Challenge in bite-sized pieces

Our feet have just touched the ground after our two-day Challenging Learners Conference last week, where 240 educators from around NZ gathered to be challenged and inspired. From the rave reviews it seems like expectations were exceeded. For those of you who couldn’t attend (or came, but lost your notes) – here are some nuggets gleaned from our fabulous presenters:

1. Are we teaching our students HOW to think, or just WHAT to think? (James Nottingham)

2. ‘Encourage’ = to enable others to have courage. With the right ‘en-couragement’ we can lift the lids of low expectation/ achievement and our students can fly. (Marcus Akuhata-Brown).

3. International visitors: always check the suitcase you pick up from the carousel is actually yours (naming no names ...)

4. Just as we aim to ‘criticise the performance, not the child’, so we should PRAISE the performance / process, not the child. Telling kids they are smart/brilliant/number one can actually stifle achievement; instead we should make them proud of the effort they have put into the task in hand. (James Nottingham)

5. Inquiry mythbusting: Students undertaking independent work on a topic of their choice does not necessarily = an inquiry. Copying from the internet is ‘independent work’. Topics for an inquiry can be teacher-led. (Kath Murdoch)

6. Strangest presenter request: a table lamp with no shade on it (hastily borrowed from our hotel room!). Perry Rush used this prop to engage his group in a session modelling constructivism in action. At least no-one asked for bottles of Moet or fluffy white towels.

7. ‘Eureka’ means ‘I found it!’ and the ‘eureka moment’ can only come if you’ve struggled to get there. Help your students into the ‘Learning Pit’ and coach them out of it. Learn more in James Nottingham’s book Challenging Learning, which sold like hot cakes at conference.

8. Other hot resources included Learning for Themselves (Kath Murdoch & Jeni Wilson) which develops students’ capacity to work independently and manage themselves as learners. Also Guy Claxton’s What’s the Point of School? which addresses the changing nature of education for the 21st century and beyond. The popularity of these two items demonstrates an ongoing commitment to the spirit of the New Zealand Curriculum.

9. Understanding how the brain works and practicing mindfulness helps children focus, concentrate and avoid distractions. Some great work being done by the Hawn Foundation around this via their MindUP curriculum. And it was fun to watch teachers sniffing bowls of mystery items trying to guess their contents in the 'mindful senses' session! (Graham Watts)

10. Some cool metaphors for ‘teacher’: archaeologist (brushing off the dust to discover student’s prior knowledge and theories); or broker (between the students and the community). What metaphor do you like for your role? (Kath Murdoch)

11. Webinars are awesome! With the much-needed technical support of Magpie Media we ran our first webinar, with James Nottingham and Graham Watts sharing their insights around Challenging Learners and Higher Order Thinking Tools respectively. Missed it? You can listen to (and view) the recording by clicking here – go through a quick registration and it’s all yours. Keep an eye out for further free webinars late this year.

12. It’s all about the planning .... we’ve set the dates for our 2012 conference2 & 3 July – so diarise them now! The theme is ‘Cultivating the 21st Century Fluencies’ – how are we preparing our students for their future lives in an unpredictable world? We’ve secured the amazing Lee Crockett (check out his Committed Sardine blog if you haven’t already) and have a heap of other talent to add to the line-up shortly. Do post your thoughts on what / who you’d like to see at this conference as we want to cater to your needs.

I’m off the UK for a couple of weeks but keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter posts for news, tips, links and more nuggets from the Learning Network team.