As I was waiting for my baggage a few weeks back at LAX, after arriving home from an amazing four days of ISTE learning, I struck up a conversation with my baggage claim neighbor Marcy. She was telling me about the events and parties she went to during the ISTE evenings. They sounded fun and I know I would have rocked out at the Edutopia Karaoke. However, as I told her, I had the privilege of facilitating a group of Jewish educators who were sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation to attend ISTE. In fact, I had the privilege of facilitating a larger group as Avi Chai invited many Jewish educators to the kosher dinners and many chose to stay for the intellectual desert of reflection. And reflect we did.
Each night at ISTE the Avi Chai cohort met for dinner and after we discussed our day of learning and plans for the next day. The first night was focused on getting to know each other, what we wanted to get out of ISTE in general and how we experienced the opening keynote by Jane McGonical on gamification (click here for a previous post on that keyote). The other nights we shared what stood out for us and how we might apply it to our classrooms and schools. We not only shared our own experiences which enhanced our learning by having to remember what we actually experienced, but increased our learning through hearing what others learned. We also shared different perspectives, provided support for new ideas and gained from each others experience. Additionally, as evidenced by the first night and the subsequent ones, the group reflection was a powerful way to learn and revise our focus for the upcoming day. These discussions had immediate positive impact on our learning at ISTE and I suspect beyond.
I explained all of this to my baggage buddy as I was daydreaming about belting out my version of “baby, we were born to run” by The Boss, when I realized Marcy looked disappointed. How could she be? She went to all these great after ISTE parties. So, I asked her what she was thinking as clearly we have bonded over the hypnotic twirl of the LAX baggage carousel. She said she wished she had spent some time with her colleagues reflecting on her learning instead of enjoying tequila shots at the PLP Party Barge.
Upon reflection of our conversation about reflection, it is no wonder an educator would find value in the activities the Avi Chai cohort engaged in each evening. It is a critical element to any learning, whether for our students or us as professionals. To take a page from the project-based learning playbook, we need to spend more time reviewing and reflecting through giving and receiving feedback on what we create as well as as think about what and how we are learning. Although it was only three discussions, I think we did just that each night. We were sharing ideas, the ways we practice our craft, giving each other feedback on those ideas and ultimately improving our choices for the next day at ISTE and hopefully in the way we educate.
So, thank you to the Avi Chai Foundation for asking me to facilitate a fantastic group of educators. Thank you for also affording this group the opportunity to come together to learn at ISTE and with each other. Finally, thank you for continuing to make a difference for Jewish education.
I will leave this post with a good article of fostering reflection. Enjoy!