Sunday, October 13, 2013

OESIS East 2013

Last week, I attended the second-ever Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools (OESIS) in Cambridge, MA, a two-day conference "focused exclusively on the opportunities and threats of online and blended learning for independent schools." The presenters and the participants wowed me with their passion and thoughtfulness. While I continue to digest the experience, here are five takeaways from the conference I hope to revisit in the coming months:

1. Every brick and mortar independent school should consider how best to embrace networked technologies in service of teaching and learning. During the opening plenary session, Howard Lurie, the former Vice President for Content Development and University Relations at edX, spoke about the forces driving the "un-bundling" of schools: unprecedented access to digital tools, platforms, and services; competency-based instructional and certification models that are challenging traditional time-based models; the erosion of institutional monopolies in education; and others. These forces are not going away. Independent schools should consider their impact carefully and take the lead in shaping the future of education.

2. Every brick and mortar independent school should continue to value and to defend the important and enduring relationships upon which successful teaching and learning rests. Independent schools know that the relationships between teacher and student and between student and student that develop on a physical campus and over many years help shape not only intellect but also character, attitude, and spirit. Relationship-centered learning can be enhanced with technology, but it cannot be replaced. As they evolve, brick and mortar independent schools should acknowledge what they have done well and will continue to do well.

3. The SAMR Model—Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition—provides a useful guide for infusing technology into the craft of teaching. In recent years, some schools have rushed to embrace technology for its own sake, resulting, at times, in waste and frustration. The SAMR Model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, is a framework for guiding and evaluating technology integration. Here is a slide that explains the model and provides an example of how to apply it:

4. Embrace the backchannel. I had used Twitter only rarely before the conference, but during the event I became an active participant in the conference's Twitter backchannel. Over the course of two days, I published nearly 100 tweets and, as a result, engaged in virtual conversations that deepened my engagement with both the ideas offered by the presenters and my fellow participants—some of whom I may not have connected with but for Twitter. Additionally, during one session, the presenter shared how she uses TodaysMeet in her classes, and she allowed us experiment with this tool during her presentation. Having found so much value in the backchannel, I am going to consider how I might encourage backchannel discussions in my own classes.

5. Develop a Personal Learning Network. My experience using Twitter helped me realize the importance of developing a Personal Learning Network or PLN—a term introduced to me in one of the conference sessions. While Will Richardson spoke about this idea when he visited my school in the spring of 2011—in fact, I still remember the story he told about how his son had learned informally via Skype from someone thousands of miles away whom he had never met—I hadn't fully appreciated the value of developing my own PLN until the conference. I'm eager to continue to use Twitter and other resources to develop my network.