Thursday, December 4, 2014

Promising Practices

Walking into Donovan Dining Center, I really did not know what the Promising Practices Conference had in store for me. Truthfully, I was almost intimidated to go to the workshops because I was not exactly experienced in STEM education. After going to both workshops and listening to the keynote, I was immediately put at ease and was well informed about STEM education.
Bethune Elementary/Middle School

The first workshop I attended was “Finding the STEM in the Urban Core”. The two women who led the workshop are educators at Bethune Elementary/Middle School in Detroit, Michigan. Antoinette Pearson, the principle of Bethune School, was extremely enthusiastic to discuss her school’s contribution in an educational revolution.  Mariama Kurbally, a graduate from RIC and second grade teacher, assisted Antoinette in the workshop.  The two women discussed how the school has altered their curriculum to revolve around STEM education. Bethune School has recently added a SMART lab in their school in which students are able have a hands on learning experience. In the SMART lab, the students are truly responsible for how they learn. They discussed that STEM really focuses on the “how”- how to think, how to learn, and how to teach. It provides the students, as well as the teachers, a different insight into learning.  A STEM education keeps the students engaged in activities because it's more than just learning. It encourages students to become active learners because they are not just sat at a desk with a teacher dictating information. Antoinette and Mariama explained that the SMART lab is extremely effective because students are able to learn, practice, and apply what they are taught.  They also emphasized the how significant it has been to incorporate STEM education in their school because urban schools typically neglect offering students an opportunity like this. They truly believed that STEM education is essential in providing urban school students’ skill sets that allow them to be successful in their education and later on in life.

The second workshop I attended at the Promising Practices event was “Teach Like a Designer! Design Thinking for Educators”. Adrienne Gagnon, the executive director and founder of DownCity Design, led the workshop. In this workshop, she discussed how a design thinking process in the classroom can truly revolutionize the way education runs.  She explained that incorporating design thinking into the classroom would engage students in their work.  Students would be more motivated if they could use creativity as a method of learning rather than traditional methods. She explained that design thinking allows there to be communication, collaboration, and persistence in the classroom.  The students can openly discuss the topic they are learning and provide their own insight to get a better understanding of it. She revealed that it will be an adjustment for teachers because they have to give up some freedom into the class because it is student led but it will be extremely beneficial in the end.  Later on in the workshop, she introduced ways that educators can incorporate the design thinking process into the classroom. I found one of the method, called “Brain Dash”, to be really interesting. In this exercise, students are put into teams and almost perform a sort of academic relay race.  They run up to a piece of paper and quickly put down their ideas. She explained that it’s an innovative way for students to voice their opinion because they do not have a chance to second guess themselves. Students feel freer and comfortable to put down their ideas. I found that this idea would be really useful in a classroom and I would even enjoy doing it. After thinking about a lot more about the workshop, I realized that the design thinking process she wants us to incorporate into the classroom connected to Ira Shor’s empowered education.  The techniques Adrienne Gagnon discussed would provide a classroom experience that students could become active and critical learners. The design thinking process allows students to shy away from the “one-way transmission of rule, and knowledge from teacher to students” (Shor 12) that is found in traditional schooling.

To finish of the Promising Practice event, Dr. ChristopherEmdin spoke about #HipHopED(ucators) STEMming the Tide of Disinterest in Education. I found that the keynote address was the most interesting part of the entire event and I felt as though I gained a lot from it.  Dr. Emdin is truly a powerful and passionate speaker that I was completely engaged in his presentation.  In his keynote address, Dr. Emdin stressed that educators are solely responsible for the reason students have a disconnect to school subjects, especially math and science. Students often feel that STEM classes are to hard for them because they cannot relate to the structure. Dr. Emdin suggests the only way for students to become comfortable in these areas and want to learn is to move away from traditional teaching styles. Although we have benefitted from traditional education, we need to provide students with alternative models for effective teaching. We need to provide them with something that truly speaks to them. Dr. Emdin discusses his idea of Hip Hop Education and that it can be useful in STEM education because it can help to relate their education to something they are truly passionate about. Hip Hop Education allows students to see that the skills they need to create a rap song are the same skills they need for science or mathematics. 

I decided to look a bit further into Dr. Emdin's work and I found a short video clip that does a good job of summarizing what Hip Hop Education provides for urban students.