigan. I have heard him in person a couple of times, and his important and provocative work was cited at three different sessions during last week’s conference. At the conference I was with 4000+ colleagues for some of the general sessions; I have joined 40,000+ classmates for the MOCC on Model Thinking. That’s an amazing prospect and one available only relatively recently. The access and flexibility that the MOCC approach allows are wonderful complements to the more intimate daily learning opportunities available to us on our campus.
Until next time…